Summer has finally come to Qatar. Temperature is already notching 40 degree Celsius.
Every morning after I get down from my bus, I come across gardeners, who toil under the hot sun to maintain and improve the landscaping of our company buildings.
One morning, I confronted one of them. I ask him straight, “How much do you make brother?”
“Yes. 400 basic salary, 200 for food. Accommodation is provided.”
“Basic only 400?”
“Yes, the company keeps the basic salary low so that they can pay less overtime money per hour.”
Subhanallah! The blessing of creativity is being used for oppression and injustice.
I wanted to calculate how much they are paid for per hour of overtime.
400*1.25/(8*22.71429) = 2.43 Riyals.
For less than five riyals, they spend two more hours every day under the scorching sun. For 125 riyals per month, they spend an additional 51 hours under the sun!
When authorities are asked about their inhumane treatment of the workers, they defend themselves by saying, “These people were in far worse situation back in their countries. At least by working here, they can send some money back home and feed their family.”
What they say is true. But that does not mean that I should take advantage of someone’s problem.
To be honest, I believe that the company owners will be able to make ample profit even if they double the salary of these workers. But instead of forty thousand, the owners will have to be satisfied with a profit of twenty thousand riyals.
However, the owners are not prepared to be satisfied with a little less profit. They always want more. Greed has made their conscience numb and turned their hearts into stones. Therefore, earning rewards in the hereafter by helping other people do not cross into their mind anymore. The bottom line for them is always about making more money, and if making more requires taking advantage of someone’s poverty and enslaving them, they do not mind doing that either.
I move towards our maintenance building with a heavy heart.
Right in front of our maintenance building, I come across a Nepalese gardener. I am convinced from his facial appearance that he grew up in the mountains of Nepal. A son of the Himalayas. May be his childhood days were full of playing with snows.
But with time, everything changed. The Himalayan boy suddenly discovered himself working under the desert sun.
This is life. For some, life is a nightmare.
When I look at these people, I make a prayer for them. “O Allah! If these people are not guided, guide them to Islam.”
Sometimes I go to them and broach the subject of Islam. They only smile and continue their work.
While coming home, I come across similar but slightly different scenes. I see workers who have already finished their day’s work lying under the desert sun and waiting for their buses that would take them back to their camp.
Whether they work, eat lunch, take rest, or wait for their bus, they have to do it outdoor as companies do not provide any shaded areas for them.
But these under privileged people never cease to amaze me. I have learned so many things from them.
They are always quiet. They do not complain. I learned from them how to be patient and accept the qadar of Allah with humility and grace.
They are always sincere at work. Even though they do not have a boss hovering over them and are not blessed with high salary, phone breaks, and coffee breaks, they do not slack during their work. They work with zeal. They taught me how to make money truly ‘halal’ and how to work with unquestionable integrity.
They have a natural simplicity that I do not have. I may not be arrogant, but I certainly do not have the frankness and the simplicity they possess. In fact, I will never possess simplicity like that of them. In the process of getting degrees and pursuing social status and such, my heart has become complicated and lost its simplicity forever.
When I look at these people and compare the blessings that I have been bestowed with that of theirs, I feel ashamed and hypocritical. I have not been adequately grateful to Allah. Period. Worse, I even show the audacity to commit sins without any second thought.
Sin is hypocrisy. Sin is ungratefulness. Hypocrisy and ungratefulness bring destruction.
Allah said in the Quran:
And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong-doer, – a disbeliever (an extreme ingrate, denies Allah’s Blessings by disbelief, and by worshipping others besides Allah, and by disobeying Allah and His Prophet Muhammad SAW). [The Noble Quran 14:34]
A meaning of the word ‘kufr’ is ungratefulness. A common trait of any disbeliever is He is ungrateful to Allah. He takes the blessings of Allah for granted.
If you have helped someone who took your help for granted and reciprocated you with ingratitude, you would know what an abhorrent trait ungratefulness is.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) would stand in prayers for so long that his feet would swell. Aishah (رضى الله عنه) asked him one day, “O Messenger of Allah! Why are you doing this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?”
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “O Aishah! Should I not be a grateful slave?”
What a wise and poignant answer!
Out of all humanity, Allah chose our Prophet to be His final Messenger. It was a great blessing and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) would thus always strive very hard to be the most grateful slave of Allah.
This should be our attitude too. Being Muslims, we simply cannot afford ungratefulness.
Recently there was an incident of favoritism in our office. Someone was promoted and my heart was restless over it. I was not able to focus in my salah.
My heart was ungrateful to Allah! I was being oblivious of Allah’s numerous blessings and was focusing on someone else’s blessing that he was destined for.
I looked outside the window of the mosque and saw the gardeners outdoor toiling under the sun.
My heart found tranquility. I could have been in one of their shoes, but it was the mercy of Allah that He decreed otherwise. This is the reason why the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) advised us to look at those who are below us when it comes to social status, wealth, or worldly matters.
I swear by Allah, if Allah questions me only about the blessing of air condition on the Day of Judgment, and measure what I have done to show gratitude for this single blessing, I will fall short.
Allah commanded us to be grateful. Allah said:
Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying, etc.). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favours on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. [The Noble Quran 2:152]
May Allah help us to strive hard and make us grateful slaves!