Written by: Abubakar Musa Femi
Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the most blessed countries boasting abundant human and material resources; it is also recognized as a deeply religious nation, with citizens who are devout and prayerful. However, despite these riches, the nation remains developing, if not underdevelopment, marked by widespread poverty by majority of its citizens. I find myself pondering the question: why Nigeria is still underdeveloped even with its resources and the consistent practice of daily prayers and fasting? What has transpired with prayer and fasting in the country that they haven’t transformed it into advance or developed nation? Something profoundly significant must underlie the reason why the country persists as a developing nation, despite the continuous prayers and fasting by Nigerians day and night, all hoping for Nigeria to ascend to greatness.
The answer to the question is an open secret; God does not create nor made anything in isolation of the others. In the glorious Qur’an wherever Allah mentioned prayer it would be followed with zakat, sometime when he mentioned believers it would be closely followed by doing good deeds and often patience is followed by truthfulness such examples go on in the book of Allah.
Therefore, it is the law of Allah that one act compliments the other in a systematic manner. It is on this ground i shall be discussing hard work or effort as factor lacking in Nigeria prayers in the quest for development in the country.
Prayer is like the heart-to-heart conversations we have with the divine, linking us to our creator and serving as the spiritual bridge between humanity and God. It’s not just a routine; it’s the heartbeat of Islam, a commandment observed five times a day, both personally and collectively – the second pillar holding up the entire structure of Islam. For believers, prayer is more than a ritual; it’s the starting point, the center, and the ultimate destination.
We turn to prayer not because God needs it—He’s beyond any need. It’s a fundamental truth that humans naturally seek goodness, and prayer is our way of seeking divine guidance. As it’s beautifully put in the Holy Quran, prayer marks both the beginning and end, emphasizing our reliance on God’s grace for cleansing and virtue (Malfuzat vol. 10 p. 75).
Yet, nestled between prayers is the importance of work and effort. The Quran underscores this, stating, “each person will only have what they worked towards” (Qur’an 53:39). This highlights the significance of our actions – the hard work, the striving, and the deeds that shape a righteous life on earth and pave the way for success in this world and the Hereafter.
Work and Prayer a Muslim’s Responsibilities
It is mentioned in the Quran, “And say, ‘Work, for Allah will see your deeds, and so will His Messenger and the believers'” (Quran 9:105).
This underscores that Islam is anything but a religion of laziness; it neither preaches idleness nor discourages hard work because of prayer. Islam is a dynamically practical religion, viewing dedication to Allah’s cause and contributing to human progress as integral to worship. Worship, in Islam, goes beyond prayer; it encompasses efforts, actions, works, deeds, and intentions – all of which should be consistently prayed for and diligently pursued, whether individually or collectively.
In the words of the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi (as), “Supplication has a magnetic effect.” It attracts grace and blessing. However, unless one prioritizes the Word of God and aligns their actions with it, their prayers risk becoming a mere waste of time” (Malfuzat vol. 10, p. 76). This implies that for prayers to draw in the mercy, favour, grace, and blessings of God, one must not only utter the words but also work diligently in harmony with those words, allowing their heart to be fully committed to the pursuit of the prayed-for outcomes.
Effort and Success
Certainly, prayers play a crucial role in a believer’s life, serving as a vital tool in a Godly society. Entrusting all matters to God through prayer is commendable, but merely praying and going to bed is not enough. One of the most impactful actions a person can take is to pray and then actively engage in work; good intentions must be accompanied by necessary actions. While prayer is a crucial element for development, it alone is not sufficient for sustainable economic growth.
No nation has achieved progress by relying solely on prayers and then idly folding their arms. The Quran emphasizes that Allah loves those who combine prayer with action, stating, “Spend in the cause of Allah and do not let your own hands throw you into destruction ˹by withholding˺. And do good, for Allah certainly loves the good-doers” (Qur’an 2:195).
Undoubtedly, progress is unattainable without effort and hard work. Take, for instance, someone who dedicates themselves to wholehearted study; they become a scholar. Likewise, a farmer who diligently plows the land, sows seeds, and waters them is rewarded with a bountiful harvest. On the contrary, those who are lazy and indolent, avoiding work, face woes and worries. Islam strongly disapproves of indolence and irresponsibility, recognizing that these traits lead to poverty and grief. In Islam, hard work is not just encouraged; it is considered a duty.
Prayer Not Substitute for Hard-work
The mantra “Prayer is everything, prayer is key, prayer is good, and prayer is the way” echoes in households across Nigeria. Unfortunately, this mindset has led many to prioritize prayer over work, contributing to high levels of unemployment, hunger, poverty, underdevelopment, bad governance, and ignorance. From the time before our birth to the prayers surrounding our birth and even extending to serious prayers during and after our death, this reliance on prayer has been a constant in our lives.
Regrettably, we have yet to realize that prayers alone cannot replace the need for hard work, medicine, engineering, common sense, and advancements in science and technology. As a believer in God, I value prayers but not at the expense of taking decisive steps and actions when necessary. Relying solely on prayer without corresponding effort is often fruitless, evident in the underdeveloped conditions of Nigeria and many third-world countries. On the flip side, hard work without prayers lacks meaning, as it may distance you from God, the being that provides and blesses those who call on Him through prayers. Striking a balance is crucial – pray as if you have never worked and work as if you have never prayed, aiming for sustainable success without relying on magic or miracles.
India, with over 80% of its population identifying as Hindu, actively engages in daily prayer rituals. Renowned for its advancements in information technology, pharmacy, and medicine, India ranks among the top 20 economies globally. Hosting the 2023 G20 summit and achieving the remarkable feat of being the fourth nation to land on the moon are recent milestones. These achievements, however, were not realized through prayer alone; they resulted from a combination of dedicated hard work and prayer.
Qatar, a small Muslim-majority country with a population of less than 4 million according to the 2023 estimate, successfully hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup, boasting the best stadium infrastructure in the tournament’s history. This remarkable accomplishment was not solely a product of prayer; it was achieved through the dedicated hard work of this small Arabian nation.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Muslim-majority nation, stands out as a global tourism hub, often referred to as the “wonder in the desert.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s professional football league made headlines in the 2023/2024 transfer window by acquiring top football stars from Europe, a move that was unprecedented. These successes weren’t solely a result of prayer but were accomplished through strategic business decisions and hard work.
China, primarily a Buddhist/Hindu nation, has become the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. Contrary to the approach in Nigeria, China’s ascent to the top was not solely based on prayer but was driven by extensive hard work (Encyclopedia Britannica).
To be successful, Allah had commanded us when he said “There is no blame on those who believe and do good for what they had consumed before ˹the prohibition˺, as long as they fear Allah, have faith, and do what is good; then they believe and act virtuously, then become fully mindful ˹of Allah˺ and do righteous deeds. For Allah loves the good-doers. (Qur’an 5:94). Does it mean that the underdeveloped state of Nigeria was as a result of the fact that the country wasn’t doing enough in term of good deeds? Or does it mean as much as Nigerian prayed was as much as they work the fortunes of Nigeria
would have turned out for better?
Prayer is a Spiritual Growth Theory Not An Economic Growth Theory
Regrettably, some believe that Nigeria’s greatness relies solely on divine intervention, sidelining the God-given talents, skills, knowledge, and wisdom bestowed upon individuals. Despite these blessings, there is a reluctance to harness and utilize these gifts to propel the advancement of humanity. Instead, the emphasis is on fervent prayer and fasting, anticipating divine intervention to develop our nation, often with minimal personal effort.
In a nation with more religious worship houses than hospitals, the repercussions on the health sector are evident. Similarly, when well-furnished religious houses outnumber well-equipped schools, the implications for the education sector become apparent. While it is essential to work and take medicine, it is equally crucial to seek divine healing through prayer. However, turning the workplace into a constant prayer space and neglecting the necessary work is a clear misplacement of priorities, contributing to the underdevelopment of African countries.
Prayer is religion and spiritual growth model and never an economic or development growth model. It is essentially crucial to treat prayer as spiritual thing rather than confusing or mixing it as an economic development theory. Therefore, it would be instructive to use prayer for spiritual growth and use economic theories for economic development to achieve genuine growth. Work when you ought to work and pray when you are supposed to pray.
There are countless examples of Prophets of Allah who doesn’t pray alone but also engaged in one or more works. For instance, narrated Al-Miqdam: The Prophet (as) was reported to have said “Nobody has ever eaten a meal better than that which he has earned from working with his own hands. The Prophet of Allah Dawud [David], would eat from the work of his own hands.” [Al-Bukhari]. These were prophet of God who did engaged in labor, are we so pious than these hardworking Prophets?
Allah says, “Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried?” (29:2). No, man must labor for his or her sustenance. Little wonder, no one climbed the ladder of success with their hands in their pockets, a man or a nation must pass through some difficult test, hard time and serious hard work to achieve greatness. Hence, “Islam creates a healthy soil, which discourages the growth of parasites and weeds”. (Islam response to contemporary Issue, p. 119).
Thus, it then mean to assume the responsibility of only prayer isn’t encouraged as it was narrated by Aisha: “The companions of Allah’s Apostle used to practice manual labor, so their sweat used to smell, and they were advised to take a bath”. (Al Bukhari). If the Prophet and his highly respected companions do work and never take prayers as their sole duties, how could we the followers most especially from Nigeria ignorant depend largely on only prayer?
It’s a typical mirage and huge delusions to think prayers alone could better our condition without engaging in necessary development path and required development activities needed for economic growth and development of our dear nation. Therefore, we should all know that everything has its place and there’s time for everything. The believers in a religious country like Nigeria should know as a matter of emergency that prayer alone can’t deliver the needed development. But both prayers and hard work could be done concurrently if not simultaneously to achieve the most anticipated development in Nigeria.
- Malfuzat volume 1, page 75
- Qur’an 53:39
- Qur’an 9:105
- Malfuzat volume 1, page 76
- Qur’an 2:195
- Qur’an 5:94
- Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 286
- Qur’an 29:2
- Islam response to contemporary Issue, pg 119
- Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 285
- Encyclopedia Britannica