Thursday, January 13, 2005

Conditions for the sales contract to be valid

Conditions of validity pertaining to the contract parties

Each party must be sane, but it is not necessary to have reached puberty.

There must be two parties bound by the contract

  • The exception here is the case of a father buying and selling to his minor child - provided that the price is not out of the market range in the child’s disfavor. This is because the father will not usually act against the best interest of the child, and for this it is allowed just like it is allowed to deal with an orphan in a way that makes him better off, as established by the Quran (6, 152).

    (ولا تقربوا مال اليتيم إلا بالتي هي أحسن)

  • The trustee of a child, unlike the father, can only do this if it is clearly in the benefit of the child. If it is clearly in the benefit of the child, it is allowed based on him being the child’s father’s chosen caretaker.
  • A person cannot be agent for both the buyer and the seller at the same time, because he is himself bound by rights and obligations through the contract. He would end up being deliverer and receiver, as well as demander and demanded at the same time, which is contradictory.
  • A person can be a mere messenger for both parties in the contract, because he is merely a communication instrument and is not tied to any right or obligations through the contract. An agent in a marriage contract is in reality a mere messenger, because he has no rights or obligations tied to the marriage contract.

Conditions of validity pertaining to the contract text itself

The content of the bid (the affirmation of the option to buy or sell) and its acceptance must be the same.

  • If someone gave a bid to buy two horses for USD 3000, then it would be invalid if the seller accepted the bid by saying, "I have accepted for this one," while pointing at one of the two horses.

Conditions of validity pertaining the place of the contract

Bid and acceptance must happen in the same place/session (covered earlier in the section on the verbal sales transaction).

  • If the acceptor is not present, but hears about it later and says “I accept”, then this is invalid.
  • If the bid is done by a messenger or writing, and the receiver accepts without changing the place he is in when receiving, then the contract is valid.

Conditions of validity pertaining to what is exchanged in the contract

It must be existing.

The reason is that the Prophet (may Allah raise his rank), as related by Muslim “forbade selling risk” (i.e. it is not whether it will be or not).
  • It is not allowed to sell a baby animal while in the womb, because it is merely on the verge of existence.
  • It is not valid to sell milk while it is still in the cow.
  • It is not valid to sell fruits before they appear.
  • It is not valid to sell semen of stallions (or rent for this purpose).
  • It is not valid to sell the juice of a fruit, or the flower of wheat, because it is not existing at point of sale.
  • It is valid, however, to sell grains, seeds and nuts in their shells, because they exist already as is without any treatment.
  • It is invalid if someone sold glass as diamonds, because diamonds are of a different kind than glass, so they were non-existent.
  • It is likewise invalid if one sells something of the same kind, but the description is widely different from actual, such as selling a green cloth saying it is black.

It must be considered valuable property in Islam.

Property as islamically defined is something that a sane human being is inclined towards and people expend and protect out of desire for it and a reluctance to give away according to norms. The hanafi scholars added that it must be storeable for later use. Valuable means that it is allowed to use according to Islam. Examples of things that aren’t valuable property:
  • An un-slaughtered dead animal. However its bones, hair, feathers, tanned leather can be sold after treatement.
  • Blood.
  • Human bodyparts, such as hair.
  • Pigs.
  • Wine.
  • Bees without their hive.
  • Silkworms without silk.
  • Animal excrements, unless the soil content is more than 50%.
  • Musical instruments if they can’t be used for anything other than playing them.
  • If property and non-property was in the same deal, then the contract is invalid, even if all were separately priced.

It must be owned.

One cannot sell grass from public land, fish in the ocean and the like.

It must be owned by the actual seller

This is the case whether it is the seller who conducts the contract or someone conducts it for him. This is because the Prophet forbade "selling what one does not own" (Tirmithiyy). The exception here is a transaction called "salam" where several strict conditions makes the transaction as if the transaction is from hand to hand. The salam transaction will be covered later.

The seller must be able to deliver the goods.

  • It is invalid to sell a bird in the sky, even if one owns it.
  • It is invalid to sell fish in the water.
  • It is invalid to sell milk still in the cow, as indicated in hadith (Tabaraaniyy - Al-Awsat) and because it seaps so one cannot separate what was sold from newly produced milk.
  • It is invalid to sell wool on a sheep's back as indicated in hadith (Tabaraaniyy - Al-Awsat) and because it continuously grows, so one cannot tell what part was sold. However, selling the branches on trees is allowed because they do not grow from the bottom out.
  • It is invalid to sell debt, because one is not able to deliver what has not been collected, and the time and ability to collect are both unknown. The exception here is if the debtor is the other party.
  • It is invalid to sell the goods of a salam transaction (where the good was non-existent at the time of transaction and delivery was set for a specific date in the future) is invalid.
  • It is invalid to sell what is in the hands of another injustly if one is unable to collect it.