Long before unions were established to protect workers’ rights, Islam acknowledged a whole set of rights for workers 1,400 years ago.
Islam praised the notion of work, and stressed that the one who works to sustain his living is more pious than the worshiper who worships day and night and who has the ability to work but relies on others for his sustenance. The truest example of this concept is the fact that all God’s prophets worked to sustain themselves.
It was part of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings to encourage work and assure basic rights for all categories of workers whether employees or day laborers. Workers should be treated with dignity and honor regardless of the kind of work they are performing, as long as this work is lawful.
Islam acknowledged natural rights for workers as citizens in the community and passed many regulations that allowed social equality and the possibility of a decent life for them and their families.
The Right to a Compensation
The first basic right of a worker is the right to compensation in return for the effort exerted and the time spent on the job.
Agreeing on the amount of compensation in advance is recommended because doing so motivates the worker and encourages him to accomplish the job efficiently and on time in order to receive the full agreed-upon compensation.
As soon as the job is done, the worker should be paid his full compensation if he has done his job fully as required of him. Prophet Muhammad strongly warned against exploiting a worker and not paying him his due.
Prophet Muhammad said, “Allah said, ‘I will be an opponent to three types of people on the Day of Resurrection: one who makes a covenant in My name but proves treacherous, one who sells a free person and eats his price; and one who employs a worker and takes full work from him but does not pay him for his labor’” (Al-Bukhari).
Also, Allah says in the Qur’an what means
Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due; and do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order. (Al-A`raf 7:85)
The worker has the full right to call off a job if it does not fall under the terms of a previous agreement.
Justice is a main theme in Islam that should be applied to all aspects of life. Justice should be the general framework of any agreement between workers and job owners. Rights and obligation terms should be clearly defined in work contracts, which must be just and lawful in order to avoid any form of deception.
Both the job owner and the worker have the responsibility to fulfill their agreements as they are held accountable for that before God.
God says in the Qur’an what means,
O you who believe! fulfill the obligations. (Al-Ma’idah 5:1)
The Right to Have Leaves
Workers should not be overburdened with work. They have the right to physical and mental rest. Workers should have time for work and time for themselves and their families. Prophet Muhammad generally spoke about giving the body its share of rest by saying “and your body and your family have a right on you” (Al-Bukhari).
Among Prophet Muhammad’s teachings was that the human side must not be neglected when dealing with one’s subordinates and people under one’s authority; they must be treated fairly and not given work beyond their capacities.
Also, he recommended that they should be treated kindly in order not to be made to feel inferior.
Prophet Muhammad used to sit on the floor and eat with his servant Anas ibn Malik. And he wanted to pass this teaching along to Muslims, so he said,
Your servants are your brethren upon whom Allah has given you authority. So, if one has one’s brethren under one’s control, one should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears. You should not overburden them with what they cannot bear, and if you do so, help them in their hard job. (Al-Bukhari)
Islam encourages the concept of promotion, as it is one of the strongest motivators that encourage a worker to perform better. Looking up to a better position and compensation could bring out the best in a worker.
At the time of Prophet Muhammad, the criterion for promotion was efficiency, not seniority. Most firms nowadays fail to apply this criterion. Prophet Muhammad used to choose the right man for each job. When assigning jobs, he would readily disregard anyone whose qualifications did not meet the job requirements physically or mentally, and when the chosen person proved his efficiency and trustworthiness, Prophet Muhammad would promote him to a higher position.
Work in Islam is considered a kind of worship, so both workers and job owners are exhorted to be aware of their obligations and rights, knowing that they will be taken to account.
Taken from Onislam.net.