IN today’s fast paced life we have become immune to a luxurious lifestyle. We work round the clock the whole day, slogging it off at our respective tasks and fulfilling our responsibilities be it in the domestic purview or in the professional sphere. However for most of us once we get done from work there is someone who drives us back home, there is someone who dishes out hot gourmet, there is someone who keeps our suits ironed, dry-cleaned and hanged in the closets, our dressers spic and span, porcelain shining and sparkling and layers of dust, miles away. These are small blessings we have in the form of domestic help, be it our drivers, cook, maids, servants, guard whoever out of our crew, each one of them have a strategic role to play to maintain our sanity levels after a hard day’s work. However, despite the fact that we pay and feed them through the Grace of Allah, for their services that they render, we forget a very vital aspect of this relationship. We completely forget sometimes that these people are also human beings and they actually can have an opinion on the kind of treatment that is being meted out to them by us.
Allah believes in equality of all mankind and endorses kindness in behaviour amongst people irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or background. He does not like distinction and therefore privilege on the basis of any race or position. Therefore, he has instructed through his Messengers and His Book fair and just treatment towards slaves (Helpers). In Arabia before and right after the advent of Islam the culture and concept of Slavery was replete. Although we do not operate on the same grounds as the dynamics have been altered slightly according to modern day life however the essence of it all, is, the same. The terminology of slaves has been swapped with servants to befit our lifestyle today, but the Quranic teachings remain unaltered. The history is saturated with class struggle and differences and eventually a rapturous revolt amongst classes. Many sociologists of different eras have elaborated upon the class struggle, the most famous one being Karl Marx who titled his theory on Bourgeoisies and the proletariats.
There is no religion or ideology except Islam, which guarantees the rights of the workers and servants 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 Book has given instructions to mankind in completeness with specific obligations on the part of the master and that on the part of the slave/servant. Islamic teachings fully subscribe to the notion that the master is ought to pay servant in full immediately for the services rendered by him and servant is to work dutifully and honestly in conducting his chores.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Your brothers are your servants whom Allah has made your subordinate, he should give them to eat for what he himself eats and wear for what he himself wears and do not put on them burden of any labor which may exhaust them.” Hazrat Abu Hurrairah (RA) reported that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said “Allah says there are three persons whose adversary in dispute shall be on the day of resurrection, a person who makes a promise in My name then acts unfaithfully and a person who devours prices and the person who employs a servant and uses fully the labor from him and then does not pay the remuneration.” Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying: “When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) – (another narrator) Dawud said:” ie a morsel or two”.(Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman) The prophet is reported to have said, ‘Not one of you should [ when introducing someone ] say ‘This is my slave’. He should call them ‘my daughter’ or ‘my son’ or ‘my brother’. For this reason ‘Umar and his servant took it in turns to ride on the camel from Madina to Jerusalem on their journey to take control of Masjid al-Aqsa. While he was the head of the state.Abu Dharr, applying the hadith literally, made his servant wear one half of his suit while he himself wore the other half. From these instances, it was being demonstrated to succeeding generations of Muslims, and a pattern of conduct established, that a slave is fully a human being, not different from other people in his need for respect and dignity and justice. “The masters were obliged not to put slaves under hardship; slaves were not to be tortured, abused or treated unjustly. They could marry among “themselves with their master’s permission – or with free men or women! They could appear as witnesses and participate with free men in all “affairs. Many of them were appointed as Governors, Commanders of Army and Administrators. In the eyes of Islam, a pious slave has precedence over “an impious free man.”
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had stipulated in his “last pilgrimage” speech: “And your slaves ! See that you feed them such food as you eat yourselves and dress them what you yourself wear. And if they commit a “mistake which you are not inclined to forgive then sell them, for they are the servants of Allah and are not to be tormented! “Serve God, and join not any partners with Him ; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours “who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the way-farer (ye meet), And what your right hands possess : for God loveth not the arrogant, the “vainglorious” Surah An Nisa, verse 36 The phrase “What your right hands possess” refers to one’s slaves (male and female). Allah SWT ordains kind treatment of slaves in the same verse where He commands man to worship Him and to treat his parents, relations and neighbours generously, and this signifies the importance of this ruling.
— The writer is a senior banker with interest in Religion.