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LifeSociety

How to Stay on a Path of God-Consciousness and Charity in the Workplace as a Muslim

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LifeSociety

How to Stay on a Path of God-Consciousness and Charity in the Workplace as a Muslim

Always present a smiling face to people as one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said: “Since the day I accepted Islam, the Messenger of God would never meet me without a smiling face”.

356

Always present a smiling face to people as one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said: “Since the day I accepted Islam, the Messenger of God would never meet me without a smiling face”.

Organizations are social units of people, including a management structure that determines relationships between different activities and members, which subdivides and assigns roles, responsibilities, and the authority to carry out different tasks.  In any company, positions within each level of the hierarchy require the application of both hard and soft skills, and employees are generally selected based on these two categories.

Hard skills are mainly the three elements of KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) that define the maximum theoretical amount of workflow that could be achieved [1]. On the other hand, soft skills (Communication, Teamwork, Adaptability, Problem-Solving, Creativity, Work Ethic, Interpersonal Skills and Time Management) affect the efficiency of interactions between employees [2]. In other words, what is the theoretical percentage of the workflow soft skills account for?

Notably, most companies create a dynamic in which personnel competes against each other for recognition, bonuses, and promotions. Some research studies indicate that competition can motivate employees, encourage them to put in more effort and work harder to achieve better results. Indeed, competition increases physiological and psychological activation, which prepares both body and mind for increased effort and enables higher performance [3].

However, competition can have a negative impact if employees compete against co-workers who have higher skills. During research, data collected from banks, law firms, and tech companies suggest that the way competition makes people feel plays a crucial role in how they try to win. The negative consequences of lagging behind can trigger anxiety and prompt people to resort to mis-selling, fraud, and lying to customers [3]. 

In order to maximize the quality of interaction between company personnel and the efficiency of the workflow, workforce management (WFM) facilitates the accurate ranking of employees in the hierarchy according to skill level. This will reduce internal tensions and enable employees to fulfill their full potential. On the other hand, the incorrect ranking of employees could lead to friction in the hierarchy. Traci Moxson elaborates that “it’s clear that the time has come for organizations to put substance behind the phrase ‘people are our most important asset’ and genuinely deliver right skills, right place, right time!” [4].

Being in the right position in the organization, and the influence of managers on the efficiency of workflow at any level of the hierarchy, depends mainly on how they affect (soft skills) the employees under their supervision. Eight recognized leadership styles are evident in the literature, namely: (a) Democratic, (b) Autocratic, (c) Laissez-faire, (d) Strategic, (e) Transformational, (f) Transactional, (g) Bureaucratic and (h) Servant [5-8]. In addition to the style of leadership, the personality traits suggested for highly desirable managers are: (a) confidence (b) honesty (c) communication skills (d) empathy (e) optimism (f) encouragement (g) intuition (h) acting as a role model [9]. For example, it’s been widely found that managers who help employees under their supervision to succeed (Figure 1) could also make them better leaders [10]. 

Mary Kay Ash reiterates: “We need leaders who add value to the people and the organization they lead; who work for the benefit of others and not just for their own personal gain. Leaders who inspire and motivate, not intimidate and manipulate; who live with people to know their problems in order to solve them and who follow a moral compass that points in the right direction regardless of the trends” [11].

Innate Abilities And Charity

“See how We prefer some of them to others (in this world).” (Quran, 17:21)[12]

My understanding is that aligned with the way Allah (SWT) conceived the universe with different “gradients of richness” including energy, pressure, temperature, altitude, and concentrations of different substances, He also created us within a “gradient of wealth” like finances, material elements, health, appearance, intelligence to learn and the ability to master different skills. This innate “gradient” of abilities and skills between people is needed to fulfill the responsibilities of different types of jobs and professions.

For example, a variety of professionals with differing skills are needed in hospitals to treat the sick, such as surgeons, doctors and nurses, and together they create a comprehensive or full treatment plan for the patient. They are all integral and can be visualized as each representing an engine part, with all parts being required to form the whole. Similarly, in research centers, researchers, experts, engineers and technicians are all vital, based on their abilities. Professors and lecturers are essential in universities and teachers are needed in primary and secondary schools. Finally, laborers are also required in the industry to carry out physical labor in order to build infrastructures.  

“And He has raised in ranks, some above others the He may try you in that which He has bestowed you” (Quran; 6:165) [12]

Traditional jurisprudence (fiqh) in Islam distinguishes between two principal branches of law, rituals (ibādāt) and social relations (muʿāmalāt). As we worship Allah (SWT) with our prayers (ibādāt)) in mosques, we are also supposed to worship Him in workplaces by helping people there (muʿāmalāt). Supported by this Quranic verse, in order to obey the 1st divine law of charity [13], Muslims are urged to use their inborn abilities with the only intention to please Allah (SWT) by helping others in order to be able to self-purify their soul in the Eternal Path of Charity [14]. As a consequence, their daily duties will be counted as good deeds.

For example, as shown in Figure 2, the divine duty of an engineer is to offer expertise to properly solve technical problems. The divine purpose of a doctor is to treat patients adequately and provide them with the proper diagnosis and treatment and the divine responsibility of a teacher is to impart knowledge and enable students to learn.

Charity-Based Workplaces

“If there were in the heavens and the earth, other gods, besides Allah, there would have been collision in both.” (Quran; 21:22) [12]

This Quranic verse demonstrates the significance and requirement of unity of command and unity of direction. Therefore, following in the Islamic tradition, this paper proposes the application of the divine science of charity in order to optimize workforce management in organizations. Firstly, identical to the patterns of natural flows [13], there are also “workflows” and “interactions” between employees at all levels of the hierarchy. In order to enforce the 1st divine law of charity [13], similar to the “gradient of energy” in nature, there is a need to have a “gradient of skills” in the hierarchy. For this purpose, the selected managers at the top of the administration should have the highest abilities and expertise in all the needed skills and employees at the bottom of the hierarchy should have the lowest abilities and skills to perform the duties. 

“We raise some of them above others in ranks, so that some may command work from others…” (Quran; 43:32) [12]

This Quranic verse contains the whole attitude and insight of modern management. It highlights, in essence, the creation of appropriate hierarchies and the division of responsibilities subject to individual abilities. Therefore, the application of the 2nd divine law of charity [13] can be considered, similar to balance and harmony in nature. Personnel with intermediate skills should be in the appropriate rank of the hierarchy to be able to help by giving proper advice and instruction, as well as guidance to employees under their supervision, thereby creating equity between employees of an organization and giving everyone the opportunity to fulfill the divine duties of charity.

From this perspective, according to the saying of The Prophet (PBUH): “Allah loves, when one of you is doing something, that he [or she] does it in the most excellent manner”, Muslims are requested to fulfill the requirements and responsibilities of their role or job to the best of their expertise. All soft skills are considered as being based on the intention to please Allah (SWT) alone in this Islamic model (1st divine law of charity) by the willingness to help employees under supervision.

Indeed, research has shown that helping others to become successful will remove the obstacles, excessive bureaucracy, interpersonal conflict, uncertainty, and toxic cultures that hinder success [15]. Moreover, a study found that when people engaged in reactive helping (helping when asked), they received more gratitude. In turn, the helpers perceived that they had a greater impact and felt more engaged at work the next day [16].  

“O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. And seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His cause so you might be successful.”(Quran; 5:35) [12]

Considering the difference in hard skills between a manager and an employee under supervision as the “driving force” at a certain level of the hierarchy, if the manager has higher expertise than the employee in a lower position and uses all the hard skills to help team members under supervision, it will result in positive values of the efficiency (Equation 1) of the workflow at this level of an organization: 

Moreover, if the manager is willing to please only Allah (SWT) during these duties, he/she can self-purify his/her soul in the Eternal Path of Charity and the workflow will be counted as charity (Figure 3). 

However, if some employees in positions of authority and more responsibility have to provide leadership to coworkers who are in a lower position but equipped with higher hard skills, it could result in friction during their interactions (Figure 3). As these managers cannot help the other team members, they will not be able to add their workforce activities as good deeds because they cannot fulfill their divine duty of charity. On the contrary, these managers could use fear and humiliation to show their authority. This injustice will cause low morale amongst subordinates and reduce their level of engagement. This friction is translated by the negative values as indicated in equation (2):

In other words, the negative values of the equation (2), caused by employees incorrectly placed within the ranking system, are similar to adding extra resistance to the workflow. This will potentially affect the efficiency of workflow in the hierarchy and the overall performance of the company in a negative way.  

In conclusion, in order to properly apply the divine laws of charity in any organization, every employee is required to be in a relevant position according to their hard skills (Figure 4). Moreover, if everyone in the organization is willing to please Allah (SWT) by helping personnel under their supervision, minimum frictions will result between employees and morale, and engagement of all personnel will be boosted. As a result, the efficiency of the workflow at each level of the organization will have the maximum positive values. Additionally, the employees who were helped are more likely to help others in return. As a result, workplaces with helping cultures see better employee performance. Research also suggests that more helpful workplaces actually perform better; they produce better-quality products and have increased sales [16]. 

 According to Islamic literature, properly helping others within companies could be the result of the following advice [17]: 

  1. Always present a smiling face to people as one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said: “Since the day I accepted Islam, the Messenger of God would never meet me without a smiling face” [18].
  2. Show kindness to people and transform all your daily actions and activities to acts of charity as Allah (SWT) says “Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.”(Quran; 2:143) [12].
  3. Be thankful to Allah (SWT) during happy moments and be patient during times of hardship and pain as Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) said: “I am amazed by the believer. If he is granted goodness, he praises Allah and is grateful. If he is afflicted with a calamity, he praises Allah and is patient” [19]. 

Moreover, similar to the abundance of spring after the gestures of charity in nature, the reward for the managers who obey Allah (SWT) and His universal laws of charity is certainly lasting happiness as Allah (SWT) says: “As for him who gave out his wealth (for Allah’s sake) and abstained (from disobeying Him), and affirmed the Truth of goodness, We shall facilitate for him the Way to Bliss (Quran; 92-5:7) [12]. This has been shown in MRI scans which illustrate this “warm-glow effect” in the reward centers of the brain [20]. Finally, each member of the company will be able to self-purify his/her soul and add the workflow as good deeds in the Eternal Path of Charity. Integrating the divine laws of charity in an organization will result in the highest performance of the company due to the smoothest workflow. 

Islam-Based Leadership

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Quran; 33: 21) [12]

According to the Quran, leadership is a sacred position that can solve the problems of humanity and guide people on the Straight Path. In light of this, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) exemplifies the teachings of Allah (SWT) in all areas of life. He models leadership distinctiveness as the greatest reformer and leader, and can be observed to exhibit the personification of morality, honesty, truthfulness, understanding of others, and enlightening effective commandments [21].

For example, in order to maximize workflow, an effective leader should identify the positive and negative traits of each member of his team and make decisions based on them. As an example of this aspect of leadership, the Prophet (PBUH) became aware that one of the famous companions, Bilal ibn Rabah, had a beautiful voice. To allow Bilal to use this gift, he was declared to be the official mu’adhin (one who calls Muslims to prayer). On the other hand, The Prophet (PBUH) refused to offer another distinguished companion, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, an administrative responsibility because he lacked the required skills. Based on the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), Muslim managers should have the following attitudes in order to manage the workflows efficiently and lead people to the Eternal Path of Charity: 

  1. Muslim leaders should be obeyed by followers as Allah says: “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you who are in authority. And If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is better, and more suitable for final determination” (Quran 4:59) [12].
  2. At the same time, Muslim leaders should not show signs of superiority as Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) said “Allah isn’t pleased with the slave who distinguishes between himself and his companions, and considers himself better than others” [22].  
  3. Being a leader by remaining a servant, and maintaining humility, as Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was always amongst his people: teaching, helping and guiding them. He never pursued comfort or a higher position over his people [23]. 
  4. Muslim leaders should show empathy as Allah (SWT) says about Prophet Mohamed (PBUH): “Verily, there has come to you a Messenger (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is anxious over you, for the believers, he is full of pity, kind and merciful.” (Quran; 9: 128) [12]. 
  5. Islam promotes shared responsibility as Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock” [24].
  6. Muslim leaders should also be approachable as mentioned in the Quran: “And by mercy from Allah, you (Muhammad) dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults) and ask Allah forgiveness for them” (Quran; 3:159)[12].
  7. Muslim leaders are also advised to share decisions-making with employees as indicated in this Quranic verse “And consult them in the affairs” (Quran: 3.159) [12].

Finally, because leaders hold the main responsibility for any bad action or negative event in their company, a position of leadership in Islam is an onerous responsibility and a divine duty not everyone is qualified for. Accountability in leadership is a trust answerable to Allah (SWT) as cited in the Quran: “(And remember) the Day We shall call together all human beings with their respective leader.” (Quran, 17:71) [12].

Since unfair attitudes may deviate employees from self-purifying their soul in the Eternal Path of Charity, Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) warns Muslim leaders “One who exercises his authority and power in an unjust way will not enter Paradise” [25].  

Conclusion

In conclusion, if companies properly apply the Divine Laws of Charity by giving each employee an appropriate position, leaders at all levels of the hierarchy will be able to effectively and fully share their knowledge with employees under their supervision. Due to this practice, the effectiveness of administrative and technical flows will be optimized at all levels of the organization, and this will lead the company towards excellence.  Moreover, the reward for charity–leaders is happiness, which allows them to create a more enjoyable environment in the workplace. Finally, each member of the company will be able to self-purify his/her soul and add the workflow as good deeds in the Eternal Path of Charity.

On a final note, with His Infinite Mercy, Allah (SWT) requires Muslims to worship Him in workplaces by helping others and to count their daily duties as good deeds, thereby giving them the opportunity to self-purify their soul in the Eternal Path of Charity. Finally, Allah (SWT) also reassures us that He is our only provider for all our wealth, including salary as mentioned in the Quran: “And no moving creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah. And He knows its dwelling place and its deposit. All is in a Clear Book.” (Quran: 11:6) [12].


REFERENCES

[1] John Reh (2019), KSA: Using the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Model; Management and leadership  https://www.thebalancecareers.com/understanding-knowledge-skills-and-abilities-ksa-2275329

[2] Alison Doyle ( 2020), What Are Soft Skills? The Balance careers https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-are-soft-skills-2060852

[3] Anna Steinhage, Dan Cable and Duncan Wardley (2017); The Pros and Cons of Competition Among Employees, Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-pros-and-cons-of-competition-among-employees).

[4] Traci Moxson, (2014); THE RIGHT PEOPLE, IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME; ICMI, Published: April 02, 2014. https://www.icmi.com/resources/2014/the-right-people-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time

[5] Kendra Cherry, What Is Democratic Leadership? Characteristics, benefits, drawbacks, and famous examples, Verywell mind, October 23, 2018.

[6] Kendra Cherry, Autocratic Leadership: Key Characteristics, Strengths, and Weaknesses of Autocratic Leadership, Verywell mind, October 22, 2018.

[7] Braden Becker, The 7 Most Common Leadership Styles & How to Find Your Own, Hubspot, May 2018   https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/leadership-styles.

[8]  Sendjaya, Sen; Sarros, James C. (2002-09-01). “Servant Leadership: Its Origin, Development, and Application in Organizations”. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. 9 (2): 57–64. doi:10.1177/107179190200900205. ISSN 1548-0518.

[9] QURANREADING (2018): Top Leadership Qualities of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): http://www.quranreading.com/blog/top-leadership-qualities-of-the-holy-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

[10] Elizabeth Hopper, Helping Others Makes Better Leaders (5 Tips to Grow Others) in Approachable leadership. https://approachableleadership.com/helping-others/

[11] Kent Julian (2018); 10 Great Leadership Quotes for Helping Others Grow in Live it Forward. https://liveitforward.com/10-great-leadership-quotes-for-helping-others-grow/

[12] Interpretation of the meanings of the Noble Quran by Dr. Muhammad Taqui-ud-Din Al Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, DARUSSALAM (1996)

[13] Zin Eddine Dadach (2020), Charity: The Divine Science

[14] Zin Eddine Dadach (2020), The Foundation of Islam

[15] Harrison Monarth (2016), Act Like a Leader: Help Others Succeed. Build Strategic Alliances. Know Yourself, in Entrepreneur   https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/272725

[16] Shanna B. Tiayon (2019), When You Should Help Your Coworkers—and When to Think Twice;  Greater Good wants to know: Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

[17] Aisha Stacey (2011), Islam agrees with scientific methods of attaining happiness in HAPPINESS IN ISLAM (PART 2 OF 3): HAPPINESS & SCIENCE, In The religion of Islam

[18] Aishah Schwartz (2018), Even a Smile is Charity: A Life Example in Truth Seeker? https://www.truth-seeker.info/oasis-of-faith/even-a-smile-is-charity-a-life-example.

[19] Everything Allah decrees is good for the believer in Faith in Allah. https://abuaminaelias.com/everything-decreed-is-good-for-the-believer-both-ease-and-hardship/

[20] Dunn, Elizabeth et al (2008), “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness”, Science 319.

[21] Top Leadership Qualities of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (2015) in http://www.quranreading.com/blog/top-leadership-qualities-of-the-holy-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

[22] Mohsen Haredy, (2016); The Prophet’s Wisdom in Leading His Companions in IslamiCity https://www.islamicity.org/8607/the-prophets-wisdom-in-leading-his-companions.

 [23] Theresa Corbin, Muhammad (PBUH)- Prophet, Leader, Servant, About Islam (02 November 2017).

[24] Abu Amina Elias, Hadith on Responsibility: Each of you is a shepherd for his flock, Daily Hadith.

[25] Lana Oweidat (2019), Islamic Ethos: Examining Sources of Authority, settings. Humanities 2019, 8(4), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040170

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