Beyond the Hustle Culture: Part 1

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Hustle. ˈhʌs·əl

to act quickly and with energy.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

This word had risen to popularity in the recent years. Once a black-jack term, it successfully made its way into a positive word loved by people who strive to be successful. You probably see it often: on an Instagram story, on your friend’s WhatsApp Status, on the page of that New York Times best-selling book, or on the big space of a billboard. This catchy word somehow inspires us to keep moving forward and to aspire to do more. Well, based on the number of people who follow and share contents related to this hustle culture, there are millions of other people who are embracing this hustle and bustle lifestyle. Come and get on board. Say goodbye to the dark ages of unproductivity, idleness, and foolishness: we are ready to HUSTLE.

Wait.

Should we really hustle now? Some of you might remember that I basically wrote an article convincing people to hustle for their success (http://www.aspiringcounselorsclub.com/slowly-but-surely-the-art-of-persistence-and-productivity/). Well, you’re right. This hustle culture is actually great. It’s saddening and depressing to see our society, especially our youth to be drowned with lack of spirit and drive to go for their success. However, as the term grows more popular, I notice how some problematic and unhealthy elements being added to this hustle culture. Some can even affect our eeman and overall identity as a Muslim negatively. We’d love to be the people of ihsaan (excellence), but to achieve excellence, there are other important things beyond hustling and bustling. 

I have divided these series on Beyond the Hustle Culture into three parts. On this first part, we will discover the most important thing: our relationship with Allah.

  • Ikhlaas (sincerity)

First thing first, purify our niyyah (intention) only for the sake of Allah. This is the foundation of everything that we do. Because when our niyyah is distorted, we might gain the worldly pleasure, whether it’s fame, wealth, prestige, or happiness, but we lose the most crucial thing: the ridha (pleasure) of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When we lose His ridha, we lose the barakah in our lives and we also lose the ‘ajr (good rewards) for all of our actions, na’udhubillahi min dhaalik. That’s why for some people who don’t purify their niyyah, they might gain the worldly success after years of hustling, but they never attain the peace and calmness of the soul because of that lack of barakah.

Narrated by Umar bin Khattab radhiyallahu ‘anhu, Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

إنما الأعمال بالنيات، وإنما لكل امرىء ما نوى

“The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention.”

[Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Now, ask ourselves, are we really sincere?

Was our intention to work hard only to gain success and attain higher social status?

Was our intention to raise our children’s rights only to be seen as a successful parent?

Was our intention to learn and memorize the Qur’an only to be praised as a Haafidh?

Was our intention to be active in charity work only to be famous as a charitable person?

Was it for the sake of people or was it for the sake of Allah? 

This is a matter of the heart, a secret between us and Allah only. Our task is to constantly purify our niyyah and keep our hearts in the state of ikhlaas (sincere). We ask Allah ‘azza wa jall to keep us steadfast in the path of righteousness, to keep our intentions pure, and to accept our good deeds.

  • Du’aa and Tawakkul

A part of the hustle culture is the habit of self-improvement. On social media, we follow the accounts that talk about business, communication, productivity, and anything that could improve ourselves. We attend lectures, seminars, or workshops both online and offline to increase our effectiveness in our work, study, or relationship. We read articles, journals, and books that may contribute to our growth. Day by day, we become experts in the things that we are passionate and care about. We are no longer chained by ignorance and laziness. We are finally empowered.

This is an amazing yet dangerous state. On one hand, we have successfully conquered ourselves to be active in the pursuit of our own growth. On the other hand, we finally taste the sweetness of hard-work and empowerment and begin to credit it to ourselves. Well, is it because of ourselves?

Today’s culture emphasized the importance of hustle, grind, and hard-work so much that we sometimes forget that it’s not our hustle that brings us success, it’s Allah’s tawfeeq that brings us success. It’s not our hectic morning runs to reach our office or school faster, our rushed lunch to maximize the work time, our late-nights to complete our works, our investment to attend that prestigious seminar, or any other efforts we spend to gain success.

إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ 

“ Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive.” (Surah Al-Anbiya’ : 90)

We despise laziness and incompetence and we try our best to be productive. But then, if Allah wills, we could be among those lazy people who sit idle and don’t do anything to reach their dreams, na’udhubillah. This motivation, this dream, this yearning for success, and all of these efforts only come to us because Allah had willed for it. It’s an immense blessing, not everyone was chosen by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to live a life with purpose, meaning, drive, and hard work. 

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ 

“And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible.” (Surah Ghafir: 60)

Do not let this feeling of empowerment turned negatively into pride, lack of du’aa, and loss of tawakkul (reliance on Allah). Always remember how ‘nothing’ we actually are. Remember that even when we think that we have finally ‘figure it out’, we are always in need of assistance and guidance of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Keep ourselves humble and never stop making du’aa for everything that we do. Du’aa is an act of ibadah. It means that not only du’aa will bring us closer to our success, but we will also be rewarded for the action of du’aa itself bi idhnillah. Moreover, Allah is Al-Mujeeb (The One who responds to the prayers of His servants), He subhanahu wa ta’ala loves those who are full of humility and supplicate to Him.

From Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu ‘anhu, Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

لَيْسَ شَىْءٌ أَكْرَمَ عَلَى اللَّهِ تَعَالَى مِنَ الدُّعَاءِ

“Nothing is dearer to Allah than du’aa.”

[Sunan Tirmidhi]

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make us among those who have full reliance of Him and those who always supplicate to Him.

  • Muhasabah (reflection)

Hustle culture demands us to work nonstop. To always do more things, to check off more lists, to move as fast as possible. Sometimes it makes us forget to take a rest to heal our mind, body, and soul. This unhealthy culture could really do damage to ourselves. Resting for our body is needed to keep our physical health. Resting for our mind is needed to declutter our mind and bring calmness. Resting for our soul is needed to nourish our soul with muhasabah (reflection). It is recommended to do this process of muhasabah every day. Create a special time before we go to sleep to reflect on everything that we do during the day and to plan what to do on the next day. Reflect on the sincerity of the good deeds that we did during that day. Reflect on the quality of the good deeds that we did. Reflect on the wrongdoings that we did, make tawbah (repentance) for it and think of the solutions for it if it involves other people. Reflect on the quality of relationships that we have with our family, friends, co-workers, etc. Reflect on whether the activities that we do boost our eeman to bring us closer to Allah or not. Reflect on what can we do to improve the quality of our activities for the next day.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ 

“O you who have believed, fear Allah . And let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow – and fear Allah . Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Surah Al-Hashr: 18)

When we plan for our future activities, don’t just focus on the quantity. For example, today you have tried to read five pages of the Qur’an and you already plan to add one more page for the next day. Well, it’s a good idea and you can definitely add that one page to your to-do list. However, you can reflect on your sincerity first. Have you done the act of reading the Qur’an that day for the sake of Allah? Have you tried to conceal your good deeds from other people (e.g. refraining from posting it to social media or purposefully reading the Qur’an out loud so that your friends hear it)? Have you tried to perfect your tajweed during the recitation of those five pages? Have you tried to ponder over the meaning of the portion of the Qur’an that you read? This kind of qualitative reflections is very important for us to do regularly. 

This article is a reminder to myself first and foremost. All of the things that we discuss in this article are not easy, it requires us to always be mindful about our sincerity and actions. It requires us to never stop praying to Allah ‘azza wa jall to guide and assist us every day.  It takes a lot of practice, full reliance on Allah, and constant du’aa. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us tawfeeq to always be sincere in every action that we do and grant barakah in our life. Aameen allahumma aameen.

Stay tuned for the second and third part of this series in shaa Allah!

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