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Theory Of Islamic Work Ethics

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Islam emphasises on a creative and productive effort as a source of happiness and accomplishment. This is due to the Islamic viewpoint of poverty as the promise of the devil, and prosperity as the promise of God as Allah has prescribed in the Quran: “The devil threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promised you His forgiveness and bounties” (Al Qur’an, Al Baqarah: 268). This implies that poverty can almost amount to impiety. Thus, begging and living as a parasite on the labours of others are condemned by Islamic teaching. With this regards, the Prophet has preached that: “No one eats better food than that which he eats out of his work” (Bukhari).

Islam perceives work as an ibadah which is a religious duty and jihad which is cause of Allah. Prophet has preached: “An honest and trustworthy merchant will be with the Prophets, the truthful and the martyrs” (Tarmizi). Work is a dedicative effort striving to further self-interest economically, socially and psychologically, to sustain social prestige, to advance societal welfare and reaffirm faith. In other words, work as a means to safeguard the five essential human needs namely din (faith), nafs (human self), `aql (intellect), nasl (posterity) and mal (wealth). Hence, it is important for human beings to pursue whatever work is available whenever it is available subjected to the Will of Allah SWT as Allah SWT has decreed in the Quran: “…disperse through the land and seek of the bounty of God” (Al Qur’an, Al Jum’ah: 10).

The concept of work as an ibadah and jihad ascertain that the involvement and participation in economic activities which is work is not merely a means to sustain a thriving and healthy society but also a divine call (Rizk, 2008). According to Ali, A.J. (1988), the value of work in the Islamic work ethics is derived from the accompanying intentions rather than from the results of work. Thus, the most essential feature of work as an ibadah and jihad is niyyat (intention). In Islam, work is given special importance to the extent that it is considered as an act of worship itself. Therefore, Islam lays a lot of emphasis on work and the need for man to work in earning his livelihood so as to be independent, self-sufficient and in order to uphold his dignity among his peers and in his community.

Furthermore, the Islamic work ethic is an orientation and also practical toward work. It implies that work is a virtue in light of man’s needs and a necessity to establish equilibrium in one’s individual and social life. The Islamic work ethic stands not for life denial but for life fulfilment and holds business motives in the highest regard (Ahmad, 1976). The concept has its origin in the Quran, the sayings and practice of the Prophet Mohammed, who preached that hard work caused sins to be absolved and that “no one eats better food than that which he eats out of his work”. And Imam Ali, the fourth successor of Prophet Mohammed stated “Persist in your action with a noble end in mind…Failure to perfect your work while you are sure of the reward is injustice to yourself”.

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In another perspective, Islamic work ethic can be defined as the set of moral principles that distinguish what is right from what is wrong (Beekun, 1997) in the Islamic context. Islamic work ethics is being multi-dimensional and related to various aspects of life such as social, political and economic. Islamic work ethics also a set of values or system of beliefs derived from the Quran and also Sunnah concerning work and hard work. Work ethics in Islam in as much as it brings material gains also has its own spiritual dimension and connection to the Divine whose pleasure Muslims seek to earn in everything that they do. Kamal Hassan has listed five attributes of the Islamic work ethics which are employees have to fulfil their job for the societal obligation with purpose to seek pleasure of Allah, trustworthiness as a vicegerent of Allah which comprehends all aspects of living as a human, Muslim must perform his duty as a religious obligation as well as implements all ritual obligations, employee must adhere to diligence and efficiency as well as fairness in preserving public interest and employer-employee relationships are based on human value which is beyond race, colour, language and inheritance.

There are four primary concepts of Islamic work ethic as set by Ali,A.J. (2005) and Ali,A.J. and Al-Owaihan,A. (2008) when discussing on the framework of this topic. The concepts are efforts, teamwork, transparency-honesty and morally responsible conduct. First, efforts in Islam is very important and Islam encourages human to acquire skills and technology and highly praises those who strive in order to earn a living as stated in Quran: “Whoever work righteousness, man or woman and has faith verily to him will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of his action” (Al Qur’an, Al Nahl: 97), and in Hadith: “Truly Allah likes to see his servants striving to earn an honest income” (Dailami). In addition, the Islamic work ethics views dedication to work as a virtue. Sufficient effort should go into one’s work, which is seen as obligatory for a capable individual. Islam emphasises that the exerted effort of an individual should be linked to itqan, istiqamah and tawakkal.

Next, teamwork is strongly recommended in Islam so that they can help each other to fulfil their needs in this world and also hereafter as stated in the Quran: “…and we raise some of them above others in ranks, so that some may command work from others …” (Al Qur’an, Al Zukhruf: 32) and “And those in whose wealth is a recognized right for the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason)”(Al Qur’an, Al Maarij: 24-25). Competition in teamwork must be executed fairly, justly and honestly and can be realised through the implementation of the concept of mu’awanah, ‘adl and syura. Thus, Islam encourages competition among man in preventing immoral actions as well as inciting virtuous actions in his workplace. This task can be effectively and efficiently performed by imposing the spirit of brotherhood.

The third concepts is transparency-honesty. The Almighty Allah had instructed us to be honest in any sort of dealings. Allah says: “O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed” (Al Qur’an, At-Taubah: 119). In the same context, the Prophet: “Thou shall be honest as honest shows benevolence and benevolence brings to Jannah (heaven)…” (Muslim). Honesty could mean telling the truth even though it is hard to do. In other words, the person does not conceal anything that should be disclosed. If he has to present a progress report on a certain project, he has to disclose the actual progress even though the project has problems. If he is an accountant, he has to report all the transactions accurately according to the accounting steps and procedures (Atiyah, 1993).

The last concept is morally responsible conduct which is trustworthy. Allah has appointed man as His khalifah (vicegerent) in this world. The absolute ownership of wealth in the world belongs to Allah. In the Qur’an Allah says to the effect; “He is who created for you all that is in the earth…and when thy Lord said unto the angels; Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth…” (Al Qur’an, Al Baqarah: 29 – 30). Hence, all the resources, the wealth and men themselves are amanah (trust) for mankind. Man has been endowed with mental and physical capabilities to function as khalifah. As such, every individual man is commanded to be a trustworthy person. A trustworthy person is a person who will keep the trust entrusted to him responsibly and faithfully. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Allah does command you to render back your trust to those to whom they are due; and when ye judge between man and man that ye judge with justice; verily how excellent is the teaching which He gives you for Allah is He who hearth and sees all things” (Al Qur’an, An Nisa’: 58). In another verse, Allah says: “If any of you deposits a thing on trust with another, the trustee should (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him fear his Lord” (Al Qur’an, Al Baqarah: 283). A trustworthy person is also a self-reliant individual (Ali, A.J. and Al-Owaihan, A., 2008). Such individual will constantly work hard to meet responsibilities. He will perform the task given even with the absence of his superior or employer or manager. His performance of work is not because he is instructed to do so but merely due to his sense of responsibility.

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Theory Of Islamic Work Ethics. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from
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