Professions of the Prophets
By Kiran Shah
Earning for one’s livelihood and family has high regard in our religion. Hard work and taking responsibility of one’s family is made equivalent to any Ibadah. It says in Surah Muzammil Ayah 20:
“He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others traveling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah. So recite what is easy from it [the Quran]…” (Al-Muzzammil 73:20)
So to clarify, a Rukhsa (ease) is given to a person, who goes out to earn from long worships of the night. The virtue of earning by oneself is also very evident from this Hadeeth:
The Prophet (sa) said: “No doubt, it is better for anyone of you to cut a bundle of wood and carry it over his back, rather than to ask someone who may or may not give him.” (Bukhari)
The professional industry has developed a lot over the years – there are countless choices, some Halal and others not. It is important to know, how our role models earned, so that we can attain guidance from them. The concept of professionalism in Islam is no restricted only to earning money; rather, benefitting the people around oneself in the process. There is high regard in doing things with Ehsaan in our religion, and the Ehsaan in work life is to do the job to the best of your ability, to benefit other people and to be the best team player.
Intention also plays a great part: if one intends to earn money in a Halal manner, without being unjust or hurting anyone, intending to provide for his family and earn the pleasure of Allah, then it will be counted the same.
“Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus, he whose migration was for Allah (swt) and His messenger, his migration was for Allah (swt) and His messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
All the prophets of Allah (swt) have taken high regard in working to earn their own living. They all were skilled professionals of their own time and did not rely on others for their upkeep.
It is from the absolute wisdom of Allah (swt) that many prophets were shepherds, before they received the prophethood – not only it instilled mercy in their hearts, but also taught them the ability to guide their herd in the most effective manner.
The Prophet (sa) also was a shepherd from an early age, and then took up trade with his uncle. His professionalism and honesty are evident from the fact that his boss (i.e., Khadijah (rtaf)) decided to marry him. Later, when he became the head of the state in Madinah, he laid numerous rules to define the importance of earning a Halal living.
The Prophet (sa) said: “Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that, which one has earned by working with one’s own hands. Prophet of Allah Dawood (as) used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor.” (Bukhari)
Dawood (as) was famous for his skill of making armour. He was so good at it that Allah (swt) says in the Quran that iron was made soft for him. He was given a natural ability, which he used to earn his living and provide something of great use for his army.
Similarly, Adam (as) was a skilled farmer, which is a completely different skill set but equally important for the growth of an economy. It is said that his sons, Habil and Qabil, took up the same profession. At the time of their existence, this skill was most important for achieving security and overall sustainable development for the upcoming generations.
Prophet Noah (as) worked as a ship wright, which is referred to as naval engineering in today’s terms. He could also be called a carpenter, but I guess for the ability and expertise, which went in designing the boat of the size he created, naval engineer sounds more appropriate.
A good resume is everything in today’s world. And if it is followed by good references, it adds further credibility to the person. How to present one’s capabilities is well demonstrated by the example of Yousuf (as): not only did he lay a good record of his services, he claimed confidently that he was the best person for the job. Confidence is the name of the game in today’s job market. Yousuf (as) fulfilled his claims and demonstrated his ability as a shrewd strategist and excellent finances manager, saving his people in the hard times of the famine.
Following him was Musa (as), who was taken up by Shoaib (as) to care for his business. When he became a leader himself later on, alongside him was Haroon (as) as his advisor. The fate of a business is defined by the capabilities of its managers and advisors. Today thousands of dollars are spent in the search of knowledgeable, smart and driven advisors. In the words of the Quran, the best ability of a person to be recruited is “strength and trust”, as said by the wife of Musa, when convincing her father to hire him. Both these qualities came in handy, when later he became the leader of his nation.
The efficiency of a running firm, city or country is determined by the involvement of its leader (the CEO, the president, etc.). This example is set by many prophets, but the most specific instance mentioned in the Quran is of Sulaiman (as), when he called upon his armies and noticed immediately that Hudhud is missing. Sulaiman (as) set precedence of what a CEO or a president should be like: disciplined, soft yet firm. He also took personal interest in the development of the infrastructure of his kingdom, till he died as mentioned in the Quran.
There are three areas, which determine the success in any profession: knowledge, ability and skills. Ability is by birth, knowledge and skill are attained. All the prophets received the knowledge from Allah (swt) and applied it to their inborn abilities, resulting in the improvement in their skillset and abilities. In order to achieve the excellence in the professional front, the first step would be to recognize your built-in talents and abilities. Then, polish them with learning the required skill and acquiring knowledge about it, till you become a pro. Everything gets better with experience and practice, but the first step remains to know yourself.
The prophets of Islam had many professions; however, the ones that they all shared were of an effective leader and a teacher. The importance of good teachers cannot be overlooked in the development of a progressive society – the better the teachers, the better the generations to come. We all can be effective leaders and teachers in our lives, no matter where we are placed – in homes or in corporate settings.
The Prophet (sa) said: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Bukhari)