Islamic Voice
Shawwal/Zul-Qada 1422
January 2002
Volume 15-01 No:181

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Muslim Perspectives


Pray, Tell us Where and How?


Pray, Tell us Where and How?

With no space to offer prayers in the office and restrictions on going out of premises, here are novel ways how some fit their prayers in the corporate ambience

By A Staff Writer

Shezad Kadri, an MBA, is working as product manager with a multinational pharmaceutical company. Although very successful in his career, today, Shehzad feels a spiritual vacuum in his life as he is not able to offer his daily zuhar (afternoon) and asr (evening) prayers due to the strict restrictions from the management. Kadri wished he could perform his prayers on time- “but these people here never let him go”. The permission has to percolate down a hierarchy of officers from above before he takes some 10 minutes off to pray. Though the company has a huge posh building, the permission for namaz was not granted to him. He had a lot of regrets because of this.

Although the Indian Constitution guarantees right to practise one’s religion, both private and public sector offices or enterprises generally do not allow Muslim employees to offer namaz in their premises. Anil Verma, HRD manager with a foreign bank while explaining the difficulties of the management in restricting namaz said: “If we allow the employees practising one religion, others would also demand permission to organise religious functions or pujas, which would vitiate the atmosphere leading to communal tensions” Hurdles apart, there are many Muslim professionals who have found out means and ways to offer their daily prayers. Arif Khan, sales executive with Rexroth Ltd, initially offered zuhar prayers in the company’s garden. But was asked to avoid it by his superiors. “I found that on the ground floor, there was a warehouse where scraps are stored. During lunch hour, I offer my zuhar prayers in a dark corner of the warehouse,” said Arif .

Shamim Baig, accounts manager with an advertising agency discovered an unusual place to offer namaz. With no space to offer prayers in the office and restrictions on going out of premises, Baig was very desperate as he was missing his afternoon and evening prayers. One day while hunting for a corner to offer prayers, Shamim thought why not use the lift for the purpose? “I knew that during lunch hour the lift is closed for an hour. I took the liftman into confidence and asked him to station the lift on the top floor. I offer my afternoon prayers in the lift and nobody has so far noticed me using it for namaz,” revealed Baig.

Farooq Ladiwala, distribution manager with a fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) multinational, was admonished against praying in the office from the general manager (personnel) through a memo. “For a month after the memo, I missed my zuhar and asr prayers. “I was thinking in terms of resigning from the job. My wife one day came up with a brilliant idea to offer prayers in my car in a sitting position,” said Ladiwala. Now he parks his car in the farthest corner of the company’s garage. “I am offering my zuhar prayers in the car and no one knows it,” says Ladiwala

Yasin Khan, working as a supervisor in a courier company offers namaz at the next-door Chartered Accountant’s office. “As we have no space in the office and also the hitch in permission, I requested the chartered accountant Anil Desai, to offer me the hospitality of his office space. Since he is our regular customer and knows me personally he agreed.” Said Khan.

Rehan Ansari, a floor supervisor in a three-star hotel in Mumbai found out a unique solution to the namaz issue. He wrote to his superior asking for permission to offer meditation during lunch hours so that he can increase his productivity and concentration. I was granted permission without any questions asked. I offer my prayers in a corner of our room when I am alone instructing my colleagues that since I am offering meditation, I should not be disturbed for the next five minutes”, says Ansari.

While Shamim Baig has found the peaceful ambience of Lift to pray during lunch hour, Soab Parkeh carries a pillbox Bohra cap to pray inside a Bohra Masjid on the way.

Soab Parekh, officer in the State Bank of India had problem offering asr prayer. Since he lives in the far off suburbs, he used to miss his asr prayers. One day while walking towards the railway station, Parekh spotted a Bohra mosque on the way. Instantly an idea struck his mind. Why not offer evening prayers in the Bohra mosque. “I bought a Bohra cap next day and went inside the mosque. Since then, I offer my prayers in the Bohra mosque daily wearing a Bohra cap. No one has taken any objection as they consider me Bohra,” said Parekh .

Muslims in the corporate world and in the public sector succumb to the rules and regulations and even if there is a slight possibility of accommodating namaz timings, they are afraid to ask their bosses permission for time. Despite such restrictions there are ways to convince your bosses that 10 to 15 minutes each day is not going to make any difference to the production or the output. Shabnam Khan (name changed on request) who worked in an advertisement agency was very clear in her mind. Namaz cannot be compromised. She was not only sensitive but also very blunt on the namaz issue. “My boss was a Christian. I frankly told him that I will be taking a little break in the afternoon and evening for my prayers and thankfully there was a small empty room meant to be a storeroom and I used to pray there. No objection from anybody.

Shakil Ahmed, a schoolteacher, had the similar problem of missing asr prayers while commuting. He discussed this problem with his spiritual mentor who advised him to offer both afternoon and evening prayers together. “I personally did research on this and found out that one sect of our ulema agrees on combining zuhr and asr prayers in special circumstances .

In a private company where the atmosphere is informal unlike a public sector where one has to work on punching cards etc-the men have the freedom to use that time for prayers either by going to the mosque or finding a place on the terraces of their offices. What is required is the inclination and desire to offer prayers. If there is a will there is a way.

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