The holy month of Ramadan is characterised by the beautiful sound of prayer echoing from the tops of minarets, religious lectures hosted around the clock, and sincere generosity shown by so many people. The most anxiously awaited month in the year, it brings with it humility, charity and the tradition of honouring one's family. Muslims believe this ninth month of the Islamic calendar was specifically chosen by Allah to reveal to His Prophet Mohammed the verses of the Holy Quran. It is the month when Muslims believe the doors of Paradise are opened and the doors of Hell are locked. However, what makes this month most unique in terms of daily life is the act of fasting. In this month, Muslims around the world refrain from food, drink, misconduct, and other worldly desires from sunrise to sunset in pursuit of attaining piety.
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil) (or attain piety) The Holy Quran [2:183] Individuals in the Muslim world are responsible for achieving the a state of piety, but corporations should be too. Although strict regulations have been introduced to govern corporate behaviour, we still witness ethical abuses by corporate executives and a decided lack of will on the part of regulators to rectify those abuses.
In order to build a trusted and socially responsible brand - and attain this "state of piety" - it is imperative that corporations use the holy month as a tool to evaluate themselves and to ensure that justice, diligence, respect and accountability are key elements of their operations. Fusing these values with the corporate culture of business entities in the region would eliminate many widespread problems that have been subject to public scrutiny over the past few years. Some of these problems include delays in paying labourers their wages, medical malpractice due to negligence, and embarrassing standards of customer service.
First, corporations in the Muslim world should ensure that justice is the basis for their interactions with customers, suppliers, and employees. This entails abiding by contractual terms, consciously avoiding manipulative behaviour, and ensuring the quality of products and services. The numerous complaints received by the Ministry of Labour about the mistreatment of labourers - including unpaid wages and harsh living conditions - are just one example of the lack of justice as a fundamental corporate principle.
Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. The Holy Quran [5:8] Second, professions that offer services that are based on trust and affect the physical or financial well-being of their clients (such as doctors, brokers and engineers) are responsible for the appropriate level of due diligence. There should be no doubt of negligence or fault in these professions.
Multiple accounts of medical malpractice and unjustifiable consultant recommendations have occurred over the past few years due to carelessness or a lack of caution. In some cases, these errors led to death, permanent disability or bankruptcy. Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers: Soon will ye be brought back to the knower of what is hidden and what is open: then will He show you the truth of all that ye did. The Holy Quran [9:105]
Third, corporations should ensure that respect and accountability are characteristics demonstrated by all staff members. This element is especially crucial because it is the basis for social interaction. Respect and accountability as core corporate values ensure that tasks are completed accurately and promptly and that customers are treated properly. In some cases, this will require paying higher salaries or providing special training, but the benefits are worth the expense. There have been many incidents where otherwise reputable business have mistreated their customers simply because of insufficient training.
Fear Allah (or be pious) wherever you are. Follow up a bad deed with a good deed (rectify) and it will blot it out. And deal with people in a good manner (with respect) The Prophet Mohammed [Sunan al-Tirmidhî] Devout Muslims around the world spend the last 10 nights of Ramadan in prayer and worship, asking Allah to bestow upon them a state of piety to achieve the purpose of fasting for the entire month. There is no reason that this standard should not apply to people's professional lives as well.
Ramadan has been an excellent time for corporations and individuals to review their values and ensure that they are characterised by justice, diligence, respect and accountability. As mosques recite the words "Allahu Akbar" glorifying the Creator's greatness to mark the arrival of Eid, the question we're left with is: have we attained piety?
Mohammed Kazim is an Emirati health-care analyst and commentator based in Abu Dhabi