By Omar Sacirbey
Religion News Service
(RNS) Dr. Syed Malik is a devoted Muslim who tries, and mostly succeeds, to pray five times per day, as demanded by his Islamic faith.
He is also an accomplished general surgeon in Orlando, Fla., who does complex operations that can last hours.
Malik, 66, would never leave an operating table to pray. Instead, when surgery and prayer times conflict, he performs prayers before surgery or makes them up after.
“I don’t care if this goes against what some scholars say, I feel very comfortable with how I approach prayers,” said Malik.
In fact, Islamic scholars generally agree that while prayers command high priority, they can be missed or performed later in extenuating circumstances.
While Muslims differ about what constitutes extenuating circumstances, many successfully integrate prayer into their workday, often with help from their employers.
Still, employers and Muslim workers sometimes clash over prayers.
This month (October), Hertz fired 25 Somali Muslim drivers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who refused to sign an agreement pledging to clock out during prayer breaks.
Hertz says they initially allowed Muslim workers to pray during two paid daily breaks of 10 minutes each but many workers took more than 10 minutes. Nine Muslim workers signed the pledge.
The workers’ union is challenging Hertz. But some Islamic scholars say that the rental car company offered the workers a solution compatible with their Islamic beliefs.
“Employers have the right to protect themselves. Unfortunately, there are Muslims who abuse the system,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, president of Clergy Without Borders, an interfaith organization in Washington, D.C.
Hendi said that it was un-Islamic to accept pay for work one did not perform, and chastised the fired Hertz workers for making Islam seem “complicated” and “inadaptable to America.”
“If Muslims can do it on their own time, this is the idea,” said Zulfiqar Ali Shah, executive director of the North American Fiqh Council, a group of religious leaders who offer guidance on Islamic law.
“If there’s a conflict between prayer and work, the Muslims should accommodate to work,” said Shah.
To emphasize that point, Muslims point to a hadith, or story, about Prophet Muhammad in which he prayed the midday and afternoon prayers together.
Most scholars recognize the exception, but caution that it should be used judiciously, and not just to avoid uncomfortable situations.
“Would you step out of a meeting to use the bathroom or take a call from your son? Then why not take a few minutes to be with God?” said Hossam Al Jabri, an imam in Boston and former executive director of the Muslim American Society, an advocacy group.
“Being a little inconvenienced for the sake of God is not such a bad thing.”
Most Muslims can complete their prayers in three to five minutes, although pre-prayer ablutions, or ritual washing, can take almost as long.
For each of the five prayers – pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and night — Muslims have a few hours to make them, although some say prayers are best when made early. These times change throughout the year as the length of the days varies.
Many Muslims find that employers are happy to accommodate their prayer needs.
In his 20 years with the same company in Los Angeles, IT Manager Soheil Naimi has seen supervisors come and go, but none ever prevented him from praying.
In fact, Naimi’s prayer space has improved as he’s been promoted. When he started, he had no office and used to pray in open conference rooms.
He later received a cubicle that was big enough to pray in, but was often interrupted by co-workers, who he tuned out while praying.
“I don’t think I offended anyone,” said Naimi, who asked that his company not be named. He now has his own office, so praying is easy. The only time performing prayers can be hard is when he’s out of the office, said Naimi, who has prayed in his car, in a bathroom, and has occasionally missed prayer altogether.
Kelly Kaufmann, a program manager at a Chicago health insurance company, keeps a prayer rug in a Macy’s tote bag at her office, and reserves one of her company’s many meeting rooms twice daily for 30 minutes. Kaufmann, who also asked that her company not be named, text messages Muslim co-workers to let them know when she has a room reserved.
“I am lucky that I make my own schedule and control when my meetings are, and can simply come to work earlier or stay later if needed to ensure the time taken to pray does not interfere with the amount of work I wanted to accomplish during the day,” Kaufmann said.
A Prayer for the Work Day Ahead
By Renee Davis
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24
Things (and people!) would be so much easier to deal with if we could stay home every day. Close the drapes, lock the doors, and shut out the rest of the world.
You’re nodding your head, aren’t you?
But most of us need to pay off our mortgages and eat something besides Ramen. That means we’ve got to work. And that means there’s a good chance we’re going to be hit by some things during the day that will push us to our limits, make us feel stressed, hopeless, and even angry.
Thankfully, we followers of Christ have help, to prepare us for and guide us through our workday woes, in the form of God’s Word.
Setting aside time to spend in Scripture each morning not only deepens our understanding of God and our relationship with Him but also sets the tone for the rest of our day. When we take time to put Him first we’re exhibiting our trust in Him to walk with us throughout the day.
I once heard a story about a guy who’d taken a job many of us would refer to as a “last resort.” One that definitely wasn’t part of his plan for his future—a menial job. Though this man didn’t understand why God would put him in such a place, he committed to do his very best no matter what.
This job that had at one time made no sense would, in fact, be the origin of what would become a worldwide ministry. God had placed him in this position so he could meet other Christians who would help him achieve a dream he could never have imagined. He also met his future wife at this very same job.
Maybe your current job is a bit of nightmare. But, what if God has positioned you there for a reason—as part of a better plan. What if you just need to be patient and make the best of it?
Just in case your dream takes a while longer to materialize, keep Colossians 3:23-24 handy, and pray this prayer today:
Father, thank you for all the ways you’ve blessed me, specifically with this job that pays my bills and puts food on my table. Thank you that ALL work has significance because work is good. Help me bring you glory today, through my actions, my words, through the good work I do to bring order to my little corner of the world. Help me view my work as a blessing and not a curse. Give me grace and strength for the hardest aspects of my job. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
Editor’s Note: The following is an abridged version of 7 Scriptures to Read before You Go to Work by Renee Davis. To read the full article, follow this link.