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Transactions on Hotwire or Priceline: Halal?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

I’d like to know whether transactions made on Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, in the following manner, are halal: On Priceline.com, a person can specify the amount of money they are willing to pay for a hotel room in a particular city. The website then checks whether various hotels in that city are willing to provide a room at the specified price. If a hotel is willing, a binding reservation is made for the person. The person does not know the identity of the hotel until after the transaction has already been made. The transaction cannot be revoked. On Hotwire.com, a person can search for a hotel room in a particular city. The website then tells the person that there is a hotel available in a specified neighborhood at a specified price. The website does not tell the person the name of the hotel. It only tells the person the neighborhood, the class level (e.g., 4-star, 3-star, etc.), and the price. The person finds out the name of the hotel only after entering into a binding transaction that cannot be revoked afterwards. Are these transactions halal? Is there any “gharar” or other problematic elements?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

These transactions would be considered permissible, because these sites would be considered booking agents (wakeel) acting on one’s behalf within certain defined limits. The remaining uncertainty (though inexcusable in actual sales) is excusable in agreements with an agent. [Haydar, Durar al-Hukkam Sharh Majallat al-Ahkam]

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

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