Islam lays great emphasis on work. In many places in the Quran and Hadith, it has been made clear that time should not be wasted. In the Qur‘an, Allah draws attention to all the magnificent creations as an indication of the proper planning that leads to wonderful results—for Muslims believe that He creates nothing haphazardly. God relates in the Qur‘an how the heavens and the earth were created in seven days and describes that as a sign for humankind. Then the Qur‘an directs a message to humanity that they should contribute positively to the earth- that is, they should work to make use of what is created for their benefit:
That man can have nothing but what he strives for; that (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight: Then will he be rewarded with a reward complete. (An-Najm 53:39-41)
In Islam, work is given special importance to the extent that it is considered as an act of worship in itself. Although some people believe that they are not obliged to work because they dedicate themselves to worshiping God, this is actually a wrong perception of the concept of worship. The Muslim scholar Imam Al-Ghazali mentioned in his book Ihyaa’ `Ulum Ad-Deen (Revival of the Religious Sciences) that Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) once saw a man who had completely devoted himself to worship. When he asked him how he got his daily bread, the man replied that his brother, who worked, provided him with food. Jesus then told him, “That brother of yours is more religious than you are” (The Book of Provision, Chapter 1). Al-Ghazali also mentions the Prophet’s Companion `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who used to stress this point further by telling people, “Never should anyone of you think that du`aa’ (supplication) for sustenance without work will avail him, for heaven never rains gold nor silver” (The Book of Provision, Chapter 1).
Islamic Work Ethics
Scholars have endeavored to define work ethics relating to the value system of people. Parnes and Andrian define work ethics as “beliefs about the moral superiority of hard work over leisure or idleness, craft pride over carelessness, sacrifice over profligacy, earned over unearned income and positive over negatives towards work” (Parnes and Andriasani, 1983, 102). Barbash defines work ethics as “a commitment to work hard which is stronger than just providing a living” (Barbash, (1983, 4-5). Islamic work ethics is much more than that- being multi-dimensional and related to various aspects of life such as social, political and economic. Islamic work ethic could be defined as a set of values or system of beliefs derived from the Qur‘an and Sunnah concerning work and hard work. Kamal Hassan has listed five attributes of the Islamic work ethics. These are as follows:
- Employees have to fulfill their job for the societal obligation with purpose to seek pleasure of Allah.
- Trustworthiness as a vicegerent of Allah which comprehends all aspects of living as a human.
- Muslim must perform his duty as a religious obligation as well as implements all ritual obligations. Motivational reward is not only linked with earthly reward but also awarded in the hereafter.
- Employees must adhere to diligence and efficiency as well as fairness in preserving public interest.
- Employer-employee relationships are based on human value which is beyond race, color, language and inheritance.
Quran teachings on work
From the beginning, Islam has viewed commercial activity not only as divine but also a necessary aspect of human life, a source of social gratification and psychological pleasure. Work is considered necessary to establish an equilibrium between one’s individuality and social life. The Qur’an instructs Muslims to persistently work whenever and wherever possible: “Disperse through the land and seek of the bounty of God” (62:10), and “God has permitted trade and forbidden usury.” (2:275)
In summary, Muslims should develop a strong and responsible work ethic. We should do our best to provide for ourselves and others, rather than relying upon the charity of others. We should not beg unless it is absolutely necessary, but even then, we should answer the request of the beggar.