Sunday, March 08, 2009

Business and Religion

Almost all of the offices where I have worked in Kuwait have had prayer rooms. Several of them have been political: you pray on the floor with the management, you get promoted faster, the guy who is leading the prayer shouts to appear overly devout/zealous when upper management is present.

[On the flip side, if the office doesn’t have a prayer room and the mosque isn’t too far away (which, it usually isn’t because they are all over Kuwait), I’ve seen employees take up to 45 minutes to “pray”. Um hmmmmm.]

So there isn’t really a division of business and religion. Religion is present and makes itself known through broadcast prayer calls at intervals during the day. This is life in an Islamic country. I think perhaps many people of any religion should stop during the day to pray. I’m sure that others in my office do – silently bowing their heads to pray at their desks.

My question is this: if one prays, shouldn’t one be righteous? In other words, if you are going to pray, shouldn’t you act on your religion and be compassionate to those you work with (or who work for you)? This is my new argument at work (because very little of what I say actually gets through and I thought that I might be able to incorporate basic concepts of belief): If there is no division between our business (supposedly ethics) and religion, then why not incorporate it into our management practices? That means doing the right thing. If not, hey – we could probably make 2 or 3 more offices out of the prayer room for operations – or even to rent it out to another company to make extra profit.

I recently told a senior-level manager that I believed what he was doing was going against his religion. The look on his face made me think I was about to get an ear-twisting, but he said, "You know, I went home last night and something bad happened to me with my family and I immediately thought that it might have had something to do with what I am doing at work." I told him that if he had actually had a conscious thought about it, then perhaps it was a message and had been for a reason.


PALFORCE said...

I think religion has nothing to do with morals or ethics nowadays at least.
I think prayers and getting closer to God is an individual thing and a way to increase your credit with your maker.
There are plenty of people who pray but not necessary ethical and their moral code is way off charts.
And on the other hand, there are atheists who follow a pretty high moral code.
The reason religion was sent to humans is to enhance the moral code among people, but unfortunately I have found out that people in most Islamic countries are pretty low on the ethics/moral Global scale.

Desert Girl said...

Palforce - True dat; however, if we're not going to practice what we preach - at least in the workplace - then we should take the religion out of business. Management makes the decision to incorporate religion in its day-to-day operations (prayer times, broadcasting prayer, providing a prayer room) and yet doesn't incorporate any of the behaviors associated with religion. It should be one or the other - or else it is just plain sacreligious.

ZeroGravity said...

That depends on what are you praying for? If it is for the forgiveness of sins that you might have committed during the past day (or hours in this matter) then by all means you can commit sins. (Yeah, that’s why prays are there, to redeem yourselves from your wrongs-meaning no need to bother for your wrong doings). So what is the justification? Man is mortal beings bound to err in life and luckily have the ever present benevolent higher presence to forgive them. Therefore the more you err the more you pray and the more you pray the more you can err.

But for the unlucky guys who DON’T spend those 45 minutes in holy communication, tough luck, you can’t afford to sin! And if you do, then hell in its complete magnitude awaits you.

So you see, you are simple better off with people who pray less than more. Unless you are one among them, in which case the equation flips. Because then you too have divinity on your side and the right to do wrong. Therefore a person who wrongs you is aware that you can do the same thing towards him/her, which he/she is not interested in.

That’s why they say the more you pray the more you succeed (provided you let the people around you know that you are praying).

Hilaliya said...

Management sets the bar and telegraphs what is acceptable or not acceptable. The problem with some management here is that they don't want to communicate, inspire, motivate etc - they lock themselves up in offices usually have everything filter through one favorite subordinate - I've seen it in government institutions and I've seen it in the private sector - that is NOT true management.

I work in a multinational company with different religions, races, ethnic groups etc and we have a 'Code of Conduct' and 'Ethics' book and I enforce it in my department - and I keep enforcing it and highlighting the 'do's' and 'don'ts': we have zero tolerance for any racism or bigotry towards anyone, any rank, any religion - we have a prayer room and we use it but sometimes people pray in their offices (I do most of the time) - I think prayer is important and if people followed Islam the way it was meant to be followed they would realize that treating people with respect, smiling at them, being compassionate, and avoiding backstabbing, plotting, gossip etc are part and parcel of the Muslim religion - if only everyone followed it.

Anonymous said...

'do not do to others what i do not want done to me' works great at the work place if it is followed in word and spirit

Anonymous said...

Hi DG,
First up, love your blog. I'm usually a silent reader, but comment every once in awhile on some of your topics. I find your topics interesting, amusing, deep... it is always a great read.

I completely agree with what you wrote that if it is a theocratic society, then religious values should be implemented in the workplace. Although it would be just as easy for people to behave as human beings, which is appreciated in all religions :)

As a muslim, I do take offense to the comment (made by a reader, not you) that I feel the need to comment on. People in "Islamic countries" are not any lower on "ethics/moral Global scale" than those in non-Islamic countries. If you are speaking of Kuwait in particular, there are more expats and non-muslims than Kuwaitis or muslims (all nationalities) in this country. So who are the people with low morals that are being referred to. There are good and bad people everywhere, muslim countries are no exception. People should look within before making such general, ignorant, discriminatory comments. And to people who do make such blanket comments, consider it was a choice to be where eveer you are. It is better for them to remain where they are from and try to help and improve their own societies.

Sorry for that being so long, but it really struck a nerve with me. thanks for letting me share my thoughts on this subject

PALFORCE said...


Where did you see in my comment me talking about Kuwait in particular?

No need to take my comment too personal. I'm a Muslim too, I meant no offense. I lived all over and I'm more comfortable with the moral scale generally speaking in the west than here, and by saying here I mean most Arab/Muslim countries.

That is not an attempt to put down Islam as a religion, rather than the behavior of general public that you meet.

Sorry if I struck a nerve, I was just speaking my mind from my own experience.

About me living in Kuwait, that is a choice I make for my own personal reason, you cannot ask everyone who has different opinion to leave the country come on. LOL

In a perfect world I am Kuwaiti by Birth, nobody can deny me that.
I love this country as much as any citizen.

I travel throughout the Middle East and this is where my conclusion came from.

Again nothing personal.