Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
Some Early and Quick Answers – Really?
For those of us who are always looking for quick answers, and insist that those answers also be practical, here is an effort at providing them – even though these answers may not turn out to be either as quick as one may think or as practical as one may want.
Yet, the essence of working for Allah is to realize that Deen is Dunya and work is worship. It is doing voluntarily and deliberately, what you do without will and volition, in every hour and sphere of your life, from private to public, from individual to social and collective and from serious to fun. By the way did you know that it is perfectly all right for Muslims, including the good ones, to have fun?
Therefore, when I teach my classes I am worshipping Allah – and I am working for Allah. It is not an escape into Dunya, as some people may say, from my Deen, but the very core of my Deen. The thought that scares me is that I would be asked about my performance as a professor on the Day of Judgment. I would be asked – May Allah protect my parents and me! – about my preparation; about my lecturing; about my grading; and about the way I treated my students – all the Jews, the Christians, the atheists, agnostics, (I rarely get any Muslims in my classes) the men, the women and all the others.
That is what working for Allah means to me in practice – at one level, in one significant portion or aspect of my life. The question in this context is not, how good a Muslim were you today in your classroom or in your lab or in your office. The question is how good a teacher, scientist, lab technician and office worker were you? Those are the measures – in your daily life – of your everyday Islam.
On top of that you will be asked how closely did you remain connected to Allah, during all this period, and during all these activities? Did you stay close to Allah? Did you think of him constantly? Did you do things according to his instructions? Did you try to avoid Haram as much as you could? Did you do them to the best of your ability? So the path to your Deen goes through your Dunya. If you are the type wanting to work for Allah, you must understand that very clearly.
I have some terrifying thoughts for teachers among us. What if someone – in the grave or thereafter – decides to ask us: “Hey, you teacher! What kind of a teacher were you? We here know a thing or two about teachers. Our man – Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam – was the best teacher there ever was: Innamaa Bu’ithtu Mu’alliman. How did your performance stack up against his example?”
What will be our answer if we are ever asked that question?
I am working for Allah, when the snow comes – two feet of it. I layer up – Wisconsin style; wrap a scarf around my neck; slap a hat on top of my head; cover my ears; pull on my gloves; slip on my boots; grab my shovel; and head out to clear the driveway. My children fuss about my – a man well north of 20 – engaging in this laborious activity. Snow shoveling is known to jump start the blood pumps in your heart; make blood rush through your arterial pipes in quantities and speed they are hard pressed to handle due to decades of wear and tear; and bring on heart attacks.
I have no quarrel with that as a scientific fact. My quarrel is with you when – and if – you decide to call it Dunya and not Deen. Or you say it was not exactly Islamic. Or you imply that it was more or less a waste of time from an Islamic point of view. Or you suggest that somehow it was not first-rate but third-, fourth- or fifth-rate Islamic activity. When you say, all right now, get this thing over with quickly, and then go and get ready to work for Allah. When you say any of these things that is when I have a quarrel with you – if you say them.
Sometimes, I quietly make Wudu before I head out to put shovel to snow – just in case. In a sense, it is showing deference to the filial sensitivities of my children.
So also, when I sit down to open and go through my bills, write the checks and stuff them in the envelopes and stamp and seal the envelopes and leave them for the postman to pick up or take them to the post office to mail, I am working for Allah.
What I have said here about classroom teaching or snow shoveling, or about paying my bills, is also true of swimming or playing tennis, or football or cricket – or engaging in any other activity that is geared to cater to your physical, psychological, financial, family, social, community or societal needs, provided that activity is not clearly Haram or detrimental.
In all these cases, I can say I am working for Allah for a number of reasons. First, I signed up with Allah. I declared him my master. And I am not a double dealer – I have not signed up with anyone else; nor do I moonlight elsewhere. I am totally a one-company man. Second, I try to learn as much as I can about my master and about my company and about company policies and procedures – about Islam.
Third, I try to learn as much as I can about my workplace – about this world, and in particular about where I may be stationed at a given time and place – right now, right here in the West. While some folks are happily debating whether this world – in the West – is a Darul Harb or Darul Shahadah or Darul Da’wah, I am perfectly content to call it my Darul 'Amal – my place of work.
That means it is based on what I do here – at my work place – that my master will reward or punish me. Is this place – in the predominantly non-Muslim West – also a Darul Shahadah or Da’wah for me? Of course, it is. But so is the other part of the world in the East, where Muslims are the majority – what we refer to as the Muslim world. That part of the world also is a Darul Da’wah or Darul Shahadah for me. For, many of those Muslim people living in the Muslim world also need Da’wah and Shahadah as much as the non-Muslims of the West. From this point of view, this whole world is one big Darul Shahadah or Da’wah for me. Shahadah, Da’wah – it is all included in my job description. It is all part of my PD as they say – my position description. It is all integral to what I have called in some of my research work our overall system-service function in this world – a broad function that consists of two components or sub-functions, system maintenance and system change.
Fourth, I report to work and wherever the work takes me I try to do the best job I can in each situation.
Fifth, I worry constantly about the company – flashback to the Da’wah and Shahadah concepts. All my thoughts are about making it better. I am always thinking about ways to enlarge its scope and activities throughout this world, even as I understand and celebrate the fact that the company – Islam – I work for is truly a transnational, trans-border, trans-continental, trans-planetary, trans-galactic one.
I am always trying to figure out ways for signing up more and more people to work for it – to work for my master Allah. And once on the job, even though I myself fall short in my own work more than I care to acknowledge, and even though I am not above cutting corners here and there, and even though I do not by means or manner consider myself a model employee of the company – Islam – I always try to reach out to other workers and help them to do their job better.
That is why I have no hesitation in declaring that my whole life consists of working for Allah. How well or badly, that is an entirely different question, and it is a question I hope no one will ever ask, either in this world or in the next one. That is why I cannot let anyone get away with declaring irrelevant or inconsequential the bulk of what I do throughout my life on a day-to-day basis. Neither can or should you.
Now return to your Qur’an and read that lovely Aayah – can you tell me which Aayah of the most glorious Qur’an is not loveliness itself? – of Surah Al-An’am – 6:162 – and see if any of what I am saying here makes sense.
Inna Salaati wa Nusuki wa …
Working for Allah, thus, is working to implement the laws of Allah in your life and to get the world to implement them in its life. It is seeking the pleasure of Allah in everything you do. It is changing the anger inside you into compassion and into a passion for forgiveness. It is combining the fear of Allah and the pain of separation from him with the joy of knowing him and the hope of meeting him.
It is realizing that the path of serving Allah runs through the service of humanity – and the entire creation – that is undertaken with a proper foundation of faith in Allah and his books and his messengers and in the Day of Judgment.
Yes, working for Allah is letting Allah’s own glorious qualities glow through your life and actions. It is being a living representation of the Qur’an on earth – a walking, talking, living, breathing Qur’an – in every age and place. It is modeling in your own life the life of Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Working for Allah is setting ever-higher standards of excellence in all your affairs. It is giving more than you receive. It is asking nothing of anyone except Allah. It is being grateful to Allah every moment of your life. It is taking yourself out and making Allah instead the center of your universe, in every thought you think, in every word you utter and in every act you do.
Working for Allah is being responsible, not just for yourself and your family and friends, but also for your neighbors and your community as well as for everyone else. It is carrying the weight of the entire world on your back.
Above all, working for Allah is doing the right thing; doing it for the right reason; and doing it right – always doing it right. So much so that the world knows you as Mr., Mrs. and Miss Right – even as the world knew your prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, before he even became a prophet – Mr. Right: As-Sadiq, Al-Ameen. So much so that the world instinctively and reflexively begins to look upon you as those who always say and do the right thing – the correct, honest and truthful thing. So much so that even your enemies will testify to this fact about you – even as Abu Sufyan did about Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in public testimony at the court of the Roman Emperor.
Working for Allah is realizing that it is the very reason for our existence on earth – to be the criterion and the standard by which the world could tell right from wrong and truth from falsehood. It is to dedicate ourselves to the cause of truth in all its manifestations – to Haqq. It is to be the clear and clarion voice of Haqq in every time and in every place. No matter how dangerous the times, no matter how dark the sky.
Working for Allah is to grow continually to a new level of consciousness and commitment to Allah – and to Allah’s people and his entire creation right here on earth. It is to leave behind the darknesses – Zulumaat – and bondages of nationality, race, skin color, language, culture, ethnicity and blind and slavish organizational loyalty, even as a snake breaks out of its old skin and leaves it behind. It is to embrace an ever-wider view of your own place and your own role in Allah’s vast creation, so much so that the world will know you not only as those who work for Allah, but also as those who do so by working for humanity and for the entire creation of Allah.
If after all this, it strikes you that it isn’t easy working for Allah, it isn’t. Until, that is, it also strikes you that you don’t really have a choice in the matter – who else will you work for if not for Allah? If you are a Muslim, you have already signed up – your signature is on record. The papers are signed and sealed. Now you have no choice but to try and live up to the terms of your contract. The sooner you do it, and the better you live up to your commitment, the better off you will be – and, believe it or not, the better off the rest of the world will be.
Then there is one more thing: the reward. The rewards of working for Allah – that is for doing what you are supposed to be doing – are tremendous. The fabric of those rewards is so extensive that it spreads from this world to the next world. I wish I had the time – and of course the resources – to outline to you what some of those rewards are.
Let me put it to you this way, and you may call it a nutshell if you want to. But it has to be a fairly large capsule to hold what I am about to say. Nothing compares to them – to the rewards of working for Allah. Not one thing.
And yet – that is the beauty of this Deen you call Islam – these rewards are such that you already know them so well. You have seen them and you have already tasted them – wa Utoo Bihi Mutashabiha (Al-Baqarah), albeit in a very attenuated and fragmented form. The fact is that whether you realize it or not, whether you are a believer or not, and whether you are a Muslim or not, you stake your whole earthly life for the merest taste and the tiniest and most fleeting glimpse of those very rewards that Allah promises in such superabundance to those who work for him.
Muslim or non-Muslim, that diluted taste and that passing stimulation of your senses and mind is precisely what you strive for all your life. These rewards of body and mind are the focus and the driving force of the life and efforts of every single human being on earth. And yet they will be yours beyond all bounds and compare when you commit yourself consciously to work for Allah, even as you work for him in the involuntary part of your life. And they will be yours right here in this world and after death in the next world.
As humans we all seek some kind of a high in this world – some kind of pleasure, stimulation, satiation of the body and the mind. That is the very nature and essence of human life on earth. Every one of us is driven to this common human goal like dogs – panting, yelping, drooling and right on the scent. And we seek this high through a galactic array of physical and psychological engagement, activity and intake.
Some of what we do in the pursuit of these hoped for satiations of body and mind is legitimate, while some of it is not. Some of it is good while some of it is harmful to our bodies and minds as well to our families, communities and societies. Some of it is noble and decent, while some of it is not. Some of it is even so plain foolish and asinine that in the process of promising or delivering a moment of indescribable joy to us, it either causes us permanent damage or puts an end to our life.
Working for Allah also is a high – but it is a very different kind of high, and it is also the highest of all highs. And it is also the nicest, noblest, the most legitimate, wholesome and beautiful of all highs. Suffice it to say that it is a high that is leavened through and through with Salaam – the ultimate state of satiation, contentment, restfulness and peace of the body as well as of the mind – and the spirit.
No, don’t quote me the dictionary; and please don’t force your word peace on me as a translation for Allah’s word Salaam. I am not saying peace is not a good word, or even a great word. Nor am I saying peace is not a part of the meaning of Salaam. But, no matter how good or great, the English expression peace simply is not adequate to hold all the meaning that Allah has packed in this one expression Salaam.
So, Salaam is peace – and much, much, much more. It is the highest of the high, right here in this world as well as in the next world. It is the upper limit of what humanity seeks in this world. It is that toward the attainment of which all human efforts are directed. It is a joy beyond compare – in its true essence, it is totally and utterly indescribable.
That is what the reward is for working for Allah. And there is more – Allah himself. Allah is the ultimate goal and the ultimate reward of those who work for him.
If, on the other hand, you are not a Muslim, or being Muslim you wouldn’t work for Allah and don’t want to sign up with him, then you are really running against both time and tide. For, every single cell and fiber in your body – and the whole world in which you live – works for Allah. And you are pitted not only against God in heaven – but also against your own body right here on earth.
Besides, you are really a run-away slave, because you are in violation of an earlier contract you signed with Allah. That was when Allah gathered up all human souls in an earlier existence and asked them, “Am I not your master?” and to which you, like all other human beings, replied, “Of course, you are, and we testify to that!” – A-Lastu Birabbikum? Qalu Bala, Shahidna! Qur’an (7:172).
Both Muslims and non-Muslims did that in their prior spiritual existence. Some of those souls then went on to recognize their master in their earthly existence and committed themselves to work for him – they became proper and adequate Muslims. They are the ones that do their very best to learn more about their commitment and about ways of translating that commitment into viable practices in every time, culture, context and place – ways and practices that would enhance the sum total of good and human felicity and success in this world. That is what the true state of Salaam is on earth. Life after death – Aakhirah – and paradise – Jannah – will be the final and perfect unfolding of that state of Salaam for those who work for Allah. So when you work for Allah, you work for peace on earth and for ultimate peace and contentment in the hereafter.
Such people are, if you will, the true believers: U-laa-i-ka Humul Mu’minoona Haqqa
So much for quick answers!
END OF CHAPTER 6
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.