Workers’ Safety, Health and Welfare in Islam: “Those who work for you are your brothers.”

Posted on May 1, 2013

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  • “Those who work for you are your brothers.  Allah has made them your assistants.” ——— Bukhari and Tirmidhi.
  • The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “There is reward for kindness to every living thing.” ——— Bukhari and Muslim.
  • The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.“ ——— Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners.
  • Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al−As رضي الله عنه (May Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (Peace be upon him) said: “The Compassionate One (Allah) has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will Show Mercy to you”. [Sunan Abu Dawood, Hadith no. 49

In light of the horrible, tragic and inhumane treatment of workers in Bangladesh”s textile manufacturing sweatshops, the above hadiths serve as a critical reminder to all  Muslim employers  that Islam demands that they treat their workers humanely and fairly, and provide them with a safe and secure workplace.  As Rozanah Abd Rahman, Lecturer at International Islamic University of Malaysia points out in the attached (downloadable) article, “The teachings of Islam represents the first principal guide for inviting man to observe  (workplace) security and safety measures and Islam has [long] surpassed the Industrial Revolution by centuries by calling for [worker] safety.”

Please click here to download Rozanah Abd Rahman’s from IIUM’s Law Journal (2006) entitled Protection of safety, health and welfare of employees at [the] workplace under Islamic Law.

Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui, one of the leading Islamic scholars in North America,  has also discussed the treatment of workers according to Islam, emphasizing a couple of key areas:

  • The dignity of workers in Islam

Islamic law allows all human beings the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation and to conduct any lawful trade or business. The workers should be treated with dignity and honor. No work is menial or degrading. Our Prophet  (peace and blessings be upon him) kissed the hands of a laborer who showed him his rough hands due to his hard labor. He prayed for him and spoke very highly of those who labor over against those who sit idle or go begging. Islam teaches that workers should be treated with kindness. Allah says {Serve Allah, and make not any partners with Him in His divinity. Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the way-farer (you meet) and those whom your right hands possess (your workers): for Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious. (Nor) those who are stingy, or enjoin stinginess on others, or hide the bounties which Allah has bestowed on them; for We have prepared, for those who are ungrateful, a humiliating punishment.} (An-Nisaa’ 4:36-37)

  • Kindness to workers

Workers are our brothers and sisters. They are our helpers. We need them; we depend on them for many things that we cannot do for ourselves. Workers should not be given work beyond their capacity. They should have a humane and safe environment for work. They should be compensated if they are injured on the job. They should have time for work and time for themselves and their families. Children or minors should not be used for labor. Women should have proper environment for hijab without jeopardizing the rules of khalwah (privacy). They should not be employed in vocations that are unsuitable to their gender, and they must be ensured maternity benefits in their employment. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Your brothers are your responsibility. Allah has made them under your hands. So whosoever has a brother under his hand, let him give him food as he eats and dress as he dresses. Do not give them work that will overburden them and if you give them such task then provide them assistance.” (Al-Bukhari)

For additional discussion of workers’ and employers’ rights, please look up my book on Islamic Business Ethics.

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