Belief & Worship Community Islamic Character

Understanding Overlapping Priorities

Lessons in Islamic Work: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII |Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII

One of the common mistakes that is seen in those who are working for Islam is that they lose balance of all the things they are responsible for. We know that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Every one of you is a shepherd and every shepherd is responsible for his/her flock.”

Our “flocks” can be different things at different times but we should always keep some priorities in mind as well as a guiding principle.

In relation to priorities there are several overlapping circles of development and responsibility:

  1. The individual
  2. The family
  3. One’s local community
  4. The greater society
  5. The rest of the world

These are in order of importance, however, they are not mutually exclusive. If one is working at the individual level on some of their issues, it does not mean that they cannot give anything to their family or community. The priorities do give us guidelines for change though. We are fooling ourselves if we think that we are going to change any of the latter things in a substantial way while failing with the beginning priorities. It is possible that one can have varying levels of engagement with a number of these at once, but certain parts will shift and take precedence depending on time and circumstance.

In our context it is usually the first two that get neglected. People work very hard for programs in the community and for others but when it comes to their own development and their responsibilities to their families, they come up short. Often times this is not a problem of time, but rather how we use our time, but that is a different lesson.

Some of our individual responsibilities that need to be watched out for:

  1. The quality of our prayers
  2. Our daily remembrance of God, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He)
  3. Our manners and character development
  4. Our education
  5. Our professional development
  6. Our physical and mental health

Family is its own responsibility whether a child, parent, or spouse. All of us have roles and responsibilities towards our loved ones and they should not be neglected.

So we should keep these priorities in mind and balance between them with fluidity and integrity as things come up.

About the author

Jamaal Diwan

Jamaal Diwan

Jamaal Diwan was born and raised in Southern California and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Third World Studies and a minor in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego . He accepted Islam in 2003 and has been married to his wife, Muslema Purmul, since 2004. He has served with the Muslim Student Association (MSA), MSA West, and Muslim American Society (MAS) at varying capacities. He remains an active MAS member and is a scholarship student with the Islamic American University. Jamaal is a graduate of the Faculty of Shariah at al-Azhar University in Cairo and has done some graduate work in Islamic Studies from the Western academic perspective. He recently finished serving as the Resident Scholar at the Islamic Center of Irvine (ICOI).


  • I asked you a question about leadership in your former article and Alhamdulillah you have answered in a better way than you would have done in a response to my comment.
    JazakAllah khayr.

  • Barak Allaahu Feek brother Jamaal. This is one of the hardest things to balance! I love this narration below which is partially linked to this article’s concept.

    Salman Al-Farisi (May Allah be pleased with him) reported, “I went to visit my brother in faith, Abu-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him), upon arrival, I was greeted by his spouse who was wearing very casual house clothing. Seeing that, I asked her, “What is the matter with you; why are you wearing such simple and casual clothes and not wearing other suitable clothes to please your husband? She said, You brother, Abu-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him) has no interest, none whatsoever, with this world and it’s affairs. He spends his nights praying and spends the day fasting!” Upon the arrival of Abu-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him), who welcome Salman (May Allah be pleased with him), and offered him some food, Salman said “Why do you not eat with me?.” Abu-Darda said, “I am fasting.” Salman, said “I take an oath by Allah that you must break your fast and eat with me”. Abu-Darda, broke his fast and ate with Salman.

    Salman spent that night with Abu-Darda. The latter got up during the night to offer some night prayers. Salman stopped him from doing so saying “Your body has certain rights upon you; your Lord has certain rights upon you; and your family has certain rights upon you. Fast some days, and break the fast on others, approach your spouse and fulfill her instinctive needs. Grant every person his due right. Just before the break of dawn, Salman permitted Abu-Darda to get up and offer prayers. Both of them got up, performed ablution and offered some prayers then they headed to the MAsjid to offer fajr prayers. Upon finishing the prayer with allah’s propher, Abu-Darda reported to the Prophet (Salla llahu `alay wasalam) what Salman had said and done to him. The prophet of Allah confirmed, “Salman said the truth. Hadith reported by Bukhari

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