This is one of the serious problems that have become widespread nowadays, where many workers do not hesitate to ask for a tip, and some of them think that it is a right that is their due, and some of them will argue about the amount if it is given to them. They may also be negligent in performance of their job if they feel that they are not going to get a tip or they are going to be tipped poorly, and they will work harder for one who tips more generously.
If the worker is being paid by the one who sent him, then there is no point in giving him a tip. Rather the apparent meaning of the Sunnah is that this is haraam. Al-Bukhaari (7174) and Muslim (1832) narrated that Abu Humayd al-Saa’idi (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) appointed a man from Bani Asad who was called Ibn al-Lutbiyyah in charge of the zakaah. When he came he said: “This is for you, and this was given to me.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stood up on the minbar and praised and glorified Allaah, then he said: “What is the matter with an agent whom we send, then he comes and says: ‘This is for you and this was given to me’? Why doesn’t he sit in the house of his father and mother and see if he will be given anything or not? By the One in Whose hand is my soul, he does not take anything but he will come on the Day of Resurrection carrying it, even if it is a groaning camel, or a lowing cow, or a bleating sheep.” Then he raised his arms until we could see the whiteness of his armpits and said: “O Allaah, have I conveyed (the message)?” three times.
The difference between a haraam gift and a permissible gift is that if it is given because of a person’s work, then it is haraam. The guideline concerning this is to look at the person’s situation: if he was not in this job, would he have been given this gift? This is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) meant when he said: “Why doesn’t he sit in the house of his father and mother and see if he will be given anything or not?”
Scholars’ comments on this issue:
1 – The fatwa issued by the Standing Committee (23/548): What is the Islamic ruling on one who is given money when he is at work without him asking for it or using any tricks in order to take that money? For example, the mayor or the Shaykh of a village, to whom people come for certificates and documents because they live in his village, and they give him some money for that. Is it permissible to take it? Is this money regarded as permissible? Can we take as evidence for it being halaal the hadeeth of Saalim ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar, from his father ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar, from ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to give me a stipend and I would say: “Give it to one who is in greater need of it than me.” He said: “Take it, for if any of this wealth comes to you when you are not hoping for it and asking for it, then take it and keep it, then if you wish you may give it in charity, but whatever does not come to you, do not seek it.” Saalim said: ‘Abd-Allaah used not to ask anyone for anything, and he would not reject anything that he was given. Agreed upon.
Answer: If the situation is as described, whatever is given to this mayor is haraam, because it is a bribe. The hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) has nothing to do with this matter, because that has to do with one who is given something from the bayt al-maal of the Muslims by the Muslim ruler without asking for it or expecting anything.
2 – Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him) was asked: We have a banquet hall in which there are cooks, and some of the cooks ask for tips in addition to their salaries. Is it permissible to give a worker some money as a tip, as he is used to taking from people?
He replied: If there is a worker who has a salary and is paid a set amount by the boss, then it is not permissible for anyone to give him anything, because this will make him resent others, as some people are poor and cannot afford to give them anything. So doing this is a bad habit. [From al-Muntaqa fi Fataawa al-Shaykh al-Fawzaan, vol. 3, question no. 233.]