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Islam’s Perspective on Labor
09/16/2015
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In Islam, labor is considered an obligatory activity and a virtue. Islam acknowledges that man has many needs: food, clothing, shelter etc. and since Islam requires man to fulfill these needs through lawful means, man is obliged to work. Islam is also keen that a balance be struck and equilibrium achieved between religious devotion and the legal pursuit of worldly needs and lawful pleasure.
God says,“And seek the Final Abode (the hereafter) with that which God has given you, and do not forget your share of this world…” (Al-Qasas 28:77) Therefore, Islam prohibits its followers from using religion as an “excuse” or a “justification” for inactivity and loafing, and has ordered them, upon completion of their rituals, to “disperse” in pursuit of lawful sources of income and sustenance. God says,
“And when you have completed your prayer, disperse throughout the land and seek the bounty of God…” (Al-Jumu`ah, 62:10) Many of the Qura`nic scholars have said this verse: “Refers to lawful earnings and trade and the handling of business essential to the obtainment of the necessities of life.” Islam also encourages its followers to depend upon God then upon themselves for their sustenance and to strictly avoid dependence upon other human beings for their welfare. Since labor enables man to be independent and it is a source of dignity, self-respect and self-satisfaction. Therefore, Islam has promoted gainful employment and scorned begging and solicitation except in cases of dire need. Al-Imam Muslim has collected on the authority of ‘Auf ibn Malik who said a group of the companions and I; eight o ine of us, were with the Prophet of God(PBUH) when he said: “Will you not pledge allegiance to me?” And we had just recently pledged allegiance so we said: “We have already pledged our allegiance to you O’ Messenger of God.” When he repeated his request we extended our hands saying: “And what shall we pledge O’ Messenger of God?” He said: “Pledge that you will worship God alone and will not associate any partner with Him in his worship, that you will observe the five daily prayers, that you will obey those in authority, and that you will not ask anyone for anything!”. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “If a person persistently asks others (for food, clothing, money etc. while he is capable of working and earning a living) he will meet God without a single piece of flesh on his face.” Some scholars have said in explanation: “This is a great threat (of punishment) which indicates the prohibition of incessant begging, for this reason the scholars have said: ‘It is not permissible for anyone to ask for anything except in cases of dire need.’ If a person is desperate and therefore forced to ask, then there will be no problem in asking. However, if he asks to obtain the “finer things in life” and other amenities in order to “compete” with others, then there is no question that such behavior is not allowed.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “One who solicits to accumulate wealth (not because of a pressing need), has in fact solicited a burning ember, so it is his choice whether he wants to collect many or few.” Some scholars have said in explanation: “The burning ember is a “figurative” reference to the punishment he will receive as a recompense for his action. It means that if he frequently solicits his punishment will be increased, if he does so less frequently it will be lightened and if he abandons solicitation he will spare himself punishment. This tradition is, therefore, an evidence that asking people without need is a great sin.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “It is better that one of you take some rope, go to the mountains, then come to the market with a bundle of firewood which he has collected, and sell it, whereby God will spare him the humiliation of begging, this is better for him than solicitation whether people give him or refuse to give.”
Some scholars have said in explanation: “In the hadeeth lies an incitement toward labor and hard work to earn a living. It also teaches that asking, while one is able to earn by the sweat of his brow, is impermissible.” One who studies Islamic sources will find shining examples of Islam’s urging of hard work and contempt for laziness. Consider the following: Muhammad the Messenger of God and Labor
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) didn’t just speak about the importance of hard work and earning an honest living, he practically demonstrated how a Muslim should work for his livelihood.
The Prophet (PBUH) was a shepherd and a merchant, he performed household chores, when the Muslims built the first mosque in Madinah, the Prophet participated in the construction carrying bricks on his shoulders, and when trenches had to be dug to protect the city from invasion, the Prophet (PBUH) did not deem it beneath him to grab a shovel and dig.
All of the above demonstrates the Prophet’s practical commitment to labor.
The other Prophets and Messengers of God and Labor
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The Prophet David earned an honest living and ate only from the earnings of his labor.”
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Zakariyah was a carpenter.” I.e. he earned his living through carpentry.
The Companions of Muhammad and Labor ‘Aaishah (Prophet`s wife) said: “The Prophet’s companions worked hard to support themselves…” Umar ibnul-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, said: “Let not one of you sit in his house rather than actively seeking sustenance saying: ‘O God provide for me.’ When you know quite well that the sky does not rain gold and silver.” Al-Bukhari has reported on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that when Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Auf came to Madinah (it was the Prophet’s practice to join and establish a brotherhood between a migrant from Makkah with an Ansari from Madinah; to look after him and help him to adjust to his new surroundings.) The Prophet (PBUH) joined Abdur-Rahman and made him the brother of S’ad ibn Rabee’ al-Ansari. S’ad proposed that he divide his wealth and property in half; keeping half and giving the other portion to Abdur-Rahman. He even offered to divorce one of his wives so that Abdur-Rahman could marry her. Whereupon Abdur-Rahman said: “May God bless you and your family, I would prefer that you direct me to the marketplace.” So he went to the marketplace and on the same day he made a profit and after a few days he had made enough money to get married. Islam’s View of Labor is Good for Society Islam actively seeks to promote every virtue and purify society of every vice. This is one of the reasons why Islam has strongly encouraged its adherents to seek lawful sources of income. Surely society would have fewer ills and many social problems, like theft, gambling, drug trafficking, extortion etc., would be eradicated if each person made an honest living and strictly avoided unethical methods of wealth accumulation. Islam Demands Prompt Compensation for Labor Ibnu Maajah has collected on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “ Pay the hired hand his due before his sweat dries.”
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In conclusion
Islam is a religion which encourages its followers to fulfill their duty to God without neglecting their worldly responsibilities and refutes those who consider working for the hereafter and the herein, simultaneously, an impossible task.Islam orders its adherents to seek lawful means of revenue and forbids them from asking without legitimate need.

Islam implores people to follow the example of the very best of mankind; God’s messengers who worked for a living. It also declares that the very best of the Islamic nation; the Prophet’s companions, worked hard to provide for themselves and their families.
Islam also recognizes that one of the greatest incentives for a job well done is good wages paid in a timely manner. For this reason, Islam has not only encouraged its followers to work hard and do their jobs well but it has also encouraged employers to pay promptly and pay well.

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