Monday, 26 July 2010

Who observes your work?

We all have been in situations where our productivity levels increased because we were being observed (or felt we’re being observed) by a higher authority. And although this might fall under the category of hypocrisy, what I’ll discuss with you today will help us have a proper understanding of this “natural” reaction to being observed, and how we can employ it to boost our productivity without being hypocrites inshaAllah.

The Hawthorne Effect
An interesting research project was undertaken in the 1930s in an electric plant called the Hawthorne. The researchers set out to examine the effect of physical, environmental and psychological influences on productivity in the workplace (e.g. brightness of lights, humidity, group pressure, working hours, and managerial leadership). The results were surprising.
Regardless of the experimental manipulation (change of lighting, more breaks..etc), the production of the workers seemed to continually increase! The researchers concluded that because the workers knew they were being observed their productivity was boosted.

Who observes your work?
The above experiment brings an interesting conclusion: As humans, our behaviors and productivity may be altered when we know we’re being observed.
I’ll add to this and say: not only does the knowledge of being observed alter our behaviour, but knowing who is observing us, also has an effect.
Remember when you were young, how you always wanted to impress your teachers (especially those you liked) so you acted really good around them, even though at home you drove your parents nuts! Or at work, how your behaviour changes when your supervisor (who’s your friend) walks in your office compared to when your company’s CEO walks in!

Now here’s the really interesting part…let’s say you become super close friends to your teacher at school or your company’s CEO, that you end up seeing them as your peers, the same level as you.. do you think your behaviour will change as much when you’re around them? Probably not, why? Their reverence is gone, you see them as humans and you’ve security in the relationship with them.

The All-Seeing, All-Knowing
Now let’s take the above analysis: understanding that the knowledge of being observed plus the knowledge of who is observing us has an effect on our productivity, and look at the following verse from the Quran:

Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
“And say: "Work (righteousness): Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers: Soon will ye be brought back to the knower of what is hidden and what is open: then will He show you the truth of all that ye did." (9:105)
SubhanaAllah, Allah (SWT) is observing our work!…Have you ever thought of this?! Do you realise the magnitude of this?!

Let’s apply our analysis:

1. Do you know you’re being observed by Him: If the answer is YES, then this should show an alteration in your behaviour and productivity towards what He pleases and wants you to do.

2. Do you know who He is? It’s surprising how many Muslims stumble on this question! A scholar once said: “The more you know people, the less you fear them, but the more you know Allah (SWT) the more you fear Him”.
This is where hypocrisy comes in: if our behaviour changes and alters when mortals enter our lives and we have no regard to the One who created us & them, that’s hypocrisy!… however, the good news, if you know that He observes you, and you know Who He is and you change and alter your behaviour just for Him…then not only do you become a believer, but you also become free from being subject to human influences and your behaviour and productivity connects ONLY to Allah (SWT) …now that’s a ProductiveMuslim!

So how can we reach this level? The following four principles when applied to any work will help:

1. Intention
Before you start any work (for this life or hereafter) check your intention. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“Indeed action comes with intention.” Sahih Bukhari (Book #1, Hadith #1)

2. Make sure that the work does not go against Islam.
In other word, our work must be purified from any illegitimate element. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“Verily Allah the Exalted is pure. He does not accept but that which is pure. Allah commands the believers with what He commanded the Messengers. Allah the Almighty has said: "O you Messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously" [23:51-53]. And Allah the Almighty also said: "O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with" [2:167-172]. (Muslim)

3. Work hard and truly focus in fulfilling the task to the best of your ability, not waiting for praise from anyone nor waiting for recognition. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: "Allah loves that if one does a job he perfects it." SubhanaAllah, what better praise should you be seeking then knowing that Allah loves the one who perfect their work!

4. Do not neglect your responsibility to Allah during your work such as prayer, charity, covering Aurah, manners and so on. Allah (SWT) & His Messenger should always be our no.1.

5. Rely on Allah for anything you want to achieve (do your best and rely on Allah), Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“If you trusted in Allah s.w.t with true trust (tawakkul), He will give you sustenance as He gives to a bird which goes out in the morning hungry and comes back with full stomach.” (At-Tirmithi)
and remember the following verse whenever you achieve success at anything:
“And my success is only from Allah..” (11:88)
We ask Allah (SWT) to forgive us when we observe others than Him, and alter our behaviour for others but not for Him, and we Him to give us the sincerity and knowledge to always be aware of His observance of us. Ameen.