Workers Rights: Celebrating the Mercy to Mankind
23 November 2018| 15 Rabi ul Awwal 1440| Ustaadh Muhammad Faheem Francis
During this blessed month of ‘Rabi’ al Awwal’ in which was born the ‘Mercy to Mankind’, our example and master Muhammad ﷺ, it is incumbent upon us to try and inculcate within ourselves and our lives the mercy of Rasulullah (SAW).
Rasulullah (SAW) was a living exemplification of a sublime level of conduct and mercy, which reached even the animals which were in the care of Muslims of his time.
It is narrated by the companion Ya’la ibnu Murrah al Thaqafi (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said:
“Once while we were walking with the Prophet ﷺ , a camel carrying water passed by us. When the camel saw the Prophet ﷺ, it made a sound from its throat and lowered its neck. The Prophet (SAW) stopped alongside the camel and said:
“Where is the owner of this camel?”
The owner arrived. The Prophet said “Sell it to me.”
The owner said “We would rather give it to you as a gift, O Prophet of Allah although we are a family whose only way of earning a living is by working with this camel.”
The Prophet said “Then I would not take it. But the camel complained to me that you made it work a lot and you do not give it enough food. So treat this camel in the proper way.”
In this Hadith, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to how the mercy of Rasulullah (SAW) made him be just and fair in his treatment of animals. Here a camel complains about being overburdened and underfed; and the inherent mercy in Rasulullah (SAW) results in him offering to buy the camel so he could treat it better.
This was the special quality of Rasulullah; his always being ‘just and fair’ with everyone, even (in the Hadith above) an animal which had complained to him about bad treatment.
The other element of this hadith and many others is that Allah the Most High will hold us accountable on Qiyama for any oppression, unfairness or injustice we commit against animals as is mentioned in the following Hadith:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman entered the (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she had tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth. ” (Sahih al Bukhari)
Anyone who has watched a herd of goats around a food or water trough, will notice that there is always an insolent, stubborn ‘bully goat’, who is bigger and stronger and will intentionally bully the other goats.
He will knock the other goats with his horns in order to stamp his dominance upon them; and as a result get more food or water for himself. This in Islam is considered an oppression of the rights of the other goats.
Thus, it was narrated from Abu Dharr that Rasulullah was sitting, and two sheep locked horns until one of them defeated and subdued the other. The Messenger of Allah smiled and someone asked him, “Why are you smiling, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “It is amazing. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, their score will be settled on the Day of Resurrection.” “O Abu Dharr, do you know what they are fighting over?” He said, “No.” He said, “But Allah knows and He will judge between them.”
These three Hadith clearly relate to us the merits of mercy and fair treatment of animals as well as the consequences of transgressing the limits of Allah; then what about other human beings?
It is unfortunate that today we have Muslims who work for Muslims whom act like that ‘bully goat’ around the food trough with their workers!
They hire people who are financially weak and then bully them by overworking them and paying them little compensation for their efforts, whilst living lavishly themselves.
They emotionally, financially, psychologically (shouting, swearing) and physically (in some instances) abuse their workers because they believe that they are the ones whom have granted their worker sustenance. They do not see that Allah may be granting them sustenance because of the weak and poor worker.
They threaten their worker’s livelihood and jobs as a means of showing them who is in control of their livelihood.
These poor workers go home and have sleepless nights because of threats of being ‘fired’ and jobless if they don’t give into the ‘bosses’ demands.
These Hadith above are a warning to these ‘bosses’ that Allah (SWT) is aware, He is the “Most Just”, the “Most Merciful” and he will judge between you and your workers.
Rasulullah (SAW) said: “The merciful (to Allah’s creatures) are forgiven by the Most Merciful (Allah), have mercy on those who are on the earth and the One in the Heavens will be merciful to you.”
So be merciful and hope to be given water from the pond of ‘kauthar’ by our Master Muhammad (SAW) and deal with your workers in kindness, justice and fairness.
WRITTEN BY: USTAADH MUHAMMAD FAHEEM FRANCIS
Ustādh Muhammad Faheem Francis studied in Cape Town and Yemen. He currently presents ‘Al Fiqh as Shaamila’, ‘Wonders of the Quran’ and translates the weekly Arabic Khutbah from Makkah al Mukarrama.