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.
The erudite Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following: “It is one of the basic rights of children that they enjoy their childhood. They are not to bear the responsibilities of adults while they are still so young. This will have a negative influence on them, for it deprives them of enjoying a very important period of their lives. Children are to play and have child-centered fun and education. Special attention is to be paid to developing the talents of children and guiding them well in that respect.
It is not lawful to deprive some children of education because of their poverty and having to work to earn their livelihood and support their families. This problem led me to establish a society for patronizing the talented.
A child may help his father in cultivating his farm if his father is a farmer, or in some work in his workshop if he has one. It is lawful for children to help their fathers in these respects and similar ones so long as this will not be over exhausting for them.
There is another case in which child labor is lawful: that is, when their families are so poor and they cannot afford their basic needs. In such a case, a child may work, but his work should be appropriate to his age and within his physical capabilities. In other words, a child in that case is not to be overburdened with tasks beyond his capabilities as a child.”
Moreover, Dr. Abdel-Fatah Idrees, professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at the Faculty of Shari`ah and Law, Al-Azhar University, adds:
“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.”