Child labour and Islam


Childhood is principally a period when children are to enjoy their lives through playing and entertainment and to receive the education and skills that will enable them to lead a successful life in the future. There is no harm in assigning children some work that is appropriate to their age and physical capabilities.

Islam views childhood with hope and aspiration, seeing it as something to look forward to, seek and long for. When it is achieved, the fruit reaped is happiness of the soul, delight of the heart and elation of the chest. According to the Quranic text, progeny is a gift from the Almighty Allah to His faithful servants. It is also one of the bounties bestowed upon them by the Almighty Giver of Bounties, as well as being a fulfilment of the hope that sincere servants of God long for. “Unto Allah belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills; or He mingles them, males and females, and He makes barren whom He wills. Lo! He is the Knower, Powerful.”  [Al-Shura (Council): Verses 49-50] Hence, it is not surprising that Islamic Shariah (law) pays utmost attention to securing all that is needed to guarantee a wholesome psychological climate for the rearing of children, a climate wherein they learn about the world and formulate their customs and norms.

As such Islam affirms:

– A child’s right to health and life.

– A child’s right to a family, kindred, name, property and inheritance.

– A child’s right to healthcare and proper nutrition.

– A child’s right to education and the acquisition of talents.

– A child’s right to live in security and peace, and enjoy human dignity and protection under the responsibility of the parents.

– The caring role of society and the state to support all these rights and support families incapable of providing appropriate conditions for their children. The Islamic Shariah states all of these rights, which are evident in the Quran and the sublime Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad through his sayings and actions.

“Man’s working is an Islamic value in itself regardless of the character of the worker. There is much evidence of this in the Shari`ah. For example, Allah Almighty says: “And say (unto them): Act! Allah will behold your actions, and (so will) His Messenger and the believers…” (At-Tawbah: 105)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “He who gets to bed extremely tired because of his (manual) work (along the day) his sins will be forgiven that night.” However, it should be borne in mind that the work one does should be appropriate for one’s conditions.

As for child labor, tasks assigned for children under 13 years should be within their physical abilities; if not, it may over exhaust them, and this may negatively affect their health.

Many children worked during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and moreover, some of them were willing to collect zakah from the different Muslim states then, which was an exhausting task.

Hence, if the work is appropriate for a child to do and he can do it without getting overburdened , there is no harm in his doing it. Furthermore, we sometimes find that some children are more capable of doing some work than adults themselves. There are many examples in that regard.

The point is that it is unlawful to employ children in exhausting fields that are beyond their physical abilities, or to make them work all the day without having any kind of fun. It should be taken into account that children, by nature, are inclined to play and enjoy their time.”