Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
Still Working for Allah:
Some Basic Questions and Answers
Here now are some questions about Still Working for Allah that are in the minds of many people. I have tried to answer them in a simple and direct manner. You can see how the twin-theme of continuity and change runs through them. At some stage, should Allah’s mercy provide the resources, these questions can be brought out separately in the form of a booklet, Inshallah.
Q. Why the word “Still”? Why are you saying Still working for Allah? For a number of reasons. In part to draw attention to all that has happened in the world – and in the lives of many Muslims – since September 11, 2001 that may demoralize Muslims and discourage them from working for Allah.
A. Also to let Muslims see that working for Allah is an ongoing and never-ending process. The world may change all it wants, but Muslims’ commitment to work for Allah never changes.
Also 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. They are all Allah’s workers – Allah’s slaves. For 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 work for their master. That is the purpose of their existence. Therefore, people may be ignorant or stubborn all they want, and they may be 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.
That is why I put that word “still” there.
Who should work for Allah? You, of course. Who else? Who else should work for Allah? Whoever else you can convince, persuade and influence through your efforts to work for Allah. Is that all it takes to work for Allah? Yes, that is all it takes. You – a team of one. Each one of you as an individual. That is where it begins. That is the most important beginning. The rest follows.
Q. Then what happens?
A. Then you start adding people to your original team of one. You do this by going on a recruiting mission as it were. Soon, you have a larger team. You have a group.
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.
Q. What does working for Allah really mean?
A. Here is what it means: If you are a 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 to do so automatically. But as humans, we have been given a degree of choice.
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 that?
A. Yes. Stated differently, working for Allah – for all people – consists of two things:
Doing your best to establish the Deen of Allah in your and your family’s life. 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 also scary when you don’t fully understand what exactly it is. But it is most reassuring and comforting when you understand two things. First of all it is the most beautiful thing you can do in this world – help people to be better people; make this world a better place for all.
Second you must know that working for Allah – and this business of establishing the Deen of Allah – is, like life itself, an incremental process. It is rooted in the hearts and minds of the people. It is a question of working to change people’s beliefs and behavior. 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 – the world – people – the world and so on.
Establishing the Deen of Allah, therefore, means working to make sure human beings come increasingly 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. For others – for the rest of the world that is – 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. In fact, it is so energizing and empowering that it never lets you retire, never allows you to run out of gusto for life.
Like always, and as with regard to everything else, establishing the Deen of Allah – Iqamat Deen – is also a concept that needs careful review and analysis in the context of the time and place in which we live. I don’t have the time and resources to go into it in great detail at this time. But let me say what it does not mean: It does not mean a mindless race- or culture-based transfer of political and economic power from non-Muslims to Muslims.
Q. How is working for Allah different from being an ordinary, regular Muslim? And how is it different from being an ordinary human being?
A. It is not. As an ordinary human being you are still working for Allah. But you are doing so without knowing it. Often you are either in ignorance or denial about it or you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it. When you live the life of 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.
Another way of putting it is 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. There are all kinds of forces going after you and tracking your every move. There are devices that record your every breath and every movement of your eyes.
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 Jinns is 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.
Who do you think made you? Gave you ears, eyes, a body, mind and the rest? Who gave you your family?
Who made the earth on which you walk and the heavenly bodies that hold the universe together so that it will be possible for you to enjoy life? 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 it make sense?
Q. Which one do I do first: Make myself and my family perfect Muslims first or try to change the world?
A. You try to do both at the same time. For, one cannot exist without the other. You need the chicken and the egg both at the same time. Remember it is not one after the other; it is both together.
Let me explain. There is no perfect linearity except in the lives of a fortunate few or in the minds of armchair experts. 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 until you are dead and gone. So instead of looking at yourself as perfect and at others as gone cases, start working on both – you and others. It is pretty much an interactive process.
As for family, it is – like everything else – a blessing of Allah. Some have it; some don’t. Some are given it on a platter; some struggle for it all their life. And all of us have it in different measures and degrees. So if you have a “perfect” Muslim family, be grateful to Allah – for, Sayyidina Nuh didn’t and Sayyidina Lut didn’t – and work to make them – along with yourself – even more perfect.
Just don’t strut about looking down on those whose families may not be as perfect as yours. Dedicate yourself to helping those whose family situations are not so wonderful. On the other hand if you have a family that needs work – I don’t know too many families that don’t need work, do you? – work on yourself and your family all the more seriously.
Ask yourself this: What would have happened if Nuh Alaihissalam had waited around to covert his son first before he started talking to others; or if Lut Alaihissalam had been disqualified on the basis that he had failed to produce a perfect Muslim woman out of his wife?
Let me give you a clue about human life – and Islam is all about human life. Life comes in packages. 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.
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 we all tend to forget. That means every time you open your mouth and say something about Allah, people will focus not just on your words but also on you. So, work on making yourself as presentable as possible. If people don’t like you, chances are they will not like your message either – or they may not listen to you in the first place.
After that let me share with you some things that created a stir in my own soul when I first read them. According to that Islamic thinker Iqbal, about whom you know so little, the weapons of war in the battle of life are the following:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. And then here is the upper limit for you: cultivate Allah’s own characteristics in yourself – Takhallaqu Bi-Akhalqillah. After that here is a practical guide for you: follow the example of Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. But here alas is where many Muslim stalwarts falter and slip. Many of them think this means wearing certain type of clothes and eating certain type of food and adhering to certain type of 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 neighborhood, 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:
4. Truth – Haqq. For Islam is truth and mixing it with falsehood either in speech or behavior will be counterproductive. It will backfire on you.
5. Courage, perseverance and patience – Sabr. In many ways it is a tough job – this business of working for Allah. 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.
6. Common sense – Hikmah. 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 do practical things. It is a combination of all sorts of things including problem solving and creativity.
7. A sweet tongue – Mau’idha Hasanah. This is at the same time an art, a science, a skill and – like everything else – a supreme gift from Allah. Work to cultivate it and ask Allah for it.
8. Candor, honesty and integrity – in speech as well as in behavior. Sadaqah and Amanah. In Islam, purity of motives and intentions is one of the prerequisites for all actions. This is one of the most important things in dealing with people.
9. 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 your knowledge is sketchy you are not likely to be very effective in working for Allah.
10. 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.
11. 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 the individual attributes should get you started on your way to working for Allah. These attributes should also pervade the larger things in your collective life. They have to do with larger structural arrangements in your life such as your organizations, associations and Jama’at. They pertain to the institutions of the society and to the culture that dominates society.
Q. What if I am a woman? Surely Allah does not expect a woman to work for him?
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. To me this is one of the greatest miracles of the Qur’an. 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 from Allah. I wish I had the time to go to 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. If you don’t understand this, read some 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.
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. 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. (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? Allah gives you all that your present employer promises you and more. So why wouldn’t you work for him? And here is Allah’s promise: What would you like? Name your price. Allah will double it for you. In fact he will multiply it by a factor of 700 – or more. You will have quantity more than you ever dreamt. And you will have quality more than you can imagine. If someone else offers you a better deal go ahead and take it.
Third, it is fun. Nothing in this world compares to the joy and excitement of working for Allah.
Fourth, working for Allah makes a lot of sense. He made you; he wants you to do it; if you did a good job at it this world will be a better place; all of us can then live happily together in peace and joy. 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 a lot of what is expected of you in all the involuntary part of your life. Why don’t you bring the voluntary part of your life in harmony with it as well?
Q. How should I work for Allah?
A. Now that is a tough one, isn’t it? There is a general level of working for Allah and then there are all sorts of specific levels and ways. You work out a plan and follow that plan depending on where you 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 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? Change always begins with one person. 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. 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? Do you think she made a difference? Do you think Tony Blair had anything to do to get the British Labor Party win a consecutive second term in office? Do you think George Bush is making the world a different place for a lot of people?
You know cricket. Do you think a Brian Lara or a Nasser Hussein can make a difference in a test match? Do you think Michael Jordan ever made a difference in basketball? Well, you get my drift, do you not?
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. Because, 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 – to change the world:
(a) By acting.
(b) By not acting.
What you have done is simply chosen to act by not acting. The world is the sum total of people’s action and inaction.
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. You become responsible for all the bad things that happen in the world.
Do you realize that all kinds of recording devices are documenting every moment of your life on earth in the greatest of detail? On the Day of Judgment you will be called to account for every one of those moments. 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 in this world. 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. 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, because you have been working for the enemy – your own baser self and selfish ends (Nafs) and for Shaitan – the devil and his offspring. Both of these are your enemies, 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, 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. You fill your own life and Allah’s world with Allah’s blessings. You change your own life. And hopefully, you change the lives of those around you. And you change the world, no matter by how little. You fill them all with the blessings, mercy and love of Allah, who is your true owner and master, and who is the true owner and master of the world.
What you need to bear in mind is the fact that so long as you live, you are Allah’s working warrior and his angel of mercy and love to the world even if all you do is polish shoes in a street corner. 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.
When you live, you are continually surrounded by Allah’s angels; when you die, angels pluck your soul and carry it to the highest abode with the greatest respect and fanfare, leaving behind a trail of perfume and light that fill the world.
Q. Does working for Allah mean some sort of outreach effort?
A. It is both “out”reach and “in”reach – reaching out to others as well as reaching in to your own inner self. It is a ceaseless struggle, as Iqbal put it, to be continually in touch with your own inner self as well as with the external world with a view to improve both. It is this persistent struggle that is a major part of what Islam calls Jihad. And it is this glorious and noble concept of Jihad that the world has of late packed with so much negative connotation. For at the most basic level, Jihad is the very stuff of human life – it 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.
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, especially the well-to-do and the well educated among them. It makes me extremely unhappy that Muslims focus such little attention on White non-Muslims, who constitute the bulk of the population in U.K., Europe and the United States.
Q. What do I do then – when I run into them that is?
A. Your job then is to take them where you find them and help them to move forward a step or two at a time. Every step you take 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. You make the effort Allah then will guide your steps. You will be amazed how it all comes together.
Q. What place should I choose for my working for Allah effort? Should I do it at home, at work, in my street, in my neighborhood, in my community, or should I go far away to a place where no one knows me and then do my preaching?
A. All of the above. Do what you feel most comfortable doing. Start at that point then raise the level of difficulty. In the same way do it in 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. But keep learning and growing and raising the bar continually. That is the most important thing.
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.
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 is the best. And you act where action will be the best. Working for Allah means reading the Qur’an, studying the Sunnah and the Hadith and seeking knowledge from wherever and however possible.
It is loving and helping your neighbors and fellow-believers, fellow-workers and fellow-humans.
It is fighting poverty, disease, hunger, ignorance, injustice, tyranny, corruption and cruelty. And it is fighting for human equality, dignity, liberty and social justice.
Working for Allah is patching a pothole; 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 house; and it is keeping the neighborhood and the city or the village or the town and the society clean and safe.
Working for Allah is greeting people with a warm smile and treating them with respect, kindness and compassion.
Working for Allah is being scrupulously honest in both word and deed.
Working for Allah is being a good parent, child, sibling, relative, neighbor, worker, supervisor, friend and human being.
Working for Allah is the care you show, the pain you suffer and the trouble and 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 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 have made, how inadequate and wanting your effort has been compared to what is expected and required. And, as a result, after every good thing you have done, throwing yourself before Allah in humility and tears and in utter trepidation begging his forgiveness for your shortcomings and inadequacies.
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 supposed to be, embracing all aspects of Islam 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. This includes the following:
(a) Accepting Allah as your only owner and master and yourself as Allah’s slave.
(b) Accepting Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as your teacher, leader and model.
(c) Accepting the Qur’an as your guide and inspiration in everything.
(d) Accepting the Sunnah and the Hadith as the basis of your actions and beliefs.
(e) Doing your best to carry out all that is required of you in the Qur’an and Hadith in your own life.
(f) Working diligently to establish the Deen of Allah on earth as the Qur’an and the Hadith want you to do as a Muslim.
(g) Above all, working for Allah means doing all this with utmost love, gentleness and sweetness.
If you reject these things, then you are not working for Allah. That means you have in effect decided not to be a Muslim.
All this is packed in that simple formula: La Ilaha illa Allah. These are the four words that changed the world.
END OF CHAPTER 11
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
© 2003 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.