This article is the first part of a new series about ethical dilemmas at work.
A young business executive complained bitterly about gender discrimination at work. A wife was griping about the fact that her husband had to spend his Sunday at the office to compensate for the hours lost because of Eid vacations. A marketing student was having difficulty reconciling marketing principles with her knowledge of Islam. A businessman expressed how difficult it was to get work done without resorting to bribery. The list can go on and on. Do our prayers and fasting in Ramadan help us become better Muslims? Or is it just fine to leave Islam at home, when you come to work?
Allah (swt) says: “And I (Allah) created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (Al-Dhariyat 51:56) Therefore, it’s important to realize that the purpose of our life is to submit to Allah’s (swt) will; in short – to be Muslims.
Before committing to a code of ethics, clarify your intention and remind yourself that as a Muslim you ought to pay heed to what your Creator tells you. He knows best; therefore, you ought to give yourself up to Him.
An eye-opening Hadeeth emphasizes the importance of safeguarding our faith, whether at home or at work. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Hasten in good deeds before calamities, which will come like portions of a dark night. A man will get up a believer in the morning and an unbeliever at dusk, and a believer at dusk and an unbeliever in the morning. He will sell his religion in exchange for the frail goods of this world.” (Muslim)
Keep in mind the last words of the Hadeeth. Most of us believe that a step towards ethics means a step towards economic loss. The two, however, do not connect. We have no less than our own Prophet’s (sa) example, who had worked as a trader. When Khadijah (rta) employed him to go to Syria for trade, he returned with more profits and blessings than before. Khadijah (rta) was informed by her servant about Muhammad’s (sa) good manners, honesty, deep thought, sincerity, and faith.
We also have other examples, such as Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (rta), who was a wealthy trader, and Muhammad ibn Ismail Bukhari (better known as Imam Bukhari), who also was a wealthy trader and a Muhaddith (Hadith scholar). On the flip side of the coin, we have today’s examples of such as Enron and Worldcom, which had to suffer because of unethical decisions at the executive level.
Before proceeding with issues regarding work ethics, it’s important to do self-check for assessing, whether we have the level of Iman for taking a principled stand in dealing with ethical dilemmas at work.
Check your Taqwa Level
As Muslims we need to check our level of Taqwa (consciousness about Allah (swt)), for it has a direct bearing on our compliance with the Islamic code of ethics. How to do this is a question many wonder about.
Check the state of your heart in three situations: (1) when listening to the Quran, (2) in gatherings, where Allah’s (swt) Dhikr is done, and (3) in solitude. Check how you feel in such situations. Do you feel that Allah (swt) is watching you? If not, then pray to Allah (swt) for a sound heart (Qalb-e-saleem).
Keep in Mind the Hereafter
Belief in the fact that life in this world is temporary and whatever we do here has a bearing on life in the Hereafter is an important component of faith. Reading the Quran, keeping in mind death, and doing Dhikr help us to remain conscious about life after death. We should not merely believe in the Hereafter but have the highest level of conviction that we will have to give an account of our deeds, for which we will be justly recompensed. Describing the qualities of the Muttaqin (the pious), Allah (swt) says: “…and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter.” (Al-Baqarah 2:4)
Offer Salah and Make Duas
It’s important that as a practicing Muslim, you should offer your five daily mandatory prayers. You should also try to offer voluntary prayers (Nafl), whenever you can. Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly, Allah (swt) is with As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Baqarah 2:153)
Dua (supplication) is also an important form of contact with Allah (swt). A very comforting verse of the Quran is: “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant, when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor)…” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)
Pray to Allah (swt) to grant you piety and to purify your soul. A beautiful supplication of the Prophet (sa) is as follows: “O Allah! Grant my soul (Nafs) its piety and purify it, for You are the Best of the ones to purify it, (as) You are its Guardian and Master.”
Don’t be Sad
Don’t despair, if your self-assessment does not come out excellent. Allah (swt) says: “Say: ‘O Ibadi (My slaves), who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah (swt): verily, Allah (swt) forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Az-Zumar 39:53)
Also, try to look for friends inside and outside the organization, who may help you stick to your principles, when faced with ethical issues. Above all, remain committed and pray for help to Allah (swt). May He reward your efforts. Ameen.
How to decide, whether your act was ethical or not?
Ask yourself the following
1. Did this act bring you closer to Allah (swt)?
2. Did this act move you away from Satan?
3. Did this act bring you closer to Paradise?
4. Did this act move you away from Hell?
Xerox Corporation has a 15 page ethical code, one section of which states:
“We’re honest with our customers. No deals, no bribes, no secrets, no fooling around with prices. A kickback in any form kicks anybody out. Anybody.”