How does an organisation live with Taqwa?

February 15th, 2010 @   -  No Comments

In his book “Jami al-uloom a al-Hikam,” Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali explains: “Taqwa means that a person should make a fence between himself and that which is harmful. Taqwa means that a person should make a fence between himself and between Allah’s punishment, anger, and displeasure by doing all that He has ordered and abstaining from all that He has forbidden”.

Taqwa is usually understood to be a personal matter between a person and Allah. However, organisations are made up of individuals who are bound by the same obligations when dealing with organisational issues as when they are dealing with personal ones. Sometimes when people are involved in group work, personal responsibility is subordinated to the larger “group accountability.” The individuals do not feel they are as responsible as if they would be in personal matters. Indeed, although Allah addresses us in the Quran as groups, and we are encouraged to work as groups, we are reminded that we will be held accountable as individuals even for collective work.

When we are acting on behalf of an organisation, we should adhere to the same, if not higher, standards of Taqwa as when we are acting in our personal interest. When we make a mistake when it comes to our own personal interests, we are accountable to Allah alone, who is most forgiving and merciful. When we deal with organisational interests, in addition to being accountable to Allah, we are also accountable to the stakeholders of that group – i.e.) all the people who have an interest in it. And when we make a mistake, we are going to be accountable in front of all of them on the day of judgment.

What are the additional standards of Taqwa that we need to adhere to when acting as an organisation, beyond those we observe in our personal interests?

Ensure stakeholders’ interests come first

This may appear to be self-evident, but there are countless stories of people putting their own interest before those of the organisation they are supposed to be representing. Even in religious organisations, where there are no apparent material gains, people often let their egos, or their adherence to a particular school of thought or political or cultural group, come before the interests of the organisation. For example, Individuals who contest leadership elections in courts, wasting resources in the process, are not acting in the best interest of the organisation. Individuals who constantly fight with others in the organisation may hinder the progress of the group. In these situations, Taqwa dictates that we must stop and reflect on the impact of our actions. Are we advancing or hindering the progress of the organisation?

Be more inclusive

Organisations must serve the full spectrum of their stakeholders without excluding anyone. If anyone is excluded, then as an organisation, you have transgressed on the rights of those excluded. There are many Muslim non-profit organisations which focus on serving the interests of one particular group in their constituency at the expense of others, sometimes excluding some groups altogether.

Speak up

There are many people in leadership positions in organisations who prefer to turn a blind eye to wrongdoings because they do not want to rock the boat or upset people. These people must speak up even if there is the potential to upset close friends and colleagues. The Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) have taught us to say the right thing, even if it is against our own interests or those of our close families and friends. Allah SWT says: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that ye do.” (Quran 4:135). The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Nay, by Allah, you either enjoin good and forbid evil and catch hold of the hand of the oppressor and persuade him to act justly and stick to the truth, or, Allah will involve the hearts of some of you with the hearts of others and will curse you as He had cursed them”. (Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi).

Use the organisation’s resources wisely

This includes material resources as well as human. Waste is forbidden in Islam. Allah says: “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful. (Quran 17:27) Taqwa therefore dictates that we deal with organisational resources wisely and without waste. We must also use the human capital in the organisation to its fullest. Many leaders of organisations run their affairs within a closed circle of trusted associates, leaving many others out who may be able to make great contributions. This is also a waste of resources which generally prevents the organisation from achieving its full potential.

Deal with group members with fairness and justice

Whether you are responsible for a small team or a large organisation, you will be made accountable for how you lead them. Dealing with them with fairness and justice carries a great reward. A just leader is among the seven that the hadith tells us Allah SWT will shade on the Day when there is no shade but His.

Remember that the reward for Taqwa is the highest places in paradise.

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