“So is Islam your full-time job then?”

INsights 028, Friday 18th November 2022

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Assalamu-alaikum. Peace be upon you.

A few days ago, my colleague Farzan and I were kindly hosted by a friend for dinner.

Having listened intently to our pre-dinner conversation, my friend’s daughter asked me a question that I’ve never been asked in quite the same way before, just as we sat down for our meal:

“So is Islam your full-time job then?”

I smiled and responded, “Yes, I suppose it is… and it’s yours too!”

The conversation quickly moved on.

But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking that the expression, “Is Islam your full-time job?” was a very simple and effective way to capture various questions that I ask of myself and others on a daily basis… only in a far more complicated way!  

“Are you leading a truly God-centred life?”

“Are the ways in which you’re spending your time and using your energy really stemming from your devotion and commitment to God, or are they simply distractions from your real purpose?” 

“What are you trying to achieve in life that aligns with the fact that you’ll soon be meeting your Lord and will be accountable to Him for your motivations and actions?”

Working for God

Islam is total submission to God. So it follows reasonably that we should all ‘make Islam our full-time job’ so to speak. Let’s break this down… 

‘Full-time’ because there is scope in every aspect of our lives to remember God and show Him our devotion to Him. Much of the time, there is the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment through specific actions too.

Ultimately, we become truly full-time when the primary reason for doing anything that we do is an intentional outcome of our Islam, our submission to God.

Often we function as partial submitters but we know that this is a result of forgetfulness rather than a deliberate desire to be part-time. Instead each of us has the chance to shape our life so that all its parts add up to become one big beautiful offering to our Lord. 

‘Job’ because it’s very helpful to see our relationship with God as a form of employment. We soon realise that this isn’t just any old job, but the job we were born to do.

We are in a contract with Him. The world is our workplace. He gives us our instructions, we have the freedom to work creatively to advance His mission and show our loyalty to Him, we have regular check-ins with Him (Salat) and we are ultimately accountable to Him. He is generous and makes sure we get paid. If we’re good, we don’t just get a salary but plenty of bonuses too! 

Once you frame your relationship with God in this way, you can ask yourself simple questions to help you move up the only career ladder that really matters in the end.

“What outcomes should I be focusing on to progress our mission?”

“What more can I do to impress The Boss?”

“Is there some training I can take to help me improve at my job?”

“How can I work more effectively with my colleagues and improve my relationships with them?”

Aren’t these all the typical questions that we ask of ourselves in our professional lives? 

By asking yourself these questions in the context of your contract with God Himself, and acting on their implications, you increase the chances of doing a good job, earning the pleasure of your Employer and avoiding the worst-case scenario of getting fired (pun intended)!

"What do you do?"

Another benefit of framing your life in this way is that your current job or form of earning an income doesn’t become the single way you end up defining yourself or being seen by others.

You simply look at it as part of the way that you’re serving God, if indeed that’s what’s driving you. If it isn’t, that’s where you need to ask yourself tough questions about whether the career path you’re on right now is more a manifestation of worldliness than godliness. 

In meeting new people, it's common to ask each other, “What do you do?” or “Who do you work for?”

Rather than your automatic reaction being, “I’m a doctor” or “I’m a lawyer” or “I work in IT”... imagine if the answer that more naturally came to mind was, “I work for God” because that’s how you genuinely view your life on a day-to-day basis.

You being a doctor or lawyer or IT specialist is only part of the picture, not a definition of who you are in your entirety.

The most rewarding career path

There are three places in the Qur’an where successful believers are referred to as ‘amilin (those who work or labour). In each reference, God speaks of their excellent compensation:

Their reward is forgiveness from their Lord and gardens under which rivers flow, staying there forever. How excellent is the reward of those who labour!

(Chapter 3, The Family of Imran, Verse 136)

We shall house those who believe and do good deeds in elevated dwellings in Paradise, under which rivers flow, there to remain. How excellent is the reward of those who work hard!

(Chapter 29, The Spider, Verse 58)

They will say, “Praise be to God who has kept His promise to us and given us this land as our own. Now we may live wherever we please in Paradise.” How excellent is the reward of those who labour!

(Chapter 39, The Throngs, Verse 74)

True believers work full-time for their Lord.

Frankly there is no better or more rewarding job in the world, one that is also followed by such a long-lasting, enjoyable and youthful retirement!

What now?

In order to action the central message of this newsletter in your own life...

1. Start by noting down all the activities that take up most of your time: your job, your family interactions, your forms of leisure and entertainment, your voluntary activities, your worship…

2. Then for each area, have a deep think about your true motivations. Are you really doing each thing because of God, or despite Him?

3. Finally think... how can you adjust your intentions and allocations of time and energy so that more of your life becomes a manifestation of your submission to Him? 

It's not an easy journey – change is never easy – but it’s certainly a worthwhile process! 

If I can help in any way, simply get in touch…

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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.

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