When we do business, any business, the one thing we always wish for is growth. We want to achieve more than just break even. We want profit. Lots of it. And we want customers who keep coming back to us. And we want the business to sustain over a long period of time. If we take our efforts as seeds, we want every seed to bear fruit. If we make ten efforts today, it’s like planting ten seeds. And we want, a year of six months or a few weeks from now, for that ten seeds to give us what ten rich trees would give. That’s what we want. We want barakah. And we search for it.
Three days ago, I received an email from Microsoft, asking me to update my debit card info as I needed to renew my subscription for Microsoft Office 365. After taking three months unpaid leave to deliver my baby and care for him (plus managing all the expenses that comes a newborn), this news wasn’t exactly the best news for me to receive. But I went into my savings account paid the amount nonetheless.
In this post, I won’t go into the Islamic hukum on pirated software. Even from the word ‘pirate’ we know it’s illegal. It’s stealing. And we know what Islam says about stealing. I’ll leave it at that.
But really, I used to use pirated softwares all the time. Usually from installing very outdated software that still functioned well to do what I wanted it to do. Like using Photoshop CS when the latest version was already CS5. But apart from using Microsoft Word to do my proofreading jobs, I never used pirated software for profit.
I started really offering my services to proofread and edit documents when I was doing my degree. Taking into consideration my allowance from my BTAR scholarship, I should have had no problems subscribing for a yearly Microsoft Office plan. But I continued using the outdated, now pirated version because, well. It was easier. There was less hassle.
At some point in the middle of my degree, I offered YTAR to re-do their website. I was in the phase of upgrading my HTML knowledge, and we were learning Adobe Dreamweaver in class. YTAR gave permission for me to re-do the website, but on two conditions – that I was to be given a fair payment, and that I use the original Dreamweaver software to build the website.
Dreamweaver wasn’t cheap then. It was RM800+ (now I think it’s around RM1000 with GST). I factored in the software’s cost with my invoice, and I built the website.
To be honest, I was quite surprised that I was given that condition. Pirated software seems like such a norm in Malaysia that we consider it okay. Normal. Everyone does it, from the typical student to large companies. But just because everyone does it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.
It was around that time that Allah put into my heart the feeling of guilt whenever I used my pirated MS Office to do proofreading jobs. It nagged at me. I wasn’t getting a lot of jobs then. Not even one job a month. It was more like one or two jobs every two to three months. But it seriously nagged at me, whenever I launched MS Word and started proofreading, knowing I was making money from stolen software.
As usual, I started looking for answers. Dr. Google became my reference point. In my hearts of hearts, I knew piracy was wrong. Wrong morally, and wrong in Islam, especially if I was making money from using it. I was stealing. Worse, I was making profit from what was stolen. One page after another, one ustadh’s comment, one article after another – I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer bear to offer my paid services that way.
I tried using freeware at first, like OpenOffice. But I knew that, really, nothing could beat MS Office for me. So in the end, to rid of the guilt, I paid for the software.
Sometimes, we think we can live life by our rules. We say things like “Once I can afford this, then I’ll pay for it, but I’ll just use the pirate version in the meantime”. I know people who genuinely cannot afford to pay the RM280 for a one year Microsoft Office subscription, and to me, that’s fair. But I also know of businesses that claim to make millions of ringgit with their sales each season yet they still use pirated versions of Adobe Photoshop to edit their photos and advertisements to generate those sales.
I used to think that way, you know. I tell myself, “Once my proofeading business takes off and I make more income, then I’ll pay for the software”. But you know what. Life doesn’t work that way. Guilt nagged at me. And I think guilt is the best sign that you still have a good heart. Once you stop feeling bad for the wrong things you do, once you start making justifications to yourself, that’s when you’re in danger.
So I paid for my software. And after, the jobs began to stream in. This is, really, what I believe barakah is. When we do something, we don’t just hope for blessings. We hope that like a seed we plant, it won’t just become a tree, but it becomes a forest. It seems that now, alhamdulillah, whenever I am short of cash, someone always suddenly comes needing my proofreading service. And I get new customers even without advertising, as they came from word of mouth. To me, once we start something right, the rewards will follow.
I’m not here to go into the hukum part of pirate software. That is not my place. But I will say this. If you own a car. A nice car, like a Honda Jazz. And you work your hardest to pay for it each month. You service it well. You fuel it up properly. And someone keeps using the car for their Uber business. They drive people around for money. They don’t contribute for fuel, saying “You’re rich already anyway, that’s how you can afford the Jazz in the first place!” How would you feel?
It’s with that mentality that I’m forking out this RM270 to pay for another year of MS Office. At the very least, each time I do a job proofreading and editing and writing, I know that it is not tainted. And I continuously pray, that good will continue to come out of it. That more clients will come. That I’ll become a professional writer someday, maybe even have someone offer me a job as a content producer. Because I have the tools. And I want it to be, ultimately, filled with barakah.
Maibreakstheice is a blog where I like to tackle life questions through my personal experiences and, where applicable, through my knowledge as a graduate in family counselling. Keep your eye out for updates every Tuesday, or subscribe via email to receive updates straight to your mailbox!