Course Teaches Muslims Business Ethics in Accordance with the Qur'an

May 7, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

On May 7, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "The business class had just finished its evening prayer break, and everyone's shoes were back on.

'Okay, now let's talk about program development,' Iqbal Unus told the 12 Muslim students taking his spring Non-Profit Management course at the Islam-oriented Fairfax Institute in Herndon.

Unus, a former nuclear scientist from Pakistan, took the class of social service workers through a series of business-building principles, including the importance of consulting, planning and using effective communication.

And he explained the most essential reason why they, as Muslims looking to grow their organizations, should master these ideas: because it honors God to do business by his teaching... Management and investing courses at the three-year-old institute are an example of what scholars say is a new phase for the U.S. Muslim immigrant community, which once consisted mostly of engineers, academics, doctors and other professionals. As the community grows larger and more heavily populated by business people, it is creating its own financial culture.

The trend is part of an effort to build an indigenous 'American Islam,' said Yvonne Haddad, who studies Islam in the West and teaches the history of the faith at Georgetown University. Muslim immigrants, who began coming to the United States in large numbers in the 1960s and '70s, 'are trying to engage in the economic sphere . . . and this is an effort to help them feel comfortable engaging in business.'

The market for faith-based business philosophy in general has grown in the past decade, with such books as 'Jesus, CEO' and 'Moses and Management' and multimedia programs such as 'Lead Like Jesus,' which, according to the company that produces them, have been seen by a half-million people.

But Islam has its own detailed system of business ethics, including a ban on interest-bearing loans and stocks and aversions to debt, hording and overvaluing. And it is becoming more of an issue as Muslims' affluence and interest in business grows -- something visible in classes such as the Fairfax Institute's and in the appearance of Islam-friendly mutual funds and establishment of Islamic finance programs at universities such as Rice in Houston and James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va."