Ramadan reflection: Consenting to a thing implies consenting to its consequences and externalities

A legal maxim states that consenting to a thing implies consenting to its consequences, too.* For example, someone who consents to an operation, consents to its consequences, for better or for worse; and the inheritors cannot sue the doctor for wrongful death so long as the operation was free of negligence.

An exception to this is when an act is permitted only if it ends in safety. One example of this is those cases where the Sacred Law consents to parents and teachers disciplining their children and students, since its permission is conditional to it being free of injury and harm, and it not being excessive.

Think about how this maxim applies to the negative consequences and externalities related to modern industry and our consumption habits. Unless we’re consuming products and services based on their claim that they are free of negative consequences, then we have consented to all the negative externalities that go into the products and services we use. While we might not have committed it ourselves, but our use implies consent. And while our own personal lack of knowledge of negative consequences might get us off the hook for sin and criminal culpability, we still bear some responsibility for dealing with the consequences—responsibility for our own deeds as well as part of being Allah’s stewards charged with commanding the good and forbidding the wrong.

I do not agree with the move to transfer responsibility away from corporations and place it on the shoulders of consumers. Corporations are guilty of the act; we consumers are guilty of assenting to them doing it and enjoying the fruits of their actions.

And Allah knows best.

* You can read more about this maxim here.