What is Islamic Marketing

Islamic Marketing is a very new field in Marketing. While concepts of inviting non-Muslims towards Islam (da’wah) and enjoining others to do good and forbid evil (amr ma’ruf nahi munkar) are not alien to the Islamic tradition, these have to be recognized as the communication process of the value delivery, and a tip of what Islamic Marketing could really be all about. Islamic ethics within economics as well is not new, with the Prophet being known as the Truthful one (Al-Amin) and himself a trader. This unique combination resulted in many early Arabian merchants converting into Islam because of this admiration of the commendable character and through that, bringing with them the entrepreneurial zest and motivation needed to further advance the religion. Transactions and trade (Muamalat and Tijarah) are also not new in the Islamic tradition and are much related with the revenue and costing aspects of the process of marketing too. Here the attention is towards fair pricing, removing of uncertainty, gambling, interest and actiivites considered haram. Islamic Finance, a relatively new subject in itself, has gained much strides in the advancement of its own models and principles.

However the challenge here is that all of the above, when viewed from a marketing lens in relation to Islamic principles and practices, are in bits and pieces and have not yet been unified as a proper body of knowledge. There has also been not been an in-depth study into what Islam can really offer to the social science of marketing. Much of current discussions are loose and based on applications of Islamic principles to contemporary western ideas of marketing, or adaptive reform (Ramadan, 2009). While this application of principles is important, this may not address the root challenges such ideas have been based on which may not be faithful to the ethics and principles of the Islamic tradition. Hence, serious study and research also needs to be put into place in order for new models and frameworks to emerge, that is transformational reform (Ramadan 2009), grounded in Islamic teachings and principles.

Islamic Marketing as a social science is so new that there has yet to be a definitive definition to what it really means. Developing a standard definition is important because only with standard definitions can organized discussions take place, as all parties are on the same page with respect to what they really have in mind.

The best definition for Islamic Marketing thus far is that “Islamic Marketing is the study of marketing phenomena in relation to Islamic principles and practices or within the context of Muslim societies” (Jafari, 2012). Here Islamic Marketing could be religion-based marketing (Alserhan, 2011) in which your marketing actvities are guided within the framework of Islamic Shariah, or Islamic Marketing could also mean the practices carried out by companies, Muslims or otherwise, to Muslim consumers (Alserhan, 2011).

The industry as well is new. Only in 2010 was the Journal of Islamic Marketing created to lay the foundation of, and advance, Islamic marketing as a new discipline. Even renowned international marketing agency Ogilvy and Mather published Ogily Noor to look into Islamic branding in 2010. The first Global Islamic Marketing Conference began in 2011. The first published marketing book attempting to deal with the subject in a structured manner “The Principles of Islamic Marketing” by Dr Alserhan also was published in 2011.

What can the advancement of Islamic Marketing offer? According to Ogilvy Noor (2012), the Muslim consumer market, consisting of 1.8billon people is undeniably the next important (and largely untapped) global opportunity. The halal market alone is worth US$2.1 trillion a year and is increasing at US$500bn a year due to the growth of the global Muslim population. It is expected that the global Muslim consumer Market will reach $30 trillion by 2050 (Alserhan, 2011). For both Muslims as well as non-muslims, this represents a tremendous business opportunity to create new products and services to the needs and nuances of niche Muslim markets, such as swimwear catering to Muslimah, or accommodation services which take into account family and gender issues relevant to the Muslim context. For Muslims engaged in business activities, Islamic Marketing is another advancement towards staying true to our beliefs and principles as Muslims, in the context of marketing. Here the advancement of this science is important because it is our communal religious duty (fard kifayah) to be represented as those who champion this new social science which roots itself it the Quran and Sunnah. At the same time, this initiative is in the spirit of past great scholars who developed their own frameworks and methodologies (e.g. usul Fiqh), and it is our greater calling to make this religion come alive in the field of marketing.

Muslims can participate in the development of Islamic Marketing in several ways. The first step is to recognize that Islam can encompass every aspect of our lives. This includes Marketing. Hence while we are doing our marketing activities wear the hat of an “Islamic Marketeer” and apply what you know about Islam and the shariah, to ensure that your marketing is free from obvious prohibitions. This is minimum while we await for a more comprehensive form of Islamic Marketing to be developed. This is also a call to all Muslims doing business, men or women, young or old, small or large businesses to upgrade our religious knowledge to be able to carry out the activity above. As the famous story of Saiyidina Umar Ibn Khattab r.a. who would dispel businessmen in the market place who didn’t know well enough their shariah principles, we too are not free from this obligation to learn about our religion should we become involved in business and trade as there is more to it then just haram because of riba. We can only know what is good and forbidden if we learn the religion properly. With that being said, Muslim businessmen and women should also strive to upgrade their knowledge in marketing.

The next step Muslims can take to practice Islamic Marketing is to become active excellent contributors to society as a whole. Here, what we are trying to market is Islam, and we do so with our character in our various fields of work. By marketing Islam, it does not mean we treat Islam as a commodity, but as the most valuable brand there is, and spreading this goodness to all. Hence, if we are a student, we study hard and do our best to excel in the field that we are in. If we are a doctor, we champion the cures for certain diseases. If we are husband, and father we show through our actions what a strong loving family can look like which can aid social harmony. If we are a businessman, we do our business with honesty, commendable character and at the same time excelling in standards so that all in society, Muslims and otherwise, can look up to us. Only if we show excellence, and contribute to society, do we shine as Muslims, and show that Islam is not a religion for the lazy and uninitiated, but is one that is well alive, and can continue to contribute to the eco system for the benefit for all and truly be a blessing to all, beyond just words, with real action and contribution, just as how we as an ummah did in the past.

In the hope to receive His mercy. Wallahu’alam.