The Humble "I"

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Striving in Allah’s Path Through Our 9 to 5 Jobs

Q. I’m not the academic type, but I keep getting told how important gaining knowledge is in Islam. Some of my friends go to many of these religious weekend courses in their quest for knowledge, but that’s just not me. I have a husband and children who I’m devoted to, hold down a good job, and feel I stick to the basics of Islam in terms of my daily prayers; avoiding the haram, and trying to be good to others. So am I doing something Islamically wrong by not going to these courses, or by me just trying to be a good Muslim in context of my family and job? I’m quite desperate for guidance on the matter, because it does get to me sometimes.

A. All praise be to Allah. May His blessings and peace be upon our prophet, Muhammad; and upon his family, Companions and followers.

May Allah bless you, sister. You needn’t feel frustrated; nor does anyone have the right to make you feel you aren’t being a good enough Muslim. And while a small core amount of knowledge has been obligated on each Muslim to know and learn, as I’m sure you’re well aware, the ways of tahabbub ila’Llah bi ma yarda– “becoming beloved to Allah by doing what pleases him” are many. This path isn’t just limited to being a scholar or student of Islamic knowledge; as praiseworthy and as virtuous as they are. In fact, after one knows the basic beliefs of Islam, and is aware of one’s personal religious obligations (in terms of acts of worship, life’s daily halal and haram; duties owed to others; and core virtues like honesty, humility, patience; being just; and honouring contracts, pledges and promises), one then does whatever is best to live a good and godly life.

At the heart of such a life should be a desire to deepen our connection to Allah, through contemplating over His awe-inspiring creation and His constant favours and blessings to us. In doing so, our hearts will begin to fill with heightened gratitude and loving praise of Him. With this as the centre-piece of our lives – and it’s something which doesn’t require academic knowledge, formal study, or having to attend any Islamic courses  – one seeks happiness and contentment through family, friends, sound health, job satisfaction, and enjoying (in moderation) the countless blessings the Good Lord has showered this earth with. This is all Allah asks from the great multitude of humanity: that in the ordinariness of our everyday life, we awaken to the extraordinariness of our existence and to the many graces bestowed upon us by Allah, and thus offer Him heartfelt thanks.

In terms of gratitude or thankfulness to God – or shukr, to use the Quranic language – let us be assured by these words in the Holy Qur’an: وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ خِلْفَةً لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يَذَّكَّرَ أَوْ أَرَادَ شُكُورًاAnd it is He who has made the night and the day successive, for whoever desires to remember or to be thankful. [25:62]

Elsewhere, Allah says: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ – O you who believe! Eat of the good things which We have provided for you, and be thankful to Allah, if it is He whom you worship. [2:172]

How can we not offer reverent thanks when: وَاللَّهُ أَخْرَجَكُمْ مِنْ بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالأَبْصَارَ وَالأَفْئِدَةَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ – It is Allah who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing, and He gave you hearing, sight and hearts, that you may give thanks. [16:78]

We further read: مَا يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا – Why should Allah punish you if you render thanks to Him, and truly believe in Him? It is Allah that is Appreciative, Knowing. [4:147] Allah gains nothing from punishing His servants over whom He watches with affection, compassion and concern. On the contrary, He acknowledges any good we do – however little – and rewards us beyond measure. Subhana’Llah, such is Allah!

The hadith collections record that some of the Prophet’s Companions noticed one young man energetically racing to work, upon which they remarked: If only he had been racing so energetically whilst in the Path of Allah. Upon which, the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Do not say that,’ and then went on to say:

إِنْ كَانَ يَسْعَى عَلَى وَلَدِهِ صِغَارًا فَهُوَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ، وَإِنْ كَانَ خَرَجَ يَسْعَى عَلَى أَبَوَيْنِ شَيْخَيْنِ كَبِيرَيْنِ فَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ، وَإِنْ كَانَ خَرَجَ يَسْعَى عَلَى نَفْسِهِ لِيَعِفَّهَا فَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ، وَإِنْ كَانَ خَرَجَ يَسْعَى عَلَى أَهْلِهِ فَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ، وَإِنْ كَانَ خَرَجَ يَسْعَى رِياءً وَ مُفَاخُرًا فَفِي سَبِيلِ الشَّيْطَان 

‘If he leaves [home] striving for his young child, he is in the path of Allah. If he leaves [home] striving for his two elderly parents, he is in the path of Allah. If he leaves [home] striving to be self-sufficient, then he is in the path of Allah. If he leaves [home] striving to be boastful or to show-off, he is in the path of Satan.’1

Thus, see how Allah elevates what are considered mundane, worldly acts, conferring on them honour by including them in the distinguished category of fi sabili’Llah, ‘in the Path of Allah’; provided one does such things intending to please Allah and meet with divine approval.2

So beyond the need for highly specialised scholars in the various sacred sciences, most of us should  – after the basics – only acquire of sacred knowledge those things which will increase our heart’s yearning for Allah; move it to be more desirous of the Afterlife; spur us on to doing more acts of worship and godliness; or help shield the soul from egotism, insincerity and the dunya’s deceptions. Instead, however, people rush to the “hot” topics. Or they learn in order to argue, help their ego stand out, or some other vile and wretched worldly motive. Such people, all too often, end up causing schisms and confusion among Allah’s servants, spreading fitnah and faulty fatwas; indeed, they are barely able to grow and shepherd their own souls, let alone the souls of others. If godliness is not the goal, souls will always run wild!

If people who can’t put in the commitment or time needed to become a seasoned student of sacred knowledge (let alone a mature, intellectual, qualified scholar); or who just don’t have the academic acumen or an inclination to pursue this path – if only they left it alone and realised there are other blessed paths to draw closer to Allah, then perhaps they’d be personally better-off in their relationship with their Lord; and the ummah wouldn’t have to suffer those who are unfit for purpose entering into sacred knowledge. 

If it’s God we seek, many paths are open to becoming beloved to Him. One great way is in the hadith above: be a good, godly Muslim who knows at least the basic Islamic beliefs, practices, ethics and spiritual virtues; doesn’t tread on the toes of deeper knowledge and its scholars; strives to earn a halal living, be a loving and caring spouse, lovingly raise kids in the reverent thanks and worship of Allah, serve society in small but regular ways, and be an example of beauty – more in deeds than in words. 

We ask Allah for tawfiq.

1. Al-Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Saghir, no.940; Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, no.15520. The hadith was declared as sahih in al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami‘ al-Saghir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1986), no.1428.

2. I’d like to thank an old friend of mine, Saleem Chagtai, for bringing the above hadith to my notice via his Facebook page.

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8 thoughts on “Striving in Allah’s Path Through Our 9 to 5 Jobs

  1. Very beautiful answer and reflection. May Allah reward you and draw us unto Him in the ways which are most pleasing to Him. Ameen.

  2. samreen on said:

    Baraka’Llahu fikum for such a beautfiful article…i have a question where i send my question?

  3. What are your thoughts on what we hear from scholars and preachers of the need for “vision”?

    On the one hand, we are told taqwa is to obey the commands of Allah, the most high, and stay away from his prohibitions. These kick in with regular conditions e.g. the movement of the sun, the reaching of wealth to nisab, and so on, as well as with life’s unexpected occurrences, e.g. illness – have patience; good fortune – be grateful, and so on. Of course, the higher maqam is to be grateful for illness because of the opportunity for extra stations of worship, but that’s another matter…

    On the other hand, we are told by scholars and preachers to have a “vision”, to shape the environment and not be shaped by the environment. We are told the Sahabah – may Allah be pleased with them – had vision. They knew what they wanted to be involved in. Typical examples, Khalid b. al-Waleed in the military; Ibn Abbas in Quran studies, and so on. I’m always slightly skeptical about such projections, but perhaps that’s an ailment on my part, or perhaps something healthy, I don’t know. You tell me…

    You might have a vision to be a pilot to help people go Hajj, connect with family, etc. Then you become blind. Clearly your vision changes with circumstances. The whole point of a vision is that like the American thing of chasing your dream, no matter what, you pursue it regardless. And that’s the thing. How much of this talk about “vision” is influenced by American self-help culture projected onto Islamic motifs. America is doing well. They have a culture of productivity. Ummah needs to do well. Hey, let’s adopt their culture of productivity. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Islam has an inherent culture that can be called “productivity”. That there is nothing wrong adopting these kind of practices.

    We are told for women to be a good mother is the best vision for them. Being a good father? Is that a good vision for men? Or is it to become doctors to help people? Because I think most doctors would tell you their job doesn’t actually holistically help people, just provide temporary relief in a systemically unhealthy environment and economy. A job isn’t khidmat. Khidmat is what you do in your spare time. Perhaps a job done with ihsan or with voluntary hours is khidmat. But on the whole a job is a job. And who has spare time for khidmat if they are doing those good jobs we are told to aspire to as Muslims? To be moral requires money: organic halal meat, ethically manufactured clothing, private tutors to teach Islam, and so on. To do the job needed to have the cash to be a good Muslim doesn’t leave much time for khidmat. But I guess “fear Allah as much as you can”.

    So these are some thoughts I’ve been thinking about pertinent to this blog post. I hope you can shed some guidance too.

    May Allah bless you!

    • Abu Aaliyah on said:

      Wow, those are quite some thoughts! I’m not sure if I can respond to all the issues you raised or want me to shed light upon – at least not in written form. If, however, you wish to discuss some of these issues over a phone call, or face to face, I’d be more than willing insha’Llah.

      You’ve raised many pertinent concerns and there is always the wisdom that states that we should generally begin with the end in mind. Notions of “vision” and “productivity” can’t really be discussed without narrowing down what one means by such terms; especially in a religious context.

      But as I said, these are matters which we can discuss at some appropriate time or occasion. Please let me know if you’re up for a chinwag on these matters.

      • Here’s another suggestion: let’s discuss this on your podcast that way others can benefit from your research, insight and advice.

        On ‘vision’, I recently read the books ‘Productive Muslim’ by Mohammed Faris and ‘Agenda to Change’ by Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir. They are books that should be included with annual ISOC/MSA fresher packs.

        Both books impart an urgency for personal organisation and long-term strategising aligned with the interests of the global collective body of Muslims – which is all easier said than done.

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