In terms of just being human, it is almost intrinsic to put humanity before greed, modesty before arrogance, and empathy before selfishness, but the question is – is there a place for that kind of conduct in today’s working world?
Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, one is constantly faced with decisions – and opportunities. But sometimes, the right choice career-wise, might be the worst choice personally and that’s where the conundrum makes its appearance! That’s the point at which we need to decide what’s more important – the sheep, or the wolf? For example, perhaps succeeding at a high level corporate career means countless hours at the office and might require travel. There isn’t a corporate on the planet that would choose to pay for their employee’s travel –and then throw in another payment to accommodate a Mahram! And that should be a dilemma, should it not? Or take the idea of having to present before a board – where’s the place for modesty in that?
For a business owner, on one hand, we need sell our product or service, but on the other hand, we are taught from early ages to understand that being pushy is a bad quality to cultivate, and yet, a certain percentage of sales is dependent on some kind of assertion. In my line of work, I’m often in meetings with men – since they own the businesses I need to work with and I’ve been asked how I deal with it, since I am rather conservative by nature.
It was only then, that it dawned on me. We live a kind of double life in a way. On one hand, we need to be humble, soft-spoken and empathetic, but on the other hand, it seems we need to be vocal and visibly bold in order to succeed, necessitating that we present a harsher and more assertive version of ourselves instead of humility – hence, the sheep versus the wolf. I learned very early on, although I still need a reminder every now and then, that it is possible to be both, without compromising on either – the trick is to remember that we can remain true to ourselves as long as we consciously and constantly remember that one day we will be accountable for everything we say and do – and those intentions need to be clear.
As humans, we are prone to making mistakes all the time, but Islam is simple. Some people are able to seamlessly navigate between these seemingly opposing personas, by doing what they need to within reason – and without crossing their boundaries – for example, dealing with clients can be done in modest attire, without vulgarity and in a way that reflects the highest of integrity in terms of conduct. Thus, making it possible to be successful without compromising Deen or self.
The risk, however, is in the need for some of us to “fit in” – particularly in the higher corporate structures, where work parties, dinner meetings, and frequent travel are in the equation – not to mention that people work in close proximity to each other and often for more time than they spend with their own families. Personally, I know of a few people who’ve left their very lucrative careers last year alone, purely because they found the temptation to sin too overwhelming. Some of them are now showing strange condescension to their former Muslim counterparts who are still working. The question is, are the ones who were strong enough to leave a job for fear of sin better than those who stayed – or are those who stayed, better, since they choose to fight (and defeat) their nafs on a daily basis? Who knows? The bottom line is that Islam teaches us not to judge, as only The Almighty knows everything. And so it should be.
The way I see it: being assertive doesn’t need to come at the cost of being rude – and being mindful doesn’t need to come at the cost of stagnation…
While there is life, there is hope. Smile Always.
This article is written by Mehjabeen Rawoot.