Muzâra‘ah – Temporary sharecropping contract

Bahishti Zewar, Fiqh, Part 5-Principles of Business / Friday, November 26th, 2010

1. A person gave an empty piece of land to another person telling him: “You cultivate this land. Whatever you harvest will be divided between us according to a certain percentage.” This is known as muzâra’ah and is permissible.

2. A person cultivated a piece of land and said to another person: “You irrigate this land, tend to it and do whatever else is necessary. Whatever fruit is produced, irrespective of whether it is up to one-two years or 10-12 years, we will share it between ourselves either equally (i.e. 50% each) or by dividing it in thirds (or whatever the percentage may be).” This is known as musâqât and is also permissible.

3. In muzâra’ah, the following conditions apply:
(a) the land must be cultivable.
(b) the landlord and the cultivator must be mature and in their senses.
(c) the period of cultivation must be specified.
(d) the ownership of the seeds must be specified – whether they will belong to the landlord or the cultivator.
(e) the crop must be specified – whether it will be wheat, barley or whatever else.
(f) the share of the cultivator must be specified, i.e. what percentage or how much will he receive from the total harvest.
(g) the land must be vacated and given to the cultivator.
(h) the landlord and the cultivator must remain partners in the harvest.
(i) the land and the seeds must be from one person while the ox, ploughing tools and labour must be from the other person. Alternatively, the land must be from one person and the rest of the things from the other person.

4. If any one of these conditions are not found, the muzâra’ah will be fâsid.

5. When a muzâra’ah becomes fâsid, all the produce will go to the person who gave the seeds. If the other person is the landlord (i.e. if he did not give the seeds), he will receive a rental for his land, the rate of which will be according to the market value at that time. If the other person is the cultivator (i.e. if he did not give the seeds), he will receive a payment for his labour, the rate of which will be according to what is normally paid at the time.

This rental and this payment for the labour will not be more than what they had agreed upon at the beginning of the contract. For example, if they had agreed that they will share it out equally (i.e. 50% each), either of them will not receive more than half of the total produce.

6. Once the muzâra’ah contract has been drawn and thereafter one of them refuses to work, he will be forced to carry out his work. However, the person who gave the seeds will not be forced.

7. If any one of the parties of the contract passes away, the muzâra’ah will become invalid.

8. If the specified time of muzâra’ah expires and the crops have not ripened as yet, the cultivator will be paid for the extra days that he works on the land. He will be paid according to the normal rate at that time.

9. In certain places the custom is that the crops are divided according to the contract that they had made. As for other crops such as unripe corn, etc. they do not divide between them. Instead, the landlord charges the cultivator a cash fee per acre of land. Since this condition falls contrary to the rule of muzâra’ah it ought to be impermissible. However, this law can be re-interpreted and circumvented to exclude such crops from the contract of muzâra’ah. Therefore, the ‘urf (current custom) will be considered and it will be assumed that both parties have agreed to execute muzâra’ah in certain crops while in other crops it will be considered as though the land was rented out. Such a re-interpretation can make the afore-mentioned custom permissible. However, the consent of both parties is conditional.

10. It is the habit of some landlords that when the crops are being divided, then apart from their own share, they take out something extra from the share of the cultivator for the other labourers and workers. If he specifies a certain number by saying that he will take one or two tons (or whatever the case may be), this will not be permissible.

However, if he says that he will take a certain number of kilos from each ton, it will be permissible.

11. Some people do not clearly state what will be planted. Thereafter, they end up in disputes and court cases. This is not permissible. They should either clearly state what will be planted or grant an open permission to the cultivator to plant whatever he wishes.

12. In certain places it is the habit of the cultivator to plant the seeds and thereafter hand over the responsibility of cultivating the land to a few persons. He hands over this responsibility to them on the condition that whatever produce they yield, they will receive one third (or whatever the case may be). This is also called muzâra’ah. This will be permissible wherever the landlords permit this sort of contract. If not, it will not be permissible.

13. In the previous mas’ala (no.9), the above-mentioned mas’ala (no.12) is also applicable. That is, certain crops are divided with these labourers, while for the other crops they are paid in cash per acre (or whatever the case may be). In this mas’ala as well, as with the above-mentioned mas’ala, it is apparently not permissible and the same explanation for its permissibility will also apply over here.

14. The custom of claiming inheritance or ownership over a land after renting it for 10-12 years or after entering into a muzâra’ah contract for a similar period is bâtil (invalid), harâm, zulm (oppression), and ghasab (illegal seizure). Without obtaining a voluntary permission from the owner, it is not permissible to use this land or property. If a person does this, the produce of this land will be evil and eating it will be harâm.

15. The rules of musâqât are the same as that of muzâra’ah.

16. If a tree has fruit on it and the tree is given in order to be taken care of, and the fruit is in such a state that by irrigating it and tending to it, it will grow, musâqât will be permissible. However, if the fruit has already matured, musâqât will not be permissible just as muzâra’ah is not permissible once the plantation has already been prepared.

17. Once the musâqât contract becomes fâsid, all the fruit will go to the person who owns the trees. The person who tended to the trees will receive a basic wage, as had been mentioned for muzâra’ah.

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