For a while, the issue of whether or not to boycott Israeli goods has been under discussion on Islamic discussion forums and the social media websites. The shallowness of jurisprudential insight in most of those discussions is appalling. I will try to discuss this issue from various angles analyzing the arguments of those who are completely against it.
FIRST: Boycotting is not an end (ghaya) in itself. If there is evidence of its effectiveness, then it is a means of inflicting economic damage to the enemy. And as with all means (wasail), it need NOT be proven from the practice of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions. All that is required that it be permissible (mubah) in itself, and the end (ghaya) be a noble one.
One example of this is the lines weaved into the carpets of a Masjid so as to enable people to form straight rows. These lines were not there at the time of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), but the commandment to straighten the rows was there. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) himself used to straighten out the rows by patting the shoulders of the Sahabah till they were aligned. Now we have lines on the carpets, and there is nothing wrong with that, because they are merely a means of achieving a legislated and ordained end.
This quashes the argument of those oppose the boycotting of Israeli products on the pretext that it was not the practice of the Sahabah and the Salaf.
SECOND: We have in the Sunnah a precedent for boycotting the enemies economically. It is the case of Thumama ibn Uthal (radhiallahu 'anhu) who was one of the chiefs of the Banu Hanifah tribe of Yamamah; when he accepted Islam, he enforced a wheat embargo on the Makkan pagans, until they were so hard hit that they implored the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) on the grounds of kinship to ask Thumama to lift the embargo. [Narrated by Al-Bukhari (4372), Muslim (1764), and Al-Bayhaqi 9/66]
The only difference is that Thumamah boycotted the selling of goods to them, while now people are boycotting the purchase of good from them; both being in essence two sides of the very same economic punitive measure.
THIRD: Some brothers are quoting ahadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions traded with the Mushrikin, as a proof of refuting the claim that it is "forbidden" to trade with them.
No doubt the ahadith prove the general permissibility, but if giving up a permissible act can be a means of achieving a noble end, then it is legislated to give it up; for the means take the ruling of the desired end.
For argument's sake, let us agree that it is not forbidden to trade with them as per the quoted ahadith, but does that mean it is not even undesirable?
FOURTH: Some brothers are quoting Shaykh Al-Fawzan's statement: "The purchase of these products cannot be prevented unless it is a command given by the ruler ... " First of all, the command of the ruler concerns those living in Saudi Arabia, but what about those living in the UK (for example); which ruler are they supposed to follow?! Secondly, the statement of the Shaykh is concerning American goods, not Israeli ones. As for Israeli goods, they don't enter Saudi Arabia, so the command of the ruler is already there.
FIFTH: There is a very important aspect to this issue which I don't find anyone mentioning: It is haram to purchase stolen goods if one knows that they are stolen. And since Israel has illegally confiscated and occupied Palestinian lands, the produce of that land and its natural resources are therefore considered usurped and stolen goods. For example:
- "Eden Springs" bottled water comes from the occupied Golan Heights.
- "Jaffa Oranges" and "Medjool Dates" are grown on land stolen and confiscated from Palestinians.
SIXTH: Many people who advocate the boycott go way overboard by releasing lengthy lists of brands and companies which (supposedly) have ties with Israel or which are (supposedly) owned by Jews. Trying to boycott all these brands and companies is a daunting task that has a very slim chance, if any, of having a concrete impact on Israel.
For the boycott to have its impact, it should be focused and concentrated on that which hurts Israel the most. For this, professional advice should be sought on the matter. The Palestinian BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) Movement is playing a leading role in the cause.
One should refer to their campaigns and resources to learn how to play an effective role in the cause.
Allah knows best.
Written by the author on the night preceding the 25th day of the Israeli "Operation Protective Edge" (5th Shawwal 1435H). The author was at the time a PhD student at Umm al-Qura University, Makkah.