How do we increase our piety? How do we increase the good deeds we do, to benefit ourselves, our families and society? How do we stay away from things that do not benefit us?
InshaAllah in this Tarbiya, I will first touch upon the concept of ihsan in Islam (excellence), and then following on from this, the importance of continually seeking ways to broaden our skills and knowledge.
Some of the key characteristics of God-fearing individuals are perseverance, hard work and not depending on others and not standing still, yet expecting success to come their way. All of us try our best to work hard and efficiently and this requires us to continue to evaluate and improve ourselves so that we can carry out our duties to the highest standards.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Say: Work away; God will see your labour, and so will His messenger and believers. You will be brought back to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible, and He will notify you about how well you have been working.” (9:105)
This imaan (faith) motivates us to work hard and reach for ihsan. Be it for the welfare of this world or for the Hereafter, they are both important. The Prophet (saw) said:
“Whoever constructs, without causing oppression or aggression, or plants, without causing oppression or aggression, will be rewarded as long as the creatures of Allah, The Ever-Merciful, blessed and High Exalted be He, benefit from what he did.” (Ahmad)
This hadith shows us the importance of contributing towards this life and that it has importance in itself, as well as our preparations for the Hereafter. Islam teaches us to work and to continue working for the sake of Allah (swt) and a true Believer will continue to work even if he knows that the world would end tomorrow.
This doesn’t only encompass continuous work, day and night however, but a true believer and a productive Muslim* will do so with efficiency, hard work and excellence – Ihsan..
“And practice Ihsan. Truly, Allah loves the doers of Ihsan.” (2:195)
But how do we perform well, encompassing ihsan, without adequate knowledge and expertise? As an example (apologies for the cliché) in this century, many day-to-day matters need to be done using a computer. If a person hasn’t yet learnt how to use a computer, how can he do well? The worker in question would find himself no longer relevant in this new work environment and would probably not be able to perform his job as well as others who have managed to progress (skills/knowledge wise).
If we don’t equip ourselves with the skills and capabilities that are needed from time to time, we will be left far behind and this is why we need to continue improving ourselves through training and re-training. We cannot get by with just the skills that we have or used to have. Needs change, challenges increase and new skills need to be learnt.
Throughout history, Muslims have shown exactly this spirit; this spirit of constantly wanting and willing to learn and increase knowledge. Because of this, they showed themselves capable of leading mankind in the most prosperous times known to civilisation. If this spirit is not possessed, Muslims will not be capable of positively influencing our societies and others around us, a responsibility that is laid out in front of us all.
I say this first and foremost to my self, but it’s important we acknowledge the new challenges and needs in our societies. Muslims cannot continue to be viewed as backward and lacking in skills. Islam demands that we strive for progress and improve our knowledge base and capabilities.
Studying at/having graduated from the LSE is something we should all be immensely grateful for as Allah (swt) gave us this opportunity to excel and Alhamdulillah, LSE is no doubt the breeding ground of some of the most influential people in the world; be it society leaders, politicians, activists, lawyers, professionals etc. But if we refer back to Prophet Musa (as) for a moment; even though he was a prophet and had already reached the peak of power, and had great knowledge that enabled him to defeat the Egyptian magicians, Allah (swt) still directed him to improve himself and to seek more knowledge. Allah (swt) commanded him to learn from a pious servant of His, known as Prophet Khidir and if that was the case for a Prophet, surely, there is much more we can do ourselves, inshaAllah.
There are many courses, programmes and other forums where we can learn skills of leadership, time management, teamwork, and so much more while at university and beyond. It is up to us to make full use of these facilities and to seize the opportunities provided to “upgrade” ourselves and with this, fulfil the demands of Imaan and civilisation, to carry out our role as leaders on the face of this earth, as this final quote highlights:
“Muslims should be professional in whatever (field) they are in, so that they may stretch their hands out over the (whole) world and all that is in it, since God made them his representatives on earth.” – L. Yulyadi Arnakim.
Anything good I have said is from Allah (swt), anything bad are my own shortcomings, I pray that we can all take something positive from this, regardless of how small it is inshaAllah.
* Excellent website/journal: http://www.productivemuslim.com/