The Importance of Work in Islam
Just Distribution of Work
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)and his companions alighted from their horses and started unloading their camels to break their journey. Everyone agreed on slaughtering a goat and cooking its meat for dinner. One of them offered to slaughter the animal. Another took removing the skin upon himself. A third volunteered to cook the meat.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)said, ‘I’ll collect the wood for the fire from the surrounding wilderness.’ All his (PBUH)companions cried in unison, ‘Why must you work, with us around? We feel honored to serve you while you rest. We will complete the task in no time.’
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)replied. ‘I know that you can accomplish this in no time, but God doesn’t befriend anyone who considers himself better than his friends and worthy of their respect.’
Saying this he walked towards the woods, and returned with a pile of dry twigs and leaves enough to light the fire while the others finished their work.
Division of Labour
After Imam Ali (A.S)and Lady Fatimah Zahra (A.S)got married, they began their new life together. They organized their belongings as needed and went to the Holy Prophet (PBUH)for his advice in the division of domestic chores. ‘Guide us, O Prophet of Allah (s), as to how we should divide our domestic chores between us,’ requested Imam Ali (A.S).
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)declared, ‘Ali, you will do all the chores outside the house, while Fatimah will perform all those inside the house.’
Lady Fatimah (A.S)was overjoyed with his division. She said, ‘I am so relieved to have nothing to do with men.’ Ali (A.S)would purchase wood, grain, groceries and other essential items from the market, while she would grind the flour, cook the meals, do the laundry and keep the house clean. Besides, whenever Imam Ali (A.S)found extra time he would help with the chores inside the house.
One day the Holy Prophet (PBUH)visited them and found them both working together. He (PBUH)asked, ‘Who is the more exhausted of you two, for me to assist?’ ‘Fatimah,’ said Ali (A.S).
He (PBUH)sent her to rest and helped Ali (A.S)to complete her chores.
Islam was in its early days and Imam Ali (A.S)had to accompany the Muslim army for Jihad more than often. He provided her with all the essential items, but, whenever the need arose, Lady Fatimah (A.S)went to the market herself and purchased whatever she needed in those days.
Life went on smoothly until the family grew and the house was echoing with the innocent joyful laughter of children. However, the burden of work inside the house had increased manifold. One day Imam Ali (A.S)noticed that grinding, cooking, carrying waterbags from the well, washing and cleaning, besides feeding, bathing, and babysitting the children had left Fatimah (A.S)with sore hands, a scarred back and worn-out clothes. Despite his help, she was busy all the time.
Sorrowful on her condition, he advised her to request her father for a serving woman. Lady Fatimah (A.S)agreed. She went to see her father, but found him busy conversing with some people. She returned home without voicing her request.
However, the Holy Prophet (PBUH)noticed her coming and going, and understood that she had come for something important. Next morning, he went to visit her to find out the reason for her visit the day before. At the door, he greeted the inmates in a loud, clear voice, ‘Assalam o Alaikum.’
Both Ali (A.S)and Fatimah (A.S)were resting. They felt embarrassed that they were still resting, and did not respond aloud. It was the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH)habit to repeat the greeting thrice and return if he failed to get a response. Imam Ali (A.S)knew his habit, so he quickly replied, ‘Walaikum Assalam, O Prophet of Allah (s). Do come in.’
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)sat at the head side of his daughter’s bed and asked, ‘You came to see me yesterday, Fatimah, and then returned. I am sure it was important. What did you come for, my child?’
Imam Ali (A.S)replied, ‘If you permit me, I will tell you why Fatimah went to see you. I sent her to you. The reason was that her chores within the house have increased manifold. It grieves me to see her sore hands, scarred back and dusty clothes because of working all day long. I sent her to request you to provide a woman to assist her.’
The Holy Prophet (PBUH)did not want any member of his family to enjoy facilities that were not available to the poor Muslims, especially the immigrants, who were in a state of extreme poverty in those days. He knew the spiritual level of his daughter’s faith, so he said, ‘Would you prefer it if I give you something better?’
‘We will be pleased to accept, Ya Rasool Allah (s).’
‘Everyday, before going to bed, recite Allah o Akbar, 34 times, Alhamdolillah, 33 times and Subhanallah, 33 times. It will give you more strength to perform your chores than any helping hand.’
Lady Fatimah (A.S)had not uncovered her face until this moment. She removed the cloth from her face and said, ‘My pleasure lies in what pleases my Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (s).’
To be continued ...
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