3 Business Lessons I Learned From Prophet Ayoub (A)

The core of being an entrepreneur is about having faith- faith in yourself, in your abilities, and in your vision.  Sometimes this kind of faith isn’t enough to see you through the difficult times:

Have you had a business that didn’t quite make it and had to be closed down? Perhaps you lost out on a deal or had a terrible season in your sales.

Have you had a business idea and you just could not raise the investment for it?  

Perhaps your day just started with bad news.

Maybe after years of running your business, you’re still not making profit.  You’re frustrated and want to scream, ‘Why aren’t I getting my break through?’

We’ve all been up against that wall, when we’ve run out of energy, hope and faith.

But it is coming back to your Muslim faith and listening closely to the lessons of our prophets and taking their insights into your hearts that will give you the strength to see you through the challenging times.  

Throughout my life and all the difficulties and challenges I have been through I have always found council in stories of the prophets. I was able to take some inspirations and lessons and truly benefited mentally and emotionally.

I want to share one story with you, and this is the story of prophet Ayoub Alahiwsalam also know as Job.  His story is appropriate for every entrepreneur, as you go along your personal journey in developing your business you will experience great heights of success and serious low points and disappointments.  

There are many lessons in this story and before we delve into these lessons I want to just briefly cite the story.

The following story was documented by Ibn Kathir.

ProphetAyoub (A) was Allah’s thankful, repentant, patient and steadfast worshipper. Allah the Almighty has praised Him in the Quran thus:

“Truly! We found him patient. How excellent a slave! Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance to Us” (Saad 38:44).

Ibn Kathir narrates that once Iblis (Satan) heard an angel praising Ayoub (A) to other angels, extolling his noble character, patience and remembrance of Allah and describing him as “the best creature on earth today, and an excellent model for the worshippers of Allah.”  The angel also added that Allah had blessed him with long life and plenty of riches, yet he was never haughty or selfish.  His family, servants, the needy and the poor, all had a share in his good fortune. He bought slaves to set them free and made those who received his charity feel as if they were doing him a favor.

Overhearing all this, Iblis became annoyed and planned to tempt Ayoub (A) and lead him to disbelief. First, he tried to distract him from his prayers by whispering to him about the good things in life, but as a true believer, Ayoub would not let evil thoughts tempt him.  Iblis then tried to attribute ulterior motives to his constant glorification of Allah, projecting his worship as being motivated from greed to safeguard his wealth.  Iblis thus said to Allah, “If you deprive him of his wealth You will find that he will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.

Allah told Iblis that Ayoub (A) was one of His most sincere devotees, whose worship stemmed from his heart and had nothing to do with material gifts or favors granted to him. To prove His devotee’s depth of sincerity and patience, Allah allowed Iblis to do whatever he wished with Ayoub (A)’s wealth.

Delighted, Iblis gathered his helpers and set about destroying Ayoub (A)’s cattle, servants and farms, depriving him of all his possessions.  Then in the guise of a wise old man he approached him and said:

All your wealth is lost.  Some people say that it is because you gave too much charity and that you are wasting your time with your continuous prayers to Allah.  Others say that Allah has brought this upon you in order to please your enemies.  If Allah had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth.

Steadfast in his faith, Ayoub (A) replied: “What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills,” and he prostrated before his Lord.

Frustrated with his failure, Iblis again addressed Allah:

I have stripped Ayoub (A) of all his possessions, but he still remains grateful to You. However, he is only hiding his disappointment, for he places great store by his many children. The real test of a parent is through his children. You will then see how Ayoub (A) will reject You.”

Allah again granted Iblis authority, but warned him that it would reduce neither Ayoub (A)’s faith in his Lord nor his patience.

Iblis gathered his helpers and brought the house in which Ayoub (A)’s children were living, crashing down, killing all of them. Disguised as a man who had come to sympathize with him, he said:

The circumstances under which your children died were sad.  Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers.

The faithful believer of Allah replied, disappointing Iblis once again:

Allah sometimes gives and sometimes takes.  He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds.  Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator.

Saying this he prostrated to his Lord.  Extremely vexed, Iblis again called on Allah:

“O my Lord, Ayoub (A)’s wealth is gone and his children are dead, but he is still healthy in body, and as long as he enjoys good health he will continue to worship You in the hope of regaining his wealth and producing more children. Grant me authority over his body so that I may weaken it. He will surely stop worshipping You and will thus become disobedient.

Allah granted Iblis his third request but placed a condition:

I give you authority over his body but not over his soul, intellect, or heart, for in these places reside the knowledge of Me and My religion.

Armed with this new authority, Iblis afflicted Ayoub (A)’s body with disease, reducing it to mere skin and bone.  He suffered severe pain yet remained strong in faith, and patiently bore all the suffering without complaints.  Hopeful of Allah’s Mercy, he neither despaired nor turned to others for help.  Although he had lost all his children and was deprived of his wealth and physically afflicted, he still continued to glorify Allah the Almighty day and night.  His disease lasted for a long time. His friends felt disgusted and his close relatives deserted him.  The sole companion and comforter through many years of his suffering was his kind and loving wife.

Iblis became desperate. He consulted his helpers but they asked him:

How is it that your cleverness cannot work against Ayoub (A), yet you succeeded in misleading Adam, the father of man, out of paradise?

Iblis went to Ayoub (A)’s wife in the form of a man. “Where is your husband?” he asked her.

She pointed to an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed and said: “There he is, suspended between life and death.

Iblis reminded her of the days when he had enjoyed good health, wealth and children.  The painful memory of years of hardship overwhelmed her.  She burst into tears and asked her husband:

How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord?  Are we to remain without wealth, children or friends forever?  Why don’t you call upon Allah to remove this suffering?

Ayoub (A) sighed, and replied softly:

Iblis must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied.  Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?

She replied, “For eighty years.

Then he asked, “How long have I been suffering like this?

She said, “Seven years.

Then he told her: “In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty that I enjoyed.  Your faith seems to have weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate decreed by Allah.  If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes!  From this day, I shall not eat or drink anything from your hand.  Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases.

Crying bitterly, with no other choice, she left with a heavy heart. In his helpless state, Ayoub (A) turned to Allah, not to complain but to seek His mercy:

“And (remember) Ayyub (Job), when he cried to his Lord: ‘Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.’ So We answered his call, and We removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all those who worship Us” (Al-Anbiya 21:83-84).

Almighty Allah further says in the Quran:

“And remember Our slave Ayyub (Job), when he invoked his Lord (saying): ‘Verily Shaitan (Satan) has touched me with distress (by ruining my health) and torment (by ruining my wealth)!’ (Allah said to him): “Strike the ground with your foot: This is (a spring of) water to wash in, and a cool and (refreshing) drink.” And We gave him (back) his family, and along with them the like thereof, as a Mercy from Us, and a Reminder for those who understand (Sad 38:41-43).

Ayoub (A) obeyed Allah’s instructions, and almost immediately his good health was restored. Meanwhile, his faithful wife who could no longer bear to be parted from her husband returned to beg his forgiveness, and to serve him. On entering the house, she was amazed at the sudden change she saw. Ayoub (A) had regained his health! She embraced him and thanked Allah for His mercy.

Ayoub (A) was now worried about the oath he had taken to punish her with a hundred strokes if he regained health.  He did not wish to hurt her but could not break a promise to Allah.  Therefore, Allah in His wisdom and mercy, came to the assistance of His faithful servant, and instructed him:

“And take in your hand a bundle of thin grass and strike therewith (your wife), and break not your oath” (Sad 38:44).

Thus Allah the Most Merciful rewards His faithful and grateful servants.

Source: Ibn Kathir

 

Lessons to learn:

Although there are numerous lessons in this story to learn about patience, I want to draw your attention to the three most important lessons I believe are fundamental for us as entrepreneurs.

 

Lesson 1: Ayoub’s Mindset Dominated His Beliefs

Ayoub saw everything he had as a temporary gift from Allah to him.  It wasn’t his to keep forever, just borrowed to him.  He wasn’t attached to all this material things he had.  Rather, associated having them as gifts bestowed to him.

Oftentimes we don’t value gifts that are given to us.  Because we haven’t paid for them, we aren’t as careful in taking care of them or valuing them.

Ayoub associated everything he had as incredibly valuable gifts that were given to him by Allah to be a guardian over.  As a steward of these gifts, Ayoub worked hard to do the best he could to share the give and care for it in the best way he knew how.

When he loses the gift, he sees it not as a something lost, but as a returning of the gift to the giver.  Because Ayoub know that everything come from Allah, he cannot be upset or lose faith when the gift is returned, because the gift was freely given and must be freely returned.

Ayob’s mindset is the cornerstone of his faith.  He does not take ownership, rather he takes stewardship over the gifts in his life.  When things became difficult and challenging for him, he merely knows that he no longer was in possession of that gift, instead, turning to his faith to thank Allah for the moments when he had so many gifts. 

How does this reflect on your own life?  What gifts have you been given?  How would you react if they were taken away?  

Your mindset will help you determine how you will deal with going through difficult times in your business.

What’s your mindset like?  How can you adjust your reactions to embrace Ayob’s perspective?

Take a minute to ponder this.

 

Lesson 2: Upon facing real challenges, Ayob prostrated to Allah.

Allah is with us through both are most harrowing moments and are most successful moments.  If this is so, then why is it so much easier for us to praise Allah when we’ve heard a piece of good news?  We are quick to give thanks when we are blessed, but when we are faced with challenges, why are we so quick to assume Allah is not with us? What do we do when we hear a piece of good news, we praise Allah straight away.  Because he just blessed us. What about upon hearing a bad piece of news? We tend to say s*** – right?

At the end of himself, with no gifts left to him, Ayoub prostrated, prayed and sought counsel with the ultimate master who initially gave and ultimately took back the gifts Ayoub had received.

Think about your own challenges in respects to what Allah has given you…  Maybe Allah just does not want you to have his gifts anymore or perhaps not right now.

Maybe you are being tested to see if you will go to Allah, even when you are not blessed by his gifts.

We will all face hard times as entrepreneurs, the important thing to know is that you are in charge of your reaction to these difficult times.  Don’t get worked up, stressed or depressed about your situation, instead, like Ayoub, know that there is someone ultimately, intelligently, choosing not to give this thing to you at that moment.  Take a moment during these times to reflect, prostrate, and pray to Allah.  Perhaps, through these moments of reflection, you might find that you are not ready to receive these gifts, which will lead to more self-development.  

 

Lesson 3: Ayoub counted his blessing greater than his challenges 

Allah gave Ayoub 80 years of wealth and prosperity and seven years of trials.  To Ayoub, those 80 years outweighed the mere moments, by comparison, of challenging times.  To him, asking Allah for relief when he spent so much of his life living in the gifts of Allah was unquestionable.  This is absolutely awe inspiring. Successful people choose to dwell in their successes, they count their blessings and decide openly and honestly, to honor the gifts they have been given.  

This final lesson leads to one of my favourite passages:  

“And when your Lord proclaimed: “If you are thankful, I will give you more, but if you are ungrateful, then surely My punishment is terrible indeed.” (14:7) 

In these ayat, Allah makes the granting of more blessing conditional on gratitude.  There is no limit to the increase in his blessings, just as there is no limit to being grateful to Him.  Allah, Mighty and Glorious is He, has made a great deal of reward dependent on his will. 

So, my friend, bear these three things in mind:

  1. What you have or don’t have isn’t yours – just gifted to you by Allah for a temporary time.
  2. When you hear bad news – don’t curse the world, instead remember Allah and go pray some salah and seek council in Allah
  3. Count your blessings,  be grateful more than despair about what you have or don’t have.

Inshallah you and your business will be successful and you will be able to navigate hard times in a way that brings you closer to Allah and ultimately secures you with even more success.