For Muslims across the world, the holy month of Ramadan is a time of piety and self-reflection. This mandatory tradition in Islamic culture invites an individual to deliberate on their personal conduct and righteousness. Drawing a parallel between business and the Muslim holy month, it would be fair to say that erecting and running a business requires the same single-minded devotion and faith. A broader interpretation of the tenets of this sacred month can give us sacrosanct commandments that could forge prosperity, mindful growth, and stay on course in business.
DISCIPLINE TAMES AN UNRULY OUTCOME
The foundational cornerstone of Ramadan is the act of fasting or ‘sawm’, an exercise in self-control and discipline, testing an individual’s patience to the core. Not unlike it, an entrepreneur makes a covenant with their business to make any sacrifice necessary in order to keep the business thriving and successful. Ask them and they will relegate the challenges in kickstarting a business – constant multitasking, juggling innumerable responsibilities, the renunciation of the comfort zone. Not to mention the self-control – from adhering to the tightest schedule, the most demanding deadlines, to declining recreation and vacation for the business, the late nights and early mornings.
Establishing a business takes courage and risk-taking, strength, and a little brazenness. It may feel tempting to slack off given the cycle of fatigue that an entrepreneur endures, especially in the early days. When failure hits, inertia sets in, sending our self-control haywire. Arguably, there is no replacement for well-deserved rest and recharge. However, remember that discipline is a hard-won commodity, which some spend a lifetime cultivating. Against your worst base instinct, stoically adhere to this discipline.
Abstain from distractions, procrastination, or anything that does not serve your goals. If this tenacity is a part of your life, it is infinitely easier not to be dogged by the uncontrollable aspects of your business. Instead, work your hardest at the aspects you can govern and mould.
REWARDS FOR THE FAITHFUL
‘Shahada’ is a profession of unshakeable faith. In business, faith is the foundation on which all future edifices are built. The market is an unpredictable place, and the freedom of business consequently brings paralyzing uncertainty. To combat this, practice building faith in your customer by establishing a strong feedback loop. Have faith in your product or service, even in the experimentation phase when perfection may seem unattainable. Stay firm on your business model, regardless of how much you lag behind the competition. Faith speaks directly to patience, for there is no such thing as instant turnarounds in business. Faith tells you that the tree will bloom, even when you can’t see the roots flourishing underground.
GUIDING LIGHT PIERCING AN OBSCURE FUTURE
‘Salah’ stands for prayer, which may baffle as to how it fits in the scheme of business. After all, prayer is often misconstrued as calling upon someone to rescue you only when your ship is sinking, unimaginable to a proud entrepreneur. But prayer is a humble admittance that you don’t have all the answers, an acknowledgment that even the most infallible among us need help. Or it manifests as a more personal meditation, on the past follies that nearly crumbled your enterprise or the many opportunities the future presents. It is remarkable how quiet contemplation can often reveal solutions right in front of you. Every entrepreneur, irrespective of the stage of their business, should not hesitate to ‘pray’ and seek guidance from a mentor or deep self-reflection to course-correct their endeavor.
HE WHO GIVES, PROSPERS
For some, businesses are defined by profit, but they are more accurately defined by the tribe they create through their work. There is no community stronger than that built on the tenets of helping the less fortunate. ‘Zakat’ or donation is a collective social responsibility and one that businesses of today shoulder with pride. Every successful enterprise generates a flow of wealth and goods in the market. Still, an unsaid expectation is to improve the lives of the people, who may not necessarily be your customers. Goodwill is created by those businesses who put profits aside for society’s collective wellbeing. This, of course, does not mean to donate until your coffers run empty, but simple measures such as adhering to fair wages, ethical policies, non-discriminatory service, and other egalitarian practices go a long way and are a symbolic gesture of ‘Zakat’, especially for new start-ups.
THE WANDERER ALWAYS FINDS THE WAY
A business cannot take a pilgrimage, but its leader certainly can. While rules of religion seem etched in stone, in business, metamorphosis is the only constant. Sometimes, hypervigilance about your enterprise can make it hard to be objective about your shortcomings, flaws, or rickety plans. A closeup look offers nothing but insistent focus on the day-to-day, with the long term pushed in a dangerous blind spot. But a bird’s eye view, away from the nitty-gritty of the situation, allows you to take a breather and assess the situation. A calmer head steering the ship means a voyage that will certainly reach its destination.
Ramadan is an earmarked period for intense self-reflection, contemplation, devotion, and remembrance. Businesses can seek to look in the mirror and improve to avoid the pitfalls that beseech them. Reflect on the choices your enterprise makes in terms of the product or service, how you seek to treat your employees or how you interact with competition. A thorough self-reflection will reveal if your decisions are rooted in positivity and collaboration, or fear and envy. Contemplate the direction of your business, its sustainability, its inclusivity, and how your work impacts the people. Assess your devotion to your vision and mission statement and if you have wandered away from it. Above all else, harbor the spirit of remembrance, with gratefulness for the journey so far. Never forget the ups and downs, the triumphs and the tribulations. There were periods of stagnation, but there were also blessed showers of abundance. Business follows a very evident sinusoidal wave, and a knowing of this truth helps you treat it all as fleeting – the good and the bad – and focus on showing up with purpose every day.
The tenets of Ramadan, when boiled down to their essence, speak of an honest living and high thinking. What better than to use this holy month to get rid of the bells and whistles and focus on the original ideas, the seed which started it all? By simply striving to do the right thing and ensuring that the community progresses hand-in-hand with your passionate endeavor, your business can flourish with the spirit of Ramadan all year.