As far as I understand from the narrations about commerce, it is forbidden to sell goods which are not possessed. However, we do have a concept called e-commerce. In e-commerce, the customer and the dealer realize a virtual shopping process over the web. Neither the customer, nor the dealer actually sees the goods and generally the dealer sells goods that are not currently possessed. Is this kind of commerce legitimate?
The narration that forbids selling goods which are not possessed is like this:
From Hakim Ibn. Hizam: I came to the Messenger of Allah and said, “Someone comes to me and wants to buy something that I don’t have at hand. So I buy it from the market and sell it to him. (What do you say to this?)” The Messenger of Allah answered, “Don’t sell something that you don’t have.” (Tirmidhi, Buyu’/Commerce, 19; Abu Dawud, Buyu’/Commerce, 60)
In the narration, the reason of the prohibition for selling goods that are not at hand is protecting the customer. In e-commerce, all of the features of the goods are presented in detail. The customer buy the right to obtain the goods eventually when the payment is made. The customer also has a right to return the goods in case of a disinformation or defect. So the risks which are implied in the narration do not have a chance to occur. These reasons make e-commerce legitimate.
Assoc. Prof. Servet Bayındır