The Spirituality of Work
By Imam Abdullah El-Amin
ED. NOTE: As we celebrate the end of Ramadan, let us focus on the lessons learned and the benefits of the fast. I repeat this column to remind the givers and recipients of sadaqa to pray that next year there will be more givers than receivers.
To exist, everything must work. ALLAH the Almighty has put the universe in motion. This motion requires energy, which requires work. Our hearts must work by keeping a rhythmic beat, which pushes the blood through our bodies. Without this work of the heart, we would cease to live. Our Creator has given us a great sign in this law of work. You can look at any part of our bodies and see the â€œworkâ€ that goes into keeping us alive and functioning.
We know what happens when our heart does not work well. If a change doesnâ€™t come to it quickly, we will die. Suppose our hearts were lazy and â€œchoseâ€ not to report to work. What if it â€œcalls in sickâ€ and decides not to work that day–there are big problems for your health and your life. A heart attack is nothing to play with.
Our pancreas, liver, bile ducts, and other body parts, all work as well, performing certain functions to keep us alive. ALLAH has given us this sign to show us how we benefit from work.
One of the great tragedies of slavery in this country was that slaves received no reward for the long arduous labor they put in to help build this country. They would work form â€œcanâ€™t seeâ€ in the morning, to â€œcanâ€™t see at night (dark to dark). At the end of the day they got some meager rations, and a little sleep, but nothing positive to look to for the next day. So, therefore, the slaveâ€™s biggest goal was to do as little work as possible. A good job to a slave was one where you did the least amount of work.
But ALLAH didnâ€™t design work to be looked at in that manner. Work strengthens you. ALLAH says man gets what he strives for, meaning you must put some effort to your desires. This is the spirituality of work. When you pursue a task with the idea in mind of following ALLAHâ€™S guidance and His stated reasons for doing it, you become linked to His higher purpose, thus insuring your success.
This is what is meant by living a spiritual life. Spirituality for Muslims is ihsan (doing acts purely for the pleasure of ALLAH). Life is so simple, and success definitely guaranteed, when we enhance our connectedness to ALLAH and see the benefits of His signs. Spirituality brings a balanced view of our lives. Work ceases to be a chore and becomes an excitingly pleasurable way of enhancing our lives.
It is also important to note that is immaterial what kind of work you do. A brain surgeonâ€™s work is no more important than a person who sweeps the streets or cleans the bathroom. If someone did not clean the operating room properly, the brain surgeon could not do his/her work and many patients would become infected and die.
The great Martin Luther King said we must approach our work with new meaning. He said â€œIf you are a street sweeper, you should sweep streets like Michelangelo painted portraits. Not only will your work have a more beneficial effect on society, but ALLAH will be immensely pleased with you because you are doing it to please HIM.
As Salaam Alaikum
(Al Hajj) Abdullah Bey El-Amin