Barakah Culture vs. Hustle Culture: How to Win More Days Without Losing Your Soul

Before you go on.

For the first time, Mohammed Faris will conduct his award-winning workshops in South Africa. Read more about it here.

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.

This culture has arisen from the pressures of living in a global knowledge economy where to succeed and stand out, you need to do more, achieve more, and get more things done than anybody else, or you just won’t make it in life—or so you are told.

Recently, there has been a backlash against this culture, led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanianwho famously referred to it as “Hustle Porn” and described how this type of culture and mentality is destroying people’s lives and leading them to increased stress, depression, and anxiety.

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”

In this article, I wanted to showcase a model of productivity, which clearly contrasts the Hustle culture so prevalent in the self-help industry today. This model of productivity, first introduced in my book “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity,” is based on the Islamic concept of “Barakah.” It incorporates the idea that “increase” or “benefit” comes from Allah (SWT)[1] and is achieved through the alignment of body, mind, and soul to how He wants us to live on earth. It’s about how to achieve more with less, through the blessings of Allah instead of more with more through sheer grit and an exhausting drive towards material gain.

If you’re new to the concept of Barakah, watch this talk I gave at World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon (USA) in July 2017 on the topic of Barakah to learn more.

I explain below eleven ways that a culture rooted in Barakah is much more rewarding and sustainable than the soul-destroying hustle culture, and I suggest thought experiments for individuals and teams to practice implementing Barakah culture in a way that leads them to real success in this life and the next.

11 Ways Barakah Culture Outperforms Hustle Culture

1. 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 centered 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?

2. Purpose- & Impact-Driven vs. Personal Success-Driven

وَأَنْ لَيْسَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى * وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى

“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen –” (Qur’an 53: 39-40)

Barakah culture is about having a mission that extends beyond yourself. It stems from recognizing that your ultimate purpose is to worship Allah and act as His representative (khalifah)on earth.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth [khalifah] a successive authority….” [Qur’an 2: 30]

This is a position of trust and responsibility and calls for individuals and teams to think about how their lives need to carry meaning and impact beyond their bank accounts or profit lines. It demands that we live lives, both individually and collectively, that honour our calling as God’s khalifah on earth rather than working to serve ourselves and our own desires because we know we will be held to account for the choices we made.

In contrast, Hustle culture is all about personal success, measured in terms of  —money, power, and fame. Sometimes it’s sugar-coated as “financial freedom,” or “leaving a legacy.” Though, in the end, if you dig deeper, it’s about the person and serving their own ego, or nafs, as we mentioned in the previous point.

‘Barakah culture is about having a mission that extends beyond yourself. It stems from recognizing that your ultimate purpose is to worship Allah and act as His representative (khalifah)on earth.’

One way to test if a person is a purpose/impact driven vs. personal success-driven is to ask them to remove their name or any mention of themselves from whatever project they work on, or try to take the money, power, and fame off the table, and then see how far they go with the project. In other words, would they still give their 110% if they wouldn’t get fame, wealth, or power in return?

Thought experiment for Individuals

  • What do you consider marks of success? How much of what you believe to be “success” is linked to your personal attainment vs. the purpose/impact beyond you?
  • What can you do to shift your mentality away from a personal definition of success and towards an achievement that’s driven by a broader sense of purpose and measured by impact in your community?

Thought experiment for Teams

  • If you weren’t paid to be on the team, which activities would you do anyway? Do you have a vested interest in what the team is trying to accomplish, beyond your own material success?

3. Hereafter Focus vs. Worldly Focus

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الْآخِرَةِ نَزِدْ لَهُ فِي حَرْثِهِ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِن نَّصِيبٍ

“Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter – We increase for him in his harvest. And whoever desires the harvest of this world – We give him thereof, but there is not for him in the Hereafter any share.” [Qur’an 42: 20]

‘Hustle culture takes a myopic, short-term view of life. It’s fed by YOLO mentality and acts that maximize pleasure for pleasure’s sake, and it pushes you to ‘get it all’ as quickly as possible—ideally yesterday.’

Barakah culture is about taking a (very) long-term view of life and recognizing that there’s life after death, and a day will come when our words and deeds will be held to account. The result is either an eternal abode in Heaven or Hellfire. Operating with this belief makes you consciously focus your life on the three investments that Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us would continue to exist after our death: our children and their prayers for us after we die, an ongoing charity that’s genuinely sustainable and beneficial to people, and developing and spreading a useful body of knowledge that’s timeless.

Hustle culture takes a myopic, short-term view of life. It’s about the next quarterly report, the following annual review, and the next carrot in the never-ending game of corporate snakes and ladders. It’s fed by YOLO (You Only Live Once) mentality and acts that maximize pleasure for pleasure’s sake, and it pushes you to ‘get it all’ as quickly as possible—ideally yesterday.

An author adopting Barakah culture will write his/her book to last a thousand years, so it counts as a knowledge that benefits society long after they have gone. An author adopting Hustle culture, on the other hand, will focus only on hitting the best-seller lists within the first weeks of launch and rush through his book project because he or she is trying to catch a new “trend” before it’s too late.

‘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)?’

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • How much time, energy, and focus are you putting in the three investments that will outlive you and your children? Are you actively developing a beneficial body of knowledge? Do you plan to build or support or set up an going charity)?
  • What small project could you start now and consistently focus on for the rest of your life?

Thought Experiment for Teams

  • What does it mean that we believe in the hereafter as a team? In heaven and hell? In a day of Judgment? How can we build a company/product that lasts for a thousand years and that benefits humanity?

4. Focus on Acceptance from Allah vs. Focus on Results

وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللَّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۖ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

“And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” [Qur’an 9: 105]

‏ عَنْ عُمَرَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ‏

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intention and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration was for Allah and His Apostle. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.” [Sahih al Bukhari]

Barakah culture is focused on delivering work that is pleasing to Allah. It focuses on the two conditions required for our actions to be accepted:

  1. Sincere, good intentions; and,
  2. Sincere effort & action.

Hustle culture, on the other hand, is focused on material results, where the ends justify the means.

Some readers might ask, “Surely focusing on material results is better than intentions and actions? What’s the point of having good intentions and working hard, if there are no results to show for it?”

The philosophical difference stems from recognizing “Who’s in control.” Individuals operating within Hustle culture, believe that we are in control of our own lives and the material results we achieve. Barakah focused individuals, on the other hand, recognize that Allah’s ultimately in charge and that our hard work is never wasted in this world or the next as long as our intentions are pure and we sincerely put our best efforts forward, regardless of the material results we achieve.

A metaphor to help you understand the difference is the Gardener Vs. A Carpenter: The Gardener plants his seeds, waters his land, and works hard on his garden, yet if the garden doesn’t bear fruit as expected, he accepts it as Allah’s decree, renews his intentions, and works harder (and smarter) for next season. He’s not upset at the outcome of his garden because his intentions were pure and he did everything possible to help his garden grow. He also knows that the rest was not up to him.

أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تَحْرُثُونَ. أَأَنتُمْ تَزْرَعُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الزَّارِعُونَ‏

“And have you seen that [seed] which you sow? Is it you who makes it grow, or are We the grower?” [Qur’an 56:63-64]

A Carpenter has a fixed image of what his product needs to look like to be deemed a success. He’ll set out to achieve that perfect chair or table or cupboard. If the product fails to match his imagination, he’ll get annoyed with his tools, at himself, and might even get depressed because he thinks he’s not good enough. He finds the thought of not being in control overbearing.

In other words, Barakah culture is about focusing on what you can control—your intentions and your actions—and leaving what’s not within your control to Allah (SWT). Hustle culture is living the daily stress of trying to control the uncontrollable, under the false impression that expectations always meet reality.  This issue becomes more pronounced with Parenting. Parents who adopt a “gardener mindset” with their children—do their best and do not stress about how they might turn out. They tend to be more successful than those parents who adopt a “carpenter mindset” and try to turn their children into the fixed image they have in their mind. These parents will feel like failures if their children don’t meet their expectations, regardless of how hard they worked to raise them well. [See The Carpenter and The Gardener]

‘Barakah culture is about focusing on what you can control—your intentions and actions—and leaving the rest to Allah (SWT). Hustle culture is living the daily stress of trying to control the uncontrollable.’

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • Do you have a Gardener mindset or Carpenter mindset? Ask your family.
  • When things don’t go according to your plan, how do you react? If you find yourself stressed, how can you shift your outlook?

Thought Experiments for Teams:

  • What failures have occurred in the past that were beyond your control? How did you react to those failures as a team? How did things turn out after the failure?
  • How can you shift your thinking from a focus on material results to focusing on intentions and quality work?

5. Abundance Mindset vs. Scarcity Mindset

الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

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 2:268]

Barakah is all about having an abundant mindset. A follower of this culture recognizes that blessings and bounty are from Allah, He’s Eternal, His Kingdom and Blessings are infinite and limitless. The Vastness of Allah (SWT) eliminates the fear of loss and limitedness.

 عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِيمَا رَوَى عَنِ اللَّهِ، تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى أَنَّهُ قَالَ: يَا عِبَادِي لَوْ أَنَّ أَوَّلَكُمْ وَآخِرَكُمْ وَإِنْسَكُمْ وَجِنَّكُمْ قَامُوا فِي صَعِيدٍ وَاحِدٍ فَسَأَلُونِي فَأَعْطَيْتُ كُلَّ إِنْسَانٍ مَسْأَلَتَهُ مَا نَقَصَ ذَلِكَ مِمَّا عِنْدِي إِلاَّ كَمَا يَنْقُصُ الْمِخْيَطُ إِذَا أُدْخِلَ الْبَحْرَ

Abu Dharr reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said:”[…] O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of jinns also all stand in one plain ground and you ask Me and I confer upon every person what he asks for, it would not in any way, cause any loss to Me (even less) than that which is caused to the ocean by dipping the needle in it.” [Muslim]

Hustle culture, on the other hand, is cutthroat. It’s a dog eat dog out there, and you need to be the earliest bird to catch all the worms. It’s about “limited resources,” “tough global competition,” “and you need to get what’s yours before everyone else does.” It’s turning human beings into beasts fighting over the crumbs of life, turning away refugees fleeing war or extreme poverty because they are scared “they’ll take over our jobs.” 

…وَمَن يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“[…] And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be successful.” [Qur’an 59:9]

Walk through any Souq (traditional marketplace in the Muslim world) – in Madinah, Jerusalem, Cairo, Fez, Istanbul – and notice how you’ll see rows and rows of shopkeepers selling the exact same items for the exact same price. You might even catch one of them telling you not to buy from their store but to go to their friend’s shop because their friend didn’t sell enough today. That’s Abundance-mindset in action.

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • What are you afraid to lose if you give some of your resources away? What do you think will happen if you do share these resources with an abundant mindset?

Thought Experiments for Teams

  • Who are your top competitors? What if you reached out to them and asked to help them solve a problem they face? What if you sent some of your clients to your competitors?

6. Content vs. Never Satisfied

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ “‏ مَنْ أَصْبَحَ مِنْكُمْ مُعَافًى فِي جَسَدِهِ آمِنًا فِي سِرْبِهِ عِنْدَهُ قُوتُ يَوْمِهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا حِيزَتْ لَهُ الدُّنْيَا ‏‏‏

It was narrated from Salamah bin ‘Ubaidullah bin Mihsan Al-Ansari that his father said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within himself, with food for the day, it is as if he acquired the whole world.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Barakah culture is about having ridaa, or contentment with where you are and what you have.

Hustle culture is about never being satisfied, never settling, and never accepting your current reality.

If you’re wondering whether this means that one should never be ambitious, the answer is: it depends:

  • If your ambition is God-centered, Hereafter-focused, purpose and impact driven, then you should seek that ambition while being content with where you are and what you have.
  • If, however, your ambition is ego-centred, worldly-focused and solely linked to personal success, whatever the cost, then you’re falling for the mirage success perpetrated by Hustle culture.

‘Barakah culture is about having ridaa, or contentment with where you are and what you have. Hustle culture is about never being satisfied, never settling, and never accepting your current reality.’

The power of contentment is that it makes you enjoy the blessings of life with all its trials and tribulations. Lack of contentment makes life hard to tolerate, especially when a calamity hits you and throws you off-guard.

Thought Experiments for Individuals:

  • The next time you feel discontent with your life, annoyed at the smallest things, pause and ask yourself: how can I be more content?
  • What are your ambitions in life? How many of them are God-centered, Hereafter-focused, and purpose- and impact-driven?
  • How would your life be if you were more content and stopped being stressed with “what if” and “if only” and “I wish I had…”?.

Thought Experiments for Teams:

  • What do you appreciate about your team and the work you do? What makes you content?
  • How can you manage your team/company’s ambitions while being content with the journey you have taken together so far?

7. Focused vs. Distracted

‏ عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ سُلَيْمَانَ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ عَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ أَبَانَ بْنِ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عَفَّانَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ خَرَجَ زَيْدُ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ مِنْ عِنْدِ مَرْوَانَ بِنِصْفِ النَّهَارِ فَقُلْتُ مَا بَعَثَ إِلَيْهِ هَذِهِ السَّاعَةَ إِلاَّ لِشَىْءٍ سَأَلَ عَنْهُ ‏.‏ فَسَأَلْتُهُ فَقَالَ سَأَلَنَا عَنْ أَشْيَاءَ سَمِعْنَاهَا مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ:

“مَنْ كَانَتِ الدُّنْيَا هَمَّهُ فَرَّقَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ أَمْرَهُ وَجَعَلَ فَقْرَهُ بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ وَلَمْ يَأْتِهِ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ مَا كُتِبَ لَهُ وَمَنْ كَانَتِ الآخِرَةُ نِيَّتَهُ جَمَعَ اللَّهُ لَهُ أَمْرَهُ وَجَعَلَ غِنَاهُ فِي قَلْبِهِ وَأَتَتْهُ الدُّنْيَا وَهِيَ رَاغِمَةٌ‏‏”

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever is focused only on this world, Allah (SWT) will confound his affairs and make him fear poverty constantly, and he will not get anything of this world except that which has been decreed for him. Whoever is focused on the Hereafter, Allah (SWT) will settle his affairs for him and make him feel content with his lost, and his provision and worldly gains will undoubtedly come to him.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Barakah culture is focused. It’s focused on Allah; focused on the Hereafter, on living a life of purpose and impact and on serving others. It comes with a clear direction in life, and its followers are actively encouraged to pursue it.

Hustle culture is distracted. It has a million projects to do at once. Its followers are scattered. They are pulled in so many different directions and on a never-ending emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs.

Once you start looking, it is easy to notice the difference between Hustle culture and Barakah culture – just, observe the respective morning routines:

  • An adherent to Hustle culture wakes up, and the first thing they do is check emails, respond to messages, and get on with their to-do list.
  • Meanwhile, a person immersed in Barakah culture wakes up, and the first thing they do is remember God, prays, recites Quran, and then tackles what they have in the day ahead of them.

You might say “Yeah, but the Hustle culture guy gets SO much done by the time your Barakah culture guy finishes praying.” Here’s where understanding the true meaning of Barakah becomes crucial: Barakah is not about running like a hamster on a wheel and knocking out as many things as possible from your to-do list. Instead, Barakah is about getting the right things done, at the right time, so that you are actually led to success and move forward in life. Put simply, you can spend a whole day in your inbox and knocking out to-dos but may still not move an inch towards your long-term goals.

Thought experiments for Individuals

  • When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you said that you check your phone, then try this tomorrow morning: Get a basic analog alarm for your room and charge your phone in another place on silent/aeroplane mode. When you get up, remember Allah, pray, read, and resist the temptation to check your phone for at least 2-3 hours. Notice the difference in your mornings and how much truly purposeful/important work you get done that day.

Thought Experiments for Teams

  • Do you feel that you’re being pulled in a million different directions? Are you all busy but not getting real work done or moving the company forward? What needs to happen for your team to regain focus? What’s distracting its members? How can you ground yourself?

8. Being Grateful vs. Seeking Credit

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ

“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Qur’an 14: 7]

Barakah culture allows you to recognize that whatever success you have is ultimately down to and a blessing from Allah. This leads a person to be in a constant state of shukr (gratefulness) for every small or large achievement, and even for failures because the culture permits you to recognize that there are blessings in difficulties and in overcoming the obstacles faced along the way. It also makes someone grateful for the people in his/her life who helped him/her to get to where they are now.

Hustle culture is about taking all the credit; a hustler gets annoyed/hurt when people don’t recognize them, don’t like their posts, or share their ‘brilliance.’ Their ego-centricity blinds them from realizing how everything had to work just right for them to achieve what they sought to accomplish. They are in a state of denial of the true Source of these blessings and are in a constant state of ingratitude.

Recognizing that success is from Allah alone not only makes you grateful but reminds you to ask for success from Allah. Now here’s where the genius lies: When you ask for success from Allah, will you limit what you ask? Or will you be purely selfish in what you ask? I hope not! When you ask for success from God, it should remind you to renew and purify your intentions because what you’re asking for has become elevated to a spiritual request. It’ll also encourage you not be ego-centric in your request, and remind you that you should seek purpose and impact within the success God provides.

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • Write down your blessings. Don’t stop until you feel overwhelmed with gratitude, maybe even to tears. Trust me, it’s a humbling experience.

Thought Experiments for Teams

  • When you celebrate success, recognize who facilitated that success. Instead of seeking high-fives and lavish parties, how about all turning to Allah to thank Him, pitching in to donate to charity, or coming together to support a local project in a poor community?

9. Tranquillity & Presence vs. Rushed & Busy

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace…” [Qur’an 25:63]

وعن ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما قال‏:‏ أخذ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بمنكبي فقال‏:‏ ‏ “‏كن فى الدنيا كأنك غريب أو عابر سبيل‏”‏‏.‏ وكان ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما يقول‏:‏ إذا أمسيت، فلا تنتظر الصباح، وإذا أصبحت، فلا تنتظر المساء، وخذ من صحتك لمرضك، ومن حياتك لموتك “ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه البخاري‏)‏‏)‏‏

‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:

Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) took hold of my shoulders and said, “Be in the world like a stranger or a wayfarer.” Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) used to say: When you survive till the evening do not expect to live until the morning, and when you survive till the morning do not expect to live until the evening. While in good health (do good deeds) before you fall sick; and while you are alive (do good deeds) before death strikes. [Al- Bukhari].

Barakah culture cultivates tranquillity and being present. It is about recognizing where you are in the moment and embracing the full meaning of being present in preparation for the hereafter that can come at any moment. It’s not about being sad about the past, because that’s over, and it’s not about being worried about the future, because that’s in Allah’s hand and is yet to come. Instead under this culture one focuses on how to do what’s most pleasing to God.

لِّكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَىٰ مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ

“In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful” [Qur’an 57: 23]

Under a Hustle, you are always rushed, always in ‘urgent’ mode. There’s no time to focus on what’s essential or even the present because you are continually living tomorrow: the next client, the next problem, the next financial crisis around the corner.

One might argue, “Isn’t it healthy to be worried about the future, so you can prepare for it?” Barakah Culture encourages you to prepare for the future. But why should you be continuously worried or stressed about things, especially after you’ve done all you can do?—that’s insanity.

If you stop someone with a Hustle culture mindset and ask for directions or for some help, they’ll likely glare at you with a “How dare you to bother me?” look. It’s as if they’re saying,  “Don’t you know that I’m busy and have big important things to do?” Of course, they won’t say that; They’ll just say “Sorry, I have to go” and move on. What’s truly sad is when the person they just ignored is their parent, spouse, or child.

With Barakah culture as your mindset, you’re present and aware, and if someone stops you, you recognize that Allah sent that person to you and is testing you to see whether you’ll respond to their need and help, support, or at least learn from them.

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • The next time you pray; pray as if it’s your first time praying as if you’re discovering every supplication the first time ever. Then notice the domino effect that this tranquillity and presence from prayer have on the next few hours in your day.

Thought Experiments for Teams

  • The next time you find yourself as a team rushing and “fire-fighting,,” empower any team member to call for a “time-out” and recognize that you’re all rushing. Get into the habit of asking what can be done differently and which steps can be taken to prevent future fires and encourage mindful purpose and presence in the workplace.

10. A sense of Responsibility vs. Sense of Entitlement

 :أَخْبَرَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ دُرُسْتَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو إِسْمَاعِيلَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ أَبِي كَثِيرٍ، أَنَّ أَبَا سَلَمَةَ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ قَالَ دَخَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم حُجْرَتِي فَقَالَ:

“….فَإِنَّ لِعَيْنِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجَتِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِضَيْفِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِصَدِيقِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا…”

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah said:

“The Messenger of Allah entered my apartment and said: “I have been told that you stand all night (in prayer) and fast all day.’ I said: ‘Yes (I do).’ He said: ‘Do not do that. Sleep and stand (in prayer); fast and break your fast. For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you. I hope that you will have a long life and that it will be sufficient for you to fast three days of each month. That is fasting for a lifetime because a good deed is equal to ten like it.’ I said: ‘I feel able to do more.’ I was strict, so I was dealt with strictly. He said: ‘Fast three days each week.’ I said: ‘I am able to do more than that; I was strict, so I was dealt with strictly. He said: ‘Observe the fast of the Prophet of Allah, Dawud, peace be upon him. I said: ‘What was the fast of Dawud?’ he said: ‘Half of a lifetime.”‘ ‘Ata said: “someone who heard him told me that Ibn ‘Umar (said) that the Prophet said: ‘Whoever fasts every day of his life, then he has not fasted.” [Sunan An-Nisa’i]

If you are immersed in Barakah culture, you understand that we each are but a single organism in an ecosystem that has rights and responsibilities over us. This starts with the rights that Allah has over each of us and the responsibility that one has to fulfill as a slave towards His Lord. It pushes us to continue to meet the rights of the people around us, including family members, neighbors, guests, fellow Muslims, and humanity at large.

With Hustle culture comes a sense of entitlement. After a hard day at work, it is all about “me” time. It is a deserving mentality. The hustlers just want to tap on an app and get their next meal and a massage, watch some Netflix and go to bed early so they can wake up at 4:00 am and repeat the “Hustle cycle.” Family, neighbors, parents, etc, those are just after-thoughts. The hustler’s idea of “work-life” balance is WORK is life.

If you operate under Barakah Culture, it’s not about a work-life balance, it’s about a total life balance and recognizing that you’re a shepherd responsible for your flock and that as such your obligations go beyond work. Read Mastering Work-Life Balance: 3 Eye-opening Lessons from Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Thought Experiments for Individuals

  • Take a piece of paper and draw a bar graph:
    • On the x-axis write down all the roles you have in life (e.g., father/mother, spouse, parent, son/daughter, etc.).
    • On the y-axis, put Performance which will be measured from 0 – 100%.
  • For each of your roles, give yourself a personal score linked to, “How well am I performing as a [fill in the role]? 50%? 70%?”
  • Repeat for all your roles. What do you notice?
  • Do this same experiment in 3 months and see if anything has changed.

Thought Experiments for Teams

  • As a team, are you helping each other achieve a total life balance? If yes, how so and how can you be sure? What rituals, HR policies, or ideas, etc. can you implement as a team to work towards a total life balance?

11. Small but consistent efforts vs. Big moves and constant pivoting

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ

تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

“Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky?

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded.

And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability” [Qur’an 14: 24-26]

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked about the act most pleasing to Allah. He replied:

That which is done continuously, even if it is small.” [Sahih Muslim]

Barakah culture is like a date palm tree. It takes years to grow, but once it produces, it is strong and rooted and bears sweet fruits regularly.

Hustle culture centres on “fail fast, fail forward” and constant pivoting. It glorifies “big launches” and “big moves” and is rarely rooted in anything long-term.

Here’s the interesting thing: to have any true impactful success, one needs effort and time. By being focused, present, sincere, and by doing your best work every day, it adds up to success beyond your imagination over a lifetime. If you’re always “pivoting” and “shifting gears,” you become like an uprooted tree that has no soil to cling onto and is left dry on the wayside.

Does this mean you should never change direction when conditions call for it? Again, it depends. If the environment and market conditions become too harsh for you to continue effectively, yes you can and should pivot, but only after exhausting all other options. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) didn’t ‘pivot’ and migrate to Madinah until after 10 years in Makkah trying to call his people towards his Message. He waited until he reached a point where his life, and those of his followers, were in danger.

Thought experiments for Individuals

  • Take stock of your habits and routines – spiritual, physical, social, work-related – which ones are beneficial for you over the long-term (in this life and the next), and which ones are detrimental to your success?
  • What small habit/routine can you start to do and continue doing so that over a year (or a lifetime) it will yield fruit?

Thought experiments for Teams

  • What are you willing to continue doing for the next 5-10 years together?
  • When do you tend to pivot? Is it when the external conditions have changed? Or when you get too overwhelmed (afraid?) to do the purpose-driven work that’s ultimately more meaningful.


Source: Productive Muslim

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