Islamic work ethic.

We all know what the protestant work ethic is- the idea that by working hard you fulfil your duty to God, and watching how you spend your salary as a way to seek salvation from your Lord.  This phrase seems to be used in wider society for those who work really, really hard and are committed to their work. Now what is an Islamic Work Ethic? In the times that we are living in now, I think it is really important to be clear about the conduct of working lives within Islam and the basic tenants that should determine how we work and undertake our daily tasks. This is an attempt at coming up with an answer to the question.

Definitions are important first.  Working Muslim defines work as ‘productive use of time, doing something that will benefit the world or the hereafter’, this means that work does not require a salary every month. Our most valuable commodity is time, not money- who in the last few minutes of their lives will want another £100k rather than an extra 1 hour with their family?

Ethics can be defined as a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality; that is, about concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, justice, and virtue.[1]

The teachings of Islam are quite clear about how we should use our time on this journey, in the best way that we can.  Look at the very powerful translation from the Qur’an of Surah Al Asr, 103: 1-3:
 “By Time, Verily all human beings are in loss,  Except those who have achieved ‘Faith’, have per­formed Righteous deeds, and have emphasized to each other the teaching of ‘Truth’ and (the value of) ‘Patience’ (perseverance and constancy).” 
If we look at these simple words and try and understand the meaning then essentially success should not be viewed in terms of status, wealth, the type of house that we live in, what car we drive. True success comes out of first having faith and then of performing ‘righteous deeds’, and therefore how we use our time is key. Although sometimes life feels like it is very long, actually this is just a short journey.

We are also reminded of the benefits of 5 before 5 when the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: “Make the most of five things before five others: life before death, health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, youth before old age, and wealth before poverty.”

So how would one describe the Islamic Work Ethic?
How you spend your time has to be satisfying and it should fulfil you- don’t just do something for the sake of it. What is the benchmark for your deciding how you spend your time? An article was published in the Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies by Wahibur Rokhman which produced an Islamic Work Ethic Scale. There are 17 elements to Rokhman’s scale. Working Muslim believes that that these are a good summary of an Islamic Work Ethic- with the key one being one should carry out work to the best of one’s ability- i.e. have  Ihsan.

1. Laziness is a vice
2. Dedication to work is a virtue
3. Good work benefits both one’s self and others
4. Justice and generosity in the work place are necessary conditions for society’s welfare
5. Producing more than enough to meet one’s needs contributes to the prosperity of society as a whole
6. One should carry work out to the best of one’s ability
7. Work is not an end in itself but a means to foster personal growth and social relations
8. Life has no meaning without Work
9. More leisure time is good for society
10. Human relations should be emphasize and encourage
11. Work enables man to control nature
12. Creative work is a source of happiness and accomplishment
13. Any person who works is more likely to get ahead in life
14. Work gives one the chance to be independent
15. A successful person is the one who meets deadlines at Work
16. One should constantly work hard to meet responsibilities
17. The value of work is delivered from the accompanying intention rather than its result

Have you thought about what your personal Islamic Work Ethic is? Using the above as a starting point why don’t you spend a few minutes considering what your personal work ethics are.



Best employer for working mums- award ceremony.

So, who in the UK is the best employer for working mums? An award ceremony was held earlier in October 2010 and . . .  .(drum roll please) the winners are:

Winner of the Overall Top Employer award was Accenture, the global management consultancy specialist. It was praised by judges for making a strong business case for flexible working and for the way it measured its impact on company performance and staff commitment.
Winner of the Top Employers Award for Innovation went to professional services firm KPMG. The judges were impressed by KPMG's record on transition coaching, maternity coaching, women's networking and managing other colleagues’ perceptions and felt its approach was the most comprehensive and was a model of best practice.
The Top Employers Award for Commitment and Development, sponsored by Deloitte, went to Accenture. This award was in recognition of organisations which show ongoing commitment to developing policies which encourage work life balance. Accenture was judged to have gone out its way to engage women and implement flexible working, designing roles to fit the modern work force.
The Top Employers Award for Employee Engagement went to John Lewis. John Lewis was praised for its very comprehensive approach to continuous employee engagement which had led to increased staff motivation and commitment. In particular, they were impressed by how employee engagement fed into initiatives such as the summer camps, which made parents’ lives easier and improved their work/life balance.
The Top Employers Award for SMEs, sponsored by RBS went to HR180. The judges praised the human resources consultancy's overall commitment to flexible working and its promotion of the business case for flexible working. 

(based on information in an article in stylist magazine)

Who would be your top employer for working mums?


Your Command and Control Centre


What is a to do list? Are you bombarded with a million and one things to do every day? And thats just for work, then theres home, kids, studies, chores, it goes on and on. People have often asked how do I juggle everything, how do I prioritise and actually do it, delegate or date it. My to do list is the powerhouse of . My to-do list is at the center of my personal workflow. Like you, I am bombarded with hundreds of emails and requests a day, they are everywhere in inbox, on the phone, and at my door. All of them want action now.

So a few years ago I learned the importance of prioritisation and keeping that prioritsation list updated regularly, kind of creating a daily to do list (but it must be action linked).  It might sound simple, but I don’t know of a more important productivity tool.

Here’s how I make my to-do page my personal command center:
  1. Make sure your to-do list consists of “next actions.” This is the secret to getting things done and avoiding procrastination. You have to break a project down into discrete actions. For example, "Set out the strategy for Working Muslim" is a project. “Write first draft of updated vision statement” is a discrete action within that project. I try to create a bite-sized action that I can complete in a less than a few hours. If it’s going to take more than that, I break the action down further.
  2. Prepare your to-do page the night before. I like to do this toward the very end of the day. This gives my subconscious a chance to work on the items overnight, its amazing how powerful this is. New thoughts come out of your mind and you discover important things you had forgotten about!. I find that I am much more productive the next day if I do this. InshaAllah it also gives me a chance to hit the ground running, knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished.
  3. Review your to-do list first thing in the morning. Before I do anything else, I review my calendar and my to-do page. The calendar provides the “hard edges” of my non-discretionary time. These are the things I must do. My to-do list provides the discretionary items I will have to get done when I am not in a meeting or otherwise committed. Reviewing these items first, provides me with the opportunity to make last minute adjustments to my game plan. I also arrange these items in roughly the order I plan to do them.
  4. Do the most difficult 2 tasks first. We spend so much time trying to do the easy things often we end up rushing the important tasks and doing an excellent job of something that actually isnt that important. Once you have done these 2 important tasks- reward yourself and take a break doing something you enjoy inshaAllah.
  5. Stay focused on your to-do page throughout the day. I always have my to-do list in front of me. Find a tool that helps you to do this, you can use a notebook, the list function on the iphone. But the tool is really unimportant, the main thing is to stay focused on one task at a time, completing it and then go to the next one. When you’re to-do page is your command center, it keeps you from getting distracted by everything else pinging your brain.
  6. Add to your to-do list as items occur. You want to be able to get to-dos out of your head and into a reliable system for follow-up at the appropriate time. If they keep rattling around in your head they consume positive energy. You can use the tools mentioned above to do this, but again, the tool is not important. Use what makes it fast and effortless.
If you don’t have a to-do list for yourself, you can bet others do. The best way to create a to do list is to use DiscoverULifes RPM methodology, but there are many others that I am sure you can find. In my experience, the only way to stay focused on what is important, as distinct from what is merely urgent, is to have a list of things in priority and deal with the ones that will make most impact first (remember the 80:20 rule?).

Questions: What list making system do you use? How is it working for you? What do you wish it would do that it doesn’t?

Written by Saiyyidah Zaidi
Founder of Working Muslim.


Stage Fright!


The other day I undertook a 1/2 day training called Stage Fright! To be honest, I didnt really know what to expect from it but it was sold as a good course and that at it would 'address your nervousness, performance anxiety and stage fright in business situations to help you handle your nerves when communicating, and overcome your performance anxiety during public speaking.' I didn't really know if I suffered from stage fright or not, but I think we were honest we all would say that we do.

Do you suffering from stage fright?  Do you suffer from a fast beating heart, tense muscles, a shaky voice, dry mouth, shortness of breathe? Then you have probably suffered from some sort of stage fright. 

What are the key tips that I learned through this?
  1. Understand the power of your voice and how you can use it to your advantage. Your voice has an amazing range from low to high, soft to hard, quiet to loud. Use this range.
  2. Breathing and knowing your body and how it works are very powerful. One of the exercises we did was to put your hand on your collar bone and breath very quickly in a panting way- its amazing how much anxiety kicks in just because of the way you breathe. Do the same but with slow measured breaths and you will fill the exact opposite.
  3. How do you stand affects whether you are confident or calm. If you are giving a presenation then stand. Sometimes it is appropriate to sit but think about the message you are sending. During the course we had a interesting debate around this and concluded that when you stand you command authority and when you sit you are more like one of the group.
  4. Practice and practise in front of your friends or a mirror. See what other people see, get feedback, understand your quirks and how you behave when you speak. One of the delegates didnt realise that she always put her hands behind her back when she spoke- you would think it was so obvious, but she had no idea.
  5. Finally, remember that people are there to listen to your message, not to judge you or to look at how you speak. Even if you forget something or need to take a pause then dont worry because if the message is engaging enough then people will remember that not how many times you said 'umm' or if you forgot one key point. 
The act of public speaking effects us all in some way. The key to a successful public speaking experience lies in the ability to harness our performance anxiety and to push through it and hopefully some of the tips above will help you. Wasalaam.


Shut up and listen! The truth about how to communicate at work


Email has become the most popular form of written communication at work, first within the organisation and now in dealings with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. This book point out that the speed of its uptake has only been matched by the speed of its abuse. People dumping their workload onto others by email, and the development of an 'all-hours' culture are just some of the problems, spamming. Some cowards also use email to deliver bad news that should be handled sensitively and face-to-face; people have even been made redundant by email. On the other hand, email has many benefits, including speed, friendliness, and flexibility. As a form of  communication it is hard to beat. How we use email determines if it is good or bad for us as a communication tool.

Great communicators have self-awareness, caring, empathy, wit and 'spark', but it is vibrancy, enthusiasm or self-confidence that sets them apart. Passion is a critical element of all effective communication too but you can't manufacture committment as it is driven by belief and faith.  

This book sets out six types of communicator, each with good and bad characteristics:
  • The secret agent: they play their cards close to their chest; are reliable and discreet but can breed a 'suspicion' culture.
  • The double agent: has a foot in both camps; can be a useful ally in the short term but may be deemed untrustworthy in the long term.
  • The gossip columnist: collects or makes up tittle-tattle; has lots of 'friends' but lacks credibility.
  • The dictator: listens to no one, makes snap judgements and decisions. Gives clear directions but people become resentful when they think their views aren't being listened to.
  • The kitchen sink: tells everyone everything. They cannot be accused of not keeping people informed but they lack focus and waste time.
  • The mouse: has opinions on many important issues but lacks the self-confidence or ability to express it. Seen as a good sounding board but lacks the ability to influence.
This book includes a number of tests and exercises to help you assess how effective a communicator you are and to identify the areas in which you would like to improve. BUT the best piece of advice in this book is  BE YOURSELF. 

A review of by Shut up and listen! by Theo Theobald and Cary Cooper, Kogan Page, 2004.


Are you going to pray AGAIN?

Praying by yourself, close your eyes and imagine this
Bismillah,  So we've all been there. You are in the middle of an important meeting when the discussion just starts getting juicy and your alarm goes off to pray or you have realised that time is running out and the next salat will be here in 10 minutes. What do you do? Unless you work in a place which is 100% practising muslim it is more than likely you have experienced this. 

When I have said 'I think its time we should have a 10 minute break' this has often been met with a 'not the right time' or a view that I am not focused on work. If your boss knows why you want to take a break then you might get a politcally correct 'yes ok, but just 5 minutes not 10'. 

How do you feel right now? Not very energised I bet, perhaps even a bit depressed. Well why not turn it around. At the end of the day your prayer is for Allah and you should not be overly concerned about your boss' view if it conflicts with your eman. They way to turn this around is to go and pray, not take too much time and pray an exceptional prayer. And then return full of energy, focused on the task and completely recharged. Your boss and the others around the table wont know what has hit them. They will have probably either just paid a visit to the washroom, caught up on emails, had a chat and a caffine fix. . . you will have had a eman recharge and go back raring to go! Try it, it works for me every time.

How to manage your email effectively.


I receive about 200 work emails a day and about 100 personal emails a day. How do I manage all these? In this post I am sharing the skills I learned when I went on a course a few years ago. I haven't worked out how much time it has saved but if I did then it would probably be months!

1. Handle your domain email with Gmail. Do you have your own domain and have your own email address like It is now possible to send and receive emails via your me@mydomain address through Gmail. You do this by:
  1. Create a Gmail account for your site
  2. Head to your current client and forward all your incoming email to the Gmail account
  3. In your Gmail account, go to Settings –> Accounts. Under ‘send mail as’, click ‘Add another email address’. Enter the details for your account
  4. Complete the verification process
  5. Make your address you default for ‘send mail as’
  6. And you’re done.
2. Create useful labels and folders to keep you organized. Not every email is as urgent as the next, though it can be difficult to keep track of those you need to answer quickly. Develop a labeling system that helps you get things done. If it takes less than 2 minutes to respond to an email just do it then and there, if it requires a bit more thought then put a time and a date against which you will respond by. I also think it’s important to archive as many emails as you can. If you’re using Gmail, you are unlikely to run out of space and its worth filing away. To make retrieving emails easier I’d suggest removing immediate action tags like ‘To Do’ and replacing them with tags for the purposes of archiving (when you’re done with the email). If it’s correspondence with community work, tag it ‘Community work’ and archive it.
3. Process emails in batches. A simple way to increase your productivity is to turn off auto notifiers. You dont have to check email constantly throughout the day, and doing so will regularly interrupt more important tasks. After receiving hundreds of thousands of emails I can safely say that I’ve never received one that couldn’t wait 12 hours or so, and if it was that urgent then I'd get a follow up call before I read the email. Process your inbox in batches. Make it once or twice a day, and try to get your inbox down to zero. This will allow you to plow through the rest of your productive tasks without constant interruption.

4. Read it, answer it. Many people have the habit of reading all the emails before actually replying to them. Sometimes they might even wait a couple of hours before getting back to these previously read emails. This method is ineffective for several reasons. First of all you might forget about some emails altogether. Once they are marked as “read” on your inbox, they will get mixed with all the others that you have already replied to. Second,  this process is also likely to take more time, since you will probably need to read each email a second time before remembering what you will need to say in the reply. Why not just with the email as you read it.

5. Keep it short. This benefits you and the person on the receiving end of your email, particularly if that person is busy like you:
    * Cut out unnecessary words and sentences.
    * Address the essential: not everything needs a response.
    * Use paragraphs liberally. It’s easier to read, and makes your email more approachable.

6. Keep it sweet. Always use the first name of the recipient! And end with your name. It can change the tone of your email, and only takes a second or two.

7. Re-read once. You can go back and edit typos in a blog post or article, but you only get one chance with emails. It’s important that your meaning and expression is clear, especially when making pitches or networking with other people. Just doing spell check is not enough. And if the email is that important, get someone else to read it before you hit send.

9. Create a dedicated signature. Make sure that your signature contains functional links. It might be a link to your blog, website, or online portfolio.  Your signature should effectively provide all the information someone might need to contact you.