Work Ethics in Islam: Creating the Best Environment and Objectives for Our Work Culture

Our work culture may not entirely be the same as it was before the pandemic, with some maintaining the ‘hustle culture’, while others opt for ‘quiet quitting’. Which is the right one? What does Islam say about this?
by Ustaz Muhammad Fakhrur Radzi Mohd Noor 2023-01-03 • 19 min read
Ustaz Fakhrur graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Syariah Law from Al-Azhar University, Cairo. He is currently the Manager of the Youth and Community Education Strategic Unit at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) facilitating the development and administration of the Adult Islamic Learning (ADIL) programme. In his free time, he enjoys reading various personal growth and development books.
2023-01-03 • 19 min read

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, Singapore, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage

The pandemic has necessitated us to adjust to many changes, including in our working life. Employers and employees are redefining the working culture to suit their interests. Is the hustle culture still a relevant working culture? Or do we need to revisit its key objectives to see if it still serves its purpose? 

In fact, many related concepts are also being discussed today, such as ‘quiet quitting’ - a trend among millennials and Gen Zs, which involves doing the bare minimum required in a job, as a way of rejecting the pressure to constantly work hard and overachieve, such as the hustle culture. Another term that has been used to describe the above is ‘acting your wage’.

Beyond such terms, Islam teaches us universal and ever-relevant virtues that may not be explicitly defined within these concepts. This article intends to discuss the above.

Seeking provisions (rizq) is a virtuous act in Islam

As a start, let us understand that seeking sustenance with the right intention is, in fact, a virtuous act in Islam (‘ibadah).

فَإِذَا قُضِيَتِ الصَّلَاةُ فَانتَشِرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَابْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” 

(Surah Al-Jumu’ah, 62:10)

In a hadith, Rasulullah s.a.w. mentioned:

لأَنْ يَحْتَزِمَ أَحَدُكُمْ حُزْمَةَ حَطَبٍ عَلَى ظَهْرِهِ فَيَبِيعَهَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَنْ يَسْأَلَ رَجُلاً فَيُعْطِيَهُ أَوْ يَمْنَعَهُ

“If one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better than asking a man who may or may not give him something." 

(Sunan An-Nasa’i)

Read: MuslimSG | The Concept of Rizq (Sustenance) In Islam

Our prophets a.s. and past scholars had a career to make a living and sustain their lives. Contrary to what some people may think, seeking provisions in life and building your career path with good intentions does not mean that we lack reliance on Allah’s provisions decreed upon us. As a matter of fact, they should come hand in hand together. 

Read: MuslimSG | What Does Tawakkul (Reliance) Mean?

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, Singapore, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage

Read: MuslimSG | 5 Life Lessons We Can Learn From Prophet Yusuf's Story

Prophet Yusuf a.s. worked as a helper in the home of a governor and eventually, after numerous trials and tribulations, became the Minister of Finance in the land he lived in. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was a shepherd during his early years and later became a successful trader and merchant under the employment of Khadijah r.a.

Read: MuslimSG | 4 Women of Paradise

Hence, let us truly appreciate the work we do, hoping for the rewards of Allah s.w.t. If you are ever doubtful about the permissibility of the nature of your work, such as the need to deal with unlawful materials, please read Office of the Mufti’s Contemporary Irsyad Series to deepen our understanding of this matter.

Read: Contemporary Irsyad Series

Gratitude for the provisions (rizq)

Once you can appreciate your career, remember to give thanks to Allah for the provisions (rizq) you continuously receive and the ability to spend it. Minimally, say Alhamdulillah. Try to list out and be grateful for each one of them: that moment when you spend on groceries, treat your family to a meal or buy for yourself a nice new pair of shoes, clothing, or gadgets. 

Even the health you enjoy due to the nutrition and recreation that you can afford. Give thanks to Allah for all these provisions, and understand that rizq can come in many forms. We may want to vow and try listing 1,000 things we are grateful for in our life as a start. Hopefully, this will then provide us with more in return from our work and even from sources that we cannot even think of.

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you (in favour); but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.' " 

(Surah Ibrahim, 14:7)

Read: MuslimSG | Dua Dhuha and Duas for Sustenance and Wealth

Significance of seeking barakah in life

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, barakah

At work, apart from achieving your required targets, goals and KPIs to progress, work is also about attaining barakah (blessings) in life. That one piece of work you contributed to easing the burden of others, that one smile or that simple check, “Hey, how are you doing?” to make a colleague’s day, really goes a long way.

Attaining barakah also means achieving your goals without hurting others in any way, including mentally and emotionally (yes, backstabbing is not acceptable). Instead, it is by uplifting and caring for others while you are at it, teaching and growing with others around you, and sharing best practices and lessons you have learnt. Rasulullah s.a.w. mentioned in a hadith:

مَنْ نَفَّسَ عَنْ مُسْلِمٍ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ الدُّنْيَا نَفَّسَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَمَنْ يَسَّرَ عَلَى مُعْسِرٍ فِي الدُّنْيَا يَسَّرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَمَنْ سَتَرَ عَلَى مُسْلِمٍ فِي الدُّنْيَا سَتَرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ فِي عَوْنِ الْعَبْدِ مَا كَانَ الْعَبْدُ فِي عَوْنِ أَخِيهِ

"Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah is engaged in helping the worshipper as long as the worshipper is engaged in helping his brother." 

(Sunan At-Tirmizi)

Give what you can for Allah’s sake. In that, you will find barakah, which is not just the good things you get in life but also the absence of unpleasant experiences that you and your family enjoy.

5 work ethics (amanah, itqan, sabr, ridha and tawakkal)

As human beings, we can never be perfect and are always a work in progress. It is okay if we are continuously improving ourselves to be better in life, generally, and at work specifically. 

Here are five work ethics we can instil in ourselves to improve our day-to-day work and life commitments.

1. Honesty (amanah)

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, honesty, amanah, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage

Rasulullah s.a.w. was also known as al-ameen, the trustworthy. 

Guess how many times he is described as being trustworthy in the Quran?

إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ

“Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.”

Answer: The Quran describes the Prophet s.a.w. as al-ameen six times! You will find this in Surah Ash-Shu’ara’ verse 107, 125, 143, 162, 178 and Surah Ad-Dukhan verse 18! The value of amanah must be fundamental to be highlighted these many times in the Quran (not to mention many other Quranic verses highlighting the virtue of amanah)!

Similarly, trustworthiness and honesty (amanah) are crucial at work. Can your boss trust you to keep confidential information, and complete your work on time and in the best manner possible? Can your colleagues count on you to come on time or do your part in that team project? These questions are for us to ponder and reflect on together.

2. Proficiency (itqan)

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, proficiency, itqan, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage

Ideally, everyone at work should serve to the best of their potential abilities and meticulously execute their task well. But if you feel a gap in performing at your best, consider upskilling, learning, and upgrading yourselves. #lifelonglearning

In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. informed us how Allah s.w.t. loves those who perform their responsibilities properly.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُحِبُّ إِذَا عَمِلَ أَحَدُكُمْ عَمَلًا أَنْ يُتْقِنَهُ

“Allah loves to see his servant who does a job with itqan (meticulously).” 

(Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsat lit-Tabrani)

3. Patience (sabr)

أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet made evident those who strive hard from among you (in His cause) and those who are patient?” 

(Surah Ali-’Imran, 3:142)

Our life journey, including our work, should not be too easy. Otherwise, we may have already fallen into a deep comfort zone unknowingly. The right amount of challenges and stress helps you grow into a better individual. But this growth requires patience, one of the measuring sticks to enter His Paradise. 

Read: MuslimSg | 3 Good Deeds With Unlimited Rewards

Fortunately for us as Muslims, everything that happens is actually good for us. That is if you have patience and gratitude. The Prophet s.a.w. mentioned:

عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ

“Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows patience (and endure), there is a good for him in it (too).” 

(Sahih Muslim)

4. Acceptance (ridha)

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ. ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً

“Allah will say to the righteous, “O tranquil soul! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing (to Him)” 

(Surat Al-Fajr, 89:27-28)

Many of us are longing for a peaceful heart. This can be achieved with ridha, which means to accept what has been decreed for you. Whatever the outcomes are at work, after exhausting all your finest efforts, trust and accept that it is the best for you. Even when the situation is not in our favour, there is usually wisdom that we have yet to discover. I like what motivational speakers generally highlight: “There is no failure, only failure to learn.”

5. Putting reliance in its rightful place (tawakkal)

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, tawakkal, reliance with Allah, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage

فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

“And when you have decided (after exhausting all your efforts), then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).” 

(Surah Ali-’Imrān, 3:159)

Watch the ADIL Knowledge Retreat recorded session: The Art of Tawakkal

Work-life balance

Let’s not think of work-life balance as an equally 50% fair and square juggling between work and life. Instead, think of work-life balance as a harmony that suits your lifestyle as a Muslim and what you personally feel is a balance for you and your family. It is not just about the number of hours; it is also about your passion, motivation, work culture, life stages, family needs and many other factors.

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, work-life balance, family, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage, work life balance

Here is research from Harvard Business Review that you may find useful: Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement

Balance also means taking care of yourself holistically, including mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Like how work can be an important part of our life, rest, family time, entertainment, recreation, learning and ‘ibadah, just to name a few, are just as important. 

It is, in fact, a praiseworthy trait in Islam to look after yourself and fulfil your rights, even when it pertains to acts of worship. The Prophet s.a.w. said in a hadith:

فَإِنَّ لِأَهْلِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِضَيْفِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِنَفْسِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا فَصُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ وَصَلِّ وَنَمْ

“Verily, your family has rights over you, and your guest has rights over you. And truly, your own self has rights over you - so fast and break your fast, pray and sleep.”

(Sunan Abi Daud)

So work should neither be taken for granted nor should it push you to hustle until you burn out. Finding the right balance is important, and it requires us to assess our respective circumstances. 

To dive into this topic further in my other related article - Read: MuslimSG | Top health and fitness tips from Prophet Muhammad.

Excellence: Ihsan as the overarching virtue – to seek a quality life requires us to live a life with excellence

Rasulullah s.a.w. was asked by the angel Gabriel (Jibreel) a.s. on what is ihsan? He responded:

أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ

“To worship Allah as if you see Him, for even though you do not see Him, He sees you.” 

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Ultimately, we perform our duties with excellence (ihsan) for His pleasure, knowing that Allah s.w.t. is All-Knowing and All-Seeing. Other than worshipping Allah s.w.t. with ihsan, we must also realise that He also placed us here to care for all His creations in this world, including all humankind, creatures, and the environment.

إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً

"Surely I am making in the earth a successor." 

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:30)

To play this role efficiently with excellence requires us to perform well. This includes the need to discover and heal any trauma from our childhood upbringing or past experiences, discover our unique talent and be the best at it. In doing so, we can be helpful to as many souls as possible in our own ways during this lifetime and, potentially, for generations to come. 

Discovering the best version of yourself in your career can mean doing the most passionate work you love, which energises you, making you feel lost in time, focusing on your craft and mastery, that you do not mind spending hours of your life doing it every day. I feel that is the path worth discovering to best serve everyone in this world today.

Work, ethics, Islam, balance, teamwork, quiet quitting, hustle culture, acting your wage, hijab

Not yet sure? We can start with a life or career coach for assistance. Try introspecting and looking within yourself to understand your personal strengths and passion. Talk to your closest family members or friends who know you well for insights. List, explore and continue to experiment. Keep asking, what are you here for? What does your best version look like? 

May Allah s.w.t. provide you with a gift to enjoy your work and benefit everyone around you, especially our community, Singapore, and hopefully the whole world as well, Ameen.

Connect with me on LinkedIn & Instagram, and Allah knows best.

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