Pakistan Observer

Dignity of work

The Spirit Of Islam

Atif Noor Khan

Friday, March 22, 2013 - One has to earn a living in order to survive in this world. Islam enjoins and emphasizes that a Muslim’s earnings must be through lawful means. Able-bodied Muslims are not permitted to beg and live at the mercy of others. Earning a lawful living is a form of worship (Ibadah), and therefore, an obligation in Islam. Dignity lies in working and striving to make a lawful living. Be it a white-collared job or a menial job, a job signifies that the worker has respect and honour. No job is to be held in contempt or considered inferior. Honour belongs to those who work and not to those who sit idle and survive as parasites.

The general standard about earning a living is that Islam does not permit its followers to earn money in any way they like; rather it draws a clear line between lawful and unlawful methods based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. There is no limit for earning. Muslims are permitted to earn as much as they can provided they do lawful business adopting lawful means. The fact that Allah’s Messenger, the Holy Prophet (PBUH), disliked beggary and lethargy can be understood from the following Hadith: ‘It is better for one of you to take his rope and fetch a load of firewood on his back and sell it than he should beg from people whether they give anything or refuse him’.

Dignity and honour is attached to labour and work in Islam while the sources of unearned income and easy gains like usury, games of chance, etc. are despised and forbidden. Work is so much dignified and honourable that the Prophets who are the noblest of the human beings had engaged themselves in labour and hard work for earning their livelihood. The Qur’an mentions the example of Prophet Dawood (David) and Prophet Moosa (Moses) who respectively worked as ironsmith and shepherd. Prophet of Islam himself pastured sheep. He did not consider any work as menial or below dignity.

In Ghazwah Ahzab (Battle of Allies), the Prophet was seen working and lifting stones along with his companions to dig a ditch to defend Madinah from the enemy. Let us glance through some of the Ahadees of Holy Prophet (PBUH) to highlight the honour in which labour, both manual and intellectual, is held by Islam. “It is narrated by Miqdaam ibn M’adi Karab that the Messenger of Allah said: “The cleanest food is that which has been earned by the labour of one’s hand. In fact, the Prophet Dawood used to work with his hands for his living.” (Bukhari)

There is no religion or ideology except Islam, which guarantees the rights of the workers and peasants i.e. the poorest and oppressed classes of the world. Islam not only guarantees the rights of labour but also of the capitalist class. Islam respects all kinds of work for ensuring one’s livelihood so long as there is no injustice involved. The economic aspect of life envisaged by Islam is based upon sound foundations and divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labour is not only a duty but a great virtue as well.

The Holy Qur’an provides guidance for all human beings and is a complete code of life. There are clear instructions for the capitalists as well as labours regarding possession of wealth. There are two basic principles laid down in the Holy Qur’an and Hadith for the master as well as the servant. The master shall pay fully for the services rendered and the servant shall work faithfully and honestly. Islam gives directions about the attitude of the employers for equal treatment with servants and subordinates.

In Islam there is no work which is lowly or menial. Lowly or mean is the person who divides the work into high or low. Labour creates self confidence in a person by creating self confidence a person can enjoy the fruits of labour. The fruit of labour is always sweet. It is necessary for us not to forget the importance of labour. Labour keeps us away from the sins of exploitation and corruption.
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