Organizational Development through Islamic Management Frameworks
American Muslim landscape has changed dramatically since 9/11. America’s political culture, legal environment and public discourse have become structurally Islamophobic.1 On one hand Muslim organizations have made significant strives in opening up their doors and engaging in civic and interfaith dialogue. On the other hand the perpetuation of fear of prosecution and lack of due process in implicating Islam and Muslims in terrorism has left its psychological impact on the American Muslim populace dampening our ability to integrate Islam in the fabric of North America.
In the post 9/11 era reacting to redress government scrutiny, improve public image and educate the general public about fundamental Islamic values, is only half of the American Muslim struggle. While progress has been made in creating Muslim advocacy groups, educational centers, public policy institutes, political action committees, and interfaith outreach programs, not much effort has been spent in harmonizing and codifying institutional and organizational governance models. As a result the long term sustainability of our institutes and organizations, vis-à-vis their ability to share best practices, their ability to communicate effectively internally and externally, their ability to instill organizational efficiencies and their ability to be at par with the western organizational management paradigm, is at risk. While Islam offers the best approach to eradicating the ills of society, western organizational management frameworks offer a process oriented approach to managing organizations for achieving effectiveness and inducing efficiencies.
Why not an Islamic Management Framework?
Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves…–The Quran, Chapter ArRaad Verse 11.
The time has come to initiate change and merge the two ideologies together; Islamic spirituality with western process oriented management frameworks. This merger will be the birth of an Islamic management framework called “Management by Islam (MBI)”. Such an Islamic management framework would then offer Muslim organizations and institutes a unique solution for the other half of the American Muslim struggle:
1) Adopting, implementing and maintaining best practices.
2) Streamlining organizations with process oriented efficient governance models.
3) Training leaders, managers and workers in state-of-the-art management practices with a God-centric frame of reference for creating transparency and accountability.
In a time when corporate ethical standards are being myopically driven by material gains, a balanced approach like MBI will provide an alternative to existing management frameworks eliminating their eschewed focus on year end profit and loss (P&L) statements as key performance indicators (KPI) for business health and performance measures. A balanced management approach will offer a positive spiritual dimension to governance enabling American Muslims to reach higher grounds and set examples for others to follow.
What is a God-centric Frame of Reference?
When our leaders, managers and workers all recognize the importance of abiding by a set of divine guidelines prescribed by God and the example set forth by Prophet Muhammad (May Peace and Blessing of God be with Him), then transparency and accountability becomes the focal points of governance of all our affairs; private or public.
To God is your return…He knows what they conceal and what they reveal…He knows well the (inmost secrets) of the hearts…All is in a clear Record… The Quran, Chapter Hood Verses 4-6.
A God-centric frame of reference is one where we are cognizant of the transparency of our intensions and mindful of the accountability of our actions. A model like MBI will offer our organizations and institutes a shift from the short term focus on capital return on investment (ROI), to the long term focus on spiritual ROI. Instilling this type of a God-centric frame of reference in our day-to-day operational and governance activities will rejuvenate our lost sense of humanitarian and environmental activism brining social justice, public service, civic outreach and environmental safeguard back on our priority lists.
Leading by Example
When it comes to corporate governance and organizational management, how can Muslims play the role of good counselors? The answer lies in comprehensively adhering to God’s divine framework, not just in our private affairs but also in our public affairs. A holistic public/private God-centric frame of reference is therefore paramount in exhibiting exemplary moral values and public trust stewardship responsibilities.
For Muslim organizations, who aspire to be exemplary Islamic institutions in North America contributing positively to the betterment of the Muslim community and the society at large, what greater ROI can there be then governing their affairs utilizing such an Islamic management framework? As evident by a saying of the Prophet of God, that the essence of the religion of Islam is giving good counsel2. Counseling in this context relates to our organizations and institutes being models not just in principle but also in governance as well. Exemplary are those entities where transparency and accountability to God is the hallmark for success. This type of organizational behavior is not mere lip service to the intent to govern with Islamic principles; it is the synchronization of good intensions with the ability to continuously set higher standards of performance.
Facilitating a Balanced Approach
And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance. That you not transgress within the balance. And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance… The Quran, Chapter Al Rahmaan, Verses 7-9
The MBI framework thus has to be a concept that is a balance enabler facilitating the process of learning professional and organizational wisdom behind implementing globally harmonized God-conscious policies and ethical standards for establishing effective and sustainable personal and organizational environments.
Maintaining balance is not a mere recommendation but a divine order. Although Islam may play a balancing role when it comes to our personal lives, seldom do we inject and harmonize our organizations and institutions with that balanced approach. It is this balance that helps us in mitigating risk and achieving success. The MBI methodology is therefore, a means to achieve a balance scorecard.
And let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow and fear God… The Quran, Chapter Al Hashr Verse 18
If the purpose of this life is to attain the love of God, then by default our long term strategy should be to focus on activities that bring us His favors. The strategy, for attaining God’s favors, can not be fulfilled without our commitment to short term roles and responsibilities here on earth. Western management frameworks are excellent tools for achieving such short term objectives. However such frameworks can negatively affect our performance, if servitude to God is not an integral component of the broader framework. When liabilities of this magnitude are ignored and we get too focused on everyday living, an element of risk enters the equation. The risk we so inherently face as human beings of meeting our Lord, on the Day of Judgment, in a state of bankruptcy. The degree of confidence in minimizing liability is a key performance indicator (KPI) for predicting desired end result. An MBI risk management approach, one embodying Quran and Sunnah as the underlying core decision support system, facilitates a balanced approach in controlling risk. Thus the MBI approach promises a greater potential in producing ethical corporate citizenry; one that is synchronized and mindful of the responsibilities entrusted on us as representatives of God on this earth.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Are we as Muslims ready to implement such a God-centric framework so that we can comprehensively begin to take on the challenges of our times; eradicating Islamophobia, and leading by example?
Most of our organizations already have the wisdom and the expertise needed to succeed. The challenge is to efficiently manage the ability to draw on people’s competence, expanding the flow of information and opening up channels to understand and act on that information, enabling organizational growth. Too many organizations spend energy and time organizing and planning, reacting to the circumstances. Not many organizations take the necessary steps to proactively improve processes, implementing measurable objectives with associated accountabilities.
Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves… The Quran, Chapter Ar Raad Verse 11.
We as American Muslims need to start building teams that understand the efficiencies associated with bilateral collaboration, recognize the dynamics of empowerment, and realize the importance of adapting to change. The desire to change however needs to come from within our organizational leadership. For a change without the internal desire to change, is only a cursory change on an emotional level. Emotions might help us acknowledge the enormity of our challenges but mere rhetoric cannot improve our existing condition. We need to meet the challenges we face today head on for us to pave the way for future American Muslims to succeed. Combining western process oriented management frameworks with Islamic spirituality is not just another good thing to have, but it is a necessity for sustainable governance.
MBI offers a new perspective!