The first of May is officially commemorated as Workers Day. It is a day wherein we acknowledge the immeasurable contribution of ‘labour’ to the smooth functioning and prosperity of society; it is also a day wherein we pay tribute to the dignity and human worth of the ‘labourer’.
As Muslims we need to look at how we fare as a society in the treatment of our workers. Islâm spread to every corner of the globe because of the conduct that Muslims displayed. People were naturally attracted to Islâm because of their close association and interaction with Muslims. We need to ask ourselves why do individuals who see how we pray, fast, live, etc., … individuals who have virtually become part of the family still do not find reason to accept Islâm. Are we perhaps falling short in displaying justice, compassion and kindness in our dealings with them? Is our conduct turning them away from Islâm?
The manner in which we address our domestics helps to develop their self-worth and confidence. It is improper to address them as “Boy” or “Girl.” It is even more repugnant when the “Boy” or “Girl” is as old as our mothers or fathers.
The Holy Qur’ân states: “And neither shall you defame one another nor insult one another by offensive names; evil is a name implying wickedness after one has attained to faith.” (49:11)
The Holy Qur’ân states: “O you who believe! Spend on others out of the good things that you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things, which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that Allâh is self-sufficient, ever to be praised.” (2:267)
Muslims are cautioned not to offer as charity things that they themselves would not like to receive. We need to guard against offering ‘inferior acts of kindness’ as tokens of appreciation and gratitude.
Our Mua’dhins are perhaps one of the most underrated people in our societies. They often work seven days a week, 365 days a year, and are in some instances housed in squalid conditions and paid meagre salaries. In some Masâjid, every Musallî feels that he has the right to instruct the Mua’dhin.
The Holy Qur’ân states: “And who is better in speech than one who calls to Allâh and does righteous deeds and says: “I am of those who submit.” (41:33) The Mua’dhin has a very noble and honoured status in the sight of Allâh. He proclaims the greatness of Allâh five times a day; he has the honour of caring for the House of Allâh! Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “The Mua’dhins will be the proudest of people on the Day of Qiyâmah.” (Muslim)
Our Imâms and Teachers have dedicated their lives to fulfilling the mission of Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam. They are regarded as the best of people by virtue of the vocation they pursue. Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’ân and teach it.” Do we really hold them in esteem? Does our attitude reflect a sense of respect and admiration? Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “Verily from among the signs of the final hour are that the congregation will push each other forward since they will not find an Imâm who will lead them in prayer.” (Ahmad)
The scarcity of Imâms may well be because of the absence of learned men in the community, or learned men become materially motivated and look for ‘greener pastures’ or because learned men find it unbearable to work under undignified working conditions.
The Holy Qur’ân states: “O You who believe, do not consume your property among yourselves wrongfully, but let there be trade by mutual consent, and do not kill yourselves…” (4:29-30)
Believers are cautioned against exploitation of any kind, even if the other person being the weaker party agrees to such a deprivation or exploitation under the stress of circumstances. “Do not kill yourselves” refers to the eventual outcome of exploitation – It perpetuates a cycle of hatred, and anger, which will eventually rebound on the oppressors themselves. Exploitation of any kind is tantamount to self-destruction.
Mutual consent is the fundamental principle that forms the basis of employer/employee relations. This mutual consent has to take the form of an agreement or contract. The provisions of the contract must be based on justice, and compassion.
The contract from an Islâmic perspective must include among other things:
Description of the type of work
Place of work
Duration of contract
Ordinary hours and days of work
Dignity of the Employees
“(They are) Your brethren whom Allâh has placed in your custody. Let him who has been made custodian of his brother by Allâh feed him from what he himself eats, clothe him out of what he clothes himself, and impose not on him work that will overcome him…” (Bukhârî & Muslim)
Although this tradition primarily refers to the treatment of slaves, it nevertheless contains some very pertinent directives for employers. Your employees are your human brothers who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Pay them enough so that they are able to maintain themselves with dignity. Do not impose on them so much work, or so long working hours that may be overbearing. Treat them, as you yourself would like to be treated.
May Allâh Ta’âlâ give us the ability to mirror the teachings of our Dîn in all our activities. Âmîn