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Seek your Sustenance

The Holy Prophet advised his Nation to work for a living, though our stay in this world be only temporary. He advises us to seek out our sustenance, not to wait for it to find us. It is best for us to work for our livelihood, to engage ourselves in any type of work that does not transgress the Law, as the most tasteful of food is that earned with one’s own hands. For man to seek his sustenance within the bounds of the Divine Law is most pleasing to our Lord, and is also conducive to good mental and physical health. So whoever is able-bodied must work. Don’t argue that, since the sustenance of every creature is already destined for him you need neither pursue it nor avoid it – these are the excuses of lazy people – and Allah does not favor laziness. As long as you are in this world there must be some work that you can do with your hands.

King Solomon, who was both a Prophet and a Divinely Ordained Monarch was granted by his Lord opulence far beyond the imagination of even the richest man of our time, for Allah Almighty granted him knowledge of the exact location of all the treasures in the Earth, and also empowered him over armies of Jinn who not only guarded those treasures but would bring up any of them upon command. Solomon was also granted the power to discourse with the animals, and they too were his servants.

Even such a magnificent emperor as Solomon never in his life ate food except the proceeds from the sale of baskets he himself wove. Can we find such scrupulousness anywhere? King Solomon set an example for all of his subjects, and people of all time by not using the wealth of the Nation for his personal needs. But nowadays, on the contrary, the government is expected to supply everyone’s needs, so that many people, other than those who are truly handicapped or in need, unashamedly take government handouts and demand that they be increased. Don’t be unemployed! Perhaps you can cheat the government, but you can’t deceive Allah; and He Almighty punishes such people in this life by making that money a cause of discontent for them. No “barakah” comes from unearned money, and the result of such a life will be both physical and mental illness. Therefore, if you value your health and your sanity, eat from the work of your hands!

Sultan Abdul Hamid, the last Khalifa of the Ottoman Empire was a great personality of his time. By virtue of his great stamina and charisma he was able to not only hold together the crumbling empire, but to actually effect a kind of revival of spirit throughout the vast realm. He was the last ruler to be mentioned in sermons all across the Muslim World, and he was the last keeper of the holy relics of the Prophet which are in Istanbul.

In the midst of all the affairs of his empire that needed his attending to, he found time to engage in a craft and eat from the proceeds of that work. Not only this, but he never ascended his throne to attend to court until he had recited his Naqshbandi exercises and read a portion of the Qur’an and also of the prayer book Dalail-ul-Khairat, as well as praying the two sets of supererogatory prayers of the early morning. It is enough of a testimony to his strength to mention that he sat on the throne for thirty – three years in a time when most kings could not manage to retain their power for even ten years because of the many intrigues and the growing chaos of the times. The magnitude of his majesty was such that Kaiser Wilhelm II once said:

“I have met many monarchs and rulers in my life and have found them all to be my inferiors, or at best my equals, but when I entered the presence of Abdul Hamid I began to tremble.”

The Holy Prophet once said:

“You must work for your honest provision as if you are going to remain in this world forever, and for the afterlife as if you will die tomorrow”.

Now why would the Prophet, whose mission it was to call to eternal life suggest that we work as if we will always be in this world? Because when hope for the life of the world is abandoned man will die. Hope for the future of this world and for our position in it is necessary for our being able to devote ourselves to our duties in this life. Besides this, the Holy Prophet declared that man’s good deeds live on after him in this world, through the benefit that future generations derive from them.

And with regard to the afterlife, the Holy Prophet was reminding us that we will cross that barrier, and it could be tomorrow, or even today: So, should we not be prepared? In order to put the matter in perspective, the Holy Prophet also said:

“Oh people you must consider how long you may remain in this world and work for it in accordance with the length of your stay; and you must consider as well how long you will be in the life of the hereafter and strive for it accordingly”.

This saying may seem to contradict the previous one, for if you balance the time you will spend in this world against the time you will be in the hereafter, it will be nothing. Each of our Prophet’s sayings is perfect; therefore, for those who would abandon their worldly duties, he has urged them to oppose this tendency by thinking of this world as eternal, so that they may give value to their duties. And for those who would pursue this world exclusively, the second measure: the time spent here against the time there, so that they may seek what is in fact eternal.

Sayyidina Ali related from the wisdom he gained from the Prophet, that exaggeration on the one hand, and the total abandonment, on the other, of any aspect of life is a sign of ignorance. Therefore, in this matter of balance between different aspects of effort we have been urged to seek equilibrium. And our Naqshbandi predecessors recommend the following division of our day: eight hours for prayer and devotions and eight hours for seeking our sustenance, (and time devoted to our families may be considered as devotion, as Allah has ordered us to attend to them). Following such guidelines, even people with heavy responsibilities may find time for both work and prayer, like King Solomon and Sultan Abdul Hamid.

Question: “What shall I do in my work situation where I am surrounded by people who are really antagonistic, and are always trying to drag me down to their level? Shall I be very short with them, reject their familiarity and just go about my business?”

The Shaykh answered:

There is no wisdom in pointing out people’s faults to them directly, nor in behaving in such a way that your disapproval becomes very obvious. All you may do is to make some very generalized statements at an appropriate time without coming too close to directly attacking their actions or ideas, for there is nothing that the ego hates more than being blamed or accused.

All souls have wings, but the wings of sinners are broken, and they cannot fly until their wings heal, and that takes time. Meanwhile, they do not seek nests in high places-on roofs, mountains or trees – but crawl into the basement. Because they are imprisoned by their egos they remain in that dark surrounding, never seeing the light of day, only knowing artificial light.

They may in time emerge from that dark basement, but if you make them angry with you they will become even more stubborn. Allah Almighty warned the Holy Prophet of the consequences of such an attitude when He said:

“And if you were short-tempered, severe and hard-hearted they would flee from you”.

This verse indicates that only through exemplary tolerance and kindness can any impression be made on ill-mannered and badly educated people.

It is not Allah Almighty’s way to punish people, not even tyrants, until a Divine Messenger has been sent to them, to offer them a better way than the way of tyranny on which they tread. The door to repentance and just dealing is open to everyone, and it was the duty of the Prophets and their Inheritors to beckon all towards that door; all the more so the tyrants, as their bad actions may adversely affect millions of people or the whole world!

The very word “Pharaoh” has become synonymous with “tyrant”. Our Lord teaches us the proper way of trying to turn a tyrant away from his tyranny, when He ordered Moses and Aaron, peace be upon them, to:

“Go unto Pharaoh and speak to him smoothly and politely, that perhaps he may be guided”.

Only later, when Pharaoh’s intransigence became apparent, Moses was ordered to threaten him with divine wrath and to bring down divine retribution upon Pharaoh’s people.

According to this Divine Wisdom, it is wrong for a believer to confront anyone with bad manners and derision. We have not been ordered to be quarrelsome and scowling, cursing-and-swearing people.

Whenever our Grandshaykh would receive government officials, secret police or people who had come to his assembly to try and find fault, in order to oppose him, he, of course, could easily read their secret intentions. He always treated such people with especial kindness, showing them extraordinary respect and deference. The result was that they would feel ashamed of their previous insincere intentions and go away with a good feeling about Grandshaykh, resolving to treat him respectfully from then on. Our Grandshaykh ‘s wife used to warn us: “If you see Grandshaykh making a great fuss over a visitor, beware of that person!”