Why is our nation so terrified of working hard?

By carrying the bowl for begging, we concede our right to make our own decisions and compromise our free will.

Badar Chaudhary July 31, 2012
A friend of mine recently forwarded me one of those mundane text messages with a bit of a Pakistani touch to it. This one had me thinking for some time though. The SMS had been generated by some mathematician who had visibly taken on the pain to convert the net worth of Bill Gates into Pakistani currency, and with a few further calculations, had come to the conclusion that even if the gentleman spends 10 million ‘rupees’ (1 Crore) everyday, he wouldn't need to work for at least another 750 years.

That all asserted, the sanity of the billionaire was questioned at the very end because, to the composer of the message, Bill Gates' continuous quest to earn more and more seemed inane.

For me it's not the avariciousness of Bill Gates that is questionable but the very issue that has been raised as to why he should continue to work. This, to me, is in direct contrast to the very paradigm of indolence and complacency that is  inherent in our nation.

As we grow old in this 'Islamic Republic', we’re made to imbibe and to an extent espouse the economic system that Islam propagates. An essence of this system is that it strictly prohibits accumulation of wealth and therefore encourages charity. Having been misconstrued by the masses as an injunction dictating 'not to work harder than ones needs and thus not earn more than ones requirement', it serves as a bedrock to most of our complacency.

What we seemed to have overlooked so conveniently is the fact that Islam never prohibited Muslims to employ their abilities to earn as much as they could, but instead barred them from keeping that money to themselves.

Thus the focus was not on earning less, but on spending more; spending upon others as charity or for social work and to alleviate the miseries of the impoverished is in no way forbidden.

An Islamic scholar once went back on his decision to migrate to a city with greater opportunities after having seen an injured bird being fed by another in the forlorn parts of the country and realising that Allah does indeed provide for all and in all sorts of circumstances. He was soon admonished by his teacher and reminded that though Allah did provide for all, he made some the source and others the recipients.

Thus, the choice as to whether one would want to be the beneficiary or a philanthropist rests with the man himself and in such circumstances the biblical intellect as Islam dictates, “It is better to give than to receive”, becomes even more important. Though the scholar did eventually migrate, the story and its moral have failed to pervade the masses.

Allama Iqbal’s concept of Khudi (Self) has been widely lauded by the learned. To the spiritual leader of Pakistan, self-sufficiency is a pre-requisite to sovereignty.

Iqbal repeatedly asserted that for the self to prosper it is essential that the person is not dependent upon another. He believed:
"Tu jhuka jo ghaer k agay na tan tera na mann"

(To a servile belongs neither his body nor the mind (soul)).

These shackles of slavery continue to restrain us. Not just on the individual level but also as a nation. A ravaging debate these days about American aid and its repercussions states that when we carry the bowl for begging, we concede our right to make our own decisions. Thus, the contentment and procrastination might provide temporary solace but they are the scourge that subjugates us.

What we need is a leaf out of the Japanese book of ways. A friend of mine working there recently told me about an interesting if not out rightly bizarre (by Pakistani standards) habit of theirs. He said that a majority of Japanese voluntarily work a couple of hours overtime on daily basis because they feel sitting idle is a curse they must save themselves from. To prevent against wasting time, they invest it instead in their offices and businesses ensuring not only their own progress but also their country's.

On the contrary, we are so work-shy that we gossip and shirk away from work even during our working hours. The Holy Scripture may state that a nation not bent upon changing its conditions becomes stagnant, but we don't bother about it even in the slightest.

In such circumstances, it should surprise no one that though Islam stresses most upon charity and giving alms, the biggest philanthropists come from within other faiths. Warren Buffett, for instance, donated more than $30 billion to a charity. That much money could have changed the lives of thousands of Pakistanis.

Unfortunately, we fail to produce such riches and the fact very much remains, that beggars can’t be providers!

Follow Badar on Twitter @badarchaudhary
Badar Chaudhary An engineering graduate from Cardiff University, Britain, Badar tweets as @badarchaudhary
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Tahir Mehmood | 11 years ago | Reply Also, its ludicrous to ask the average person to work hard for the benefit of society. Humans, despite their altruism, are inherently self-interested. Nobody, would work 20 hours a day, utilize and hone their skills and talents, so that after 20 years, they can start helping people. Also in our society, i have noticed once someone work's hard and makes money and does well there are always detractors A. always assuming the source of wealth is questionable and dodgy at best. B. and always very judgmental with what others do with their wealth---this puts people off. I.e. the corolla guy has a neighbor who bought a mercedes, (suddenly the neighbor becomes far-removed from the poor, avaricious, overly indulgent, not caring for the poor, and instead splurging on a car etc etc) (not that the corolla guy is anymore generous, but he needs to feel good about himself by judging what other's do with their wealth. THIS attitude has to change. People are not encouraged to do the best they can to achieve the best they can. Nobody wants to do ridiculously well, because their efforts are not rewarded. In India, despite talks about the mounting inequalities, their new found billionaires are considered role models, and their large than life lifestyles as something that many want to strive far---what that does is lets out your creativity, you use your head to find a way to get to the top, and in lots of cases end up creating something that adds value to yourself and society as a whole. This is a much better pitch, work hard, make money, play hard, and then also share your success with others.
Tahir Mehmood | 11 years ago | Reply I think Pakistani nation as a whole is very generous-some more than others of course. Islam is against accumulation, but not trade, and does not enjoin one to give all of one's wealth away. Coming to the west, the western mindset is quite different. In my time that i have spent in the West, this is what i have observed; you first make money, and fulfill your desires, weather it be jets or yachts, or mansions all over the world. once you make money and fulfill all your wishes, and leave more than enough for your children, you give the rest to charity. Bill Gates for example was a billionaire in the 1980's, but it wasnt till mid 2000's that he started giving out. Before that he bought his fair share of art, the most expensive house in the world at the time 75M USD, and then in mid 2000's he decided, lets go for charity on an aggressive level. This is the case with most US billionaires. In Pakistan, our amibtions to do well and achieve material comfort are not really encouraged under the branding of materialistic ambitions etc, and therefore we are less inclined to achieve the best we can, rather just enough to provide for ourselves and our family. If we teach our society to do well here, enjoy, also be generous to the poor---we may arrive at some sort of balance.
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