Islamic Finance

2 Questions Every Muslim Professional Must Answer

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a job that harnessed your specific interests/skills but was also something that has an impact and sits well with your faith?

I sincerely believe that there is such a job for each and every one of us.

I’ve been puzzling on a way to formalise how one approaches that quest since my last year at university.

At the time I came up with a rough career planning system which has since been refined over the years delivering talks to university students around the country. It’s a method that a surprising number of people have benefited from (here’s a link to a lecture).

And if I boil that 9-year-long conversation with hundreds of people down into two essential questions, they are:

1. Is my job halal?

As a Muslim, without a job that is permissible in Islamic law you will always be uncomfortable. We all know countless examples of Muslims who have gone into banking/finance jobs attracted by the glitz and the money and then have left, disillusioned and uncomfortable with their ethics, about 5 years later. For more on investment banking as viable option for a Muslim see here, here and here.

But this is a question not just for the banker. This is a question for any working professional. See here for a wider discussion.

And jobs are complicated right – they change and evolve and are increasingly technology-based in ways that mean that the Qur’an and Hadith need to be applied in a careful and novel way (usually best left to scholars).  But you will also be doing unpredictable things day to day, so you need to know a decent working knowledge of Islamic law around your chosen profession – because you can’t ask a scholar when you’re working to a 1-hour deadline!

So if you’re a doctor you need to know Islamic medical ethics (e.g. by studying with these guys on their courses). If you’re a shop-keeper, you need to know the fiqh of buying and selling inside out. Here is a recent tafseer on financial ethics in Islam.

If you’re City professional working in the corporate and finance world, check out the linked items we already have, and if you’ve got a particularly specific question, then feel free to reach out to us via email. Also, let us know if you think a course would be helpful, breaking down in nitty-gritty detail what trades, products, businesses and/or practices in the corporate/finance world are actually haram/halal.

Ultimately we all need to take ownership over the “Islamic-ness” of our careers – and often that means putting in a little bit of study in order to properly understand what Islamic law has to say on the topic.

2. Is my job the best use of my time right now?

There is a concept the Japanese use called “ikigai”. The gist of it is that your job must be a meeting of 4 things:

  • Something that makes you happy
  • Something that the world needs
  • Something that you’re good at; and
  • Something that makes you money.

We’ve got a bunch of resources talking around career planning that discusses each of these things in much more detail. See here, and here.

But the crucial thing to answer this question is to actually sit down and think about your career. Why are you doing what you are doing? What are the metrics of success for you? Where do you want to be in 5-10 years’ time?

Don’t just be a career zombie.

It is all too easy to get into a decent job with a clear career-progression trajectory and get blinkered by it. Just because the graduate recruitment officer at a blue-chip is telling you that this is how you should spend your life doesn’t mean that is the best way you could spend your life/time.

Now, as a corporate lawyer myself, I am not saying at all that you should up sticks and leave your job tomorrow! What I am saying is that being in a job must be a very conscious and active decision which is part of a long-term plan.

And by the way, that plan may never come to fruition or it’ll evolve. But that’s not the point. The point is you’ve thought about it and are now in a job because you know that is the best use of your time right now.

If you have a particular way you think/thought about your career – we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


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6 Comments. Leave new

  • This is a cracking article – jzk for sharing.

  • Thanks for this beneficial post. I wanted to ask your opinion on if my job and income is halal.

    I work as a technical consultant for a software company. The company has multiple products and modules. The module I work on, provides industry standard automation of the collateral margin call process for non cleared derivatives which is designed for both the buy-side and sell-side. This is provided via an ISDA compliant workflow through a messaging application. Some key features are end-to-end margining capabilities, including instant messaging reconciliation, margin calculation, interest calculation and ability to disputes management among others.
    There is a new margin regulations that has coming into affect by 2020 and hence most of the clients that use this module of the software company are trading firms, banks, investment managers etc and the software company are capitilising on making software for this new regulation!

    My role is
    – technical onboarding of new clients onto this product described above
    – Developing additional services for existing clients or making technical fixes
    – resolution of escalated support issues

    From your opinion is my job and income halal?

    • With some reluctance, I would suggest you look to move into an other department or another job.

      While technically the service you are providing is a technical service and at arms-length, the exclusive user of such services will be people offering margin-trading, which is impermissible in all the forms I know of. So as a service provider, if you are exclusively servicing haram (e.g. a banking lawyer or a finance consultant) I think that goes onto the wrong side of the line.

      • Thank you. I see where you are coming from and this is the doubt I had myself after reading the article.

        Just to clarify, you suggest looking for alternative role because of the user base of the software and not due to the actual software? The reason i say this is because as mentioned in my original comment the software company are capitalizing on this new regulation. Once this is complete (in 2020) the user base of the service would be more wider and will then consist of the above and also other financial firms but the software would then be a messaging software for reconciliation and managing financial disputes.

  • Allyson Krzykowski
    July 8, 2019 1:11 am

    Really great information, thanks for the share and insights! I will recommend this to my friends for sure.

  • I’ve read this article many times as a source of reflection, I would add to what you’ve said Ibrahim, and say when it comes to planning for your career or job searching, try to plan out your life in 20Yrs and see how that potential job can help you in the afterlife. A book I’ve recently read, Productive Muslim, really lays out good tips in how we should try to plan our life and taking everything into consideration such as; Community work, Family responsibilities, Own personal goals, etc. When planning those 20Yrs, break it down by one year at a time or five years and always remember your target is the afterlife. Probably not a great explanation, but I tried. Hope what I said is helpful.


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