Jumah Khutba- The Apprentice- “Are you FIRED?”

Phone discussion

By Majed Iqbal– Assalamu `alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu.

Insha’allah you are all in the best state of health and Imaan. Please take time to send durood (salutations) upon the Prophet ﷺ (Allah’s peace and blessings be be upon him), especially on the Day of Jum’ah. Abu Hurayrah (ra) may Allah be pleased with him narrated Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “The person who recites eighty times on Friday (the following supplication) immediately after Asr Salah, before standing up from his place, eighty years of his sins will be forgiven by Allah and the reward equivalent to eighty years of worship will be written for him: Allahuma Sallay Ala Sayyidina Muhammadin Nabiyyil Ummiyi wa Ala Aalihi Wa sallim Tasleema[Al-Jami Al-Saghir; Allamah Sakhaawi RA in Al-Qawl al-Badee’; Imaam Daraqutni RA and Al Muassah al-Rayyan]

And continue to send durood and salaam upon the Holy Prophet ﷺ every day insha’allah.

Allah mentions in the Qur’an:

وَٱبۡتَغِ فِيمَآ ءَاتَٮٰكَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلۡأَخِرَةَ‌ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنۡيَا‌ۖ وَأَحۡسِن ڪَمَآ أَحۡسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيۡكَ‌ۖ وَلَا تَبۡغِ ٱلۡفَسَادَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ‌ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُفۡسِدِينَ

“But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah has given you, and do not neglect your portion of worldly life, and be kind even as Allah has been kind to you, and seek not corruption in the earth. Verily, Allah likes not the Musfsidun (those who are mischief-makers, corrupted).” (Al-Qasas:77)

The Showdown

It’s Wednesday night, BBC 2, and 9pm sharp. Millions of people in the UK have been glued to their screens ready to see the hit TV show “The Apprentice”. He is the hard-nosed businessman who learnt life the hard way: ‘Lord’ Alan Sugar, the son of a tailor, who left school at the age of 16. At the age of 21 he founded Amstrad, which later floated on the London Stock Exchange. He was one of the Previous government’s team of figureheads who travelled around schools and universities, encouraging young people to have an entrepreneurial spirit. He’s now looking for a Business partner; someone to work with him. Fourteen contestants ruthlessly battle for the position.

By now, any of us who has watched this show will have realised that its cut-throat! There are no friends, only foes. It’s a competition out there of the Survival of the Fittest, nobody cares about the next person. You ONLY defend yourself. All the smiles are fake, the laughter is empty, and the pleasantries and sophisticated presentation is all deception.

The ‘Work Ethic’

For some people, the ethics of The Apprentice come as a shock. For others, we have seen this already in our workplaces. It’s nothing new. In fact some of us may have become the victims of this dog-eat-dog culture and shark-like work attitudes.

People are generally materialistic, wishing to gain as many pleasures as they can before death. We are told through advertising and TV that our main goal is to “work jobs we hate, to earn money we lose & to buy pleasures we don’t need”. Many of the Apprentice contestants already had steady jobs. Some earning bucket loads and driving posh cars! If they have it all, why do they want more?

Compromising Situations

Living in a materialistic society, Muslims too can become victims of this type of thinking. Today you will see Muslims selling alcohol in restaurants to please drinkers, with a Qur’an above the shelf to bless his business. Go to a Muslim newsagents, you’ll see the owner putting his daughter at the counter who sells alcohol and pornographic magazines to customers – all in the name of profit and earning a living!

What drives people to do this? It is no different to what The Apprentice contestants believe in. Work has become a religion in itself. And our mantra is “Time is limited so you need to maximise your enjoyment in this world. More dollars equals more fulfilling your dreams! Live it to the max baby!”

Indeed there will be many challenges that face us as Muslims too, especially in the workplace. We will face them in different shapes and forms depending upon where we work and our profession.

The Jum’ah Conundrum

It’s a busy Friday afternoon; there’s lots of work to do before the close of day. Other people are working through their lunch and munching away on their sandwiches but you can’t take a break, not yet. What do you do? Do you leave for Jum’ah prayer or stay in and work like everyone else? If you go to pray, won’t you lose out at work?

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said “A person who leaves three Friday prayers consecutively, Allah puts a seal on his heart.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)

Truly, a person who neglects their prayers will lose the most valuable thing they own, a humble heart. But there are still more obstacles to overcome.

“So, wanna go out with me this Friday?”

In our working environments our Muslim ethics are often put to the test. Will we fall for the charms of women who playfully flirt? It’s ok, she says, touching your elbow, it’s not immoral. Will we mingle in any environment just to fit in, and go out for lunch or coffee with any company? Or join in every ‘Team building’ party even when we know it could get ourselves in bad social situations? Needless to say every situation is not an Islamically ethical dilemma but when we know it is, we do have a choice. We can say no, thank you.

Statistics state that many girlfriend/boyfriend relationships begin with the people in close contact to you. Many of the Apprentice stars developed girlfriend/boyfriend relationships in many of the series shown! The workplace is a perfect breeding ground for that.

However, as Muslims we must stick to the social rules that Islam has prescribed for us. Men and women must ensure that they co-operate with each other in a ‘business like fashion’, sticking to relevant and appropriate discussions and avoid loose talk. Men should also ensure that they behave respectfully with women; they are the protectors which means that women should also feel safe in their company.

قُل لِّلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ يَغُضُّواْ مِنۡ أَبۡصَـٰرِهِمۡ

“Tell the believing men to lower from their gaze” (Qur’an, An- Nur: 30)

Locked Up In The Room!

Ever been paired up with the opposite sex or worked late at night when there’s no one else apart from you two?! In Islamic teaching when a man and woman who aren’t related are in full seclusion (khalwa), they should get another person in or open a door. Some think it’s harmless. Some think, great, this is finally my chance to score!

Islam has forbidden that a man and a woman be in complete isolation in which their privacy is not disturbed i.e. total seclusion with no one seeing/hearing or knowing they are there. Ibn Abbas reported that he heard the Holy Prophet ﷺ say “No man should be in seclusion (khalwah) with a woman except with her mehram(legal guardian).

Chillin’ While Travelling

As on The Apprentice, many tasks in work involve travel, even to other countries. Islam forbade the woman from travelling from one place to another for over one day and one night without a mehram. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: “It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgement to travel one night and one day except with a mahram”

All of these situations have the potential to lead to unethical scenarios, and thus develop relationships that could be categorised as haram (prohibited in Islam). Also the Shari`ah principle (Islamic law) is applied, “Whatever leads to haraam, is Haraam itself”, so many of these challenging modern-day situations can be properly understood and avoided, as defined by Islam.

Family Problems

On a weekly basis, our televisions promote The Apprentice lifestyle in which we distances ourselves from our closer relationships. We hear about this in our own Muslim communities where our children move away for their own life goals of education and employment oppurtunities, above everything else.

While Islam encourages general education and work, Islam places greater emphasis on Islamic education and maintaining relationships with our families. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari narrates that a Bedouin came to the Prophet ﷺ while he was travelling. He asked, “Tell me what will bring me near to Paradise and keep me far from the Fire.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied, “Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, perform the prayer, pay zakat, and maintain ties of kinship.”

In our efforts to succeed in our careers, we must not pay the price of our love and duties to our family.

Halal Work?

Have you ever been in the sticky situation where only on attending an interview your realised the role conflicts with Islam? A friend of mine went for two job interviews related to Web design. The first employer was happy with his skills and experience and offered him to work on a new project which entailed designing pornographic sites. Illicit images are not part of the Islamic ethos; rightly, my friend declined immediately. The second employer informed him that he ran a satellite company which head–quartered in Israel. Knowing the infamous actions of Israel, my friend stuck to his principles and once again declined.

Islam is the source of our attitudes and our behaviour and it gives us clear guidelines on areas where we can work and those that are prohibited. Someone may be well-built, but entering the modeling industry to exploit this is not halal.

Likewise working in the alcohol industry is completely forbidden and is not an employment option for Muslims. At-Tirmidhi narrated from Anas ibn Malik, who said: “The Messenger of Allah cursed ten types of people regarding alcohol: its presser, the one who asks for it to be pressed, its drinker, its carrier, the one to whom it is carried, the one who serves it, its seller, the one for whom it is sold, its purchaser and the one for whom it is purchased.”

Other industries may come into the equation too. Allah prohibited gambling in all its forms when he said in his Glorious Qur’an,

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡخَمۡرُ وَٱلۡمَيۡسِرُ وَٱلۡأَنصَابُ وَٱلۡأَزۡلَـٰمُ رِجۡسٌ۬ مِّنۡ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيۡطَـٰنِ فَٱجۡتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ

“O you who believe! Verily khamr (alcohol/intoxicants) and gambling and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. (Al-Ma’idah: 90-91)

Many financial sectors also come into question and fall into prohibited areas, which need to be carefully examined and studied before a verdict is issued on them. Ibn Majah narrated from ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet cursed the one who takes usury, his agent, its two witnesses and its recorder (clerk). Therefore, before working at a bank, we need to look at the small print.

A Luxurious Life or Miserable life?

That 250k busineess oppurtunity is alluring and there’s plenty of spiritual battles in between. But is there really anything wrong with wanting to bag that top-notch job? After all, you could be laughing happy for a few years! So, who needs ethics now?

It must be made clear that Islam encourages earning a halal living, and buying luxuries in moderation is fine. But it is the lust for power, arrogance, and showmanship which do not build Islamic lifestyles. At-Tirmidhi narrated from Abdullah ibn Amr who said that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said “Allah likes to see the signs of His favours (bounties) on His servant”.

So wear your nice clothes, drive good cars or use your iPhone Chaar (4), there is no issue so long as you maintain fulfilling your Islamic obligations to your family, to God. And  don’t forget about being accountable for what you spent on Judgement Day.

Conclusion

Islamically, there is nothing wrong in pursuing a high-rated career, working to your full potential or striving for that bonus. Your career should be just like your salat, when an opening is in front of you, step forward. This should not be to the detriment of remembering and thanking Allah; we should remember there is a greater purpose to life which is beyond collecting goods. Our goal is to please Allah and enter Jannah. As Muslims we carry an understanding about life which affects the way we behave. We have concepts like halal and haram (lawful and unlawful) which shape our attitudes, values, opinions and actions. Compare this work ethic to the contestants on The Apprentice.

The Holy Prophet ﷺ said “No one has ever eaten any food that is better than eating what his (own) hands have earned. And indeed the Prophet of Allah, Dawud alayhisalam (peace be upon him), would eat from the earnings of his (own) hands.” (Al-Bukhari et al).

Allah says,

وَٱبۡتَغِ فِيمَآ ءَاتَٮٰكَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلۡأَخِرَةَ‌ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنۡيَا‌ۖ وَأَحۡسِن ڪَمَآ أَحۡسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيۡكَ‌ۖ وَلَا تَبۡغِ ٱلۡفَسَادَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ‌

But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah has given you, and do not neglect your portion of worldly life, and be kind as Allah has been kind to you, and seek not corruption in the earth” (Qur’an 28:77)

A Muslim’s life is not a competition to reach the top, we must simply pass the finish line, and pass. The last thing we want is for Allah (swt) to say to us “I’ve had enough of you, you’ve made too many excuses, you’ve gone off and done what you wanted to do, you’ve disregarded protocol and you’ve simply broken the rules of the game. It’s the end of the game for you”

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