How I avoided haram at the workplace

This post is longer than my usual ones, but I wanted to share my experience as it could benefit someone, even if it’s just one person.

One of the many challenges I faced when I started to practise Islam was trying to maintain a halal job. But I believe Allah سبحانه وتعالى made things easy for me as I was unwilling to compromise my beliefs and principles.

My first job, after I started practising Islam, was at Sainsbury’s (supermarket). I worked there part-time for two years, while I was studying at college. In my first year I worked in the produce department. In my second year I worked in the bread department. So my main role didn’t entail anything haram. However, on the weekends, when the store got really busy (during peak hours), I was required to work on the checkout. This was when I first started to encounter some problems.

As I was getting trained to work on the tills, I remember feeling anxious. I was thinking to myself, “What am I going to do if a customer wants to buy alcohol or pork? What if he wants to pay by credit card?” All sorts of thoughts and concerns were going through my mind.

The good thing was that I was told it would take two weeks to get fully trained before I could work on the tills. So in that time, I asked a few knowledgeable people about my situation. Back then, I was told that there was no harm in accepting credit card payments or scanning haram meat. However, I was told that it was totally forbidden to deal with alcohol in any way, shape or form.

Eventually, the day came when I was required to carry out my checkout duties. I had to think really fast. I even remember hoping and praying that I didn’t get a customer who wants to buy alcohol. But the inevitable happened and I saw a customer in my queue with alcohol in his trolley. I had to think really fast, while I was serving the customers who were before him in the queue. I had to say something before he placed his items on the conveyor belt. Then I just said to him, in my young voice, “Excuse me sir, I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to serve alcohol. You’ll have to go to another till.” He looked at me and didn’t even doubt or question what I said. In my mind, I meant my religion doesn’t allow me to serve it, but he most likely thought I meant legally, according to the law.

That was it. I had found the perfect excuse and thing to say. From that moment on, that was what I told every customer. I think it worked because I looked so young – I was under the age of 18 and it seemed like a plausible excuse to customers. But I doubt it would work for me today, lol. And it most likely won’t work for most people.

Several months later, while I was walking through the warehouse, I was asked by the deputy manager to move some crates of alcohol. This was the deputy manager! He was no ordinary member of staff. This time I was stuck, so I decided to “say it as it is”. I said to him in plain words, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to deal with alcohol. It’s forbidden in my religion.” He looked really surprised, and the first thing he said to me was, “What about so-and-so? He’s a Muslim but he always helps out.” The person he was referring to (whose name I won’t mention) was a brother with a large beard – much larger than mine, which was barely visible in those days. In fact, I don’t think I even had a beard. He was seen as the most religious person. He never missed his prayers and would always give salam to people. I didn’t want to say anything negative about him so I just replied, “I’m not so-and-so.” The deputy manager respected my wishes and called someone else for assistance.

So, al-ḥamdu lillāh, I never dealt with alcohol while I worked at Sainsbury’s. And I never missed any of my prayers. My colleagues respected me because I was one of the best workers. I used to work really hard to look after my department. So whenever I had an issue with something, due to my religious beliefs, they respected me. I even refused to wear Santa hats and those ugly Christmas sweaters, and no one said anything to me.

After I left Sainsbury’s, I got a job at the Link, selling mobile phones. I was given two breaks: a 15 minute break in the morning and a one hour break for lunch. When winter came, the prayer times became really close, so I had to ask my manager for an extra two breaks for ‘Asr and Maghrib prayers. At first he refused, saying that we all get the same breaks. But by that time I had been in the job for at least four months, and I had noticed that he and another employee would go outside the shop nearly every hour, for a couple of minutes, to smoke cigarettes. So I said to him (the manager), “But you go out every hour to smoke a cigarette. If I added up all those minutes it would probably come up to 15-20 minutes every day. I’m not asking for extra time. Just let me divide my lunch time the way I want. Let me spread it out throughout the day to accommodate my prayers. I’ll still be able to hit my sales targets.” He thought about it for a few seconds and then he said, “Alright.” In my mind I thought to myself, if he doesn’t allow me to pray, I’m leaving the job, but al-ḥamdu lillāh it didn’t come to that.

So these were just a few of the challenges I faced when I started practising Islam, but I believe Allah made things easy for me as I was unwilling to compromise my religious beliefs and values, and over time I gained more confidence. Since then, the Deen has only become easier and easier to practise, al-ḥamdu lillāh.

Most jobs are, in essence, halal, but most of these jobs (especially in non-Muslim countries) also entail some things or tasks that are haram. But those things that are haram can be avoided. If one cannot avoid them, one should look for another job.

Everyone’s circumstance is different. I’m not qualified to issue any fatwas. I just wanted to share my personal experience to show that it is more than possible to earn a halal living and not compromise one’s Deen.

We must remember that Allah is the source of provision, not one’s job.

No day is wasted as a Muslim

There are a lot of people who feel that they have underachieved and wasted so many years of their lives – from those who have spent many years in prison, to those who are free but never got to fulfil most (or any) of their aspirations. This has contributed to feelings of unhappiness or even depression.

As Muslims, however, our aspirations should be based on our purpose in life, which is to worship Allah. But worship (‘ibādah) doesn’t just mean to pray and fast. Worship comprises all good deeds that are pleasing to Allah.

So if we’ve​ been spending every day trying to draw closer to Allah, increase our knowledge of the Deen, and do as many good deeds as we can for the sake of our Lord, then we haven’t wasted a single day.

If in a month’s time, for example, we can look back and see that we’ve given up something harām, reformed our character, memorised a new du’a or Sūrah, read a book, learnt some new rulings, improved the quality of our worship, or we feel stronger in our īmān, then we’ve achieved so much, by the grace of Allah.

The only one who is wasting their life is the one who hasn’t yet found Allah and does not live to worship Him, even if they are fulfilling their wordly ambitions and are supposedly living the “good life”.

If we are striving every day to fulfil our purpose in life, we are living successful lives, and every day is an opportunity to excel and achieve more.

The Islamic ruling on women posting pictures online

Sisters!

Please understand that even if you follow the opinion that the niqāb is not obligatory, that doesn’t mean it’s permissible for you to post selfies or photos of yourselves (with your khimārs, or headscarves) where non-mahram men can see them. Many scholars have said that this is forbidden for women who wear niqāb, not to mention women who do not.

What’s worse is to post selfies (where non-mahram men can see them) while wearing makeup and jewellery or after applying Snapchat filters or the like, especially while posing and pouting.

Hijāb​ does not mean headscarf. The headscarf is called “khimār”. Hijāb means to cover, screen or conceal (one’s beauty). If this concept is properly understood, then you’ll easily understand why it is forbidden to do the above.

If you’re struggling with hijāb, keep striving and ask Allāh to increase your īmān and knowledge, and to make you steadfast. Also, instead of reading about hijāb, begin with subjects such as Tawheed, Aqeedah, Īmān and the descriptions of Paradise and Hell. A few good books to start with are, “The Fundamentals of Tawheed” by Bilal Philips, “The Book of Emaan” by Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him), and the Islamic Creed Series by Shaykh Umar Sulayman al-Ashqar (may Allah have mercy on him). Once you’ve done that, you can read more about the hijāb, if you need to.

May Allāh make it easy.

Why do we wash only four parts of the body during wudū?

Why is it obligatory during wudū to specifically wash or wipe only four parts of the body – the face (including the mouth and nose), hands up to the elbows, head (including the ears), and feet?

Some scholars say that one possible reason (or wisdom) is that these are the parts of the body we sin with the most. So when we wash these parts of the body, we are purifying them from sins, which fall off with the water. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever performs wudū perfectly, his sins will depart his body, even from under his nails.” (Muslim)

Keeping this in the back of one’s mind while performing wudū helps one to perform it perfectly, and perfect wudū prepares one to be in the right state of mind for Salāh.

Whatever the reason, these are the parts of the body we’ve been instructed in the Qur’ān to wash (Sūrah 5:6). But every command of Allāh contains great wisdom.

Learn from the experiences of your elders

As youth, you may not see your elders as great role models (or role models at all, for that matter), and to you they may have strange beliefs, habits and customs. But trust me, there is still so much you can learn from them. They’ve been through a lot in life. Treat them with respect and learn from their experience (and mistakes even). You could learn one thing from them and apply it to so many other aspects of life. You may be sharper, fitter and more educated than some of your elders, but you haven’t yet acquired wisdom and experience. These are things you can’t study or inherit. So even if they didn’t have the career, home or lifestyle you desire, there are so many things you can still learn from them.

It’s better to learn from the experience of ordinary, hard-working people instead of those who portray themselves as having the perfect life. Because most people who are deemed “successful” by society and have “made it” (in a short space of time) were actually given their blessings by God, without a great deal of effort on their part, as a test from Him. Sadly, many such individuals often exploit their fans by literally selling them a false picture of what life should be like and unrealistic ways of achieving their dreams.

Don’t lose the opportunity to learn from and serve your elders. Have patience with them, show mercy and don’t speak over them. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Part of glorifying Allāh is honouring the grey-haired Muslim.” Sahīh Sunan Abī Dāwūd

Book review: The life of Muhammad ﷺ

Book review: The life of Muhammad ﷺ

There are many books available in English written on the life (sīrah) of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, such as:

▪ The Sealed Nectar by al-Mubarakpuri
▪ The Noble Life of the Prophet by al-Sallaabee
▪ Abridged Biography of Prophet Muhammad by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab

However, if you’ve never read a book on the Prophet’s life ﷺ or if you’ve found some books too long or overwhelming, try starting with this one written by Imām al-Nawawī (may Allāh have mercy on him).

Excluding the introduction and appendices, the book comprises only 70 pages. It’s short and to the point, making it ideal for someone who’s new to the Dīn. Not only does it summarise the Prophet’s life, but it also includes chapters on his manners, description and characteristics.

Reading a short book like this will, in-shā’ Allah, intrigue you, increase your thirst and make you want to read something more in-depth on the Prophet’s life.

Trials purify one’s character

A few years ago while I was in prison, sometimes I used to wonder and think to myself, “If I was outside right now, where would I be, and what would I be doing?” And then one day I remembered that before I went inside, I was on the verge of making some really bad mistakes and catastrophic decisions. I was also slowly becoming hard-hearted, and on several occasions I spoke about issues that were well beyond my remit. That’s when I realised that by putting me in prison, Allāh had protected me and saved me from a lot of dangers. Prison gave me the opportunity to take a long, hard look in the mirror, repent and work on myself, and to spend some quality time with my Lord. I thank Allāh as often as possible so that I do not forget His favour.

A couple of days ago, I came across this beautiful statement from Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allāh have mercy on him) that I wish to share with everyone:

It should be noted that were it not for the trials and tribulations of this world, a person could develop arrogance, self-admiration, a pharaonic attitude and hardheartedness which would lead to his doom in this world and in the Hereafter. It is a sign of the mercy of the Most Merciful that He checks on him from time to time with the remedy of calamity so as to protect him from these diseases, to keep his submission and servitude sound, and to eliminate all bad elements that may lead to his doom. (Zād al-Ma’ād)

Yā Allāh, make us from your sincere, humble servants, and remove from our hearts any form of pride, arrogance and jāhiliyyah. Grant us the opportunity to learn from and rectify our mistakes, before it’s too late. And make us from your patient, thankful servants. Āmīn!