On every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.
Part 11: Is Occupation with Earning Better or Devotion to Worship?
Thereafter another question is built upon this question (of earning), and this is that after earning what is necessary for oneself, is further occupation with earning better or devotion to worship?
Some jurisprudence says, “Occupation with earning better,” whereas most of our teachers are of the view that devotion to worship is better.
The perspective of the first view is that the benefit of what is earned by the farmer (for instance) normally reaches the community, whereas the one devoted to worship only benefits his own self for by his act he attains to salvation for his soul and to reward for his body. Whatever that is of more encompassing benefit is better, because of the statement of the Prophet, “The best people is the one who benefits people” [related by al-Quda’i in Musnad al-Shihab from Jabir].
For this reason occupation with the seeking of knowledge is better than devotion to worship for the benefit of it (i.e., the former) is more encompassing. For this reason too governorship and ruler-ship founded on justice is better than withdrawal in worship, as was the path chosen by the Rightly-Guided Caliphs for that was more encompassing in benefit.
The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, points to this meaning in his statement, “Worship is ten parts.” An he says, “Striving is ten parts, nine of which are in the seeking of the permissible” [from Abu Guhddah, however says he has not come across these two hadiths]. That is, the seeking of the permissible in order to provide for dependents.
The proof of this view is that by earning one is enabled to execute the various types of obedience, such as fighting in the path of Allah (jihad), pilgrimage, charitable giving, doing good to parents, maintaining ties of kinship, and kindness to relatives and strangers (or non-relatives); whereas by devotion to worship, only some types of devotion are observed, such as fasting and prayer.
The perspective of the other view-and this is sounder-is that the Prophets and the Messengers, on whom be blessing and peace; and likewise people as a rule, when they are confronted with an adverse matter which they need to repel from themselves they will occupy themselves with worship and not with earning. And people also are more drawn to worshipers rather than to earners.
The proof of this is that earning is valid for both disbelievers and believer, and hence how can it be deemed correct the view which gives it preference over that which is not valid except for believers only, which is worship?
The proof of this is that when the Prophet was asked about (what are) the best works, he said, “The most demanding ” [Abu Ghuddah says this was a saying of Ibn ‘Abbas], that s the most burdensome on the body. By this he points to the fact that a person attains to the highest degrees (of religious excellence) by denying his elf its caprice (for) Allah says, “and (for) those who restrained the self from caprice, the garden will be the abode” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Nazi’at, verse 40 – 41].
Occupation of this nature is found initially and perpetually in acts of worship. As for earning there is in it weariness initially but there is in it also the satisfaction of desire at the end and the attainment of the self’s craving. Therefore there is no escaping the statement that whatever that is in contradiction to the self’s caprice at the beginning and at the end is the most excellent.
What we have said does not at all apply to marriage, for occupation with marriage is better according to us than devotion to the worship of Allah. And moreover this meaning is found in it, for it is indeed better because of what it entails of increasing the numbers of the servants of Allah and (enlarging) the community of Allah’s Messenger, and realizing the delight of the Messenger in them (i.e., in their multitude); and such (meaning) is not found here.
Thus, devotion to worship is better than occupation with earning after one has obtained his necessities from it.