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Aspects Of Islamic Faith 96: Earning An Honest Living - The Way Of The Prophet (s.a.w.)

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

The Prophet (peace be upon him) always emphasized the virtue of working to earn one's living. He seized every opportunity to make this principle well understood by all people. When people requested him to give them something out of the zakat collection, he pointed out to them the better course of earning their own living. In some cases, he even went further, taking action to help the person concerned to start some gainful work, even if it is a very simple one. A Hadith reported by Al-Miqdam quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: "No one ever eats anything better than what he eats out of his own hand's work. Prophet David used to eat out of his own hand's work."

This is more or less a literal translation of the Hadith. I have opted for a literal translation to highlight the emphasis the Prophet used. The first point to make here is that the Prophet is not speaking about the preparation of food with one's own hand, but about using one's own earnings through one's work to provide food for oneself and one's family. So any work we do to earn our living is included here.

This speaks volumes about the desirability of work, even if one is rich enough to be able to provide a high standard of living for one's family without working. The point is that personal wealth is not a substitute for work. Everyone in the Muslim community must be a contributor to the general welfare. This can only be done through active involvement in the production of the public wealth. When people opt not to work, because they are rich, or because they find begging more lucrative, or because they live in a society that gives generous allowances to the unemployed, then they do not participate in the advancement of the Muslim community. On the contrary, they represent an impediment to such progress.

We note that the Prophet cited the example of Prophet David (peace be upon him) as model worker to earn his living. We know that other prophets had their own work, such as Adam who was a farmer, Noah who was a carpenter, Idris who was a tailor, Moses who was a shepherd, Joseph who was a top government official, etc. He cited the example of David, because David did not need to work. He was a king in addition to his being a prophet. We can imagine that such a person combining the two roles would give all attention to looking after the interests of his people, which no doubt Prophet David did. Therefore, if he had a generous allowance from the state to give him and his family a comfortable standard of living, he would only be having his dues.

Yet Prophet David preferred to work with his own hands and earn his living. What was David's profession, then? We know of a specialized type of work he did, which is mentioned in the Qur'an: "We taught him how to make garments for you, so that they may fortify you against all that which may cause you fear." These garments were body armor made of iron, which people used in war to protect them against the swords of their enemies. It is apparently a very skilful type of work to merit this special mention in the Qur'an, highlighting the fact that it was God who taught him how to do it.

Yet, Prophet David did other types of work, including very simple ones, such as making baskets by plaiting palm leaves. He was a king, yet he worked in such simple ways, with his own hands, to earn his own living. Why would anyone despise to do any type of honest work that gives him a decent standard of living?



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