"It is WE who divide among them their livelihood in the life of this world, and We exalt some of them above others in rank, so that some of them may command work from the others.” (Quran 43:32)
The poor are dependent on the rich for their bread, whilst the rich are dependent on the poor for their labour. The wealth of the rich is not to exploit the poverty of the poor, but rather to harness the potentialities of the skilled. This interdependence facilitates the smooth flow of life. This does not imply that Islam advocates two parallel social streams of the over nourished and the under nourished.
Labour and Capital need not be two hostile camps working against the interest of each other. They have to mutually supplement each other for the common good of prosperity. Some of the very simple, yet fundamental concepts of Islam are:
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.
- Treat them with dignity and equality.
- Do not create animosity by flouting your wealth in a manner that will stir feelings of jealousy and greed.
The minimum wage should be high enough to meet the basic essentials and requirements of the worker. Anas (R.A.) who served the Prophet (PBUH) for a long time specifically states that “the Prophet (PBUH) never paid a low wage to any person.” (Bukhari). One of the three persons that the Prophet (PBUH) will argue against on the Day of Judgement is a “man who engaged a labourer and enjoyed full benefit from him, yet did not pay him (his due) wages. (Bukhari)
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
Pay the labourer his wage before his sweat dries.” (Ibn Majah)
The worker should not be given a task beyond his physical capabilities.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stated: “Good treatment of those under you brings fortune, whilst bad treatment brings misfortune.” (Abu Dawud)
Umar (R.A.) the second Caliph, made it one of the duties of Government officials to look after the slaves (servants) and to visit them whenever they were sick.
Employment – A Trust
Employment is a trust that has to be discharged with absolute commitment. Punctuality and proficiency are the two basic requirements for the discharge of this trust. The Holy Quran refers to these qualities in the following words:
“A body nourished by ill gotten gain shall not enter paradise” (Baihaqi). Zaid bin Hussain says that I heard Imam Malik (R.A.) being asked about renunciation in the world. He replied “ Lawful earnings and curtailment of (ever increasing) desires.”
The Holy Prophet (SPBUH) said: “ When any man does any work, Allah wishes him to give it perfection and grace (i.e. the man is expected to do his work in the best possible way). (Muslim)
The beautiful Deen of Allah has regulated every facet of mans activity. Divine directives are both perfect and compatible to every age and era. Adherence to these directives will ensure peace and stability, whilst aversion to the same perpetuate strife, loss, and oppression.