In the Islamic shari'ah, the fundamental requirement for a counter value or consideration is that it has status as maal, meaning property.
Whilst the word "maal" is often used in the Quran and ahadith, it is not explicitly defined.
Linguistically, the famous Arabic dictionary Lisan al-Arab defines mal to be that which can be possessed.
The classical scholar al-Isfahani says maal is "something which is desirable and can be transferred from one person to another".
For Ibn al-Athir mal originally referred to silver and gold, the definition over time including "any physical thing that is desirable to be stored and possessed".
Yusuf al-Qardawi argues linguistically it is "everything that is desirable for human beings and that which they wish to store and possess."
Ibn Nujaim and Ibn Abidin claimed maal was that which is desirable and can be stored for the time of need. Anything can be recognized as maal, when everyone or a group accept and act as if it is maal.
By this definition, usufructs and rights (eg trademarks, copyrights, etc.) are not mal as they cannot be stored. A number of Hanafi scholars, including Al-Haskafi and Zarqa, stipulate maal should be a tangible thing.
The contemporary Hanafi scholar Taqi Usmani is of the view that if non-tangible things such as rights and benefits become valuable things according to custom, then it is treated as mal. Prevalent customs (urf) of business for him play pivotal role in determining the benefits and rights (huquq and manafih) as maal.
The majority of jurists and scholars (including Maliki, Shafi, and Hanbali scholars) do not limit maal to tangible things, defining it as everything which has value and can be compensated for if it is destroyed. Al-Suyuti cites Imam Shafi'i's definition of maal as that which "has value, is used as consideration in trade, must be compensated for if destroyed and people do not behave as if it is a valueless thing."
The jurists differed when defining maal. Some argued mal is only used for corporeal (ayn) or tangible things whilst others held it includes both tangible and intangible things, so long it has both value and desirability. This fundamental difference is between the Hanafi scholars and the rest.
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