Mar 06

Importance of work in islam

March 6, 2011 - 17:49 — contribute

While looking at the concept of work we have to differentiate between working to this life: to do something for our world and society and working that is in a form of worship, pure worship to Allah.

And work as a concept can be good and can be bad. So if we look at the work that has value, or is harmful to a person in the measurements of the Day of Judgment will find out that if you do well, if you obey the orders of Allah, if you perform the things that you were told to do and stay away from the things you were prevented from doing, this is positive work and you will be rewarded with good deeds on the Day of Judgment.
And vice versa, if you do something bad, if you do not perform the things that Allah (Azza wa Jal) has instructed you to do, you will be punished on the Day of Judgment.

Now coming down to our world we have to work in order to do something, whether we are positive in what we are doing such as those who are working to feed their families, those who are studying in the universities to achieve a degree in what they are studying. Or we could be working in the bad sense, that is harming people, making wars, killing, stealing, this is also work. But again you will be punished or rewarded to what you do.

And it is very interesting to know that the Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that there are 2 names that are very truthful: and this names are Al-Harith and Al-Hamam.

Harith means that every person does something, whether to his world or to the Day of Judgment, so he is plowing the ground. He is doing something.

And Hamam means that he is about to do something. Every body is about to do something. He is about to do good deeds, or bad deeds.

Coming back to the concept of work, Islam promotes work and that is why every time you recite in the Holy Quran you find that Allah talks about the believers, the Muslims, as being those who believe and perform good deeds. So if you believe without any performance, without any actions this is not enough. If you say that I am a believer and you sit idle, you don’t pray, you don’t fast, you don’t fulfill the pillars of Islam, and then you are not a Muslim. So there has to be believe and actions, work.

The Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us about those who beg, he worn them by saying “that those who beg in this world, in this life will come on the Day of Judgment without pieces of flesh on their faces”, which means that because they have imposed this humility on themselves by asking and begging people in this life, they will be punished on the Day of Judgment by coming in a skeleton like faces, no flesh, nothing to show for.

Another man came to the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) asking for money. He was begging the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam). The Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) redirected him and he told him to go and by an ax and a rope and then he told him to go to a forest or outside the city and chop for firewood and then sell it and to come back to him in a week time. After 1 week the man came in a very different situation. He looked differently because he had money. He sold the firewood and he made money. So the Prophet told his companions and set an example of this man by telling them “this is far grater then a man coming and begging people for money, they might give them and they might not”.

Islam promotes people to work. Intention in Islam is very important, if not the most important thing in all our deeds. The Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said that all deeds depend on the intention and whatever you intend you will be credited accordingly. This means that you can have 2 people praying at the same time, in the same mosque, one with the intention to seek the forgiveness of Allah and to ask the reward of Allah Subhanu Wa Ta’ala, the other one is with the intention to show his boss that he prays so that he will give him a raise. One is in Hell and the other one is in Paradise, because of their intention although their actions and deeds are exactly the same. They are prostrating, they are bowing and they are reciting the Quran in the same fashion and manner.

The intention in working is very important, but it is not the only thing. And a lot of the brothers and sisters may mix the concept of intention by saying that “if I work from 9 am to 5 pm my intention has to be that this work is for Allah”. This is not possible to work 9 am to 5 pm for Allah in the sense this is a very high achievement to reach if you can do that but it’s meanly, normally unreachable. But when you work from 9 am to 5 pm you have to ask yourself what is your intention.

So what your intention would be from your job?

1. To get a salary at the end of the month. The question is: “Why”? Too feed my wife and children. This by itself is an excellent intention and that is why the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that “feeding your family is a charity”. So this is a responsibility. I have to do this.

The Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) nevertheless says “that if you do this you will be rewarded” and it’s a form of charity. So this an incentive for you to go to work with an open mind, go to work happy because you are putting the food on the table but at the same time Allah is rewarding for you for it. Now the intention is very important even to those who are studying. Now if a boy or a girl goes to school they have to have a clear intention and unfortunately this is at the bottom of the list, if it exists at all. Because ask and survey any community around you “why do children go to school, why do teenagers go to high school, why do young men and women go to universities? And they all pursue a degree, or their parents just asked them to do so otherwise they are going to punish them. So if you do not have an objective with a clear intention, then you will not have good results.

It is quite important that we teach our kids, teach our teenagers, teach our youth that they have to have a clear intention and this intention does not mean that you have to stick 24 hours in the mosque, on the contrary, live your normal life with an intention.

So if I go to the gym and I work out for couple of hours a day, what is your intention? This man’s intention is to have a beautiful, symmetrical body so that he could seduce girls, to show off, or so that he could beat those whom he doesn’t like. So his intention is 2 hours in the gym would be in his sins record. He is sinful from the moment he got out of his house till the day he comes back.

Now another man is working out and his intention is to have a healthy body so that he could perform his worships: prayer, pilgrimage to represent Islam in a nice way and at the same time whenever there is a call to defend Islam he is fit and Islam asks you to be fit. This guy is rewarded from the minute he goes out of his house till the minute he comes back. So intention is extremely important.

What to do in case of nepotism?

This is not only in the Muslim world, it’s worldwide. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Unfortunately this is practiced every where and unfortunately there are governments who are ruled through this methodology. You have presidents that they are not fit to head a school and they are heading a country, but this is beside the point.

The point is that you do whatever pleases Allah, so if this means that you are in a job and you find that people are climbing on your back to reach higher positions ( people you know polish shoes…) but they reach where they want through crooked ways and means, well this is not acceptable for you as a Muslim because Islam tells you, you have to work but going to the top is not your objective, you have to work honestly, you must not lie, you must not be with 2 faces, you must not be a hypocrite, you must be punctual, you must be faithful, truthful and so on and if you get a better position Alhamdulillah, if you don’t then also Alhamdulillah and let those who did wrong get what they deserve in this life and definitely they will get what they deserve on the Hereafter.

The Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that whoever seeks the pleasure of people over the pleasure of Allah (Azza wa Jal), Allah The Almighty will be angry with them and he will make the people angry with him and vice versa, whoever seeks the pleasure of Allah over the pleasure of the people, Allah will be pleased with him and He will make the people pleased with you. So you can not compromise, you can not say: “it’s either this or that” no “it’s either this or that”. It’s either your committed Muslim, regardless of what the consequences are. I am committed, I have red lines that I can not cross, I have my Islamic boundaries that I may not go beyond and this is it. Well, this is what I believe, I have my trust in Allah, whatever they want to do they may do, but I will not compromise my religion to seek their pleasure because I know that Allah (Azza wa Jal) will punish me for that.

What justification can be for people who are not working at all with the excuse that they stay in the mosque all the time praying?

The concept of not working and staying at home, or in the masjid praying is found in some cults that claim to be Muslims, and Omar ibn Khatab, the second caliph, once went into a masjid and he saw a group of people sitting there so he told them “what are you doing?” because he noticed that they had nothing to do, they have been sitting there for too long. So he asked them “what are you doing?” They said “we are AL-MUTAQUIM, we are those who have their trust in Allah, they have the confidence in Allah so, we are sitting here”. So he started beating them with a short stick with him, telling them “you don’t have the trust in Allah, you are just sitting there like lazy bums, no, and this is not the way of doing it”.

Those who claim they have their trust in Allah, trust has to be accompanied by work and if someone sits idle in his house and say “I have my trust in Allah, if Allah wishes He will grant me money, food, water, everything so I don’t have to work”. This is insane; this is not acceptable because to the same person we tell him that he is exactly like someone wanting to have children without being married or having sex. “O Allah, grant me a strong child of my offspring, well ok do something”. “No, if he wants He can do that to me”. This is again not having your trust in Allah. It’s like again standing in the middle of the highway during rush hour and saying “I have my trust in Allah, Allah will protect me”. This is insane. Islam tells you that you should be admitted to a proper hospital.

To be a proper Muslim you have to work and that is why the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said in an authentic hadeeth “if you have your trust in Allah, real trust in Allah, then Allah Almighty will support you and provide you with RIZK. He will provide you with exactly what you need exactly like He does with the birds”. The prophet says: “the birds in the beginning of the day go out of their nests with empty stomachs and they come at the end of the day with full stomachs.”

So the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) did said to us that the birds work because they have left their nests and they came back at the end of the day, what where they doing? They did not go to the masjid of course and sat there, no they went looking for food and if we have our trust in Allah and we work and seek what supports us by having our trust in Allah and by working at the same time, then I ensure you that Allah will support us and give us whatever we need and ask Him for.


The prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) (the hadeeth was reported by imam Muslim in Sahih) he told us about a man traveling with lots of dust in his hair because of travelling and raising his hands to heaven and saying “O Allah, o Lord, he is praying to Allah to grant him what he seeks “ the prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) says “yet he is fed from sources of forbidden money and he is nourished through sources of forbidden money, the things that he drinks is from the same source, the things that he wares are from the same source, how by Allah, Allah Almighty will answer his prayer?”

So the Prophet is telling us that if your income is from the things that are forbidden then your prayer will not be answered by Allah. This means that you have to go out off your way to ensure that your income is halal, is permissible, and this is very easy.

Let me tell you that first there is a rule in Islam that says that necessity makes forbidden things permissible, but you have to define the necessities. Let’s think of a person working in a hotel and he serves alcohol, pork, things that aren’t Islamic so is his income permissible? The answer would be no. This is the only job that he can do, or this is the only job available at the moment, well actually it is not, but this is the only job that he pays what he is looking for.

There are thousands and hundreds of jobs that are lower in salary, but this doesn’t suit me. It is exactly the case of bankers. You know that there are 2 types of banks: Islamic banks that deal with Islamic transactions and non-Islamic bancs, which are the majority unfortunately. A lot of the Muslims work in non Islamic banks and whenever you tell them “this is forbidden because you are taking interest and it is a major sin, they say, well we can not find an alternative” but they don’t complete the sentence: “we can not find an alternative that pays the same salary”. But there are lots of alternatives that are 30 percent, 40 percent less. Here comes your trust in Allah. If you trust the Allah you should leave this income that it is not permissible for you and look for a pure income and in my point of view people don’t starve to death, in our societies and communities, you always find a Muslim that gives you a loaf of bread, if not a half a kilo of meat. You have to look at the things that pleases Allah, not pleases you, because the sky is the limit, no matter how high the salary is you will always find a position that promises more but with little more compromise from your side in your religious aspects.

Bribing to get a job

Paying bribe is considered in Islam as a major sin and those who pay bribe receive the bribes and those who are witnessing the bribing process are all course by Allah and this is a major sin. When you have a job opening and you are applying for this job and your manager wants something under the counter for him to accept, now you are the victim, but you want to make yourself also the judge, because you are claiming that you are the most qualified person and this is not to you to judge. Your desire is influencing your judgment. You want the job because it pays well and at the same time you are convinced that you are the best man around, but this is your own thinking, you may be right and you may be wrong. If you bribe this manager, then bribery would be common to the extend that you would have to bribe the man who issues your driving license, you have to bribe the man that gets your phone into your house and this means the corruption of the society.


I think that travelling to work in another country is permissible simply because this is what the Muslims in early times used to do. The Arabs at the begging of time were tradesmen and the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) himself went to Syria and to the Sham Area for trade and he was a merchant himself. All the companions of the prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) were merchants and tradesmen by nature. To seek a better opportunity of life is permissible, it is not depending on the effect it has on a Muslim, so if a person goes to a Muslim country, where he is free to practice his religion, it is not oppressed and at the same time he has a good opportunity for a decent job, this is one of the best scenarios possible because then you have a good income and you are leading a good life.

The question rises when a person goes to work in a non Muslim country, where the temptations are endless, where the Sharia (the Islamic law) it’s not applied, where there are threats to his faith and belief, then the answer would be going to such a country it’s not permissible, because although your income will improve, your religion will deteriorate, and the level of Emaan (faith), the level of faith will drop dramatically and in so many cases and I have witnessed cases like this people have abandoned their religion and they are overwhelm with the pressure of their peers, with the environment, the society, they have to give in. They are hopeless and then they start to imitate and copy the westerner’s way of thinking, ideology and they are transformed into being something other than Muslim. So if they are sure to preserve their Emaan, they can practice their religion freely, they are immune to the temptations around, then working in such environment is permissible, otherwise it’s not.

Every one knows their capabilities. If you can then it’s ok, though going to Muslim countries is a far grater choice, but if you have no choice except to go to this non-Muslim country, to work in Europe for example.

That’s why Muslim scholars say that travelling to non-Muslim countries it’s not permissible unless 3 conditions are fulfilled:
1- A Muslim has to have a certain level of virtue and fear of Allah that prevents him from indulging in temptations, desire, lust, and so on.

2- To have a level of knowledge that prevents him from accepting any bad ideas (you could find someone coming to you, if you don’t have a strong knowledge of Islam, and telling you that Islam promotes trinity and that’s way you say Bismillah Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim, no, this is not acceptable, you have to have the proper knowledge that allows you to refute this bad ideas that come to you

3- You have to have a legitimate purpose for going to this countries, so if you go just for the sake of tourism, this is not permissible, because you have a lot if Islamic countries that you can visit, but if you have a legitimate reason such as studying, looking for a job, trading, medication. If this 3 conditions are fulfilled then it is ok for you to travel, other then that stay among your Muslims, stay among your brothers.


The income depends on the activities of the company, so if for example the company is an industrial company that produces pipes, so this is a legitimate way of work, so this is permissible. Now your top managers are non-Muslims.

It is permissible for me to work under non-Muslim management?

Yes it is, there is nothing wrong in that and the evidence of that is that Salman Al Farisi (may Allah be pleased with him) when he was abducted and sold as a slave, he was sold to a Jew and his master, who was a Jew used to ask him to work in his farm and the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) didn’t tell him “you have to leave and find something else because your boss is a non-Muslim” no it’s ok, as long as the activity is permissible then it is permissible for you to work.

The problem is that this issue has so many things attached to it and you have to look at the holistic point of view. You can not come and say no, or you can come and say yes. You have to explain it and elaborate it so that people would understand why we are taking such a stand. Now working with the opposite sex is forbidden in Islam, we are told in Islam to segregate between males and females and this is portrayed very clear in the prophetic sayings.

For example, in a masjid, in a mosque, the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) says that the best rows of men are those at the very front, at the beginning and the worst rows of men are those at the very end and the worst rows of women are at the beginning, at the front and the best rows of women are those at the very end, which means that Islam wants to keep, though we are in a sacred place, a place of worship, the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) tells us to keep the men as far as possible away from the women.

In Islam we are told that a person must lower his gaze from the opposite sex so men are not suppose to look at women, women are not suppose to look at men, if they are complete strangers, this does not apply to your wife, your wife, your daughter, your sister this are all women that you are not allowed to marry so they are mahrams and you can look at and they can look at you. We have so many things in Islam that tells us that women if they are mixed with men, they are cause of temptations and this is crystal clear. Now, I can hear, people saying: “listen we’ve been to the west, and we have lots of man working with women and nothing happens so you guys are sick”. Now I’ll tell it’s not the case. You can work with a thousand women and maybe nothing happens, not because it’s not a safe environment, simply because nothing clicked. And I’ll give a very good crystal clear example that was on the whole world TV screens. Few years back a head of country, a very well known super power was accused of fornicating with an intern. Now this guy had a beautiful wife, a big position, but still did not prevent him from cheating and why was that? Because he was working with the opposite sex.

You can not blame Muslims for being rather safe then sorry because this is what the Quran and Sunnah tells us to do. Le the women work with women and let men work with men. If you are working in a company that has females, you should isolate yourself from them as much as possible in the sense that it is forbidden for a man to be alone with a woman in one room.

Because the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) tells us that there is a third person with them, and that is Satan. And don’t tell me that she is ugly, that she is 15, 20 years older than you, because it is not what you fell towards her, maybe you have no feelings for her, but can you guarantee that she does not have anything towards you and we have heard so many cases of nurses marrying their doctors, of stewardesses marrying their captains, of maids marrying their bosses, the marriage is a good thing, but we’ve heard of so many relationships that did not end in marriage. If you can look for a better job then do that, if not, this is the only job available then there are boundaries that you must not go beyond.

There are red lines. For example, you must not be alone with a female in a room, even in an elevator. And I am going trough so many situations like this, the elevator stops between flours and a woman comes so then without any hesitations I have to go out. It’s either me or her, not both of us alone in an elevator. And some would say that this too much, but in so many cases the elevator would stop for 3 or 4 hours, then what happens? Again I am not doing this because I do not know myself I am doing this for the best of the community. It’s the instructions of Allah and the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) so don’t be alone with a women in one room.

2- If you work with a woman, don’t look in her eyes, in the sense try to avoid looking at her unless it is necessary. It’s rude, but this is what keeps me away from it, but imagine if I start looking at her, smiling, joking and maybe doing something beyond this just being friendly and kind, this is not acceptable in Islam. So you have to draw the line here. If I work with the opposite sex I would never ever touch them at all because the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that “it is better for one of you to be stabbed in his head with a big iron nail, rather then touching a woman who is not permissible for him.

So shaking hands, and shaking hands is the moderate way of saluting, but nowadays the kissing is so again where to draw the line.

Touching is completely forbidden in Islam. Now by saying that it is not allowed to be alone with a female in one room, if there are men and women with you is a different story. If this is the only job that you can find, the more you are away from the opposite sex, this is the Islamic way of doing it.

If you work in a company and the woman is the CIO you work in this environment but within these boundaries. Do not be alone with her, do not talk to her even in the presence of others, don’t take the liberty to joke and smile because by nature a man would like to impress others. You can have a female as your boss, but keep the boundaries of Islam protected.

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