Islam encourages its followers to actively seek their sustenance. In Surah al-Noah, earning of livelihood is mentioned in the context of divine favours (meaning):
“And made the day for livelihood.” [Al-Quran, Surah Al-Noah (78) verse 11]
And in Surah al-A’raf earning a livelihood is deemed a blessing upon which gratitude is due (meaning):
“And We have certainly established you upon the earth and made for you therein ways of livelihood. Little are you grateful.” [Al-Quran, Surah Al-A’raf (7) verse 10]
And in Surah al-Jumu’ah sustenance is described as the ‘bounty of Allah’ which we are directed to seek (meaning):
“And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” [Al-Quran, Surah Al-Jumu’ah (62) verse 10]
Imam Bukhari has recorded a series of narrations in relation to the excellence of earning livelihood which leave no doubt as to what is expected of an individual (meaning):
‘Urwah b. Zubair reports that ʿAisha (wife of the prophet), may Allah be please with her, said: When Abb Bakr al-Ṣiddiq was made Caliph, he said, “My people know that my profession was not incapable of providing substance to my family. And as I have been taken up in serving the Muslims, the family of Abu Bakr shall eat from this wealth [public treasury], and shall earn for the Muslims therein.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari no. 2070]
Relying on the State
In fact, Rasulullah has described the fruit of one’s toils as the best meal an individual can hope to eat and, in support of this, has mentioned the example of Prophet Dawud, who, despite also being the head of state, used to eat only from the earnings of his manual labour.
Imam Bukhari has recorded the following two Hadiths in this regard (meaning):
Narrated Al-Miqdam: The Prophet 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, David used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor.” Abū Hurairah reports from the Apostle of Allāh, may Allāh send salutations and peace upon him, that Dāwūd, upon him be peace, used not to eat except from the earnings of his manual labour.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari no. 2072]
Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari states in al-Mirqat [6:32] that it is narrated in relation to Dawud that he used to wander anonymously amongst his subjects asking for their views about their leader Dawud. On one occasion Allah sent an angel in human form and when Dawud sought his opinion he replied:
“Dawud is a good man except that he eats from the public treasury.”
Dawud prayed to Allah to end his reliance on the public treasury and so Allah taught him the trade of making armour.
This is further indication that, even when rightfully earned, relying on the state is not what one should aspire to. If this means that one has to take a job that entails manual labour one should not consider it to be beneath one’s status.
Imam Bukhari narrates (meaning):
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger said, “No doubt, it is better for any one of you to cut a bundle of wood and carry it over his back rather than to ask someone who may or may not give him.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari no. 2074]
Thus, it is clear that Islam encourages hard work, enterprise and self-sufficiency. Even when one is rightfully eligible to receive from the public treasury it is more superior to earn one’s own income. Even if the job entails manual labour and is not well remunerated, provided one is not being taken advantage of, one should not be averse to taking up the job. However, in the current context of the UK, if by taking employment one is paradoxically worse off than when claiming benefits this will diminish the superiority of self-sufficiency.
And Allah Knows Best,
Written by: Mufti Muhammed Zubair Butt (Chair, Al Qalam Shariah Panel)
Source (with some editing): http://alqalam.org.uk/research-papers/importance-of-earning-halaal/