Office Politics: Play Safe and Win!

office-politic-1Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that, “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.”

Office politics refer to strategies for personal gain in an organization. It is the dynamics and struggle for power. It is a pervasive thing at the workplace. It is impossible that someone is not be harmed by office politics. But some people take it as a competitive game; they are of the opinion that playing this game may be crucial to their success. It improvises the perception of how power and influence are managed in the organization. Many people see office politics as something that need to be avoided because of its negative connotation; but there is no need to be afraid. It is better to play it safe, in order to fairly promote yourself. Following are five handy tips for winning at office politics:

  1.     Brand yourself
    Not everyone knows who you are, and how good you do it. By branding yourself, you’ll give yourself recognition and have control over people’s initial perception. Update your skills that are crucial to your company’s success. Communicate persuasively and let others know how you accomplish, whenever you get the opportunity to win. Don’t complain or take sides. Have a balanced approach with all the group of employees. “Weave your accomplishments into brief narratives that communicate passion, energy and delight,” says Peggy Klaus, the author of “Brag! – The Art of Tooting Your Horn without Blowing It.”
  2.     Be a good observer
    Stay vigilant about how things get done in your organization. This is a very empowering technique to handle office politics. Keep an eye on what’s happening around you. Analyze the political landscape in your company. Some companies promote unethical behaviour. Though,office gossip is a bad thing, it is, however, the best source of getting latest happening secrets at your workplace. Do keep in mind that your main motive should be to keep yourself updated, without spreading it.
  3.     Develop a healthy relationship with key personnel
    Maintaining a healthy relationship with the top level management is the most effective way to handleoffice politics. If you know your boss and colleagues, you’ll be able to foresee their point of view. You will easily judge their competing interest. You need to satisfy the people, who matter the most.
  4.     Portray a professional attitude
    Your attitude always makes a difference. Develop an assertive style and portray a professional attitude at your workplace. Having a positive attitude has a great impact on the office atmosphere. In order to look professional, dress correctly according to your job, as it will have far-reaching effects. Be courteous and humble to your subordinates. Make it a habit to reach on time, whether it is a meeting or a business lunch. Combine these elements, and you will soon notice that people are working better with you.
  5.     Think win-win
    Since school days, we have been taught that in order for someone to win, someone has to lose. Win-win situation is completely different. When both the employees seek mutual benefits in their interaction, a ‘win-win’ situation develops. The main elements of win-win situation are compromise and cooperation; and it is only possible when you give up ego and superiority. Interact collaboratively. Appreciate and give feedback. Be humble and knowledgeable in solving problems, without considering personal gain.

To Be or Not To Be Ethical

Vol 5 - Issue 4   To be or not to be EthicalThis final article is by no means a conclusion on work ethics. There will still be many ethical dilemmas at work that will continue to trouble us. That in itself is a good sign. “Why?” you might ask. Because when these dilemmas stop troubling us, it means we no longer care about being ethical.

When our concern about being honest and truthful and the urge to control the waves of jealousy start to ebb, it is only the Quran and Hadeeth that bring us to our senses. Social pressures can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are living in a country which is regarded among the most corrupt in the world.

Whilst writing these articles, I have also learnt to identify the tugs of Nafs (desires) and ways to control it, Alhamdulillah. To be fair to others, to meet deadlines and to deliver good quality work seem to be contradictory goals most of the time. One is tempted to cut corners to quicken the pace of work – it is only in these very moments that the Quran and Hadeeth come to my rescue. Facts from our pious predecessors’ lives also keep us from floundering in the morass of confusion by making the right and the wrong very clear. Although we can barely reach the standards of God-consciousness (Taqwah) that they have set, their lives do tell us that you can be an ordinary human being and yet have high ethical standards.

Early Muslims and modern corporations

I am reminded of an incident from Mohammad Ibn Sirin’s (rta) life. He was a trader and a retailer, who once bought olive oil worth forty thousand Dirhams. On examination, he found a dead rat in one of the containers. He felt doubtful about the quality of oil in the entire consignment and chose to dump it, instead of risking people’s health. Consequently, he was unable to pay the forty thousand Dirhams and as a result, spent time behind bars. There were no case studies written on his level of honesty and the standards of business ethics he had set; yet, in his time, he was greatly trusted and admired, and we read about him to this day.

Ibn Sirin’s (rta) incident reminds me of the “Johnson and Johnson” “Tylenol” case. The company had aggressively marketed a brand of pain-relieving capsules (“Tylenol”), which accounted for 18% of the company’s income and had 37% percent of the market share. However, in 1982 after the death of seven people, it was found that the capsules were laced with cyanide. The company chose to recall ALL “Tylenol” bottles, facing a loss of up to $100 million (not including the damage to the brand and loss of public confidence). Nevertheless, this very decision put the company in the limelight, and it was hailed as an ethical firm. Within just six months, “Tylenol” regained its market share!

Another well-known personality from our pious predecessors is Imam Bukhari, who set such high standards of honesty that he did not even want to change his intention for greater worldly gains. Once, a group of traders offered to buy a consignment from him for a profit, which was double of what was offered to him by another trader the previous evening. He chose to forego the second offer in favour of the earlier one, because he had already intended to deal with them.

What do people say?

A young executive in his twenties, Murtaza, is of the opinion that truthfulness and success go together. According to him, if one is untruthful, word gets around which results in a bad reputation. At the same time, he believes that most people are myopic and prefer short-term gains over long term benefits. He names his father as one of the most ethical people he has come across.

The opinion voiced above reminded me once again of Muhammad Ibn Sirin (rta). Maimoon Ibn Mehran narrates that before completing a transaction, Ibn Sirin (rta) always asked his customer thrice, whether he was satisfied. He was so careful about his dealings that Maimoon exclusively purchased from him. While modern management would put this down as an excellent example of customer relationship management; it all boils down to plain honesty.

The head of research in a well-known Islamic financial services firm says that if you are unethical, you are definitely unsuccessful. He names one of his senior colleagues in the industry as ethical as well as successful. Still, he was also of the opinion that to reach the topmost level, one does have to compromise a little bit. This view was contrary to the opinion held by a chief executive of a business concern. When I asked him to name a few ethical and successful people, he immediately came up with three managing directors of local and multinational firms.

There are also people, who are ethical but have been unsuccessful monetarily. According to a female employee of an audit firm, even if people have managed to pull it off for some time using unethical practices, in the long-term they finally have to show performance, especially if they are chosen for an international assignment. Her role model is Syedah Aisha (rta), who was confident, full of energy and interacted with men within the limits set by Shariah.

Ayesha, who has worked in a part-time position, comes up with two people whom she believes to be ethical and successful. One of them is a scholar who was able to bring about positive change in a locality. Another person is a medical doctor as well as a Hakeem, who is charitable and closely follows the Sunnah. According to Ayesha, unethical people are often successful too, but their success is limited to this world only.

To be unethical is useless…

It is important not to be weighed down by what the cynics and skeptics say. Being unethical would not give us anything more than what has been destined for us. In a Hadeeth narrated by Jabir (rta), we learn that the Prophet (sa) addressed people saying that they should fear Allah (swt) and act decently in acquiring their livelihood, for no man would die until he obtains his provision, even if it involves some delay. The Prophet (sa) reiterated that people should fear Allah (swt), earn their livelihood by lawful means and stay away from the forbidden. (Ibn Majah)

Therefore, unethical dealings do not give us any more of the worldly gains that have been written for us. Such an attitude merely creates a ‘lose-lose’ situation: losing out in this world and, most definitely, losing out in the Hereafter. Now, who would want that?

Women at Work – Part 2

Vol 5 - Issue 3 Women at Work 2

That women are allowed to work should now come as no surprise to readers of the first part of this article. However, once a woman chooses to work, the decision and its realization are no less than a hurdle race. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems and their solutions in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah.

Giving up career to get married?

A common job interview question for women is whether they are single. It appears, as if career and marriage cannot coexist. Should women give up their careers in order to get married?

For a Muslim woman, family should come before her personal career. That does not mean, however, that a career is unimportant; in fact, the order of priority is a guideline of how to deal with the diverse roles a Muslim woman can and should play in society. In Islamic history, we find married Muslim women taking an active part in politics, farming, business and even in the field of war. The fact that they did not put career before marriage is proven by the excellent generation of Muslims they raised.

For example, we find Asma Bint Abu Bakr (rta) working on a farm and transporting the produce herself. She mentions that when she got married to Zubair (rta), they did not have wealth. Therefore, the Prophet (sa) gave them some land about two miles away from their home. Her son Abdullah Ibn Zubair (rta) became well known for his devotion to the cause of Islam.

In the battlefield, we hear of Umm Ammara (rta), who participated in wars and even lost her hand in the Battle of Yamamah. In the Battle of Uhud, she struck down a man, who had hurt her son. We also find Umm Sulaym (rta) carrying a dagger and tending to the wounded in the Battle of Uhud. One of her sons, Anas Ibn Malik (rta), became a renowned companion of the Prophet (sa).

Following Islamic guidance to prevent harassment

One of the criteria that women should fulfill in order to work is to dress modestly in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. They should also select professions that do not involve a lot of interaction with the opposite gender. If, however, the job requires a lot of interaction, one must take care to act with caution, care and poise. Interaction should be work-related and seclusion must be avoided. The Prophet (sa) said that whenever a man is alone with a woman, the Devil makes a third. (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet’s (sa) wives were addressed by Allah (swt) and were told not to be soft in speech: “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner.” (Al-Ahzab 33:32)

If one follows the above guidelines, any chances of unwanted attention or harassment would decrease to a large extent.

Debate on travelling alone resolved

A lot of debate has ensued over whether women can travel alone. The European Council for Fatwah and Research states that travelling alone is primarily unlawful, as we know from a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa): “A woman, who believes in Allah and the Hereafter, shall not travel for (a period of) a day and a night, unless accompanied by a Mahram of hers.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Council goes on to say that: “other scholars stipulate that her travel is permissible in the company of a trustworthy group of men or men and women… Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) allowed the Prophet’s wives to travel for Hajj with a group of believers and sent with them Usman Ibn Affan (rta) and Abdul-Rahman Ibn Auf (rta).

“In the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) to Adiy Ibn Hatim, we read: ‘If you live long, you will see the woman travel from Hirah (a city in Iraq) to circumambulate the Kabah, fearing none but Allah.’ (Bukhari)

“This confirms that the cause (of the prohibition) is fear (of insecurity). If security is guaranteed and fear is no more present, a woman may travel, particularly nowadays, when travel has become easy, whether by air, train or coach. In all these means of transportation, company is available and security is realized for the Muslim woman.”

Despite the above permission, the woman should ask herself what makes her feel safer – travelling alone or with a group of women / a Mahram relative. If a woman is competent, organization will make concessions for her to comply with the Islamic condition on travelling accompanied with a female colleague and will not see this as a hindrance in her employment.

Sharing household expenses is not mandatory

In Islam, the financial responsibility of the household rests with the man. Allah (swt) states: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.” (An-Nisa 4:34)

On the other hand, such scholars as Dr. Rifat Fawzi (Professor of Shariah, Cairo University) and Sheikh Ahmed Kutty (Islamic Institute of Toronto) hold the view that women should contribute to the household expenses. In his Fatwah, Sheikh Kutty says: “If a wife gives her husband from her salary voluntarily, it is totally permissible for the husband to make use of it. But because of the fact that the wife’s working takes its toll on the husband, the wife should be fair enough to contribute something towards the maintenance of the house and the family.”

Nevertheless, a man cannot coerce his wife to work and share in the household expenses; neither can he forcibly take away her money. According to late Sheikh Muhammad Al-Bahyy (former dean of the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar University), “the wives’ right to the entire ownership of their Mahr (dower), which is given to them by their husbands, indicates their financial independence. It is not lawful for a man to take the Mahr, or a part of it, back from his wife except in two cases: if the wife remits it voluntarily, or if she gives it back to him in return for divorce from him (An-Nisa 4:4, Al-Baqarah 2:229).”

He further goes on to say: “As it is the case with Mahr, the wife has full ownership of her other sources of wealth, such as her salary. It is not lawful for the husband to take part or all of his wife’s salary, unless she gives it to him voluntarily.”

Women’s rights have not been imported

To conclude, I would like to quote Fatima Mernissi: “We, Muslim women, can walk into the modern world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of Muslim tradition.”

Women at Work – Part 1

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Women at work

Maneuvering her way through the maze of crawling traffic, Sara finally managed to park her car in a cramped parking lot. Having managed to drop her two children at school barely making it on time, she winced at the thought of facing the new supervisor at work. He appeared to be taking a keen interest in how she spent the day. Often, he would come in and inquire what her plans were for the evening. Lately, she was also feeling quite stressed out. A job opening in another organization came as a great blessing and a way out of the disturbing situation.

All women, however, may not be as lucky as Sara. Harassment at the workplace is one of the many problems that working women have to deal with on a daily basis. Often, their protests are not taken seriously, especially if the perpetrator is in a position of authority. The situation speaks volumes about the ignorance regarding the Divine Guidance on dealings with the opposite gender.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent.” (An-Nur 24:30-31)

Instead of solving the problem by dealing with it straightforwardly, many women simply opt out of work altogether. Some people assert that women are not allowed to work in the first place. What does Islam say about this issue?

Are women allowed to work?

According to several noted scholars, women are allowed to work.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states in his Fatwah: “Islam allows her to work outside the home in an appropriate job, which suits her nature, her concern and her capacity and which does not crush her femininity. Her work is legitimate within certain limits and certain conditions, especially when she or her family needs the outside work or when the society itself needs her work in particular. The need for work is not merely limited to the financial aspect. It could be a psychological need, such as the need of a specialized learned woman, who is not married, or the married woman, who has no children or who has a lot of leisure time and to alleviate boredom.”

The scholar further goes on to say that Islam does not forbid women to work inside or outside the home. He gives the example of the wives of Allah’s Messenger (sa), who used to work at home. They used to dye their own clothing and tan hides in addition to other household activities. He gives the example of Syedna Aisha (rta), who prepared herbal medicines, Asma bint Abu Bakr (rta), who used to work inside and outside her home, Rufaydah Al-Aslamiyyah (rta), who was the first female doctor in Islam, and Umm Mihjan (rta), who used to clean the Prophet’s (sa) mosque. In fact, the second Caliph of Islam Syedna Umar Farooq appointed a woman, Ash-Shifa, as a market inspector in Madinah.

The European Council for Fatwah and Research states: “We do not deny that some countries have very strict traditions regarding women, so that they become more like prisoners in their own homes, until death comes to them. However, even though some scholars may agree with this, it remains that clear, covert and correct legal evidence contradicts these traditions in addition to the objectives of Shariah, the interests of mankind and the development of age and people.”

Daiyah Zeinab Mostafa states: “We cannot forbid women from work and deprive the society from the benefit and knowledge that they have, under the pretext that Islam forbids women to work, which is completely baseless. If we return to the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet (sa) and his companions, we will find that they lived a happy life, when men and women worked together to fulfill their duties.”

Conditions for working

It is clear from the above rulings and opinions that women are allowed to work. However, they need to keep in mind certain conditions:

Work should be lawful, not forbidden or leading to the forbidden

Some of the occupations that are forbidden or lead to the forbidden include working as a flight attendant, which requires wearing provocative clothing and interacting closely with the opposite gender, working as a private secretary, requiring being alone with the manager, or working as a dancer, who excites physical instincts and lusts.

Maintaining Islamic conduct in dealings

The rules of modesty, as laid down by the Quran and the Sunnah, must be observed. The proper Muslim dress should be worn; one must not look lustfully but be serious in speech and decent in gait.

Work should not result in neglect of the primary duty

The Muslim wife’s primary duty is towards her family. According to Zainab Al-Alwani, instructor of Fiqh and Islamic studies in Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (Virginia, USA), educated Muslim women should strike a balance between work and family obligations by choosing a flexible job or choosing to work fewer hours. Daiyah Zeinab Mostafa further goes on to say: “Work can be obligatory for her, if she does not have anyone to look after her, and she is able to work and earn her living in a lawful way. It could be forbidden, if her work would lead her to neglect her duty as a wife and as a mother. It is entirely lawful and allowed, if the woman can strike a balance between different duties and obligations.”

Dealing with problems at work

A number of problems and dilemmas crop up, once a woman decides to work. Harassment, discrimination, travelling alone or choosing a career over marriage are just the tip of the iceberg.

Proud as a Peacock

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe may never really know, how a peacock feels, and perhaps calling him proud may be doing him an injustice; however, we humans can definitely understand what it is like to be arrogant and worse still – to be treated with arrogance. For instance, there is the case of Saima, who felt looked down upon at work, since she did not speak English very well and did not come from an elite business school. There are other people at work, too, whom we merely take for granted – the sweeper, for instance, who comes early in the morning, much before most people arrive for work, or the intern, who is slogging it out in a cramped corner of the office. Before we move on to discussing, whether arrogance is an acceptable trait, we must first define it.

What is arrogance?

In a Hadeeth narrated by Abdullah Ibn Masud (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “He, who has in his heart (even) a weight of an atom of arrogance, will not enter Paradise.” Someone asked: “How about a person, who likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” Allah’s Messenger (sa) replied: “Indeed Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the Truth and having contempt for people.”

Is arrogance acceptable?

The Quran is filled with stories of people and nations, who were overbearing and puffed up with self-importance; they rejected Allah’s (swt) Word and mocked the messengers. Their end speaks volumes about how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance. The Pharaoh, for instance, was drowned along with his followers, Qarun was swallowed up by the earth, and the nations of Ad, Thamud and Lut were destroyed by natural calamities.

We also find words of admonition in the Holy Quran regarding arrogance. For example, there is the advice of Luqman to his son: “‘And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.’” (Luqman 31:18)

 

Even the arrogant Qarun was admonished by his own people for his overbearing attitude:

“Verily, Qarun (Korah) was of Musa’s (Moses) people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures, that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. Remember when his people said to him: ‘Do not exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah). Verily, Allah likes not those who exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah).’” (Al-Qasas 28:76)

In the books of Ahadeeth, we find the end of a man, who was puffed up with pride.

Ibn Umar (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “A man was walking dragging his dress with pride, he was sunk in the earth because of it and will keep sinking in the earth till the day of standing.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘Pride is my cloak and honour is my loincloth, and whoever contends with me regarding one of them both, I will throw him in the fire.’” (Abu Dawood)

The above Quranic verses and Ahadeeth clearly show how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance.

Are you arrogant?

One is quick to jump to conclusions about people’s vain attitude. However, it is much more important to recognize arrogance within yourself. You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you love listening to how well you work and how well-dressed you are?
  • Do you believe that you have got this job only, because you worked hard and well? After all – you deserve it!
  • Do you listen to others at work, or do you always want your way? After all – your opinion is what really matters!
  • Working as part of a team, do you feel that the less important work makes you literally that – LESS important?
  • When someone criticizes your opinion, do you feel like saying: “How dare you question my judgment?”

If your answer to most of the above questions is a ‘yes,’ it is likely that the plant of arrogance has taken root inside your heart.

The ways of rooting out arrogance

Prayer

Begin with seeking Allah’s (swt) help: “O Allah! Keep me alive (in a state of) humbleness and grant me death in (a state of) humbleness, and gather (resurrect) me in the company of the humble ones.” (Ibn Abi Shaibah)

Praise Allah (swt)

When someone praises you, instead of saying thank you, say: “Alhamdulillah!” (Praise be to Allah!)

Remember the warning in the Quran

Remind yourself of the miserable end of the nations and people, who were arrogant.

Look up to the Prophet’s (sa) example

As a part of a team, the Prophet (sa) did not despise any task, no matter how menial and ordinary it appeared to be. Once, he was traveling with his companions and it was time to prepare food, he asked them to slaughter a sheep. A man said: “I will slaughter it.” Another said: “I will skin it out.” A third one said: “I will cook it.” So, Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “I will collect the wood for fire.” They said: “No. We will do that work.” The Prophet (sa) said: “I know that you can do it for me, but I hate to be privileged. Allah hates to see a servant of His privileged to others.” So, he went and collected firewood. (Khulasatus-Siyar, p.22)

Remind yourself of your creation

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “It is He, Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female sexual discharge [i.e. Adam’s offspring]) then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood), then brings you forth as an infant…” (Ghafir 40:67)

Dealing with arrogant people

Difficulties in the workplace arise from the attitude of colleagues and supervisors. Dealing with an arrogant boss or a colleague is difficult; however, you can use the following tips to deal with them more effectively.

Be gentle with them

Allah (swt) told Musa (as), how to deal with the arrogant Pharaoh: “And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah).” (Ta-Ha 20:44)

Arrogance is rooted in insecurity. Being gentle with such a person may tame his desire to overpower others.

Advise them in private

From a Hadeeth, we learn that the Prophet (sa) said: “Islam is a word of sincerity and well wishing.” Upon this, the companions asked: “For whom?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “For Allah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders and the common Muslims.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmidhi)

Advising such people in private would perhaps give them a chance to reflect on their behavior, which is detrimental to their own self as well as to others around them.

Supplicate for them

Lastly, make a prayer for that arrogant colleague or boss to help him/her get over the overbearing attitude, which invites Allah’s (swt) wrath.

Dealing with Jealousy

Vol 4 - Issue 4 Dealing with JealousySarah took a two-year break from her job to attend university. When she came back, she discovered that her juniors had now reached higher posts and she would have to join as a subordinate. She couldn’t help feeling a strong sense of resentment towards her ‘juniors’. The resentment continued to build up.

Having just switched to a new company as Head of Operations, Amir looked forward to higher pay, a newer car and the chances of working with a dynamic team. The newly-appointed Head of Sales was fifteen years his senior. Amir had an introductory meeting with him that morning and got an uncanny feeling that he wasn’t going to be of much help as the Head of Operations.

No one is safe from jealousy. Either you are a victim of jealousy or a victim of someone else’s. You’ve also probably been in a sticky situation as a team-leader, when your subordinates are nurturing feelings of jealousy towards each other. Problems are being created but you find yourself at a loss as to how to deal with the issue.

Can the above stories be dismissed as myths or does jealousy really exist in the workplace? Let’s see what research has to say.

What does research say about jealousy?

A survey on the role jealousy plays in organizations was conducted by Frederick C. Miner Jr., Ph.D., and the results were published in the April 1990 issue of the “Personnel Journal”. It was found that more than 75% of the respondents reported observing a jealous situation in their work environment. What was really surprising was the fact that more than 50% indicated that they were directly involved in such a situation, and over 25% of the group admitted that they were jealous of someone else during the past month. In more than 33% of the situations, jealous people tried to undermine the co-workers they were jealous of by spreading rumors, acting destructively and so on.

In another survey on jealousy, the results were reported by “Notre Dame Magazine” in the summer issue of 1996. The survey conducted by Professor of Management Robert P. Vecchio cited that 77% of employees surveyed had witnessed jealousy around the office within the past month, and more than 50% admitted to being directly involved.

The above results point to the fact that jealousy is common in the workplace. Let’s see what guidance Islam gives about this very destructive emotion.

What does Islam say about jealousy?

The Prophet (sa) said: “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” (Abu Dawood)

In another Hadeeth, the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “There has come to you the disease of the nations before you, jealousy and hatred. This is the ‘shaver’ (destroyer); I do not say that it shaves hair, but that it shaves (destroys) faith.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Two things cannot be gathered in the heart of a believer, Iman (faith) and envy.” (An-Nasai)

It is very clear from the above Ahadeeth that jealousy should not be nurtured, and one should make an effort to cleanse one’s heart of this destructive emotion. Not doing so would put our faith in danger.

How to deal with jealousy?

Here are some tips on dealing with this emotion, and with people, who might turn green at the mention of your name.

If you are jealous of someone…

1. Say Salam and shake hands with him

Jealousy breeds hatred and the word of Salam spreads love as we know from the following Hadeeth: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of that which will strengthen love between you? Spread (the greeting of) Salam amongst yourselves.” (At-Tirmidhi)

2. Say a prayer of blessing for him

Upon feeling the pangs of jealousy, immediately say a prayer of blessing for that person and ask forgiveness from Allah (swt).

3. Ask for contentment from Allah (swt)

One of the causes of jealousy is discontentment with the blessings given to you by Allah (swt). You can read the following Masnoon prayer to seek contentment: “O Allah! Make me content upon what (blessings) You have granted me and bless me in it; and be the Best Protector (and Guardian) for me (in my absence) of whatever is hidden from me.”

(Hakim)

If someone is jealous of you…

Seek protection from Allah (swt)

Say a prayer seeking refuge with Allah (swt). Recitation of Surah Falaq (Chapter 113) and prayers of protection would save you from the harms of the person who is jealous.

You could recite the following prayer: “O Allah! Indeed we place You before them (our enemies) and we take refuge in You from their evil.” (Abu Dawood)

If you are a manager dealing with jealousies among your subordinates, then you should:

1. Throw open the doors of communication

Understanding the reasons for an employee’s negative sentiment and trying to arrive at a solution to the problem would possibly result in curtailment of jealousy.

2. Boost employee’s morale

By focusing on each employee’s positive aspects and abilities you could shift the attention away from destructive tendencies towards constructive efforts.

If you are a co-worker, then you could:

Convey to your colleague that jealousy is destructive

Tell your colleague that jealousy will take him down the drain both in this world and in the Hereafter; plus, the company will likely suffer.

Last Word…

Allah (swt) has said: “It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks, so that some may employ others in their work But the Mercy (Paradise) of your Lord is better than the (wealth of this world) which they amass.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:32)

It is clear from the above verse that the reason for some people getting more of this world than others is due to Allah’s (swt) wisdom and planning. Therefore, instead of rushing to get more of the possessions of this world, our sights should remain on the Hereafter. The fires of jealousy will then subside, Insha’Allah!

An Advice

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said: “Umar Ibn Khattab wrote this letter to Abu Musa Al-Ashari: ‘Be content with your provision in this world, for the Most Merciful has honored some of His servants over others in terms of provision as a test of both. The one, who has been given plenty, is being tested to see if he will give thanks to Allah and fulfill the duties which are his by virtue of his wealth.’” (Ibn Hatim)

Not Fair!

Vol 4-Issue 3 Not fairDid you know that a generation back in corporate America, CEOs made 40 times more than workers? Today they make 400 times more. Did you also know that in the US 44% of discrimination cases won by workers are reversed on appeal, while only 6% of cases won by employers are reversed? In all likelihood, the Pakistan scenario is much worse. Although laws requiring protection of workers’ rights are in place, enforcement is ineffective due to limited resources and corruption. It seems that whether it’s corporate America or a local company in Pakistan, fairness at the workplace is not really on the priority list of employers.

It’s mind-boggling to understand, why Muslim employers are unmindful about the importance of justice in Islam. Perhaps, they are unaware or may be they just need a reminder. So, let’s take a look at what Allah (swt) and Prophet Muhammad (sa) say about fairness.

Allah (swt) says:

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa 4:135)

“Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e., justice and worshipping none but Allah Alone—Islamic Monotheism).” (An-Nahl 16:90)

“Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Al-Maidah 5:42)

Prophet (sa) says:

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Injustice will be darkness on the Day of Standing.’” (Bukhari)

Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Fear the curse of the oppressed one, as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.’” (Bukhari)

Rights Given to Workers

If Allah (swt) has placed so much importance on ensuring fairness, let’s look at some of the rights employees have been given.

Right to receive prompt payment

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Prophet Muhammad (sa) as saying: “Give the worker his wages before his sweat dries.” (Ibn Majah)

Right to considerate treatment

Anas (rta) said: “I served the Messenger of Allah (sa) for ten years, and he never said to me ‘Shame!’ or ‘Why did you do such and such?’ or ‘Why did you not do such and such?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported Allah’s Messenger (sa) as saying: “A slave is entitled to his food and clothing, and he should have imposed on him only such work, as he is capable of doing.” (Muslim)

Right to equal treatment

Al-Marur (rta) has narrated: At Ar-Rabadha, I met Abu Dharr (rta), who was wearing a cloak, and also his slave was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied: “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said to me: ‘O Abu Dharr! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names? You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah (swt) has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity and if you do so, then help them.’”

(Bukhari)

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Your servant brings your meals to you, then if someone does not let him sit and share the meals, then he should at least give him a mouthful or two mouthfuls of that meal or a meal or two meals, as he has prepared it.” (Bukhari)

Rights of the Employer

Demanding rights and not fulfilling duties would result in injustice to the employer. Among the rights awarded to employers is:

Right to be served with sincerity

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: ’Goodness and comfort are for him, who worships his Lord in a perfect manner and serves his Master sincerely.’” (Bukhari)

How can Employers Create a Fair Workplace?

1. Make Dua

The importance of praying to Allah (swt) should not be underestimated. The person seeking to enforce justice can say the following Quranic Dua: “My Lord! Bestow Hukm (religious knowledge and right judgment of the affairs) on me, and join me with the righteous.” (Ash-Shuara 26:83)

2. Have an open-door policy

Modern managers harp on and on about keeping an open-door policy. Yet, Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) open-door policy is enough to put such fancy talk to shame. Often foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish, which man was the Caliph. He also insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and are accessible to the people at all times.

3. Be prepared to apologize

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Whoever has wronged his brother should ask for pardon, as there will be neither Dinar nor Dirham (in the hereafter), for he should do this before some of his good deeds will be taken and given to his brother, and if he will have no good deeds, then some of the bad deeds of his brother will be loaded on him (in the hereafter).” (Bukhari)

4. Get out of your office and meet the workers face to face

Modern management calls this action ‘walk-arounds.’ Although fancy management literature did not exist at the time of the four rightly guided Caliphs, the Islamic principles were sufficient for motivating them to be fair and just. Once again we have Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) example – he spent many watchful night on the streets of Madinah to see whether anyone needed help.

5. Be ready to counsel someone, if you feel he/she is being unfair

Anas (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed one.” People asked: “O Allah’s Messenger (sa)! We rightfully help the oppressed, but how can we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (sa) said: “By preventing his hands from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)

So, You’ve Been Quarrelling?

Vol 4- Issue 2 So you've been QuarrellingShipment deadlines are approaching, but the supply has been slack. It is likely that the consignment may be delayed and you’ll lose that foreign client you worked so hard to get. The supplier now calls requesting further delay. You’ve had it now, and refuse to take anymore, flaring up at the person on the other end of the line, (who’s been having a hard day too) you have the perfect ingredients for a boiling quarrel. What follows is an exchange of the choicest of words—but wait; did you wonder what’s that leading you to? Certainly not Allah’s (swt) pleasure!

An analysis of the above case would show that there are several reasons for the quarrel taking place: anger on both sides; increasing work pressure and other problems on both ends. So, is quarrelling the solution to the problem? Not at all, as we know from the following Ahadeeth:

The Prophet (sa) said: “The most hated person near Allah is the most quarrelsome” (Bukhari). And one of the characteristics of a hypocrite is that, “Whenever he quarrels he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.” (Bukhari)

The above are strong points for working towards resolving an argument.

Conflicts Can Be Costly

Negative responses to conflicts can result in quarrels, long winding disputes or even workplace violence. According to the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), Europe’s biggest alternative dispute resolution body, it is how you approach conflict that makes the difference. According to its calculations in the United Kingdom alone, conflict costs businesses ₤33 billion every year of which legal fees amount to ₤6 billion whilst the cost of the damages alone is ₤27 billion. If this sum were a country it would be the world’s fifty-seventh biggest economy! Moreover, disputes can go out of control resulting in workplace violence. Workplace Violence Research Institute reports that losses in 1995 from workplace violence in the United States alone amounted to approximately $35.4 billion. Therefore, it is important that conflicts be dealt with positively and prevented from flaring up into negative situations.

What types of quarrels exist in the workplace?

These can be broadly divided into two:

  • Task-related
  • Person-related

How do I Deal with Task-related quarrels?

Find the underlying reason for the quarrel

It’s easy to flare up at someone, and more difficult to find the underlying reason for the quarrel—but the more difficult approach is definitely more rewarding as it would help you to tackle the problem rather than flaring up at the symptoms. Underlying reasons could include system and environmental problems, or organizational problems.

Work towards a win-win solution

Instead of letting differences and difficulties build into heated arguments try negotiating a solution that eventually benefits both the parties.

A famous example from the Seerah is that of the placement of the sacred Black Stone during the rebuilding of Al-Kabah. The Prophet (sa) helped diffuse a tense moment and created a win-win solution by involving the different clans.

Another example is that of Allied Signal, a maker of auto parts and aerospace electronics. The company worked out win-win agreements with many of its suppliers. In 1993, it offered to double its orders from one of its suppliers, Mech-Tronics on the condition that the latter would cut its prices by 10%. This resulted in an initial elimination of Mech-Tronics’ profits, however with help from Allied Signal it improved its efficiency and the higher volume soon paid off.

Have someone arbitrate or make peace

Called a peacemaker or an arbitrator, such a person or an institution resolves disputes between two parties. However, it’s important that the arbitrator resort to the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah to solve the problem and be just so that both parties are willing to accept the proposed solution to the conflict.

The Prophet (sa) was the arbitrator in Medina. In fact, accepting solutions proposed by the Prophet (sa) was a sign of faith among the believers. Allah (swt) says, “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you ( Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” (Surah An-Nisa 4: 65)

How do I Deal with Personal Quarrels?

Find the underlying problem

Unlike a task-related quarrel, personal quarrels can be due to negative emotions, for instance, dissatisfaction, jealousy, a hot temper or simply personality differences. Controlling emotional reactions or the responses to these differences can stop the difference from escalating into a heated argument.

Understand the different personality types

Try understanding the different personality types and deal with them accordingly. Identify their comfort zones, and what ticks them off. You can do this through patient observation and listening. We have the Prophet (sa)’s example to emulate in this respect. His observation was so minute that he would speak to his guests using their own accents and dialects. He was quite eloquent at both Bedouin and town speech.

Be well-mannered

Allah (swt) praised the Prophet’s (sa) conduct in the Quran, “And verily, you (O Muhammad (sa) SAW) are on an exalted (standard of) character.” (Al Qalam 68: 4) and also said: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you” (Aal Imran 3: 159)

Politeness pays enormous dividends both in this world and the hereafter. The Prophet (sa) said: “Nothing will be placed in the balance heavier than good conduct, and a person with good conduct will attain the rank of one who fasts and prays.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Dua is a Must

No matter how hard we try to turn away from resorting to quarrelling as the sole solution, we can’t do much without Allah’s (swt) help. So let each one of us pray that, O Allah “guide me to the best character for no one can guide to the best (character) except you, and turn away bad conduct from me for no one can turn it away from me except you.” (Muslim) Ameen.

Can I Trust You?

In this article, the third in a series of articles on work ethics, Sumaira Dada discusses the importance of honesty in the workplace

A Pakistani bank executive wrote about his experience of the Far East work ethics. He noticed, how there people slogged at work, finished assignments within office hours and left work at 5 pm. In Pakistan, however, he was used to tea breaks, friendly chit chats, and long hours at the office. And at the end of the day, the amount of work done was much less compared to the number of work hours. Are you wondering about the reason for such inefficiency?

Take another case: a textile company has shipment deadlines to meet for its foreign client. Cutting corners, the company purchases low quality material, but manages to deliver on time. The consignment is rejected for not meeting specifications, and both the company and the country earn a bad name. Sound familiar?

Why is it that talk about honesty and trustworthiness are disdained? Let’s look at what Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have to say about it.

Allah (swt) says: “Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due.” (An-Nisa 4:58)

“O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you).” (Al-Anfal 8:27)

Prophet (sa) says:

Anas bin Malik (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) addressed us and said in his sermon: ‘He has no Iman, who is not trustworthy, and he has no Deen, who does not keep promises.’” (Ibn Hibban)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays (proves to be dishonest).’” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Return the trust to one, who has entrusted you, and do not be treacherous to one, who was treacherous to you.’” (Abu Dawood)

Safeguarding your trust is important

It is clear that in the light of the Quran and the Ahadeeth, one cannot afford to slack about building up honesty and trustworthiness in oneself. First, we must understand the meaning of trust (Amanah).

What is Trust (Amanah)?

A simple definition is that every entrusted thing is an Amanah. This covers not only office duties, but also office hours, your skills and abilities, your clients, and even your own health – physical and spiritual.

The opposite of Amanah is Khiyanah, which means lessening or decreasing, in short, betrayal.

Does honesty pay off?

Most people would consider honesty as being another word for stupidity. But research shows that honesty does pay off. A study of the US market found that the three-year total return to shareholders was almost three times higher at companies with high trust levels. However, most employees did believe that trustworthiness in the workplace has seriously declined. In one study, more than half of those polled said that they considered hypocrisy as the biggest problem in corporate America today, and that the upper levels of management are to blame.

Although facts and figures have their importance, yet risking Allah’s (swt) dislike is really not worth it. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous.” (Al-Anfal 8:58)

Is being trustworthy an unachievable goal?

If Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have emphasized the importance of trustworthiness, then it is an achievable goal. In Muslim history, we will find the example of Umar Bin Abdul Aziz, the celebrated Umayyad Caliph, whose empire stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the highlands of Pamir. His short rule is regarded as the brightest period in the 91-year Caliphate of the Umayyads. He was once sitting in his private chamber, examining a pile of state documents. When his wife sought to discuss a private matter with him, he asked her to put off the state lamp and put on their own lamp, as he did not want to burn the state oil for private purposes! According to “Tabaqat Ibni Sa’ad”, Umar bin Abdul Aziz never performed his private work in the light of a lamp, which burned the state oil.

Another incident also shows the utter honesty of the Caliph. Every Friday, Farat Bin Muslama brought state papers for his perusal and orders. One Friday, the Caliph brought a small piece of state paper in his private use. Muslama, who was aware of the exceptional honesty of the Caliph, thought that he had done it out of sheer forgetfulness. But the following Friday, when he brought back home the state papers, he found in them exactly the same size paper as used by the Caliph.

Once the Caliph’s servant burnt the firewood in the guest house (funded by the state treasury) to heat water for ablution. He had the same quantity of firewood deposited in its place. On another occasion, he refused to use the water heated from the state charcoal. Skeptics might frown at these incidents as being fictitious; nevertheless, they are facts on the deeds of our pious predecessors, enough to bring us to shame.

How do I become trustworthy?

The following tips might be helpful:

  • Remind yourself that Allah (swt) does not love those who betray (Al-Anfal 8:58). Keep constant reminders that you will be questioned about whatever you are entrusted with.
  • Make prayer for help from Allah (swt). Read the Quran regularly and study Ahadeeth to develop trustworthiness. We learn from the following Hadeeth:
  • Hudhaifah (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said to us: ‘Certainly, Al-Amanah descended from the heavens and settled in the roots of the hearts of men (faithful believers), and then the Quran was revealed, and the people read the Quran, and also learnt it from the Sunnah.’” (Bukhari)
  • Realistically assess, whether you are able to handle the task given to you. Discuss your apprehensions with your supervisor.
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘no,’ when you feel that you cannot realistically meet a deadline.

The Truth about Lying

bsr005Want to take a day off from the office? Lie that you are not well. Want to miss that deadline? Lie that you had forgotten. Want to be late for work? Make the excuse that there was a traffic jam. These thoughts, which translate into actions, show that Satan will not spare us at all.

As survey shows, lying at the workplace is very acceptable. According to the Aziz Management Communications Index, more than a third (37%) of British bosses believe that it is acceptable for their employees to tell white lies to customers, while nearly half (46%) think that telling untruths is acceptable to safeguard the company. Although the survey is limited to the UK, it would be safe to presume that the situation would not be much different in this part of the world. This certainly rings some alarm bells for all of us.

What the Quran and Ahadeeth tell us

When reality is put side by side with the teachings of Islam, one is taken aback by the intensity of the warning from Allah (swt). Allah (swt), the Exalted, says: “Truly, Allah guides not him, who is a liar and disbeliever.” (Az-Zumar 39:3)

In another verse, Allah (swt) states: “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah 9:119)

The words of the Prophet (sa) also show that lying will never lead to salvation. The Prophet (sa) said: “Indeed, truthfulness leads to Al Birr (righteousness, and Al-Birr leads to Paradise. A man keeps on telling the truth, until he becomes a Siddiq (truthful person). Lying leads to Al-Fujur (wickedness), and Al-Fujr leads to the Hellfire, and a man keeps on telling lies, till he is written as a liar before Allah.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: whenever he speaks, he tells a lie, whenever he promises, he breaks it, and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays.” (Bukhari)

Truth leads to success

Honestly – who doesn’t know that lying is a sin? We all confess that we have lied to get out of a tight situation to the extent that we have got used to it and do not believe that there is a way out. If this is an echo of your mind, then you are probably taking a defeatist approach. It is possible to be truthful as well as successful.

Our dearest Prophet Muhammad (sa) was an honest man to the extent that he was known As-Sadiq (the truthful) and Amin (the trustworthy). When Khadijah (rta), a successful businesswoman of Makkah, assigned Prophet Muhammad (sa) to do some business for her, she found more profits and blessings than she was used to. Her servant also told her about the good manners and honesty of the Prophet (sa).

New research by the Institute of Business Ethics shows a relation between success and ethical environment. UK companies with an explicit commitment to ethical business were found to have produced profits an average of 18% higher than those that did not.

So how do we break the lying habit?

1. Reexamine your level of Iman (faith)

Is it important to you that you stop lying? Do you believe that truthfulness will benefit you in this world and in the Hereafter? Are you convinced that lying eventually leads to Hellfire? These are just some of the questions that you can ask yourself.

2. Make prayer

The earnestness of doing something is reflected in the kind of prayers that we make. One of the prayers of the Prophet (sa) was: “O Allah! Purify my heart from hypocrisy, my deed from any kind of showoff, my tongue from lying.” (Baihiqi)

3. Fix your own penalty for lying

This penalty can be in cash or in kind. Give something to charity or keep reminding yourself that you did something wrong today.

4. Read up on examples of people, who were ethical and successful

Reading about the Companions of the Prophet (sa) and modern day success stories of ethical companies will provide you with the much-needed encouragement and guidance.

5. Assess the consequences of lying

Draw up or think of all the direct and indirect, long term and short term consequences of lying. If you can logically figure out the disastrous effects of lying in this world and the Hereafter, it may be enough to control the ‘fibbing habit,’ Insha’Allah.

6. Remember that truth leads to peace of mind

According to a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa): “Leave what appears doubtful to you and adopt that which is not doubtful to you, for truth is peace of mind and the lie is a means of doubt.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Advantages of telling the truth over lying

  • Telling the truth reduces medical expenses by keeping your blood pressure in the normal range.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about what to say, when you get caught.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to learn any fancy ambiguous words to mislead people.
  • If you tell the truth, you get practice telling the truth, which can pay off, when telling the truth is really hard.
  • If you tell the truth, people have a chance to find out about problems, while there’s still time to do something about them.
  • If you tell the truth, it’s easier to sleep at night.
  • If you’re known as a straight shooter, fewer people will ask you to shoot crooked.
  • If you tell the truth often enough, when you say something, people are more likely to actually believe you.

Is it a Luxury?

bsr005This 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?

Interesting Fact

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.”