Islamic work ethic.

We all know what the protestant work ethic is- the idea that by working hard you fulfil your duty to God, and watching how you spend your salary as a way to seek salvation from your Lord.  This phrase seems to be used in wider society for those who work really, really hard and are committed to their work. Now what is an Islamic Work Ethic? In the times that we are living in now, I think it is really important to be clear about the conduct of working lives within Islam and the basic tenants that should determine how we work and undertake our daily tasks. This is an attempt at coming up with an answer to the question.

Definitions are important first.  Working Muslim defines work as ‘productive use of time, doing something that will benefit the world or the hereafter’, this means that work does not require a salary every month. Our most valuable commodity is time, not money- who in the last few minutes of their lives will want another £100k rather than an extra 1 hour with their family?

Ethics can be defined as a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality; that is, about concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, justice, and virtue.[1]

The teachings of Islam are quite clear about how we should use our time on this journey, in the best way that we can.  Look at the very powerful translation from the Qur’an of Surah Al Asr, 103: 1-3:
 “By Time, Verily all human beings are in loss,  Except those who have achieved ‘Faith’, have per­formed Righteous deeds, and have emphasized to each other the teaching of ‘Truth’ and (the value of) ‘Patience’ (perseverance and constancy).” 
If we look at these simple words and try and understand the meaning then essentially success should not be viewed in terms of status, wealth, the type of house that we live in, what car we drive. True success comes out of first having faith and then of performing ‘righteous deeds’, and therefore how we use our time is key. Although sometimes life feels like it is very long, actually this is just a short journey.

We are also reminded of the benefits of 5 before 5 when the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: “Make the most of five things before five others: life before death, health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, youth before old age, and wealth before poverty.”

So how would one describe the Islamic Work Ethic?
How you spend your time has to be satisfying and it should fulfil you- don’t just do something for the sake of it. What is the benchmark for your deciding how you spend your time? An article was published in the Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies by Wahibur Rokhman which produced an Islamic Work Ethic Scale. There are 17 elements to Rokhman’s scale. Working Muslim believes that that these are a good summary of an Islamic Work Ethic- with the key one being one should carry out work to the best of one’s ability- i.e. have  Ihsan.

1. Laziness is a vice
2. Dedication to work is a virtue
3. Good work benefits both one’s self and others
4. Justice and generosity in the work place are necessary conditions for society’s welfare
5. Producing more than enough to meet one’s needs contributes to the prosperity of society as a whole
6. One should carry work out to the best of one’s ability
7. Work is not an end in itself but a means to foster personal growth and social relations
8. Life has no meaning without Work
9. More leisure time is good for society
10. Human relations should be emphasize and encourage
11. Work enables man to control nature
12. Creative work is a source of happiness and accomplishment
13. Any person who works is more likely to get ahead in life
14. Work gives one the chance to be independent
15. A successful person is the one who meets deadlines at Work
16. One should constantly work hard to meet responsibilities
17. The value of work is delivered from the accompanying intention rather than its result

Have you thought about what your personal Islamic Work Ethic is? Using the above as a starting point why don’t you spend a few minutes considering what your personal work ethics are.



  1. MashAllah what an awesome post! Not many people think of work from an Islamic point of view. Choosing not to work is like choosing not to experience these aspects of being Muslim. I especially like the 17 elements, each one is like a motivational slogan in itself. JazakAllah Khairan for posting this :) Wasalaam.

  2. As-salaamu alaykum wa rahmatul Allah,

    I hope that you and your family are in the best of health and eman.

    Jazaakil Allahu khairun. May Allah swt reward you immensely for helping so many Muslim women gain financial independence. Allahumma ameen.

    I was wondering if you could please help me. I really need your help as soon as possible to start and run an online business so that I can take care of myself and not have to be a burden on my family.

    I have very little income. I published 6 ebooks to sell on amazon, but that only earns me around $139 in a whole year. I work as a substitute teacher at an Islamic school because there were no other jobs available at the school, but the jobs are very infrequent (I only worked one day so far since the school started at the end of August). It is very hard for me to get a good paying job because I could not afford to finish my college degree. I studied as much as I could using scholarships and government grants. There are very few options for Muslim women to work in an Islamic environment and earn halal income in the U.S. I don't have the financial support of a husband and because of my age it is very unlikely that I will ever get married. I cannot afford to live on my own, so I have to live with my brother and his family. It is very depressing to not have a husband or a family of one's own, to have to live in someone else's house for the rest of one's life, and to not be able to afford to live on my own.

    I went to your website and got on the waiting list to study how to start an online business. I really want you join your online course "Millionaire MBA" as soon as possible so that I can learn how to start my own halal online business so that I can take care of my own expenses and not be a burden on anyone. I was wondering if you could please make a space for me to start studying your "Millionaire MBA" course as soon as possible.

    Authentic ahadith: “The most beloved to Allah swt among human beings is the most beneficial to them (ie. those people who help and benefit people the most)” and “The highest level after eman is to be of service to people.”

    Jazaakil Allahu khairun kind sister.

    May Allah swt grant you Jannatul Firdaus for helping a Muslim sister in difficulty. Allahumma ameen.

    Was-salaamu alaykum wa rahmatul Allah

    You can contact me at farooqay at