Part 1

The Real Meaning Of Sustenance And Profit

January 31, 2022

Profit is the value realized from human labor.

Man, by nature, needs something to feed him and to provide for him in all the conditions and stages of his life from the time of his (early) growth to his maturity and on to his old age.

Everyone tries to get things. Thus, whatever is obtained by one is denied to the other, unless he gives something in exchange for it.

When man has control of himself he strives to make a profit, so that he may spend what God gives him to obtain his needs and necessities through barter.

Man obtains some profit through no efforts of his own. Examples are the rain that makes the fields thrive. However, these things are only contributory. His own efforts must be combined with them.

  • If the rewards for his effort correspond to his needs, then these make up his livelihood.
  • If the rewards for his effort are greater than his needs, then these make up his capital accumulation.

“Sustenance” are the rewards that he spends for his interests and needs.

The Prophet said= “The only thing you really possess of your property is what you ate, and have thus destroyed; or what you wore, and have thus worn out; or what you gave as charity, and have thus spent.“5

“Profit” is the reward that is obtained through one’s own effort and strength.

For example, the estate of a deceased person is called “profit” with reference to the deceased person. It is not called “sustenance,” because the deceased person has no use for it. But with reference to the heirs, when they use it, it is called “sustenance.”

This is the real meaning of “sustenance” among orthodox Muslims.

The Mu’tazilah stipulated that “sustenance” must be possessed rightfully. Wrongfully acquired property or anything forbidden is not “sustenance.”

But God sustains him who acquires property wrongfully. The Mu’tazilah have arguments for their theory of “sustenance.” This is not the place to discuss them fully.

Profit results from the effort to acquire things and the intention to obtain (them).

Sustenance requires effort and work, even if one tries to get it and ask for it in the proper ways for getting it. 7

God said= “Thus, ask God for sustenance.” 8 The effort to (obtain sustenance) depends on God’s determination and inspiration. Everything comes from God. But human labor is necessary for every profit and capital accumulation. When (the source of profit) is work as such, as, for instance, (the exercise of) a craft, this is obvious.

When the source of gain is animals, plants, or minerals, human labor is still necessary. Without human labor, no gain will be obtained.

God created gold and silver, as the measure of value for all capital accumulations. Gold and silver are what people prefer as treasure and property.

The capital a person earns and acquires, if resulting from a craft, is the value realized from his labor. This is the meaning of “acquired capital.” There is nothing here (originally) except the labor, and (the labor) is not desired by itself as acquired (capital, but the value realized from it).

Some crafts are partly associated with other (crafts). Carpentry and weaving, for instance, are associated with wood and yarn (and the respective crafts needed for their production).

However, in those two crafts, the labor (that goes into them) is more important, and its value is greater.

If the profit results from something other than a craft, the value of the resulting profit and acquired (capital) must (also) include the value of the labor by which it was obtained. Without labor, it would not have been acquired.

In most such cases, the share of labor (in the profit) is obvious. A portion of the value, whether large or small, comes from (the labor). The share of labor may be concealed. This is the case, for instance, with the prices of foodstuffs.

The labor and expenditures that have gone into them show themselves in the price of grain, as we have stated before. 10 But they are concealed (items) in regions where farming requires little care and few implements.

Thus, only a few farmers are conscious of the (costs of labor and expenditures that have gone into their products). It has thus become clear that gains and profits, in their entirety or for the most part, are value realized from human labor. The meaning of the word “sustenance” has become clear. It is (the part of the profit) that is utilized. Thus, the meaning of the words “profit” and “sustenance” has become clear. The meaning of both words has been explained.

When the available labor is all gone or decreases because of a decrease in civilization, God permits profits to be abolished.

Cities 11 with few inhabitants offer little sustenance and profit because little human labor is available. Likewise, in cities with a lot of labor, the inhabitants enjoy more favorable conditions and have more luxuries. 12

This is why the common people say that the sustenance of a country disappears with the decrease of its civilization. Even the flow of springs and rivers stops in waste areas. Springs flow only if they are dug out and the water drawn. This requires human labor.

The conditions may be compared with the udders of animals. Springs that are not dug out and from which no water is drawn are absorbed and disappear in the ground completely. In the same way, udders dry up when they are not milked. This can be observed in countries where springs existed in the days of their civilization.

Then, they fell into ruins, and the water of the springs disappeared completely in the ground, as if it had never existed. God determines night and day. 13

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