The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

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Making Prayer Work…

Posted by vmsalama on December 29, 2004

Making Prayer Work
Every employer is familiar with the need to walk a delicate line when addressing prayer in the workplace. How can employees lead a productive religious life without sapping a company’s productivity? Trusting workers to monitor themselves is important, but it doesn’t hurt to remind anyone that working hard is also a virtue.

By Vivian Salama

Business Today Egypt

Everything stops. It’s midday on a weekday. From workplaces across the country, the faint voice of a muezzin can be heard calling salat al dhuhr, the afternoon prayers. Workers gather but only after the ablution required before any prayer during which worshippers wash the face, hands and arms up to the elbows, then pass their hands lightly over their heads and wash their feet up to the ankles. The concept, as written in the Qur’an, is to be pure when approaching God in prayer.
Sherif Samy, chairman of Skill-Link.com, an internet-based job search and career advice provider, describes a scene that has become familiar in many workplaces.
“Imagine at least 50 or 60 percent of the workplace having to go to the bathroom at the same time to perform their ablutions. It’s a bit messy, especially if you don’t have your towels. Then they have to wait for each other, which by default is a slower process than if you’re praying on your own. Then they go back to work. All this time, moving to elevators, or stairs, to the bathroom, to prayer, chatting after the prayer, it’s only human,” he says.
In the end, a process that can take an individual no more than 15 minutes can take up to 30 or 40 minutes.
It may be a bit messy, as Samy suggests, but more and more workplaces are finding the need for creative solutions to make room for God in the workplace. There is no debating whether prayer should be allowed. Followers of any religion consider it a privilege and a right to serve God in this way. And now, more than ever, people worldwide are searching for spiritual enlightenment. What complicates this trend is that it is taking place as work demands more time and energy from us than ever before.
As with any activity that takes place at work, it all boils down to the concept of time management, and how employers can encourage a healthy balance between productive work practices and the need for religious fulfillment.
“Supposedly, if a person works for eight hours, he will have a break,” says Al-Azhar scholar Sheikh Khaled El-Guindy. “In theory, that person will use this break for eating and al dhuhr prayer. Al ‘asr [afternoon] prayer can be done at home, that’s not a problem. So in this half-hour break, he is able to eat, pray, do whatever he wants.”
The experience seems to vary from person to person. “Maybe in some places, the productivity point is not really emphasized,” says Samar Shams El Din, recruitment specialist at Skill-Link, who tries to be aware of the clock when he goes to pray. “We say, ‘You guys, let’s finish because we all have to go to finish our work.’ We don’t really waste much time.”  (more…)


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