Spirituality Amidst Your 9 to 5

Can you be spiritually present from 9am-5pm?
It’s a known fact that for many of us, working the 9-5 can sometimes be spiritually challenging between zoom meetings and sending angry emails.
For those in high-pressure or even toxic environments, hours can fly by without consciously remembering Allah. Add weeks and years and it can even adversely affect one’s Imān.
However, I was reading randomly in Ibn Qudāmah’s Minhāj al-Qāsidīn about how a trader should have shafaqa (I’ll translate as concern) for his religion. In essence, the point is that pursuit of wealth should *not* distract one from the afterlife.
Out of six points he listed to help calibrate work vs spirituality, the first two stood out:
1) Have a good intention: Working to become self-sufficient and fulfil the obligation of looking after one’s family. Of course, both under the guise of seeking the pleasure of Allah through your effort.
2) Trade with the intention of fulfilling a Farḍ Kifāyah (communal obligation): You may be involved in something which others are in need of your service e.g. A pharmacist providing medicines in a particular area, an accountant helping businesses fulfil their obligations etc.
These are foundational elements. As a basic, remind yourself of these two things regularly whilst on your way to work.
As for the remaining points, below are some tips mixed in our usual day-day:
– Pray at the beginning of its time where possible – this is from the best deeds. As per the hadith where the Prophet (saws) was asked about the best deed. He (saws) said; ‘Prayer at it’s time’ or in another narration ‘At the beginning of it’s time’ (Bukhari). This is 10x easier if working from home.
– Doing dhikr wherever and however. Ibn Qudāmah mentions the tasbīḥ (subhanAllah) and the Shahadah specifically, though any dhikr is beneficial. You can do this sat at your desk waiting for the meeting to start, or in the car on the way to work etc.
If it’s one of those 10-man zoom meetings you’re not really needed, use a tasbih under the table – yes, you can do dhikr whilst following the conversation!
– Start any meetings with bismillah (primarily with Muslim comrades!). Don’t be shy and do with presence of heart. Once you do it a few times, people will just expect it and it gives you focus.
– Where possible, enjoin the good with others at work. Encourage others to join you for prayers or invite others for food. It doesn’t have to be overt, but slowly establish yourself as someone trying to be good in your workplace. It’s not about showing off, but setting the trend of khayr. If you don’t set it, it will be set for you.
– Show good character to everyone. Smile, offer to help others with the right intention, show interest in someone to make them happy etc.
– If you can’t do any of the above, then at least reduce sinning. Don’t be led by those of ill-character, but establish boundaries where possible. If you do it politely and with good character, you can get away with anything inshAllah.