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Update: Help! Where Do I Go From Here?! Thoughts on Education and Careers


Update added (another view by Amad) at the bottom.

Sent to MM on Sunday, February 08, 2009:


Right now, I’m a junior in high school and I’m lost. Totally lost. It’s like I’m in the middle of a blizzard right now. I don’t know what major/program to take in university that will lead me to a career that can satisfy my parents’ expectations and Islam’s fundamentals while providing a decent compensation.

Here’s where I am right now:

So far, I’ve not been keen of the traditional health science prospects that have been shoved down my throat. Personally, I’m more interested in the actuarial sciences, accounting, and management. The Elders are recommending that I stay away from these paths since they aren’t (at least not right now here in North America) compatible with Islam. I’ve talked to some brothers from AlMaghrib who are in these fields right now and they say this isn’t necessarily the case. I don’t know who to believe…

Also, this financial apocalypse has also convinced them that this breed of jobs has disappeared, never to reappear again. I don’t think so since many of these jobs will reappear after this phase is over. After the Enron-Anderson fiasco, the demand for professional accountants skyrocketed. I predict that a similar increase will follow this episode.

Living day-to-day is becoming hard for me since I’m going through many lapses of mental breakdowns. I’m very lost right now. The next two years of my life will, at least the way I see it, set the course for the rest of my life. How can I break through? What do you think I should study?

I read an article on MM on a similar topic. It was beneficial, but it seemed to be aimed towards college and university. I think one for high school students would be helpful for me, and the countless other Muslims in similar dilemmas.


Yep, so it looks’s like we’re getting into the advice business. Hmm, perhaps we should make a new weekly column entitled “Dear MM…” where a bunch of associates get together to give their unique perspectives on some of the Ummah’s biggest problems. Let’s see how we do so far. Listen to what our writers have to say…

Sadaf Farooqi on Depression and Despair

Well, at first I thought that since I live in Pakistan and have not lived in North America except fleetingly, how’d I be able to advise an American teenager about his career there? But then I looked again at his message, and this last part caught my attention:

Living day-to-day is becoming hard for me since I’m going through many lapses of mental breakdowns. I’m very lost right now. The next two years of my life will, at least the way I see it, set the course for the rest of my life. How can I break through? What do you think I should study?

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You don’t just need advice from a career counselling point of view – which should be given to you by professionals experienced in the fields you aspire to study in. You also need counselling/therapy to stay away from depression and despair — which is apparently on the rise globally, among people of all age-groups, because of general economic depression and financial crisis.

So my advice will mainly be directed for this feeling of “being lost” and “lapsing into mental breakdowns”:

  • Be regular in prayer and after each prayer, beseech Allah to guide you to that which is beneficial both in the duniya and Akhirah.
  • Recite 2 pages from the Quran daily, with proper tajweed, aloud. After that, make earnest dua to Allah for guiding you to the best decision.
  • Do not sit too much among people who have a chronically negative outlook on life. Young minds catch on to elders’ advice really, really quick — and may Allah be the Helper of those teens whose close relatives are negative in their thinking.
  • Recite the masnoon dua’s for morning and evening. Once after Fajr and once before or after Maghrib salah. These dispel the Shaytan and remove his influence on one’s thoughts. Refer here.
  • Always remember that many, many, many youths go through these phases of indecision in their lives. It is better to go through this right now, during your teenage years, than to have a mid-life crisis later (which so many suffer from in their 40’s or so, realizing that they do not enjoy what they are doing, and would rather have something more in their life). So, stay positive while you search for advice from elder’s, professionals and religious leaders/scholars/advisors.
  • Though it is always recommended to obey one’s parents’ wishes to make them happy, I’d advise you to not do something just for their sake, if you truly hate that field or find it too boring. I personally know of several guys (through family members) who did Engineering solely to obey their fathers, and didn’t enjoy their lives academically in undergrad studies, because they didn’t like it. They switched to what they loved later, after graduating, but those four years were miserable drag-ons. Two did an MBA and migrated to corporate finance/Islamic banking; another acquired some Cisco certifications and became a network engineer, etc..The best course of action for you would be to enter a field that would make your parents happy and interest you as well. Don’t pursue a degree that would make them sad. You need to keep them pleased with the career-path you choose, as long as that career is not Islamically impermissible.
  • Although I am not qualified to comment on the issue of the permissibility of finance careers in NA, I’d reiterate that it’d be better to stay away from careers dealing directly with usury. Taqwa is something we Muslims should never get enough of.
  • Lastly, do sincere istikharah before taking the final leap into your chosen career. Do it even if you are 100% convinced that your choice really is the one for you.

I ask Allah to reward you for being so sincere in your quest for the right advice, and to help you in every way to arrive at the decision that is best for your Akhirah.

Allah knows best and is the Source of all knowledge.

Rami Elsawah on The Business World

The very fact of knowing what career path you are actually interested in is a blessing in itself; the phrase “Know Thyself” comes to mind. If you choose a career that you hate then I can almost guarantee you some form of depression that will either affect your personal life or will affect the way you perform in you career. For many people I know getting up every day to go to work is a pain — more of a chore than a desire.  You will have no guarantee that any field you choose to go into will end up as a pain, but being in a field that you at least understand or somewhat enjoy will help to alleviate that suffering.

As far the current status of the financial & business world is concerned:

1. Unfortunately, your parents’ words did contain some truth in that many finance jobs would be 100% haram, while others are in the grey areas.  The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America recently put out a long statement of halal and haram jobs. I would recommend that you read it.

I know one friend who almost lives and breathes finance, attained a master’s degree, yet left his finance career because he felt the only finance jobs he could take which were halal were not really what he was interested in.  I would suggest you not take my word for this and find some professionals in your community or those I am sure insha Allah will rebut this in their comments on this article. =)

2. Accounting is a good alternative to finance, as it is :

a) Pretty much 100%  halal unless you are helping your clients funnel stockholder’s money, or are creating money out of nowhere to inflate your earnings. (Note:  as an accountant you are only verifying and not participating in financial decisions of management, according to the AMJA statement).

” C. There is nothing wrong with an accountant working (as a freelance employee), when his role is confined to processing financial decisions, without direct participation in them, for he merely serves to convey a realistic picture. There are no exceptions to this rule, save for institutions whose main activities revolve around prohibited matters.”

b) It is a stable field.  Every company needs accountants, every public company needs an auditor, and almost every upper level manager in the business world should have at least a pre-cursory understanding of accounting.

c) You could always double major in finance and accounting, allowing you to take on some of the more finance-oriented sectors of auditing dealing with derivates, hedge funds, etc.  Although I always recommend to college students to minor or double-major in a humanity if their primary major is a science, and vice versa; that will develop the well-rounded skills you will really need in the workplace.

3. Keep in mind that many people change their careers, sometime several times in their lifetime. Ten years down the line you might find that you don’t actually like the cut-throat business world, and want to switch.   As a hard-core computer geek I naturally pursued computer science as a degree.   I loved that field, but when I began working full-time for a few years reality suddenly hit me:   the majority of careers are not at pure geek firms such as google or sun, but as s “the tech guy” within a financial firm’s IT department. There, your boss doesn’t have a clue what he is asking you to do, you are not respected much, and the opportunity to grow is little. Unless I had a business degree with an IT background, I would always be a foot soldier.  Further, if I pursued a pure geek job, the social interaction the humanities side of me craves would be totally unfulfilled. So, I switched Alhamdullilah.

Even now, I think about pursuing a more humanities field…

4. Look on the bright side. Even if you do follow your parent’s wishes and become a doctor, at least all the desi moms and dads will come running after you for rishtas =)

5. Make lots of dua, and of course pray istikhaara before taking any decision. As one scholar once said:  “Non-Muslims have regret, but Muslims have Istikhaara”.

AnonyMouse on Choosing A Career the Islamic Way

Wa ‘alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

First of all, may Allah reward you for your desire to please Him in every way, by adhering to Islamic guidelines and striving to please your parents.

*Conduct a self-evaluation. Form a vision.
What are you good at, what do you love, and do you see a future in it for you?
AlHamdulillaah, you seem to already have an idea of what you’d like to go into – this is excellent, because now you have a solid starting point. Based on, think forwards about how to go about achieving your goals.

* Do your research
Again, masha’Allah, you’ve already taken a step towards this by asking reliable individuals who are themselves involved in these fields. Continue to do so, exploring your options and double-checking your sources and information.

There are literally tens of careers which you can pursue in any particular field, especially the ones you mentioned, and insha’Allah at least one of them will meet your criteria.

Most high schools offer special courses which will help you towards deciding what you’d like to pursue in college or university. As these are usually semester-long courses, you can take them now and see how much you like them and whether it’s something you’d consider studying further.

* Du’a, du’a, du’a!
Turn to Allah and ask for His help, to guide you to that which is best for you in this world and the Hereafter. Make du’a constantly!
Also, once you feel that you are ready to make a decision about something, pray Salaatul Istikhaara (an excellent lecture by AbdulBary Yahya:  Divine GPS).

* Talk to your parents
Ask for their advice and make them feel involved. Let them know that you value their input and want to please them, but also let them know that you don’t see yourself in medicine (for example). Basically, convince them in a respectful and loving manner that you have a practical, feasible vision for yourself that you would like to realize.

In the end, the only person who can be sure of what you should do, is YOU. Trust in Allah and do your best!

Abu AbdAllah Tariq Ahmed on Getting the Facts!

“MM never told you, Abdullah… I am not your father.” (Sorry, almost-mandatory Star Wars reference.)

In brief: Get the facts separated from the opinions.  Weigh facts according to their importance.  Weigh the advice of different people according to the right factors.  Hold fast to the Rope of Allah, and never ever despair of Allah’s Mercy and Guidance.

Right now it’s clear you have given much thought to your future, and that’s great.  Make sure you treat facts and opinions differently, though.  So you might want to consider writing down everything you know and believe about your current situation, your choices, and your options.  Try writing each thing on a separate note card — note cards are cheap!  I bought a pack of 1,000 at Sam’s Club for $5 including tax.  Note cards are good because they force you to be concise — there’s only so much room for you to write.  Label each card as a fact or an opinion.

Here are some possible examples based on what you wrote in your e-mail.

  • “I am a HS Junior” — FACT!  You could add to that same card, because it means the same thing: I have more than a year before I graduate from High School.  Why not?  After all, facts can also be reassuring.
  • “I am totally lost” — OPINION!  Shaytan wanted me to write fact there, even if only to tease you, Abdullah.  But the truth is that you being lost is an opinion, even if it seems other people agree with you.
  • “I am a Muslim” — FACT, alhamdolillah!  You mentioned this fact tangentially, “other Muslims.”
  • “I’ve not been keen of the traditional health science…” — Right now, this is a mixture of fact and opinion.  Separating these out may help: “My parents have suggested that I become a ____.” — FACT!  But it depends: did they actually make a suggestion?  Here’s where the process of writing down your beliefs forces you to be honest, too.  Was it a demand, a suggestion, a piece of advice, or a figment of your imagination?  “Being a ____ would be _____.” — OPINION!  You can fill the first blank with any job or profession, and the second blank with any adjective you desire, and the result is almost certainly an opinion.  You should also try out a few cards like this: “Being rich would be ______.” “Being respected for my work would be _____.”  Yes, these would all be opinions, too.  Just because many people believe an opinion to be true, does not make it a fact.
  • Before you finish, make sure you add these cards: “Allah is my Rabb!” — FACT!  “The least part of Jannat is better than my wildest dreams!” — FACT!  “The least part of the Fire of Hell would be worse than the worst nightmare anyone has ever had!” — FACT!  (And note that what the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam was shown by the angels while he dreamed was not during a nightmare.  And all that he saw was true, may Allah protect us from those punishments he witnessed, and may Allah grant us His Mercy and from all the rewards that the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam saw in Paradise. Ameen.)

Get the picture?  You’re smart.  You should have a whole mess of cards, literally, all around you on the floor, or piling up on a big table, inshaAllah.

Now impose order: first, divide the facts from the opinions.  If you leave sentences like the fourth bullet above intact, you’ll be in trouble later.  So be sure you put only facts on the fact cards, and only opinions on the opinion cards.

Second, organize your facts by importance.  Pay attention to where you put the cards from the third and fifth bullet points above!  You do not have to have the cards in some absolute order.  You can have a “most important pile” and so on until a “least important pile.”  When you are done with this step, realize that part of your burden is less, too, inshaAllah.  Those piles that are not so important, simply aren’t.  If, on the other hand, your “most important pile” contains almost every fact card, you’ve failed to realize that not every fact is important.  But there will be a solution for that, too, inshaAllah.

So now your facts are in order.  Third, marshal your opinions — that means get them in order, too. ;)

Who’re the grand marshals of opinions?  The leaders of this parade?  Your parents.  Seriously, there are no opinions that you should give a greater value to than your parents.  So much so that if they read my advice, and told you not to waste your time with note cards, you would succeed, inshaAllah, if the reason you listened to them was that they are your parents.

Allah and His Messenger have conveyed to you facts and commands.  And Allah has ordered you to obey your parents.  How can you obey your parents properly when you do not value their opinions?  Are parents infallible?  No.  Should you try to obey them in all things?  Pretty much — they would have to command you to commit shirk or some other sin which would imperil your soul before you could be righteous about disobeying them.  There’s a fantastic lecture I recommend to you:

Parents: the Middle Gate to Jannah

In that lecture, Shaykh Waleed Basyouni discusses many Muslims whose success in this world came from the respect and care they showed their parents.  Here’s one: think of the greatest job/adventure of all time — imagine if you could have gone and been a sahabah.  Gone and lived in Madinah with the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam!  Your every day would be blessed.  Your struggles would be righteous.  Your joys would be sublime.  Now imagine your parents need you to stay with them.  Which path earns you more reward?  Listen to the lecture, and see what choice Owais al Karni made, and ask yourself if you want what Allah granted him.

How do you rank the other opinions?  How do you decide who should come next?  Easy: ask your parents for advice.  Same advice if all your facts were “most important.”  Your parents can set you straight on both of these accounts quickly, inshaAllah.  :)

When it’s time to make your decisions, even if you are convinced to accept your parents’ opinions, you should also make istikhara, seeking Allah subhanahu wata ala’s Blessing for you in the decision you make.  Know that you may face challenges.  You may make mistakes, naudhobillah, even bad (ie, sinful) mistakes.  So when you realize that you are at fault, never hesitate to repent fully to Allah.  Now go back and make sure the cards from the third and fifth bullet points are in a highest-importance pile! ;)

If you hold fast to the Rope of Allah, you can never be lost.  That is so important, I’ll repeat it in a few moments.  First, though, here’s just one proof:

عَنْ عَبْداللهِ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم:

مَا قَالَ عَبْدٌ قَطُّ إِذَا أَصَابَهُ هَمٌّ وَحَزَنٌ : اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي عَبْدُكَ ، وَابْنُ عَبْدِكَ ، وَابْنُ أَمَتِكَ ، نَاصِيَتِي بِيَدِكَ ، مَاضٍ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤُكَ ، أَسْأَلُكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ سَمَّيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ ، أَوْ أَنْزَلْتَهُ فِي كِتَابِكَ ، أَوْ عَلَّمْتَهُ أَحَدًا مِنْ خَلْقِكَ ، أَوِ اسْتَأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الْغَيْبِ عِنْدَكَ ، أَنْ تَجْعَلَ الْقُرْآنَ رَبِيعَ قَلْبِي ، وَنُورَ صَدْرِي ، وَجَلاَءَ حُزْنِي ، وَذَهَابَ هَمِّي ، إِلاَّ أَذْهَبَ اللهُ ، عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ، هَمَّهُ ، وَأَبْدَلَهُ مَكَانَ حُزْنِهِ فَرَحًا . قَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ ، يَنْبَغِي لَنَا أَنْ نَتَعَلَّمَ هَؤُلاَءِ الْكَلِمَاتِ ؟ قَالَ : أَجَلْ ، يَنْبَغِي لِمَنْ سَمِعَهُنَّ أَنْ يَتَعَلَّمَهُنَّ.

أخرجه أحمد وابن حبان والحاكم

[Translation with transliteration:]
It was reported from ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet (sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam) said: “No person suffers any anxiety or grief, and says:

‘Allaahumma innee ‘abduka wa ibn ‘abdika wa ibn amatika, naasiyati bi yadika, maadin fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadaa’uka, as’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi kitaabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilm il-ghaybi ‘andak an taj’ala al-Qur’aana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa’a huzni wa dhahaaba hammi.
(O Allaah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your female slave, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every Name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.)’

– but Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him in their stead joy.” (Ahmad 1/391 and Al-Albaanee declared it sahih.)

Jazak Allah khayr to my brother Abu Bakr (who also writes for MM) for the Arabic text.

Allah wants you to succeed. And if you are anxious, and you turn to Him, He will be your relief. Indeed, if you hold fast to the Rope of Allah, you can never be lost.

Amad: Don’t do what you don’t want to do.

I meant to participate in the response, but got behind, so I’ll add my 2+ cents now:

1) I strongly urge the youth not to do something career-wise, simply because your parents insist on it. I don’t mean that you should ignore them, but you have to “work on/with them” and give them an understanding of how miserable you will be if you make a career out of something that you don’t enjoy.

2) Remember your career is something that YOU have to live with, that will probably outlast your parents (usually), and that will be responsible for feeding your own new family. It is important that you enjoy it, because if you don’t: (a) you won’t have your heart in it, so you will not be good at it, and (b) you may eventually quit because you were forced to (fired) or you couldn’t take it any longer.

3) I recognize that becoming a doctor is usually a solid ticket towards a good living, but I myself, for instance, did not even like plant biology. So, imagine having to deal with human biology all the time? So, I could not become a doctor. If you are in a similar zone, then you have to find a solid alternative and work with your parents to convince them.

4) It is not important to separate the secular life from the religious when it comes to careers. You could benefit the Ummah by choosing a career that is helpful to it. And you could use particulars within the education to align with your religious/social agenda. For instance, in my MBA, I was able to do an independent study on Islamic finance, and I also signed up to audit a marketing class to see where I could help MuslimMatters in marketing. So, think of where your education could help the dawah.

5) There is no doubt in my mind that the Muslim community need talent in certain careers more than others. I would say Media/journalism/PR tops that list (though this one will be a tough one to convince average parents, but again your heart has to be in it in the first place). I would put law-school, esp. in the civil rights arena as next in line. Next, I would put psychology to deal with the myriad of issues in our community. I think if you are GOOD at it, and have your heart in any of these fields, you can do well. And I think you can do better in fields where your heart is but has less money potential, than in fields where your heart is not, even if it might have more money potential.

6) If you can’t do any of the above, and you are okay with engineering, then I would put Chemical Engineering as the top alternative (and not because I did it!). ChemE’s usually dominate in many leadership positions in the production environment. You could also go into many different fields as a ChemE: oil and gas, pharma, etc.

For those already in a career:
7) After my own MBA experience (soon to be over), I recommend that anyone who has the financial ability (esp. if your company would pay), to get an MBA from a top 5 school. My belief is that MBA is a brand-name. You could probably get good MBA-type business education in any school, but if you really want it to count, stick to the top 5, or at least the top-20. Otherwise, don’t bother. This is just my sense of it, and I may be totally off. A top MBA opens up your perspectives and your networks. You really feel that you can be or can do anything in your career. Since 70%+ jobs come from networking, then a top MBA opens up many paths, because many of the grads from these top schools have attained high-up positions, so they can help squeeze you in.

If folks have specific questions on anything I said, feel free to add in comments.

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  1. Siraaj

    March 2, 2009 at 4:50 AM

    Salaam alaykum ‘Abdullaah,

    I remember junior year in high school, it was pretty loaded with exams, and it seemed like your whole world rode on how you did on all the standardized testing.

    Don’t believe the hype. By senior year, you don’t care anymore (you’ve probably heard of senioritis). By your freshman year of college (doesn’t matter what you choose), you’ve forgotten you went to a place where kids get bused to school.

    The auntie and uncle brigade are going to put pressure on you, as will your peers, to graduate fast and get to your career fast. Dude, this is about the silliest thing you can do. Some people are moving so fast, and trying to be so efficient, they don’t stop to smell the roses. Your career insha’Allah will be ahead of you for the next 40 years. Take your time graduating, enjoy life, get some experience, study abroad, join the peace corps, whatever, just take your time and figure it out – don’t rush into college, and blow money on a career you realize later you don’t want to do.

    So stop, take a walk, clear your mind, and just breath. Breath and don’t worry about all this – it’ll pass, just like the trouble you got into in grade school and middle school, it’ll all pass and you’ll laugh later. one of the keys to happiness is learning how to be chill NOW, in the moment when life is coming at you, instead of later when it’s gone.

    I do it with istikhaara – after you ask Allah to guide you, whichever way you go, there’s no regrets, just pick a direction and run towards it, if it’s good, it’ll work, and if not, something else will come up, so pray istikhaara again.


  2. abu Rumay-s.a.

    March 2, 2009 at 5:23 AM

    subhanAllah..this is always a very intense time in a youth’s life, being pulled from all sides to choose a career…

    In order to avoid being totally “lost” about a career choice, my advice would be for high school students is as follows:

    – Think about how you would like to contribute (by this career) to your local society in specific and to the ummah at large…
    – think deep about what where you excel, not only the subjects, but your natural talents (such as leadership, communication, writing skills, thinking skills, etc.) and based on those talents how you would fit into different careers (please be honest and realistic with yourself)
    – perform a thorough (perhaps several months) google/library research on the areas where you think you are interested in, analyze all pros/cons, etc…
    – from the above, choose 3 areas where you think you would enjoy working, then get involved with a professional in those fields, volunteer or get a job with in that field…give it enough time to really understand how things process from all aspects of the work chain and think about where you could fit in..
    – Make Istikharah and lots of du`aa
    – Then narrow down your choice and consult your parents, your trusted teachers and mentors…
    – Choose the field, put your trust in Allah, and go forward and dive into your studies..join the national organizations with your field, read and follow up on all the magazines, journals, research, and leading companies in your field to have a good overview and outlook of the industry trends
    – Try to take a minor or double major to broaden your experience…on the side, always try to improve things such as computer skills, writing skills, communication skills, social skills, management skills….(sharpening these skills will give you an advantage in your career),,,
    – try to get as much as possible practical experience in your field during your college years as that will give you a big advantage once you go into the industry once you graduate and will also help you choose your area of specialization

    I don’t know what your personal interests, but I would have to recommend some important fields for the Muslim youth..
    Education, Journalism History/Political science, Sociology, Law, Islamic banking

    And Allah knows best…

  3. The Muslim Coach

    March 2, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    During these difficult times we are facing problems on many different levels. There are the on-going struggles to please our parents, and now the new problems with the economic climate.

    Mashallah the advice here was very beneficial to read. I would also add that I think it is worth investing some time and money into a Muslim life coach. There are times when we just don’t know what we want or where to go, a period of life coaching can help you get the clarity you are looking for. Sometimes, you know what you need to do, but there is no support forthcoming, as you set out to achieve those awesome goals – a Muslim life coach can be that support.

    If you want to find out more, contact one of the Muslim coaches in your area.

    -Edited. We prefer keeping it generic, rather than specific advertisements. If you are interested in advertising your services on MM, please feel free to contact us using the contact button on the left.

  4. h.ahmed

    March 2, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    why is working for the irs not 100% halal?

  5. MentalMuslimmah

    March 2, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    AsSalamu Alaykum,

    Jazakallahi Khair for bringing up this topic. I would actually love if MM could further expand this discussion. I am a junior in university and I myself have expererienced a “breakdown” by trying to find the career that was right for me. For me this “breakdown” happened when I shifted from being pre-med (I had always been fascinated with becoming a doctor – but wasn’t ready to die for this dream – you know what I mean). But my grades in bio and chem courses became a hinderance. I just found myself struggling, and my gpa being dragged in the mud. So, last quarter subhannallah, I stopped and reflected at my situation. I was tired of not being able to make the cut in these courses (keep in mind that I live off campus – alhamdullilah – but this also makes it difficult). Luckily, I had chosen psychology as my major freshman year, which I excell at. So I prayed Istikaarra after this mid-college career “breakdown”, and I have since then decided to pursue graduate school in psychology.

    As one of the bloggers mentioned, there are so many fields where Muslims are underrepresented, and education and psychology are some of them. And just to be clear, I am interested not in clinical psychology but in social psychology.

    So back to my original point, I hope MM bloggers can write articles in the future about college students also, and how there is a need for us to get involved in fields in which muslims are underrepresented, for the sake of Allah of course first and foremost. But secondly for the expansion of the influence of the Ummah. (Maybe its already been written, but I’m not sure).

  6. Amad

    March 2, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    good question, H.ahmed… maybe Br. Rami meant it as a snark?

  7. Amad

    March 2, 2009 at 1:57 PM

    I added my late thoughts at the bottom of the post… sorry meant to do it earlier, but better late than never!

  8. Faiez

    March 2, 2009 at 7:48 PM

    Just do Pharmacy. Good career options and its in healthcare. :)

  9. Hidaya

    March 2, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    What kind of jobs can you get with Accounting?

    – Work as Auditor in top 4, then you will have to calculate & verify the interest rate, all sorts of insurances, etc (You dont get to choose the companies you Audit, you are assigned to one and what if the business of that firm is not halal?)
    – Staff Accountant – If you are doing AR & AP, then you will deal with paying bills for life insurance, credit card bills, etc…
    – Managerial Accountant – almost inevitable to avoid dealing with calculation of interest, etc
    – Tax – If a client comes to you to do their taxes and they have mortgage, interest income, then you have to compute those…..

    POINT BEING AVOID ACCOUNTING & FINANCE…………I would love to go back to school & change my major, doing Accounting was a mistake. The only halal job you will find is if you work in non-profit (which hardly pays anything).

  10. MM Associates

    March 2, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    why is working for the irs not 100% halal?

    I wasn’t meant as a joke at the time, although It is funny in hindsight. Anyhow, I removed that line, after re-reading the section in the AMJA decision:

    V: Working for tax services

    Exemption is made to work for tax services, whether inside the lands of Islam or without, as long as one has the intention to be lenient, to strive to spread justice and to minimize oppression in these facilities, seeking to find therein the spirit of Shari`ah and the principles of justice. However, it would be recommended to change this line of work should a suitable alternative present itself.


    Computing interest does not necessarily mean dealing in interest, w’Allahu Allem. Working as an auditor, you do not participate in the managerial decisions of your client, but are just presenting a reasonable picture to the shareholders. . A managerial accountant or staff accountant in AR/AP would though be directly participating in the company as you said

    To be honest, that’s how I interpreted the statement I quoted in the article above, but perhaps one of our resident shuyukh could verify this??

    ” C. There is nothing wrong with an accountant working (as a freelance employee), when his role is confined to processing financial decisions, without direct participation in them, for he merely serves to convey a realistic picture. There are no exceptions to this rule, save for institutions whose main activities revolve around prohibited matters.”

  11. AbdAllah

    March 3, 2009 at 1:54 AM


    1. How is the job market looking for Chemical Engineers within the next few years?
    2. How easy is it to obtain a job overseas (Saudi, Dubai) for a few years, and how?
    3. Is it worth taking the FE/PE exam and what are some practical benefits you’ve seen for those who get certification?

  12. usman

    March 3, 2009 at 3:00 AM

    salaam, i am a junior in college and i am going for education…my parents did have a hard time accepting it (they wanted me to be a doc or pharm) but after constant talking and discussing they understood that that is wat i loved and wanted to do…i think its all about finding what YOU want to do and then tell ur parents….if u dont kno wat to do then the only option will be the option of the parents…their r so many careers out their its not even funny…like the others said, MM needs to write about careers in which muslims need to enter

  13. B

    March 3, 2009 at 3:35 AM

    Nuclear engineering is going to be big in the next two decades or so. The industry is suffering from a generational gap right now (, and with China putting up 30 new power plants in the next 15-20 years, I think nuclear is the next big thing in the energy industry.

    Middle East-wise, there are a few power plants that are currently being built right now, and Egypt is scheduled for 2020 for their first power plant.

  14. abu Rumay-s.a.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:57 AM

    Br. Amad:

    I’d probably agree with you on your engineering recommendation for ChemE (or Env. Eng). If anyone is interested, I would highly recommend them to go into Water Treatment (future Oil), (“not because I’m in it”) but because there is a great demand and it is a great service for mankind. Desalination and membrane technology have and will continue to grow exponentially, as natural water resources are growing scarce and thus the need to utilize seawater as a resource and re-use wastewater in places where there is no sea..

    Obviously, the Gulf countries are indebted to this technology, it is also becoming “standard” in some coastal states in the U.S. and European countries, Asia, Austrialia..

    ..I’d also focus on alternative energy industry…

    As far as MBA for ChemE, I would agree that helps in networking/ exposure/academic rank, but I doubt the average person will get into a top 5 school or even top 20 school…..practically, i think the average person would not learn anything “specialized” that he could of learned on his own…but if your company is going to sponsor it, then I’d make the best of it….i have some friends who received their MBA, pHDs from online programs such as Pheonix as their work sponsored it, but they are still in the same positions as before and from what they told me, their class material and project assignments was not really rocket science…(I wonder who really benefited from that?)

    For continuing studies, there are now online open courses (for free) such as the one at MIT (, I actually found some courses directly related to my field and also India’s Institute of Technology has put up some of their engineering courses online at Youtube (…

    Unfortunately, the way the universities are structured in the West is that the best universities are the most expensive which puts most people out of the picture, also it has to do with other issues of academics/race/background/recommendations, etc…

    Just from a quick google search, I was happy to find the amount of scholarships & resources available, others welcome to share more links…

  15. Kam

    March 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    Jzk for this i have been thinking abou tmy career in accounting at the moment

    @ MM assosicates & Hidaya,

    Point c mentions PARTICIPATION – now does this mean just recording the transactions or actual direct participation in agreeing the terms of interest based loans or insurance policies – i have asked a few students of ilm and scholars in the UK who have said it mainly is to do with advising and making the decisions to take out these haram loans/policies BUT avoiding even recording them would be best.

    “C. There is nothing wrong with an accountant working (as a freelance employee), when his role is confined to processing financial decisions, without direct participation in them, for he merely serves to convey a realistic picture. There are no exceptions to this rule, save for institutions whose main activities revolve around prohibited matters.”

    Also the next point add some more detail to the matter as it states “the one who writes [the contract]” so its the inital recording of the transaction and if im correct this was also in the explanation by Ibn Hajr of this hadeeth in Sahih Bukahri.

    VII: Working at interest-based financial institutions
    A. The basic principle on working for interest-based financial institutions is that it is unlawful, due to the curse of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) on the one who devours interest, the one who pays it, the one who writes [the contract] and both witnesses, and his saying, “They are all alike.” However, exigent needs are to be considered, as long as they are judged according to their extent and steps are taken to bring the condition to an end.”

    I agree though if one of the shaykhs could comment on this and clarify it further it would be useful as there is NO mgt accountant who doesn’t have to process at least a couple haram transactions – but has he actually helped in taking them out i doubt it.

  16. Ali

    March 3, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    Jazakallah Khayr for some really beneficial points mentioned.

    I am myself going though a crisis at the moment as i am about to complete my finance degree.I became a practicing muslim recently and realized that most of it is haram. Working in islamic banks seems to be a good option but the scholars here in Pakistan are split on this issue and most of them consider it as haram because of its overall similarity to conventional banking.

    I know that the ideal islamic banking should be based on the principles of modaraba and musharaka but over here and in most of the countries majority of the transactions are done on murabaha and ijara financing which i think are almost similar to conventional banking. So i would like any shaikh here to please comment on this issue whether islamic banks are realy islamic or not?

  17. Hidaya

    March 3, 2009 at 1:22 PM


    Computing interest does not necessarily mean dealing in interest, w’Allahu Allem. Working as an auditor, you do not participate in the managerial decisions of your client, but are just presenting a reasonable picture to the shareholders. . A managerial accountant or staff accountant in AR/AP would though be directly participating in the company as you said

    To be honest, that’s how I interpreted the statement I quoted in the article above, but perhaps one of our resident shuyukh could verify this??

    I believe Hadith is explicit which mentions that those who take, give or witness interest, all are cursed! so if you are computing interest rates to ensure that they have been calculated properly……then not sure if thats halal!

    Another point being, this is ur Rizq for rest of your life, why take a chance? I am an Accountant myself, so I know how difficult it is to change your career or to go back to school, but we have to be honest to ourselves. The least you can say about Accountants is that they certainly witness usury in all its form! So InshaAllah, whoever is thinking about doing Accounting should do alot of research & talk to scholars whom they look up to.

    Personally, I am tired of ”Accounting is sort of Halal” …I think its time for me to face the reality & accept the truth! The truth is if you are working as an Accountant in some financial firm then most likely the job is not halal!

  18. Mustafa

    March 3, 2009 at 5:54 PM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    I thought I can give some advice to a younger brother, who is where I was more than 10+ years ago (and it feels like I’ve lived a lifetime since then!).

    My point is that even if this year is important it is NOT the determinating factor in how the rest of your short stay on earth will play out. Education is not about learning but learning HOW to learn. Once you’ve achieved that you can be your own renaissance man and excel at everything you touch.

    And lastly, I can not stress enough that if you make Hereafter your main concern, I absolutely guarantee you that you will not believe how easily your worldly affairs fall into place. Even if you see your them as mediocre, Allah will magnify your efforts in the eyes of people and give you what He has not given others, so long as you stick to Him. Pick a halaal profession, any one, and then apply your best efforts to Deen, and you will simply be amazed at how everything seems to work. Allah has been so kind to me, and I hope that it is because I have been trying to stick to this rule and not simply that He is advancing my reward in this life with none in the next.

    And the last cry is “Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘aalameen”!

    • Amad

      March 3, 2009 at 6:03 PM

      Mustafa, you have my vote for the best advice on this post!

  19. Amad

    March 3, 2009 at 7:21 PM

  20. Al-Madrasi

    March 4, 2009 at 10:04 AM


    I just would like add few comments that I have learned through my academic experiences (supposedly professorial experience).

    * First and foremost, no matter what you do, try to do something that please Allah SWT, you will see lots and lots of barakah, tons of barakah, barakah in time, barakah in knowledge, barakah in productivity, and one can count on and on….

    * As most of the experts here expressed, try to do something that you like (or best would be something that you would love the most). It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a passion for it.

    * I completely agree with Br. Abu Rumay’s advice

    always try to improve things such as computer skills, writing skills, communication skills, social skills, management skills….(sharpening these skills will give you an advantage in your career),,,

    though computer skills might be a good addition, for being successful in your career, developing management, communication, writing and social skills (technology skills would be a good addition but i would add that in the end) are essential. These skills would make you stand out from the crowd and bi-idhnillahi azzawajal successful.

    My two cents worth, if I think of anything, will add to it.

    May Allah give you and us guidance in whatever we seek.

  21. Al-Madrasi

    March 4, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    Following would be a good addition to Br. Abu Rumay’s list on online (free) learning:

    Similar to MIT’s open courses, Indian Institute of Technology’s (popularly known as IIT’s — not the one in chicago :P ) open courses can be accessed here:

    Barakumullahu Feekum.

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