Indeed, Islam highly encourages its adherents to work and strive in earning a livelihood. On the contrary, Islam prohibits Muslims from being lazy and only begs from others. This prohibition is often mentioned in al-Qur’an and a hadith, which forbids us from disgracing our honor by remaining lazy and only hoping for the sympathy and courtesy of others. The Prophet had reminded such matter in the hadith of Hakim bin Hizam, where he said:
“The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from begging others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from begging others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].
Moreover, a person that is too lazy to earn a living and only begs from the courtesy of others will be resurrected in the Hereafter has no flesh on his face. This was firmly mentioned in the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, where the Prophet said:
“A man keeps on begging others for something till he comes on the Day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].
Verily, Islam encourages us to strive and seek livelihood (nafaqah) through various means for as long as it does not violate the shara‘. We are also required to embrace the attitude of ta’affuf (safeguarding oneself from begging others), as Allah mentions in verse 273 of Surah al-Baqarah, which means:
“[Charity is] for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of Allah, unable to move about in the land. An ignorant [person] would think them self-sufficient because of their restraint, but you will know them by their [characteristic] sign. They do not beg people persistently [or at all]. And whatever you spend of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, verse 273].
This verse was revealed to explain to us regarding the nobility of some of the Prophet’s Companions who were from amongst the poor, but they did not hope for the aid of others even though they were in dire need. Such that those who do not know of the actual circumstances of these Companions would think that they are well off, for protecting their dignity by not begging others.
Verily, Allah has promised a tremendous reward for every person that earnestly strive and work in providing sustenance to his family. This was mentioned in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, where the Prophet said:
“Of the dinar you spend as a contribution in Allah’s path, or to set free a slave, or as a sadaqah given to a needy, or to support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spent on your family.” [Narrated by Muslim].
For the person that likes to beg from others while he is physically able, then it is wajib (obligatory) upon him to try his level best in seeking work. Utilize all of the skills and strength possessed, as well as all opportunities available, so as to earn income in sustaining oneself and his dependents. Remember! Allah will not change the condition of His slave until he strives to change his condition himself.
Indeed, the results yielding from the work of any skills possessed, that is much better and dignified from just being lazy and begging others. This is based on the hadith:
“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 beg the people who may give him or not.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].
Regarding those that are lazy and purposely choose not to work, it is upon the society to provide them advice and guidance so that they will not remain lazy and only hoping for the sympathy of others.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab once advised and rebuked a group of people for having the misunderstanding upon the concept of tawakkal and purely relying upon Allah without putting in the means. He said, “Who are you, people?” They replied, “We are the people of tawakkul.” Sayyidina ‘Umar firmly stated, “You are lying! The real people of tawakkul are those that would plant the seeds and then place reliance upon Allah. Do not be lazy from seeking sustenance and only supplicate, “O Allah, grant me provision” while knowing that the sky will not bring down the rain of dinar and dirham.”
And Allah knows best!