Working in Muslim Country: Colleagues Have No Work Ethic

23 July, 2020
Q Asalaamu alaykum. I am sorry to have to ask this question, but I work in a Muslim-majority country (I prefer not to say which one) and my colleagues are very unprofessional. They are late to our meetings, they don’t have any problem with bribing our boss, they often just skip work with no consequences, and they cheat! There seems to be an overwhelming idea among them that work is just for money, we don’t need to do our best job, etc. These are Muslim men and women, and I am disgusted to see this, because it seems like a Muslim should be ethical in his work. I am not a Muslim, but I understand the basics of Islam. Can you elaborate on what exactly constitutes correct Muslim work ethics?


Short answer: 

  • Of course Islam teaches us to be ethical in all areas of life, and this includes our work. We are to be honest, have integrity, be on-time, keep our promises, refrain from cheating and bribing, and be overall righteous in our dealings with colleagues and others.
  • Remember: not all people who claim to be Muslim actually practice Islam in their daily lives.

Thank you for sending in your question to our website.

I am sorry to know that you have encountered un-Islamic behavior at the hands of your born-Muslim colleagues, whilst working in a Muslim-majority country.

However, it is pleasing to know that you are already aware of the fact that their lack of ethics at the workplace is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

Truth be told, today, the gaping disparity between the actions of born Muslims and the teachings of Islam is a great trial for all of humanity (Muslims as well as non-Muslims).

We should collectively refuse to allow this reality to turn us away from Islam itself.

Below, I have highlighted the basic Islamic work ethics that every Muslim should strive hard to abide by in life, be they a student, professional, or stay-at-home person.

The Virtue of Working

Allah says in the Qur’an:

Verily We have created man in toil and struggle.” [90:4]

This verse of the Qur’an clearly states that the life of this world involves toil; it is a series of struggles and physical activity (work) that leads to achievements of goals and objectives.

Islam is against laziness and sloth, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sought refuge with Allah from these in one of his supplications. (Sahih al Bukhari)

The Qur’an and sunnah make it clear that a Muslim should never be idle, nor waste their time in useless pastimes.

Rather, they should work hard to remain productively occupied in fruitful endeavors, which lead to positive results for them in both this world and the Hereafter.

A casual glance at nature makes it obvious that Allah wants His creation to work hard to obtain their provision.

All food-bearing vegetation takes time to grow, and all animals strive very hard to get their hands on some food.

The holistic aim should be to achieve a healthy balance in life, alternating between work, leisure, and rest, as practically embodied by Prophet Muhammad.

Fulfillment of the Covenant

In Islam, fulfilling every covenant or agreement is obligatory, as long as the conditions in it do not violate any rules or laws of Islam.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Be true to your covenants.” [5:1]

Every job or employment contract comes with certain terms and conditions, which the one who signs it, is bound to abide by.

Although many Muslim employees might disregard the rules of their employment contracts by not even reading the fine print properly; this does not make it okay.

They are bound to uphold the conditions of the contract.

If they intentionally violate any of the rules of the covenants that they have signed, they are committing a grave sin, about which Allah will question them on the Day of Judgment.

Honesty, Integrity, & Responsibility

A Muslim should abide by the rules of their job, whether their superior or manager is watching them or not.

Something seemingly as “trivial” as coming in 10 minutes late is also a breach of contract, unless there was a genuine reason for the delay.

The same ruling applies to leaving the office before the official quitting time without a valid reason, not giving one’s best effort to the job, or resorting to deliberate apple-polishing to get ahead.

Bribery, lying, deceit, taking undue credit for work done by someone else, gossiping, slandering, violating timelines/deadlines — all of these are examples of unethical behavior that is totally prohibited in Islam.

Such unprofessionalism totally negates the values that Islam ordains, such as: honesty in all dealings, integrity in human relationships, and taking full responsibility for one’s actions.

Whether a Muslim works to earn money, or even volunteers somewhere for a good cause, they are bound by Islam to fulfill the responsibility of the role assigned to them.

If they find it difficult to do that, they should let their superiors know, and do only what they are able to do.

Relationships With Others: Justice, Equality, & Respect

Finally, I would like to emphasize that in Islam, all human beings are considered equal.

The only thing that causes an elevation of rank for any human being in the eyes of Allah, is their belief in, and consciousness of Him:

Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” [49:13]

At the workplace, Muslims should never discriminate against or look down upon any employee on the basis of their race, ethnic origin, skin color, language, social class, or nationality.

The same goes for special privileges being dished out on the basis of these factors — this is totally un-Islamic. Rewards and remunerations should be based purely upon effort & hard work.

I know that this is not the case in most Muslim-majority countries, which is very sad, & totally against the teachings of Islam.

Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your question.

Salam. Please stay in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links: