We often have a secular meaning for words such as productivity, and yet productivity in Islam has a completely different meaning.
For example, in our vernacular a bankrupt person is one who had wealth at one point, but whose debts now far exceed his assets, and therefore he has no recourse to pay back the debts.
Productivity: An Islamic Perspective
Prophet Muhammad once asked his companions:
“Do you know who is the bankrupt?” They said: “The bankrupt among us is one who has neither money with him nor any property”. He said, “The real bankrupt of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with Salat, Saum and Sadaqah (charity), (but he will find himself bankrupt on that day as he will have exhausted the good deeds) because he reviled others, brought calumny against others, unlawfully devoured the wealth of others, shed the blood of others and beat others; so his good deeds would be credited to the account of those (who suffered at his hand). If his good deeds fall short to clear the account, their sins would be entered in his account and he would be thrown in the (Hell) Fire.” [Riyadh us Saliheen]
Similarly when we think of someone who is productive, we usually measure the results of their actions, activities or achievements, or all of them taken together.
If person A is more productive than person B, then the former is someone who has procured more results with the same effort as that of the latter. Our success is always seen as being tied to our results.
Ahmed has lost weight because he has successfully controlled his diet and exercised. Shireen has scored high marks because she studied hard while her friends were watching TV. Thus Ahmed and Shireen were more productive than their counterparts – because their results say so!
Yet, what if Ahmed did all he could, and still couldn’t lose weight? What if Shireen really studied hard, but still didn’t do as well as she could on the exam?
Would we still call them productive?
Islam tells us that success or failure comes from Allah , not as a result of our efforts. We are required to do our best and give our all to the result, yet it is Allah who decides the amount of success we are due. Our productivity is not tied to our results, but in giving our best effort, having patience, and submitting to the Will of Allah .
This becomes evident when we study the life of Prophet Nuh (Noah) .
Here was a man who preached the Message of Allah for hundreds of years, and yet had only a handful of followers when the time came to board the Ark. After centuries of effort, he only had a miniscule result to show! Yet he is one of the top five humans to have ever lived, and we can learn much about productivity from his life and his methods.
Keeping in mind the Islamic notion of productivity, what are some of the lessons we can learn from the life of Prophet Nuh ?
5 Productivity Lessons From The Life of Nuh
1. Keep It Simple
Nuh clarified his message by being simple and to the point, making the Oneness of Allah easy to understand. He told his people exactly what they were doing wrong (idol worship) and he told them what to do to fix the problem: worship Allah alone.
He then expanded by telling them the benefits of turning to Allah (paradise, good rewards in this world such as increased progeny and sustenance etc.) as well as the consequences of turning away from Allah (eternal damnation, Hellfire etc.).
2. Diversity of Approach
Nuh diversified his approaches for maximum success, as he couldn’t know which method would bring more success (so he tried them all).
He preached in public gatherings, and in private meetings. He preached in gatherings and festivals, and individually in the homes of people. He preached during the day and during the night tirelessly.
3. Approaching the Leaders
It is a fact of life that people follow their leaders and the notable amongst them. In our world we follow trends set by our leaders and celebrities.
Nuh preached to the leaders amongst his people, rationalizing that if the people in power convert, they can then influence others to be more receptive to his message as well. This approach was also adopted by Prophet Muhammad , who tasted success with this approach in Madinah, but not in Makkah.
He preached for a long time, and did not let distractions or failures discourage him. His goal was preaching the Tawheed (Oneness of The Almighty), and he remained dedicated and focused on that one goal. He understood that guidance comes from Allah , and that his job was only to preach and spread the message.
5. Knowing When to Let Go
When at one point Allah enlightened Nuh about the fact that no one else would believe in his message, the Prophet of Allah stopped preaching as that would now be wasted effort. He immediately refocused, and turned his attention to the next goal and commandment of Allah : building the Ark, and preparing for the Great Flood.
Those were the top 5 productivity lessons from the life of Prophet Nuh : an example of a highly productive Muslim. He worked towards his goal to the best of his ability, leaving no stone unturned. He also understood that results come from Allah , while we give our best effort. He exhibited a high amount of patience, and completely submitted to his Lord Almighty.
About the Author:
Mezbauddin Mahtab is an IT professional, photographer, blogger, and a devoted husband and father based in Toronto, Ontario. He is the author of Teaching Kids The Holy Quran – Surah 71: Nuh (Read With Meaning) (Volume 2) as well as Teaching Kids The Holy Quran – Surah 18 :The Cave (Read With Meaning), both of which tells stories from the Qur’an using LEGO© Bricks and toys. He maintains a personal blog on A Bengali in TO, and is currently planning his third book on Surah Yusuf. His work on the Qur’an can be found on the Read With Meaning blog.