Posted by: Dawud Israel | February 14, 2008

Life of an Islamic Worker

Disclaimer: In discussing this–it has nothing to do with violence or jihad but non-violent activism and the betterment of the Muslim world.

This post is going to be somewhat of an autobiography but primarily meant to show a glimpse of the Islamic Worker. One of the comforts of this blog is that very few who read it actually know me in person so it is for the most part a secret which means I can be honest. The trap that most activists (especially non-Muslims) is they go on an “ego-trip” and this places the illusion before them that they actually have accomplished something, when they have accomplished little and this is something I try my best to avoid.

The Trials

This brother or sister typically hails from the Indian subcontinent or Africa. It typically starts with an event or a series of events that completely change your outlook on life. Questions that really hit the spot: What am I truly committed to? What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to live for Allah or someone else? If I don’t do something about it, who will?

And then slowly things start to happen. Halaqas (Islamic study circles), lectures, books and individuals push you in the direction of the religion. You see the world of Islamic scholarship and stare up with eyes wide with awe. And you want to go down that path now. But as you mature you realize that it doesn’t fit in with your world, your situation and the problems you want to solve. So you opt out but continue studying the deen where and when you can.

In the meantime, your activity does not go without trials. Parents sneakily tower over your shoulder watching what websites you visit, who your friends are, how much time you spend at the mosque. You may look around in your community and see brothers and sisters with boyfriends and girlfriends and they never get lectured, but for some reason your attending the masjid halaqas is an issue. But your parents do have a cause for concern. During this period your studies have faltered. Once a 90’s student now your marks drop to a 70-80. As the trend continues you will begin to struggle to merely pass. They begin to look at you with concern asking, “Is everything ok?” as if you may have a mental disorder. Don’t let it get to you and don’t believe it, when this happened to me I learned this ayah, as Rasulullah SAAWS had to face the same: “Wa ma saahibukum bi majnun–And your companion is not a madman.” (81:22) frustration and discomfort of your parents means that they will go off and talk and talk in attempted lectures which are more or less meant to pacify their own discomforts but which make you more and more confused. If your wise, you would consider moving out of the house.

But your Islamic work is still a light-load, but you want more and more. As time goes on, you find that your non-Muslim friends and friends of the opposite gender begin to disappear and you find yourself surrounded by practicing Muslims as friends, who notoriously are always few and often change. This can be emotionally difficult at times as you become less a person and become more an ideal or Islamic concept come to life. But this is simply how it is and the world of the Muslim is a world of a stranger and you don’t notice it much since you are constantly busy. Books become your companion and your mind becomes a chemist of ideas. Your personality at this point will have changed so that you find yourself hiding your (Islam-oriented) true personality with most of the people you socialize with but showing a fake personality that isn’t quite yours anymore with them. A stranger’s face with those who are close and a friends face to those who are strange to you. But at some point things break through. Friends and family catch a glimpse and see something different from what they once knew. Something strange that makes them uncomfortable no matter how pure it may really be. They will repulse back, “I don’t know you anymore.” Why then is the effect of the good deed no different than the sin ?

You, (like me) will hide the fact you engage in Islamic work in order to keep yourself from affecting your pride and arrogance. This secretive sentiment makes you an unusual character for your family and friends to deal with, oftentimes you find yourself equivocating or lying outright for your own sake. You will have learned how to get around things in a fashion little different from a juvenile delinquent. At this point your secrecy will be with reason and logic. You know that were to you to reveal one secret, it would mean revealing 10 more. You know that if you were to tell people that you have dealt with the police, it would mean you would have to explain it was regarding a dispute in the mosque. You know that if you were to tell people that you had encountered prostitutes, you would also have to explain that it was during the course of street dawah (may Allah guide them). Silence is safer but difficult to maintain at times.

The side of Islamic work is somewhat brutal being like a businessman. You are in competition with invisible people who are working just as hard as you to gain Allah’s reward. Who knows if someone beats you to this idea and takes your reward? You are at war for Allah’s pleasure, but because you want not just the reward but the benefits of success you will try and work in teams a compromise you cannot help.

The Rewards

As unusual and as difficult as it may sound to maintain things are different for you than a typical Muslim…

As the load of Islamic work increases you will find it become the center of your life. The projects you undertake will grow large and high. At any given point you will be working on in some way or form, either actively or passively or merely in a thinking capacity 4-8 projects. The non-Muslim has to choose the lesser of two evils and you find yourself trying to choose the greater of two goods, a choice that any person would relish in having to make.

People often question what they want to do with their life and what they want to become. You don’t have this question in your mind, because you are doing what you want to do with your life. You wish you could remain this way forever.

The sacrifices are small and so passing you forget them quick. And the work you do or the good deeds you commit will be so common to you, you will not even notice it as it passes you by nor will you have anytime to extract pride from your work. But the tests and trials Allah sends mount one after another. But all it requires to handle them is patience, which essentially means, doing nothing but whatever it was you were doing or working on another project. So there is a great deal of comfort in that.

No doubt if you are smart you will take your worship much more seriously recognizing it as what it truly is. You will do the fardh but much more than that fasting and praying. Not out of pressure but out of sheer desire. Tahajjud (night prayers) and meditating at night will be a hobby for you, 1 hour being a minimum and 3 to 4 hours almost routine. Your love of Allah will grow and your Ibadaah (worship) will become Love Incarnate. Even in your dreams you will find yourself praying, either at home or in distant mosques you have never seen. In Paradise, the breath of the believers will be dhikr of Allah–why would you wait for that so you take upon the behavior of the believer in Paradise and breath tasbih, tahmid and tahlil (say Subhana Allah, Alhamdulillah, La illaha illalla) in this worldly life.

The duaas and dhikr will not be forgotten by Allah and He will make things easier for you. Your opinion of Allah will grow greater and greater until you find you don’t need to make duaa to Allah asking for this or that, but will make the duaa on behalf of others. He will make his blessings apparent even in the most unusual ways. When you are about to sin you will hear your own words of dhikr as if those prayers are living beings inside you and are reacting to you trying to hurt them. You will be grateful for the embarrassments and criticism you receive from others regarding the faults of your words and actions–is this not a rope to Heaven that has come to dangle before your eyes?

Fear not because by now your parents will no longer be as alien to Islam. Alhamdulillah, my duaas had been answered and mine are at least more closer to Allah now.

In short, you try to become Muhammad SAAWS incarnate and not surprisingly you will fail. But even in trying there is an immense amount of pleasure. What could be more glorious than being a servant to the Most High? From the perspective of Shaytaan, what could be more sinister than showing kindness to the evil and bring them to the Straight Path? Who is more dangerous–the representative of Truth which will always prevail or the representative of Falsehood which will always fail?

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


  1. Indeed, the struggle of a Muslim is a most beautiful struggle.

    “You don’t have this question in your mind, because you are doing what you want to do with your life” — And this reminds me of the following hadith:

    On the authority of al-Baraa ibn ‘Aazib (radhi-yallaahu ‘anhu) who said: While we were with the Messenger of Allaah (saw), he suddenly looked towards a group (of people) and said:
    ((For what reason have they gathered here?))

    It was said: “In order to dig a grave.”

    So the Messenger of Allaah (saw) became alarmed and startled and he quickly went ahead of his Companions until he reached the grave, then he knelt upon it, and I turned my face towards him (saw), in order to see what he was doing. He (saw) cried until the earth became wet with his tears, then he turned to us and said:

    ((O my brothers! Prepare for a day like this)).

    For the believer, the struggle of this life is well worth the effort. The harder the struggle, the better chance at a most beautiful reward. When they are asked about misfortune, they shed LIGHT on it and reply that there is no misfortune for the believer, for every test is a gift from their Lord in disguise. Every prayer of theirs is answered, if not in this life then more definitely in the next. These believers hold fast to the rope of this deen, whose end are tightly fastened to the Qur’an and the sunnah of our beloved Rasul of Allah (saw).

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