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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Concept of Work in Islam

Islam lays great emphasis on work. At many places in the Qur'aan it is made clear that time should not be wasted. In the Qur'aan, God draws attention to all the magnificent creations as an indication of the proper planning that leads to wonderful results for Muslims believe that He creates nothing haphazardly. God relates in the Qur'aan how the heavens and the earth were created in six days and describes that as a sign for humankind. Then the Qur'aan directs a message to humanity that it should contribute positively to the earth, that is, it should work to make use of what is created for its benefit:

And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad). And h\that his deeds will be seen. Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense. (An-Najm 53: 39 - 41)

In Islam work is given special importance to the extent that it is considered as an act of worship in itself. Although some people believe that they are not obliged to work because they dedicate themselves to worshipping God, this is actually a wrong perception of the concept of worship.

The Muslim scholar Imam Al-Ghazali mentioned in his book Ihyaa Ulum Ad-Deen (Revival of the Religious Sciences) that Jesus (Peace be upon him) once saw a man who had completely devoted himself to worship. When he asked him how he got his daily bread, the man replied that his brother, who worked, provided him with food. Jesus then told him: That brother of yours is more religious than you are (The Book of Provision, Chapter 1). Al-Ghazali also mentions the Prophet's (peace be upon him) Companion 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, who used to stress this point further by telling people: Never should anyone of you think that Du'aa (Supplication) for sustenance without work will avail him, for heaven never rains gold nor silver (The Book of Provision, Chapter 1). (Imam Adh-Dhahabi, in his book Siyar A lam An-Nubula (Biographi of Prominent Scholars), attributed this saying to Hatem Al-Asam, also a famous scholar of Islam. But it is famously attributed to Imam Hasan Al-Basri in most scholastic
writings)

Therefore, Islam is a religion of worshipping the Creator, with an essential part of that worship being working for survival. God tells us in the Qur'aan to traverse the universe and make use of all the abundant resources that have been created for us.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself, who is considered a paragon of virtues in Islam, used to pray seeking God's refuge from laziness or idleness. Even before he was chosen as a Messenger of God, he was a hardworking person. This earned him the respect of his employer, Khadijah, who later proposed marriage to him because of all the merits and virtues she saw in him.

In his instructions to Muslims on this aspect, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) strikes a balance between worship and work. So, as Muslims have to be constant in their acts of worship, they also have to work hard to make a living, as it is recorded n one of the famous sayings of scholars: Work hard (for making a living and survival) as if you are going to die (Al-Albani, Series of Weak and Fabricated Ahadith). Also, in exhorting Muslims on the importance of work, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) made it clear that earning one's sustenance from one's work is one of the praiseworthy acts of worship. It is recorded in his traditions how he turned a man who came to him begging into a productive member of the society by teaching him how to work and provide for himself.

One of the scholars of Islam, Imam Hasan Al-Basri, was asked one day the secret behind his asceticism. The Imam mentioned four things in reply: One, I believe that my sustenance will never be hijacked by anybody (so I work to attain it). Two, I know that a work that is mine must be performed by me, so I do not slacken my efforts in performing it. Three, I believe that milord is Omnipresent (watching me), so I do not like Him seeing me committing sins. Four, I know that death is somewhere waiting for me, so I prepare for it (through good deeds).

In this way, Islam lays down a practical framework for life by laying down these principles and guidelines. Islam strives to eradicate social ills, and vices that result from unemployment, idleness, and poverty, by instructing the youth to rise up to the challenge of shouldering responsibility at an early age, and also for the old not to give up their efforts n benefiting the society with their experience and working skills. Thus, the true message of Islam is not just for a Muslim to profess faith and do nothing for his or her society. Rather, Islam teaches that the true faith is what is demonstrated through sincere deeds that make a noticeable addition to the progress of society.

IOL [Kamal Badr holds a Masters degree in international studies from Al-Azhar University. He is Editor in Chief of IslamOnline.net's English Website].

Courtesy - Muslim Youth Magazine

O Allah! Guide us, make our intentions sincere, accept our deeds, answer our prayers, and make us of those who are patient.

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