This article has been reposted from productivemuslim.com
Are you volunteering for an Islamic cause and find yourself struggling to maintain sincerity and balance? Or, have you always wanted to do something for the sake of Allah (S.W.T) but feel you aren’t good enough or free enough?
This series on working for Allah’s sake aims to provide ethical and practical guidelines and tips to maximize your effectiveness and productivity when you volunteer to serve Allah (S.W.T) and Islam.
In this first part of the series, we’ll discuss why and what it means to work for the sake of Allah (S.W.T) and how to fulfill some of the basic prerequisites of being an effective volunteer.
“I really want to do something for the sake of Allah!” How often have you said this to yourself; or heard someone else say it?
Well, to begin with, why work for Allah’s sake if we’re already worshipping Him otherwise?
Allah (S.W.T) has enabled and created each one of us uniquely. Our sole purpose in this life is to gain His pleasure and use all the means He has blessed us with to do so. Allah has chosen Muslims to be role models for the whole of humanity, and our choice lies in what type of role model we want to be, not whether we want to be one!
This powerful verse of the Qur’an sums up the role and position Allah (S.W.T) expects every Muslim to live up to:
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 110]
The Prophet (S.A.W) also said:
“Convey from me, even if it be an Ayah (verse)…” [At-Tirmidhi]
Ask yourself: For this beautiful gift of Islam that Allah (S.W.T) gave me, what do I have to hand over to Allah (S.W.T) on that day when I see Him?
*A two minute pause while you reflect on this question*
Allah (S.W.T) blessed us all with Islam. He also blessed us all with a lot of free time. If you’re really honest with yourself and analyze how you spend your time everyday and how you could’ve spent it better, you’ll be amazed to find out how much free time you actually have everyday and how much of it you’ve been wasting!
So think about taking one more step in your life. A single little extra step, farther than a normal student or office worker, to be an extraordinary slave of Allah (S.W.T).
Working for Allah’s sake means being involved in any event, cause, activity or project that is initiated with the sole purpose of gaining Allah’s (S.W.T) pleasure. The cause could be catering to Muslims (like spreading knowledge) as well as non-Muslims (inviting them to Islam) or serving mankind in general (helping the needy of the community, etc). It could be online or onsite, full-time or part-time.
When you decide to work for Allah’s sake, it is crucial to know what you’re going to do, and why you’re doing it. Ask yourself why every moment.
It’s completely alright if your answer is ‘for the sake of Allah (S.W.T) ’. That is (and should be) the basic reason for anything we do in life: to gain His pleasure. Then think of the service you want to provide and how you can contribute to facilitating this service: through your talents, knowledge, skills, resources, ideas and/or abilities.
Now here are some guidelines before you embark on this journey of working for the sake of Allah (S.W.T):
1. Purify your intentions
We all know the famous hadith where the Prophet (S.A.W) said:
“The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention…” [Sahih Bukhari]
You can either aim to tire yourself with work all day and achieve amazing results, and in some cases get praised by colleagues and go home to sleep satisfactorily for repeating this another day; or you could aim to work with all that you can give, keeping in mind your scales of good deeds at all times, hence performing in the best of ways, seeking only Allah’s pleasure and going back home to seek His acceptance. You win either way, except that the latter scenario earns you eternal success and a deep sense of contentment and inner peace.
Remember: The real purpose is to gain the pleasure of Allah (S.W.T). Everything else is a delusion!
Beware of Riyaa’
Riyaa’ (showing off ) is a dangerous thing. We don’t know when we fall into it and how we fall into it. From that brother or sister who you know will watch you work in tomorrow’s Islamic event, to your Facebook profile screaming out all your amazing projects, the temptation to ‘show it off humbly’ is everywhere! It is crucial to be honest to yourself. Remember how Allah (S.W.T) throws the martyr, the scholar and the wealthy generous man into hellfire because of their insincere intentions? [Riyadhus Saliheen] Imagine! People who were so honored and admired in the world for their religiosity being in the deepest pits of hellfire simply because of their intentions!
Tip: Sincerity is the key. It’s okay if what you do is shown to the community around you. Just make sure you do more good deeds in private, and keep some beautiful secrets between you and your Lord in order to tip the balance in your favor! Start with having a list consisting of doing a deed in private for every publicly associated task. It could be as simple as an added voluntary prayer to the day, or reading an additional page from the Qur’an etc. Start simple, remain consistent.
Aim to Be A Silent Soldier
Yes, I call them silent soldiers. These are the people behind the scenes, behind the stage, behind those curtains, in the absence of whom, the event/project/program simply wouldn’t have happened the way it did. No one talks about them expect perhaps a few. They talk less and work more. They fear riyaa’ (showing off) and hypocrisy. They seek the pleasure of Allah (S.W.T) and seek sincerity to gain His pleasure. They work with such perfection and excellence, it marvels you. Aim to be one of them!
Tip: Make it a habit to keep reminding yourself of this beautiful dua Allah (S.W.T) teaches us in the Qur’an:
‘Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds.’ [Qur’an: Chapter 6, Verse 162]
Doing this will help you remain a hundred percent focused on your work, hence achieving excellent results, without any distractions. Nothing will stop you from achieving your goals, in sha Allah.
2. Discover Your Potential
Once you’ve got your intentions right (even though this will be a constant struggle), begin to explore and discover your potential.
When you set out to fulfill your purpose in life, even the sky won’t be the limit! Yes, there are innumerable ways to work for Allah’s sake, innumerable doors of opportunities to reach out to the world with your talents, skills and abilities. Find out what you are made up of. It could need refining, but you can only do that once you start with whatever you are. You could be an amazing writer who stirs the hearts of people, connecting them to Allah (S.W.T). You could be a talented speaker who conveys knowledge powerfully. You could paint, doodle, manage events, organize charity bazaars, plan food distribution for the needy and what not!
The key is to discover your potential fearlessly, and unravel the hidden treasures within you. And I guarantee you, each one of us has this ‘something special’ about us. Each one of us is created specially with some means to serve Allah (S.W.T).
Don’t belittle your ability to do even a little. And never underestimate the value of the smallest possible act: be it printing halaqa notes for the class, or giving away a meal you’ve prepared in charity. Ever thought that 10 dollars from the hands of a student to a poor family may weigh more than 100 dollars from the hands of a well-to-do person?
Tip: Make it a point to beg Allah (S.W.T) consistently and sincerely to guide you to your maximum potential to serve His cause. Ask Him to show you what your goals and visions in life should be, and to guide you to and bless you with the resources to fulfill them.
3. Learn to Manage Your Tasks
Once you’ve planned to volunteer for a cause in addition to your normal day-to-day routine, start with organizing your life! A good productive Muslim is one who is clear of his priorities and makes the best of the time given to him. Manage your priorities since time cannot be managed.
Starting from now, build a productive Muslim Lifestyle. Make a list consisting of 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) to accomplish the following day. Analyze what’s urgent and what’s important and aim to finish that before you do other activities. You can manage your time better by using this weekly and daily taskinator. Not only will this help you be organized but will also help you have better focus and build up your excitement to work for the sake of Allah (S.W.T).
Learn To Say ‘No’
Say ‘No’ to anything that comes in your way of achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself. Make sure your priorities are settled before you join your friends outside for dinner or accept another volunteering task. Most people suffer from the inability to say ‘No’ (I’m guilty of this too!). Do not take on more tasks than you can handle. Every responsibility you take up is a trust that you must fulfill, so take up only as much as you can fulfill with excellence. Being a jack of all trades and master of none is unsatisfying and makes you ineffective.
Tip: Make the 5 prayers your top priority, always. Taking breaks to perform the five prayers on time will add a lot of blessing (barakah) to your volunteering work as well as your day.
4. Charge Yourself First!
Allah (S.W.T) says:
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…” [Qur’an: Chapter 66, Verse 6]
I love this verse because I find immense wisdom in Allah (S.W.T) asking us to save ourselves first, before we save our families and community.
Clarifying your goals requires clarifying your intentions to achieve that goal. The only way to do that is to cleanse the heart and connect it to Allah (S.W.T) through dua, consistent prayers and the night prayer. If you cannot do that, then make tawbah (repentance) repeatedly and ask Allah (S.W.T) to wake you up for the night prayer (tahajjud).
Personal piety is your charger. If you are not ready to spend time with Allah (S.W.T) alone, then you are not ready to work for His cause.
Allah (S.W.T) says:
“He has succeeded who purifies it (his soul).” [Qur’an: Chapter 91, Verse 9]
5. Aim To Learn
Before you sign up for a volunteering position, ask yourself: ‘what am I going to learn from this?’ Through every volunteering opportunity, you will find yourself learning a lot. Learn new skills and hone your current ones, gain knowledge from the feet of scholars or through online courses; but keep learning and enriching yourself while you plan to give to others.
6. Fight that Enemy
Lastly, shaytan has made a promise to Allah (S.W.T) that he will make it difficult for us to worship Him in this world. Our challenge is to battle him every minute of every day.
No matter how religious you think you are, shaytan catches you, either through making you apprehensive and hopeless by saying ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I’m not a good enough Muslim to do anything for Islam’ or even worse, through making you over confident and self-righteous by saying ‘I am only talking to this brother/sister for the sake of da’wah. It’s okay if we talk or meet (the opposite gender)’ or ‘I know better than them!’ and so on and so forth. The traps of shaytan are indeed delusional. Keep seeking refuge from him and don’t stop fighting him!
Tip: Shaytan traps you in one of two ways: through doubts or desires. Keep a continuous check on your obligatory deeds and more importantly, your self’s desires. Stay in the company of those who you know will stop you when they find you straying and who will motivate you and give you hope when you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. Seek continuous help from Allah (S.W.T) when you find it hard to battle the shaytan. Again, dua’ and perseverance is the key.
Check Off These Items Before You Begin
- Seek Allah’s (S.W.T) help in figuring out your purpose
- Keep renewing your intentions by reminding yourself why you want to volunteer
- Charge yourself with prayer and tahajjud
- Learn to manage your priorities before you begin volunteering
- Ensure you’re going to keep learning while you work
- Aim high and battle that devil!
And remember, it’s never about bringing change to the 6 billion people around you. It’s about whether you want to help make a positive change or not. The effort is in your hand, the result is with Allah (S.W.T). And the only goal is to gain Allah’s pleasure alone.
Share your thoughts on how you can effectively begin working for Allah’s sake and stay sincere and committed while you’re at it!
Photo by Belal Khan via Flickr CC