The pitfalls of saying ‘walahi’, and not paying your employees their full wage
I am the adversary of three people on the Day of Judgement- and whoever is My adversary will be defeated:
- A man took people’s trust in My name and betrayed them
- A man sold a free person and ate its price
- A man who hired a labourer who did the work for him and he did not give him his wage.
(Bukhari, Ibn Hibban and Ibn Khuzaymah)
This is a very important hadith; which the Prophet (peace be upon him) is narrating from Allah Almighty Himself, and is therefore a Hadith Qudsi.
Allah Almighty is saying here that three people will be punished on the Day of Judgement. And they take on Allah has their opponent.
Using Allah’s name in vain
The first adversary is the one who betrays others using the name of Allah Almighty. Such people use Allah’s name as a guarantee i.e. by saying they will do this or not do that ‘wallahi’ or ‘by Allah’ or ‘by the name of Allah’ or something along these lines. They want you to trust them on the basis they used Allah’s name to authenticate their false claims.
It is an abuse of Allah’s name. It shows a lack of respect of Allah Almighty, His name, and His attributes to use Allah’s name for worldly matters and a betrayal to use it for a lie.
The one who does this is willing to use anything to get what they want.
Unfortunately, this is common place and I’m pretty sure we have all heard this in the marketplace, as it rolls off salesmen’s tongues: ‘Believe me! Believe me! Wallahi this is a good product’, when they know perfectly well it is not a good product.
Allah Almighty is warning such people that He will be their adversary on the Day of Judgement. Can you imagine this? Facing Allah as His enemy; you can’t defeat Him, of course not. And this is why He said, ‘and whoever is My adversary will be defeated’. He is undefeatable.
In dunya, you might be very eloquent and convincing, and able to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Even the Prophet (peace be on him) observed that he could not always detect lies when told convincingly, but that the onus is on us to be truthful.￼
Umm Salama reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:
You bring to me, for (judgement) your disputes, some of you perhaps being more eloquent in their plea than others, so I give judgment on their behalf according to what I hear from them. (Bear in mind, in my judgement) if I slice off anything for him from the right of his brother, he should not accept that, for I sliced off for him a portion from the Hell. (Muslim)
This can happen in dunya. People can get away with cheating when it is one man’s word against another’s. This is ‘ghadar’, treachery, stabbing in the back.
Heart controlled by dunya
Despite all the guarantees someone offers, if deep down in his heart, he is not planning to be true to his word, it shows us the low level of iman in his heart. His heart is controlled by dunya. He doesn’t care about anything, not least Allah’s name and His glory.
Do not use Allah’s name
The Hadith shows us that it is not a light matter to use Allah’s name. Try not to take an oath or to swear by Allah Almighty. Don’t do this, because if you do, you must fulfil your commitment, otherwise you are sinful.
Fulfil your oaths
There are many verses which remind us to fulfil oaths. ￼￼As Allah Almighty says in Surat An Nahl:
Wa ‘awfou biAhdi Llahi iza ahatuum
Treachery and betrayal are against the principles. (16:90)
The principles which Allah Almighty taught all His prophets and messengers and followers:
Wa la tanqudul aymana ba’da tawkeediha wa qad ja’al tumu Llaha alaykum kaffeela, inna Llaha ya’lamu ma taf’aloun
So fulfil Allah’s covenant when you make a covenant and do not break your oath after rectifying it. You have made Allah your guarantor and God knows what you do. Allah is fully aware of everything you do. (16:91)
In another ayah, Allah Almighty, in the opening of Surat al Maidah:
Ya ayyu hallazeena amanou awfou bil uqoud
O you who believe, fulfil your commitments (5:1)
Your financial obligations, your contracts, your commitments all have to be fulfiled. If you say,’ I will do this’, then do it. Of course we are talking about permissible matters only.
In another ayah Allah Almighty says:
Wal fu ada kullu aula ika kana anhu masaoula
And honour your pledge because the pledge involves responsibility. (17:35)
If you have made an oath, you have a responsibility; if you take a pledge, then you have to honour it.
In surat Al Maidah, Allah Almighty says:
Keep your oaths (5:89)
How to keep an oath
- Don’t take it unnecessarily. Do not take an oath you cannot keep.
- Don’t make it your second habit to say, ‘Wallahi, wallahi!’
- Glorify Allah’s name. Say ‘Bismillah’
- ‘Wahfazou ay’manakum: Keep your oath’, i.e. otherwise, if you keep breaking it or taking it frequently, no one will take you seriously.
Shaming on the day of judgement
Ibn Omar narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
For every betrayer a flag will be raised on the day of resurrection, it will be announced publicly, this is the betrayal of so and so, the son of so and so. (Bukhari)
He’ll be exposed in front of trillions of people. Allah Almighty will say, ‘This is the betrayal of so and so, the son of so and so’. A shame, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to say in a dua:
O Allah I seek refuge in your from treachery, surely it is a bad inner trait.
The believer does not lie
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us against ‘khiyana’, betrayal because this is not the trait and attribute of the believer. The believer is the person of his word, a person of principles, a person of truth. He is a person who fulfils his commitments, and his oaths.
Expiation for breaking an oath
If you make an oath to do something good, such as quit smoking you say, ‘I will not smoke again, wallahi bismillah.’ Then, keep your oath. Don’t break it, otherwise you will have to pay the kaffara (the expiation for breaking his oath), which is to fast for three days or feed 10 poor people.
Making the wrong oath
What if someone makes an oath to do something and then he discovers that he swore to do something he shouldn’t do. For instance, he swore not to visit his brother because he was upset with him and he said, ‘Wallahi, I will not visit you anymore’. Done, he made an oath. Then he learned that it’s not the attribute of the believer, not to say salaam to his brother for more than three days or to have a quarrel or a dispute with his brother more than three days. To break this oath, he says, ‘I will go and visit him’, then as he has broken his oath, he has to pay the kaffara.
Betrayal is not a believer’s attribute
The quality of ‘khiyana’ (betrayal) is not from the believer’s attributes because it is a break down of trust.
Imagine if you cannot trust anyone, which is often the case these days. Apart from a few people, there are cunning plans and betrayal going on all over the place. We receive endless scam emails and calls, people pretending they are from the inland revenue saying you have to pay tax, for instance. They are conning innocent people.
Scholars commented that Allah Almighty is against every wrongdoing, and oppression, yet these practices are still rife. We might be involved in them, or we might come across somebody who is involved in them, so Allah Almighty us warning against this.
Such people are not punished if they repent, and return the money or rights they took unfairly.
Rights in Islam
In shariah, we have two types of rights – Allah’s rights, and people’s rights. We have other categories as well but let’s stick to these two for the moment.
Allah’s rights: If you have done something wrong, i.e you sinned, disobeyed Allah Almighty, this is between you and Him. It’s enough to seek His repentance, to seek forgiveness from Him, to regret, to repent, to feel remorse for what you have done and to be sincere about it and to promise Allah not to do this again.
Allah, God willing, will forgive you. This is between you and Him, so if you overstep any of the rights of Allah Almighty, these boundaries, you came back to Allah, you ask for forgiveness, Allah will forgive you, this is one thing.
People’s rights – you cannot be lax about these. When it comes to people’s rights, the rules are stricter. If you wrong somebody, for instance you insult them, it’s not enough for you to pray two rakahs and say ‘Ya Allah forgive me, I’ve wronged this person. Forgive me, I’m so remorseful and I seek your forgiveness’. That’s fine, but Allah Almighty will not forgive you. Why? Because it was not Him but someone else whom you have wronged. You need to seek that person’s forgiveness before Allah Almighty will forgive you.
Similarly if you took someone’s money, property, rights, honour, and so on, you need to repent but to have complete repentance, you need to return back the property you took from them, if it was unlawfully taken and seek their forgiveness.
A man sold a free person and ate its price
Selling a free person
The second category whom Allah will punish is a man, a woman or a person ‘who sold a free person and ate its price’ because buying and selling people is haram, unless it was in a certain time before slavery was abolished, but it was not permissible to sell a free person. Yet this happened a great deal. And one example is that of Zaid ibn Haritha, a free boy, who was kidnapped, sold into slavery and ended up with the Prophet (peace be on him).
He was the son of a free man. They stole him from his mother and sold him. Hakim ibnu Hizam, a relative of Khadijah (may Allah be please with her), the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him), gifted Zaid ibn Haritha to her. She gifted him to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Modern day slavery to debt
Alhamdullilah we don’t have traditional slavery anymore but we have a different form of slavery; a 9-5 slavery. The majority of us are enslaved to debt in some shape or form, be it student loans or mortgages and furniture finance, car finance and all these kinds of things. These are the new forms of debt, a new form of slavery in the shape of a debt.
It’s a new slavery. You are a slave to your debts; you work all day, all night just to pay your bills. You are like a slave, at the end of the day you have no money left, whatever you earn goes to your master, your debtor. So you keep paying your debts, and bills and so on.
Ate its price
’Ate its price’ is not literal. It’s a metaphor, meaning consumed the money as you consume food.
It means that he cannot return the money because he lost it or used it, and so cannot give that person his freedom back, even though he was a free person. It’s a betrayal again, because the person was not a slave yet he has been sold into slavery through deception.
The first category involved abusing Allah’s name, not dignifying it as it deserves and not to fulfilling oaths which were taken. The second one concerns lying which is haram. To tell the truth is a trust. Hence the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘and to tell lies is a betrayal’.
And Allah doesn’t like the betrayals. He says in the Quran:
Ya ayyu hallazeena ama nuttaqu Llah wa kounou ma as Sadiqeen
O you who believe fear Allah, behave with taqwa and be with those who are truthful. (9:119)
Keep truthful company
Allah Almighty commanded us to be with the truthful. This means don’t be in the company of liars. Don’t lie. A person who always tells the truth will be called ‘siddiq’ (truthful) on the Day of Judgement. A person keeps telling lies until will be called ‘kadhab’ (a liar) on the Day of Judgement. Which one do you want to be?
The person who sold a freeman into slavery doesn’t care about anything, even people’s lives. He is only interested in making money, at any price. Human trafficking is today’s slavery. Forced into prostitution, and labour, they are exploited. We see this in the seafood business, the textile business and factories. Working for a pound a day, they work like machines, live in squalor, and big companies make billions out of them.
Is it fair? Of course not. Although we don’t have traditional slavery, we still have new forms of slavery.
Pay a person his due
The third category is a man hired to work who is not given his wage. This happens all the time.
A man does the job for you, but you invent excuses not to pay him, saying, ‘You see this corner you did not do it properly, this corner you didn’t that etc. ‘But this wasn’t included in the contract, you have just brought it to my attention now, this wasn’t in the contract’. No, no unless you do this I will not pay you.’ And then he will do this for instance and then they will bring another thing, and then another thing. And then the contract was for instance £500 to paint two rooms or one rooms or I don’t know what, then these £500, they will extend it and they want him to paint the whole house ‘and do the next room and do this room and see this we have here upstairs we have something which is not quite good and I want you to have a look and then why don’t you do some work here’. ‘But this wasn’t in the contract’. ‘No it’s alright, do it, do it, we will compensate you for this’.
Don’t do this, unless the work has fallen short of what was clearly agreed in the contract, don’t try and renege on the agreement over something which was not specified in the first place. If the contract specified only this room. It’s been done. You have to pay him when he finishes. Pay him.
Sometimes you need to have a deposit beforehand because you cannot trust the other party, yet despite this you do the work for them and they might not pay you. At other times, it’s the other way around, they might take the deposit and disappear into thin air. I’m pretty sure this has happened to many of us.
Pay on time
There are some narrations in the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for instance, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
Give the worker his wage before his sweat dries. (Ibn Majah)
This is in line with the general guidance in Islam, although the hadith has some weakness in it, to give people their wage and their rights, this is what Islam expects from us.
Those who exploit their workers and deduct their wages deliberately without a valid reason, always creating excuses to take people’s money without right are sinful. Allah Almighty says in the Quran
Wa la ta kulou amwalakum bay nakum bil batili
Do not consume your wealth amongst yourselves in falsehood (2:118)
It is not clever to cheat someone out of their money. It is haram. Like other prohibitions, don’t eat pork, don’t engage in riba, and don’t fiddle someone out of their rights, as this is dhulm (oppression).
If the oppressed raises their hands and makes dua against you, Allah will respond to their call because you have oppressed them. This is punishable in the dunya, before the akhirah.
Allah Almighty is telling us to be truthful, to be trusted and to have dignity and honour. If you make an oath, keep it. And the best way to keep an oath is not to make an oath in the first place.
The second thing that Allah Almighty is teaching us here that you should always to tell the truth. Don’t tell lies and don’t exploit the weak and vulnerable. You never know, this dunya will not last for you and you don’t know when the tables might turn on you. And certainly your power does not compare to Allah’s power and you don’t know what He’s going to do with you. If you don’t repent, you will be punished and doomed.
And the third category, Allah Almighty is saying treat your employees nicely. It’s better to give them more than less, otherwise you will be categorised under oppressing them. If your money is with them, you can forgive them, but if it’s theirs you cannot guarantee that they will forgive you. If they don’t forgive you they will take your ‘hasanat’ (good deeds) on the day of judgement. So be careful.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be among those whom Allah will defend, not be against on the Day of Judgement. And we ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be among those who always fulfill His right and people’s rights. Ameen.
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim in his online Hadith Qudsi session. Transcribed by Rose Swinburn.
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