Beyond all propaganda and lies that are let loose against Islam and Muslims by all and sundry, here is a bit of clarification on what it means to be Working for Allah, a concept that is at the core of being a Muslim.
Not just in a vague, theoretical sense, but in a very concrete and practical sense that must necessarily translate into precise everyday behaviour on the part of those who believe in it. From this point of view, Working for Allah means working for the betterment of the state of humanity on earth, without distinction of race, religion, gender, nationality or class in every worldly and other-worldly sense.
And doing so proceeding from a solid foundation of Iman or faith as people call it. Faith in God Almighty; faith in his prophets and the divine books that he sent into this world through them; faith in his angels; and faith in the Day of Judgment and the Next World. And doing it solely for the sake of God Almighty – to win his pleasure and approval. That is what it means, at least at a theoretical level, to be Working for Allah.
WHY WORK FOR ALLAH
At this stage, it is not only fair but imperative that we ask: Why should we all be Working for Allah? And why and how does it make sense for each and every one of us to be Working for Allah?
My answer is twofold: One based on simple logic and reason. The other based on the Qur’ān. The fact that these two approaches intertwine at every stage is part of the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān and its message.
Logic and reason are important because, in Islam, they are the guiding lights of faith and of all other aspects of life on earth. And they are part of the internal radar and compass that God Almighty has built into all human beings.
That is why the Qur’ān invokes them repeatedly as it makes its case for Iman. It never ceases to amaze me how a book that the entire world accepts as having revealed to an uneducated man in Arabia 1400 years ago could read like a scientific paper of the highest quality and rigour. These are all aspects of the Qur’ān that remain to be fully discovered and appreciated by the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, but it is there in plain sight for all to see.
So, from a rational point of view, the Qur’ān argues that the human beings, as well as the world in which humans live and operate, are fully and entirely designed, created, maintained, managed and sustained by Allah, and by no one but Allah.
Does it then, asks the Qur’ān, not make sense for human beings to run their life based on divine directives? That is, according the owner’s and master’s wishes, and as per the factory-issued Owner’s Manual as it were?
I for one find this argument both lucid and unimpeachable. In my mind, this very argument, this entire style of reasoning, constitutes a direct proof that this Qur’ān is not a book of human origin.
BASIS IN QUR’ĀN
And the Qur’ān is tantalisingly, disarmingly, clear on the subject of why we should all be working for Allah. Here is the Qur’ān on the subject: Wa maa khalaqtul jinna wal insa illaa liya’budoon. Paraphrase:
“The only reason I created the Jinn and the humans is to work for me… to serve me… to do my bidding as it were.” How much more clear, simple or precise can it get?
I could, following most other translators, alternatively paraphrase this Aayat as follows:
“I created not the Jinn and the Human save to worship me,” except that I don’t know what the English expression “Worship” means, even though it is the word of choice among English-Arabic translators, including most translators of the Qur’ān.
It seems to me quite unfortunate, and indeed a grave injustice to Islam, Muslims and the Qur’ān, to use the word “Worship” to denote Qur’ān’s most powerful and comprehensive expression Ibaadah.
For, what is worship? Is it what transpires in church services on a Sunday? Is it what Hindu priests do in temples? Or is it what the Jews do in a synagogue?
So, I am not clear as to what exactly “Worship” is. Hence my preference for the expression Working for Allah.
DEPENDENT VS. INDEPENDENT LIFE
The Qur’ān seems to argue that life is of two kinds: dependent and independent. Dependent life is beholden to the functioning of all kinds of other forces, both internal and external to itself. So, dependent life is dependent both internally as well as externally.
All life and life-forms on earth are subsumed by this category. In fact, all “beings” are, whether they are living or non-living. That is, all Khalq is. That means anything that exists in this world exists in a dependent capacity.
Even mighty beasts like dinosaurs died out when their sources of internal and external support and dependency did no longer work in their favour.
That also is the story of the mightiest “beings” on earth – the mountains. They live and die and change form and function, based on forces, beyond their control, that transpire under and around them.
So, everything on earth is dependent on others for its existence. That is the nature of Khalq, creation – all creation.
But then there is another life that is totally independent of any and all forces, influences, means and resources outside itself. And that is God: the maker and master of every other form of life on earth and elsewhere.
He is the Khaaliq who creates the Khalq. The Khalq is dependent on him in every way for its existence and sustenance; he is dependent on no one for anything. He is, as the Qur’ān puts it, As-Samad.
So, the Qur’ān makes it clear that all Khalq must do the bidding of the Khaaliq, and work for him, whether they so, as the Qur’ān puts it, willingly or unwillingly: Tawu’an awu Karhan.
While the rest of the creation works for him by its very design, without having to exercise independent judgment or what we humans call fee will, to the extent we know, human beings and Jinn have been given by their creator a measure of freedom whether or not to work for their maker and master and how.
That is why, so far as humans are concerned, Working for Allah becomes a matter of choice on the part of those who consciously and willingly opt to go that route and make that commitment.
And that is also why the concept of Working for Allah goes beyond mere theoretical understanding and ends up being an applied and practical approach to life and its challenges.
Below are some elements of a practical approach to Working for Allah.