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What Do the Hadith Say About Hard Work?

What Do the Hadith Say About Hard Work?

Hadith about hard work: Let’s face it, nobody likes hard work. Nobody wants to get up at five in the morning. Nobody wants to sit in an office for upwards of eight hours a day. And nobody wants to take time out of their personal schedule for Zoom and phone calls with their boss or co-workers.

That’s why I became a writer. Of course, even I must recognize that hard work is a necessary – and often rewarding – part of life. However, the prospect of being able to pay your bills, make your rent, and pay for dinner out on the weekends isn’t always enough to motivate us to work a certain kind of hard. On those particularly taxing days, we need a little bit of extra encouragement. For Muslims, that extra encouragement can be found in a frequent source of inspiration: the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad .

Along with the revelations from Allah which make up the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad shared much personal wisdom throughout his life. Documented in hadith, his sayings provide guidance on all aspects of life. These include romantic relationships, taking care of the environment, paying one’s debts, and, of course, the importance of hard work.

Many thousands of words could be written about the Prophet’s insights into each of these topics. In this article, however, we’re going to be focusing solely on the fourth. Here is what the hadith have to say about hard work. 

Everybody is a Leader 

If you work long enough in any particular role for any particular company, it can be easy to feel as though you are just another cog in the machine. You may begin to lose your sense of identity and come to view yourself as little more than another step on your employer’s ladder as they climb towards their own professional goals. According to the Prophet Muhammad , however, this is never the case. The Prophet Muhammad taught us that one does not have to be a king to be a leader.

“Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects: a man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for his subjects: a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them, and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock”

Sahih Bukhari, 6719

Now I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the above passage may not have a lot of immediate application in the modern world. After all, it was put forth in 7th-century Saudi Arabia, where the roles of men and women were very strictly defined and the keeping of slaves was a common practice.

However, there is certainly wisdom to be found among Muhammad’s words. Rather than seeking to reaffirm the position of leaders, men, women, and slaves in the above passage, Muhammad is telling us that we need not be bound by our supposed titles. We all play a crucial role in keeping our society and workplace running smoothly. Even the lowliest intern can achieve leadership status through hard work and dedication to their craft. 

Learn more about Islamic Leadership here. 

Hard Work is Better Than Begging  

Many people are content to put in the bare minimum amount of effort from the moment they arrive at work to the moment they punch out in the evening. They often justify this by telling themselves that their lack of effort may not get them promoted, but it won’t get them fired either.

In reality, however, this is not the case. When you don’t dedicate yourself fully to your work, you start down a slippery slope, lowering the bar until you have little standard left. Eventually the minimum effort you started with begins to feel like maximum effort, so the quality of your work becomes less and less. Eventually, you will begin making easily avoidable errors which impact the work of those around you and the success of the company as a whole.

Although your decline in diligence was so gradual that you, yourself, didn’t notice it, you can bet it will come to your employer’s attention sooner or later. This will almost definitely lead to you being disciplined, if not let go entirely. With this in mind, then, the choice is not between working hard and putting in the minimal amount of effort. Instead, it is between working hard and being fired. Although such a decision should be obvious, you may draw some inspiration from the below saying from the Prophet Muhammad:

“By Him in Whose hand is my soul, if one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better for him than begging a man who may or may not give him anything.” Sahih Bukhari 1401

The obvious takeaway from this saying is that if you fail to work diligently, you will likely end up unemployed and begging. While there are many differences in opinion between our modern world and the world in which the Prophet lived, the attitude towards begging remains much the same.

For more than 1000 years – and since the dawn of civilized society – it has been viewed as the single most demeaning way in which a person can support themselves. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Prophet Muhammad considered a life of hard work and delayed gratification to be markedly better than one spent begging on doorsteps and street corners.

There is a second interesting, though rarely considered, point made in the passage discussed above. Prophet Muhammadteaches us that hard work is better than begging for the obvious reasons. However, he also states that hard work is the only way a man can be sure of earning a living. If one begs a man for money or food, he cannot be certain of receiving anything. He can be even less certain of receiving anything of substance. If he dedicates himself to his work, however, he is virtually guaranteed to be suitably rewarded, even if his work is as menial as selling firewood. 

The Prophets Worked Hard  

The Prophet Muhammadis known for his discipline and his work ethic. Despite being orphaned at a young age, he worked his way through Mecca’s business world to become one of the city’s most prosperous caravan traders. In fact, it can be said that the Prophet was a success even before he received his first revelation from Allah.

While he is perhaps the best example of hard work, he is far from the only messenger of God to have worked diligently in the days prior to their prophethood. Jobعليه السلام never wavered in his dedication to his work, even after losing everything his labor had earned him. Jesus عليه السلام dedicated himself fully to the craft of carpentry prior to the beginning of his mission, even though he likely knew exactly what lay in store for him. The Prophet David عليه السلام was famous for his reluctance to accept handouts and favors, choosing instead to earn all that he was given. The Prophet Muhammad recalled Prophet David’s عليه السلام determination to be self-sufficient in a passage from Sahih Bukhari. It reads as follows:

“David would never eat except from the earnings of his own hand’s work.”Sahih Bukhari

Imagine one of the greatest kings in the world, and a prophet of God to boot, only eating from what his hands had worked and earned him provisions! In many cases, it can be quite difficult to do as the prophets did. Very few people alive today have the level of self-control, righteousness, humility, and spirituality characteristic of the prophets of old.

However, we are all capable of hard work. As such, the most surefire way to emulate David, Job, Jesus, and even Muhammad himself is to immerse yourself in your work. By fully dedicating yourself to the task you have been asked to complete, regardless of its urgency or importance, you can complete it just as the prophets would have done. This will not only earn you the money you need to live independently but, surely, the favor of Allah and His messenger.

It is Good to Provide Charity 

Although the Prophet warned against begging unless it was absolutely necessary, he did acknowledge that it is important to provide charity if you wish to be considered a Muslim. The Prophet stressed the importance of sharing your possessions and your money in a number of hadith, but one of our favorite examples is the below passage, taken from Sahih Muslim.

“The upper hand is better than the lower hand, the upper hand being the one that gives and the lower hand being the one that receives.”Sahih Muslim 1033

Like most of the Prophet’s sayings, this passage is delivered with poetry and metaphor without being rendered inaccessible to the common reader. In it, the Prophet clearly compares the financially stable one to the upper hand and the less fortunate one to the lower hand. It tells us that it is better to be well-off and in a position to share your possessions than to be complacent with little or no income even when people are willing to support you. For this reason, it is important that every Muslim who is capable of doing so works diligently and earns a living that is sizable enough to support themselves and their family, with enough left over to share among those who are not quite as successful.

What does the Quran say about working hard?

Hard work in Quran was mentioned more than once to illustrate the importance of hard work in Islam. Also, our beloved prophet instructed us to work, and seek knowledge and success. Instead of being lazy and depending on others, there is a hadith about hard work to prove that.

Allah Almighty Says in the holy Quran:

“And say, “Work, for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers.” [Quran, 9:105]

“It is He who made the earth tame for you – so walk among its slopes and eat of His provision – and to Him is the resurrection.” [Quran, 67:15]

“Man will not get anything unless he works hard” (Surah al-Najm, 53:39).

Reward of hard work in Islam.

Anything good a Muslim does he is rewarded for it; even hard work is rewarded for. Depending on yourself, doing your best to provide yourself or your family with what they need is rewarding. Allah can see all the hardships you go through and all the troubles you overcome and you are rewarded for it.

We can learn about hard work from the prophet hadiths and sayings. There is a hadith about hard work and the rewards of the one who works hard. So here are some of the prophet hadiths on the topic:

The prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Nobody has ever eaten a meal better than that which he has earned from working with his own hands. The Prophet of Allah Dawud [David], would eat from the work of his own hands.” [Al-Bukhari]

In another hadith about working hard, the Prophet instructed us to work hard, do our best, and not to given to the feeling of frustration or laziness: “Cherish that which gives you benefit [in the Hereafter], seek help from Allah and do not lose heart.” [Muslim]

The messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said: “If the Hour comes while one of you has a shoot that he is able to plant, then he should plant it.” [Ahmad, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

Also, scholars encourage us to work hard narrating the prophet’s hadith about hard work and telling us about its rewards.

“Help from Allah comes to the servant according to his diligence.” [Imam Al-Bazzar]

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, said:

“The sages of every nation agree that welfare cannot be obtained through welfare, that anyone who prefers comfort will miss it, and that joy and pleasure depend on the level of risks and difficulties that are experienced when getting them.

There is no joy for a person who has no resolve; no pleasure for a person who lacks patience; no bliss for a person who endures no hardships; and no comfort for a person who has no hard work. If a person is exhausted for a short time, he will relax for longer. If he endures difficulties for a short while, this will lead him to eternal welfare.

People who will receive eternal delight [the people of Paradise] earned this status due to their patience in this very short worldly life. Truly, Allah alone gives help, and there is no power except in Him. The loftier one’s own self is and the higher his aspirations are, the more a person’s body is exhausted and the less his comfort is.

Yahya Ibn Kathir may Allah have mercy upon him said: “Knowledge cannot be acquired when the body is in comfort.” [Muslim] All those who are sensible undoubtedly believe that perfect comfort depends on the level of exhaustion, and perfect bliss relies on the level of difficulties that are endured when achieving it. Comfort, pleasure and bliss are free of exhaustion only in Paradise, not in this worldly life.” [Quoted from Uluw Al-Himmah, by Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Isma‘il]