Islam holds high regard for those that strive in seeking livelihood and dislikes those that are lazy and likes to beg from others. Prophet Muhammad has reminded us in the hadith of Zubayr bin al-Awwam in which he said (which means):
“It is better for anyone of you to take a rope (and cut) and bring a bundle of wood (from the forest) over his back and sell it and Allah will save his face (from the Hell-Fire) because of that, rather than to ask the people who may give him or not.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
Indeed, all prophets also worked to earn their living. Prophet Adam did farming, Prophet Idris was a tailor, Prophet Noah and Prophet Zakariya were carpenters, and Prophet Dawud was a blacksmith. Prophet Moses was a sheepherder, while Prophet Muhammad did commerce. Similarly, with the Companions where Abu Bakr sold clothing, Umar bin al-Khattab ran a leather business, Uthman ibn Affan was a successful trader. The same goes with Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Talhah bin Ubaydillah, az-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, Amr bin al-As, and many other Companions. The Companions had their own jobs in seeking a livelihood in this worldly life, and they even gave away their wealth (infaq) in the path of Allah.
Islam highly encourages its adherents to work hard because this world is filled with the multitude of provisions from Allah, whether on the surface of the earth or buried underneath, deep in the ocean, or up high in outer space. They all can be cultivated by mankind by utilizing the intellect and endeavour bestowed by Allah to mankind. Islam does not require us to pray continuously or perform i’tikaf in the masjid at all times. Sayyidina Umar himself had chased away a man who was making du’a in the masjid when it was already duha time, telling him: “The sky will not rain down gold and silver only through supplication.”
Ibadah (worship) in Islam must be fully comprehended in a wider and comprehensive context. Ibadah is not just confined to salah, fasting, zakat, performing Hajj, making dhikr, reciting al-Qur’an, giving charity, undertaking jihad in the path of Allah, and its like. In fact, Islam also includes seeking livelihood as part of the meaning of ibadah. Rasulullah has taught the Companions indirectly on the meaning of work as ibadah.
Abu Hurayrah narrated that once a few Companions saw a man who works diligently. They said: “Is it not better if he performs jihad in the path of Allah.” Rasulullah quickly replied: “Do not say as such for if he works to provide for his young children, then he is in the path of Allah. If he works to support his elderly parents, then he is in the path of Allah. And if he works to seek his livelihood, then he is in the path of Allah.” [Narrated by al-Bayhaqi]
Therefore, for the work that is pursued, one must avoid cheating, power abuse, untrustworthiness, complacency, and it’s like for that work is inseparable from the realm of worship. That is why a person who performs salah will not lie on the number of raka’ah obligated, and the fasting person will not eat in secret though knowing that no one sees him. All of these is because one truly comprehends that the salah and fasting are ibadah. Hence, the rooh (spirit) of ibadah must be engrained in the workplace if the intention is to develop quality workers.
There are several matters that must be observed by every working Muslim so that their occupation will earn a profit in this world and the Hereafter. Furthermore, it will be filled with values of ibadah that are pleasing and accepted by Allah. Among those matters are:
1. The job pursued must be lawful and Shari’ah-compliant. It is not allowed for a Muslim to work in an area that is deemed by Islam as immoral and inflicting haram such as working in a nightclub, brothel, casino, bar, non-Shari’ah-compliant financial institutions, and its like.
2. Working with diligence and responsibility. Islam not only encourages Muslims to work but at the same time, it requires them to work with diligence, trustworthiness, and responsibly.
3. Having the intention to work as ibadah and seeking the pleasure of Allah. Working with the noble intention for the sake of Allah will uplift the dignity of such work from just a regular job to being part of worship. Such a job will generate tremendous reward and deemed as righteous deeds. Such a job will be deemed like a prayer mat (sajdah) that is vast and stretched out. One is bestowed with blessings in this world and tremendous reward in the Hereafter.
4. Not neglecting one‟s duties to Allah. Whatever work we embrace, our obligations to Allah must never be neglected such as the five daily prayers, fasting in Ramadan, and many others.
High Regard Upon Seeking Livelihood
Islam places high regard upon those seeking livelihood to support themselves and their families from pure and permissible sources. The fatigue endured from seeking halal provision all day will be greatly rewarded by Allah.
The reality is that not everyone can work in a fully air-conditioned room. Some will have to toil under the scorching heat of the sun, performing heavy work that is very exhausting. However, Allah will look at them with love and forgiveness if they strive to work and preserve the rights of Allah such as safeguarding the five daily prayers, fasting in Ramadan, and its like.
Furthermore, the difficulty and exhaustion in seeking livelihood will be rewarded with the expiration of previous sins by Allah. In the hadith of Anas bin Malik, Rasulullah was reported to have said (which mean):
“Whoever falls asleep in exhaustion due to seeking halal provision, then he sleeps in the forgiveness of Allah.” [Narrated by at-Tabarani]
Verily, in our persistence of seeking a livelihood, let us ensure that the wealth accumulated was not earned from work that is contrary to the Shari’ah. Allah mentions in Al-Quran (which means):
“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].” [Al-Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 188].
Let us be fearful of income earned from unlawful or impermissible sources, especially bribery that occurs within administrative affairs and its like. The statistics released by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (SPRM) regarding arrests made for alleged bribery in 2018 amongst civil servants or government officials and the general public amounts to over a thousand arrests.
However, this figure would be much higher if we are to include those that are still free in receiving and giving bribery out there. Just imagine those involved in bribery returning to their homes with the “income” earned from such corrupt practice, then given to their spouses, children, and parents. Hence, earnings from such corruption will be disseminated to a portion of mankind. As a result of consuming earnings from bribery, gone are the blessings and mercy from Allah. They will not attain love and mercy from Allah. They will be deprived of tranquillity and blissfulness in their household, even though the family is seen filled with pleasure.
Therefore, let us ensure that the earnings that we take home are from permissible sources. It is feared that earnings from impermissible sources will have a grave effect upon our children and family members. They may not know that the food they consume or clothing they wear are from unlawful sources. Hence, the onus is upon us to ensure that everything that enters the home is all halal.