LABOUR DIGNITY IN ISLAM
There is no religion or ideology except Islam, which guarantees the rights of the workers and peasants ie the poorest and oppressed classes of the world. Islam not only guarantees the rights of labor but also of the capitalist class. Islam respects all kinds of work for ensuring one’s livelihood so long as there is no injustice involved. The economic aspect of life envisaged by Islam is based upon sound foundations and divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labor is not only a duty but a great virtue as well.
The Holy Qur’an provides guidance for all human beings and is a complete code of life. There are clear instructions for the capitalists as well as labors regarding possession of wealth. There are two basic principles laid down in the Holy Qur’an and Hadith for the master as well as the servant. The master shall pay fully for the services rendered and the servant shall work faithfully and honestly. Islam gives directions about the attitude of the employers for equal treatment with servants and subordinates.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Your brothers are your servants whom ALLAH has made your subordinate, he should give them to eat for what he himself eats and wear for what he himself wears and do not put on them burden of any labor which may exhaust them. And if you have to put such burden on yourself (in these works). Hazrat Abu Hurrairah (RA) reported that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said “ALLAH says there are three persons whose adversary in dispute shall be on the day of resurrection, a person who makes a promise in My name then acts unfaithfully and a person who devours prices and the person who employs a servant and uses fully the labor from him and then does not pay the remuneration.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did business, but he set personal examples of upholding the dignity of labor. He performed a number of tasks that are today considered humble. The ‘King’ of Arabia, and in fact of the entire universe, he would kindle a fire, sweep the floor, milk goats, patch his clothes, mend his shoes and help in household chores. That is why Carlyle regarded him as “the greatest man” and yet the “greatest worker” of the world. His love for manual labor is evident from one of his Traditions. Once when Jabir (R.A.) shook hands with him, he (the Prophet) noted some scars and roughness on his (Jabir’s) palm. He enquired about it. Jabir explained that he was a furrier (one who makes and fits horseshoes). Listening to this, the Prophet kissed his hand.
Again it is related on the authority of Ibn Majah (RA) that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “The wages of labor must be paid to him before the sweat dries upon his body. “In another Hadith the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “It is the duty of employer to take only such work from the employees, which they can do easily. They should not be made to work so that their health is impaired.” The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “He is not Momin (true Muslim) who eats full stomach while his neighbor is hungry.”
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: “Never has anyone eaten a better thing than when he eats of his own hands. “The Holy Qur’an says, “And that man will have nothing but what he strives for.” (53.40). The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) worked with his own hands. Previous Prophets also did labor for their livelihood. Islam fully guarantees the rights of labor and gives direction to the master for fair and good treatment to their subordinates.
Employers have been given the rules of conduct in their day- to-day affairs with the employees. The latter have to be treated justly and kindly (Al Qasas:27). The wages should be reasonable — commensurate with time, skills, and the labor involved. Wages have to be settled at the time of employment and paid “before the sweat of the workman dries up” (promptly). Employees are not to be burdened with excessive workload beyond their capability as Shoaib (A.S.) said while employing Musa (A.S.), “...I intend not to place you under difficulty. ALLAH willing, you will find me one of the righteous” (Al Qasas:27). In the words of the holy Prophet (SAW), “A worker is a friend of God.”
Workers rights in Islam,
All people are equal. It does not make any difference to what race they belong, what color they have, what country they come from, what their gender is or what their occupation is. Young and old, rich and poor, white and black, citizens or foreigners with legal work permits are all equal; and they all should be respected, honored, and treated equally. Almighty ALLAH says: [ O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of ALLAH is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And ALLAH has full Knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)] (Al-Hujurat 49:13).
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said the following words in his last sermon:
"O people, indeed your Lord is one and your father is one. Behold, there is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for a white person over a black person, nor for a black person over a white person, except through piety."