Maid And Her Friends : As An Issue

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It is a worldwide notion that slavery is no longer a valid practice nowadays. Human as commodity and as subject of trade had ceased to exist.

In Malaysia we do have maid and contract worker (the cheap labours), of which consist of population of people originated from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and some other countries. The maids are employed to do chore, from cleaning, laundering, cooking including babysitting. The contract workers most of them build houses and work at estate. Owh, By the way, the word "amah" used in referring to maid is an arabic word which means "woman slave".

Referring to how these people are addressed, they are not slave, as they are called maids and contract workers. But looking at how they work, it seems that they do nothing less than the slave does, or even worst.

In early years of Islam, the practice of having slave was still in place. People did have slave during that time. Saidina Bilal Bin Rabah, the muezzin of the Prophet was a slave of Umayyah Bin Al-Khalaf until Saidina Abu Bakr paid for his freedom. Some of the companions also have slave, including Saidina Abu Zarr Al-Ghifari.

Let see how the Prophet directed his companion, Saidina Abu Zar in dealing with his slave, a hadith of Al Ma’ari, narrated by Imam Bukhari:-

]هُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ جَعَلَهُمْ اللَّهُ تَحْتَ أَيْدِيكُمْ فَمَنْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ أَخَاهُ تَحْتَ يَدِهِ فَلْيُطْعِمْهُ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ وَلْيُلْبِسْهُ مِمَّا يَلْبَسُ وَلا يُكَلِّفُهُ مِنْ الْعَمَلِ مَا يَغْلِبُهُ فَإِنْ كَلَّفَهُ مَا يَغْلِبُهُ فَلْيُعِنْهُ عَلَيْهِ

[They (the slave) are your brothers, of which Allah put them under your command,whoever vested with command over them (the slaves) feed them from what you feed, dress them with what you wear, don’t burden them with hard task which they are incapable of and if you do give them hard work, you should assist therein.]

From the above hadith, the slave is to wear what the master wear, to have the same meal as what his master has. The slave must not be forced to do what he is incapable of and if he is to be exerted, the master should lend his hand.

Comparing the fate of slave during those time and maids or contract workers of our days, it seems that the slaves were treated better. It can be seen in public, especially at mall that maids are dressed disparagingly, maybe for people to discern who is master and who is maid. Bad treatments received by the maid are ex facie, a perception in the mind of the majority of our populace, though many flee unreported.

On 12 of May 2008, the Anti Human Trafficking Act is seen to have its first accused, charged under the provision of the act. The act is meant to prevent and to stop human smuggling from foreign country into Malaysia for the purpose of making use of them as workers or to be traded with interested party. It seems that the government is serious in repelling inhuman act of smuggling human and making them slave.

As much as the government concerns in adopting the universal principal of anti slavery, it is also wise to re-evaluate whether the objective of this anti slavery notion is met, or it is a mere re-branding of the slavery into the so called maid or contract worker. How we call this people is immaterial, but how they are treated is what matter as “Equity looks into substance, rather than form”.


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