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In this article, the fifth in a series of articles on work ethics, Sumaira Dada discusses fairness at the workplace in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah.
Did you know that a generation back in corporate America, CEOs made 40 times more than workers? Today they make 400 times more. Did you also know that in the US 44% of discrimination cases won by workers are reversed on appeal, while only 6% of cases won by employers are reversed? In all likelihood, the Pakistan scenario is much worse. Although laws requiring protection of workers’ rights are in place, enforcement is ineffective due to limited resources and corruption. It seems that whether it’s corporate America or a local company in Pakistan, fairness at the workplace is not really on the priority list of employers.
It’s mind-boggling to understand, why Muslim employers are unmindful about the importance of justice in Islam. Perhaps, they are unaware or may be they just need a reminder. So, let’s take a look at what Allah (swt) and Prophet Muhammad (sa) say about fairness.
Allah (swt) says:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa 4:135)
“Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e., justice and worshipping none but Allah Alone—Islamic Monotheism).” (An-Nahl 16:90)
“Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Al-Maidah 5:42)
Prophet (sa) says:
Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Injustice will be darkness on the Day of Standing.’” (Bukhari)
Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Fear the curse of the oppressed one, as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.’” (Bukhari)
Rights Given to Workers
If Allah (swt) has placed so much importance on ensuring fairness, let’s look at some of the rights employees have been given.
Right to receive prompt payment
Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Prophet Muhammad (sa) as saying: “Give the worker his wages before his sweat dries.” (Ibn Majah)
Right to considerate treatment
Anas (rta) said: “I served the Messenger of Allah (sa) for ten years, and he never said to me ‘Shame!’ or ‘Why did you do such and such?’ or ‘Why did you not do such and such?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Hurairah (rta) reported Allah’s Messenger (sa) as saying: “A slave is entitled to his food and clothing, and he should have imposed on him only such work, as he is capable of doing.” (Muslim)
Right to equal treatment
Al-Marur (rta) has narrated: At Ar-Rabadha, I met Abu Dharr (rta), who was wearing a cloak, and also his slave was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied: “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said to me: ‘O Abu Dharr! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names? You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah (swt) has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity and if you do so, then help them.’”
According to Abu Hurairah (rta), Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Your servant brings your meals to you, then if someone does not let him sit and share the meals, then he should at least give him a mouthful or two mouthfuls of that meal or a meal or two meals, as he has prepared it.” (Bukhari)
Rights of the Employer
Demanding rights and not fulfilling duties would result in injustice to the employer. Among the rights awarded to employers is:
Right to be served with sincerity
Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: ’Goodness and comfort are for him, who worships his Lord in a perfect manner and serves his Master sincerely.’” (Bukhari)
How can Employers Create a Fair Workplace?
- Make Dua
The importance of praying to Allah (swt) should not be underestimated. The person seeking to enforce justice can say the following Quranic Dua: “My Lord! Bestow Hukm (religious knowledge and right judgment of the affairs) on me, and join me with the righteous.” (Ash-Shuara 26:83)
- Have an open-door policy
Modern managers harp on and on about keeping an open-door policy. Yet, Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) open-door policy is enough to put such fancy talk to shame. Often foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish, which man was the Caliph. He also insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and are accessible to the people at all times.
- Be prepared to apologize
Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Whoever has wronged his brother should ask for pardon, as there will be neither Dinar nor Dirham (in the hereafter), for he should do this before some of his good deeds will be taken and given to his brother, and if he will have no good deeds, then some of the bad deeds of his brother will be loaded on him (in the hereafter).” (Bukhari)
- Get out of your office and meet the workers face to face
Modern management calls this action ‘walk-arounds.’ Although fancy management literature did not exist at the time of the four rightly guided Caliphs, the Islamic principles were sufficient for motivating them to be fair and just. Once again we have Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) example – he spent many watchful night on the streets of Madinah to see whether anyone needed help.
- Be ready to counsel someone, if you feel he/she is being unfair
Anas (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed one.” People asked: “O Allah’s Messenger (sa)! We rightfully help the oppressed, but how can we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (sa) said: “By preventing his hands from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)