The Islamic Concept of Working
Inspiration to work
I finished school with my best friend on Friday, 30 November 1977. After exams, we had a very healthy brainstorming meeting discussing in detail how to make halal income. We were seriously looking for both short- and long-term solutions. We wanted to be productive to assist our parents. Our discussion was guided by Quran and hadith. We vowed not to pollute our life with haram (illegal) income. One of us raised the idea of working casuals in the Fishing Industry. We started working the following day. I was exactly 18 years old. Actually, it was less than 24 hours since we finished school. “Writer Ahmed”
The Holy Quran
Our discussion was guided by Quran and hadith. We started analyzing critically the Quran verses that are emphatic on working. All verses that dealt with work were opened in the pages of our heads. An old friend pinpointed that Allah elucidated in the Quran that people should work for their own benefit. He was explicit that work is highly respected to the extent of being considered an act of worship. The significance of working dawned into our heads explicitly that Allah emphasized people should make use of the available abundant resources that were specifically created for human beings.
Allah said in Surat – Attawba Verse 105
And say (O Muhammad) Do deeds! Allah will see your deeds, and (so will) His Messenger and the believers. And you will be brought back to all Knower of the unseen and the seen. Then He will inform you of what you used to do.
As the ball was rolling, motivation was building and piling up in our young chest. The discussion gained momentum when verses and verses were quoted meticulously.
Allah highlighted in the Quran, Surah Al-Maidah Verse 2:
And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression, and be careful (of your duty).
An old guard in the arena won our hearts by expounding this verse through an academic lens. We discovered that we are enjoying Allah’s blessings by discussing a theme that he likes. Our focus of attention is strictly on work and not worldly affairs. All of us were shrouded in suspense. We could clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. By all means, we were not chasing a mirage.
Allah explained clearly in Surah An-Najm Verses 39-41
That man can have nothing but what he strives for, that (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight: then will he be rewarded with a complete reward.
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)
After discussing the verses of the Quran exhaustively, we agreed unanimously to satisfy our appetite with hadith. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is my role model. He and other notable personalities propelled me to work with my own humble hands.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one’s own hands. The Prophet of Allah, Dawud, used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2072)
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) took the full-blown responsibility of engaging his honorable self in international trade. He made a huge profit that managed to raise the eyebrows of the people of Makkah. The profit earned was incredible. This wonderful news managed to reach the noble ears of Khadija (رضي الله عنها) Binti Khuwaylid, a tycoon of Makkah. Khadija (رضي الله عنها) was amazed by the news. Being a tycoon, she took the initiative to employ him. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) lived to the expectation of Khadija (رضي الله عنها) by netting a monumental, supernormal profit margin. Khadija (رضي الله عنها) was flabbergasted. She strongly believed in him. She came to the conclusion that the only practicable solution was to tie the knot. She sent a proposal to a very humble being for a hand in marriage. The Prophet (ﷺ) accepted the proposal wholeheartedly.
The construction of Masjid Nabawi of Madinah was done by the Prophet (ﷺ) himself and his companions. He (ﷺ) took the initiative of carrying the blocks and sand. He (ﷺ) did not say that he couldn’t because he was a sovereign. He (ﷺ) literally worked with his hands from the beginning of the construction up to the end.
The repeat of the noble task was also witnessed during the Battle of Handak (Battle of Trenches). The Prophet (ﷺ) played a pivotal role in digging the trenches. He (ﷺ) dug with his companions.
Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) narrated: The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
By him in whose hand is my soul, if one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better for him than begging a man who may or may not give him anything. (Sahih Bukhari 1401)
“Earning one’s livelihood through halal is an obligation after fulfillment of the obligatory acts of worship.”
“Whosoever can cultivate his land should do so, and those who cannot better give their land to their brethren for cultivation.”
“Any person who works with his hands from morning till evening his bad deeds will be erased.”
“Verily, some sins cannot be wiped out by prayers, charity, or pilgrimage to Makkah, but they can be deleted by working.”
“Verily, Allah loves seeing one who is very tired from trying to get halal food.”
The above hadiths stirred our emotions vigorously and catapulted us to work wholeheartedly. We went to the Masjid for Fajr prayers. We raised our hands, supplicating Allah to give us jobs. We confidently braved our way to the Fishing Industry to get the outcome of prayers. Fortunately, we landed the jobs and started working with gusto. Allah was on our side; we successfully went to universities and got lucrative permanent and pensionable jobs.