Over the last few years, a new breed of motivational/self-help experts appeared on YouTube and wrote books on what many are now calling “Hustle Culture.” The ideas expressed by those operating within this community emphasize that to be successful you should always be working hard, getting the “impossible” done, and cutting sleep to start the hustle at 4:00 am.
The question is: If you want to be successful, what’s the alternative?
“Barakah Culture is about how to achieve more with less, instead of more with more through sheer grit and exhaustive drive towards material gain”
God-Centric vs. Ego-Centric
إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِ الْأَعْلَىٰ. وَلَسَوْفَ يَرْضَىٰ
“But only seeking the countenance of his Lord, Most High. And he is going to be satisfied.” [Qur’an 92: 20-21]
لِّلَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ…
“…those who desire the countenance of Allah, and it is they who will be successful.” [Qur’an 30: 38]
أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلًا
“Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?” [Qur’an 25:43]
Barakah culture is centred around knowing and connecting with Allah (SWT); not only through formal acts of worship, but through every word, deed, and the daily choices one makes. It springs from the Islamic philosophy of ‘ebada (worship) that centres on the capacity that human beings have for making conscious decisions and submitting their will to that of their Creator. This entails being mindful of God by acknowledging Him and His commands and revolving one’s personal and professional life around what one’s Creator loves.
By way of contrast, Hustle culture is all about serving the self, one’s ego, or what the Islamic tradition calls the “nafs,” a subtle substance that comes into existence when the soul enters the body. The nafs grows as a child does, and over the years, if it’s not nurtured spiritually or disciplined, it remains childish. This is why all of us know at least one adult who continues to be self-centred and sulky when they are old enough to know better. In the business sector, this behaviour is often manifested in the obsessive drive for personal success, —even if it’s at the expense of serving Allah or meeting the emotional needs of their loved ones.
‘Barakah culture is centred around knowing and connecting with Allah (SWT); not only through formal acts of worship, but through every word, deed, and the daily choices one makes.’
If you watch the “wake up at 4” YouTube videos on Hustle culture, you’ll notice that the “star of the show” is holding a camera pointing towards themselves (their nafs?) hitting the alarm at four o’clock, making coffee, exercising, showering, working on their side business, and getting to work—all before they think anyone else even wakes up.
Perhaps the hustlers are not aware that millions of Muslims also wake earlier than most (even earlier than the self-proclaimed hustlers). The difference is the Muslim community does it for an entirely different purpose: to remember Allah, to pray, and to serve Him. And yes, some of them, also fit in other things in their “miracle morning” like exercising, showering, and working on their side business, but once they are done with their prayers.
‘Hustle culture is all about serving the self, one’s ego, or what the Islamic tradition calls the “nafs,” a subtle substance that comes into existence when the soul enters the body.’
Here’s the critical question: which do you think is more sustainable in the long run? Waking up early every day so that you can serve yourself? Or waking up early every morning to serve Allah (SWT) because you recognize, He’s my Eternal Sustainer and the fact that this is what you have been created for?
When life only revolves around you feeding your ego, you’ll find yourself spinning in circles – some days being super productive, others not so much – all depending on your mood and how your nafs feels that day. Contrasted with this self-centred way, when your life revolves around Allah, it has a ripple effect not only on how you think but how you behave around others and how you live your life, leading to increased barakah in this life and the next.
Thought Experiments for Individuals:
Take a look at your day’s schedule and ask yourself how much of what you do is about you? How much of what you do is about serving Allah or others? How would that change if Allah (SWT) was your ultimate concern from the moment you wake up until you go back to sleep? How would you arrange your life differently? How would you plan your life around your prayers rather than your own comfort or the demands of your lifestyle?
Thought Experiments for Teams:
How can we work like a God-centered team? Are we focused on pleasing Him? If yes, How does impact the way we work? Would a new team member/visitor/customer notice our God-centered approach?