Some wise advice, especially for those embroiled in Dilbertesque ‘office politics’
Swimming against a shameless current
The 21st-century rat race has no place for modesty. Neither do 21st-century consumption-based economic models for that matter. Modesty will probably not give you the edge that will shoo you in to that corner office. Especially if it’s going up against an over-confident ego that makes up for a dearth of skills and no authentic ideas.All today’s ambitious “would-be” executive needs is some swagger and a velvet tongue. There, the bar has been set. Some call it working the game; others call it serving up what comes out the other end of a male cattle. But does the world really revolve on bovine deliverables?
Some say that if we don’t play the game we’ll never get ahead. Perhaps that’s true. But perhaps integrity still carries some weight in our world. Perhaps we are running with the wrong herd or barking up the wrong opportunity.
Modesty, in the Islamic literature, literally means to retract, or recoil, from anything that would bring censure or blame. But in a world where nothing more is sacred and iniquity has become virtue, and virtue becomes blameworthy, what remains to be shy from?
There’s more to it than this however, modesty in Arabic is “haya” and it comes from the word “life”. It implies also gentleness, kindness, and not only rising above what is petty and lewd, but avoiding cruelty, unfairness, and anything not in keeping with goodness and humanity. It was the character of the Prophet Mohammed.
He was renowned for combining courage with modesty. His humility and sensitivity endeared him to others while his bravery inspired confidence.
His shyness made him never to want to embarrass another person; while his courage always bolstered him to stand up for right when others shrank away from it.Far from being a mark of weakness, people of integrity should recognise the resolve in one another’s eyes and shut down the weasels and other rodents that scurry about in the shadows of the blindside of responsible leadership.
Courage is recognising when it is time to say “enough”. Someone has got to “man up” and let people know that they are going to get called out if they insist on being shameless when there’s good work to get on with.
Allah has His own style of shyness, too, if shyness means to shy away from doing anything other than the best. It is said that if a slave sincerely turns to Him and pours his heart out, with hands raised in supplication, that He is too shy to allow those hands to return with zero (sifr).
Balances of power take on a whole new meaning for those who look to the ultimate scheme of things. Whereas the power politics of those who can’t see beyond the short term can only be called petty, the only label fitting for someone who puts his faith in it.This is because the value of a person is measured only by the value of his attachments.Jihad Hashim Brown is the director of research at the Tabah Foundation. He delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi