“Allahu Akbar.” God is Greater. Understanding that this world is much greater than us, and that God is much Greater than ourselves, opens the heart, mind, and soul of the believer. It brings the realization that what you do with your life is solely to please Allah (SWT) and has nothing to do with providing for oneself because Allah is Al Razzaq “The Provider,” and if you see Him as The Provider He will provide for you (God willing). Allah says in Surat Al-Bakarah, ayah 152, “Therefore remember Me, I will remember you.”
The struggle of trying to figure out what exactly one wants to do with their life or career can strike at anytime, whether figuring out a college major or sitting at a nine to five job at the age of forty-five and realizing you have no passion for your current career. Why is it that pursuing something we love rather than what’s expected of us never a thought to come to mind? The list is long, but some reasons why include us being products of educational systems that suppress creativity as well as the constant need to fulfil cultural expectations of striving for careers that only our relatives view as a successful career paths.
All of us have talents or interests that can be turned into a career but instead they are shut down as merely “hobbies”. If Allah (SWT) gives you a talent, a knack for a certain field, He gave it for a reason: to use it for His sake.
Because of prevailing sociocultural standards, one tends to think that the only form of success is going into medicine, law, or engineering. All extremely honorable careers but as a world of 7 billion people, we cannot all possibly fit into these three categories, especially because we are all uniquely talented individuals. Many also believe that the definition of success is being able to provide for oneself and their future family. Success is reaching Jannah and reaching Jannah requires taqwa (consciousness of your Lord). Surah Yusuf, Ayah 57 states, “And the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believed and were conscious of Allah.” So with this concept of God consciousness in your career and your life, you will please your Lord and He will provide for you in ways unimagined and (God willing) you will reach the true success in the Hereafter.
There is also a common notion in Islamic communities that faith, career, and positive social impact (community leadership, justice, doing good, charity, awareness, etc.) are three separate things. They are not; they are all simultaneous. Dr. Hatem Bazian, Co-Founder of Zaytuna College and a UC Berkeley professor stated, “Islam’s foundation is justice, everything else is just commentary.” As a Muslim, your day to day actions should always include striving to do better for the sake of Allah (SWT) since you don’t know which day will be your last. So, when your career becomes the daily action you are doing, it should involve changing the world for the better. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
So when you are choosing a career or when you take a step back and reflect upon the one you are currently in, observe it as a glass “half-empty” so you can feel the potential to fill it yourself. If you are in the medical field, will you only be providing health care for those who can afford it or everyone who needs it? If you enter in law, will you be defending criminals who can afford your hourly wage or will you be fighting against them for those who suffer injustice? If you go into business, will you be aware of the slave labor that occurs overseas and domestically and will you be finding ways to change it? If you enter film, will you be contributing towards the praise of sexuality that is increasing over the years or will you be using film to spread positive and impactful messages? Looking at a career this way shows how you can pursue something you want while being conscious of Allah (SWT).
On the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifaree (may Allah be pleased with him) The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,“O My servants! I have forbidden dhulm (oppression) for Myself, and I have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another.” Dr. Hatem Bazian commented on this hadith by saying, “There is a hadith mentioning that oppression has to be opposed and removed. That includes oppressing oneself, oppressing oneself is doing things we are not made for.” This form of self-oppression is usually the case when students study what their parents or society believe is the best for them, rather than what they excel in as an individual.
This crucial life decision often affected by the fear that if you go into a field, especially one that is unconventional, you won’t be financially successful, or that entering a career and following the rules of morality as set by Allah (SWT) will preclude you from success because of the world’s corruption. This is when tawakkul (trust in Allah) plays its biggest part. Allah (SWT) reminds us in Surat Hajj Ayah 78 of the excellent security and help He gives us when we strive in His way, so do not fear lack of financial support because Allah is Al-Razzaq (The Provider).
Allah says in Surat Hajj, ayah 78, “And strive in (the way of) Allah, (such) striving as is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you a hardship in religion; the faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper!”
Alhamdulillah, we already have the advantage of knowing the truth. Now let us apply it throughout our lives.