Islamic Chivalry: Part 1: Work Ethic

Islamic Chivalry: Part 1: Work Ethic

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

This is the first in a series of articles on Islamic chivalry. During my research on Islamic masculinity, I discovered that most classical works on this topic focused on futuwwah (chivalry) instead. Imam Dawud Walid defines futuwwah as follows:

Futuwwah cannot be simply defined operationally speaking, as although it is loosely translated as spiritual, chivalry in the English language is defined as characteristics of a distinguished gentleman or a knight who displays courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

Futuwwah and Raising Males into Sacred Manhood, Dawud Walid, p. 1

For sake of ease, we will use the English term chivalry interchangeably with futuwwah in this series. Over the past few months, I have compiled a list of over 100 qualities of futuwwah from classical Islamic texts. I am currently organizing these traits into subcategories and will publish each category as a article here.

This first article focuses on traits related to work ethic. In an age of materialism and get-rich-quick-schemes, the importance of having a strong work ethic has been lost. The 10 principles listed below are core Islamic principles related to developing a strong work ethic. Each principle has been listed with one evidence from the Qur’an or Sunnah. There are in reality dozens of evidences for each of these points.

Know that your Sustenance is from Allah

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Be moderate in seeking from the world, for everyone will be facilitated towards what has been decreed for him in it.”

Bayhaqi 10501, Grade: Sahih

Rizq (sustenance) is already destined by Allah. He has already written the amount that each servant will earn per day, month, year, and overall lifespan. There is nothing we can do to change this amount. Our actions simply affect whether our sustenance is blessed or cursed. The means of attaining our sustenance is in our control. If we seek it through prohibited means, it will testify against us on the Last Day. If we seek it through permitted means and spend it in a way that is pleasing to Allah, then it will testify for us on the Last Day.

A Muslim man should avoid stressing about wealth and the future. He should accept that his destiny is already written and should focus instead on earning barakah (blessings) in his sustenance. By freeing up the heart from anxiety about the future, we make space for the remembrance of Allah and preparation for the Afterlife.

Work hard for your sustenance anyway

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ “Verily, the most wholesome food a man can eat is that which he has earned.”

Nasa’i 4397, Grade: Sahih

Our sustenance is written but nobody knows the unseen besides Allah. We are still required to work for our sustenance, just as the birds leave their nests seeking it every morning. The Muslim man is obligated to seek out his sustenance in a halal manner so that he can fulfill his role as provider and protector of his family.

Working hard is part of Ihsan (aspiring for excellence) and a noble trait. A Muslim man works hard, even though he knows that his sustenance is destined, because it is part of manliness and good character. A hardworking man is a strong asset to the ummah and earns a good reputation among others. His hard work can be an act of worship when it is done in a way that is pleasing to Allah and within the boundaries set by Allah.

Have firm tawakul and trust Allah’s plan

“Whoever fears Allah, He will make a way out for him and provide for him from where he never imagined. And whoever has tawakul in Allah, He is enough for him.”

Quran 65:2-3

A believer must firmly acknowledge that Allah knows best. Allah’s plan is best for us even when we cannot see the benefit in our current situation. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, and Joseph at the bottom of the well, we must turn to Allah and trust Allah’s plan for us. The believer maintains full optimism in Allah regarding his future, knowing that whatever happens to him is best for him.

We have published a detailed guide to tawakul in the past, you can read it here. To summarize, tawakul means to believe, acknowledge, trust, and ask of Allah, while working hard and being content at the end of each day. This is part of the character of the Muslim that every believer should strive for.

Ask only of Allah and seek only from Allah

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah.”

Tirmidhī 2516, Grade: Sahih

Although it is permitted to ask people for assistance in matters that they can help with, it is part of higher Islamic character to ask only Allah and seek assistance only from Allah. Some of the pious predecessors were so staunch on this point that even if they dropped a stick while riding a horse, they would rather get off and pick it up, than ask someone for help.

When we ask people for help often, it lowers our value in their eyes. They start to look at such a person as a burden to society and a beggar. But Allah loves when we ask and never tires of giving. Part of chivalry is to avoid asking people for assistance, and to rely on Allah entirely. A result of this is that Allah will send such people into your life that will assist you anyway, and you will maintain your dignity in the process.

Avoid shortcuts and shady transactions

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Make between yourself and the unlawful a buffer of what is lawful. Whoever does so will clear himself in regard to his honor and his religion.”

Ibn Hibban 5569, Grade: Sahih

The modern trend of seeking get-rich-quick schemes is unislamic. Hastiness is a devilish quality that will seduce a person to seek shortcuts on the path to riches. Such a man will be tempted to engage in clear prohibitions like usury and selling prohibited products, or to take shady shortcuts through false advertising and mistreatment of employees.

A Muslim is firm in his belief that whatever Allah has written for him will reach him. With this firm faith, he works hard, takes his time, and stays within the boundaries of permissibility. He knows that nothing will miss him that was meant for him, so he focuses on the quality of his work, and turns away from all sources of temptation.

Be content with your sustenance

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah tests His servant by giving to him. Whoever is content with what Allah has apportioned for him, Allah will bless him in it and expand it. Whoever is not content, he will not be blessed in it.”

Musnad Imam Ahmad 20279, Grade: Sahih

Greed leads to decrease in blessings, while contentment and gratitude lead to increase in blessings. Every day, the Muslim man works hard to provide for his family. At the end of each day, he is content with his sustenance for the day and thanks Allah for it. This contentment allows him to focus on worshiping Allah, contributing to the ummah, and spending time with his family.

Anxiety about wealth and profits distract a man from the worship of Allah. Greed for a second mountain of gold turns into obsession. A greedy man is never satisfied, and his mind is so preoccupied with the pursuit of wealth that he fails to prioritize anything else. The believer avoids this trial by working hard during work hours, then devoting the rest of his time to worship, rest, community, and family. Balance and contentment are far more precious than a second mountain of gold.

Be happy for others when they do well

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Be servants of Allah as brothers. Do not be hostile to each other and do not hate each other. Follow the right course, seek nearness to Allah in worship, and give glad tidings.”

Musnad Imam Ahmad 9763, Grade: Sahih

A believer loves for others what we loves for himself. He is happy when someone else succeeds in the workplace. He wants to see his brothers thrive, just as he wants to thrive. He is not hostile or resentful to the success of others. He was internalized the principle of brotherly love and it shows in his interactions with other Muslims.

Avoid jealousy for what others have

The Prophet ﷺ said, “The people will remain upon goodness as long as they do not envy each other.”

Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabir 8079, Grade: Hasan

When brotherly love is absent from the heart, jealousy and envy can consume it. Envy destroys the soul and the ability to do good, like a fire eating away inside a person. It was jealousy that caused Cain to kill Abel. It was jealousy that caused Abu Jahl to reject Islam. It is jealousy that can ruin us if we allow it to enter our hearts.

A Muslim trader strives to avoid jealousy always. He is waging an internal Jihad against devil and his own soul. He prioritizes Muslim brotherhood, and genuinely loves his brothers wanting good for them. In light of this brotherly love, he rejects jealousy and any negative feelings towards his brothers in Islam.

Be generous in the marketplace and spend for the sake of Allah

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah Almighty will admit a man into Paradise who was easy in his buying and selling, in his paying debts and seeking repayments.”

Nasa’i 4696, Grade: Sahih

A Muslim trader wants to see everyone succeed. He will buy from another to give him business. He will forgive a debt because he sees that his brother is genuinely struggling. In the spirit of Islamic brotherhood, he might lower his prices for the poor, support a struggling business, overlook the faults of his customers, and rush to pay off his own debts.

His concern for the ummah takes precedence over his own desires. He does not wish to see any member of the ummah struggle, so he forgives, overlooks, goes easy on others, and is lenient in his dealings. His reputation is one of honesty, integrity, and genuine selflessness. Such a trader is a role model of Islamic chivalry.

Laziness is an unmanly trait and must be shunned

The Prophet ﷺ said, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from anxiety, sorrow, disability, laziness, cowardice, miserliness, the burdens of debt, and the repression of men.”

Bukhari 6369

Islam is a religion of submission and struggle. Men are expected to take up the responsibility of moving the ummah forward. There is no room for laziness in this cause. Muslim men must be men of action. They must work hard, striving to provide for their families and protect their communities. They must contribute to the overall wellbeing of the ummah in some way or another.

Laziness is a quality unbefitting a Muslim man. The prophets, companions, and righteous men of the past were all hardworking individuals, and the Prophet ﷺ even taught us to pray for protection from laziness. When men are lazy and self-centered, it affects the entire society. For a boy to become a man, he must shun laziness and develop a strong work ethic.

Learn more about the Islamic perspective on wealth and blessings with our hit ebook Earning Barakah, available here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership
The Legacy of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)

The Legacy of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)

Q: Why did you choose ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) as the topic of your book?

I have always been fascinated by the story of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA). He has been a role model of mine since I was a teenager. There is just something extraordinary about his story that makes him stand out among other historical figures. He stands out from among the Tābiʿīn (second generation of Muslims) as the best Caliph of that generation, as well as one of the most pious and knowledgeable men of that era. He played a crucial role in shaping Islamic government policies, preserving hadith, and spreading Islam to new lands. Yet despite all this, most Muslims that I meet have never heard about him. His amazing story remains unknown to the average Muslim and I wanted to change that with this book.

I had the idea to write a book about his life over a decade ago, but did not get down to doing so. A few years ago, I delivered a Jumah Khutbah on lessons from the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) and it was very well received. This motivated me to go back to the topic, and I realized it was time to finally sit down and write this book. Thus, I dedicated the bulk of 2019 to writing, researching, editing and publishing this book.

Q: Can you give us a brief glimpse into who ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was and why his story is important?

Sure, ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was the eight Umayyad Caliph. On his father’s side, he was the grandson of Marwan Ibn Hakam (RA), and on his mother’s side, he was the great-grandson of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (R.A). He grew up in Madinah under the tutelage of his grand-uncle ʿAbdullah Ibn ʿUmar (RA), and the great scholars of Madinah. He served as the governor of Madinah during the reign of his cousin/brother-in-law Walīd Ibn Abd al-Malik(RA), and as Grand Vizier during the reign of his Walīd’s brother Suleiman (RA).

After the death of Suleiman (RA), ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) became the eight Umayyad Caliph. Historians often refer to his as ʿUmar II (ʿUmar The Second) as he was the second ʿUmar to serve as Caliph, thus the title of the book, Productivity Principles of ʿUmar II. During his reign, he reformed many of unjust policies of early Umayyads, and attempted to bring the Caliphate back in line with that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. He played a crucial role in reforming various policies, and setting new standards for the Islamic Empire, earning him titles like the Fifth Rightly Guided Caliph and the First Reviver of Islam. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) served as Caliph for only two and half years before he was poisoned by his cousins, and murdered. May Allah grant him the best of the Afterlife.

Q: As a follow up to that, why do you think many Muslims are unaware of the story of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA), when he played such an important role in early Islamic History?

I think it boils down to a common problem in our Islamic History curriculum. Too many Muslim schools focus only on the history of the first generation of Muslims. We study intensively the lives of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs which is great and crucial. But we make the mistake of stopping there. Too often, the rest of history is summarized in a few short lines (Umayyads, then Abbasids, then Ottomans) without going into any details. As a result, the stories of many great people from our history remain unknown or forgotten to all except those who are truly passionate about history and seek the knowledge out themselves.

When I first published this book, many people asked me who ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was and why they never heard about him before. Many of these were people who are generally knowledgeable about Islam, yet have a gap when it comes to Islamic History. These conversations made me realize how crucial it is to write about these figures, and share their stories with new generations. From all major Islamic subjects, history is often the most overlooked today and I try to fill that gap with my lectures and writings.

A wrong understanding of history can cause many doubts and unrealistic expectations. This is why my book is prefaced with an extended introduction focused on how to approach and study history, as well as a summarized history of the first century of the Muslim Empire. I hope that this book will contribute towards making ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) a household name and a role model for Muslims everywhere once again.

Q: What is your favorite story from the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)?

There are honestly too many to list, but I will mention briefly the one story that always blows me away, it is actually the story of the events that led to his birth. This story actually takes place in the Caliphate of ʿUmar I (RA).

When ʿUmar I was caliph, he had a habit of going around at night in disguise to see if anybody needed help. One night, he overheard a conversation between a young lady and her mother. The mother was telling her daughter to mix milk with water and sell it in the market. Her daughter reminded her that Caliph ʿUmar had prohibited such practices. The mother said, “ʿUmar cannot see you.” To which the daughter replied, “But the Lord of ʿUmar can.” ʿUmar was so impressed by this reply that he asked his servant to find out who that young lady was.

When he learned more about her, he approached her with an offer to marry his son ʿĀṣim. She accepted the offer, and they married. It is narrated that later ʿUmar had a dream, after which he used to say, “I wish I knew the man from my descendants, with a scar on his face, who will fill the earth with justice, just as it was full of injustice and oppression.” Many Muslim historians claim that the just ruler ʿUmar saw in his dream was actually ʿUmar II.

It really blows my mind every time I think about how destiny worked through this story, a great Caliph finds a righteous wife for his son, hoping that from their progeny would arise a just ruler. That couple has a daughter who married the prince ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Ibn Marwan (RA), and their son ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) grows into one of the most just rulers in the history of this world.

Q: That is amazing. I actually never heard that story before. What were some of the policies of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) that stand out?

Once again, there are too many to count, and I discuss these in various sections of the book. I will list my three favorite policies of his. The first is that he removed various taxes from the early Umayyads had unjustly levied on converts. These unjust taxes were discouraging people from converting to Islam, and by removing them, he opened the door for hundreds of thousands of converts to enter Islam. He famously told his governors “Allah did not send his messenger as a tax collector, He sent him as a Mercy to his universe.” His entire mindset towards taxes can be summarized in this one statement.

Another important policy of his was increasing the salaries for Islamic scholars. His cousin Walid (RA) was the first to establish a policy of a state salary for Islamic scholars, so they could focus on their Islamic work without needing to worry about finances. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) took it one step further and increased the salary to a comfortable amount, which in turn encouraged many youngsters to choose Islamic Studies for their careers. This led to a new generation of financially strong intelligent and capable Islamic scholars.

A third policy of his that is very important, so important that I dedicated an entire chapter to it is his emphasis on Shura (seeking expert advice). ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) revived the Sunnah of a ruler surrounding himself with experts and pious scholars. He sought their opinions on all major policies, and would humbly listen to their perspectives. This incredible policy led to many of the important reforms that took place during his reign. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) famously said, “The heart of Islamic Law is adherence to what you find in the Book of God, the issuing of rulings based on the example set by the Messenger of God as well as the judgments handed down by the Rightly-Guided leaders, and consultation with the learned whose points of view can be trusted.”

Q: What can readers expect from the book in terms of format, themes, and core lessons?

The book is divided into four broad sections: introduction, history, productivity principles, and appendices. The introduction is a bit lengthy yet many readers say it is their favorite part of the book. In this introduction, I clarify the correct approach to studying history, as well as some of the reasons readers often experience a disconnect with history. This is very crucial information that not only sets the tone for the book, but will also assist the reader in studying other history books and courses effectively.

The second section consists of two chapters focused on the history of the first century of Islam. The first chapter covers the history of Islam from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until the reign of Suleiman (RA). This is crucial for understanding the context and significance of the reign of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA). The second chapter is a detailed history of the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) from birth until death. The rest of the book builds upon these two chapters by deriving and explaining various lessons from his life.

The next fifteen chapters cover fifteen lessons that I learned from studying his life. I called these the Productivity Principles of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA), and the book is named after these chapters that form the core of the book. Each chapter takes some stories and quotations from his life and discusses with practical details some lessons we can derive from the stories and apply to our own lives. These principles are crucial for living a productive life that is beneficial for us in this world and the Hereafter. The book ends with two short a appendices covering various issues and quotes that did not fit into the three main sections.

Q: Why focus on productivity in a history book? How did you link the two topics together?

The focus on productivity perplexed many early readers, and some were skeptical about how these lessons could be derived from a history book. However, once they read the book, they understood well and were blown away by how relevant this story really is. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) lived for only 37 years, and was a Caliph for only 2 and half years, yet he accomplished far more during this short period than seems humanly possible. Part of this is a miracle of barakah (blessings) that Allah gifts to the righteous, but a lot of it has to do with how he lived his life.

I decided to spend some time analyzing his life for clues on what made him so productive. Initially, I had a list of eight principles and started writing the book accordingly. But as I wrote, researched further, and reflected deeper, I discovered more and more lessons, resulting in a book covering fifteen productivity principles that I extracted from his life.

A mistake we often make is that we study history only for the facts. We fail to engage with history and draw lessons from it. I hope this book serves as an example of how to engage with history, draw lessons from it, and apply those lessons to one’s life. The six months I spent writing this book were the best months of my life, and one of my favorite memories. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with history, reflecting on it, and writing my observations. I hope the reader finds reading this book as enjoyable as I found writing it.

Q: Where can people find your book, and why should they read it.

The book is available to purchase as a PDF via Gumroad and Payhip. The paperback and Kindle editions are available via Amazon. There are also several bookstores around the world (South Africa, Australia, India, UAE, Malaysia) that currently stock the book, and hopefully many more will stock it in the future. I am optimistic that this book will benefit everyone who reads it, and will serve as a model on how to study and draw lessons from the biographies of historical figures.

The benefits for the readers are many. On one hand, it is a beautiful summary of the first century of Muslim history, drawing many lessons from it. On the other, it is a deep dive into fifteen productivity principles that are very practical and life-changing. This book serves as both a history book and a guide to productive living. I cannot recommend it enough, and hope you enjoy it and benefit from it.

You can purchase the ebook here, or the paperback here. The book is also available at several bookstores around the world. For best value, check out our Barakah Bundle which includes this book and FOUR other bestsellers.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books
7 Keys to Contentment

7 Keys to Contentment

True wealth is not in having many possessions, but rather (true) wealth is feeling content in the soul.

Sahih al-Bukhari 6446

In a world too caught up in chasing its own tail, humanity desperately craves something deeper. Amassing wealth is no longer a satisfying goal in life. To some extent, it is necessary for comfort and success, but it does not fulfill every need of the human soul. The need for a greater purpose, and spiritual connection with the Creator, cannot be gained through a life spent in the pursuit of wealth and status. True wealth lies in contentment, a feeling of inner peace with everything God has blessed you with.

True contentment is the sweet spot between apathy and greed. A sincere believer is not lazy in earning an income or providing for the family, but neither is he greedy for everything this world has to offer. He works hard to earn that which is pure, to gain blessed sustenance, and then he is content at the end of each day with what God has blessed him with for that day.

But how do we experience contentment?
What can we do to unlock this powerful and satisfying feeling?

The following steps bring contentment into one’s life, and in the process upgrade the quality of one’s life and mental health in amazing ways.

1. Living for a greater purpose

We were not created to waste life on lustful pursuits. The human soul was designed for a much deeper experience. Allah created us to worship Him i.e. to live a life that is pleasing to Him. It is in the pleasure of Allah that the greatest of joy is experienced.

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

Surah al-Rad 13:28

True comfort of the soul can only be experienced when one’s lifestyle is aligned with the Divine Purpose. It is only when our focus is on pleasing the Creator, and living an Islamic lifestyle that we can begin to taste the sweet fruit of faith. Contentment is a gift to those who live with purpose.

2. Practicing Daily Gratitude

And when your Lord proclaimed: “If you are grateful, I will grant you more; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.”

Surah Ibrahim 14:7

Allah’s promise is clear and true. The secrets of success are unlocked through a lifestyle of gratitude. It is only when we begin to appreciate the little things in life, the small bounties that we take for granted, that we begin to experience contentment. There is so much that we take for granted in our pursuit of more. But if we were to stop and take time to thank Allah saying Alhamdulillah (All Praise is for Allah) at every little gift, we will attract a higher level of blessings and inner peace into our lives. I discuss this concept in more detail in my latest ebook; Earning Barakah.

3. Keeping one’s earnings pure

It is tempting to take shortcuts, to chase the get-rich-quick scheme, to harm others in the pursuit of more. But any wealth earned in such a manner is devoid of blessings. It is a cursed wealth ruined by bad intentions, ill means, and harmful greed. Even if someone was to amass millions in unlawful gains, they will never taste the sweetness of contentment. Every mountain of gold will only make them desire another.

Blessings come from purity, and purity comes from halal earnings. It is only when we make a firm effort to earn halal, even if it is less, that we unlock blessed sustenance. Blessed sustenance is not necessarily a lot of wealth, or a thriving business. It is any sustenance that suffices the family, and brings one closer to the Creator. The most blessed sustenance of all is contentment.

4. Serving the community

The soul longs for more than just material wealth. Our souls are social in nature, and need to be part of a community. That feeling is not just to belong, but to serve as well. Modern psychology studies have shown that community service cures many forms of depression and loneliness. This is because we tap into the part of our soul that needs to serve.

If the pursuit of this world has left you cold and lonely, then maybe it is time to shift one’s paradigm from consumption to service. When we give back to society, we attract blessings and inner peace into our lives. Taking care of the creation pleases the Creator and opens new doors of blessings. A simple step of taking out time once a week to help others can have a profound impact on one’s mental health, and help build an atmosphere of contentment.

5. Living within one’s means

The need to live large is a lie. We do not need fancy homes, cars, or luxury furniture to be happy. If they are within one’s budget, then there is no sin in indulging, but then too precaution is needed. One of the biggest problems of modern life is that too many of us live off credit cards and loans, convinced that we need that fancy new gadget now, and will figure out a way to pay for it later.

It is very difficult to sleep peacefully at night, when your brain keeps reminding you that you still owe thousands of dollars to others. The guilt and anxiety that a debt-based lifestyle brings wipes away any hope in experiencing contentment and inner peace. The solution then is simply; reduce debt to only that which is necessary. Some debt is unavoidable, but too often we choose to indulge in that which we cannot afford. Yet if we choose to live within our means, we will build a far more relaxed and happy home.

6. Being Afterlife-focused

This world is an illusion, and one day we all will leave it. The pandemic has shown us how short life truly is, and many who used to read this blog a year ago are not gone. Every one of us will one day experience death and return to our Creator. On that day, the wealth we amassed will hold no value. Allah will ask us two things about it, how it was earned and how it was spent. Our focus must be on earning and spending in ways that will reflect positively on the Last Day.

Instead of focusing entirely on wealth-building for this world, we should also put aside some time, money or effort for building the next world. These should be invested in sources of continuous reward (al-thawab al-jariyah) that will pile up good deeds for us long after we have passed away. Contentment comes from knowing you have invested more in one’s Afterlife than in one’s worldly life. My latest book contains an entire chapter on how to build sources of continious reward, get it here.

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

7. Trusting God’s Plan

The final step is simply to trust the Creator and His Plan for you. The concept of Tawakul (trusting God) is central to Islamic Spirituality. I have written many articles about this concept in the past. It is crucial for maintaining contentment and inner peace in this world.

A life of tawakul means a life of working hard, while trusting God’s Plan, and accepting the results of one’s efforts as what is best for you. It means living life with a strong wroth ethic, combined with inner peace and contentment. When you trust Allah, you will never be disappointed. Allah’s plan is best and that is enough for us.

Whoever is conscious of Allah, He will make a way out for him. And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose.

Surah al-Talaq 65:2-3

To gain a deeper spiritual connection with blessed sustenance, check out our latest ebook “Earning Barakah” available here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace
How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

The Self-Help industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon. Every day new books, articles, and videos flood the market offering a variety of tips, hacks, and advice on how to meet your goals and excel in life. But not all of it is Islamic or even halal. Often, Muslim readers are left confused regarding which advice to follow and which to cast aside as unislamic.

At Islamic Self Help, we strive to offer Islamized self-help resources that weed out the bad and keep only that which does not contradict our tradition. Utilizing a variety of techniques, we are able to separate good advice from bad advice utilizing sound Islamic principles. In this article, I will share some of these principles so that you too can read more critically, and can identify what is acceptable and what is not.

The Theological Lense

The first thing you need to do is analyze the advice for any problematic beliefs. Islam is founded upon theology (Aqidah). Our beliefs are the core of our faith, and we cannot accept any teachings that contradict our core theology. In the self-help industry, there are a lot of ideas floating around that contradict Islamic theology. Most of it is very subtle and may fly over the heads of the average reader. The only way to avoid this is to critically read such advice in light of Islamic theology.

Some of these ideas that contradict Islam are the following. The idea that you control your own destiny is false in Islam. Qadar (destiny) is one of the six pillars of faith, and Muslims firmly believe that Qadar is in the hands of Allah. The idea that you can attract money into your life by thinking positive thoughts contradicts Islamic theology. In Islam, we believe that our sustenance is already predetermined by Allah, we only decide how we earn it. Thoughts are not magical things that can override Qadar. Most importantly, the idea that you decide your own purpose in life contradicts the very fundamentals of Islam. The Quran clearly states that our purpose in life is to worship/serve Allah, we cannot accept any ideology that contradicts this.

The Legal Aspect

After theology, the next important aspect of our faith is the legal side i.e. Fiqh. When analyzing self-help advice, we must weed out any advice that is Haram (prohibited) in our religion. This requires at least a basic understanding of Islamic Law, and if one is in doubt, ask a scholar for clarification. Regarding legal issues, sometimes it is obvious when a self-help tip is haram, and sometimes it requires some deep thinking.

An obvious example is the idea promoted by some circles that one-night-stands boost self-confidence. In Islam, fornication and adultery are prohibited major sins, so a believer can never even consider following such an idea. Likewise, if a self-help author recommends any drugs to boost creativity. As recreational drugs are prohibited in Islam, a Muslim cannot even consider following such a tip. There may be other tips in these books that contradict the laws of Islam like accumulating interest in one’s bank account, upsetting one’s parents, and breaking family ties in pursuit of personal goals. As Muslims, we must be vigilant and analyze every piece of advice in light of Islamic law.

The Spiritual Impact

The third angle from which any advice needs to be analyzed is its spiritual impact. Islam is a deeply spiritual religion and our spirituality cannot be compromised for worldly goals or desires. One of the fundamental teachings of Islam is that we sometimes need to sacrifice our worldly desires for the sake of Allah. The modern self-help industry sometimes teaches the opposite. Rooted in individualism, many of these books and videos preach the pursuit of one’s own desires, even at the expense of one’s relationship with God.

Before we embrace any self-help idea or follow any self-help tip, we must do an analysis of whether it will cost us some of our spirituality or not. Any self-help tips that fuel greed, lust, selfishness, or arrogance needs to be shunned as these are viewed as spiritual diseases in Islam. A self-help guru may advice you to live life to the fullest and accomplish everything your heart desires before you die. As a Muslim, you cannot accept this advice because you know that obedience to Allah and preparation for the Afterlife takes precedence over fulfilling one’s desires. It may be difficult to analyze the impact a tip will have on one’s spirituality without a strong foundation. As with legal and theological issues, the rule remains the same; when in doubt, consult an Islamic scholar.

A Matter of Character

The fourth and final criterion to utilize when analyzing self-help tips is character. Akhlaq (good character) is a core component of Islam. We cannot compromise our integrity for anything. When a self-help tip comes from a purely materialistic and capitalistic perspective, it may encourage dishonesty and treachery in pursuit of one’s worldly goals. The believer can never embrace such ideas, as a believer’s character is his honor.

There are many great self-help books out there that focus on good character and that are rooted in good character. The authors may have extracted their principles from Christianity, Buddhism, or other sources. As long as these principles do not contradict Islamic character, it is acceptable to follow their advice. But not all self-help authors have such principles and backgrounds. Some are purely materialistic, some may be greedy capitalists, many are con-artists trying to earn a quick buck, and some are narcissistic self-promoters. It is the works of these kinds of self-help gurus that may encourage bad character. In any case, all self-help advice must be analyzed according to the principles of Akhlaq.


Over the years, I have compiled many Islamic self-help resources on topics ranging from time management to self-confidence. For each of these topics, I utilized these four core methods to separate the permissible from the impermissible. By analyzing any self-help tip or principle in light of Islamic beliefs, laws, spirituality, and character, we are able to extract what is good and Islamize is, while rejecting that which contradicts the fundamentals of our religion. Armed with these four principles, you should be able to read or study any self-help resource critically and separate the good from the bad yourself with the help of Allah.

Looking to start your Islamic self-help journey? Grab our bundle of 10 ebooks for only $22 here. This bundle includes everything you need to get started on the road to Islamic Self Help.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership
6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

Ikhlāṣ (sincerity) refers to the Islamic concept of doing good deeds for the pleasure of Allah. Ikhlāṣ is one of two conditions for the validity of any deed. For any deed to be acceptable to Allah, it must be in conformity with Islamic Law and it needs to be done with ikhlāṣ. This makes ikhlāṣ a very crucial and central theme in Islam. There are many evidences regarding the importance of ikhlāṣ and many warnings about not having ikhlāṣ.

From the evidences of the importance of ikhlāṣ is the opening narration of Sahih al-Bukhari;

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, deeds are only with intentions and every person will have only what they intended. Whoever emigrated to Allah and His Messenger, his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever emigrated to get something in the world or to marry a woman, his emigration is for that to which he emigrated.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1907

From this narration, we learn that we are rewarded or punished based on the sincerity of our actions. The following narration drives home the importance of ikhlāṣ.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, my greater fear for you is the lesser idolatry.” They said, “What is the lesser idolatry, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “It is ostentation. Allah Almighty will say to them on the Day of Resurrection, when people are being recompensed for their deeds: Go to those for whom you made a show in the world and look, do you find any reward with them?”

Musnad Aḥmad 23119

Despite these clear evidences, ikhlāṣ remains something everybody struggles with due to the whisperings of the devil and the cravings of the ego. It is extremely difficult to dedicate one’s life to Islamic work without occasional lapses in one’s intention. Our religion prescribes several methods to help up recognize and fix wrong intentions, and maintain ikhlāṣ.

1. Daily Muḥāsaba

Muḥāsaba (self-accountability) refers to the classical Islamic practice of holding oneself accountable for one’s deeds and intentions. It is important to regularly check one’s deeds and intentions to ensure spiritual growth and sincerity. This can be done by taking the time to sit and think about one’s day. Reflect on how many good deeds were done in the day, as well as why they were done. After doing so, work on a plan to improve. Muḥāsaba is an important and crucial step towards maintaining sincerity and catching oneself when slipping.

2. Secret Good Deeds

It is very easy to fall into wrong intentions when doing good deeds in public. Yet it is the nature of many good deeds that they require public effort. Dawah, Salah in congregation, and many other types of good deeds take place in public. This is a challenge for one’s sincerity. One of the ways to improve sincerity is to have a regular habit of secret good deeds. This can be extra Salah, Quranic recitation, remembrance of Allah, charity, or any other good deed. Regular good deeds that are done in secret ensure that at least such deeds are done solely for the pleasure of Allah. the sincerity of such deeds can also rub off on one’s public deeds, saving a person from going astray in this matter.

3. Remembering one’s secret sins

Another way to fight the ego is to remind oneself of one’s secret sins. Every human has their secret sins and mistakes that nobody knows besides Allah. These sins are often forgotten about as the ego takes over. If anyone feels religious arrogance creeping in, and notices that it is modifying their intentions, a simple solution is to remind oneself of one’s sins and weaknesses. This brings a person back down to earth, humbling them with the crushing reality of their own weaknesses and shameful mistakes.

4. Seeking forgiveness

As humans, we strive to do our best but remain weak. Our efforts are also full of mistakes and deficiencies. Whether in form or intention, mistakes are often unavoidable. one way to make up for this is to seek forgiveness daily. We should seek forgiveness multiple times a day, not just for our sins but for our lapses in intentions as well as the deficiencies in our efforts. This practice of seeking forgiveness not only humbles the soul but also makes up for momentary lapses in intention.

5. Asking Allah for sincerity

Everything we need can only come from Allah. He is our provider and so we ask of Him for everything we want. This applies to sincerity as well. Our hearts belong to Allah and only He can bless us with true deep sincerity. Therefore, we must ask Allah every day, especially before doing a public good deed, to rectify our intentions and keep our deeds purely for his sake. This supplication serves as both a reminder to ourselves and a means to gain deeper sincerity through an accepted supplication.

6. Supplementary good deeds to make up for lapses in intention

The final step to overcoming wrong intentions is to follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These supplementary good deeds make up for any mistakes in the primary good deeds. For example, after praying Dhuhr in the Masjid, we should pray two units of extra prayer at home to make up for any lapses in intention or deficiency in attention. Likewise, after giving charity publicly, we should give a bit more secretly in case the intention of the original deed is compromised. These extra deeds help make up for mistakes and keep us grounded in the obedience of Allah.


Ikhlāṣ is necessary for any deed to be acceptable to Allah. To us maintain sincerity, we need to reflect daily on our inner state, do extra good deeds in private, remind ourselves of our secret sins, seek forgiveness for our mistakes, ask Allah for sincerity, and follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These steps will help us stay sincere and keep us on the straight path. We ask Allah for ikhlāṣ throughout our lives, firm faith, and a blessed ending in a state that is pleasing to Him. Ameen.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam