Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen
Chapter 237
The Excellence of Kind Attitude towards Slaves

Allah, the Exalted, says:

"Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.'' (4:36)

 

1360.  Al-Ma`rur bin Suwaid (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I saw Abu Dharr (May Allah be pleased with him) wearing a nice gown, and his slave was also wearing one similar to it. I asked him about it, and he said that he had exchanged harsh words with a person during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and put him to shame by making a reference to his mother. That person came to the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and made mention of that to him. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah said, "You are a person who has remnants of the `Days of Ignorance' in you. Your slaves are your brothers. Allah has placed them under your authority. He who has his brother under him, should feed him from whatever he eats, and dress him with whatever he wears, and do not burden them (assign burdensome task to them) beyond their capacity; and if you burden them then help them.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  
1. This Hadith enjoins good treatment of the slaves and contains the elucidation that one should give them the same food and clothes which one has for oneself, or one should give them such wages that they can have the same food and clothes which he has for himself because as far as religion and humanity are concerned, the slaves have the status of one's brother, and their human needs are not different from the needs of their masters. This order also applies to labourers who work in factories, shops and homes. They should be given wages for their work on the strict consideration that they are also human beings and brothers - as if they are members of one's family. It is regrettable indeed that these teachings of Islam have been reglected in the Islamic countries. Not to speak of treating them as brothers, the factory owners, shopkeepers and capitalists of these countries are not prepared to treat them as human beings. The result is that while these employers are rolling in luxury, they do not give to their employees even such wages which can suffice for their human needs. May Allah grant them the ability to act upon the teachings of their religion.

2. It is equally important that the employees and labourers should not be burdened with such heavy work which they are unable to bear. If the employees are ever given any such work, the employers must share such work with them.

3.  Pride on one's own ancestory and condemnation of others on this account are remnants of the Age of Ignorance which were rooted out by Islam. Muslims should keep themselves away from such vainglorious thoughts. It is a pity that this evil of the pre-Islamic age has now been adopted again by Muslims. We find it very common in the present-day Muslim societies.

4.   By issuing the instruction mentioned in this Hadith, Islam has arranged to establish equality in the true sense of the word. Islam does not make any claim of uniting the labour class and weaker segments of the society for confrontation with the capitalists because this breeds class hatred which ruins the peace and progress of the society. Instead of creating enmity, Islam fosters brotherhood between the employer and employed, the master and the slave, the ruler and the ruled. It also exhorts them to be sympathetic and helpful to each other. By stressing the rights of people, it teaches both classes to love and respect each other. This is the reason why in Islam the merit for distinction is not wealth and abundance but Faith and fear of Allah alone which even the poorest of the poor can possess and which may be missing even in the richest of the rich in society.

 

1361.  Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When your servant brings food for you and you do not seat him with you, you should at least give him a morsel or two out of it because he has prepared it himself.''
[Al-Bukhari].

Commentary: The sense of equality of people inculcated by Islam warrants that if a servant brings meal to his master, this latter should make him sit by his side to take the meal with him. If this is not possible for a reason or another, then he should give some portion of the meal to the servant. He must not eat up the whole meal himself or leave for him only the leftovers. Alas! we should adopt the teachings of our religion.