Still Working For Allah
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Here now are some questions about Still Working for Allah that may be in the minds of many people. I have tried to answer them in as simple and direct a manner as I could. You can see how the twin-theme of continuity and change runs through them all.
Q. Why the word “Still”? Why are you saying “Still” Working for Allah? Should we, for some reason, not have been working for Allah?
A. I do it for a number of reasons. I do it in part to draw attention to all that has happened in the world – and in the lives of Muslims – since September 11, 2001. The Muslim world is in tatters; Muslim morale everywhere is at an all-time low; and the Muslims are in retreat on almost all fronts in the West. This may demoralize Muslims and discourage them from working for Allah.
It is time to let Muslims know that working for Allah is an ongoing and never-ending process. It never stops. If it did, the world will come to a standstill. The world may change all it wants, but a Muslim’s commitment to work for Allah never changes.
There is also a time and cultural element involved in why I use the word “Still.” The Muslim nation is 1400 years old. That is a long time for someone to be working for Allah or to be doing just about anything else.
In this long march of history, people often tend to forget who they are or what they ought to be doing – or how. As a result, not all Muslims today have an equally clear idea of what it is to be working for Allah; nor do they all have an equal commitment to it.
Therefore, it strikes me as important that we make this clear to all of us: What does it really mean to be a Muslim in every age and place? What does it mean to be working for Allah in Place-x at Time-t? For, we often talk about these things but not always make the meaning of what we say clear to others. I thought it was time to do it.
So, what I am saying here is that it may be 1400 years since we showed up on this earth as an Ummah – as a designated nation of self-styled and self-conscious slaves of Allah. Our job in this world was to work for Allah. And we did precisely that. And in doing so, in all modesty and with all possible humility, we changed the face of Allah’s world.
We replaced human bondage with liberty; tyranny with freedom; widespread human degradation with universal human dignity; universal female suffering and deprivation with equal male-female partnership in the struggle of life; and ignorance and slavery of the mind with knowledge and enlightenment.
We abolished the law and custom of primogeniture and made women partners with men in the process of inheritance.
We also replaced the world’s glamorization of and fascination with falsehood with a powerful passion for truth; drunken waywardness with sobriety and responsibility; and human fascination with the worship of a multitude of false gods with devotion to one God.
We also made marriage the way of the divine for all humans and introduced divorce as the last resort for exit out of a marriage that had broken beyond a reasonable hope for repair.
We taught the world tolerance and respect for other people’s faiths, customs, rights and dignity.
We made the leaders of other faiths and cultures full and equal partners in our own system of thought and belief. We made care, compassion and responsible conduct toward even animal and plant life a central part of our faith and culture.
We mandated smiling at our fellow-humans as a requirement of one’s devotion to God.
We did all this – much of this we ourselves have forgotten. But then it has been such a long time – 1400 years. Are we still plodding along? Are we still making the right noises and going through the right motions of working for Allah, old and tired, and hunted, harassed, hounded as we are, and buffeted as we are by the winds and forces of change around us?
I believe we still are, Mashallah! And the clearer we make this to others, the more people will be joining us in working for their master – God Almighty. Yes, still working for Allah – and it is a great feeling – Alhamdulillah.
What do we want in return? Not a thing!
All we want is for Allah’s slaves to recognize their true master and to work for him. We have no agenda of any kind beyond that. We crave neither power nor glory. We seek neither land nor wealth. We are after neither recognition nor reward.
We ask nothing of anyone except to say: Please go to your God and master and work for him. Please do, before it is too late, before his wrath overtakes you.
I also do it (use the word Still I mean) to let people – all people – realize that whether they are Muslims or not, whether they know it or not, and whether they are good workers for Allah or not, they are all still working for Allah.
People work for Allah in many ways – often, each in his or her own way. And Allah’s mercy is open and available to all of them – based on their motives and intentions, the methods they choose, and how well they perform their duties.
They are all Allah’s workers – Allah’s slaves – all human beings are, and all of Allah’s creation is. They all work for Allah – they do Allah’s bidding.
The fact is that to be born in this world – whether as a human being or as a worm – is to be a slave of Allah. And that is what slaves do: They all work for their master. That is the purpose of their existence.
Therefore, people may be ignorant or stubborn or arrogant or in denial all they want, the basic reality is that they are all still working for Allah. That is how Allah made this world – to work for him.
And in that world pretty much everyone works for Allah – some willingly; some not so willingly; some do it right, while some others make a mess of it. But they all work for Allah. The universe knows no other way.
That is why I put that word “Still” there – Still Working for Allah – to indicate that neither time, nor place nor circumstance is a reason for anyone not to work for Allah.
Q. All right, who should work for Allah?
A. You, of course. Who else?
Q. Who else should work for Allah?
A. Whoever else you can convince, persuade and influence through your efforts to work for Allah.
Q. Is that all it takes to work for Allah: me, myself?
A. Yes, that is all it takes. You – a team of one, an Ummat or a nation of one – are in the centre of the mission to work for Allah. That is the lofty status conferred upon you by your creator. Each one of you as an individual is the core of that work. That is where it all begins. That is the most important beginning – you and yourself.
The rest follows. It unfolds as you go. The road rises to meet you thereafter, if you work for Allah right, and if you stay the course.
If necessary, be a nation of one – Ibrahim, Alaihissalam, was. Become the beacon that beckons and guides humanity to a better way.
Q. Then what happens?
A. Then you start adding people to your original team of one. The Ummat grows. You do this by going on a recruiting mission as it were. You beg, plead, explain, argue and make your case – trying to make the case of Allah, for the sake of Allah, with the people of Allah. That is what I call your case, even though in reality it is Allah’s case you are making … and even though in reality you are little more than an errand boy – or girl – for Allah.
And you do so using the most beautiful and sublime of means. The finest words ever uttered. The nicest approach ever used. You thus win over minds and captivate hearts.
Soon, you have doubled yourself – now you are two, instead of one. Then you have a larger team. You have a group now. You have a Jama’at. The Ummat has grown and multiplied. This has been a most natural evolution and progression in your effort to work for Allah and, in the process, build a team that would work with you in this noble venture.
Q. How do you do that – go on a recruiting mission as you put it?
A. Simple. You do that by sharing with other people your ideas; your understanding; your love for Allah and for his creation; and your passion for making this world a better place for all. It is contagious. It catches on.
Q. What does working for Allah really mean if you are a regular, ordinary human being like most of us are?
A. Here is what it means: If you are an average human being, you should know that God made you to work for him.
You must know that the whole universe works for Allah, because it is designed and programmed to do so automatically. But as humans, we have been given a degree of choice. As humans we need to bend and direct that choice to work for Allah.
From this point of view, working for Allah means making a conscious choice and commitment to do so.
Q. What else? Could you elaborate on what you just said?
A. Yes. Stated differently, working for Allah – for all people – consists of two things:
One, doing your best to establish the Deen of Allah in your and your family’s life.
Two, doing your best to establish the Deen of Allah in the world.
Q. What does that mean – establishing the Deen of Allah? Sounds a bit overwhelming, scary in fact, doesn’t it?
A. It is scary when you look at the enormity of it. It is overwhelming when you don’t fully understand what exactly Allah’s Deen is and how it is established in people’s lives and in their world. But it is most reassuring and comforting when you understand three things.
Firstly, it is the most natural and beautiful thing you can do in this world – help people to be better people; make this world a better place for all.
Secondly, you must know that working for Allah – and this business of establishing the Deen of Allah – is, nothing more or less or different from life itself. It is simply another name for living your life as best as you can – and helping everyone else around you to be able to do that.
Thirdly, it is an incremental, peaceful process. It is rooted in the hearts and minds – and souls – of the people. It is a question of working to change people’s hearts, minds, beliefs and behaviour – and to burnish their souls to enable them to open up to and reflect the light of Allah.
This process cannot be hurried. It requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, compassion, tact, sweetness, gentleness and caring.
And yet it is also a process that promises rich returns on your investment. That is because when people change, the world changes. And as the world changes, it helps more people to change along with it.
The process then becomes dialectical – people –world – people –world – people – world – and so on. And thus, before you realize it, the entire world has changed. It is bathed in the grace and mercy of Allah. However, you must constantly remind yourself, that changing hearts can be a slow, painstaking and difficult process. And also that there are some hearts, maybe, that were never meant to change.
Establishing the Deen of Allah, therefore, means working to make sure human beings increasingly come to seek Allah’s pleasure in all their efforts and to adopt Allah’s laws in all aspects of their lives.
For yourself and your family it means working hard to bring your own life in conformity with Allah’s laws – to make Allah your number one priority and the sole object of your earthly life and to make every other goal and purpose in your life subordinate to that one overarching purpose.
For others – for the rest of the world – it means working hard to persuade others to see things your way – the way of Allah and his Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. In a sense, it means to be a perennial preacher of Allah’s message to a humanity alienated from Allah and its own roots.
This can be the most ennobling, fun-filled and exhilarating thing you ever did in your life. In fact, it is so energizing and empowering that it never lets you down; it never lets you retire; and it never allows you to run out of zest for life. Working for Allah gives you the ultimate joie de vivre.
Like always, and as with regard to everything else, establishing the Deen of Allah – Iqamat Deen – is also a concept that needs careful and ongoing review and analysis in the context of the time and place in which one lives.
I don’t have the time and resources to go into it in greater depth and detail at this time. But let me say very quickly what working for Allah does not mean: It does not mean a mindless or selfish race- or culture-based attempt to transfer political power, national territory and economic resources from non-Muslims to Muslims. It does not mean a power grab in behalf or for the sake of a certain ethnic or geographic group or a formula for domination of one ethnic group by another.
Q. How is working for Allah different from living one’s life as an ordinary, regular Muslim? And how is it different from being an ordinary human being for that matter?
A. It is not. As an ordinary human being you are still working for Allah. But you are doing so generally without knowing it. Often you are either in ignorance or denial about it or you simply refuse to acknowledge it openly and consciously and take responsibility for it.
On the other hand, when you live and act like a Muslim, you are working for Allah both consciously and unconsciously. You know and admit – at least you are supposed to – that you are working for Allah. When you let Islam embrace all aspects of your life, you are working for Allah the way you are supposed to. Otherwise, you are still working for Allah regardless of who you are and regardless of what you do.
Another way of putting it is this: If you are a good Muslim, you are a good worker or slave of Allah, and if you are a bad Muslim, then you are a bad worker and slave of Allah. If you are a Muslim only in name, then you are a worker or slave of Allah in name only.
If you think and claim and go about behaving as if you don’t work for Allah, then you are a runaway slave, even though there are aspects of your being that still work for Allah. When that happens – when you turn your back on Allah and become a runaway slave – there are all kinds of forces in the universe that go after you and track and document your every move. Everything in the universe turns into a set of powerful devices that shadow your every breath and record your every eye movement.
Therefore, it does not matter who or what you are, the important thing to know is that you are created by Allah to work for him. Allah says: The only reason I created human beings and Jinn are to work for me. Wa Ma Khalaqtul Jinna wal Insa Illa Liya‘budun (Qur’an 51:56)
Q. What if I am not a Muslim? Then I don’t have to work for Allah, right?
A. Wrong. The fact is it does not matter whether you are a Muslim or a non-Muslim. If you are a human being, you are supposed to be working for Allah, full stop. And you are working for him anyway, in more ways than you think or realize – and with good reason. Who do you think you owe your whole life to?
Who do you think made you? Gave you your ears, your eyes, your body, your mind and the rest? Who gave you your wife, husband, children, parents – your entire family?
Who made the earth on which you walk and the heavenly bodies that hold the entire universe together so that it will be possible for you to enjoy life on earth? Who made the trees that give you oxygen? Who made the water that you drink?
So, if you got all these things from Allah, and got them all free and without lifting a finger, and then you decide to report to someone else for work, you have got your priorities mixed up, don’t you think? You are hired and paid by someone, and you go to work for someone else. Does that make sense?
Q. Which one do I do first: Make myself and my family perfect Muslims first or try to change the world, even though I am myself far from being perfect?
A. You try to do both at the same time. For, one cannot exist without the other. In this world, you need the chicken and the egg both at the same time. Remember it is not one after the other; it is both together. Often there is no other way.
Let me explain. There is no perfect linearity in life except in the lives of fortunate few or in the minds of armchair experts. By linearity I mean one thing coming systematically after another thing in an endless chain of neat succession. If we understand Islam clearly, and if we have a true Muslim temperament, we should know that Islam is a process and not a product.
That means you are struggling to be a Muslim all through your life, and you never quite know for sure whether you made the grade or not until you are dead and gone. So instead of looking at yourself as perfect and looking at everyone else as the opposite, start working on both at the same time – yourself and others. Thereafter, it is pretty much an interactive, dialectical process.
As for family, it is – like everything else – a blessing of Allah. Some have it; some don’t; and most people have it a little bit at a time – different aspects of it in different ways. Some are given the whole thing on a platter; some struggle for bits and pieces of it all their life and come up with an empty space at the end of the road.
So family is something that all of us have in different measures and degrees and forms and shapes. So if you have a “perfect” Muslim family, be grateful to Allah – for, Allah’s prophets Nuh and Lut did not – and work to make your family, along with yourself, even more perfect.
But – when Allah has put you in that privileged position of having a perfect Muslim family – don’t strut about looking down your nose on those whose families may not be as perfect as yours. Instead, with great humility dedicate yourself to helping those whose family situations are not so wonderful.
On the other hand, if you have a family that needs work – whose family doesn’t? – start working on yourself and your family with all possible diligence, devotion, commitment and humility. But don’t just spend all your time, energy and resources being trapped in your preoccupation with your family.
Ask yourself this: What would have happened to the world if Nuh Alaihissalam had waited around to convert his son first before he started talking to others?
What would have happened if Lut Alaihissalam had been disqualified on the basis that he had failed to produce a perfect Muslim woman out of his wife?
And where would the world be today if Ibrahim Alaihissalam was told by Allah to go and convert his father first before he did anything else?
Or, even, if our own beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had been charged, as his sole and primary duty, with the task of converting Abu Lahab and Abu Talib first – before he did anything else?
Let me give you a clue about human life – and Islam is all about human life. Life comes in packages – of different sizes, shapes, colors and compositions. And their contents vary a great deal. It is you and your family together; it is you and your neighbors together; it is you and your community together; it is you and your society together; and it is you and the world together.
Human life happens in a network of relationships and they are all closely intertwined. Your family is a key part of that network but by no means all of it.
Let me introduce an element of bio- and physiological stuff in this – of which perhaps you know more than I do. But tell me if I am wrong if I tend to look at the human body – organism is fine with me too – as a network of bio-physiological systems.
Each system is a collection of subsystems. In some ways, each system works almost independently of the other, and yet all systems and their subsystems work with a great deal of coordination, feedback, balance and harmony. For example, the digestive system; the respiratory system; the nervous system; the urinary system; the circulatory system; the muscular system; the skeletal system… and so on.
Am I right in any of this? If I am, I also suspect these systems and subsystems all work pretty much at the same time… concurrently. They are not linear in their function. You don’t go for example, let my stomach digest the chicken Biryani first then I will give it some hot tea to work on. And, you don’t say, while that is happening, hold all mental processes and muscular movements and skeletal activities. Let us do first things first – one thing at a time.
That is the nature of this thing we call life. In life, things pretty much happen all at the same time. They happen simultaneously – all at the same time.
Now, that is how it works when it comes to some other aspects of our life as well, such as our efforts to reform and improve our own individual lives; our struggle to make our family lives better; our commitment to work to make our neighbourhoods better in the name of Allah; and our commitment to struggle forever to make the entire society better using the message and method of La Ilaha Illa Allah – No God but God.
These are all systems and subsystems of the same basic human process of living our life on earth in a personal, social, economic, political and cultural sense.
It is not one after the other; it is all at the same time. That is the nature of life.
Q. What are my tools of trade when I go to work for Allah?
A. Ah, I thought you would never ask. I have a one-word answer for you: YOU. That is your primary asset and resource: you yourself. You are in fact the message as well as the messenger when you work for Allah – a fact most of us tend to forget.
That means every time you open your mouth and say something about Allah, people will focus not just on your words and on Allah, but also on you. So, work on making yourself as presentable as possible, as acceptable to people as possible in terms of your manners and conduct. If people don’t like you, chances are they will not like your message either – or they may not even listen to you in the first place.
After that let me share with you some ideas that created an enormous stir in my own soul when I first read them. According to that Islamic thinker Iqbal, about whom Muslims know so little and care even less, life is a struggle. Iqbal calls it a Jihad – Jihad-e-Zindagani: the great struggle of life.
Then Iqbal goes on to list, item by item, the weapons of war in the great big battle of life, and they are as follows:
- Rock-solid conviction. Iqbal calls it Yaqeen Muhkam.
- Ceaseless toil – what Iqbal calls ‘Amal Paiham.
All-conquering love – in the language of Iqbal, Mahabbat Fatihe Aalam.
Iqbal, may Allah bless him, put this model together, at the beginning of the 20th century. This was a model he took right out of the pages of the Qur’an and Hadith.
Few people throughout history have been able to translate the living message of Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in more apt or effective terms than Iqbal did.
And then here is the upper limit of human achievement for you – meaning, that is as far as any human being can go: cultivate Allah’s own characteristics in yourself – Takhallaqu Bi-Akhalqillah.
After that, here is a practical guide for every one of us: follow the example of Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. But here alas is where many Muslim stalwarts falter and slip. Many of them seem to think this primarily means wearing certain type of clothes and eating certain type of food and adhering to certain type of formal worship routines.
Yes, all of that too. But there is more to it than that. Following the Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, means trying to be the best human being in your family, in your neighbourhood, in your community, in your town, in your region, in your society – well, I will not say in the whole world, but that is what it means. Therefore, that is what you need to try to be when you become aware of your responsibility to work for Allah.
Let me add a few more things from Qur’an and Hadith to this wonderful list of Iqbal’s – as if these things were not enough in and of themselves:
Haqq. Truth. For, Islam is truth, and mixing it with falsehood either in speech or behaviour will be counterproductive. It will backfire on you. Truth is human beings’ foremost qualification – after knowledge – for being Allah’s representatives on earth. In fact, individuals, groups, organizations, nations, societies, cultures and civilizations that lose sight of truth or dilute it in their day-to-day dealings, lose their claim to a moral existence in Allah’s mercy and on Allah’s earth as his vicegerents.
Sabr. Courage, perseverance and patience. In many ways, this business of working for Allah is a tough job, no matter how you look at it. You need to hang in there, do the best you can, put your trust in God and wait for results to show. Sabr is also important for another reason. Allah does not accept our work on face value. He puts us through some tests to see who really are the people who mean what they say. So when that happens we should not panic and run. We should persevere in the path of helping humanity that we have chosen for ourselves.
Hikmah. Common sense. This is what many human beings lack – Muslim as well as non-Muslim. But Hikmah is more than common sense. It is the ability to see things clearly and act wisely in life’s day-to-day situations. It is a combination of all sorts of talents and skills including problem solving and creativity.
Mau’idha Hasanah. A sweet tongue. This is at the same time an art, a science, a skill and – like everything else – a supreme gift and blessing from Allah. Work to cultivate it and ask Allah for it.
Sadaaqah and Amanah. Candour, honesty and integrity – in speech as well as in behaviour. Sadaaqah and Amanah. These are the twin concepts that provide the basic personality and social foundation required for working for Allah. In Islam, purity of motives and intentions is one of the prerequisites for all truly meaningful actions. It is also one of the most important things in dealing with people.
Ilm. Knowledge. Muslims are in their present pathetic condition, not just because their Iman is lacking, but also because their ‘Ilm is lacking – even though they are both interlinked. So, if our knowledge is sketchy we are not likely to be very effective in working for Allah.
Fahm. Understanding. Ask yourself this: What use is knowledge if you don’t understand it? Or if you don’t understand the nature of the place, the time, the situation, the circumstances, the context and the conditions in which that knowledge is supposed to be useful. This is another major area of weakness among Muslims. To a significant extent it provides the explanation and the background for the failures and frustrations that so many suffer when they set out to work for Allah.
Resources. You would need all kinds of resources including money and time. You will have to learn to generate and mobilize these resources as you go along. To tell you the truth, you do the work, Allah will guide you to the resources.
This summary of some of what you may consider to be individual attributes should get you started on your way to working for Allah. At the same time, these attributes should also provide a larger perspective in your life with regard to your multiple relationships with the broader human collective of which you are a part.
By this I mean the larger structural arrangements in your life such as your organizations, associations, Jama’ats, neighbourhoods, workplaces and the rest. They pertain to the institutions of the society and to the culture that dominates society.
The attributes Iqbal mentions, and the ones I have added to Iqbal’s list, are some of the critical variables that individuals, groups, organizations, Jama’ats, societies and cultures need if they are serious in their commitment to work for Allah. With them, working for Allah is the greatest fun anyone can ever have. Without them all claims to work for Allah are a fraud.
Q. What if I am a woman? Surely Allah does not expect a woman to work for him? Or does he?
A. Sure he does. Men and women are two sides of the same human equation, and Allah created men and women both to work for him. You will be amazed how often Allah brackets men and women together throughout the Qur’an – men this and women this, men that and women that. I don’t think there is a parallel to that in all the old annals of human thought and discourse.
To me this is one of the greatest miracles of the Qur’an – of course, the Qur’an is brimful of them, each more tantalizing than the other.
At the same time if you are a woman, then in some ways you are the lucky one – because you are the recipient of all sorts of concessions and special dispensations from Allah. I wish I had the time to go into them in some detail, but I don’t.
However, it is foolish to think men and women are either created the same or they must do things the same way. People – men and women both – would need to use common sense (Hikmah) to figure out appropriate gender-sensitive ways of doing what needs doing on a daily basis if they are to be successful in working for Allah.
If you don’t understand this, read books like Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus. You will get some sense of how the two genders function differently in some key areas of life, even though they share the same common human essence.
If you are a man, and if you still don’t get it, then my advice to you is: get pregnant a little bit. Reality will then hit you like a thunderbolt.
Q. Why should I work for Allah anyway? What is in it for me?
A. This may perhaps be the most important question of all. Here are some reasons why I think you should work for Allah:
First, because that is what you were created to do: I did not create humans and Jinns save to work for me, says Allah in the Qur’an. Wa Ma Khalaqtul Jinna wal Insa Illa liya‘budoon (Qur’an 51:56).
Second, because the pay is good and the conditions are great.
Let me ask you this: Why do you work for your present employer? I am sure it is because the pay and perks are good. Allah gives you all that your present employer promises you and more. So why wouldn’t you work for him?
Here is Allah’s promise for those who work for him: What would you like? Name your price. I will double it for you. In fact I will multiply it by a factor of 700 – or more.
Thus, when you work for Allah, you will have quantity of compensation more than you ever dreamt. And you will have quality of reward better than you can possibly imagine. If someone else offers you a better deal go ahead and take it.
Third, it is sheer fun – working for Allah is. Nothing in this world compares to the joy and excitement of working for Allah. It is your personal password to happiness.
Fourth, no matter how you look at it, working for Allah makes a lot of sense. It was Allah who made you; and it is he who now wants you to work for him. If you did a good job of it, this world will be a better place, and all of us can then live happily together in peace and joy in such a world. So why not do it?
Fifth, you are doing it anyway. So why not do it right and why not claim credit for the work you do. As a human being and as a Muslim you are already doing a great amount of what is expected of you in all the involuntary aspects of your life. Why don’t you then bring the voluntary part of your life in harmony with it as well?
Sixth, self interest. When you work for Allah, you are working for your own best interests – right here in this world as well as in the next world. Thus, when you work for Allah, you are really working for yourself. Because, even though Allah made you and the world in which you live and work, and even though Allah thus completely owns you, and you owe everything you have to him, he rewards you most handsomely for every iota of work you put in for him.
As I said earlier, he offers the most comprehensive compensation package you can’t even imagine in your wildest dream or speculate about, no matter how wild you let your imagination run. Listen to one simple idea from that incredible deal that Allah offers you when you agree to work for him. It has to do with your actions and intentions.
If you decide in your heart to do something wrong, something Allah does not like, something that may be harmful to Allah’s creation in some form, do you know what Allah does? He does not yet count that against you. He almost lets you get away with it – because all you are doing is thinking in your own heart. You have not yet put that evil thought into practice.
Not guilty. No crime has been committed. No laws have been violated. You get the benefit of the doubt even from the one who knows your most intimate thoughts better than you know them yourself. Do you think it can get better than this? But wait there is more.
Then let us say, Allah forbid, you decide to go ahead and do it anyway. In that event, you are charged for one crime – for one wrong act, one bad deed, for one violation. Quite fair, wouldn’t you say? You committed one sin and one sin was charged to your account.
But then let us reverse the equation and see what happens. Let us say this time you were thinking of doing something good. You haven’t yet done it, you are just considering it and seem inclined to do it. Do you know what Allah does? He immediately credits your account for one good deed done. That means your very intention to do a good act is treated as a good deed in itself.
And then let us say you go ahead and do whatever the good act was you were thinking of doing. Now Allah opens up a whole big account for you. To that account is credited the reward for your good deed – from one to seven to ten to 700 times to infinity. In some cases your reward may last forever – for as long as the world lasts and for as long as anyone in any shape or form continues to benefit from your work and its fruits.
When did you ever hear of a deal this magnanimous, this amazing and this mind-boggling?
That is why it makes good sense to work for Allah.
Q. How should I work for Allah?
A. Now that is a tough one, isn’t it? That is where clarity often seems to elude many of us. That is because there are so many levels and ways of working for Allah.
There is, for example, a general level of working for Allah and then there are all sorts of specific levels and ways. What every one of us needs to do is to develop a plan and follow that plan depending on where we are – the way Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, did.
He started out alone in a cave in a barren rock and through hard work and divine grace changed the world into what it is today. Just follow his method.
By the way did you hear what I just said? I said he changed the world into what it is today. I can hardly wait to get into it in greater detail. But I will make an effort and not do it. To some degree I will let you start figuring some of these things out by yourself.
If you want to pursue this further, talk to me. We are talking about a whole book right here – several books in fact. So let us work together on it.
Q. How can one person make a difference – change the world I mean?
A. How else do you change the world? How else do you do anything in this world? Do you know any other way of doing it? Don’t you know that change always begins with one person?
Yes, that is where it all begins. In the mind, heart and soul of an individual. From there, it mushrooms out to the rest of the world. Always. I wish I had the time to tell you how one person can and does make a difference, but I am afraid I don’t. On second thought maybe I should quickly throw some hints out.
What about Margaret Thatcher, the former Ronald Reagan-era British prime minister? Do you think she made a difference? Let us not worry about what kind of difference she made and for whom and using what methods? But did she or did she not make a difference? That is the question.
Do you think Tony Blair, the present British prime minister, had anything to do with getting the British Labour Party to win a consecutive second term in office – a most remarkable achievement for Labour since World War II?
Do you think George Bush is personally making the world a different place for a lot of people, even though he is surrounded by hosts of specialists and advisers to help him?
You probably know cricket – not the little chirpy thing but the sport. Do you think a Brian Lara or a Nasser Hussein or an Imran Khan can make a difference in a test match? Do you think Michael Jordan ever made a difference in a basketball game? Well, you get my drift, do you not? Just don’t lose it. Build on it.
Besides, here is something you may not have realized: You are actually changing the world even when you think you are not doing anything to change it.
That is the nature of human life on earth. In the real scheme of things, your non-action also is action, and it is just as important as your action. So give it some thought.
That means, there are two ways in which people act – and change the world:
- By acting.
- By not acting.
When you don’t act, what you have done is simply chosen to act by not acting. What you understand is the fact that your not acting still has an impact on the world. And the world is the sum total of your – and everyone else’s – action and inaction.
In other words, this is the world you have built through everything you did as well as through everything you failed to do. This world is a product of your caring as well as your indifference; of your commission as well as of your omission; of your triumphs as well as of your bunglings.
Q. What happens if I don’t work for Allah?
A. Terrible things happen when you don’t work for Allah. It is bad news for all: for you as well as for the world. You and the world both go to hell – no matter how you interpret it. Literally or figuratively – but that is about the long and short of the story: hell and damnation, right here in this life as well as in the next life, life after death. A miserable life for you – and thereafter you become responsible for all the bad things that happen in the world.
Do you realize that your God has you under surveillance all the time? Do you understand that all kinds of recording devices are documenting every moment of your life on earth in the greatest of detail? And these include your own body parts – your own eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet and everything else?
On the Day of Judgment you will be called upon to account for every one of those moments that you were given on earth. How did you spend that time? How did you use the resources that were placed at your disposal – including your own body parts, for example? Doing whose work? Who did you work for when you lived and walked on Allah’s earth, breathed Allah’s oxygen, drank Allah’s water and ate Allah’s food?
There will be a trial in which your own body parts will testify against you. They will provide clear and detailed evidence about what you did or did not do with them in this world, about how you used and abused them. So no matter how much you may think you have a choice whether to work or not to work for Allah, in reality you don’t have much of a choice.
Q. Why is the world the way it is?
A. Because you are the way you are. That is how simple it is to answer that question. The world is the way it is because you don’t care. Because you have not lifted a finger to change it and make it better. Because you have accepted it the way it is.
Also, the world is the way it is because you have been working for the enemy – your own baser self and selfish ends, your own personal inclinations and propensities, your own Nafs. You have taken your own Hawa as your God, as your Ilah.
That means you pretty much do what your own heart desires and what your mind tells you to do. And you don’t really care about the world or about what Allah wants you to do. That is why the world is the way it is.
The world is also the way it is because you also work for your other enemy: Shaitan – the devil and his offspring – and because you let them run your life. Both of these are your natural enemies – your Nafs and your Hawa on the one hand and Shaitan on the other hand – and you spend all your efforts, energies and resources working for them, instead of working for Allah – instead of working to make this world better for all; and instead of trying to save people from their own meaner selves and from the devil and his offspring.
So, you are the reason the world is the way it is.
Q. What happens when I work for Allah?
A. This is what happens: You fill your own life – and you fill the lives of those around you and you fill Allah’s world – with Allah’s blessings. When you work for Allah, you change your own life. And, hopefully, you change the lives of those around you.
And you also change the world, no matter by how little. You fill them all with the blessings, mercy and love of Allah – Allah, who is your true owner and master, and who is also the true owner and master of the world.
From now on, what you need to bear in mind is one simple fact: When you work for Allah, so long as you live, you are Allah’s working warrior and his angel of mercy and love to the entire world, even if all you do is polish shoes in a street corner for a living.
When you die, you die a martyr, even if death comes to you in a hospital bed or as a homeless person under a bridge – so long as you are working for Allah.
Therefore, when you work for Allah, you are continually surrounded by Allah’s angels when you live; when you die, the angels pluck your soul and carry it to the highest abode in paradise with the greatest respect and fanfare, leaving behind a trail of perfume and light that fill the world.
What a glorious life, and what a glorious death, wouldn’t you say?
Q. Does working for Allah mean some sort of outreach effort? Is that what you have in mind?
A. It is both “out”reach and “in”reach. It is reaching out to others as well as reaching in, at the same time, to your own inner self. It is a difficult and unending struggle, as Iqbal puts it, to be continually in touch with your own inner self as well as with the external world with a view to improve both. No struggle could be harder or last longer.
It is this persistent and paramount struggle to be good in one’s own personal life and to do good in the world that is at the heart of what Islam calls Jihad. And it is this glorious, noble and divine concept of Jihad that the world has of late turned into anathema and packed with so much negative connotation – due in part to the foolishness, naiveté, inarticulation and helplessness of some if its own adherents and due also, in part, to the machinations and evil intentions of some of its enemies.
For at the most basic level, Jihad is the very stuff of human life. In fact, it is just another name for life. For Jihad, ultimately, is a human being’s struggle for a better life, both here in this world as well as in the next world. It is a human being’s struggle to find self as well as to find God – and do so by following a path of compassion and service to humanity.
Q. Do I work for Allah with Muslims or with non-Muslims?
A. You work with both. Begin where you are, and you will soon run into both of them, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. I myself would like to see Muslims give serious attention to non-Muslims in the Western world, especially the well to do and the well educated among them.
It makes me extremely unhappy that Muslims in the West focus such little attention on middle-class White non-Muslims, who constitute the bulk of the population in U.K., Europe and the United States. Don’t we as neighbours owe our neighbours anything at all?
Q. What do I do then – when I run into them, that is? What is the next step?
A. I will tell you exactly what it is. Nothing could be easier. That is how beautiful this system of life is that we refer to by the name of Islam. Working for Allah is simply another name for following Islam the way it was meant to be.
Working for Allah – Islam, that is – is so amazingly simple, so logical, so self-evident and so self-moving that every step you take in its path leads you automatically to the next step.
Therefore, your job when you work for Allah is to take people – whether Muslim or non-Muslim – where you find them, and in the condition and situation you find them, and help them to move forward a step or two in their quest to find Allah – one small step at a time.
Every step you take along this path will lead you to a new step that must be taken. Every person you meet and work with will open the way for you to meet and work with someone else.
The basic idea is, you make the effort, and Allah then will guide your steps along his path. You will be amazed how it all comes together before you even realize what is happening.
Q. What place should I choose for launching my working for Allah effort? I mean, where do I start? Should I do it at home, at work, in my street, in my neighbourhood, in my community, or should I go far away to a place where no one knows me and then do my preaching to people there?
A. The answer is, all of the above. The idea is, do what you feel most comfortable doing. Start at that point then raise the level of difficulty incrementally as you go along. That means begin your work from a place you are most comfortable in.
Don’t worry what or where other people want you to do your work for Allah. You do it where you are most comfortable and how you know to do it.
Do all your research; gather and analyse all data and evidence you can; and use sound logic and reasoning. For all this is Islam. It is all part of what is called Hikmah in the language of Islam.
Then allow your intuition to have its say. Let your gut kick in with its two-cents’ worth. Then start your work from a site or venue or scene or situation that you think is the most logical, most promising and most indicated by your evidence, reasoning and intuition.
But, as you go along, keep learning and growing and raising the bar continually. Keep exploring and testing new ideas, possibilities and approaches to do Allah’s work.
That is the most important thing in your effort to work for Allah. And that is what Islam is all about.
Q. Is working for Allah all about preaching then?
A. It is about preaching and a lot more. It is about practicing what you preach. It is about going beyond words and actually doing things. It is about holding your peace and remaining silent, where silence would produce the best results. It is about showing the world in practice what it really means to be a slave of Allah in everyday life.
Above all, working for Allah is about commonsense. That is what the way of the Rasul of Allah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was all about: commonsense.
So, you speak where speech will be the best. You hold your peace and stay quiet where to do that will be the best. And you act where action will be the best. You do what commonsense would suggest you should do.
In addition to this, working for Allah means reading the Qur’an and working hard to understand it; it is studying the Sunnah and the Hadith and working hard to fit your life into their mould; and it is working hard to seek knowledge however and from wherever you can.
That means working for Allah is loving and helping your neighbours, fellow-believers, fellow-workers and fellow-humans in every way you can.
It is fighting poverty, disease, hunger, ignorance, injustice, tyranny, corruption and cruelty no matter what their source and no matter what their target. And it is fighting for equality, dignity, liberty, fairness, compassion, respect, due process and social justice for all human beings and for all of Allah’s creation.
Working for Allah, thus, is patching a pothole in front of a neighbour’s house. It is removing a nail or a rock from the road so it will not cause a problem to anyone. It is helping an elderly person to carry the groceries to the car or to the house and helping that person to cross the street. And it is keeping the neighbourhood and the city or the village or the town and the society clean and safe – for all.
At the lowest end of the scale, working for Allah is greeting people with a warm smile and treating them with respect, kindness and compassion. At the highest level, it is being prepared to sacrifice one’s own life in the pursuit of a better, nobler, safer, more dignified and more blessed life for others – both in this world and in the next world.
Other than that, working for Allah means being scrupulously honest in one’s dealings with others in both word and deed.
Working for Allah also is being a good parent, child, sibling, relative, neighbour, worker, supervisor, friend and human being.
Working for Allah is the care you show, the pain you suffer, the trouble you go through and the effort you undertake to help individuals to grow and change so that they will be able to recognize their true owner and master and will want to come forward and work for him.
Working for Allah is doing everything in your power, both as individuals and groups, to make Allah‘s world a better place for all of Allah‘s creation.
Working for Allah is also organizing and exercising leadership to produce deep and far-reaching social change, and to transform society and its economic, political, cultural, educational and other institutions, and the entire world, in keeping with the will, pleasure, laws and requirements of Allah, the true and only maker, owner and master of the world and all that there is in the world.
And doing so for no other reason or purpose whatsoever than to please him. And realizing, after every effort you are fortunate to make, how inadequate and wanting your effort has been compared to what is expected and required. And, as a result, after every good thing you manage to do, throwing yourself before Allah in abject humility and, with tears flowing, and in utter trepidation, begging his forgiveness for your paltry and flawed efforts and tainted motives.
In short, working for Allah is the expressway to reach Allah and his mercy. It is simply another name for being a Muslim, the way you are truly supposed to be, embracing all aspects of Islam, covering all aspects of life, and embracing them with all your heart. Even more fundamentally, working for Allah means to be a true and self-aware human being in a complete sense of that term.
So, in the final analysis, working for Allah means doing all that Allah want you to do as a human being and as a Muslim and doing it all the way he wants it done. This includes the following:
- Accepting Allah as your only true lord, master and owner and yourself as Allah’s slave.
- Accepting Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as your teacher, leader and model.
- Accepting the Qur’an as your guide and inspiration in everything.
- Accepting the Sunnah of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and the Hadith as the basis of your actions and beliefs.
- Doing your best to carry out all that is required of you in the Qur’an and Hadith in your own life.
- Working diligently to establish the Deen of Allah on earth, as the Qur’an and the Hadith want you to do as a Muslim and as Allah’s loyal and dutiful slave.
- Doing all this with utmost love, gentleness, kindness, charity, compassion and sweetness toward everyone.
- And, above all, doing it all for no other reason than a purely unselfish love for God and his creation.
If you reject these things, then you are not working for Allah. That means you have in effect decided not to be a Muslim in any truly meaningful sense of that expression.
That is what working for Allah means. And that is what being a Muslim means.
Also, that is what that simple formula means – the one every Muslim recites so effortlessly and so often: La Ilaha Illa Allah. These are the four words that changed the world. And now you know exactly why and how they did that.
© 2010 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.