[Friday Sermon] Hard Work: The Only Way To Success

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By Imam Murtadha Gusau


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful


All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May the salutations of Allah, His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family, his companions and his true and sincere followers until the Last Day – then to proceed:


Dear brothers and sisters! There are norms and laws in the universe that man is not permitted to contradict. Instead, he should abide by them so as to enjoy a good life and eternal happiness in the Hereafter. One such norm is that if one works hard, he will find results; if one exhausts oneself a little bit, he can enjoy a long rest. Indeed reaping noble benefits depends on experiencing difficulties.


Pleasure and perfect qualities cannot be gained except with some difficulty. If it were not for difficulties, all people would be leaders.


  • A Person who Prefers Comfort has Scarce Potential for Success


Work in the worldly life relies upon diligence. Therefore, man is required to work hard and actively, leaving behind laziness. The Qur’an and Sunnah direct us towards this understanding. Allah, The Almighty, Says:


“And say, “Work, for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers.” [Qur’an, 9:105]


“It is He who made the earth tame for you – so walk among its slopes and eat of His provision – and to Him is the resurrection.” [Qur’an, 67:15]


The Prophet (Peace be upon him) educated the Ummah (Muslim Nation) in different ways on how to be diligent. For instance, he urged Muslims to earn a living and provide from their own work, saying:


“Nobody has ever eaten a meal better than that which he has earned from working with his own hands. The Prophet of Allah Dawud [David], would eat from the work of his own hands.” [Al-Bukhari]


The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also advised us to work hard without giving in to feelings of frustration, saying:


“Cherish that which gives you benefit [in the Hereafter], seek help from Allah and do not lose heart.” [Muslim]


He (Peace be upon him) also said:


“If the Hour comes while one of you has a shoot that he is able to plant, then he should plant it.” [Ahmad, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]


Moreover, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) assured people of the assistance of Allah, The Almighty, that He further increases the high motivation and ambition of people according to the sublimity of their ambition, saying:


“Help from Allah comes to the servant according to his diligence.” [Imam Al-Bazzar]


Of course hard work is exhausting, but it has great pleasure, especially when the diligent person reaps the outcome of his work. Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim may Allah have mercy upon him said:


“The sages of every nation agree that welfare cannot be obtained through welfare, that anyone who prefers comfort will miss it, and that joy and pleasure depend on the level of risks and difficulties that are experienced when getting them. There is no joy for a person who has no resolve; no pleasure for a person who lacks patience; no bliss for a person who endures no hardships; and no comfort for a person who has no hard work. If a person is exhausted for a short time, he will relax for longer. If he endures difficulties for a short while, this will lead him to eternal welfare. People who will receive eternal delight [the people of Paradise] earned this status due to their patience in this very short worldly life. Truly, Allah alone gives help, and there is no power except in Him. The loftier one’s own self is and the higher his aspirations are, the more a person’s body is exhausted and the less his comfort is. Yahya Ibn Kathir may Allah have mercy upon him said: “Knowledge cannot be acquired when the body is in comfort.” [Muslim] All those who are sensible undoubtedly believe that perfect comfort depends on the level of exhaustion, and perfect bliss relies on the level of difficulties that are endured when achieving it. Comfort, pleasure and bliss are free of exhaustion only in Paradise, not in this worldly life.” [Quoted from Uluw Al-Himmah, by Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Isma‘il]


A person who takes diligence to be a slogan in life does not depend on his ancestors or family background, nor does he rely on boasting of his fathers and forefathers. Instead he builds his own glory, adding it to that of his forefathers. Some sages have said:


“Utilise your diligence as long as you are in good health, and take the opportunity to work while you are at leisure, for time will not be always on your side, nor will you be able to restore what you have lost.”


A scholar once said:


“Work is like an armour that protects a person against afflictions, and diligence is like a sword that wards off misfortune.”


Another scholar said:


“Nothing is better than having a reason that is adorned with forbearance, a deed that is adorned with knowledge, and forbearance that is adorned with truthfulness!”


Some scholars have said:


“Could it be true and logical that crops are harvested without prior sowing of seeds, fruits are reaped without the planting of trees, fire comes from two stones without striking them together, or that money yields without effort?”


It was also said:


“There is a cause for every provision and whoever diligently seeks something, finds it.”


Indeed, what a great saying was that of the Commander of Believers, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, he said:


“Do not stop pursuing livelihood and supplicating, ‘O Allah, provide for me!’ You know that the sky does not rain gold or silver (or money). Allah, The Almighty, provides for people by virtue of their interaction.”


Therefore, work hard and do not be indolent. Your Muslim Ummah is waiting for a push from you like that of Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, a push that illuminates the torch of enthusiasm in its heart, amidst the darkness of this gloomy state of obliviousness. It is also waiting for a cry from you like that of Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi (Saladin) may Allah have mercy  upon him, a cry that plants hope in the desert of despair. Help from Allah comes in accordance with diligence, therefore, seek help from Allah and do not lose heart!


Respected servants of Allah! Wallahi, even a cursory look at the lives of the most successful men and women in the world will reveal an undeniable fact that; those people, all of them, share one quality, HARD WORK.


We all aspire to succeed but regardless of the paths we choose, hard work must be at the heart of our efforts if we want to taste success. This is a universal principle, encapsulated in the Arabic adage:


“Those who work hard, attain.”


Our Merciful Creator, Allah Almighty, declares:


“And it was said to the people, ‘Have you (also) gathered?” [Surah Al-Shu’arah, Verse 39]


We learn from this Qur’anic verse that a person will only attain what he strives and works hard for. So whether you aim to achieve a qualification, a job, a dream house, or you wish to earn a Halal living to support your family and others, whatever aspiration it may be, HARD WORK is the only way. After all, we live in a world of means and as Muslims, we resolutely believe that Allah Almighty, the Provider and Nourisher of all creation, rewards hard work, so the more we strive for His sake, the more we will gain from His infinite treasures.


Even the noble Prophets and Messengers of Allah (Peace be upon them) strove relentlessly, despite their lofty ranks. Although they could have had entire communities serving their needs, they chose to lead by example, working hard so that their followers learn the value of work and effort.


Prophet Dawud (Peace be upon him), for example, was granted authority over a vast realm, yet he never had a meal unless he earned it himself. Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:


“He (Prophet Dawud) would only eat from [the earnings of] his own hand’s work.” [Al-Bukhari]

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As for the king and leader of the Prophets, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), his humble nature was unparalleled. All of the noble Companions were yearning to serve him, believing it to be the essence of life and faith. Yet, he (Peace be upon him) chose to work throughout his life and attend to his needs himself.


His beloved wife, Aisha (RA), described it thus:


The Beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) would milk his sheep and serve himself.” [Musnad of Imam Ahmad]


So now that this formula of hard work is imbedded in your mind, let me present some accounts from our pious predecessors (Salaf) in relation to striving and working hard, and how their efforts produced grand results and glad tidings.


  • The successful student who strived


“Imam Sa’aduddin al-Taftazani (Rahimahullah), whose books are integral to Islamic curricula around the globe, was an unintelligent student when he joined the classes of Qadi Abdur-Rahman al-Shirazi (Rahimahullah). He had become somewhat of an example of how a student should not be. Despite this, he remained determined, disregarding the comments of those around him. Then one day, while he was reviewing his lesson, an unknown person approached him and said: ‘Sa’aduddin! Come, let’s go on an excursion. He replied: ‘I have not been created for excursions. (My situation is such that) even after studying, I am still unable to understand anything, so how can I go on an excursion?’ Hearing this, the unknown person left but then came back again after a while and asked him again to come on an excursion. He again replied with the same answer. The unknown person left the second time but then came back again and this time said: ‘The Beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) is calling you.’ These words made his body tremble, forcing him to run out bare-footed, eager to see the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him). Reaching a place outside the city, he saw the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) under the shade of a tree. The Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw Sa’aduddin Taftazani and smilingly said: ‘You did not come even though I called you many times.’ He replied with a very humble tone of voice: ‘Prophet of Allah! I did not know that you were calling. You know the state of my weak memory. I seek in your court a cure for my illness.’ The Merciful Prophet (Peace be upon him) heard his request and said: ‘Open your mouth.’ He opened his mouth and the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) placed his blessed saliva into his mouth. He (Peace be upon him) then prayed for him, gave him the glad tidings of success and ordered him to go back home. The next day, when he attended the class of Qadi Abdur-Rahman al-Shirazi, he asked a few complex questions during the lesson. The other students were unable to fully grasp the questions, so they deemed them unnecessary and useless and did not pay attention to them. But his teacher, who was a polymath, began to weep and remarked: ‘Sa’aduddin! Today, you are not the same person as yesterday.’ Sa’aduddin al-Taftazani then narrated the whole event to his teacher.” [See Shazaratuz-Zahab, vol. 7, page 68]

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Imam Sa’aduddin al-Taftazani (Rahimahullah) continued striving, never giving up despite the challenges. Eventually, his efforts bore fruit and he was blessed to receive immense bounties from the court of the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him). This should drive us to striving and work hard. May the Grace of Allah Almighty and the gaze of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) be with all those who work hard, ameen.


The great jurist of Islam, Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimahullah) summed up the value of hard work in his advice to his student, Imam Abu Yusuf (Rahimahullah). He said:


“You were very unintelligent but through striving and steadfastness, you have progressed. Therefore, always distance yourself from indolence as it is a calamity and an unfortunate state.”


Laziness is a substantial barrier in the path of success. It is a harmful state that begets many vices. Therefore, never ever allow laziness to seep into your life. Rather, you should always be resolute in doing worldly and Islamic works because a hardworking person is loved by everyone and a lazy person suffers loss wherever he goes. An indolent person can neither do any worldly work nor Islamic. The Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) would teach the following supplication:


“O Allah! I seek Your refuge from laziness.” [Al-Bukhari]


Respected brothers and sisters! Wallahi, if we desire success, we need to ensure that hard work and effort are ingrained in us. Always adopt those means that will aid you in this regard and stay far away from those traits that will become an obstacle in achieving success. Work diligently and then leave the results to the mercy of Allah Almighty.


  • There Is No Substitute For Hard Work


Dear brothers and sisters! Hard work not only pays you but it also builds your character. Your hard work contributes to success and also increase your happiness. If you get a reward without much hard work and efforts then this reward will for sure not improve you personally, it will make you over-confident and promote you towards dependency. There is no substitute for hard work. Getting something with hard work and efforts makes your soul happy, make you happy about your potential and make you believe that with hard work anything is possible. People feel great when they realise that success which they have is earned by them. This realisation enables them to have control over their lives.


Hard work is paid back with interest. Hard work is not only good for your pocket or wallet or bank account but it’s also good for your soul because our soul feels peaceful and satisfied only when we earn something by our own. We able to sleep peacefully at night because we people know that the success which we have right now is because of our own hard work and efforts. And this feeling makes us confident, happy and gives us the purpose of our lives. A person can achieve anything in life if a person is willing to do hard work and smart work towards their purpose.


  • Why There Is No Substitute For Hard Work?


Getting something without hard work will help you temporarily, for example, getting good marks or grades in your exams by cheating will not help you for long, because this thing will be temporary and reality needs hard work and efforts. Putting efforts, hard work makes you confident about your potential and this confidence will develop winning quality and attitude in you. With hard work, you will not only become curious but creative too. By putting efforts you not only improve your physical strength but mental strength too. There is no substitute for hard work. Hard work not only pays you but it improves your life at every level.


Many people think that doing hard work is a kind of punishment but unfortunately, this is the wrong believe because hard work is a gift and person who knows the importance of hard work they know the reward of hard work as well. Hard work builds character, people trust those who are always ready to work hard in their lives. Hard work gives satisfaction, happiness and peace. When talent fails to work, hard work for sure works. Hence don’t expect anything without hard work because expecting things without hard work is like dreaming without plans and implementation. Hence always believe your potential and work hard toward your purpose. Hard work teaches you several lessons as follows:


  1. Hard work gives courage: By doing hard work you not only build courage but you also put your fear aside, hard work helps you to move out of your comfort zone and take you to the world of possibilities.


  1. Hard work gives discipline: Hard work makes person focused and help you to remain strong no matter how tough time is, hard work makes you disciplined towards your purpose and goals.


  1. Hard work builds integrity: Hard work makes people trust you, hard work gives honour and also helps you to keep your words and promises.


  1. Hard work put more efforts: Hard work makes you confident and helps you to put 110% it pushes you above your limit and make you strong physically and mentally.


  1. Hard work gives humility: Hard work keeps you humble, polite and makes you positive, hard work never allows you lose hope, hard work helps you to learn from your mistake and helps you to work hard again with same enthusiasm.


  1. Hard work gives you control: Hard work makes you responsible, hard work gives control of your life in your hands, hard work makes you understand whether you get positive outcome or not, it’s your responsibility and you should take it in your hand, if get positive outcome then should move to next stage if not then again work hard and achieve desired outcome.


  1. Hard work gives flexibility: Hard work keeps you focused towards your goal and make you flexible about your methods, a person who does hard work never lost focus, they just stay flexible towards their methods.


  1. Hard work gives satisfaction: Hard work gives peace, satisfaction and happiness; hard work makes your soul happy, hard work makes you feel satisfied.


Dear brothers and sisters! Wallahi never expect good results without hard work. Work hard and smart towards your goals and purpose, never demotivate your potential.


I pray, may Allah Almighty enable us to diligently achieve our goals and grant us success in both worlds, ameen.


All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.


Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.


This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Jumadah Ula 12th, 1443 A.H. (December 17, 2021).

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