Maulana Hafiz Muhammad Kaleem ‘Attari al-Madani
Even a cursory look at the lives of the most successful men and women in the world will reveal an undeniable fact; those people, all of them, share one quality, hard work.
We all aspire to succeed but regardless of the paths we choose, hard work must be at the heart of our efforts if we want to taste success. This is a universal principle, encapsulated in the Arabic adage, ‘Those who work hard, attain.’
Our Merciful Creator, Allah Almighty, declares:
وَّ قِیْلَ لِلنَّاسِ هَلْ اَنْتُمْ مُّجْتَمِعُوْنَۙ(۳۹)
And it was said to the people, ‘Have you (also) gathered?
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Shu’araa, Verse 39)
We learn from this verse that a person will only attain what he strives and works hard for. So whether you aim to achieve a qualification, a job, a dream house, or you wish to earn a Halal living to support your family and others, whatever aspiration it may be, hard work is the only way. After all, we live in a world of means and as Muslims, we resolutely believe that Allah Almighty, the Provider and Nourisher of all creation, rewards hard work, so the more we strive for His sake, the more we will gain from His infinite treasures.
Even the noble Prophets عَـلَـيْـهِمُ الـصَّلٰوةُ وَالـسَّـلَام strove relentlessly, despite their lofty ranks. Although they could have had entire communities serving their needs, they chose to lead by example, working hard so that their followers learn the value of work and effort.
Sayyiduna Dawood, for example, was granted authority over a vast realm, yet he never had a meal unless he earned it himself. Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ reported that the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِه وَسَلَّم said: وَلَا يَأْكُلُ إِلَّا مِنْ عَمَلِ يَدِهِ ‘He (Sayyiduna Dawood عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام) would only eat from [the earnings of] his own hand’s work.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari: 2073)
As for the king and leader of the prophets, Sayyiduna Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, his humble nature was unparalleled. All of the noble Companions were yearning to serve him, believing it to be the essence of life and faith. Yet, he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِه وَسَلَّم chose to work throughout his life and attend to his needs himself.
Sayyidatuna Aisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا, described it thus: وَيَحْلُبُ شَاتَهُ وَيَخْدُمُ نَفْسَهُ ‘The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would milk his sheep and serve himself,’ (Musnad Ahmad 25662).
So now that this formula of hard work is imbedded in your mind, let me present some accounts from our pious predecessors in relation to striving and working hard, and how their efforts produced grand results and glad tidings.
The successful student who strived
Imam Sa’d al-Din al-Taftazani رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, whose books are integral to Islamic curricula around the globe, was an unintelligent student when he joined the classes of Qadi ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shirazi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه. He had become somewhat of an example of how a student should not be. Despite this, he رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه remained determined, disregarding the comments of those around him. Then one day, while he was reviewing his lesson, an unknown person approached him and said: ‘Sa’d al-Din! Come, let’s go on an excursion. He replied: ‘I have not been created for excursions. (My situation is such that) even after studying, I am still unable to understand anything, so how can I go on an excursion?’ Hearing this, the unknown person left but then came back again after a while and asked him again to come on an excursion. He again replied with the same answer. The unknown person left the second time but then came back again and this time said: ‘The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is calling you.’ These words made his body tremble, forcing him to run out bare-footed, eager to see the Noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. Reaching a place outside the city, he saw the holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم under the shade of a tree. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم saw Sa’d al-Din Taftazaani رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه and smilingly said: ‘You did not come even though I called you many times.’ He replied with a very humble tone of voice: ‘Prophet of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم! I did not know that you were calling. You know the state of my weak memory. I seek in your court a cure for my illness.’ The Merciful Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم heard his request and said: ‘Open your mouth.’ He opened his mouth and the holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم placed his blessed saliva into his mouth. He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم then prayed for him, gave him the glad tidings of success and ordered him to go back home. The next day, when he attended the class of Qadi ‘Abd al--Rahman al-Shirazi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, he asked a few complex questions during the lesson. The other students were unable to fully grasp the questions, so they deemed them unnecessary and useless and did not pay attention to them. But his teacher, who was a polymath, began to weep and remarked: ‘Sa’d al-Din! Today, you are not the same person as yesterday.’ Sayyiduna Sa’d al-Din al-Taftazani رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه then narrated the whole event to his teacher,’ (Shazarat-uz-Zahab, vol. 7, p. 68).
Sayyiduna Sa’d al-Din al-Taftazani رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه continued striving, never giving up despite the challenges. Eventually, his efforts bore fruit and he was blessed to receive immense bounties from the court of the Noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. This should drive us to striving and work hard. May the Grace of Allah Almighty and the gaze of the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم be with all those who work hard.
The great jurist of Islam, Imam Abu Hanifah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه summed up the value of hard work in his advice to his student, Imam Abu Yusuf رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه: ‘You were very unintelligent but through striving and steadfastness, you have progressed. Therefore, always distance yourself from indolence as it is a calamity and an unfortunate state,’ (Rah-e-Ilm, p. 53).
Laziness is a substantial barrier in the path of success. It is a harmful state that begets many vices. Therefore, never ever allow laziness to seep into your life. Rather, you should always be resolute in doing worldly and Islamic works because a hardworking person is loved by everyone and a lazy person suffers loss wherever he goes. An indolent person can neither do any worldly work nor Islamic. The holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would teach the following supplication: اَللّٰھُمَّ اِنِّیْ اَعُوْذُبِکَ مِنَ الْکَسْلِ ‘O Allah! I seek Your refuge from laziness,’ (Sahih al-Bukhari: 6371).
In conclusion, if we desire success, we need to ensure that hard work and effort are ingrained in us. Always adopt those means that will aid you in this regard and stay far away from those traits that will become an obstacle in achieving success. Work diligently and then leave the results to the mercy of Allah Almighty.
May Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ enable us to diligently achieve our goals and grant us success in both worlds.