What does work mean in Islam? Imam Khamenei explains

The general and the specific meaning of work in Islam

In Islam, labor with its two meanings is a well-known concept: in its general sense – spiritual, worldly, otherworldly, economic, mental and physical work: generally speaking, it means work and action – and its special economic sense. Today too, the issue of labor and laborers is highlighted in the world in its special economic sense. Labor is a significant concept in Islam in its two different senses.

As for its first meaning – the general meaning – the ayah which was recited in the beginning of this gathering says, “That man can have nothing but what he strives for” [The Holy Quran 53: 39]. The Commander of the Faith also says, “Action, action followed by the result, the result!” [Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 176] Working is the ultimate slogan. This is the slogan of the Commander of the Faithful: “Action, action!” And the next most important thing is the result which means finishing and seeing it through. One of our problems is that we sometimes begin a piece of work but that we leave it unfinished. Today, one of our issues and problems in the country is unfinished projects and failing to fully accomplish a task. This is one of the flaws in our work.

The Commander of the Faithful speaks about beginning and finishing a piece of work. So, this is the general meaning of labor. This aspect of work and labor is not necessarily related to its economic aspect. It could be practical, religious, worldly, collective, political and jihadi work. It includes all forms of actions. Notice that the Holy Quran places great emphasis on doing good deeds, for example in this ayah: “To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness has Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward” [5: 9]. The Holy Quran frequently speaks about taking action and working.

Well, emphasizing this aspect of labor is the opposite point to idleness. It means that we should not expect to get something for free. We should work hard, be that religious and otherworldly areas, worldly areas and important matters related to the country such as political and social areas. And we should also pursue our work and ask for results. It is wrong to ask for something for free. That is why there has been so much emphasis on work in this sense.

Islam highlights labor in its second sense – the economic sense – as well. The Holy Prophet kissed the hands of a laborer. This is a very important matter. He said, “God loves a servant who does neat work.” Allah the Exalted loves those who work and who do it in a neat and proper way and with a sense of responsibility. So, Islam discusses labor in its two senses.

May 6, 2020


  • Iran's Economy
  • Islam
  • Laborers