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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Article review From: Journal of Islamic Marketing, Volume 1, Issue 3
Mohammad Saeed, Zafar U. Ahmed and Syeda-Masooda Mukhtar (2001), “International marketing ethics from an Islamic perspective: a value-maximization approach” Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 32, pp. 127-42
According to the authors, the paper “endeavors to identify the salient features of the Islamic framework of international marketing ethics. In particular, it highlights the capabilities and strengths of this framework in creating and sustaining a strong international marketing culture.”
What are the key points in this paper?
Islamic dealings draw their framework from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (documented practices of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)). It explains the rules and regulations in dealing in international marketing from the Islamic perspective.
The paper highlights the mounting interest in enforcing the Islamic ethics code globally, as a result of the increasing number of Muslims worldwide, their purchasing capacity; because of the increased level of foreign investments in the Muslim world; and because of the possible formation of a Muslim trading block.
The paper briefly compares the Islamic views of business operations with the secular theories such as the utilitarian, justice and fairness theories, highlighting their drawbacks and weaknesses, and concluding the superiority and thoroughness of the Islamic code.
From the marketing perspective, the paper explains the Islamic marketing code in relation to the five Ps. In terms of the product, it must be lawful and not cause dullness of the mind in any way. The seller should also disclose all virtues and weaknesses of the product, and should not endeavor to sell an item they do not own. Islamic perspective encourages a societal and welfare approach versus profit maximization. Pricing is a sensitive issue. Islam, through the Qur’an and the Sunnah encourages healthy competition, but discourages hoarding, price manipulation, and restriction on trade. Islamic promotional techniques prohibit exploitation, stereotyping, or emotional appeals. Distribution channels in Islam require setting the highest standards to safeguard the consumers, and prevent unnecessary burdening of the final consumer, including delays in delivery, or adding the additional cost of transportation on them. In terms of the 5th P, People, Islam prohibits coercion into buying: the customer must buy the product/service on their own accord.
The paper also addresses corporate responsibility and accountability. Businesses are accountable towards their subordinates as well as to the society. Acquisitiveness is mentioned in the Qur’an, and is prohibited, as these practices represent greed, and will lead to unethical practices in pursuit of wealth. Interest is also prohibited and condemned in Islam, alongside corruption and bribery, as these actions conflict with the wider responsibility that managers and marketers have towards society. Islam, however, does encourage the establishment of regulatory institutions.
What did I find striking or interesting about these key points?
The Islamic marketing codes of ethics are clear and uncompromising; these codes center on the welfare of the customer, while maximizing value for the seller. There are no ambiguities in translating these laws. They come from the two most revered references in Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This paper shifts the attention to practices which may have been generally accepted by the Islamic traders and businessmen, but which, after more research, turn out to be unacceptable. Additionally, the paper highlights the differences between the Islamic code of ethics, based on value maximization, versus the secular code of ethics, based on profit maximization.
How relevant are the key points to my role as international marketer?
This paper lays the foundation for how a perfect society should act when dealing in international marketing under Islamic codes of ethics. It provide guidelines, when followed, would create the perfect international marketing framework, away from deceit, bribery, corruption, and other illegal and unethical behavior, where the seller and the consumer are satisfied and content.
What do I agree or disagree within this paper?
Pros of the paper
The authors follow a systematic and logical approach in delivering and explaining the elements of the Islamic code of ethics in international marketing.
The paper works as a historical record for those who do not have instructions on the principles of Islamic trading.
The paper highlights the most important marketing topics of the day (such as the five-Ps) to address in international marketing, and gives a thorough interpretation from the Islamic perspective.
Most importantly, it compares and highlights the difference between the Islamic Marketing approach and the secular marketing approach.
The paper makes some generalizations.
Cons of the paper
This paper lacks “historical” practical examples to help illustrate the presented points of view and thus acquainting the reader only with the theoretical side of the Islamic ethics code. The paper only lays the foundation for the perfect trading ethics code, the Utopia of ethical practices, but gives no instructions on how and when it was used, and how successful it was. For example, the author should have researched Muslim traders’ conduct in China or India, as there were many dealing with these Eastern Empires. Additionally, this paper does not broach the subject of defending your dealings in hostile environments.
Although the paper seeks to compare the Islamic code versus the Western “code”, it does so without examples. Let it be mentioned here that the purpose of the article was to highlight and spotlight the superiority of the Islamic code of conduct in any situation. However, the reader may not be convinced that this superior method works in practice were it not compared with a real life situation where both methods were pitted against each other, and where the Islamic way came out ahead.
The paper gives the impression that this code of conduct can only be applied under Islamic rule. In this writer’s opinion, the authors should have concentrated more on how the Islamic code, as it is inspired from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, is meant to be applicable to all locations, not just Islamic countries. The authors implied that it is being used just because of the rising influence of Islam and the investments in Muslim countries by foreigners and thus probably missing the point that it is being widely used because, after careful considerations, foreign countries are finding out that the Islamic codes are the most efficient codes of conduct in any field (e.g. Islamic inheritance laws now followed in France).
Conclusion and recommendations
This paper opens the way to introducing and briefly explaining the Islamic code of ethics in international marketing, but falls short of delivering its full potential. Although their delivery was systematic and logical, the paper could have been made better through providing real life clarifying and comparative examples that can guide marketers wishing to follow the Islamic rules of conduct. Furthermore, though it highlights the fact that the code is divine, it does more effort is needed to lure the foreign marketer into following this code.
Further follow up to this paper includes research on how these Islamic codes are incorporated in civil law in the Muslim world, and discuss whether the Muslim countries themselves are lax or firm in applying them, with real examples. It is not enough to mention that Saudi or Malaysia or Iran adheres to a strict code of conduct in international marketing.
Further studies should also highlight international marketing cases, and how the Islamic code would deal with them, versus the secular approach. Finally, a code of ethics “guideline” should be developed, applicable to the Muslim and non-Muslim trader.
M. Bassam Abdul-RahimDepartment of Business Administration (BUSA), College of Business and Economics (CBE), United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), Al-Ain, UAE