Nov 26 2013

Tasa’eer, the minimum wage, and Islam.

minimumwage_cartoonIn the modern political world in the west, we see many ‘progressive muslims’ raising various political banners, in condemnation or support, of a whole host of issues. Many times advocating a position regardless of the stance of Islam on these issues.

A new favorite area for the modern progressive Muslim to hoist his/her banner is “economic inequality”, in particular labor/wage inequality. While this is an honorable and noble pursuit, we must be sure to seek solutions, that fit within the framework set forth by the Prophet(saws), and his rightly guided Ulema.

Labor, whether we choose to admit it or not, is a commodity, and should be traded in the free market like any other product or service. Imam al Ghazali, states:

“If wages are in cash, it must be fixed(by mutual consent) like the price of a thing sold.” [Ihya Ilum al-Din,Ch2, Sec4,pg48]

If we take this with the evidence in the Sunnah where a group of merchants came to the Prophet(saws) and requested he fix prices for certain goods. To which he(saws) is reported to have replied,

“Indeed Allah is the Creator, the Restrainer, the Reliever, the Provider and the One Who fixes the prices, I wish to meet Allah in such a state that nobody claims that I have done any wrong to him either in his blood or his money” [as narrated by Ahmad, Sunan at Timridhi 1235]

As well as the statements of Quran 4:29

“O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”

Then we understand that Allah alone sets the prices for labor and trade in the market, and the afore mentioned hadeeth could just as easily been a group of laborers or employers asking for fixed labor prices, and the reply would have been the same. Like anything else in the market place, prices for labor are only lawful if they are set by mutual consent. Modern day minimum wage laws remove the principle of mutual consent, and replace it with man made arbitrary regulations enforced by the state, often through violence.

This is not to say that Islam does not advocate just compensation for labor. Quite the contrary, the Prophet(saws) is reported to have state that he(saws) himself will testify before God on the day of judgement against those who fail to offer just compensation to, or over burden, a laborer. He (saws) however never advocated that the state, or any other arbitrary body set what that just compensation is.

What ever is just and correct is from Allah, whatever is incorrect is from myself and shaytan, and of Allahu A3lum.


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  1. Ahmad Zaman

    …it is precisely the desire of American Muslims to apply sharia law to the laws of the United States that worries most Americans (Phillip Slepian)

    Hahahahahha yeah of course we evil muzzies are looking to overthrow the constitution blah blah blah.

    Wills is merely looking at this issue from an Islamic Legal perspective and offering solutions (ie wages should be subject to free-markets and NOT regulated by the Government). There are various arguments on both sides of the coin relating to this, though we firstly need to ignore the loons who use this as an excuse to promote their own islam-hatred agenda.

    1. Phillip Slepian

      Ahmad Zaman jumps right in with ad hominem attacks, which seems to be the basic method of dealing with those opposed to sharia for America at M4L. I never called Muslims evil – that’s your choice of words, Ahmad. But there are many within the ranks of Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world that take seriously the requirement in Islam to enlighten all the world via dawa and jihad, peacefully if possible, but violently if necessary. And, as I said, and as nobody here has refuted, there are easily as many aspects of sharia that conflict with constitutional law as there are aspects that align with sharia law. So, if Muslims do indeed desire to follow the prophet and bring sharia to America, there will absolutely be conflicts with the constitution we have here now.

      I understand exactly what Wills is doing, Ahmad: He is lulling Americans into the false notion that sharia is completely compatible with the constitution and with Western notions of liberty and equality under the law. This is a fine example of the gradualism that is in use by CAIR and other U.S. Muslim organizations. However, just providing a few examples of instances in which sharia does not conflct with U.S. law does not in any way establish that sharia and the constitution are entirely compatible. It’s not hatred of Islam, Ahmad, it’s love of America and the constitution that compells me to reply to the clever attempts made on M4L to present sharia as some kind of paradigm of Western liberty, which it is not.

  2. Will

    or you could be happy, that there is a group advocating principles of liberty and free markets in the Muslim community, from a perspective they identify with. Rather than seeing conspiracy and intrigue in everything that doesn’t validate you current views.

    1. Phillip Slepian

      That’s fine Will, but I am certain that for every example M4L can come up with in which sharia is compatible with the constitution, I can come up with at least one in which it is not. That’s neither conspiracy nor intrigue. It’s a real problem for Muslims who consider American laws and liberties invalid where they conflict with sharia. That’s like saying that a bank robber should not be judged by looking at the days in which he robbed a bank, but rather by looking at all the days in which he did not rob a bank.

  3. Phillip Slepian

    Or, we could refer to the U.S. constitution, and U.S. laws, since this is the United States, and as yet the United States is not an Islamic Republic. In the constitution, we do not find that the setting of wages, at any level, is a power enumerated to the Federal Government. On the state level, the issue becomes more complicated, but it could be argued that any imposition of wage levels by any government, (Federal, state or local), unconstitutionally limits the freedom of citizens to set wages for those they employ as they see fit. Of course, if the wages offered are too low for the market, no employees will be interested in working for the employer. That’s the free-market basis our nation was founded on, and it is completely compatible with both the constitution and the American Judeo-Christian tradition.

    To be clear, Will, it is precisely the desire of American Muslims to apply sharia law to the laws of the United States that worries most Americans. Most Americans are concerned about whether the laws enacted by congress are constitutional, not about whether they are compatible with sharia. So is it Muslims For Liberty, or Muslims For Liberty As Long As Liberty Is Compatible With Islamic Law?

    1. Gibran

      It’s the latter. God’s law is the only way.

      1. Phillip Slepian

        Thanks for confirming my suspicions, Gibran. Your direct honesty is refeshing, and rare, in my experience.

    2. IbrahimYM

      I am really late in replying to this:

      You said “Of course, if the wages offered are too low for the market, no employees will be interested in working for the employer. That’s the free-market basis our nation was founded on, and it is completely compatible with both the constitution and the American Judeo-Christian tradition”

      You are wrong on both accounts. The first is that wages are not subject to free market values. America’s wealth was created on the backs of slave labor. Do some research…you will find that in the mid 1800s just before the civil war, near 75% of the asset wealth of America was based on slave ownership.
      And even after the so called emancipation, former slaves continued to work under coerced situations in the south.

      But we can ignore that if you will, and just look at good ole ‘white’ labor forces. When they did attempt to bargain for a fair wage they fell under the wrath of the capitalists and their crony government servants.
      As an example, in Bisbee Arizona in the 1880s there was a miner strike where the miners where demanding safer work conditions and a better wage. The U.S.Army was called in and the miners were all rounded up, put on a train and dropped off some 200 miles away. subsequent labor disputes across the nation resulted in stike breaking gangs beating up workers with the tacit approval and help of the armed violence of the state, the police. Today, the wages are managed by the capitalists through the federal reserve that manipulates the money supply to manipulate the unemployment rate. Greenspan in an article some time back even talked bout how the Federal Reserved did this to ensure that the unemployment rate remained at a level (4-5%) that would ensure a pool of labor willing to work at low wages just to have a job. This was in the 80s that he said this. Now with Bernanke and his recent successor it seems to be the same policies. So much for a free labor market.

      The second point you made was “and it is completely compatible with both the constitution and the American Judeo-Christian tradition”

      Judeo-Christian tradition has no concept of a free market basis. From the time of Athanateous to today, Judaic-Christian ethos are filled with the miserable lives of share croppers (roman in origin), to the serfdom of the middle ages to the massive slave-wage economies of the Judaic-Christian colonial occupations of the world.

      free-Market forces was a pipedream of Adam Smith that was never realized. While many understood and adopted his concepts of capital wealth they totally ignored his concept of the invisible hand that would ensure just behaviors by those capitalist forces. Free Market wages has never existed and still does not!!!

      1. Phillip Slepian

        @IbrahimYM: Unlike you, Ibrahim, I do not buy into that nonsense about how the wealth creators in this nation “didn’t build that”. Yes, they did. Those who take risks, work hard, and use their intelligence to create wealth (and usually, thereby, jobs for others), did indeed build something on their own. It is the government that comes in afterwards to confiscate a portion of that wealth, in the name of redistributing it to those who had nothing to do with its creation, other than the consumption (by choice) of the goods and services produced. And as for slavery, the few who might still own inherited fortunes from that era cannot be faulted for doing something that, at the time, was not illegal. Perhaps it should have been, but it was not. As for wages in the pre-minimum wage era, once again, nobody was coerced to take the jobs that paid very little. Employees were never prevented from quitting any job. If they felt they were indeed worth more than they were being paid, they were free to quit and take that better-paying job. If they did not do so, it was likely because their skill set was only worth what they were being paid. And nothing prevented them from working to improve their skill set or value as an employee or business owner. So you fail to prove any point at all.

        There you go with that wonderful, but meaningless term “fair”. “Fair wage”? Fair to whom? Fair to the employer? Fair to the employee? Fair because you say it is fair? Fair is subjective, Ibrahim. It means absolutely nothing. That is why the market must determine wages, and wage earners must use their freedoms to improve their value to potential employers, or use their freedoms to become employers themselves. The examples you cite are at best abuses that occur when crony capitalism runs rampant (as it is today). They do not in any way invalidate the free market or validate the injustice of government-imposed minimum wages. It was never the mandate of the Federal Reserve to manage the economy or provide employment. Sadly, that it what the Fed has evolved into, and, I feel, it should be stopped. The original mandate of the Federal Reserve was to insure efficiency in the money supply and set certain interest rates. Frankly, these ought to be the jobs of the U.S. Treasury, and the Federal Reserve was end run around the limitations placed on the Treasury by the Constitution. I would like to phase out the Fed, and at the very least, audit it. The Fed is, perhaps, the biggest example of Crony Capitalism in our nation’s history. And let us not forget under which progressive administration the Fed came into being! So I agree that the labor market is not free, but not because of a lack of “fair” wage regulations, but because of government overextending its reach into and regulation of that market (and all markets in the U.S.).

        You may view the lives of poor people as “miserable”, but the answer is that the constitution protects the freedom of the people to better themselves (as opposed to creating a government behemoth in an attempt to do it for them at the expense of those who succeed). But being poor did not mean being “miserable” until very recently, around the same time LBJ started his war on poverty. My grandparents were quite poor. But they worked hard and managed to support a large family. They were not “miserable” because there were no leftists in the government telling them they ought to be miserable because they were poor. On the contrary, they led happy, fulfilling lives. But today, the politics of class warfare, as evidenced by your posts, makes clear that the Left insists that those who have less must use government to take from those who have more, rather than figuring out how to get more, or create more, on their own, or (perish the though!), just be content with what they have. And I would also remind you that the socio-economic realities of Western colonization were such that most of those colonized were, and remain after the colonization ended, way better off for it. They benefitted culturally, economically, and physically.

        And once again, while the perfect realization of a free-market economy may be forever elusive, it remains the most just (not “fair”) system of economics in the history of the world. Property rights are the basis of a just society. There can be no justice without property rights. And the setting of wages as a free-market endeavor is an extension of property rights, since wages are paid out from one’s property.

        Contrary to what you have written, Ibrahim, it is the confiscatory policies of socialism, communism, and other non-free, centrally-planned systems that oppresses people and results in injustice, slavery to the state, and widely distributed poverty.

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