Running a Yacht Business in the Red Sea

Question: As-salamu `alaykum. I own a motor yacht in the Egyptian Red Sea region. I operate it as a business taking tourists (mostly Europeans) out on day trips to nearby islands where they swim and sunbathe on the beaches. Our alcohol policy is the following: we do not sell or serve alcohol; non-Muslim guests are allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages under the understanding that they will handle them themselves, while Muslim guests are instructed that no alcohol is allowed at all. Lately, I have been wondering whether the whole service that I am offering is halal or not. My concern is that these foreigners swim and sunbathe in highly revealing attire (some even swim topless) and spend most of the day in this state of undress that might be a fitna for onlookers. Although the area where I take them to swim and the islands they visit are uninhabited, these tourists come in daily contact with the young Muslim men who are the members of my staff and are seen by others on other boats, at the marina, etc. Through my activity, I am also directly contributing to the growth of sea and beach tourism in my country, which brings more and more naked foreign bodies and more and more potential fitna to the Muslim locals. On the bright side, I am gaining foreign currency and income for my society as well as the chance for non-Muslims to interact with Islam. Admittedly, the chances of these tourists receiving da`wah are rather minimal in comparison to them being a source of fitna through their promiscuity. Please tell me your opinion on what I should do. Please note that I am generally well off and can afford to sell the boat if there is shubha (doubt) of prohibition involved in the business. Thank you.

Answer: Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother, thank you very much for having confidence in us, and we earnestly implore Allah to guide you to the best and to help you stick to what is lawful and avoid what is prohibited both in this world and in the Hereafter, Amen.

Your question reflects your desire to live according to Islam and indicates that you possess a pure heart that fears to disobey Allah, irrespective of the financial gains you have earned or will earn from your business.

Before furnishing you with a direct response to your question, and before judging the permissibility or impermissibility of your business, we would like first to remind you that we were created to obey Allah, do good, and worship Him; when we go against that, it is natural to feel guilt or remorse for what we do.

Thus, when we are disobeying Allah, we are in fact oppressing our souls and preventing our souls from what they are naturally inclined to do. The more we oppress our souls by disobeying Allah, the more we become slaves to our desires and maybe even to society or others. Sometimes, some of us turn away from Allah so much that a dark covering forms on our hearts because of our sins, and we no longer even realize that we are doing wrong or feel remorse or guilt when we do it. Allah informs of this dark covering in the Qur’an: “Nay, but that which they have earned is rust upon their hearts. Nay, but surely on that day they will be covered from (the mercy of) their Lord.” (Al-Mutaffifeen: 14-15)

Commenting on a similar question, the eminent Muslim scholar, Dr. Sabri `Abder-Ra’oof Muhammad, Prof. of the Comparative Fiqh at Al-Azhar Univ. and the member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, states:

“It goes without saying that livelihood should be sought via wholesome and legal means. This principle is confirmed in the Qur’an in the verse that reads: “Eat of the good things, and do right. Lo! I am Aware of what ye do.” (Al-Mu’minun: 51)

What is meant in the verse is to seek Halal livelihood. Working in the field of tourism has become a profession and an industry. Therefore, there is nothing wrong, as far as Islam is concerned, in working in such profession as long as Islamic teachings and ethics are adhered to. By the same token, one should not participate or assist in doing wrong such as drinking, adultery, etc.

In contrast, if working in this field leads to the spread of immorality and the commitment of sin, it will be Haram (unlawful) on the ground of the Shari`ah based maxim: Whatever is conductive to Haram is itself Haram.”

In his response to the question, Dr. Marawan Shahin, Professor of Hadith and Hadith Sciences, Faculty of Usul Ad-Din, Al-Azhar University, states the following:

“Indeed, according to what you have described in your question, the motor yacht business you are running is totally haram (unlawful) for the following reasons:

1- According to what you have described, there is no doubt that the business helps increase promiscuity, lewdness, chaos, and moral degradation, and all these acts are forbidden in Islam.

2- It is a means of spreading evil and disobedience, and such means are also prohibited.

3- It is no more than providing an atmosphere disobedience to Allah and enticing others to commit sins, and all these acts are also forbidden. Allah Almighty says, “Lo! those who love that slander should be spread concerning those who believe, theirs will be a painful punishment in the world and the Hereafter. Allah knoweth. Ye know not.” (An-Nur: 19)

Finally, I see that continuing to run this business is haram, and I don’t hesitate to say that the money you have earned from that business is ill-gotten money. This ill-gotten money should be distributed among the poor and the needy and should not remain in your possession.

Thus, as a practical step to gain Allah’s obedience, you should apply the following:

  1. To stop the business altogether.
  2. To determine the sum of the money you have earned from that business and then pay it out as a charity.
  3. To hasten to offer sincere repentance for what you have done, keeping in mind that if you are sincere then Allah will accept your repentance.

Having stated the above, I conclude that the issue does not fall within the category of subuhat (doubtful matters) as you stated in your question, but rather it falls within the domain of prohibition or tahrim. An-Nu`ma ibn Basheer (may Allah be pleased with them both) said: I head the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), saying: “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)”

Finally, Dr. `Ali Jum`ah, professor of the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, concludes:

“The business, as you have described in your question is haram for the many unlawful practices, religious violations and temptations that are included in it. Thus, I earnestly advise you to change your line of business in order not to disobey Allah.”

As you can see from these two fatwas, the most important thing is that you change your line of business into something halal. It is best if you also pay in charity all the money you have earned from the yacht business (even if you pay it in installments), but if this is impossible or it will bring you irreparable harm, then you should pay as much money in charity as you can and sincerely implore Allah to forgive your sins.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to write back!

May Allah guide you to the straight path, and guide you to that which pleases Him, Amen.

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