Seeking Guidance on the Path of Islamic Work
By Wael Abdelgawad
All praise is due to Allah, and may Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad (saws). The best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (saws), and the worst of affaris are the innovations in religion.
Islam is an awesome blessing and I would be lost without it. Allah has been merciful to me - every time I have erred or wandered, Allah has rescued me. I don't know why Allah is so kind to me, but I hope it's because I have a mission to accomplish, and one day I will know what that mission is. Of course we're all here to worship Allah, but that is a very broad concept, encompassing every halal aspect of our lives. When I speak of a mission, I am referring more specifically to Islamic work, including Islamic education, da'wah, the establishment of Islamic institutions, jihad and the very salvation of humanity. To be as effective as possible in Islamic work, a Muslim has to work within a jama'ah. But then the question arises, which jama'ah? And what is my particular calling within the vast scope of Islamic work?
I know that many Muslims wrestle with this question. Among my close friends is a young mother yearning to make a difference in the world but not sure how; a Scandinavian sister discovering herself all over again; a brother dedicated to da'wah but encountering obstacles at every turn; and a college student caught between compassion and self-doubt.
We each need to ask Allah to guide us in fulfilling our destinies. The answers we need won't come from anyone but Allah, as He says in Surat Al-Layl:
"Verily We take upon Ourselves
A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that even the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) himself, when he stood for his night prayers, would commence his prayer with these words:
"O Allah, Lord of Jibreel, and Mikhaa'il, and Israafil; Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who knows the unseen and the seen; You decide among Your servants concerning their differences. Guide me with Your permission in the divergent views (which the people) hold about Truth, for it is You Who guides whom You will to the Straight Path."
Once we've asked for guidance, we just have to put our noses to the grindstone and do the work, because that's when Allah's guidance comes:
"And those who strive in Our cause, We will certainly guide them to Our Paths (subulanaa): For surely Allah is with those who do right." (Surat Al-Ankabut, the Spider)
Notice that in this verse Allah does not say sabeelana, which would be singular, "Our path", but subulanaa, which is plural, meaning "Our paths". Each of us is unique as a fingerprint, with our own gifts and talents, all in the service of Allah's glory. The methodology which we strive to follow - that of the Qur'an, the Messenger (pbuh), the sahaabah, and those who followed them in righteousness - is the same, but each of us has our own particular strengths and our own stride. We're not machines, we're people. We're all different, and we all have different roles to play.
Once we have been blessed with the knowledge of our particular path, and we know in our hearts what our calling is, what our passion is, we must ask for the courage to live up to that call. To have our prayers answered can be frightening, because the manner of their fulfillment is rarely what we expect. It takes constant bravery to accept the challenge of living our dreams and following our guidance. But to do anything else is to accept a life of mere subsistence, working for our paychecks, watching TV, eating and drinking and sleeping, paying our bills and just surviving, and all the time feeling like we're betraying our purposes in life. Life in America can trap us in a pair of big steel jaws, and the teeth of those jaws are debt, bills, work, credit cards, mortgage, rent, anxiety, stress until we can think of nothing else, and when we do think of the suffering in the world, the struggle of the Muslim Ummah, and the need to dedicate ourselves to a higher purpose, we push that thought out of our heads because it just doesn't seem like there's anything we can do.
If we turn to Allah and ask Him for help and guidance, and begin the process of committing to Islamic work, even on a small scale, Allah will aid us and steer us where we need to go. May Allah make it so.