Friday, 19 September 2008

Being Yourself As A Muslimah at Work

As a Muslimah in the workplace you have you deal with many issues: the assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices held about you by other people which you have to disprove, finding ways to make wudhu and pray and trying to avoid activities that are haraam (prohibited) to us but are seen by many as part of work: going for a drink after work, lunch at the pub etc. I also find that Muslimah’s are also very heavily orientated towards family life and so more than likely to have to contain their working lives so that they don’t impinge more than necessary on their home lives.

With all of these struggles, I have found that sometimes Muslim women don’t shine in the way that they can. There are always those sisters who struggle with wearing hijab or deciding to remove it, those that take the first steps towards deciding to pray at work and for each there is a personal effort and struggle which I believe we should support her with and not judge her for.

But I have also come across at least one sister who despite wearing hijab did not seem to like her Muslim sister’s much and seemed to think that associating with them would not be beneficial to her career (that just didn’t make sense to me). Then there are the sisters who go about the office with the sourest of looks on their face. Of course even trailblazing, example-setting, amazing hijabi sisters have the right to get out of the wrong side of bed now and again, but I have noticed some sisters who never, ever smile. Never! They never respond to your overtures of friendship, they never smile back, they are a completely closed book. Of course a sister who decides to protect her privacy is to be respected as the sister at Independent Learners so eloquently illustrates, because we do not always know what is going on in her life.

Of course this is not the case with all Muslimah’s in the workplace. Many are outgoing, noisy and friendly (like my bestest friend who looks out for fellow Muslimah’s). I think our having a positive attitude is important. I like to be open and to see openness in others. I feel that in this way are benefiting ourselves and others. If we are open about our needs for a place to pray for example, perhaps it will be there for the next person. If we can be open about why we don’t want to go down the pub, maybe colleagues will be more sensitive about asking other Muslims.

I also think being open and honest is a form of dawah – showing Muslim women as brave and truthful, it also makes it easy for people to ask us questions about being a Muslim and Islam – again a very good thing I think. Of course I don’t advocate being over-friendly with the men in the office, but I also don’t like this stereotype of the mysterious exotic eastern veiled woman which we get lumbered with – nope I like fish and chips and watch Malcolm in the Middle just like you mate.

I believe that life is for sharing and in that honesty and sharing there is space for dawah as long as we are also brave and honest enough to set our limits from the start. I like the way a trainer on a course I attended put it. This gentleman was one of the interviewers for applicants for the TV programme The Apprentice and he said that some people walked into a room and their good attitude and good nature just lit up the whole room – don’t you just love it when you meet a Muslimah like that (my bestest beloved friend again I think is one such person).

Another lesson I keep in mind, when I get nervous at work or feel self-conscious of my faith or hijab is from my husband who says that if you fear people and things everything will terrify you, but if you fear Allah (SWT) only, then the whole world will stand in awe of you subhan’Allah.


  1. masha'allah, your husband is a wise man :D thanks for this sis.. Im currently looking for jobs in London with no luck (maybe cause im still in Canada) but I was worried how things would be in hijab there. Allahu alim

  2. Walaikam-assalam Ammena,
    I wouldn't worry at all. I feel 100% at ease.
    If you are still looking you might want to have a look at the local authority websites for vacancies and the civil service gateway website. I have been told Morgan Hunt is also very good (google it), depends on what you are looking for.

  3. As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

    Is the sister in the photo on the left at work? She has no identifying badges while the man does, and it doesn't look like shop dress by any stretch; I think she is a customer.

  4. Walaikam-assalam Brother Yusuf,
    The sister is Fatme Nemer of Dearborn Michigan and she works as a receptionist (not sure if at that store though). Plus, you're just nitpicking.

  5. islam never restrict women to work out of home but gave periority to stay at home. in case she need , she can go out of home for work but with some limits that Allah mentioned in
    .be honest and dedicated to your work and never be underestimate yourself when you are wearing hijab at work place.