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Parent Category: Library
Category: Opinion and Analysis

The History of Artisans

The word “artisan” is derived from the Italian word “artesano” which means “to be instructed in the art.” An artisan is a skilled worker who has mastered an art. Artisans can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt as carpenters, sculptors, jewellers amongst others.

Presently they include tilers, painters, builders, electricians and various others. In ancient time a master artisan owned a business and educated apprentices in the art.

Throughout history, in each civilisation, there has always been a group of artisans whose value was understood, contributions appreciated. Much of their knowledge and skills have been passed down to our modern day artisans.

It is argued that artisans are a dying breed. But it is actually the opposite, in time to come artisans will be needed more than ever. The introduction of electricity leads to the need for electricians. The technological advancements of the future will also lead to the need for artisans.

“There needs to be a mind shift in the approach to artisans” according to Shawn Jones the CEO of Artisan Training. The university dropout rate increases, this is because not all students are cut out for tertiary education.
Shawn believes that the solution to this dilemma is for youth to consider artisan professions.

“A 50% failure rate at university is too high, if students sign up for artisan training they will get an apprentice placement with an employer from enrolment and will start earning a salary,” Shawn stated.

Recently we have seen that graduates either struggle to find a job or earn rock bottom salaries due to an oversupply of knowledge and skills. Many graduates end up settling for jobs they did not study for. Artisans, on the other hand, are guaranteed employment. The economy desperately needs their skills, this means more jobs and higher pay. Although many co-operate jobs might cease to exist in the near future, artisan jobs will not.

Becoming an Artisan is an option

Allah (SWT) has blessed each child with talent, at times they often fail to see their children’s talents and force them into something they like, not realising their skills and passions. Parents need to start observing our children on a daily basis and understand that skills can come in different forms.

A parent should definitely be involved in their child’s career choice but should not make the final decision. Parents who are too involved in making their child’s career choice often use these phrases. “I know my child better than they know themselves.” “I don’t want my child to make the same mistakes that I did.” “I never had the chance in life so I want something better for him or her.”
If you have ever said any of these, you have normal parental instincts but you should make sure that you don’t make the choice for them. Remember, the advice is much more valuable when a child asks for it than when it is given.

Parents who are too uninvolved will use phrases like; “I have no idea what my child’s subjects are in school”, “my child must make his own decisions”, “it’s my spouses' job to make those decisions”, “it’s the teachers' job to make those decisions.” We need to understand which skills our children have and we need to advise them accordingly. Don’t force any profession onto them.

If you feel your child has the skills to become an artisan, then encourage them to. Don’t feel pressured by society to ensure your child gets a university degree. Rather let your child be happy in what they do.

Doing what you love and what you have a passion for is more important than how much money you make. Keep that in mind when you advising your children. All parents want their children to find good jobs and employment but should understand that not everyone is cut out for desk jobs. Rather take advantage of their talents.

The Islamic view on Artisans


Nabi (SWA) said: "No-one has ever eaten any food that is better than eating what his hands have earned. And indeed the Prophet of Allah, Dawud, would eat from the earnings of his hands." There were artisans among the Sahaabah (RA) as well.

There is no wrong in being an artisan, in fact, it is honourable. Artisans that creates mosaic patterns, came up with mathematic patterns that only much later did mathematicians discover. Even after the sahaabah, we find that many Muslims were artisans.

A few questions relating to artisans were posed to Mufti Yusuf Moosajee to respond to:

“What happens if a plumber fixes a burst pipe but the customer does not pay?”

The plumber is entitled to the money. He can go to arbitration or to the traditional court to get his money. But the costs incurred in getting there are his own.

“What if the artisan is at fault, for example, a painter was supposed to paint a wall white but paints it beige. What rights does the customer have?

If the painter admits to his error, he needs to fix it at his own cost.

“In business dealings with artisans, which comes first the service or the pay?”

Mufti says that neither really matters, as it should be on mutual agreement between both parties. However, it is best to conclude such agreements in writing to ensure that each person is protected.

Allah loves a servant who earns his own money; therefore being an artisan is a noble and honourable profession.

The Pros and Cons of being an Artisan

There are many more pros than cons to being an Artisan.
The positives include being able to work for yourself, the ability to work flexible hours, you have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur, you will rarely be without a job because of the demand for artisans. Becoming an artisan helps you to use to branch out into other fields as well.

Some of the negatives include you have to be the outdoors type. You also might be unaware if your business plan is going to work. Not knowing whether your trade is going to profitable is a worry, but you have to make it work. It is a process that you have to be patient with. Sometimes you will find yourself in difficult situations.
All professions have pros and cons but we need to weigh them out based on our abilities.


Tips for those that want to be Artisans

To be an artisan you don’t need to do a course, experience and skill is something you can pick up on the way. You will have to start from the bottom and learn from someone who knows more.

Another important tip is to pick one trade or niche to perfect. You want your business and trade to be recognisable, the only way to have this is to specialise in one thing.

Be professional, humble and ask questions in order to learn more. Also, learn to recognise when you need help and when you can expand. Trying to do all the work on your own might decrease your quality of work.

Use social media to market your business. The Ulwazi skills development programme offered by the Jamiat and the Seed programme from SANZAF provide good training and opportunities for young people to pursue their goals.

Naseerah Nanabhai
09-03-2019