Nowadays, everyone is talking about Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs. New NFT projects that seem promising and the ones that are not are introduced regularly in news feeds and social media. This has made NFTs one of the most popular issues all around the world, however some religious nations, such as Muslims, need to understand whether NFTs are Halal or Haram.
The primary and most essential step to answer this question is to know the basics of NFTs and see if it agrees with Shariah laws. In the following, we aim to investigate NFTs and Shariah accordingly.
What is an NFT?
Non-fungible tokens are described as a unique type of token or asset. The term fungible means something that can be replaced by or traded for something similar. On the other hand, non-fungible refers to a type of token that can’t be replaced by another similar token since according to the definition of an NFT, it represents unique and non-interchangeable token or asset. NFTs represent scarcity of digital content. The Ethereum blockchain provides the chance to artists, content creators and even gaming companies to attach attributes to their creations through NFTs. Therefore, it could be said that non-fungible tokens allow the digitization of assets and data.
Further, NFTs operate on blockchain technology and represent unique digital files that live on the blockchain. The blockchain makes it possible to establish rightful ownership and track the origin of a piece of digital art, which means clear copyright and royalty protection, a key for the art and collectibles space. Accordingly, it is claimed that two NFTs are not interchangeable as each represent something different. On the other hand, Ethereum, which is the basic cryptocurrency to the world of NFTs, made it possible for developers to begin decentralizing more complicated data.
Are NFTs Halal?
Knowing the characteristics of NFTs, it is time to learn about Shariah laws. NFTs could be Halal if they represent an acceptable form in Shariah. To review NFTs in this regard, it is necessary to consider the following principles to see if digital assets go with Shariah law.
- Maliyyah – assets which reasonable people have an inclination towards and can be retrieved when needed.
- Taqawwum – assets with a lawful utility and benefit.
- Manfa’ah Maqsudah – in the discussion of services, the jurists state that the utility of an asset must be sensible and commonly sought after by people. It should not be something that the Shariah objects to or reasonable people would not seek such utility.
- Extravagance and wastefulness.
- Assets should not include any potential wider Shariah infringements.
- The impact of NFTs on the remaining wealth of a person to fulfil their Islamic duties and obligations in particular to maintaining oneself and their family.
Also, it is important to know the industries which NFTs are produced in to see if they match Shariah principles.
The most well-known and common NFT industries are as following:
- In-game items
- Data and Licensing
- Virtual lands
From the Shariah perspective, there are some limitations to what NFTs may show to be legal according to Islam. Therefore, if these limitations are not met in the content of an NFT, it should be Halal to own or trade. The followings are some examples:
- Anything unlawful to see in Shariah
- A vice or unlawful substance or object
- Anything sacred in Shariah which it prohibited to portray such as the Allah, the Prophets etc.
- Ridiculing or disfiguring of muslims
- Limbs and areas, especially for women, which the Shariah orders to be covered and concealed.
- Reasonable purpose must be seen in anything to be beneficial for the worldly life or the afterlife. This should be carefully considered with games and collectibles.
If an NFT meet all the principles stated in Shariah, chances get stronger to see the NFT Halal.
Islamic NFTs and Marketplaces
At this present stage of the NFT technology, the primary concern foMuslimsms is the composition of NFT itself. Remember that NFTs are digital tokens that represent ownership of a particular item. What that item could be is unlimited. For instance, a user could create an NFT to represent ownership of a house, picture, audio, tweet, or track the movement of goods from one place to another.
Thus, according to Islamic finance scholars, the underlying technology behind NFTs is Shariah compliant but could become haraam once it is made to represent something considered haram. For example, an NFT cannot be made to represent unlawful objects or substances such as alcohol or pictures. Also, an NFT purporting to visualize the images of Allah or the Prophets is haraam.
While Islamic NFTs are available on most popular NFT marketplaces, NFT marketplaces that offer purely Halaal NFTs have recently emerged.
Funoon is one of the major Islamic NFT marketplaces. The UK-based company is a shariah NFT marketplace providing a platform for Islamic NFTs. One of the company’s core objectives is to increase awareness about Islamic NFTs and portfolios. The marketplace also offers digital Islamic art, culture, and sports assets.
Funoon features an NFT minting tool that creators can use to create and mint their NFTs. Like most other marketplaces, users must connect their wallets to the platform. Presently, the platform supports MetaMask.
However, the marketplace’s data on sales and trade volume is unavailable. But because Shariah-compliant NFTs are still relatively new, trade volumes and user activity might be lower than in most NFT marketplaces.
Souq NFT is another Shariah-compliant NFT marketplace with considerable user activity. The platform promotes itself as a decentralized platform focusing on ethical and Halal digital art and other Shariah-compliant NFT assets. According to Souq’s website, it is “a community-focused marketplace for the creation, collection, and commerce of NFTs.”
True to its ethical standings, the marketplace has some rules that creators must follow. For example, the platform requires that all NFTs minted on the marketplace must be original works of the creator. Also, the platform prohibits NFTs that promote hate speech, nudity, or racism.
Currently, the platform supports MetaMask and Wallet Connect as wallet service providers, which users can use to connect to the platform.
Experts believe that NFTs are still developing and new use cases are added to NFT market every day. With the development of the industry, people get more knowledgeable on NFTs and attain better insights to its different use cases. Accordingly, NFTs may better fit with Shariah purposes and more people, and muslims, develop and invest in the market. Muslims are advised to take Shariah laws in mind and investigate the origin of NFTs before trading or investing on them.