بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Amina Oke Salau
Narrated Jareer bin Abdullah: The Prophet (sa) said: “He who is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Bukhari)
Human beings are, by nature, inclined to love, and want to be loved. The basis of our relationships with family, friends, and people we consider to be close to us, stem from the feeling of love that we harbour for them. This feeling that we share differentiates these relationships from the ones we have with strangers, and it usually brings forth a feeling of security and happiness.
As Muslims, we are morally obligated to express love to fellow humans, whether or not they are related to us. The teachings of Islam stress the importance of treating people kindly, and loving others as much as we love ourselves. This is surely evident from the hadith above. Everyone who has a friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or an office colleague with whom one gets along well will have an idea of what it means to love and be loved.
The love that Islam preaches, however, transcends romantic or kindred love. We are required to love, and treat everyone like ourselves. This is easy for us to do, and we often do it willingly for those closest to us. This is the same way we should love those people who work for us in a domestic capacity, whether or not they live with us. This brings us to an aspect of loving others that a lot of people (un)knowingly overlook: loving those who are subordinate to us in any way. They can be those who work for us in a domestic capacity, or those who may be considered lower in terms of social class. They may include household help, cleaners, security guards, etc.
It is not uncommon in our society to find households where the help, commonly known as ‘house girl or house boy’ is treated with contempt, or at best, mild irritation. This is not always the case, but the scenario is very common. The only reason people are inclined to maltreat domestic staff is their notion that they are superior to them. This air of superiority propels people to over-work and demean domestic workers at every opportunity they get.
If we express love towards our family and friends, but are callous towards our employees, can we confidently say that we are following the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) and treating ALL humans like we would want to be treated?
These people already face numerous challenges in their lives; at times, instead of making things easier, their employers make circumstances worse for them. Everyone wishes to be born with a silver spoon, but Qadar places each human being wherever they are born. The Rahmah of Allah (swt) blesses one person more than the other. How can we use the gift of Allah (swt) to oppress another person?
Narrated Anas bin Malik that the Prophet (sa) did not abuse (others), say obscene words, or curse (others); if he wanted to admonish anyone, he used to say: “What is wrong with him, his forehead be dusted?” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (sa) never singled out his children or wives to show kindness towards them. He was good to everyone. As Muslims, we know that one good deed can gain one entry into paradise. Likewise, one bad deed can change one’s fate in the hereafter. It will be unfortunate to strive to live a good life and please Allah (swt), but lose all our good deeds simply because we maltreated someone. As we know, on the Day of Judgement, all scores will be settled by Allah (swt), and no wronged person will be left without compensation. Would anyone like their good deeds to be given to another person on a platter of gold?
It never costs us anything to love our family and friends. As Muslims, we should always strive to extend this love towards anyone we come across, and most importantly, those who work for us. If the positions were reversed and one found himself or herself working such jobs, one’s natural inclination will be to pray to be loved by one’s master. Life is uncertain and complex, and only Allah (swt) knows what the future holds. One should always endeavour to be good to others because one never knows when this will be reciprocated for him or her. Being amiable to domestic workers is in our best interest in every sense; it is a form of sadaqah for which we are rewarded.
Looking at it this way, here are a few ways to show kindness to those who work for us.
Honour All Payment Agreements
Domestic workers should be treated the same way as office workers. Once you have a specific salary agreement with them, you have a duty to keep to it. Prompt payments of salaries, and giving raises and bonuses when deserved, are acts of kindness that we can show towards those who work for us.
Be Kind and Gentle
Whether or not a worker lives with you, it is always a good habit to show kindness and be gentle with them. This projects a feeeling of warmth towards them, and helps them better discharge their duties.
Correct Mistakes Gently
People learn better when they are corrected in a gentle manner. Even if the mistakes are reoccurring, one can always find a subtle way to make a lasting correction. Holding back wages because of a mistake is an unkind way to rectify a genuine error. You can have a sit-down to discuss how a worker can better discharge their duties.
© IIPH 2014
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