Author: Ms. Seen Noon
In our households a need is there to hire domestic help or helpers to assist us in routine activities like cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, babysitting, etc. This fast-paced life pushes us to divide our tasks by hiring helpers so that we can live our lives conveniently and achieving our goals simultaneously.
There are times I witness instances that make me ponder over our negligence of basic social etiquette concerning fellow human beings. We forget that although some people may be poor, but it gives us no upper hand over them. We exhibit behaviour similar to someone who has no belief in all of us serving Allah and being only His servants. Rather, behaving arrogantly and portraying that we own our helpers and can insult them, ridicule, mock or degrade them in any way we like as we are paying them a handsome amount from our hard earned money.
Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Quran, many societies have practised slavery in the old times, and Muslim societies were also a part of this tradition. In pre-Islamic times, slavery was a norm, even in Christian societies it used to exist in many forms. After the spread of Islam, slavery was regulated, some boundaries were set, and guidelines were laid out in the Quran and also in the Sunnah of our Holy Prophet (PBUH)
Our Holy Prophet PBUH says:
“Your slaves are your brothers. Allah has placed them in your hand, and he who has his brother under him should feed him with the same food he eats and clothe him with the same clothes he wears, and do not burden him beyond his capacity, and if you burden him then help him.” (Sahih Muslim 1661, Grade: Sahih)
The above hadith makes us revisit our intolerable behaviour towards the helpers we hire. We need to remind ourselves that it is by Allah’s grace and blessings that we have more than some of our associates and acquaintances. It makes us responsible to be on the lookout for helping those in need around us, resultantly increasing our wealth, as Allah promises to return the favours on His mankind manifold. Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’aala, the Almighty, wants us to treat our servants / helpers with respect, while feeding them and clothing them in the best possible way. But in many cultures, we end up ignoring the basics and making the poor folk realise their insignificance and providing them with food or clothes that are of inferior quality than what we use. We are not to forget that on the day of judgement we would be held accountable for the responsibility of handling them and not over-burdening them by expecting them to complete numerous tasks without rest or in one go. They are not machines, and deserve adequate rest and breaks in between, in order to recharge themselves, along with ample amount of food to regain their strength.
The Sunnah of our dear Prophet (S.A.W.) makes us realise the weaknesses we possess and assists us to strengthen our qualities as a person of faith (momin), but need is to open our minds and hearts towards applying those behaviours in our lives. Also, it doesn’t matter if the servants you hire belong to a different religion than yours, or a different race or ethnicity; Allah prohibits us from mocking other people’s religious affiliations and rather being tolerant towards others and setting an example of a humble human being.
Hazrat Aisha (R.Z.A.) reported:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, did not strike a servant nor a woman, and he never struck anything with his hand.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 1984, Grade: Sahih)
Oh how generous our Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) was, always making sure that the non-muslims to whom he preached, stayed free of harm from him, even when they behaved miserably towards him. He was a very loving man, and always tried to be gentle towards his servants.
Allah, the Supreme, the Almighty says in the Quran:
“They give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, saying to themselves: We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.” (Surat Al-Insan, Verse 8 and 9)
Providing food or help to the needy and less privileged is praiseworthy in the eyes of Allah, and behaving towards them with generosity and kindness has great rewards in the akhirah. Allah says to do so only for the sake of Allah, to earn His pleasure ONLY, and not to show off.
Anas ibn Malik reported:
“I served the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, for ten years. By Allah, he never even said a mild rebuke to me and he never said harshly for anything: Why did you do that? Why did you not do that?” (Sahih Bukhari 5691, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi)
Just imagine, a slave spent ten years with our dear Prophet and not once was he harshly treated. SubhanAllah, what an example he carried for muslims as well as the non-muslims, not showing any sense of superiority or power over those under him. Whereas, we end up questioning and accusing our helpers the moment they excuse themselves for absence or incapability to fulfil what was desired of them.
Allah says in the Quran, Surah An-Nahl, Verse 71
“And Allah has favoured some of you over others in provision. But those who were favoured would not hand over their provision to those whom their right hands possess so they would be equal to them therein. Then is it the favor of Allah they reject?” (16:71)
Allah, The All-Knowing and Wise, has made it clear to us to treat the less privileged with honour and respect, accepting that it is only Allah’s will that we might have more than others. There are means of charity, zakat or sadaqah are there so the wealth is distributed to those in need. In numerous places in the Holy Book it is mentioned to treat our servants as our brothers, feeding and clothing them well, and being kind to them to earn the pleasure of the Almighty. Let’s hope to follow the footsteps of Quran and Sunnah in order to become better muslims, in sha Allah.