In Islamic Finance, the shari’ah differentiates between two types of commodities (this is just one differentiation): specific, and non-specific.
Specific: “I’ll sell you this Saheeh Bukhari printed in 2004 by Dar-us-Salaam that I’m holding in my hand.”
Non-Specific: “I’ll sell you a copy of Saheeh Bukhari printed in 2004 by Dar-us-Salam.”
So if you own some large amount of inventory, or you sell in volume, or you have a bookstore, etc. you are probably selling non-specific items. Like those apples above. If you’re using Craig’s List, or eBay, you’re likely selling specific items (unless you’re bulk-selling).
Why does it matter? Because specificity determines what to do in case a defect is found.
- With a specific commodity, the seller must refund the value in case a defect is found. You cannot offer an alternative product. No exchange, just refund.
- With a non-specific commodity, the seller may offer a refund or exchange. And if the seller offers an exchange, the buyer cannot force them to return money.
Why does this matter? Because you need to implement shari’ah as much as possible in your lives. If you’re a buyer, and you’re returning something non-specific, and the vendor doesn’t offer a refund, only exchange, don’t force them to return money. That would be thulm.
Or if you’re a seller, and you’re selling specific items, make it clear that you issue refunds only, not exchanges. Or if you’re selling non-specific items, make it clear that you issue refunds and offer exchanges.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.
Shaykh Tawfique Chaudhry. The Real Deal. University of Toronto, Toronto. 08 Jan. 2009.