The Spirit of Collective work…and Its Guiding Principles

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, Who says in His Ever Glorious Book, “Say [Prophet], ‘Take action! Allah will see your actions- as will His Messenger and the believers- and then you will be returned to Him who knows what is seen and unseen, and He will tell you what you have been doing.”I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His votary and Messenger. May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his Household, Companions and upon those who follow their path to the Day of Judgment.

It never happened that a nation was built by speech and slogans. Rather, nations are built through knowledge, giving, and sacrifices. At the top of the means of building nations is the serious and dedicated work, as the Almighty says, “Say [Prophet], ‘Take action! God will see your actions- as will His Messenger and the believers- and then you will be returned to Him who knows what is seen and unseen, and He will tell you what you have been doing.” and as our Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah likes when someone performs and action to perfect it.” Thus, both religiousmness and patriotism require us to work hard and exert serious effort for raising productivity,; our religion is the religion of earnest endeavour and perfection.

 If the individual is the key element to build a society, his real role will not be complete except through cooperation with the whole society. A person alone can accomplish some work, but to add his intellectual activities to his brothers’, and combine his work with that of others, the output will be much greater and more effective than individual work. This is why Islam has praised collective work and identified it a key foundation for the establishment of nations and civilizations. Collective work unifies efforts and makes use of collective energies to achieve the common iterest of the whole siciety. The Almight Allah says, “Help one another to do what is right and good; do not help one another towards sin and hostility.”

When we contemplate the Qur’an, we find that there are many verses calling to the collective work. For Example, when calling people to worship Him, the Almighty Allah says, “People, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be mindful [of Him].”  Also, with regard to prayer, the most importnat rite of Islam, Allah says, “And Perform prayer” with the plural pattern of the verb “perfom”. Also, Allah says, “Believers, bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do good so that you may succeed.”  Also, Allah addressed the Prophet (PBUH) saying, “Content yourself with those who pray to their Lord morning and evening, seeking His approval, and do not let your eyes turn away from them out of desire for the attractions of this worldly life: do not yield to those whose hearts We have made heedless of Our Qur’an, those who follow their own low desires, those whose ways are unbridled.” Allah, The Exalted, also says, “Hold fast to God’s rope all together.”  In addition, Allah has warned us against disunity saying, “Obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not quarrel with one another, or you may lose heart and your spirit may desert you. Be steadfast: God is with the steadfast.”

There is no doubt that performing acts with such spirit of collective work will increase fraternity and strengthen the relations among individuals of the same society, and in such a way they come to materialize Allah’s saying, “This community of yours is one single community.” This is a menifestation of the saying of the Prophet when he said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” When a wise man wanted to teach his sons the importance of unity and that it is the cause of strength and to warn them against disunity which is the cause of weakness, he brought a bundle of sticks, and asked “Who can break this bundle?  They tried but failed. Then, he asked them to untie them and gave each one a stick, and they were able to break it easily.

The man said:

When united, sticks are too hard to break,

but when separated, they will be broken one by one

The Glorious Qur’an gave us many examples that encourage collective work and show its impact on achieving the great goals. Here is the Example of Prophet Ibraheem (PBUH) when Allah ordered him to build the Kabah.
Ibrahim said to his son Isma’il: ‘O Isma’il! Allah has given me an order.’ Isma’il said: ‘Do what your Lord has commanded you to do.’ Ibrahim asked: ‘Will you help me?’ Isma’il said: ‘I will help you.’ Ibrahim said: ‘Allah has ordered me to build a house of worship here. Then they raised the foundations of the House (i.e., Ka’bah). Isma’il brought the stones and Ibrahim was building (the house).
The Qur’an reported this story sayin “As Abraham and Ishmael built up the foundations of the House [they prayed], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.”

In Surat Al-Kahf, the Almighty Allah tells us about the just King Dhul Qarnayn when he passed by a group of a strange people. They asked him for his help, and he responded positively on the condition that they cooperate with him. They worked as one hand till they built such huge building that protected them from Gog and Magog. Allah says, “Then, when he reached a place between two mountain barriers, he found beside them a people who could barely understand him. They said, ‘Dhu ’l-Qarnayn, Gog and Magog are ruining this land. Will you build a barrier between them and us if we pay you a tribute?’ He answered, ‘The power my Lord has given me is better than any tribute, but if you lend me your strength, I will put up a fortification between you and them:  bring me lumps of iron!’ and then, when he had filled the gap between the two mountainsides [he said], ‘Work your bellows!’ and then, when he had made it glow like fire, he said, ‘Bring me molten metal to pour over it!’ Their enemies could not scale the barrier, nor could they pierce it.”

Prophet Moses (PBUH), Allah’s interlocutor, asked Allah, Most High, to support him with his brother Aaron (PBUH), so that he would sustain and back him in performing the mission assigned to him by Allah, the Ever Exalted. Referring to this fact, Allah, the Almighty, says: “[Moses] said, “My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance] (25) And ease for me my task (26) And untie the knot from my tongue (27) That they may understand my speech. (28) And appoint for me a minister from my family – (29) Aaron, my brother. (30) Increase through him my strength (31) And let him share my task (32) That we may exalt You much (33) And remember You much. (34) Indeed, You are of us Ever Seeing.”

Also, whoever carefully examines the Biography of the Prophet (PBUH) would discover that the life of the Prophet (PBUH) witnessed brilliant chapters of cooperation, participation and collective work between him and his companions. In this regard, ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan (Allah be pleased with him) said: “We have accompanied the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in his journeys and at home; and he used to support us with the little and the much.”

The Prophet (PBUH) furthermore used to help them in work and buildings, and used to urge them to gather together and to divide. About the battle of Al-Khandaq(i.e. the Trench), Al-Bara’ Ibn ‘Azeb (Allah be pleased with him) said: “I saw the Prophet (PBUH) carrying dust with us on the Day of the Battle of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates) and I saw that the dust was covering the whiteness of his Abdomen, and he (the Prophet (PBUH) ) was saying, “(O Allah)! Without You, we would not have been guided, nor would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So (O Allah!) please send tranquility (Sakina) upon us as they, (the chiefs of the enemy tribes) have rebelled against us. And if they intend affliction (i.e. want to frighten us and fight against us) then we would not (flee but withstand them). And the Prophet (PBUH) used to raise his voice with it.”

Also, when our Master Salman Al-Farisi (Allah be pleased with him) wanted to plant three hundred palm tree to set himself from slavery, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said to the companions: “Help your brother.” Salman said, “They helped me with palm trees; the man would bring thirty palm trees; another would bring twenty; a third would bring fifteen; and the others brought according to their ability until I collected the three hundred palm trees. Then, the Prophet (PBUH) ordered me to dig for them, and said, ‘When you finished, come to me so that I would plant them myself.’ Salman continued, “I dug for them and my companions aided me; when we finished, I went to him (PBUH) and told him upon which he (PBUH) went with me; and we started to set the trees to him and he used to plant them with his hand.”

In this connection, he (PBUH) praised Al-Ash‘ariyin for their spirit of collective work that prevailed most of their behaviors and actions even in the most difficult situations; he (PBUH) said about them, “When the people of Ash‘ari tribe ran short of food during the holy battles, or the food of their families in Medina ran short, they would collect all their remaining food in one sheet and then distribute it among themselves equally by measuring it with a bowl. So, these people are from me, and I am from them.”

With that said, and I ask Allah to forgive me and you

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds; I bear witness that there is no god deserved to be worshipped but Allah; and I bear witness that our master Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his family, companions and whoever follows their guidance to the Day of Judgment.

Muslim brothers:

Collective work that we are aspiring to is that one that builds, not destroys, and that gathers, not divides. It is that work that is based on legal foundations like solidarity between the members of the society in a way that won’t make us see any hungry or needy persons in the society; it is that work that is based on educational foundations like scientists’ cooperation with each other in their scientific research, or like students’ cooperation in their academic and scholarly achievements; it is that kind of work based on national foundations like working for achieving the progress of the country in all fields.

It is not that kind of work that is based on destructive calls that call for killing, destruction, blood-shedding, and destruction of countries and the attempts to weaken them or make them collapse; these calls that are based on lying, defamation and forging the truth, and that don’t consider religion, or a country or conscience.

The collective work we are aspiring to is the constructive work that is for the benefit of religion, country and humanity- these integrated items that cannot dispense with one another. We are actually in a dire need to entrench this spirit in the minds of our children and to turn it into a way of life according to which they should act, so that love and harmony would prevail among the members of the one society, and our nation would achieve the highest ranks on all levels. We affirm meanwhile that when the spirit of collective work prevails among the Egyptians, they could turn what others view impossible a reality.

O Allah! Make us secure in our countries, guide our rulers (to the right), and protect our countries from the treachery of the treacherous and the corruption of the corrupt!