Common Workplace Dilemmas facing Muslims

By Abu Zaynab

At the workplace (i.e. in non-Muslim environments), we sometimes feel we need to compromise and maybe even do things which may go against the Islamic teachings. These dilemmas arise and are encountered by Muslims daily: when one is going for a job, when asked to do something that conflicts with the deen, to please others, or even to a crude extent, to show others that we are not ‘extremists’. Some amongst us even fear we may lose our jobs if we do not ‘go with the flow’, using necessity as an excuse and “Oh, Allah knows my heart!” as a trump card. The worst case scenario, sad to say is that some of our brothers and sisters do not even pray due to weakness of emaan and out of embarrassment – in reality meaning embarrassment of their deen, the very deen, that has given them honour, dignity and the legacy of past civilisations and prophets! They have to ask themselves why?

When faced with such a dilemma, the most important thing is to stay strong towards your deen and not to compromise in clear cut matters and to do the right thing in Islam. Why please the people, when it will displease your Lord? Why be shy of the people when you should be wary of your Lord? Why choose to be punished and risk entry to Paradise for the sake of others at the expense of your own self? We forget easily, brothers, sisters, we really do, we forget…

The Quran:

Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. (29:2-3)

When you have the strength of emaan, have sufficient knowledge to impart some the wisdom behind Islamic teachings and most importantly to please your Lord, surely Allah will be on your side. If a job was meant to be for you, then no matter what obstacles you may have, if Allaah wants you to get that job – you will get it, conversely, if the job was not meant for you, then you will not get it. This is one’s fate that Allah willed, which one must believe in, whether it be good or bad. Allah is the Most Wise and he knows what is best for you. The following hadith is conclusive proof that we should follow our deen and not to compromise …

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An-Nawawi Hadith 19

On the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas, who said: One day I was behind the Prophet and he said to me: “Young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if a nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Most importantly if one sets their stall from the outset, then practicing your Islam in your workplace will be unhindered Insh’Allah. Not only that, they (non-Muslims) will respect your deen/choice and will endeavour to cater for your needs and not put any barriers for you. Here are some true tales to illustrate how sticking to your deen paves the way to happiness and the real success…

By brother S.H

This is a summary of my recent interviewing experience. I applied to a large global media company. I had a telephone interview with a lady called Jane who was to be my senior in the role. We discussed my experience and suitability and then chatted about what it was like to work there. At the end, she asked if there was anything else and I mentioned that for interview purposes and to avoid any embarrassment I wanted her to know that as a strict Muslim I didn’t make physical contact with women i.e. I don’t shake hands. She was intrigued and asked more so we discussed it further and then the call ended.

At the interview, I was interviewed by three women in three roles related to my future role. All very different and very strong personalities with a significant vested interest in the success of the person in the role as they were all going to be depending on me in one way or another. None went to shake my hand when they met or left and all were extremely courteous and polite. I was later offered the job.

Some time later, I applied for a position at one of the world’s biggest charities. The first stage interview was with two men. I was informed that the second stage interview would involve a range of people including one woman. I emailed the recruiter to let him know that as a strict Muslim, I avoided shaking hands with women so would he please inform the interviewers to avoid any potential awkwardness. I called the recruiter to check he’d got the email and understood it and he said that was perfectly fine and had passed the message on. At the next interview, the first part was with a man and then when he was bringing in the next interviewer he asked if there was anything else about the situation that I wouldn’t be comfortable with and I mentioned that because the office was open and not secluded there was no problem with the interview going ahead between just me and her.

Several interviews later at the same organisation, including one with an extremely senior female employee where the same ‘etiquette’ was adhered to, I was then also offered the job. Which I accepted!

At each point where I made a request or made my feelings known, there was a slight embarrassment and insecurity and the feel of making myself vulnerable to criticism or ridicule. I was clear and up-front about my requirements which made the whole process very straightforward! Afterward, the overwhelming thought was why was I so worried!

By brother A.Z

I prayed my Istikhara prayer and went to my job interview. After being successful at the interview, the job was offered to me. I took the opportunity to tell them that I am a Muslim and I need to have Fridays 1pm to 2pm free to go the mosque, could they cater for my need? The Deputy Headteacher without hesitation affirmed with “OK, no problem” – Alhamdulillah. When I started my job, my timetable for teaching had no lesson for me between 1pm to 2pm, this was protected time for me, meaning nobody could disturb me, thus I was free to go to Jumuah prayers.

By brother M.S

Recently, my boss at work wanted to take our team out for a ‘thank you’ for the hard work we had completed. He approached me asking if I would go with them to a pub-restaurant. I explained that I would go if we were in the restaurant area only and there was no drinking involved where I was sitting. I went on to explain, “Alcohol is something that has issues, it is not regarded favourably in my religion and even to the extent I cannot sit at a place where people are drinking alcohol. You can drink anything you want, eat anything you want, even pork. I can go anywhere with you, like McDonald’s or Burger King, but only thing is, if alcohol is at the table, then I cannot go – I am sorry!

Later on my boss came back and said to me, “Look, we want to go to that restaurant because they have good food and I want you to be there with us and there won’t be any alcohol.” I replied, “Thanks, that’s nice. However, I can’t tell other people not to drink or to stop them because of my beliefs. You guys go ahead I’ll be OK with that. He replied, “No we want you to be there and I can assure you, nobody will be drinking alcohol.”

I did go, I had some seafood, whilst others from my team had their steaks and chicken and guess what – nobody had alcohol!

57 / View Comments

57 responses to “Common Workplace Dilemmas facing Muslims”

  1. Muslim Girl says:

    This is a really good topic that I’ve actually never read an article about before! Jazak’Allah for sharing, and for adding the inspiring stories as well.

    • Abu Zaynab says:

      Jazakallahu kahiran for all your comments my brothers and sisters! This is my first article ever – in any shape or form! I hope to write many hard-hitting and inspirational ones in the future, in order to get continuous charity and motivate people – inshaAllah.
      Please share this with everybody in the world and on the www : )
      Most importantly please make du’a for myself and my family!

      Please share your experiences in how you dealt with sensitive issues and awkward moments ‘when the deen clashed with the scene’ (to make things rhyme!)

      SOMEMUSLIMGUY: I’m still unsure about how to react to on-the-spot situations. Especially when people are making rounds and some Muslims shake hands while others don’t. Anyone have any advice on how to curb the awkwardness?

      In answer to my brother – this is the most awkward one indeed. You cannot get a worse scenario than this; when a fellow Muslim relays a hand-shake with a female and now you have to fight the fire (non-muslim) and a volcano eruption (muslim) when it gets offered to you!! My answer is, you have to play the wisdom card my brother (/sister) and improvise.

      Couple of examples on how to do this…
      1. This is one I personally thought of recently… when the opp gender offers you their handshake, just pretend to sneeze into both hands, start walking away saying you need the WC/bathroom/restroom or whatever! Come back after a few minutes and hopefully they’ll forget about! If they didn’t… just hold up your hand and say – “I don’t wanna be spreading my germs on you” or do the sneeze trick again ; ) InshAllah, The All-Wise ,will help you!

      2.One bro (practicing) explained to me what he did. This bro’s friend, a non-muslim, introduced his girlfriend (GF) to the brother for the first time. The GF ‘trying to be nice’ wanted to give him a hug. The bro was almost horrified and he improvised and sort of did the surrender move (when a copper points a gun at you) and explained “I can’t do it man, she is your girl, she’s yours!” The friend and GF understood and were not embarrassed but the wisdom clicked – Alhamdulillah.

      See, sometimes you do not need to use an explanation from the deen directly, but use wisdom and philosophy which these people can understand and relate to more readily, than an Islamic black and white answer, which they may perceive as backwards, odd or ridiculous. This, I call a diversion or stop-gap tactic. Afterwards when the correct opportunity arises, explain the wisdom in why Islaam teaches touching the opp. gender or being alone with them is ‘not a cool thing’ but in fact a ‘burning issue’ : @

      Maybe I’ll have to get our bro Baba Ali to do a comical video on this – or shall I do it myself??

      • Bin Muhsin says:

        Although I do commend the techniques provided, and think that it is better to resort to that than to actually shake hands, I sort of have some reservations about them. I really think the best and most prudent way to address this issue is not to hide the real reason why you can’t shake hands. My reasons for this are simple:

        First of all, by hiding the real reason you are avoiding the handshake you may be compromising an amazing dawah opportunity. Not that we give guidance, but if we use these opportunities, Allah may inspire other non muslims with hidayaat!

        Secondly, hiding this fact of our religion is hiding our deen. Rasullullah only allowed us to do this in situations of life or death.

        Thirdly, I at once used to think this way, but at the end of the day, when you’re really up front about your Islamic ways it gives you confidence and also strengthens you and fellow brothers or sisters around you. If you keep hiding your deen, I think you begin to act based on what others think, not on what Allah will be pleased with, which is very much taking a step backwards.

        Plus, by not shaking someones hand your not hurting them at all, you’re just practicing your religion – you shouldn’t feel bad about it at all. Obedience to creation in what is against the sunnah, is disobedience to Allah.

        When awkward situations arise, quickly give the person a wave and say something like this maybe – “I actually don’t shake hands, there’s strictly no physical contact with the opposite gender in my religion, but anyway nice to meet you, my name is…”

        Allahualam,

        • Abu Zaynab says:

          I agree with you, such awkward moments are a perfect dawah opportunity.
          Depending on the situation you may respond differently. By using a diversionary tactic you have avoided the embarrassment for everyone including the weak Muslims who sinned.

          I would use the diversionary tactics in the most awkward situations and they probs are one-off things too, for e.g. if your boss appointed a new team member of the opp.e gender and the first time ever you were put on-the-spot, you would use the diversionary tactic. However afterwards you will email or speak to your boss and explain that “I do not shake hands with the opposite gender because….[da’waj]… fortunately I happened to sneeze because I was a nervous wreck : ) ”
          This turns out a da’wah opportunity, yup?

          Don’t forget, from our point of view , it is a da’wah opportunity, but from the non-muslim’s point of view, you are hurting them emotionally, you really are. Try to think what they are thinking or feeling. They think Islam is negative, backwards and I I just got insulted there. The response“I actually don’t shake hands, there’s strictly no physical contact with the opposite gender in my religion, but anyway nice to meet you, my name is…
          is the top answer, but this individual maybe a bad impression of the deen, hence, this utterance may even add more weight to their negative view. To counter that,
          I would personally add more to make it positive and inquisitive by saying ” You may think this is odd, if you would like to know why such a ‘ friendly gesture’ as accepted in this society, is not allowed in Islam, I will be eager to explain the teachings and wisdom of this to you, at your convenience.

          Nobody is saying hide the deen but use your wisdom. Don’t forget we are allowed to use diversionary tactics for e.g. when someone breaks wind in the prayer in congregation prayer what are we advised to do in this embarrassing situation…
          “The Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) said: ‘If one of you passes wind whilst he is praying, he should hold his nose and leave.’” (Sunan Abi Dawood, 1114; see also Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood, 985). Al-Teebi said: “The command to hold one’s nose is to make it appear as though one is bleeding. This is not lying; it is a form of action that is allowed so that Shaytaan will not convince a person in this situation not to leave because he feels too shy of others.”

          The best response is to go for it and explain that it is Islam says … full stop, the ulitmate and sincere answer! However, sometimes that is not the best option or not possible or you have think about the after-effects or consequences, as famous hadith and an analogy I will use as a proof…
          The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by at least hating it and believing that it is wrong], and that is the weakest of faith.” [Saheeh Muslim]

          • Bin Muhsin says:

            Agreed!

            Mashallah very good explanation! May Allah make it easy for all of us to deal with these situations in the most wise and most pleasing manner to Allah. It’s funny, because after reading through some of your points I realized that I actually did resort to some of your tips in the past. I remember once when I politely excused myself, saying that my hands were just a little dirty because I ate some snacks, and then afterwards I felt compelled to go back privately and explain the real reason for my actions. The woman felt really thankful for explaining to her the real reason without having had embarrassed her in front of everyone else. I guess it does in fact depend on the circumstance – but at the end of the day if the sin is avoided alhamdulillah!

            – Jazakallahkhairun once again for providing us all with some useful tips!

          • Bin Muhsin says:

            One other thing – How would you actually explain the wisdom behind the deed to a non muslim stranger? (I ask this because I was once put on the spot and had a hard time explaining)

          • SomeMuslimGuy says:

            Jazakallah khair Bin Muhsin and Abu Zaynab for the tips, I’ll definitely keep them in mind in case the situation pops up again.

  2. Bin Muhsin says:

    Mashallah!

    This is just the reminder that I needed. I am so grateful for MM and staff for choosing to publish this. Anyway, this reminds me of one of my own experiences with female contact.

    As a graduating high school student, I was gifted a scholarship, and I was invited to an associated networking session where there were males and females from various disciplines – some corporate businessmen, some nurses, some teachers – all there to provide us scholarship recipients with an idea of different career paths.

    After meeting a businessman, it so happened that I, along with another Muslim brother bumped into a Nurse who proceeded to greet us. The brother shook her hand. When she extended her hand to me, I awkwardly placed my hand on my chest and acknowledged her with a nod of my head as I usually do when in these sort of situations. She was not expecting it, so it really was an awkward moment. She quickly put her hand down and improvised a nod of her head followed by a terribly awkward smile.

    I did not seize the opportunity to explain politely why I refused her handshake but I kept thinking I will afterwards. We proceeded with the conversation and it lasted for a good 15 minutes. I kept trying to be particularly polite, inquisitive and interested, just to make up for what I thought might have been perceived as “disrespectful”. After our long conversation, which really I thought was beneficial and had a lot of useful academic tips for me, she dropped the bomb – “Sorry for asking, but I would like to know why you did not shake my hand?”

    After explaining to her a bit about why I did what I did, the Muslim brother beside me followed my comments by saying that he believed if anyone comes to a Western land, they should follow the ways of the local people. He reiterated that he did not believe in the islamic ways that “I followed”. I was surprised by his firm counter arguments against my practice, but what surprised me more was what followed.

    The woman immediately began countering the brother before I could say a word. She went on what was practically a tirade explaining why she respected me for doing what I believe in and how she refused to give into prejudice for any reason. She said that anyone who comes to Canada should be able to practice what they wanted to. It was amazing because she was saying this with such vehemence it looked like she was defending not me, but herself.

    What was even more “ajeeb” was that in our conversation with this woman earlier, we had discovered that she was a staunch feminist and studied the subject very well in University !

    Verily Allah will defend the deen through “ajeeb” ways!

  3. SomeMuslimGuy says:

    Good stuff, mash’allah

    I’m a freshman in college now, and I had some similar experiences last year during college interviews. I had female interviewers ( a lawyer and a hedge-fund manager) for interviews for Brown University and Princeton. I was pretty nervous about how they would react to the whole hand-shaking thing, so I asked the local Imam what to do, and he basically said to be as polite and courteous as possible (and to send an e-mail explaining myself beforehand). Turns out they were completely fine with it, and didn’t even mention it during the interviews or anything. And in the case of Brown, alhamdullilah I was accepted! If anything, interviewers and non-Muslims start going out of their way to be friendly and accepting.

    I’m still unsure about how to react to on-the-spot situations. Especially when people are making rounds and some Muslims shake hands while others don’t. Anyone have any advice on how to curb the awkwardness?

  4. Sami says:

    subhan’Allah. Great article. JazakAllahu Khair for sharing.

  5. Amatul Wadood says:

    Salam wart wabrt…

    SubhanAllah! JazakAllah Khair for this great reminder!

    I have personally experienced instances in life where i would obey AllahSWT and He would make things easy for me and also there are other times when i would disobey and later had to bear the consequence…

    my family was not practising and neither did i know much about our beautiful deen and we had non muslim family friends and we would accept their invitations to attend parties and unfortunately they used to serve drinks, it was mixed and so on…

    Once in a party,one of my non muslim friends came to me with a glass of wine and she gave it to me (i was around 14 years)..i was like “what’s this?” she said it’s wine and i refused to drink and told her that islam doesnt allow us to consume wine/alcohol…she said hey your other muslim friend tried drinking…i said i dont care if she drank…im prohibited to even taste it according to my religion….. (funny thing is back then i dint observe prayer, nor hijab but i knew about this)

    subhanAllah 1 year later AllahSWT started guiding me… and everytime when i think about my first year of “reversion” to islam..this incident comes to my mind…

    Maybe we do something to obey AllahSWT and He will bring about greater good … Verily He is As-Shakoor, As-Shakir! :)

  6. Sadaf Sheikh says:

    JazakAllah khayran for this wonderful article. Answered so many questions in my mind Alhamdulillah.

    I just thought about keeping the balance between worship/rituals and social obligations as a Muslim. Ironically, many of us pay lot of attention to worship part and ignore our social duties- we tend to forget where we need to take principle stand!

    I was told that there was a brother- a law graduate when denied to shake hands with female interviewer, was offered job immediately as she considered his reservation based on religious principles.

    Thanks once again for this fantastic piece, may Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala reward you immensely.

  7. Zakariyya says:

    This topic of not letting others change a Muslim’s application of his/her deen (for the worse) is something I’m constantly facing in school; sadly, though, many I know, simply unaware of certain issues, just adopted unIslamic practices of their friends without considering their religious (im)permissibility.

    About the last story anecdote, I certainly don’t say “I’m sorry” after explaining why I religiously can’t do something. What would I mean by that? Sorry to be following the rules of Islam? Sorry to be Muslim? Not at all. And while I would not be “okay” with or accept others drinking as permissible, I could see how they would want to do that.

    • Bin Muhsin says:

      I agree. I find that if you apologize enough for your Muslim practices, you begin to weaken your own eeman.

      Should you really be “sorry” for practicing your faith? I don’t think so. I have the same problem though. When I converse with non muslims I find that sometimes I end up apologizing for not being able to eat the same food they do, or to not shake hands with them and the list goes on.

      My mother’s good friend is a white convert to Islam, and while she dons the niqab, she has this attitude of being very up front about her deen. If, while interacting with strangers, she senses that they don’t treat her the way a human being is entitled to be treated, she speaks out and makes clear through her tone voice that she is not stupid and does not tolerate being treated like a second class citizen. This almost always surprises people on the other side of her veil, because they seem to assume beforehand that she is an immigrant woman, oppressed and not very educated.

      The one thing that she isn’t is, apologetic for her deen. She is confident in her islamic ways and not intimidated by local people, and I think this is something that we need to implement as well to strengthen ourselves. We can’t keep thinking that we’re guests in this land – we need to begin to realize that we are of this land just like the Polish, English, Afro Americans, Jews, Christians, Atheists etc. and we can’t be mute about that.

    • Tom says:

      Zakariyya,

      While you don’t have to apologize for your beliefs, you could nicely say, “i’m sorry if this offends you” or ” i’m sorry if you are unfamiliar with my faith”. Being steadfast in your religion is admirable, being ignorant of your host culture is not. Blatantly refusing contact without a taking a brief moment to explain why something is done differently can be seen as quite rude. And as many other posters to the forum have shown, people can be quite understanding when you take the time.

      Tom

      • Amad says:

        I kinda agree with Tom.

        It’s okay to say I’m sorry, which is just being polite. I mean you would say “I’m sorry” if you accidentally bumped into someone and sometimes even if someone else bumped into you. It doesn’t imply fault or weakness, it’s just a verbal hug.

        If you don’t want to shake hands with a woman, for instance, you have to recognize that at first most might feel offended because of lack of understanding (they might perceive it as more of “islamic male chauvnism”). So, it’s okay to start off with the lines that Tom offers. Perfectly okay.

        Remember, the Prophet (S) came to perfect manners, and it’s okay for Muslims to be more polite than needed (if there’s such a thing).

        By the way, I haven’t commented yet because I didn’t want to start another firestorm. But while at some level you can get away with not shaking hands with women or not attending meetings where they may be alcohol, for the MOST part, and for the MAJORITY of Muslims (may be vast majority), this is something that is almost unavoidable, esp. if you want to progress in your career. Now, I am not giving an Islamic opinion, just stating it like it is.

        I remember once having a long chat with an African-American friend at work, who was a star at the company, and she was someone completely liberal and understanding of cultural and religious differences. But she made it clear to me, that while people will not say anything to my face about shaking hands or other religious constraints, you can pretty much be assured that they will be talking behind your back as being someone who’s a misfit for upper management. There are some things that are ingrained in the Western culture, and handshaking for sure is one of them. Very difficult to constantly and consistently explain away without giving up on a bright career. This may be fine for the few brave ones, may Allah reward them, but many Muslims are just not content at remaining relegated to workers. And the ummah needs Muslim CEOs in major companies imho.

        I think we should have a poll to see how many Muslim men/women in corporate environment actually stay away from handshaking… that’ll be interesting!

        • ibn Insaan says:

          I’m inclined to agree with you Amad bhai that the ummah does indeed need Muslim ceo’s as well. However – I appreciate you were merely putting an opinion ‘out there’ without throwing any religious weight behind it- the means don’t justify the ends, or shouldn’t do at least. Allah knows best.

          Also I thought I may share with you all the extent of benefit of Muslims striving to stay firm on His Path:

          A friend of mine works for one of the largest pharmeceutical firms, GSK, and was telling me how it has now become standing regulation within the company when giving interviews (and meetings?) that a large sign exists outside the rooms explainingwith words to the effect of…’ This firm has expressed policy of recognising that ethically/religiously hand shaking is not practised by some traditions. This is fully respected. You can inform the desk secretary in advance should you so wish’

  8. Shafkat says:

    As salaam alykum,

    JazakAllah for the topic .. Extremely relevant in these times of extreme ‘fitna’ ..

    One observation though:

    ‘Later on my boss came back and said to me, “Look, we want to go to that restaurant because they have good food and I want you to be there with us and there won’t be any alcohol.” I replied, “Thanks, that’s nice. However, I can’t tell other people not to drink or to stop them because of my beliefs. You guys go ahead I’ll be OK with that.

    – Was’nt that a wrong statement to have made?
    – What if they had taken him up on this, and did order alcohol ?
    – Would he have sat at the same table with them? especially after having given them the ‘permission’ to do so ?

    Surely this was a wrong thing to have said !

    May Allah ( SWT) make it easy for all of us to follow HIS deen fully and correctly…

    Ma asalaam

    • Sister S.A. says:

      Just a quick reply…with all due respect, I believe you misunderstood.

      He said that he understood and wanted them to have a good time, so they could go ahead–WITHOUT HIM. It may sound confusing at first, but read it again and you will see what is meant. InshaAllah

      No disrespect, just wanted to point it out to you. :) Simple misunderstanding due to wording I am sure.

      And Amen to your dua!

      Assalamu Aleikom

      • Sister S.A. says:

        You know what? Perhaps I misunderstood and you were right. The wording is confusing and I should not have commented. I believe the original poster should make the clarification-should one need to be made. So please disregard what I said.

        My sincere apologies. I will be more careful in the future before responding.

        • Abu Zaynab says:

          Sorry about the ambiguous statement there. I did tell the MM staff to check through and make their edits – oh well, we the brothers ands and sisters can get togethr and rectify it then…

          When I typed this in for brother M.S
          “Thanks, that’s nice. However, I can’t tell other people not to drink or to stop them because of my beliefs. You guys go ahead I’ll be OK with that. He replied, “No we want you to be there and I can assure you, nobody will be drinking alcohol.”

          bro M.S was saying that he could not go because the others may drink which meant…
          1. He could not stop them
          2. He would be put in an awkward situation if they did decide to drink (thus what can he do?)
          3. Thus, meaning – you go if you want but I can’t go, obviously based on of 1. & 2.

          My understanding is, in the UK, when someone conveys a “sorry” response to an invitation , it’s a form of polite way to decline it. I don’t think the brothers mentioned meant sorry in the sense of apologising for their deeni practices.

          Also, why don’t we give people benefit of the doubt for trying to be as nice as possible when put on-the-spot and under pressure and in a split second they had to improvise and give a satisfying response and at the same time be convincing. After all, their motive is to avert the greater evil and harm.

          Hope this clarifies… or have I mystified you even further :{} ?

          • Shafkat says:

            As salaam alykum,

            Yes, it does look like I misunderstood the brother !
            My apologies…

            I am in the ‘Tourism Trade’ and incidents like the above happen ALL the time especially when one is dealing with people of different races/ religions ..
            and Shaitaan is always there making things even more difficult …

            One way that I manage to get out of sticky situations of a similar kind ( and I do not always succeed, but am ‘fighting’ to do the ‘correct’ thing ) is NOT to shake the hand, by holding my hands behind my back, and making a small ‘bow’ ( a small one, mind you, as even this disturbs me, as one DOES NOT bow to anyone except ALLAH ( SWT) )…!

            When I am on a one to one situation with a female who offers me her hand, and after doing my ‘put your hands behind your back and make a small bow’ bit, I go on to tell her that ‘in her position as a ……… ( whatever she happens to be ) she will meet many Muslims and they will be very impressed with her if she understands the ‘custom’ of Muslims NOT shaking hands with the opposite sex ..

            In nearly ALL the cases that I have done this, the individual is always appreciative of having learnt something new ( unless she happens to be a complete MORON (!) when it does not matter anyway what she thinks !) .. but at least I have made an effort in making them understand ‘our’ ways..

            May Allah ( SWT) make it easy for ALL of us .. AMEEN

  9. Happy Friend says:

    Requires courage to refuse shaking hands but what about the job itself ? Is it actually Halal in the first place ?

    http://www.ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?217599-Mega-Thread-of-Halal-and-Haram-Jobs-Discussion-Solutions

    • Shafkat says:

      As salaam alykum,

      JAZAKALLAH for this link …

      Everyone MUST read this … and take HEED and CORRECT ones life here on earth before it’s too late !
      ( and I address MYSELF first and foremost here)…

      – First make the NIYAH to change / correct ones lifestyle.
      – Make SINCERE dua to ALLAH (SWT) begging for HIS help in making it happen.
      – Make an EFFORT in achieving the Goal.
      – ALLAH (SWT) WILL make it happen ( If you were really sincere in your Dua and Effort ).

      Wa billahi Taufiq.

      Ma asalaam

  10. Ahmed says:

    Great post! Any insight into what people are doing in regards to their 401k? Jazak Allah kheir.

  11. […] Common Workplace Dilemmas Facing Muslims (MuslimMatters) […]

  12. Shiraz says:

    I got this from a brother: “Because of Islam’s respect for women, I don’t shake woman’s hand’s”

    • Kashif says:

      I’ve heard that one before, and it doesn’t make sense to me at all. Why would you tie the issue of shaking hands with the issue of respect? If i don’t shake a woman’s hand cos i respect her, what does it mean when i’m shaking a guy’s hand? That i’m dissing him?

      And now that i think about it, what is such a woman going to think afterwards? “He refused to shake hands with me because he respects me so much?” Is it my brain thats melting or does that just sound thick?

      Anyhow, if i’m in such a situation i tend to say something along the lines of “I can’t shake your hands for religious reasons, but i’m pleased/delighted to meet you.”

      • africana says:

        salams,
        haven’t read all the comments. this is an issue for orthodox jews, too so perhaps look into how they handle the situation.

    • Abu Zaynab says:

      “Because of Islam’s respect for women, I don’t shake woman’s hands”
      This would be “stretching the truth” although sounds good on paper (and through the sound waves), but goes to the very extreme I guess.

      The best answer is ” The Prophet did not shake hands and when he took a pledge he merely raised his hands to women” but it’s not palatable to non-muslims (to practicing muslims it is), hence we have to go figure a better way to respond and sort of give then a satisfactory answer. Fine if you can impart the wisdom but we must not “stretch the truth” or it may re-coil and hurt us : [

      Brother Kashif has a good response there.

    • Shiraz says:

      I think it does work. Hand shake is a quick greeting and I think you need a quick answer. If they have questions later on then you can go more indepth. When I say that, there is no disappointmen or confusion on their face.

      Ustadh Nouman mentioned in on of his speaches that he was in a elevator with a woman and he was avoiding looking at her. She said why won’t you look at me. He said, because my religion tells me not to. What religion is that, the one that respects women.

    • Atif says:

      I agree that the “respect” reason just adds more confusion.

      I think a more appropriate response is, “In my religion, I can’t shake hands with women I’m not related to”. And it’s the truth, we don’t shake hands with them because they are non-mahram to us; “respect” is irrelevant (would you shake hands with them if you *didn’t* respect them?).

      Just saying the reason is “religious reasons” is too vague for me; when you mention the non-mahram thing, you’re at least giving a reason. Also, being vague has more potential to invite questions (“What reasons?”, and they might think in their head, “Is it because Muslims don’t respect women?”), when you really just want to minimize the awkwardness and move on.

      As for another brother shaking in front of you, just tell them “Muslims have differences of interpretation and can agree to disagree on issues like this”. Which is true, a few scholars have allowed hand-shaking with non-mahrams with certain conditions. I don’t agree with that opinion, but it’s there.

  13. Mohamed Al-Jazeri says:

    And whosoever fears Allâh and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). (2) And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allâh, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allâh will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allâh has set a measure for all things. (Quran 65: 2-3)

  14. elham says:

    Wow , I must say,the last brother’s colleagues were amazingly courteous,considering how ,from my observations,its almost a must to drink alcohol for almost any occasion in the UK.

    • elham says:

      I had this funny thought after reading the stories/comments:is there a correlation between not shaking hands and getting the job :D

      They ALL have positive endings to them,MashAllah,but is it realistic? Or are we just trying to increase Tawakkul and dispel fears?

      • Abu Zaynab says:

        Yes, it is about tawakkul. People who put Islam as a priority will always be the winners. Those who reject a ‘dream job’ (but a nightmare in the Islamic context) because of haram elements or doubtful matters, so as to safeguard their deen, they know Allaah will look after them, if not here, then definitely in the next inshaAllah

        I guess it is also to encourage others to do the same and to be strong and not give into whisperings of shaitan

        • Bin Muhsin says:

          The way I look at it as well – If people don’t hire you because you simply wanted to practice a harmless tenet of your religion – ie. not shaking hands – then why would you want to work there anyway? Working there would probably be a problem if you want to maintain your deen and your boss doesn’t accommodate that.

  15. Abu Musa says:

    Jazakumullah khairan for this extremely beneficial article as well as the interesting comments. This is a problem that I too face frequently in college, and so far, I have been too weak to refuse to shake hands with women. But I have noticed that it always causes a drop in eeman and brings a person further from his Lord, at least in my case.

    It was narrated that Ma’qil ibn Yassaar said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him.”

    Narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 486. Shaykh al-Albaani said in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5045, that this hadeeth is saheeh.

    I lived in a Muslim land before and alhamdulillah this was never an issue over there due to gender segregation; however in the West, the norm is intermixing so handling this issue in an Islamic manner which shows wisdom and maturity is quite in order. Ultimately, this is an issue of us sticking up for what we believe in, and I believe society will respect us more for doing that. the same can be said for issues that denote an overt Islamic identity (I’m not commenting on fiqh issues just things that are conspicuously Islamic) such as fist-length beards, niqab, etc.

    May Allah (swt) give us all the courage to do that which pleases Him and not to disobey Him for the sake of others. Ameen.

    .

  16. Al Muslim says:

    What about shaking hands with a woman the age of your mother because you don’t want to embarass her?

    What if the woman herself is a Muslim, hijabi, and thinks of you as her son, and doesn’t see anything with it?

    at first I didn’t shake, and even now I try not to. But so as not to offend a family friend or my mother’s cousin … I’ll shake her hand briefly.

  17. AS says:

    Excellent article and very timely!

    Subhan’Allah, I was just talking to my husband the other day about the fitna that goes on in the workplace and how I wish I knew how to better face these workplace dilemmas without compromising my deen.

    This article has definitively helped but I think more advice/suggestions are needed on various conflicts that occur in the workplace. E.g. parties/outings/celebrations (including X-mas party) with alcohol and music, meetings with manager/clients of opposite sex in office behind closed doors, events in the office involving non-muslim celebrations (e.g. birthdays, valentines day, etc). I would love to see more advice and suggestions on this great topic.

    Can someone please advise….

    What is an effective way of declining to attend X-Mas party? In my previous job, I declined to attend but I felt that this impacted me negatively as people stopped inviting me to other events as well, one where colleagues from my department were invited to attend an offsite event for management and I wasn’t invited.

    How to deal with a situation when you need to meet one on one with your manager of the opposite sex behind closed doors? And what if you are occasionaly meeting with clients of the opposite sex behind closed doors?

    How do you handle a situation where everyone in the office puts in money to buy a cake for the birthday person and they all get together in the office, sing birthday song and eat cake?

    JazakAllahu Khair for your suggestions.

    • Abu Nurayn says:

      Salaam,

      Regarding X-Mas parties, I don’t attend them. I also don’t attend any other event the company puts on because they always involve alcohol and are usually at a bar (they even had the quarterly meeting in a bar – which I declined to attend as well). So far I have not noticed an impact on my career, although it is a very large company and I do not report to one manager but rather more like 10 managers who each write separate reviews (last year I got the highest rating possible, alhamdulillah).

      However, I’m also not on track to try to become a manager, or even a partner (not that I don’t desire to progress in general career-wise; mainly it’s that the position I have is organized in a flat structure where promotions aren’t possible). It’s my impression that someone pursuing a high position in this company MUST attend these types of social gatherings. The teams that I work with are constantly wining and dining with the client, but I always decide not to attend, and its the managers that really need to be there. Never once has my lack of attendance been brought up. And forget about trying to make partner – I really don’t see how attaining these types of positions in the company I work for can be congruent with Islamic values and regulations because of what it takes to get to that position and maintain it.

      I praise Allah for allowing me to find work that is halal in and of itself, but I also pray that He delivers me to a better job (or blesses me so that I can work for myself) where this fitna is not in my face everyday. Unfortunately, though, one has to come to the realization that by and large this is the general rule, and unless you work for a company owned by Mormons or strict Christians, then it’s hard to get around it.

      There are some things, as Amad says, are unavoidable. I remember taking Precious Provisions with Yasir Qadhi and when these questions were presented to him, he was very delicately trying to devise a solution.

      I’m not going to offer any advise myself except for what I have done personally, because each situation is different and I am not in a position to really give any advice pertaining to the deen.

  18. Beychusta says:

    Actually it seems like MM is a painting a very rosy picture by only mentioning a few scenarios which worked out well. Obviously this is not the complete picture. Some people have had difficulties. So let’s not describe fantasies and expect people to go with the flow. Let’s be real. Let’s educated our brothers and sisters on the unlawfulness of such things (as you have done) and let’s prepare them for the best and the WORST as well.

    I’ve had a negative experience with this whole thing. I’m sure some others have had them too. Not everyone takes the whole “Oh I can’t touch you” issue lightly.

    How about some practical tips to tackle this issue when you’re faced with it? This article offers none. Just paints a rosy scenario.

    • Bin Muhsin says:

      I also do think the views so far have been quite “rosy” as you state. What I think encompasses the situation the best is the comment by one of the bros stating that most of the time co workers will outwardly respect you, but behind your back talk about it.

      In fact I had an amazing former teacher of mine whom I went to revisit after graduation, ask me very up front – “I’ve had so many muslim men (fathers of students) come in here and refuse to shake my hand. Is that really Islamic? I also have a really close Muslim friend of mine who says that, that is not in the Quran.” I had a really hard time explaining to her, not because I haven’t done it before but because she was really really up front about it and was quite upset and aggressive. She ended up literally debating with me, and I really did not know how to “logically” defend this sunnah although I said something like “well Islam keeps strict boundaries between male and female, and the limit of touching is also part of this boundary.” She countered that by saying that she would understand if muslim men can’t hug, but why not handshake? She said that surely shaking hands is not an intimate thing at all. So inevitably, that simple handshake debate spilled over to “Islam is oppressive towards women”, and a host of other things. This experience really shook me at my core, because I realized that no matter what face a person gives you (as if he/she understands and appreciates you) they may have some serious disagreements regarding your views and practices deep down inside. I thought about this event for a long time, and discussed it with my friends. I felt like, after so many instances of “correctly” getting away with the whole handshake thing, I finally encountered a really negative experience.

      After this I had this realization that you have to do what you have to do. If we make mistakes that’s fine – we repent, but we need to make an effort to try at least. I don’t think we can keep making exceptions all the time just because we “need” that CEO position. Like everyone else, I also was not totally safe from this – humans make mistakes. But then again, I realized that you can’t keep falling into this idea of being extremely polite -so much so that you’re willing to compromise a sunnah in order to appease a nonmuslim. Inshallah if we base our actions (not shaking hands) on the sunnah and don’t get a job because of it, then Allah will grant us IMMENSE reward. With great fitna comes great rewards!

    • Amad says:

      Actually it seems like MM is a painting a very rosy picture by only mentioning a few scenarios which worked out well.

      Actually, its not MM. It’s a guest post and one POV.

      In fact, as a MM author, I don’t disagree with you. See my comment here:
      http://muslimmatters.org/2010/09/28/common-workplace-dilemmas-facing-muslims/#comment-77573

  19. Bin Muhsin says:

    Funny, I have an interview for a Board post coming soon. These suggestions have been fantastic – only serves to motivate you to remain steadfast on the sunnah.

  20. Amad says:

    Interesting trend so far on the polls. Despite our very conservative audience (based on previous polls), only about a third of the folks are saying that they don’t shake hands with the opposite spouse AND don’t feel it affects their career. The rest either don’t care, think its unavoidable or don’t do it at the potential expense of their career.

    This is another example of why the idealistic world that Muslims, esp conservatives, paint may not reflect what is happening outside.

    I hope people answer the question honestly (its all anonymous anyway) and don’t try to rig it :) as it will potentially allow us to explore the topic further practically.

    • I was quite suprised at the results as well, SubhanAllah.

      Judging by the comments seen here, I thought the ‘I avoid it all costs, it doesn’t affect my career’ would come up as the highest.

      Oh well, at least we are able to see the true situation of the Muslims today and be able to address them in the future.

  21. “We need Muslim CEOs” – no doubt. That’s why I love software engineering. If you’re good, nothing can stop you. And if they stop you, you quit work and start your own company. None of us is out of ideas.

    But then, what’s the wisdom behind an instance of an already honorable, respected, and influential Imam shaking hand with a powerful woman? Then, what’s the wisdom of posting 5+ pictures of that specific instance on Facebook? .. I might be thinking too much but, it really hurts.

    p.s. There should be some service like .. RateMyImam.com :)

    • Happy Friend says:

      Even a Software profession is not without its nuances. What about making a software for calculation of Riba, record of Alcohol etc etc

  22. Bin Muhsin says:

    I was looking on the polls for a sort of middle ground option – something like I try my best to avoid it and know it’s wrong, but don’t always get away. If the polls are structured in a way that simply paints the picture as black and white, it’s not surprising that those are the types of responses that we’ll get – which may not be in fact completely accurate.

    • Amad says:

      I don’t understand what part of the following response is black or white:

      I don’t like it, but it’s unavoidable

      It’s impossible to cover every structure of gray, but i think this response mostly covers the situation you mentioned.

      • Bin Muhsin says:

        I thought the option you mentioned was descent but conveyed a very limited view – as if although you don’t like it you’ve completely given up because you think it’s unavoidable. I thought it would have been more encompassing if there was a “sometimes” added after the “unavoidable”. But then again, that’s just me and maybe that reflects my gray area!

  23. Muslima M says:

    Although you expect such situations in Western countries, it is disturbing that such things also happen in Muslim countries. I live in Pakistan and I recently started working. Throughout my university life, I kept my distance from my male classmates/colleagues. And since I wore a hijab, people usually understood, so yes they would keep their distance too. In the workplace I came across people who come from a very ‘liberal’ background, who do not practise Islam much–some who do not even fast in Ramadan or pray (even on Fridays). So while they might high five and pat each other on the backs (men and women), I tried to keep my distance again. My colleague asked me to give him a high-five, and I responded with a ‘No’ which was quite awkward, but I expect people to understand–at least Muslims should understand and they should understand that I wont, seeing my attire at least! I didn’t know how to avoid the occasional tapping on the shoulder or arm to tell you to do this or that or check this or that. Initially it was very disturbing, but I wasn’t able to say anything. Gradually though, I think they understood and now yes they don’t expect me to high-five or tap me on the shoulder to get this or that task done!

    • Happy Friend says:

      That’s another example when People equate Muslim country = Islamic Country. Pakistan is one of the best example of the worst Hypocrisy amongst all the odd 57 ‘Muslim Populated’ countries.

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