Reflections on Islamization

Reflections on Islamization

Islam seems to mean something very different to people today compared to a thousand years ago. Over the past two centuries, Islam in the minds of many Muslims has become nothing more than a cultural religion; a series of do’s and do not’s. The religion for these people is nothing more than their sect and its interpretation; a strict unforgiving set of rules and beliefs, any deviation from which is pure evil and blasphemy.

This sectarian attitude has spilled over into every other facet of our lives, and in an attempt to Islamize life, too often we over-complicate it. The desire for everything we deal with to be Islamic has caused us to think too narrowly and in doing so, to make narrow that which Allah has left unrestricted and open to diversity. The result of all of this is a strict black-and-white worldview in which everything is categorized as Islamic on unIslamic.

Muslims these days fight with each other over whose organization, product, or website is more Islamic than the other. Each trying to prove the other is somehow deviant, misguided, or evil. Even though, in many of these cases, both sides are doing things that are simply permissible. The need to label everything as Islamic, and for everything that is labeled Islamic to be perfect, has caused a lot of animosity and division on issues that are not really important at all.

This seems to be a new phenomenon, a product of our times. We are obsessed with labels of Halal and Islamic, even when they are not needed. Do those socks really need a Halal label? Does that holiday to Spain really need to be packaged as an Islamic Holiday? These are just some questions we need to ask ourselves before we stick a label before something. Is that label even necessary to being with?

Early Muslim Paradigms

Any study of Muslim History will reveal that this divide between Islamic and unIslamic is almost non-existent in the minds and lives of early Muslims. it is true that Muslims advanced Algebra, but they never tried to create an Islamic Algebra or an Islamic Math. Math was Math and Muslims just used it for religious reasons when necessary, eg: when calculating Zakah and Inheritance.

The early Muslims made tons of contributions to medicine and science, but they never looked at these as Islamic Medicine or Islamic Science. Medicine was a shared field between people of all religions and Muslims contributed to it because of Islam’s overall emphasis on health and hygiene. They did not see the need to categorize it as Islamic or the necessity to justify it by linking it to specific verses of the Quran. It was simply permissible and a recommend field that many Muslims pursued.

The early Muslim empire did not have a division between school and Islamic School. There was simply the Madrassa, a place where people learned Math, Language, Science, Fiqh, Hadith, and other subjects without needing to label any subject as Islamic. Their worldview was a simpler one; Islam is our way of life and it allows us to pursue anything that is not explicitly prohibited or harmful to society. With this worldview, the Muslim world flourished and grew into a magnificent civilization.

They viewed the world more from the paradigm of “Everything is permissible until proven otherwise”. Because of this paradigm, they did not feel the need to Islamize everything they did. As long as it was permissible that was good enough. Not everything in life is going to be Islamic and religious, a lot of life is simple permissible and optional.

Do we need Islamization?

Why then today do we have Islamic Schools, Islamic Banking, Islamic Travel, and (yes, ironically) Islamic Self Help? Are these labels even necessary? Can’t we simply have good schools, banks and travel options that are permissible and exceptional without attaching the label Islamic to it?

I believe the label Islamic is really a product of our times, and many of these ideas develop from Muslims living as minorities in Non-Muslim lands. To differentiate ourselves from others, we needed a label. Our schools did not support the secular liberal beliefs of others, so they are essentially Islamic. Our banks are not supposed to engage in interest-based transaction, so we called them Islamic. (Although technically, they are just Halal, not Islamic.)

Likewise, when I started Islamic Self Help, it was with the same ideas in mind. Many ideas in the self help industry stem from materialism, capitalism and new age theories that contradict Islam. To promote a healthy version of self help literature that agrees with the teachings of Islam, I started Islamic Self Help.

However, this label isn’t always needed. This same work can be done without the label Islamic, and sometimes that may be better. In the case of banking, calling our banking system ethical or humane could help it become more mainstream, as it is simply ethical halal banking, and not Islamic in itself.

Even with our school system, too often we try so hard to be Islamic that we force our teachers to find ways to relate every single math, English, and science lesson to Islam, even when there isn’t any need or link. The result feels forced and unnatural. Why not just teach these subjects as they are, and only bring Islam into it when it is natural and necessary? Not every Math class needs to include a discussion on how al-Khawarizmi invented Algebra. Sometimes, you just need to teach Algebra!

Conclusion

Sticking the label Islamic in front of everything we do isn’t how early Muslims interacted with the world. It is a product of our time, living in Non-Muslim lands, and feeling a need to differentiate ourselves. Sometimes it has its value, sometimes we go overboard with this label. Not everything we do needs to be labeled as Islamic, as the majority of things on earth are permissible anyway.

As we grow as a community, we should consider using this label sparingly and only when necessary. Some things need to be called Islamic to differentiate from opposing ideas. A good example of this Islamic Psychology which has a very different paradigm from Secular Psychology. But not everything needs the label. We can have a good business, without the need for calling it “Islamic or Halal (Insert item here)”. We can contribute to the world without naming our organization “Islamic Muslim’s (Insert synonym for organization here”. And we can excel in both worlds without having to label everything we do as Islamic.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
Tips on finding amazing friends

Tips on finding amazing friends

This article is extracted from my bestselling book on self-confidence, Best of Creation, available as part of the self-help bundle here, or individually here.

The Friend Factor

When it comes to self-confidence, company is critical. In many ways, our confidence is either built or destroyed by those who influence us. This begins at a young age with parents, older siblings, then in the schooling years, teachers and classmates play a role too. As we enter our teenage years and eventually adulthood, it becomes our friends, work colleagues and spouses who have the biggest impact on our confidence.

If you reflect back at your life, you will remember many incidents that had a major impact on your confidence. Whether it was confidence killers like a teacher teasing you, bullies beating you up or a parent calling you a stupid child, or confidence boosters like a supportive mother, an encouraging teacher who believed in you or an older sibling who was always there for you. There is no doubt that the company we keep is critical to our self-confidence.

While we have no control over our past and what the people in our past did to our self-confidence, we do have control over the present. We may not control who our parents are, who our siblings are or which school we went to but as adults we do control who we associate with, who our close friends are and who we marry. Your choice in this area is critical to your self-esteem

Good company is something highly recommended in the Qur’an and Hadith. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned us, “Every person follows the religion of his closest friend, so be very careful whom you take as a close friend,”[1]

Perhaps one of the best Hadiths on the topic of friendship is the following one in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) uses a very powerful metaphor:

A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.[2]

Comparing a good friend to a perfume-seller gives us a glimpse of how powerful good company can be. From among the benefits of righteous company are the following:

  1. They inspire you to be a better Muslim
  2. They remind you when you slip or stray
  3. They support you in all the good you do
  4. They motivate you, encourage and treat you with respect
  5. They want to see you succeed
  6. They serve as role models for you in their actions and lifestyles

Just like a perfume shop, a good companion has very subtle effects on you, and can improve you in very subtle ways. In terms of self-confidence, good friends are motivating and have a positive attitude to life that keeps you going and makes you feel better about yourself.

If you have such friends, treasure them. If not, I recommend finding such friends as they will play a major role in boosting your self-confidence.

Just as good company is important for self-confidence, bad company is terrible for it. Just like a blacksmith will get your clothes dirty even with minimum interaction, a bad friend can poison your heart in subtle ways.

Bad company are usually the type of friends who put you down and call you names if you don’t fall in line and do what they want. They can be vulgar, abusive and harsh. They do not allow you to be yourself, and they laugh at your goals and dreams. They have low self-confidence and feel threatened by anyone who doesn’t follow them, so they work to bring you down to their level through bullying.

Pessimistic and cynical people are bad company for someone striving to increase self-confidence. They view the world negatively and can only see the flaws in your goals and plans. They will drag you down to their level of negativity. It is better to keep a friendly distance from such people, and not allow them to mess with your head. 

Bad company can suck the joy out of life, kill any confidence you have and hold you back from chasing your goals. Worst of all, bad company forces you to live a lie, you put on a mask and pretend to be someone you are not, just to fit in and avoid criticism. As a result many people live their entire lives pretending to be something they are not, and there is no happiness in that.

Islam teaches us that having good company is a must, and having bad company is prohibited as it is a primary means of going astray. This does not mean that we are harsh towards any people whom we perceive as bad company. Rather, Islam teaches us to be friendly and influential with everybody. However, we have to be very careful who we allow to influence us. These are our close friends, our inner circle and they need to be people of righteousness.

Dealing with Bad Company

For most people who want to make a positive change in their lives, there comes a time when you need to let go of bad company and it often isn’t a smooth transition. This applies to people trying to improve their self-confidence as well.

If you are hanging around friends who constantly put you down, pick on you and hold you back, you will not be able to excel or grow into a confident person. Letting them go is essential to success.

Bad company includes any friendship based on sin or held together by the bonds of sin, friendships based on ulterior motives (eg: someone is your friend to exploit your wealth) and friends that are determined to hold you back from success. You need to let them go and replace them with better company, but this isn’t easy.

The first thing you need to do is honestly introspect the quality of your friends. Make a list of qualities you need in good company and evaluate if your friends have these qualities. It is not surprising to find many people who realize that their friends have the opposite of the qualities they need.

Once you identify which side of the fence your friends are on, you next need to remove from your close circle those who you have identified as bad company. But cutting ties shouldn’t be the first step in this process. The first step is to advice and offer assistance to your friends to help them improve. Perhaps even give them a copy of a book like this. Do whatever you can in a friendly manner to help them improve. Remember that if you are influencing them positively then they are in good company but if they are influencing you negatively then you are in bad company, so stay influential.

If you find yourself unsuccessful in influencing them positively, do not despair. It is very common for such situations to occur and you are not alone. The next phase would be to maintain a friendly distance. A friendly distance works with family members who are bad company too, since it is not permissible to cut ties with family. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that Allah said about family ties, “I shall keep connection with him who maintains you and sever connection with him who severs you”[3]

A friendly distance means that you are friendly to the individual, and maintain a limited friendship like meeting up for short amounts of time in a good environment, but at the same time you maintain a distance by not letting that person take up too much of your time or influence you negatively.

For example, if you have an aunt who always criticizes you and makes you feel bad whenever you meet her, you cannot cut ties with her and you have been unable to influence her, so what do you do? You continue to treat her well while maintaining a distance, meeting her only when necessary and only interact as much as needed, not giving her any time to lash out at you with her tongue. In this way, you fulfil the obligation of family ties without allowing her to influence you negatively.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to maintain a friendly distance with everybody. There are some people who will become hostile and aggressive to you if you start practicing Islam or attempt at any positive change. Such people are obstacles that need to be overcome, and sometimes we have no choice but to cut such people out of our lives completely.

An example of this is Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He lived in a city full of disbelievers, and his own father was an idol maker. He tried his best to convince them to give up idol worship, but they grew aggressive and hostile. The hostility reached such a high level that they imprisoned him and threw him into a fire, but Allah miraculously saved him by causing the fire to become cool for him. Eventually, he left the city with his few followers and searched for a better environment.

The final bit of advice in dealing with bad company is to remember to be assertive. The very nature of bad company is one of bullying. A bully only has power over someone who lacks confidence and is unable to stand up for himself. Do not give them this kind of power over yourself. Be like the people of the cave and Prophet Ibrahim. Stand firm on the truth regardless of what they say.

Standing up to bullies and leaving bad company is in itself empowering. You feel a sense of self confidence that you are no longer judged by their standards and can finally be yourself without being fake. Use this feeling of confidence to help you take the next important step, finding good company.

How to Find Good Friends

“It is so hard to find good friends these days,” I heard this statement many times from young people desperate for good company. Yet, reality is that if so many young people are looking for good company, shouldn’t they find each other and befriend each other.

Many of us cling to some of our cultural standards in choosing friends. We claim to be looking for righteous friends, yet we still focus only on finding righteous friends who are from our tribes, race, country or friends who are good looking, wealthy or famous and we ignore the rest. You need to let go of this attitude if you want to make genuinely good friends.

The Quraysh of Makkah would criticize Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for being friends with the poor and weak like Bilal and Ammar Ibn Yassir. It was because of such criticism that some scholars say Allah revealed the following verse:

Remain constantly in the company of those who call on their Lord day and night, seeking His Face (Pleasure), and do not turn your eyes away from them to chase after the beauty of the worldly life. And do not obey the one whose heart has become heedless to My Remembrance, who followed his desires and whose deeds have been wasted.[4]

In order to find good company, we need to first change our standards of who is good company. Good company are the righteous people who motivate you to be the best you can be, and avoid negative speech and deeds. They can be found across all backgrounds and cultures, and will be loyal to you even in the most difficult of times.

It is important to look in the right places. You are not going to find righteous company hanging around street corners or at the local clubs. You will find them frequenting the local Masjids and Islamic Centres, attending Islamic events, and volunteering for humanitarian work.

If you want to make good friends, you need to step outside your comfort zone and volunteer to assist at the local Masjid, Centre, Islamic event or project. It is almost guaranteed that you will meet amazing people at such places and a new friendship will be sparked. It will be a genuine friendship based on pleasing Allah and helping each other succeed in life. Who knows, you might even meet your future spouse at such an event!

When looking for good company, you need to be picky. The kind of people you hang out with, invite to your home and allow to influence you must be beacons of light in your world. It is one area of life in which we have to be extra careful in our choices. This goes double for when choosing a spouse.

Cultivating Friendships

“Surround yourself with great people and value them. Tell them, show them and do it often. Valuing is pushing them to do their best.”[5]

It is not enough to make good friends, as friendship is something that needs to be cultivated. Any successful relationship is based on mutual respect and benefit. Nobody likes to feel used, neglected or like dead weight. It is important that we invest in our friendships and family relationships so that they can blossom into something special.

One way in which we can do that is to help them overcome their problems and achieve their goals. Be supportive of your family and friends in all noble pursuits, encourage them and motivate them to be their best. In return, you will receive the same from them, and if not from them directly then Allah will send others into your life to motivate and support you, because Allah does not leave any good deed unrewarded.

Friendships should never be ego-driven, in which all the focus is on yourself at the expense of others. Such a friendship is bound to implode and cannot lead to anything positive. You need to give as much, if not more, than you receive.

Make quality time for your family and friends. You don’t need to spend a lot of time with them but you need to make sure it is quality time. Quality time means that you give that person undivided attention for a few minutes and make them feel special. A few minutes of quality time is far more memorable and beneficial than hours of time spent with someone while mentally elsewhere.

When your family or friends speak to you, give them your full attention. Put your phone or tablet away, look them in the eyes and pay attention to their words. Attentive listening is a skill that everybody must learn. It benefits your family life, friendships and work life. By listening attentively, we respect the other person, understand better and avoid miscommunication. This is especially important for men since it is so easy for us to lose concentration and become deaf to the conversation. If you a married man, active listening is one of the best skills you can learn to win your wife’s heart over.

Good friends advise each other sincerely, yet gently. Adopt an open-to-correction style relationship with family and friends. Make it clear that you will correct them when they stray, and they should correct you too when you stray.

Do not take their corrections personally, and they too will follow your lead and won’t take your corrections personally. This level of openness is crucial in a real friendship and separates the genuine friendships from the fake. True friends are not afraid to let each other know the truth, even when it is bitter, but they know how to present it gently.

Be there for your friends in difficult times, and Allah will be there for you in difficult times and send you support from where you never expected. Do not expect from anyone except Allah. Be the best friend you can be, but expect Allah to reward you for it, not your friends. Inshaa Allah, if you have good friends, they will return the favour.

Motivate your friends to be the best they can be. Be a source of positivity and optimism wherever you go. Do not speak negatively or put people down. Motivate them, encourage them, help them pick themselves up after they fall. This is what we all need in friends. By doing this, you increase their self-confidence as well as your own.

Being a good friend is actually even better for your confidence than having good friends. Most of the time, if you are a good friend, you will receive goodness in return.

However, it is important to only expect from Allah because human beings are weak and tend to forget the good others do for them. If a friend doesn’t appreciate what you did for them, do not take it personally. Ask Allah to forgive them and seek your reward from Allah alone.

Good friends may be rare but they exist. Make dua to find them, search for them in the right places, be a good friend yourself, and Allah will send them into your life. Good company is a gift from Allah and one of the strongest sources of self-confidence. Good friends motivate us when we are down, encourage us to chase our dreams and help us see and overcome our flaws. Investing in good company is one of the best things you can do to improve your self-confidence.

To learn more about this topic, get the full ebook, Best of Creation, as part of the self-help bundle here, or individually here.


[1] Sunan Abu Dawud

[2] Bukhari and Muslim

[3] Saheeh Bukhari

[4] Surah Al-Kahf 18:28

[5] Mirza Yawar Baig, 20.10.2010-55, p. 23

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Self Confidence, 3 comments
Seeking Divine Assistance During Difficult Times

Seeking Divine Assistance During Difficult Times

The world has become a very isolated and lonely place for many. Anxiety, uncertainty, and fear grip our hearts, as we wonder whether we will get the virus next and whether we (and our loved ones) will survive it. In early 2020, the world we took for granted turned upside down, and all of society were confined to their homes. This is where many of us remain as the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic remains real and all around us.

During this difficult time, many people have no clue how to make sense of all this, or how to move forward. For too long, we took our luxuries and freedom for granted, and now we are left puzzled and lost as the Divine Retribution grips the world, purifying us of our many sins. In all of this chaos, how do we move forward and what should we think.

Accepting The Reality of Divine Retribution

The first step towards moving forward is to accept reality for what it is. many people don’t want to say it because it is politically incorrect, but reality is what it is. The current pandemic is a Divine Punishment to the people of earth for our combined sins. It doesn’t mean that every individual who gets it is guilty. It simply means that enough people are sinning, justifying sin, and legalizing sin, to justify a global punishment.

It is very important for believers to accept this reality. We live in the only time in history that I know of that so many sins have been legalized and considered morally acceptable, on a global scale. Things that all religions agreed upon as immoral are now human rights that people fight for. Of course, in such a situation Divine Punishment should be expected, and the believer shouldn’t have a problem with this. If it purifies the earth of some of this immorality and brings people back to the truth and true morality, then it is a blessing for this earth.

So the first step is to accept that this is a Divine Punishment to the world, and we need to repent and purify our lives. Without acknowledging this, we will continue to sin and support wrong beliefs in ignorance and arrogance, and this will lead to more punishments. Like the example of Pharaoh, his people faced plague after plague but remained arrogant upon their evil until Allah took everything from them. Let us learn a lesson from this and repent at the sign of a first plague, before a second is unleashed.

Corruption has appeared on land and sea, because of what people’s hands have earned, in order to make them taste some of what they have done, so that they might return.

Quran 30:41

And beware of a trial which does not afflict the wrongdoers among you exclusively; and know that God is severe in retribution.

Quran 8:25

When adultery/fornication becomes common, bloodshed and plagues will become widespread.

Mustadrak Hakim, 4:504

The Divine Shelter

The believer accepts this reality but still finds peace in his/her relationship with Allah. Allah is the Divine Protector of every true believer. He protected Nuh (AS) from the flood, Lut (AS) from the punishment to his people, and Musa (AS) from the Pharaoh. The believer takes comfort in this Divine Protection but also takes the necessary steps to earn this protection.

The protection of Allah is earned primarily by fulfilling one’s obligations towards Allah. Then it is further built up through optional good deeds and recommended acts of worship. The believer uses periods of isolation as opportunities to build up these good deeds. If someone is not in the habit of praying five times a day, now is the time to start. For someone who only prays the obligatory (Fard) units of prayer, then this is a good time to build the habit of praying the recommend (Sunnah) units of prayer.

Our extra time should be spent in the worship of Allah. Morning and evening supplications, especially supplications for protection, should become habits during this time. Our remembrance (Zikr) of Allah should increase, as should our recitation of Quran and study of Islam. It is in the worship of Allah that the believer finds refuge and peace during difficult times.

Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of God. Surely, it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find comfort.

Quran 13:28

Allah’s friends have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve. (They are) those who believe and work towards attaining piety.

Quran 10:62-63

Allah said, “I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a friend of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have obligated upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing extra acts of worship till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (Refuge), I will protect him; (i.e. give him My Refuge) and I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death, and I hate to disappoint him.”

Sahih al-Bukhari 81:91

So Return To Allah

We must realize in all this chaos that sins do not go unpunished, and that every day is a new opportunity to repent and get closer to Allah. We are living through a unique opportunity to get close to our Creator. Now is not the time for mass panic and sadness. Now is the time to sincerely turn to Allah, and gain His Divine Protection. As it is only Allah’s Protection that can help us in both worlds.

This life is temporary and this world is simply a place to test us. As long as we are alive, we have an opportunity to pass this test. All that is needed is for us to recognize reality, embrace the truth, and dedicate our lives to the Creator. Immorality cannot go unchecked forever, sooner or later, the retribution comes and it affects all of society, except whom Allah wills to protect. Even if others double down on immoral ideas and secular beliefs, let us use this time in isolation to get closer to Allah, return to His path, and grow into the best versions of ourselves.

Those who believe and do righteous deeds will have gardens (in Paradise) beneath which rivers flow. That is the greatest success.

Quran 85:11
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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 2 comments
The Spiritual Reality of Islamic Productivity

The Spiritual Reality of Islamic Productivity

What really differentiates Islamic Productivity from other theories of productivity? Definitions are something I always found fascinating. A word could mean three different things to three different people. The definition of productivity is a good example of this.

The materialist would see a day spent in theological discussions as wasted time and unproductive. Yet to the theologian, this is the most productive usage of his time. A businessman may fail to see the value of spending one’s time memorizing an ancient text in a foreign language. But for the Hafez, any time spent memorizing and revising the Quran is the most beautiful and productive usage of his time.

A clash of world views

Islamic ideas operate in a different paradigm from materialistic ideas. This paradigm of obedience to God and preparing for the Afterlife makes the Islamic definition of things very different from modern ideas. Words like success, productivity, time management, and destiny mean very different things to the believer.

Recently, I read some comments from people influenced by modern theories that got me thinking about this topic. One person commented that Muslims are unproductive in Ramadan because fasting causes them to perform poorly at work. Another commented that Muslim women who take care of their families are being unproductive because they are not out there working for money. It is very interesting that both these comments focused on the concept of productivity. This made me realize that our perspective on productivity is very different from other people.

Productivity: An Economic Concept

The standard definition of productivity in most dictionaries indicates the current worldview. Productivity is defined as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input” (Google) or “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.” (Dictionary.com)

These definitions limit productivity to the economic impact of a person’s actions. By such definitions, it is easy to understand why some people view taking care of one’s family or spending a week in a Masjid worshiping the Creator as unproductive. These tasks do not produce goods or services, or lead to the economic advancement of a community. Hence, they are viewed as unproductive by some segments of society.

As Muslims, however, we must be careful not to allow materialistic ideas to influence our understanding of things. A Muslim’s life does not revolve primarily around economic input and output. Work and wealth are simply tools to enhance the quality of life, and not the purpose of life itself. For the believer, there are things that are much deeper than one’s material status; things like piety, spirituality, family, and the Afterlife.

Productivity: A Spiritual Concept

Islam teaches us that this world is a testing ground for humanity. We are constantly being tested in a variety of ways. The primary test is to find the true religion of God, accept it and try one’s best to follow it. Obedience and worship of the Creator is the purpose of life for humanity and that takes precedence over everything else, including work and accumulating wealth.

In light of this, Muslims should not cling to materialistic definitions of productivity. Our goals are different and so our definitions should differ accordingly. For the believer, a life spent in pursuit of wealth and status, at the expense of the Afterlife, is a life wasted, an unproductive waste of existence. The deeds that contribute to our Afterlife, and especially the ones that keep on producing more rewards, these are the truly productive acts.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.”

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1631

This narration gives us some insight into the Islamic paradigm of productivity. A believer should strive to build up his or her streams of continuous good deeds i.e. deeds that continue to benefit long after one’s death. Based on this narration, a life spent in raising a righteous child, seeking beneficial knowledge then spreading it, and a life spent in charity, are all truly productive lives.

“Wealth and children are the adornments of the present life. But the things that last, the virtuous deeds, are better with your Lord for reward, and better for hope.”

Quran 18:46

This verse of the Quran conveys the same message. While wealth and children enhance the quality of life, true productivity lies in producing virtuous deeds that last, like raising righteous children or spending a large portion of one’s wealth in charity. The Quran and Sunnah are both full of reminders that the believer should prioritize the Afterlife. This prioritization affects our definition of productivity.

Conclusion: A Spiritual Definition

The life of a Muslim revolves primarily around the worship of God, and investing in the Afterlife. This does not mean that a Muslim does not work for this world. Rather our religion encourages hard work, and frowns upon laziness. But everything has its place, and the Afterlife is a greater priority over this world.

A Muslim works hard in every aspect of his or her life but does so in proportion. More time and energy is spent in serving the Creator and building one’s Afterlife. Yet enough time is spent in earning income to provide a blessed Halal life for one’s family. The believer will work hard at his job but will take a break when it is time to pray. A Muslim will try his best to earn well, but will not compromise on Halal earnings, and will dedicate a portion of his earnings to charity. The believer will make time daily to worship the Creator, spend time with the family, contribute to society, and earn some income while prioritizing the Afterlife over this world.

A life spent investing the Afterlife is not unproductive. It is a blessed spiritual existence full of Barakah (Blessing) and Sakina (Inner Peace). The Muslim who chose seclusion in the Mosque while fasting during the last ten days of Ramadan is truly productive in the sight of God. The Muslim woman who invested her youth in raising her children to be righteous beautiful people is truly productive in the sight of God. The Muslim teenager who spends her evenings memorizing the Quran is truly productive in the sight of God. Never allow a materialistic person to convince you otherwise.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 3 comments
Focusing on the Hereafter as a Productivity Principle

Focusing on the Hereafter as a Productivity Principle

This article is an extract from my book Productivity Principles of ʿUmar II, available here.

Our life in this world is temporary. It is the everlasting life of the Hereafter that we need to set as our priority. This is exactly what ʿUmar did, and this mindset is what made him such an exceptional leader. ʿUmar II was always preoccupied with the next life and what he was preparing for it. As a result, every decision he made was to preserve and build a better Afterlife for himself.

Yazīd b. Ḥawshab said, “I never saw anyone more fearful of Allah than al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī[1] and ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. It was as if the Hellfire had solely been created for the two.”[2]

This statement may seem strange for anyone who is not familiar with the Islamic beliefs related to the Afterlife, so a brief explanation is fitting at this point: 

Muslims believe that the Hellfire is a real place, and one of the reasons God created it was to motivate people to do good deeds and abstain from sin. Islam recognizes that different people are motivated differently. Some are motivated by aspirations to attain the love of God, others by the desire for Paradise and some by fear of Hellfire. Each of these rewards or punishments plays a role in bringing people closer to the Creator.

In this way, Muslims do not view the existence of the Hellfire in the same negative sense that many others do. Rather, it is seen as a necessary creation of God that serves a beneficial purpose. This fundamental belief in Heaven and Hell forms part of the fifth pillar of Islamic theology.

ʿUmar II once said, “Take care of your Hereafter and Allah will take care of your worldly life. Take care of your private life and Allah will take care of your public life.”[3]

In this quotation, we see the importance ʿUmar II gave to the Afterlife. He prioritized focusing on the Afterlife and working towards Paradise over worldly goals. He did this with the full conviction that Allah would help him achieve his worldly goals even though the Afterlife was ʿUmar’s primary focus.

In the second half of this quote, ʿUmar II gave another important piece of advice. He advised that we should focus on our private lives. This is crucial for developing sincerity and living a clean life free from hypocrisy. Too often people focus on their public image, while in private they commit many of the evils they publicly preach against. In doing so, they develop a two-faced personality that ruins their Afterlife. In order to meet Allah with a clear conscious, we must be more concerned with our private practice of Islam. When this is straight, everything else will follow.

ʿUmar’s statement is a clear example of the importance ʿUmar II gave to the Afterlife, and how he promoted prioritizing it over worldly goals and public image.

Further proof of ʿUmar’s focus on the Afterlife can be seen in his final sermon, which dealt entirely on the importance of prioritizing the Afterlife. In this sermon, he advised people, “You were not created in vain, nor will you be left without purpose. Verily, you have an appointed time in which Allah, the Most High, will come down to judge you. Wretched and ruined will he be who leaves the mercy of Allah and is denied a Garden whose width is that of the heavens and Earth.

Know you not that no one will be safe tomorrow save one who is wary of today and fears it; and sells the transitory for what will remain, and the little for the plenty, and fear in exchange for security [in the hereafter]? See you not that you are in the loins of the dead, to be taken by those who remain after you until all matters return to the Best of Inheritors?

Every day, [in the funerals] you accompany those returning to Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, having spent their time, until you hide them in a crevice in the ground, in the belly of a bare and unfurnished hole, having parted from their loved ones, stroking the dirt and facing their accounts. Now, they are dependent on their deeds, free of what they left behind, in need of [the deeds] they put before them. So fear Allah before the time He appointed is up and death descends upon you. This is what I have to say.”[4]

Reflecting on the above words shows that his entire focus in this sermon was redirecting people away from chasing the gains to be had in this life and instead focusing on what would benefit them in the Afterlife. This was the final sermon that he delivered, and it shows the high level of priority he gave to attaining the good in the Afterlife.

A final story that indicates the importance ʿUmar II and his advisors gave to the Afterlife is related in the following narration. It is reported that ʿUmar b. ʿAbd Al-ʿAzīz once wrote to Al-Ḥasan Al-Baṣrī to get some advice from him, so Al-Ḥasan wrote back, “The world distracts and preoccupies the heart and body, but Zuhd (asceticism, not giving importance to worldly things) gives rest to the heart and body. Verily, Allāh will ask us about the Ḥalāl things we enjoyed, so what about the Ḥarām!”[5]

Even in their private advice between each other, the focus was on accountability to Allah on the Last Day. This was the guiding force behind all the efforts, goals, and projects of ʿUmar II.

The Fifth Pillar of Faith

In Islam, there are six pillars of faith (iman). These are the six core beliefs of Islam. If a Muslim denies any of these six pillars, then that individual is no longer a Muslim. These beliefs are the belief in the Oneness of Allah, belief in the angels, the divinely revealed scriptures, the prophets, the Afterlife, and destiny.

The fifth pillar of faith or belief in the Afterlife includes the following doctrines. Muslims believe that God created the soul to live forever in the Afterlife. Our existence in this world is temporary and a test. After we die, our souls are transferred to the barzakh (world of the dead) where the soul is either rewarded or punished until the Day of Resurrection.

On that day, all souls will be resurrected in new bodies and will face judgment. Based on that judgment, the souls will either face eternal damnation, eternal bliss, or temporary punishment followed by eternal bliss. Muslims do not have the authority or knowledge to say which individuals will go to Heaven or Hell, rather we trust God’s Perfect Justice and Mercy and leave the judgment to His Perfect Attributes.[6]

But what do these beliefs have to do with productivity?

The Importance of Believing in the Hereafter 

Belief in the Hereafter is one of the fundamental beliefs of Islam, but it is also key to true productivity. Many people don’t see the point in setting goals and working hard if we are all just going to die anyway. This nihilistic attitude causes many people to simply waste their lives away.

However, when we embrace the idea that there is another life after this life, an everlasting life that can be full of bliss and happiness, it motivates us to work for a higher purpose and towards a nobler goal. It then doesn’t matter whether we necessarily see the fruits of our efforts in our lifetime or not.

What matters is that we leave behind beneficial projects that continue to make an impact long after we have passed away. It may seem like we might not see the fruit of our goals, but we will see it on the Last Day when we face our Creator and see the list of deeds we left behind.

Islam encourages us to focus on beneficial projects that last long after we pass away; these projects become a source of continuous reward for us, even centuries after leaving this earth. Such projects include charitable work, knowledge that benefits people, and even righteous offspring that make this world a better place.

Regarding this, Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.”[7]

Narrations like this encourage focusing on life after death. Not just doing what we can with our present lives, but looking beyond to what impactful and beneficial legacy we can leave behind after we have passed on to the next life.

A Fuel for Productivity

Belief in the Hereafter forces us to think bigger. It makes us look beyond our lives at what impact we can have even after our deaths. Islam teaches us that certain good deeds continue to pile up on our accounts long after we have passed away.

Dr. Bilal Philips describes the Islamic Belief in the Hereafter as follows:

Those who believe in the Afterlife, resurrection, and the judgment, are obliged to consider carefully the consequence of their deeds. Belief in the Last Day causes them to think beyond their immediate needs and desires. It sets their goals beyond this temporal existence.[8]

When we embrace the concept of an Afterlife, we no longer work for the trivial rewards of this world. Our focus lies beyond the immediate horizon; we work for the everlasting rewards of the next world. In doing so, we elevate our goals and efforts to another level, and everything we do takes on a spiritual dimension.

Belief in the Afterlife also makes us more principled and less likely to violate these principles when facing desperate situations.

Dr. Bilal Philips explains this concept well:

Believers in the Judgement will not compromise the basic commandments of God in order to attain some limited measure of material success. They will be principled individuals, sticking to their beliefs and practices regardless of how odd they may seem or how lonely and isolated the society may make them.

Those who do not believe in the Judgement tend to be good as long as it is convenient. But when everyone else around them is cheating or stealing, or being honest will cost economic loss, they usually compromise their principles with appropriate justifications.[9]

This statement may seem like a generalization. There may exist people who remain honest in all situations even without belief in the Afterlife. However, it can’t be denied that belief that one will be held accountable or called for judgement does provide a stronger basis to remain firm on one’s principles even when things seem desperate.

Belief in the Afterlife leads to a more productive lifestyle in many ways. It causes us to focus on bigger goals that extend beyond our lifetime; it gives life purpose and meaning; and it makes us unwavering in our principles. The life of ʿUmar II is an excellent example of this belief in practice.

To continue reading this chapter, get the full ebook here.


[1] Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī was a famous Muslim pious ascetic and scholar that lived during the same period as ʿUmar II.

[2] As-Sallabi, ʿUmar Bin ʿAbd al- ʿAzīz, pp. 724-725

[3] Kitāb al-Ikhlāṣ, 50

[4] Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm Vol. 3 p343

[5] Al-Bayhaqī, Al-Zuhd Al-Kabīr, article 26

[6] Dr. Muhammad Khalil Harras, Ibn Taymiyyah, Sharh al-ʿAqīdat al-Wāṣatiyyah, pp. 163-179,

[7] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1631

[8] Dr. Bilal Philips, The Clash Of Civilisations, p. 141

[9] Ibid. P. 141

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 2 comments