• Osman Khan

The Cost of Labor

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Dear Granada Family,

Assalāmu ‘Alaykum. Whenever a national holiday rolls around, I wonder if our children, let alone adults, even know the importance of the day they have the privilege to celebrate. Many of us see it simply as a day off from work, a three day weekend, or even a time to go shopping -- usually for cars, but I highly recommend you do not as the current car market is selling cars well beyond “normal” prices. However, as part of the American tapestry it is critical that we first recognize the importance of the day and better yet act upon it.

This Monday, September 7th is Labor Day and by definition, labor is simply that: work. Aside from marking the end of summer and traditionally when schools went back into session, a cursory study of the history of this day we see that we are recognizing the efforts of the American labor movement in the 19th century. This day is especially significant as the day commemorates the rights the US labor movement worked so assiduously to get for every American -- then and now.

Around the time of the industrial revolution (late 1800’s) Americans were working a grueling 12 to 15 hours a day for seven days a week. However these were not desk based jobs, but ones that involved arduous physical toil in mills, mines, and factories. It has been reported that children even as young as five or six were working in these aforementioned work places and because of their age did not receive nearly the same wages as adults. Additionally, if you happened to be a recent immigrant or simply someone who was poor, you were more than likely to work in a hazardous role where no consideration went into your well-being and safety. However, by virtue of being an American, our constitution guarantees the right to protest any law, regulation, or lack thereof and that is what our American predecessors did.

Organizing a series of strikes and protests against the cruelty that the American worker faced, the American labor movement went to “work” and congress was forced to take action. Over the course of the next few years, the effects of the labor movement led to laws designed to protect workers from inhumane conditions and treatment, industrial exploitation as well as the establishment of the 8 hour workday. Although knowing our history is great, how can we act upon this knowledge?

Since March of this year, our lives and especially our work lives have become much different. I have heard it being said that we now live in the new A.D. (After Domestication) and our lives prior to March were B.C. (Before Covid). Humor aside, we are now living in a world that is taxing us like never before. If we thought our B.C. lives were filled with stress, our A.D. lives have compounded this to an astonishing degree.

Please do not buy into the notion that this is the new normal, for this pace will wreak havoc not only on the lives of the worker her/himself, but the residue of the stress this causes upon one individual will have a ripple effect into the family. Lest we watch our days collapse in some sort of time space vacuum where minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months congeal into a time spectrum where we become blind to the beginning or the ending of our days, we must become impositional accountants of our time. Meaning, we must be mindful of our time and impose a sense of order in our days where we dedicate time for our work, down time for mental release as well as time for our loved ones who are clearly seeing the effects that this new AD is having on our lives.

The entire premise of the book I recommended last week (Deep Work) as well as the quote I mentioned “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days” is ever so important today: create your days in blocks of time or what the author of the book calls time blocking, and execute to the degree as would an accountant to the numbers she/he is calculating. Paradoxically, this discipline will actually result in a mental relaxation and freedom that will help you hold yourself accountable to the things that need to get done in a frame of time rather than expending energy and time beyond what is humanly possible. A great example of time blocking can be found on  Cal Newport’s Website.

If you find yourself constantly feeling burned out, this will eliminate the burning of the midnight oil that has perpetuated our every waking hour. Subhan Allah, this may very well be our labor moment where we are able to take back our time and as Allah (swt) reminds us in surat Al-Asr “By time, indeed man is in loss…” we can take the time that we are losing and apply it to other things that matter in the context of our religious, spiritual and family lives.

This Week @ GIS: Back to School Night for our elementary will be this Tuesday, September 8th, and for our middle school ) and high school on Wednesday, September 9th. The schedules for that afternoon/evening will be sent by the respective Elementary and Middle and High School Directors -- Nesreen Janbaih and Aasiya Umar.

Book Recommendation: As of the last few years, I have found stoic philosophy a fantastic way to address some of the modern day problems we face in our day to day. I strongly believe that this philosophy coincides so well with our Islamic tenets of reliance upon Allah, but also the proverbial tying of the camel. We rely upon Allah, but we must also do our part in this covenant we have with our creator. A book I read this summer is called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor. This book by author Donald Robertson is a phenomenal look not only into the life of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurilius (known as the last of the Five Good Emperors) and how stoicism helped him in the strife he faced on daily basis, but also how modern Cognitive Behavior Therapy (a great tool in mindfulness) helps us understand how to deal with issues we are facing in our lives today.

Contemplative Quotation: “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” 

-- Sarah Williams.

This quote can be analyzed from the perspective that the pursuit of any goal or dream will reveal obstacles that instill fear and subsequent paralysis; but do not let that fear incapacitate you from achieving your goals. Essentially, our desire to achieve trumps our fear of failure. However, I also see this quote in an action we can take daily or in this case nightly: take evening walks. Not only in the reprieve of the coolness of the night will you find comfort, but to gaze upon the constellations that Allah has created will not only humble you but help you reflect (tafakkur) upon the magnificence and magnitude of His creation as well as remind you that there is so much more to who we are as Muslims and human beings.


Osman Khan

GIS | Head of School

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