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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