Rights of the Worker

Allah SWT has guided us all to the religion of Islam and has made humans the best of creation. Within our species, we have the best example of man in the Prophet SAWS who was sent to us as a mercy and as a teacher.

Our religion was completed and perfected through the teaching of the Prophet SAWS and from amongst these teachings came the guidelines on how we ought to be with those who work for us.

In fact, the condition of work between two people, that who is doing the work and that who is paying the worker, is one of those conditions that has stipulations and we need to be mindful that we do not fall foul of these.

There are two points mentioned here. Firstly, the agreement between the worker and that who provides the work should be set and agreed upon before the work commences. The Prophet SAWS is quoted to have said:

Whoever rents a person should give them their reward

And therefore we need to understand that work should not be carried out unless both parties understand exactly what the terms and payment is for the work. This avoids quarrels and misunderstanding as transparency is there and thus trust remains intact between both.

Secondly, the worker must carry out their part without any shortcuts and the boss must pay for the work once complete in full and without delay. The imam mentioned ayat 188 of Sura Baqarah in relation to this point which is translated to say:

And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].

And the Prophet SAWS also remarked on this point which is translated to say:

Delays of the wealthy is oppression

i.e. delaying the payment by that who can afford to pay amounts to oppression on the worker. Dear brothers and sisters, we need to be mindful that we do not fall into this category.

Often, we hear of disputes in this regard with work that has been carried out on the house or on the car. We often hear the story of such-and-such worker not carrying out their duty and therefore payment is not forthcoming. Dear brothers and sisters, we need to be careful that we do not tempt Shaitaan in coming between us in this example.

We should set out all work with the diligence that this reminder is telling us. Therefore, any work that is being carried out, even between friends or family members, ought to be written down and specific details should be mentioned on the work. This is so that there is no ambiguity in the work being done and what warrants payment.

Equally so, if the payment is to be in instalment then this should also be mentioned beforehand with a schedule of payment before the worker begins. This again keeps things transparent between both parties and allows people to keep trust in what will be paid and when.

Allah SWT starts Sura Al-Maidah with clear instruction when He says in the Quran:

O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts.

Therefore dear brothers and sisters, we cannot forgo the importance of this area of our lives.

Alongside these obvious directives, we also have the etiquette of treatment of our workers. Again there are two points to mention here.

Firstly, we should not treat the worker as a slave and overwork them. This is a form of oppression too. We should understand that to be given a means to be able to hire someone to work for us is a blessing from Allah SWT. Therefore, we should be mindful of this fact when we ask of those who work for us.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet SAWS was admonishing someone for speaking harshly to another. However, in this translation we are also taught the point of treating those who work for us. It is translated to say:

The Prophet SAWS said: “You are a person who has remnants of the ‘Days of Ignorance’ in you. Your slaves are your brothers. Allah has placed them under your authority. He who has his brother under him, should feed him from whatever he eats, and dress him with whatever he wears, and do not burden them (assign burdensome task to them) beyond their capacity; and if you burden them then help them.”

The second point is that amongst the rights of their workers is the right to let them worship their Lord, as those who refuse to allow that will be held accountable.

Dear brothers and sisters, often we are the ones who are the workers in this example. Just right now, we are gathered here with those amongst us keen to get back to work afterwards without being late and causing hassle with their boss.

We can only do the best in this regard and make our employers aware of our need to perform Salah or to attend Jummuah prayers. But equally so, we shouldn’t prevent those working for us to perform their acts of worship.

And this ought to apply even if they are not of the same faith as us. Be mindful for example, if you have asked someone non-Muslim to work on a day that may be their equivalent of Jummuah. We are a people of compassion and understanding and it applies in this scenario as well.

Dear brothers and sisters, our faith is one that is perfect and whole. In it we have guidelines on all aspects of our lives. And in this regard, let us not forget that the rights of the worker have the potential to be both a blessing in that we pass this test but also something which we may be held accountable for if not protected as we ought to.

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