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We are not sure who will use the software we have developed. Would the income be permissible?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Fatwa.ca

Question:

We are developing a software, in which any client from any background can come and request our software. My question is that I don’t know who will be the clients. If there comes any client which is related to banks, insurance or any other such thing. Is it haraam to sell to them? (I will not be selling to them, I’m only developing such a software.)

You can think of it as web hosting provider. Anyone can come and ask for web hosting. Be it a bank, insurance company and entertainment/music firm.

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

In principle, if a software is developed, then it will be categorized in one of three categories:

a. The software by nature is designed to do something which contradicts the shariah. For example the software is a program to operate a casino slot machine. Selling such a software will be impermissible.

b. The software by nature is designed to do something which is permissible in shariah. For example a software is developed to show time on a digital clock tower. Sale of such a software will be permissible.

c. The software by nature is such that it has multiple usage. It could be used to do something permissible in shariah, as well as it can be used to do something impermissible in shariah. Most of the products will fall in this category. For example you develop a software which helps in making schedules. This software can either be used by people to do permissible things like meetings etc. It can also be used by impermissible sector to carry out their work, like dating etc.

With regards to your query, there are two aspects:

i. Developing a software and selling it.

ii. Developing a software and hosting it through subscriptions

Developing a software and selling it.

  • If the software falls under category a, the sale of the software will not be permissible.
  • If the software falls in category b or c then its sale will be permissible.

Developing a software and hosting it through subscriptions

This will follow different ruling since you are actively involved in the usage of that software. Hence you become a direct means towards the process of the client.

  • If the software falls under category a, then its subscription to any clients will be impermissible. The is regardless whether the client himself is in permissible business or an impermissible business.
  • If the software falls under category b, then its subscription will be permissible regardless of who the client is.1
  • If the software falls under category c, then it is makruh (disliked) to let it out to a client running an impermissible business.2 However, if the client’s business is permissible, then it will be permissible to let out the software and the income from subscription will be permissible.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mufti Faisal bin Abdul Hameed al-Mahmudi
www.fatwa.ca

Concurred by,
Mufti Faraz al-Mahmudi

www.darulfiqh.com

1This is because you are providing a service which cannot aid in the impermissible nature of the client. e.g. a software which allows on to display time on one’s website. This applet itself does not have the ability to aid the workings of the website at all. Hence it will be permissible to sublet this applet to anyone.

2This is because although the software in itself is not designed to do the impermissible (as in category a), however, it assists the client in his impermissible motives whereby you become a direct means of this assistance.

This answer was collected from Fatwa.ca, which is a fatwa portal operated by Mufti Faisal al Mahmudi from Canada. 

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