The value of one is often defined by what they do. The output of one’s work is not necessarily what makes it worthy. It is -like many other things- relative; some people consider a certain act heroic, while another group of people would deem it brute and evil. Who has the final word?
In the ever-miserable pursuit of illusory perpetual happiness, people can so easily adapt to committing certain actions they’d never do -willingly- if given the chance—just for all types of outcomes. So many actions cast different colors in different lights. Like a mother gladly throwing herself in the fire to rescue her child. To the cold observant, this might be an act of stupidity. A wiser observant knows that there’s a sure, well-evaluated outcome for the mother’s action, that can easily justify it. A philanthropist that uses their seemingly-kind actions to mask other ulterior goals that can even contradict the innocent nature of charity -like tax evasion- is another sad example.
If there were a list of crafts that are guaranteed to be valuable and “good” We’d all be practitioners. But there isn’t, because the majority of crafts are important—they cover a need. This is assuming we evaluate labour’s worthiness by its impact on people. Which is also relative. It seems that neither the craft itself nor its outcome is enough to evaluate one’s worth. No matter how many angles we look at, it all ends up in the core—the intention.
Why we do what we do is an underrated question. There may be several outcomes of our effort, yet only one matters to us. Is it monetary? rarely for just the sake of it; if we were to discuss money, then we should discuss what would we do with that money. That is a valid outcome, that -for many- is only achievable through labour. A predator that only kills for sport would surely famish. Failing to determine the true intention, the true need that caused our actions and our efforts only leads to a very unrealistic, delusional life. Seeking prosperity and well-being is instinctual, but where do we draw the line? To what extent do we allocate our time to this goal? If we were gifted with a lifetime fortune, would we all stop working? Given now that our needs are satisfied, we may now enjoy a banana on a tree branch. But it isn’t that simple. It goes even deeper.
And money doesn’t bring me joy;
It’s more of a darling dead weight
And I seem to have lost my appetite
It’s underrated how we overrate.
— Marko Saaresto
And there’s this question that is asked by many: why bother? Many have proven ending one’s own life is completely doable; One could refrain from doing all kinds of painful efforts because there’d be no needs to satisfy in the first place. If we -only- seek comfort then death is the safest, closest, and fastest way to absolute comfort.
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take it or leave,
If I please
— J. Mandel
And here, a connection is abruptly brought to mind: It’s never just about satisfaction. There’s also an obligation. We’re here because we’re created. The Creator designed us with needs and their corresponding methods of satisfaction. And tasked us with complete submission and devotion. And this is the only true purpose that should motivate our every action, including satisfying our needs.
Say: ‘Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life, and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.’
— Surah 6 (The Cattle)
˹Allah speaking˺ I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me’.
— Surah 51 (The Winnowing Winds)
The quality of our work must not be swayed by the type of work we do; if one is ever committed to doing something, it shall be done with utmost precision, sheer effort, and absolute determination. A work done subpar is not considered done; It’s worthless work, a waste of time. Yet this would not be achievable but with proper assessment of one’s capabilities, and assigning work accordingly.
Choose such actions as you are capable of performing, for Allah does not grow weary till you do. The acts most pleasing to Allah are those which are done most continuously, even if they amount to a little. Whenever he (ﷺ) began an action, he would do it continuously.
— Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)
Is work bound by a portion of our time? Is work a necessary evil? What is a life with no work called? Work shouldn’t be a chore. Work isn’t an hourly routine in some of our days. Anything we do is work, paid or not; timed or not; Our existence is for a cause, then, our every second should be utilised to serve this cause. If we’d stop encapsulating our actions and efforts into bounded terms and labels, forgetting the reason for these efforts, we will only suffer and treat our efforts as pain that we need to put off of our shoulders at the end of the day, while seeking illusory breaks and rests as if work is the reason of our misery. Our breaks are labour. We take breaks to be able to continue our work.
I asked Aisha, Mother of the believers, ‘O mother of the believers! How were the deeds of the Prophet? Did he use to do extra deeds of worship on special days?’ She said, ‘No, but his deeds were regular and constant, and who among you is able to do what the Prophet (ﷺ) was able to do (i.e. in worshipping Allah)?’
— Aalqma, The Companion
O Hanzalah, there is a time for this [work | worship] and a time for that [worldly affairs]
— Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)