A Guide to Choosing a Profession That Benefits You and the Ummah

A Guide to Choosing a Profession That Benefits You and the Ummah | Productive Muslim
Photo by Wilhelm Anderson: flickr[dot]com/photos/wilhelmja/

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense. Paulo Coelho

Carving a career path is not about choosing something that is popular, one that everyone else seems to be doing or one that gives you the highest financial returns. For Muslims, it is of utmost importance that we choose the right career path as it is a decision that will affect our productivity. It also has the potential to make or break not only our worldly life but also our hereafter.

By choosing a profession that benefits the Ummah, our career will not only be a source of permissible income for us, but it is also a form of social productivity that brings not only the Muslim Ummah closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) but also provides opportunities for non-Muslims to come to the same path. This will benefit us in the world and our status will be elevated in the hereafter as well, In sha Allah. Indeed earning a halal income based on our own efforts is encouraged by the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘if one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better than asking a man who may or may not give him something.”‘ [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

So how exactly do we choose a career from an Islamic perspective and a path that will benefit the Ummah? Below are some pointers that will help us to at least start thinking along the right lines and get the ball rolling in the way of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation.

1. Follow Your Strengths

While choosing a career, it is important that we follow our strengths. We should choose a path that is close to our hearts and one that we like. However, it is equally important that it is one that feeds off the strengths blessed upon you by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). All of us have our strengths and it is of utmost importance that we make an effort to identify those. This could be done through assessment activities, such as taking online questionnaires and surveys. It can also be done through self-reflection and assessing what is it that you like to do and are good at compared to your other skills and also in comparison to other individuals in society. To gain a deeper insight into the job that you are interested in, you could sign up for internships or apprenticeship programs.

More often than not, we would perform better at something that we naturally enjoy as opposed to something that we have to make an effort to do. The better we perform our job, the better the position we will be in to benefit the Ummah. For example, if we possess strong presentation/ communication or public speaking skills, we could consider becoming a da’ee and invite people to Islam. If we have a good grasp of the Arabic language and enjoy interaction with others, we can consider taking up teaching Arabic as a vocation.

And if the people of the towns had believed and had the Taqwa (piety), certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn (polytheism and crimes). [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 96]

2. Keep it Halal & Seek the Pleasure of Allah

It has been seen many a times that a person chooses a career path blindly without thinking about its religious implications. There are certain careers that involve certain forbidden characteristics such as immoral behavior, corruption, bribery or interest-based transactions. Any career that would involve such characteristics would be questionable and the income of which is deemed haram by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

In many cases, it is until after many years they realize that the money they have been earning for all these years was forbidden and they have been accumulating nothing but sins all their life. At this point, it becomes the biggest test of your life as it is something that you have invested much money and time in and for people of weaker Iman, it becomes almost impossible to go back on your actions. How is it possible to benefit the Ummah through a career which is plainly haram? How can they hope to attain any reward from it? Hence, the importance of keeping the career halal at all times.

The importance of seeking the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) cannot be emphasized enough. While choosing a career path, always keep in mind that our aim is to gain the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Hence, we should choose a path which will enable us to remain steadfast on the teachings of Islam as detailed in the Qur’an or hadith and ones which will not only enable benefit of the Ummah but you as an individual will also gain the reward for the good deeds.

Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 268]

For example, we may choose to have the job of an administrator, maybe at a department level, company level or even the country level. Our aim should be the implementation of the Shariah laws both at a personal as well as societal level. When we are in a position of authority and have a say over policy making and how our organization can benefit the Ummah, then this can serve as an opportunity to implement shariah at a societal level where the tenets of the deen are preserved. Be it at the social, economical, political or the financial aspects of a set-up. Moreover, the honor, dignity, property/wealth and family can also be protected by making sure that all practices fall within the boundaries set by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). In this way you will ensure the maximum benefit for the Ummah as you will be enabling them to follow the rules laid out by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

3. Be an Independent Model

Set an example for other Muslims to follow. One of the common examples of this is banking where there were always debates and confusion on whether the type of banking in place was halal or haram. As a result of this, Islamic banking was established, which ensured that the issue of interest along with others was taken care of. Similarly, many Muslim and some non-Muslim countries have come with the idea of having halal hotels where forbidden things like alcohol or non-halal meat is not served. Moreover, other activities like music and dances have been entirely eliminated to make these hotels Islam friendly. These are examples of how we can choose a path that will enable us to establish businesses based on Islamic concepts, giving you the opportunity to help the Ummah practice the religion and also help you gain lots of reward.

Identification of such niche areas can be carried out through picking businesses that you are interested in, followed by an analysis of the forbidden practices performed in those businesses, and an identification of how these can be removed and whether the business would still be beneficial or not. For example, if we want to open a hotel of our own, we can start by identifying that the selling/ serving of alcohol/ non-halal meat, playing of music etc. are forbidden. Then we can picture opening a hotel that is clean of such vices. Similarly, this idea is applicable to other careers as well.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Richness is not an abundance of worldly goods, rather richness is contentment with one’s lot.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

4. Convert your Profession to Ibadah

One of the most important points to remember is that we are rewarded for whatever action we take based on our niyyah or intentions.

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The rewards (of deeds) are according to the intention, and everybody will get the reward for what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allah’s and His Apostle’s sake, his emigration was for Allah and His Apostle ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him); and whoever emigrated for worldly benefits, or to marry a woman, then his emigration was for the thing for what he emigrated for.” [Bukhari].

This is especially for those who have already chosen a career path and might be thinking how their careers benefit the Ummah. Some might even be thinking of what new career path they can take. But wait, you might not have to take that drastic step. Whatever you are doing, just make sure that you correct your intention. Make your intention of whatever you do for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) only. This action will ensure that you get reward even for the apparently worldly career path that you may have. You can do this by utilizing your expertise to help the Muslims, or the Muslim businesses. You can concentrate on community work by thinking of the advancement of Muslims in their corporate or professional careers as well and many such ways. Remember, it is never difficult to benefit the Ummah whatever your career maybe as long as it is halal. There is always a way, In sha Allah.

5. Ask for Allah’s Help and Guidance

Last but not the least, always pray to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for his help and guidance in all matters. Always pray salaatul Istikhara before taking any action so as to have the will and permission of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in every action you take and In sha Allah you will be on the right path.

And when they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or part with them according to acceptable terms. And bring to witness two just men from among you and establish the testimony for [the acceptance of] Allah. That is instructed to whoever should believe in Allah and the Last day. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out. 

And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. [Qur’an: Chapter 65, Verses 2-3]

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the right path and let us fulfill our responsibilities with dignity, honor and grace. Ameen.

Don’t forget to share your comments and experience below!

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61 thoughts on “A Guide to Choosing a Profession That Benefits You and the Ummah

  1. Masha Allah a great article but just wanted to say that the So-called Islamic banking is not the banking according to Islamic principles, but although there are some people who are really working hard to bring Islamic Banking

    1. I agree that most of the Islamic banking of today is not according to Islamic principles but as you say there are people who are trying and we should strive to be one of the pioneers who work on the actual Islamic principles In shaa ALLAH. Best of Luck

  2. Much needed food for thought! Jazakallah! Being a Muslim woman, chosing a career which allows me to stay true to my Muslim identity and obligations while ensuring that I am able to apply the talents that I have been given in a way which benefits the Muslim community and the society that I live in is a tough feat indeed.

  3. What a great post! I am a graduate student who will soon be embarking on a career path in Critical Security Studies and Terrorism–but I often wonder how I can use my knowledge and strength in writing and researching to better the ummah.

    1. You are in one of the best positions to help the Ummah. You should work for the improvement of the image of Muslims and Islam. Terrorism is something that has unfortunately become synonymous with Islam these days and you can use your position to change that by creating awareness In sha ALLAH.

    2. I suspect your interest in this area is to help improve security for the nation, Muslims and generally people globally. Wars do not have to happen, as often as they do, if more people understood a cost based diplomacy model, which generates a win-win. Currently, our diplomatic efforts do no respect the human in us. Your work could highlight the tribal nature of diplomacy which is reducing our world closer to ashes everyday. Your pen could help teach man what he did not know before;…. :) I wish you much success.

    1. You should explain to them politely and with lots of love that by working in a bank you will be risking your Aaakhirah. Afterall this life is temporary and will end. The world is full of professions that one can work in. There are only a handful that we need to avoid. Just keep praying to ALLAH that he helps you and keep at it. Don’t succumb to the pressure as you are on the Haq however, make sure that you are not harsh with them. Love can do miracles, keep at it and you will succeed. Pray 2 nafals every day and recite duaa-e-haajat!

  4. Jazakom ALLAH khayran,
    what do you think about jobs that includes kind of not pure halal (shobha), shall we continue as a kind of da’wa or shall we quit to disapprove monkar?

    1. Jazak’ALLAH khair sister. Many scholars believe that it is always better to avoid something when there is conflict. If you know that something is not fully halal and there is a doubt then it is best to avoid it altogether and ALLAH Swt will open better opportunities for you In shaa ALLAH!

  5. as-salaamu ‘alaikum wrwb JazaakumALLAH khairan kathiraa for this really beneficial article. As a student in university struggling to choose the right career path due to some reasons mentioned in the article, I really appreciate the advice given. I mostly find it difficult to find someone I can talk to about my own personal issues regarding certain careers. The only choice I have is to contact known shuyookh or du3aat who might be able to give me the right advice. I really should be getting myself to do that soon…

    1. Walaikum assalaam wr wb. I am glad that you found it helpful. I would suggest that you talk to learned scholars and people of knowledge. Best of luck for that. In the meanwhile, please feel free to drop in a message (talha.tashfeen@gmail.com) to me and I might be able to advice a little bit from my own knowledge and experience. Although please do note that I am not a scholar or even a person of knowledge by any stretch of the imagination. May ALLAH guide us all In shaa ALLAH!

  6. Please fix the grammatical error in the sentence under point 1- ‘While choosing a career, it is important that we follows our strengths’. It should be ‘follow’ and not ‘follows’.

  7. indeed , it was as if this article was written for me. As a muslim woman in a country where hijab is forbidden at work , choosing a carreer path is much difficult and i always tries to have my friends/family’s advice because im quite lost.
    I really wanna do a job that help people , that’s why i deciced to become a nurse inshaAllah.

  8. Assalamualaikum!

    This post comes at fabulous timing. Alhumdilillah I’ve just been offered a English teacher position at a co-ed Muslim school in Sydney and it’s so valuable to be reminded of how much I can benefit the Ummah by educating and being a positive role model to our beautiful youth. Even acts like praying with students (female in my case) rather than praying in the staffroom, so the girls can witness the importance of salah in my life and we can build trust and discussion on that.

    JazakAllah Khair brother.

    1. Walaikum assalaam wr wb. Masha’ALLAh congratulations on your new job. May ALLAH swt bless you and grant you the ability to influence the Muslim Ummah as well as the non-muslims in a positive way.

  9. This article if read with care and devotion will help the reader to be in the correct Islamic path.even for a elderly and knowledgeable person like me. Alhamdu Lillah.

  10. Jazaka’Allahu Khayran to you all! May Allah grant you the highest ranks in Jannah. . You have truly helped this Ummah with your beneficial reminders, you’ve done an outstanding job in inspiring those who need it (like me!) :) your articles always come at the right time. May Allah all grant us a chance to help our Ummah, and guide us to what is right in this dunya and akhira. Allahuma Ameen!

  11. I have chosen to become a registered dietician and expand my knowledge of the Arabic language in order to help the community learn to eat healthier with limited resources. I face much opposition as a Muslim woman wearing a hijab but inshaAllah I will be successful in following my heart in a profession that involves something I truly enjoy, cooking and helping others.

  12. Great article, thank you! I’m applying for a business project in Britain and it is about helping all the homelesses, please pray with me. I hope I’ll be accepted.

  13. I seriously love this article jazkallah kayrun. I’ve been wondering if pursuing photography is a bad choice? iit’s an ayah or hadith that says picture makers will be punished, does this include photography? there’s a lot of different answers on this, help pls

  14. MashaAllah…I am so grateful to Allah that I stumbled upon this today, as I seriously am lost without His Guidance. As a University student, I was/am worried about which major I should choose that will not only benefit this Ummah (InshaAllah), but also utilize the talents and interests Allah swt gave me. Thank you so much brother for this post! Like my fellow brothers and sisters have stated above and soon below, this was very timely:) I am interested in becoming a Naturopathic doctor, InshaAllah, that will really heal people-not keep them sick and give them pills constantly in order to keep my business going. This post also strengthened my resolve to incorporate more Nafl and Tahjud prayers as well, InshaAllah. For my major though, I am thinking about either Earth Systems Science or Bio major w/ Human Biology emphasis…I am interested in the first because it follows my natural tendencies (and sees the Earth as a whole just like Naturopaths view humans as a complete patient), but the second will prepare me for labs (which are not my passion really, although amazing SubhanAllah). What do you think? Thank you once again

  15. Can someone please tell me if it is allowed to study law or economics in Western countries? I feel discouraged from studying because I feel like there is no Barakat in what Iam study because it is not lawful in islam. How can student muslim in western contry find that motivation in them & know that it is okay to study such topics like law & economy etc? but not okay to have a job where you Work with interest, taxes, etc.

    I am study M.Sc. in Business Administration and Commercial Law but some people keeps telling me that it is not allowed in islam to even study such a education, because you are study topics like taxes, economic, interest etc.. I’m afraid that Iam study something which is not allowed in Islam, and thus I feel very demotivated, what can I do about it?

    Wa`salaam Alaikum Sophia

    1. Assalaamu alaikum Sr. Sophia,

      ​​I appreciate your trust in us ​to answer your questions. However, we​’re sorry we cannot help as we​ are not equipped to do so. I advise you to consult a ​n​ authentic Muslim scholar of Islamic jurisprudence who’d best be able to answer your questions.

    2. Assalamu`Alaykum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuhu

      The Question you have asked have answers at islamqa.I knw you may find demotivated Cos its absolutely very difficult to find job out of interest in Current Era.But forALLAH The king of kings its very easy.There are some Muslims who run their business and who would stay out of haram ,who would need your service.Strive you will in sha ALLAH find them out.

  16. Assalamu alaikum
    I just came across the article….. its very nice….
    I come from a family where all my cousins are either doctors or engineers… i don’t like both….. i like administration jobs….. but my family is of the opinion that only they are successful and Islamic and I’m not…. kindly advice me on my choice….

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