Work is the energy or muscular effort exerted by man to acquire or produce what will satisfy a certain lawful demands1.
Production is the commodities or service which human effort helps to produce in order to satisfy a certain need.
Man may produce a commodity or a service and man employs his energy to produce those commodities and services. Doctors, carpenters, workers, porters…all use their human energies to satisfy a certain need.
Work is, virtually, the human force or effort, which reacts with diverse crude elements so as to create a material product, or meet an intellectual or psychological need, such as production of chairs, shirts books, medical treatment, poems... etc.
Islam outlines the meaning of needs, work and production, and identifies their components in many texts and concepts. It makes it plain that human energy Produces’ by reacting with natural resources, the commodities by which man satisfies his different material needs like food, clothing, medication... etc.
The Noble Qur’an points out, explicitly and implicitly, the fact that nature is the source of wealth, and the depository of human needs. This natural wealth cannot be exploited, or put to good use without exerting a needed effort on the part of man. That is when the interaction between human effort and energy, on the one hand, and natural resources, on the other, takes place. Before this process, natural resources remain free and intact in or on the earth.
Allah, the Most High, says in the Qur’an:
"And He made in it mountains above its surface, and He blessed therein and ordained therein its foods, in four days, alike for (all) seekers." (Holy Qur’an, 41:10)
"He it is Who created for you all that is on the earth. And He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens; and He is All-Knowing of all things." (Holy Qur’an, 2: 29)
"See they not that We have created cattle for them, out of what Our hands have wrought, so they are their masters? And We have subjected them to them, so some of them they ride, and some they eat. And therein they have advantages and drinks. Will they not then give thanks?" (Holy Qur’an, 36:71, 36:72, 36:73)
"Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the clouds, then brought forth with its fruits as a sustenance for you, and He has made the ships subservient to you to run their course in the sea by His command, and He has made the rivers subservient to you. And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, pursuing their courses; and He has made subservient to you the night and the day. And He gives you of all you ask of Him. And if you count Allah’s favours, you will not be able to number them. Surely man is very unjust, very ungrateful". (Holy Qur’an, 42:32, 42:33, 42:34)
"And the earth - We have spread it out and made in it firm mountains and caused to grow in it of every suitable thing. And We have made it means of subsistence for you and for him for whom you provide not. And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it, and We send ii not down but in a known measure." (Holy Qur’an, 15:19, 15:20, 15:21)
These noble Qur’anic quotes present a number of basic concepts and thoughts, which accurately express Islam’s view concerning natural resources. They are the key source of wealth and were created for man to make use of.
The following are other Qur’anic verses, which express the same concept in a few words:
"...and He blessed therein and ordained therein its foods…, ” (Holy Qur’an, 41:10)
“He it is Who created for you all that is on the earth…” (Holy Qur’an, 2:29)
"See they not that We have created cattle for them, out of what Our hands have wrought, . (Holy Qur’an, 36:71)
“…so some of them they ride, and some they eat.” (Holy Qur’an, 36:72)
“And therein they have advances and drinks…” (Holy Qur’an, 36:73)
“…and sends down rain from the clouds then brings forth with it fruits for your sustenance…” (Holy Qur’an, 2:22)
“…and He has made the rivers subservient to you.” (Holy Qur’an, 14:32)
“And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, pursuing their courses; and He has made subservient to you the night and the day.” (Holy Qur’an, 14:33)
“And He gives you of all you ask of Him…” (Holy Qur’an, 14:34)
“And We have made in its means of subsistence for you…” (Holy Qur’an, 15:20)
The above-mentioned verses state that the universe, including the earth, sun, moon, water, air, animals, plants, seas...etc., is put under man’s control, and was created for his own benefit.
“…and the ordained therein its food, .” (Holy Qur’an, 41:10)
“And We have made in it means of subsistence for you…”(Holy Qur’an, 15:20)
Then, the Qur’an goes on to define the second stage, that of the production, and utilization of these sources. It explains that these riches, deposited on the earth, can only be useful if they are sought by man exerting some effort to acquire them.
This can be done directly, as in hunting animals, logging, obtaining oil from the oil fields, getting water from river, or indirectly, by transforming them from one form to another more suitable to meet man’s demands. This applies to all manufactured goods like textiles, electrical equipment of transportation, medical tools and apparatus...etc.
In the following Islamic texts, human effort is plainly referred to as a second element that enters the process of production:
1. Allah, the Almighty says:
"...so go about in the spacious sides thereof, and eat of His sustenance. And to Him is the rising (after death).” (Holy Qur’an, 67:15)
2. The Almighty also says:
But when the prayer is ended, disperse abroad in the land and seek of Allah’s grace, ..” (Holy Qur’an, 52:10)
3. Imam Ali (‘a) is reported to have said:
“When things are paired together, laziness and sloth united and begot poverty.”2
4. Imam Ja’far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (a.s) said:
“He who hires himself out, blocks the flow of his sustenance. He certainly does this, because whatever he obtains by his work goes to his employer who has hired him.”3
5. Aqabah bin Nafi’ is reported to have said, “I asked Abu-Abdullah al-Sadiq (a.s) about a man who uses another man’s land for agriculture without his prior permission. When harvest time comes, he goes to the owner of the land, who says to him, ‘You planted my land without my permission, so your crop is mine, and you will get back the money you spend on the land”. Is he right or not?”
"The farmer owns what he has grown", replied the Imam (‘a),
“and the owner of the land should be paid rent for the use of his land”.4
By examining the afore-mentioned two verses closely, we conclude that ‘walking about the earth’ and "dispersion on it’ emphasize the fact that search, and the exertion of human effort, are the two ways of obtaining earth’s resources, and satisfying human needs.
The three traditions, cited above, point out that human effort is the means to ownership and production, whether it is made by directly utilizing nature’s riches, or by indirectly changing natural resources into useful commodities.
The tradition handed down from Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib (‘a) clearly explains that human effort is the origin of production and satisfaction of human needs. That is why the Imam (a.s) says that laziness and sloth, two causes behind the paralysis of human energy, unite and beget poverty.
Poverty, economically speaking, is the shortage of commodities and services necessary to meet human demands. So, the exertion of human effort and human activity generate wealth, while laziness and disability yield poverty and destitution.
Both statements transmitted from Imam Ali (‘a) and Imam Ja’far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (‘a), shed light on important aspects of the law of work and production laid down by Islam.
The statement, He who hires himself out, blocks the flow of his sustenance”, clarifies the fact that human effort is the deeper origin of the production of human wealth and the meeting of human requirements.
The third quotation stresses the fact that the farmer, himself, produced the crop. The crop is an interaction between two elements: human effort and nature. The human effort changes natural resources into useful goods.
That is why the land deserves the utilization costs, i.e. the farmers deserves to own the whole crop, because it is the results deserves to own the whole crop, because it is the result of the result of the sowing of the seed, thanks to the human effort while utilized nature.
This effort is, in fact, the force that gave the raw material a new shape, making it a useful article. This leads, the naturally, to attributing this growth to the cause of its creation which is the farmer’s effort. Without it, the agricultural crude elements would have remained untouched, and there would have been no crop. Considering this, the text regards the crop the legitimate property of the farmer, as Islam considers the effort the producer of the crop.
Considering this, the text regards the crop the legitimate property of the farmer, as Islam considers the effort the producer of the crop.
Let us go back to statement No.4. By examining it, we will notice that it bears a very important economic concept. The one who works for others for certain, fixed amount of money deprives himself of a large portion of the fruit of his effort, which goes to the employer.
Islam views man as an independent unit of life. He needs certain services and commodities, which he, himself, can provides by making use of his stored energy and reacting with the key, basic tools of production.
Man, who spends this energy has the right to possess the surplus product. No one else has the right to confiscate it. However, man certain has the right to use his energy any way he deems appropriate. He is certainly has the right to use his energy any way he deems appropriate.
He is certainly free to make a contract with the employer to hire his energy in return for a certain wage. By so doing, the employee gives up a portion of his produce and the effort he exerts for the benefits of the employer, in accordance with the contract and mutual approval of both sides.
This contract is the legal justification for the proprietor to secure the surplus produce from the employee in return for providing him a job.
It is clear in the text that Islam discourages such contracts, and urges workers to avoid them. It calls for the liberation of the worker from the control of the employer, so that he can get all the produce of his work, as it is the continuation of his self, whether in the first stage, the production of goods and articles, or the second one, the marketing, transferring or trading of them.
Islam decides that there are only two elements that enter the process of production. They are:
1. Nature (raw material).
2. Human efforts.
"If someone hires out a horse, and another a camel to a man to use in irrigating some land, and the three agree to share the profits, their agreement is null or void. The profits go to the man, who should give a certain sum of money to the owners of the horse and camel, in return for the run of their animals”.5
Close examination of this text reveals to us that the effort is the element that creates the new spirit of production, which reacts with the basic elements. As for capital and production materials, they are only auxiliary in the process of production, and deserve suitable compensation.
From the same text we can, also, conclude that the one responsible for the process of production is the man who was owns what he produces. When the basic material used in the process is the natural resource, untouched before, like the crop in the example of the land planted without the consent of its proprietor, or the irrigator of the land and the participants who hired their animals out to him.
On this economic basis, we set very critical laws that govern economic relations, distribution, and ownership, and specify the wages in the fields of production and ownership.
It is this view on which the followings are based: the evaluation of human effort, the assessment of its worthiness and its output restoration of the output to it, with the exception of what the producer, of his own free will, gives up by means of a contract, mutual consent…etc.
Therefore, the product, all of it, belongs to the producer (the human effort). That is why Islamic law regards the agreement between the producer and those who participate with only production factors, as null and void. Islam believes that all factors of production employed by man in the process of production are by no means equal sharers in the process, nor are they equal to man’s effort.
According to this view, the policies of work encouragement and the pushing of the worker, the actual producer, to employ all his physical and mental abilities should improve his production. In this way, economic equity is achieved and Divine Will concerning the relationship between human energy and nature, production, and ownership, is respected. In nature huge productional energies and abilities, like plants, water, petroleum, Sun, iron, animals... etc.
Within man himself, there are artistic, mental and muscular abilities of great size and importance that can interact with natural elements and provide what man needs. They are capable of driving poverty, hunger, and deprivation away from all people living on this planet. Allah, may His Name be hallowed, gave every individual an ability which makes him capable of providing himself with the necessities of life, provided that he is given the freedom to act, and relieved of injustice, unfair control, and exploitation.
- 1. "Need is lacking something with a desire to acquire it", al-Rahgib al-Asfahani, Mu’jam Mufradat Alfadh Al-Quran.
Need then, is lacking commodities and services with the feeling of a desire to obtain them. Need may be material, like the need for food, clothing, medical treatment, transportation or immaterial like the need for knowledge, security...etc.
- 2. Al-Kulaini, Al-Furoo’ min al-Kafi (Minot Questions of al-Kafi), vol.5; Kitab al-Ma’ishah (Book of Living), p.86.
- 3. Al-Kulaini, Ibid, p.86.
- 4. Al-Kulaini, Ibid, p.297
- 5. Abul-Qasim Najmuddin Ja’far bin al-Hassan al-Hilli, Shara’i al-Islam (Islamic Laws), vol.2, p.377.