“Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.” — Ali Ibn Ali Talib
As people living in this world we want to be both successful and pious in this life and the next, balancing our worldly loves with our otherworldly loves. Is it better to be rich and successful or to live an ascetic life? This is a somewhat false dichotomy and Islam teaches us how we can strive to do both! Aiming as always to prosper in this life and the next.
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَـٰكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا۟ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
"And so We have made you ˹believers˺ a balanced (moderate) community so that you may be witnesses over humanity and that the Messenger may be a witness over you." — Qur’an 2:143
Islam always preaches balance and the middle path. As people of a balanced, moderate nature (ummatan wasatan) we are neither obsessed with this worldly life, nor neglectful of it. We work for success in this world while being cognisant that our reward in the after life is better and longer lasting.
وَٱلْـَٔاخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰٓ
"The Hereafter is far better and more lasting." Quran 87:17
All our efforts and work in this life should be directed to drawing closer to and serving Allah. Drawing closer to Him and serving Him alone allows us to find peace and tranquility in this life and the next insha’Allah.
وَمَا هَـٰذِهِ ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةَ لَهِىَ ٱلْحَيَوَانُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا۟ يَعْلَمُونَ
"This worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter - that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew." — Qur’an 29:64
The Life of the Prophet (ﷺ)
In the life of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) he warned his community away from extreme acts of worship but rather a balance between their personal worship and their other rights and obligations to themselves, their community and their families.
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ أَلَمْ أُخْبَرْ أَنَّكَ تَصُومُ النَّهَارَ وَتَقُومُ اللَّيْلَ ". قُلْتُ بَلَى يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. قَالَ " فَلاَ تَفْعَلْ، صُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ، وَقُمْ وَنَمْ، فَإِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا، وَإِنَّ لِعَيْنِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا، وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا ".
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "O `Abdullah! Have I not been informed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?" I said, "Yes, O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)!" He said, "Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fasts) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you." — [Sahih]
In a similar hadith:
جَاءَ ثَلاَثَةُ رَهْطٍ إِلَى بُيُوتِ أَزْوَاجِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَسْأَلُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَةِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَلَمَّا أُخْبِرُوا كَأَنَّهُمْ تَقَالُّوهَا فَقَالُوا وَأَيْنَ نَحْنُ مِنَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ. قَالَ أَحَدُهُمْ أَمَّا أَنَا فَإِنِّي أُصَلِّي اللَّيْلَ أَبَدًا. وَقَالَ آخَرُ أَنَا أَصُومُ الدَّهْرَ وَلاَ أُفْطِرُ. وَقَالَ آخَرُ أَنَا أَعْتَزِلُ النِّسَاءَ فَلاَ أَتَزَوَّجُ أَبَدًا. فَجَاءَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ " أَنْتُمُ الَّذِينَ قُلْتُمْ كَذَا وَكَذَا أَمَا وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأَخْشَاكُمْ لِلَّهِ وَأَتْقَاكُمْ لَهُ، لَكِنِّي أَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ، وَأُصَلِّي وَأَرْقُدُ وَأَتَزَوَّجُ النِّسَاءَ، فَمَنْ رَغِبَ عَنْ سُنَّتِي فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي ".
A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) asking how the Prophet (ﷺ) worshipped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, "Where are we from the Prophet (ﷺ) as his past and future sins have been forgiven." Then one of them said, "I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever." The other said, "I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast." The third said, "I will keep away from the women and will not marry forever." Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) came to them and said, "Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers). — [Sahih]
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) is showing us here the holistic and balanced nature of his worship. Not only did he constantly perform deeds to please Allah but he was cognisant of the rights of those around him, making sure to never neglect his family or duties to his community because he was engaged in personal worship.
Prominent Scholars of Past & Present
When we look at some of the pre-eminent scholars of the past we see examples of those who were balanced in their business while also strong in their faith and contributing to their communities.
Imam Abu Hanifa was a merchant and a silk trader, following on from the footsteps of his father. As well being a trader Imam Abu Hanifa is now known as also one of the most influential scholars in the history of Islamic thought. A renowned jurist and theologian his methodology of jurisprudence formed the underpinnings for the Hanafi School, one of the four major madhabs (schools of thoughts) in Sunni Islamic law.
Even today we still see great examples of scholars who walk a successful path in their businesses and careers while also being learned in the sacred sciences.
Dr Asim Yusuf (Talib Al-Habib) is a consultant psychiatrist in medicine as well as being an erudite scholar of fiqh. Focusing on Islamic Spirituality and Mental Health, "He is acknowledged as an authority on Islamic Psychology".
In addition he has published "four books on diverse aspects of Islam, with a focus on classical spirituality". One of these is the excellent and comprehensive book "Shedding Light on the dawn" .
Further to medicine and fiqh, Dr Asim has worked to educate others in Classical Islamic Studies through courses such as the "Sacred Text Syllabus". Not only that but he is renowned to many for his excellent vocal talents as a singer under the pen name "Talib al-Habib" (Seeker of the Beloved).
Similarly, the world famous nasheed artist Zain Bhikha has been performing for twenty five years "inspiring fans the world over with his messages of upliftment and God-consciousness". Singing and songwriting however is just a hobby and not his full-time vocation. Outside of his nasheed work he also serves as CEO to a health and pharma company in South Africa.
Even in engineering and STEM we see highly successful engineers and rocket scientists who are learned scholars and teachers of the Islamic Sciences. One such example of these teachers is Ustadh Umer, a VP of engineering at SpaceX and also a teacher and qualified Alim from Al-Salam institute and Cambridge Islamic College.
" اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا، وَرِزْقًا طَيِّبًا، وَعَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً "
When the Prophet (ﷺ) performed the morning prayer he would say:
"O Allah, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, goodly provision and acceptable deeds. (‘Allahumma inni as’aluka ‘ilman nafi’an, wa rizqan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan)" — [Sahih]
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) asked for beneficial knowledge. He didn’t separate between secular or sacred knowledge. Rather all knowledge is knowledge — and we distinguish based on it being beneficial (ilm naafia). Any knowledge that helps us to be better people and draw closer to Allah can be considered beneficial.
We also sometimes think of careers as "secular" when they aren’t overtly Islamic in their nature. For example designing cars or bridges may not seem like something inherently done for the worship of God, however our actions are always by our intentions. Anything that we do, and we intend by it to drawer closer to Allah and to help others for His sake, then it is an act of worship.
رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، يَقُولُ : " إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: "Indeed actions are by intentions. Every person will get the reward for his actions according to what he has intended." — [Sahih]
If we lived in a community where everyone worshipped Allah whole-heartedly, religiously and spiritually, we would still be a community that needed professionals. Doctors, teachers, taxi drivers, engineers, farmers and a myriad of other professions help our society to run smoothly — each person plays their part to help others and in doing so provides good to those around them.
وَمَنْ أَرَادَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةَ وَسَعَىٰ لَهَا سَعْيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ كَانَ سَعْيُهُم مَّشْكُورًا
"But whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it accordingly, and is a ˹true˺ believer, it is they whose striving will be appreciated." — Quran 17:19
I pray that Allah purifies our intentions in our acts and grants us beneficial knowledge, allowing us to grow closer to Him and perform the best acts that please Him. May He accept our good deeds and forgive us for any shortcomings.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا، وَرِزْقًا طَيِّبًا، وَعَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً
Rahma & Al Habib (The Loved One) - Talib Al Habib | ASI Annual Dinner 2017
Zain Bhikha - https://www.linkedin.com/in/zain-bhikha-ab07002a/
Graduate Speeches 2018 - Umer Khan