Employee and Wage: Through Islamic Perspective (part 1)
Author: Prof. Muhammad
(Chairman of Sekolah Tinggi Ekonomi Islam (STEI)Yogyakarta)
Islam has a distinct perspective regarding employment which contains at least four principles to honor the employee or worker’s rights, including the wage distribution system.
Worker and his wage is something inseparable. Both has always became interesting topic to discuss about; even the labor strike also mostly about their demand to get a raising in salary. My article this time will be discussing about these two important topics. Important, I say, because policy in the minimum wage sector has became a part of a wider agenda of reformation of employment. This policy arises after the economic crisis in 1997/1998; also, in Indonesia, through the government’s commitment regarding the minimum wage of the worker.
According to Chris Manning from Australian National University, there are two approaches for Indonesia to choose in determining the minimum wage, namely the policy model of Latin America and of East Asia. It seems that currently the government uses the model of Latin America, by protecting the labor in modern sector, with a wider or more extensive protection.
The “over protection” of East Asia model in reality might cause big problem. Likewise, the Latin America model which is a contrast to East Asia that lacks protection over the labor. Along the way, application of East Asia model also faces problem, because each model certainly will not be free of shortcoming. Hence, people nowadays turn to the Islamic economy as a comparison an corrector of those two models.
Slavery vs Employment
In the history, eradication of slavery system is one of the goal of Islam’s existence. History has proven that slavery was always became a part of global lifestyle long before the Prophet’s time. The slavery system allowed a family or a person to have slave that was free to be treated as the owner’s wish. The owners even freed to trade their slave to others in the slave markets. In this system, a slave’s rights as a human being is totally in the hand of his owner.
Slave’s degree of humanity was perceived as lower and his basic rights were neglected. If anyone wished to free a slave, he should buy it and no other choice for him. It is as what Abu Bakr Ash Shiddiq did when he freed Bilal Ibn Rabah from his master.
Bearing in mind the mature system of slavery in society’s lifestyle that time, at its dawn, Islam didn’t frontally prohibit it. Islam attempted to erase the slavery system that had been inherently taken into people’s culture through the strategy of gradual culture erosion. For example, Prophet Muhammad -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- suggested the slave owners to pay attention to their slaves’ welfare by distributing zakat to them. It means that on its initial period, Islam still tolerated slavery, but it harshly criticized the stinginess of rich people who paid no attention to their slaves. It was after the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- emigrated to Medina and established civilization there, attempts to free slaves and erase slavery were massively done. As a result, by the hard work of Allah’s messenger -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-, which was continued by the muslims, little by little, the tradition of slavery was erased.
Although basically Islam has erased the practice of slavery, but in reality, in country which majority of its citizen are muslim, there is still practice of slavery committed explicitly. It sends a signal that the muslims have to keep striving in erasing human slavery.
The current slavery may not as cruel as it was in the past, which totally denied the humanity of the slaves. The current slavery today mostly happened in the form of unfair working system that the Indonesian migrant worker undergo abroad. As the main agent of the betterment of civilization, muslims should, once again, strive to erase the unfair working system from this earth, thus the workers will get freedom assurance, and appropriate equality, human rights, and salary. Had these four principles or values of honoring the worker being applied in global world of employment, the cases of Indonesian migrant worker that has been negative precedent for them will not be repeated.
Four Principles of Employment
From the eradication of slavery combined with Islamic perspective about employment, we could mention at least four principles in honoring the rights of the worker.
First: Human freedom
Islamic teaching is represented by activities of social decency, through the figure of Allah’s messenger -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- who strictly declared antislavery stance in order to establish a tolerant and fair social system. Islam doesn’t tolerate slavery by any reason, moreover the practice of labor trading and negligence of their rights, practices that absolutely lack of respect of humanity values.
Eradication of slavery signals a message that in its core, human being is a free creature and deserves to determine his own life without any interference from others. The respect to human independency, both as a worker or anything, shows that Islam strictly condemns the practice of labor trading.
Second: Principle of Nobility of Human’s degree
Islam places every human being, no matter what his profession is, in a noble and respectable position. It is because Islam dearly loves the muslims who are working hard to earn for his living. Allah decreed, in chapter Al Jumuah (The Friday) :10, which can be translated as, “But when the Prayer is ended, disperse in the land and seek Allah’s Bounty, and remember Allah much so that you may prosper. ” It is later supported by a hadith narrated by Imam al Baihaqi, “One of you doesn’t eat any food that is better than the result of his own sweat (work).”
The nobility of a working person is in his contribution to ease other people’s life who receive his service or work. One of a famous hadith used to confirm this sentence is, “The best among you is the one who is most beneficial to others.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim).
From these indications, it is understood that Islam truly honors humanity of every mankind. Plus, it is gestured in these indications that Islam suggests human being to abandon any kind of stereotype over variety of human professions or jobs. Human’s tendency is to respect people who has a job, which yields a lot of money, while underestimates people with lower type of profession. Whereas the fate of every people is different according to what Allah the Glorified and Exalted has ordained for him. The attitude of belittling others because of his job is strictly denied in Islam.
Third: Justice and anti-discrimination
As Islam doesn’t recognize social class or caste system, likewise, it doesn’t recognize it in viewing the employment world. In slavery system, a worker or a labor is perceived as the second class society below his master. Islam fights against this concept since it assures everyone that works to have an equal right with other. Islam teaches its followers to always appreciate the working people.
For example, in the matter of calling people’s name, Islam forbids its followers to call their employee with belittling or mocking names. Contrary to it, Islam suggests its followers to call people who work for them with good words, such as, “O my lad” for men or “O my maid” for women.
In history, the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- once had a slave and servant. The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- treated his slaves and servants fairly and full of respect. At a time he had a jewish servant who served his needs, but he never forced him to embrace his religion. His wife, ‘Aisha -may Allah be pleased with her- also had a maid servant named Barirah, whom the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- and his wife treated gently without hostility.
Fourth: Wage Appropriateness
Wage or salary is the economic right of workers that becomes the obligation of the employer that they shouldn’t neglect. Such as the importance of this problem, that Islam gives direction to the employer who employ others that the principle of wage delivery take into account two components, namely fairness and sufficiency.
The principle is summarized in a hadith from the Prophet, narrated by Imam Al Baihaqi: “Give the worker his wage before his sweat dries. And tell him about the stipulation of his salary, of what he does.”
A worker has a right to receive his wage after he had done his tasks, hence, if there’s postponement of his wage, this postponement, aside of violating the working contract, is also against the principle of fairness in Islam. Fairness is seen from the timing of wage given, and from the proportion of work given to the wage.
Nowadays, such proportionality is termed as the UMR system (Upah Minimum Regional/Minimum Regional Wage). Moreover, Islam also teaches the employer to pay attention to the contract or agreement about the working and salary system, between the employer and his employee. If fairness is defined with proportionality, then the appropriateness of the amount of wage should meet the need of human’s basic needs, such as food, clothes, and housing.
The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- further confirmed the importance of appropriateness of the amount of wage in one of his saying, “They (your slaves and servants) are your brother, Allah has placed them under your care, thus whoever has his brother under his care shall give him to eat whatever he eats, and to wear whatever he wears, and doesn’t burden him with a very heavy task to do, and if you do burden him with it, you should help him (to do it).” (Narrated by Muslim)
To be continued….
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