The Impact of Islamic Work Ethics on Job Performance. A Study of Universiti Utara Malaysia Adminstrative Staffs

Master's Thesis, 2016
111 Pages




1.0 Background of the Study

Ethics and morality are core values of all divine religions. All divine religions that are revealed by Allah to His messengers with divine books promote ethics and morality. According to Mayne (2016) ethics runs deeper than the internal compass and describes a social system or societal structure of moral codes that govern virtuous action. From a secular perspective, ethics change from group to group and society to society. But from the Christian perspective, ethics should be concrete and governed by God. Christian ethics does not change from society to society, as secular moral codes may do, Christians are a single group adhering to the ethical code of the Bible, rather than multiple sects adhering to differing laws and customs.

Islam is a comprehensive religion that covers all aspects of life including ethics and morality. Allah laid down ethical code of conducts the moment Adam was created. Allah commanded Adam to dwell in Paradise and al-Qur'an says:

"And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimeen (wrong doers)" [Al-Bagara: 35]. Allah Almighty told us: "So he (Satan) misled them with deception" [Al-Araf: 22]. Allah said: "Thus did Adam disobey his Lord so he went astray" [Taha: 121].

Islam explicitly set standards of what is right and what is wrong, so that human beings can act within the boundary of Shariah. From the Islamic point of view, lack of morals indicates the weakness of faith as true faith should reflect on one's manners (Jamal, 2005). The Prophet Peace be upon him said: "I have been sent to prefect the high moral standards" (Narrated by Abu Hurairah), which means that he was sent in order to complete and prefect the noble moral qualities that have been preached by all the prophets before him.

Prophet also said: "The best of the believers in faith are those who are the best in morals" (Narrated by At-Tabarani).

The Glorious Qur'an says:

"It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing." [Al-Qur'an 2:177]

This verse underscores the Islamic belief that righteousness and piety is built, before everything else on a true and sincere faith. The key to virtue and good conduct is a strong relation with God, Who sees all, at all times and everywhere. He knows the secrets of the hearts and the intentions behind all actions. Therefore, Islam enjoins moral behavior in all circumstances; God is aware of each one when no one else even exists. It may be possible to deceive the world, but it's not possible to deceive the Creator. The love and continuous awareness of God and the Day of Judgment enables man to be moral in conduct and sincere in intentions, with devotion and dedication (Saulat, 2014).

Indeed, according to Modaf (2005), ethical practices that include work ethics are very important to individuals, societies and corporations to perform and succeed. He argues that Islamic work

ethics significantly influenced the economic development of Muslim societies' right from the Prophetic era. Al-Qur'an teaches the Muslim society to participate and work harder to achieve their goals.

The Glorious Qur'an says:

"That man can have nothing but what he strives for" [Al-Qur'an 53:39].

Imam Ghazali stated that Prophet Issah (peace and blessings be upon him) one time saw a man who had totally committed himself to ibadah, he questioned the man how he earns his living, and the man responded that his brother worked and provided him with food. The Messenger of Allah Issah (peace and blessing be upon him) then said to him, "your own brother is more religious than you". Imam Al-Ghazali also indicates that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, use to stressed this point by saying to the people: "Never should anyone of you think that dua (supplication) for food without working will benefit him because the heaven never rains gold nor rains silver" (Quasem, 1975).

Islamic work ethics contains all the aspects of life such as social, economic and moral elements (Ahmad, 2011). Jalil, Azam, and Rahman, (2010) mentioned that, ethics means Hay'a in Arabic which is derived from the word hayyat which is life. The basic meaning of hayya'a is (The rank of honor and doing good actions). Several literatures highlighted the importance of Islamic work ethics to society, organization and the economy. For instance, Abeng (1997) indicates that Islamic work ethics (IWE) is one of the most important measures that increase work performance among Muslim societies. Ali and Al-Owaihan, (2008) argued that at the organizational level, Islamic work ethics can contribute positively to the organization's development and wealth (Ali and Al-Owaihan, 2008). Besides that, Abuznaid (2009) indicates that Islamic work ethics can influence the ethical behaviors of Muslim employees within organizations and corporations in a different way, at different countries. For example, it helps in preventing corruption and abuse of power, prevent the acts of cheating and dishonesty, leads to better care of employees and their rights, enhances effectiveness and efficiency, creates integrity and produces better quality. Thus, it can be said that Islamic work ethics (IWE) have a magnificent impact on the evolution and achievement of the Muslim society for all aspects of life. Islamic work ethics also encourages Muslim societies to behave well and work harder. It also guides organizational code of conducts such as honesty, loyalty, kindness, charity, cooperation, creativity, commitment, and discourage all immoral acts that can harm workers, organization and the society at large (Kumar, and Che Rose, 2010). Unfortunately, most of these literatures in favor of Islamic work ethics are theoretical in nature and the benefits cited are not empirically tested. Therefore, the research motivation is to empirically test the perceived benefits of Islamic work ethics.

Moreover, numerous researches have been conducted on job performance (Hunter and Hunter, 1984; Bormann, Birjulin, 1999; Riketta, 2002; Reio and Kidd, 2006; Sai Mei Ling, 2014), but most of these studies emphasized on various predictors of job performance, in which the findings and the information are very crucial and valuable for an organization to enhance the performance of its employees. Looking at the importance of job performance among each individual worker, this study focuses on the influence of Islamic work ethics (IWE) and work engagement as the predictors of job performance.

1.1 Problem Statement

Along with the growth of industrial productivity, many countries, either from the West or the East, have experienced ethical and moral degeneration, such as the growth of corruption, exploitation of the weak, unabated materialism, pollution and widespread immorality and the destruction of the social fabric of the family. (Owoyemi, 2012)

Ethics and morality are in the center of debate in corporate society and global economies. The concern in ethics arises from the fact that the current global economies have witnessed economic crisis and collapse of large corporations such as Enron, Worldcom and more recently, the Lehman Brothers case in 2008. However, the Libor manipulation scandals have caused major upheaval in western nations and their impact has been felt not only in the individual institutions or countries but across the global financial system (Chakrabarty, 2013). Moreover, Enron and their accounting firm Arthur Anderson systematically produced fraudulent financial reports and engaged in unethical accounting by misrepresenting earnings and hiding liabilities and debts (Roger 2010). When the depth of the deception came out to the public, investors and creditors retreated, forcing the company into bankruptcy in December 2001. The scandal that happened with Lehman Brothers was similar. According to Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) report 2012, it is estimated that a typical organization loses 5 percent of its revenues to fraud each year and cumulative annual fraud loss globally during 2011 amounted to more than 3.5 trillion Dollar.

Porter (2010) asserted that any population and civilization lived in this universe has its own history and story that impact the meanings given to the work in people's life. Beside the devout background, civilization has an influence on the commune's moral believe and conducts. Quddus, (2009) stated that different religions and dogmas influence morals and ethical understanding of the society. Hence, societies reflect their religious concept and views in order to practice ethics in their daily trade life.

Islam as a comprehensive religion and a complete way of life can provide some solutions to this chaotic situation especially to the Muslims. Had it being the Islamic work ethics is adhered, the Muslims could have become the dominant power long time ago. This is because, with abundance of natural resources and a comprehensive religion like Islam, Muslims ought to be the economic and political power of the world. Unfortunately, they are still left far behind compared to other nations. The Muslim world has been in a state of pervasive decadence for several centuries. This negative state permeates the activities and the actions not only of the general masses but also of the reform movements. In order to move ahead, Muslims have to admit their malaise and start doing something to overcome it. The Qur‘an and Sunnah contained much guidance which could form the Muslim‘s key to success. Through the concept of work ethics which is contained in the Qur‘an and Sunnah, Muslims should now move ahead to achieve higher levels ethically and economically in order to overcome the non-Muslim dominance in all aspect of human lives (Owoyemi, 2012).

If the Muslim world intends to achieve the status of full developed nations, they require a professional workforce that is not only educated and innovative, but an ethical one, with integrity, accountability, dynamic and committed to continuously increase Muslim professionalism. In the context of developing Muslim professionals a holistic and integrated model is important, Muslims need to have Tawheed, the fundamentals of faith, based on Al-Quran and Hadith. Manifestations in life for practice which accounts for worship and morality need to be implemented. Islamic work ethics requires Muslims to follow key parameters of Islamic behavior which is justice, trust, righteousness, honesty, reward, commitment, satisfaction, performance, struggle towards self- improvement and keeping promises. Personal values and individual personality influences once ethical standards. Through encouragement and a sense of obedience to Allah, people will comply with moral regulations, without any external pressure. When an organization intend to create a professional mindset and change attitude to measure results; trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty, responsibility and integrity are of paramount important. Muslim institutions and society need to inculcate Islamic ethical values and nature them. If not, the institution, society, and the country will be lost, and fall in to a worse situation, the quality of the Muslims themselves would also be destroyed (Zin, Mahdi, Rahman, Latif, Sulaiman, Khalid, 2012).

Despite the facts that there are many studies done on Islamic work ethics, but hardly is there any empirical study that investigates the impact of Islamic work ethics on Universiti Utara Malaysia staff performance. It is thus important to conduct this study given the fact that majority of UUM administrative staff are Muslims. This study therefore, attempts to fill the research gap by examining the perception UUM administrative staff on the impact of Islamic work ethics (IWE) on their performance.

1.2 Research questions

On the basis of the above research problem, the study attempts to provide answers to the following research questions:

1. Are there a significant relationship between Islamic work ethics and employees' Job performance?

2. What are the impacts of Islamic work ethics on the employees' job performance?

3. What are the most important factors of Islamic work ethics that will influence employees' job performance?

1.3 Research Objectives

The overall aim of this study is to explore the influence of Islamic work ethics on performance of UUM administrative staff. In particular, the study attempts to achieve the following specific objectives:

1. To investigate the relationship between the Islamic work ethics and employees job performance.

2. To examine the impact of Islamic works ethics on the employees job performance.

3. To determine the most significant factors of Islamic work ethics that will influence job employees' performance.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study is significant to the body of knowledge, policy makers, practitioners and academicians. Since most of literatures on perceived benefits of Islamic work ethics are theoretical, this study will add on the stock of knowledge on Islamic ethics through empirical contributions. Therefore, it will contribute to knowledge on this field. Policy makers and Islamic corporations can design their code of ethics to incorporate Islamic values and this will have great positive impact on their performance as well as economic growth. Future researchers can explore more on other variables as well as expand the size of the study in order to contribute more to knowledge.

1.5 Scope of the study

This study was primarily designed to review the impact of Islamic Work Ethics on employees' job performance; this is because of the persistent immoral concerns in the society and corporations like dishonesty, fraud, sexual harassment, etc. The elements of Islamic work ethics for this study cover honesty, rewards, commitment and satisfaction only. The study specifically focuses on UUM administrative staff. In order to achieve the research objectives, the study employ a quantitative research method, mainly survey where questionnaires were distributed to the respondents. The research population is UUM administrative staff in Sintok main campus.

1.6 Organization of the Study

The aim of this research is to examine the influence of Islamic work ethics on job performance. In order to achieve that, the study is organized into five chapters. A brief description of each chapter is given below:

Chapter One serves as the introduction to the study by providing a short description of the research background and the impact of Islamic work ethics on job performance, besides what our religion said about Islamic work ethics and unethical deeds. The chapter also covers the problem statement, research questions, objectives, significance and scope of the study.

Chapter Two discusses and provides a review of the literature related to the studies conducted on Islamic work ethics and it is organized in accordance with the research variables, which discusses the previous studies carried on honesty, rewards, commitment, satisfaction and job performance. This was planned in order to build the theoretical framework for this study.

Chapter Three is the section whereby the researcher describes the theoretical framework used for this study as well as the research design and methodology employed in this study. This chapter also discusses the hypotheses development. The chapter as well, detailed the data collection method applied for this research as well as the analysis techniques and the statistical tools used to analyze the gathered data.

Chapter Four presents the overall findings obtained from the research. The results are analyzed based on the formulated hypotheses including discussion of the findings, this chapter also links the findings of this study with the previous studies and provides the formulation of the overall conclusion of the research.

Chapter Five is the final section of the study and it represents the summary of the findings in line with the research objectives. The chapter also presents the contributions of this research, the implications, and recommendations.



2.0 Introduction

This is the second chapter of the research and it covers the relevant literature and the findings of previous studies on Islamic work ethics and its impact on the performance of the workplaces. Sekeran, (2003) stated that a literature review is a documentation of the comprehensive reviews of the past studies and it is obtained from secondary sources in accordance with the research area. The chapter is divided into five six sections. Section one, examines the concept of Islamic work ethics and section two reviews the elements of Islamic work ethics. Section three discusses work in Islam and followed by work and Maqasid Shariah. The next chapter review conventional perspective on work ethics and the last section provides conclusion.

2.1 Concepts of Islamic Work Ethics

According Beekun, (1997) Islamic work ethics (IWE) is "The set of moral principles that distinguish what is right from what is wrong. And from the Islamic perspective Rizk (2008) stated that, Islamic work ethics is a direction towards work and approaches work as a valuable asset in the human lives. Islamic work ethics is originally derived from the Holy Qur'an, the teachings sayings and actions of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as well as the legacy of the four Caliphs of Islam (Ali, 2005 and Rizk, 2008).

The term Ethics can be defined as the activity of applying moral precept to concrete problems (Wines, 1992: 883). Johnson (1984: 1) defines ethics as the science of conduct. Ethics is a science, in a sense that its study represents an intellectual enterprise, a rational enquiry into its subject matter in the hope of gaining acquired knowledge. As such, ethics can be contrasted with art, religion or technology. Besides that, philosophers also speak of ethics as a normative science because it concerns itself with norms or standard of behavior.

Akhlaq is the appropriate term in Arabic that stands for the translation of the word ethics. The root from which it derives its meaning means to create, to shape, to give form, to mould or to produce. While the term Akhlaq is a plural of khuluq, referring to collections of distinct traits of character, the knowledge of morality (ilm al-Akhlaq) is translated as ethics, moral sciences or moral philosophy (Owoyemi, 2012). Akhlaq from Islamic point of view is different from western perspectives. Ethics, according to western sociologists is relatively dependent on individual perspective in order to determine good or bad. However, in Islam, the source of ethics is its religious institution, transmitting a divine revelation to mankind. In other word, the Quran and Sunnah automatically become the source of (akhlaq) in Islam. Thus, all modes of behavior and character traits derived their goodness or badness from the sanction or otherwise of the holy book and the sayings and practices of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) who himself has been described as the best model of behavior for all believers.

Quran says:

"And indeed, you are of a great moral character" (68:4).

2.2 Elements of Islamic work ethics

It is clear that in Islam, work is not only important, but necessary. This section discusses some of the elements which are important to Islamic work ethics from the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).

2.2.1 Honesty

According to Khadijah, Kamaluddin and Salin, (2015), Honesty means telling the truth even though it is difficult to do so. In other words, the person does not conceal anything that should be disclosed, if he is an accountant, he has to report all the transactions accurately according to the accounting steps and procedures in place. The Almighty Allah had instructed us, to be honest in any sort of dealings.

Qur'an says:

Allah says: "O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed)" (9:119).

In the same context, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: Abdullah reported, the Messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H) said:

"Truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man may speak the truth until he is recorded with Allah as truthful. Lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to the Fire. A man may tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar" (Muslim, no. 6308).

Islam has stressed and emphasizes the importance of honesty. Moreover, Muslim societies are expected, to be honest in their dealings and performances. In the meanwhile Honesty implies fulfilling the promise, giving the right guidance for those who asks for it, doing one's work sincerely and as perfectly as possible, and telling the truth, fulfilling one's words, objective judgments and objective decisions (Aldulaimi, 2016).

2.2.2 Trustworthiness

In Arabic, it means amanah. The meaning of (amanah) is trustworthiness, or, it is something or someone that is left to another person to protect or keep. The opposite of amanah is betrayal or even treason. That is, to fail to keep the trust or (amanah) in the way the person who left it expected or wanted (Khadijah, Kamaluddin and Salin, 2015).

Trustworthiness further enhances the integrity and sound moral conduct that is inherent in the notion of honesty. Being trustworthy implies being honest, fair in dealings and punctual (in terms of both regularity and timeliness) as well as honoring trusts and keeping promises and commitments. An important part of the noble Islamic character is being trustworthy. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was known, even before his Prophet-hood to be (Al Amin) the trustworthy one (Khadijah, Kamaluddin and Salin, 2015).

While the qualities of honesty and trustworthiness are inextricably entwined, there are slight differences. Honesty implies a lack of deceit while trustworthiness entails honoring and fulfilling commitments, promises, trusts and covenants. It covers moral, social, legal and religious obligations. Being truthful in promises and covenants is one of the characteristics by which the believers are known. Both promises and covenants involve saying something about an issue to confirm that you will uphold the trust. This is especially so with regard to one's duties towards God. God praises the believers by promising them Paradise (Khadijah, Kamaluddin and Salin, 2015).

Quran says:

"Those who are faithfully true to their amanah (all the duties which God has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and trusts, etc.) and to their covenants...these indeed are the inheritors. Who shall inherit Paradise. And dwell therein forever" (Quran 23:8, 23:10-11)

2.2.3 Accountability

Accountability is frequently described as the means by which individuals and organizations report to a recognized authority and are held responsible for their actions accountability exists when there is a bonding between one party and another. Hence individuals or organizations have certain rights over the conduct of another as well as seek reasons for actions taken and the individual or organization is answerable to a higher authority for the action taken and for handling the resources received. This internal dimension of accountability is motivated by a ‘felt responsibility' as expressed through individual action and organization mission, in other words, accountability is trustworthiness. People are considered to be trustworthy when they behave in ways expected of them in the absence of surveillance. They do not merely comply with external forces such as surveillance pressures but also internalized the behaviors. A trustworthy person is a person who will keep the trust entrusted to him responsibly and faithfully. (Khadijah, Kamaluddin and Salin, 2015)

Quran says:

(Allah does command you to render back your trust to those to whom they are due and when ye judge between man and man that ye judge with justice verily how excellent is the teaching which he gives you for Allah is he who hearth and sees all things.) (4:58)

2.2.4 Sincerity

The meaning of sincerity is that what the person says and his/her deeds and actions should be for the sake of Allah (SWT) and not to show to the people or to be proud of himself or herself with them. Acceptance of deeds depends on sincerity. Sincerity to Allah (SWT) is a sign of the completeness of faith. Allah (SWT) looks into the heart and what is in it from intentions, not to the appearance or the shape of the deeds. Islam has invited us to sincerity and persuades us to live within it (Khadijah, Kamaluddin, Salin, 2015).

The Prophet (P.B.U.H) was asked:

"Which of the three persons carries on Jihad, one who fights for bravery and courage, one who fights tribalism or nationalism, or one who fights to be seen or to show off?" The Prophet (P.B.U.H) replied: "The one who fights to uphold the message of Allah is the person who carries on Jihad in the cause of Allah." (Imams Bukhari and Muslim)

The deeds, which the Muslims do, are not considered good unless they are done with good intentions and for the sake of Allah (SWT). Only sincere people have the moral courage to criticize the leaders when they do wrong things (Khadijah, Kamaluddin, Salin, 2015)

2.3 Islam and work

Shari'ah makes it obligatory upon the Muslims to work and acquire wealth in order to fulfill their duties and responsibilities to Allah, their family and community. Certain Islamic acts of worship such as zakat, hajj and jihad cannot be carried out without adequate financial resources. In many places in the Quran and Hadith, it has been made clear that time should not be wasted. In the Qur‘an, Allah draws attention to all the magnificent creations as an indication of the proper planning that leads to wonderful results for Muslims to believe that He creates nothing haphazardly. Allah relates in the Qur‘an how the heavens and the earth were created in six days and describes that as a sign for humankind (Owoyemi, 2012). Then the Qur‘an directs a message to humanity that they should contribute positively to the earth, that is, they should work to make use of what is created for their benefit:

"That man can have nothing but what he strives for, that (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight: then will he be rewarded with a reward complete." (52:39-41)

In Islam, work is given special importance to the extent that it is considered as an act of worship itself. Although some people believe that they are not obliged to work because they dedicate themselves to worshiping Allah, this is actually a wrong perception of the concept of worship. The Muslim scholar Imam Al-Ghazali mentioned in his book Ihyaa' 'Ulum Ad-Deen (Revival of the Religious Sciences) that Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) once saw a man who had completely devoted himself to worship. When he asked him how he got his daily bread, the man replied that his brother, who worked, provided him with food. Jesus then told him, that brother of yours is more religious than you are. the Prophet‘s Companion 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who used to stress this point further by telling people, Never should anyone of you think that (du'aa') supplication for sustenance without work will avail him, for heaven never rains gold nor silver. Therefore, Islam lays a lot of emphasis on work and the need for man to work in earning his livelihood so as to be independent, self-sufficient and in order to uphold his dignity among his peers and in his community/society. (Owoyemi, 2012).

Work, therefore, is regarded not only as a right but a duty and an obligation. Islam extends to the individual the right to choose the type of work he desires, but along with this freedom comes the obligation to consider the needs of the society as well as the selection of the type of work permitted by the Shariah (Owoyemi, 2012).

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

"By him in whose hand is my soul, if one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better for him than begging a man who may or may not give him anything." (Sahih Bukhari 1401).

Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: "earning one's livelihood through halal is an obligation after fulfillment of the obligatory acts of worship."

Prophet said: "whosoever can cultivate his land should do so, and those who cannot, would better give their land to their brethren for cultivation."

Since all class distinctions are negated by Islam, no line of work permissible by the Shariah is considered demeaning by Islam, which countenances only diversification on the basis of natural talents, skills and technology, or personal inclinations. Based on its concepts of justice and contracts, Islam makes it an obligation for the worker to perform the tasks which he has contracted to the best of his ability, but since individuals are endowed with different abilities and talents, their productivities will differ. Justice, however, demands that return to work of every individual must be commensurate with his productivity. The Prophets were the best examples of self-sufficiency, hard work, and responsibility. For example, Holy Quran tells us that the Prophet Musa worked for the Prophet Shoaib for ten years against an agreed compensation. Prophet David, upon him be peace, would never eat a meal unless he earned it himself. Abu Hurairah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

"Dawud would never eat except from the earnings of his own hand's work." (Sahih Bukhari 3235,)


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The Impact of Islamic Work Ethics on Job Performance. A Study of Universiti Utara Malaysia Adminstrative Staffs
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Abshir Khalif Farah (Author), 2016, The Impact of Islamic Work Ethics on Job Performance. A Study of Universiti Utara Malaysia Adminstrative Staffs, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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