business and islamic ethcs


Workplace harassment and the other types of harassment are found in corporate organizations of all forms and sizes. Actually this menace plaques our society in every way however the aim of this report is to concentrate on the dynamics of harassment in a business environment and also to give the Islamic perspective on this issue.

Harassment may be face by both men and women by the opposite or the same sex. No one is safe from it be they managers, technical staff, janitors or visitors to the organization.

Harassment on the whole can encompass many types. The first basic category is workplace harassment which includes organizational bullying, corporate bullying, client bullying and serial bullying. Other major types are gender-based harassment, sexual harassment, disability based and racial based harassment. However counseling and feed back related to work performance and behavior is not harassment. Over here there is a thin line too as unnecessary and unreasonable feedback clocked as a way of improving performance can be viewed as harassment.

The occurrence of harassment may be clear or at times may go unnoticed. It may even be done unintentionally with the person at the receiving end feeling victimized. Basically when a trivial behavior is carried out repeatedly and is not appreciated by the individual or group at towards which the behavior is aimed can come under the fire of harassment.

Our religious teachings forbid against all types of harassment. As Muslims we are supposed to be patient and approving of others disabilities and not to harm anyone without any permissible reason even if they are of a different faith.

Apart of strengthening our faith every organization should aim to formulating a clear and all encompassing harassment policy in which all types are clearly defined. Procedures for reporting such as act are laid out and protection is given to the victims or the whistleblowers.

Harassment can have a negative effect on the individual, group or organization. For individuals there is mental and emotional stress. There work performance can be effected which may have a negative impact on career opportunities. The harasser may also have a damaged reputation and may be transferred or even terminated from employment, making future employment difficult. Organizations that are plagued with work place harassment may find it difficult to retain and recruit highly skilled people which may bring in new ideas into the organization. Also the organization may have to undergo defamation due all the negative publicity associated with lawsuits.


Managing values and conduct effectively in the workplace is every organization's aim at one level or another. As it is the people in an organization that make everything happen. If they are not happy with their work environment and feel victimized it can lead to depression, feeling of worthlessness, inferiority and unhappiness. Eventually it will trickle down to effecting the organizations productivity, effectiveness and quality of work through absenteeism, resignations and even defamation by law suits.

Failure to educate employees and adapt adequate policies and programs to eliminate harassment and discrimination in the workplace can have serious consequences for businesses. Organizations which tolerate workplace harassment may have difficulty attracting and retaining high performing employees and the ideas and talents these people bring with them. This is the cost of lost opportunities

This report deals with work place harassment. Workplace harassment according to definition is offensive, threatening or belittling behavior directed at in individual worker or group of workers. Main focus of harassment is on factors than be differentiated upon such as sex, cultural, racial background or disability of the individual or group. Harassment plagues all levels of society, the only problem being that even eliminating is considered a taboo like carrying it out. Therefore in today's time harassment continues to be monumental problem in Pakistan's work environment.

Harassment should not be confused with advice or counseling in the workplace on work related matters or behavior. Critical comments and feed back to improve work quality can actually maintain worker's performance standards. Feedback or counseling differs from harassment as it aims to assist the worker of group of workers to improve their work performance and behavior. However care should be taken of how these comments are made. As recently in Pakistan a case was filed by a subordinate who felt remarks were made to him down in front of others by the boss. And in another case a case was filed and won against a colleague who used offensive language in a group discussion. Therefore feedback and counseling should always be made on true and concrete basis and should be carried out in a constructive way that is neither humiliating nor threatening.

Therefore we see that harassment is a very sensitive issue and can take many different forms for different people in different situations. Our religion has given us certain rules to follow so that we are compassionate towards our fellow beings and do not put them down in any way. The following chapters will aim to define harassments its types and the teachings of our religion as to how to interact with others maintaining our own and others dignity. For all types of harassment are discouraged in Islam.


When does harassment start?

At times harassment is intentional and aimed at specific people. In such cases recognition and punishment is relatively easier. However for harassment to occur it there does not have to be an intention to harass or offend. Harassing behavior can be very trivial and be unnoticed at times, or the person subject to harassment may seem unaffected. It is when a behavior continues over a period and is not addressed that harassment may be felt by people which may in turn effect the quality of work in the corporate environment. Harassing behavior may include:

  • offensive physical contact, derogatory language or intimidating actions;
  • insulting or threatening gestures or language (overt or implied) or continual and unwarranted shouting in the workplace;
  • unjustified and unnecessary comments about a person's work or capacity for work;
  • openly displayed pictures, posters, graffiti or written materials which might be offensive to some;
  • phone calls or messages on electronic mail or computer networks which are threatening, abusive or offensive to employees;
  • persistent following or stalking within the workplace, or to and from work or elsewhere; and disparaging remarks about malingering to employees who have made a claim for compensation

Major types of harassment in the corporate environment:

Workplace harassment:

Workplace harassment may be considered nonexistent or as having no measurable effect on people. However this is the most common type pf harassment. Workplace harassment is an unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice and includes cruel, vindictive, derogatory and humiliating attempts to out down an individual or groups of individuals. These attacks on performance can be unpredictable, having no sound basis and often go unnoticed.

Workplace harassment can cause mental distress, chronic stress and anxiety, loss of belief in oneself and physical ill-health.

Types of workplace harassment are:

* Organizational Bullying:

This is subject to the whole organization ad occurs due to extreme and sudden organizational changes resulting in budget cuts, reduced income, external pressures and changing markets. In such times the employees may be asked to follow work practices not specified in their contracts. In the cutthroat competition of the business world at times in order to survive carry out practices that are illegal or against the constitution of the company. Such circumstances can force the employees to follow instructions that they are not comfortable with. Some may not be able to say no and so undergo stress and anxiety.

* Corporate Bullying:

Corporate bullying can usually occur following organizational bullying. An employee can take advantage of the weakness of the law or scarcity of job opportunities by creating difficulties for any employee who resists unreasonable demands. This may include pressuring employees to surrender previously agreed terms and conditions, and to forgo permanent contracts in favour of short-term contracts.

Client Bullying:

Such harassment occurs when employees are bullied by the people they serve o customers. A common example is Admission staff being bullied by students or parents, or general or technical staff being bullied by management staff in a company.

Serial bullying:

Such harassment occurs when the whole problem is linked back to one employee who targets one employee after another. In these circumstances the only solution is termination of contract of that paticular employee as with a transfer the behavior will continue.

Sexual harassment:

This form of harassment is also faced by both men and women. Actually both men and women can be subjected to sexual harassment from persons of the same or the opposite sex. Sexual harassment can involve physical or indecent assault, leering, making offensive remarks, stalking, sending offensive emails, sending obscene material through the mail and making nuisance phone calls. If these actions get out of hand police assistance may be needed. Sexual harassment can also occur when a person having regard of all the circumstances would have anticipated that the person targeted would be humiliated, intimidated or offended.

Sexual harassment in the work place is usually targeted at women although men are not free from it as well. According to statistics for example, "of 17 nurses (between 16 and 21 years) interviewed 58 percent faced sexual harassment by co-workers, patients or their relatives, and doctors. Only 11 per cent denied its existence while 29 per cent refused to talk." (Rizvi, 2003)

Workplace harassment had not been clearly stated as an offence in law previously in Pakistan. Now a law is aimed to be passed which will hopefully make the situation better.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Affairs has decided to make gender harassment at the workplace a punishable act leading to removal from service. The committee decided to include gender harassment at the workplace in the definition of 'misconduct' of the Removal From Service (Special Powers) Ordinance, 2000 and recommended that the National Assembly pass the ordinance into law.

The new clause reads, "Gender harassment at work place causing interference with work performance and creating an intimidating, hostile or uncongenial work environment". The proposed amendment further reads, "misconduct includes gender harassment, which is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature, causing interference with work performance, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the refusal to comply to such a request." (Daily Times, 2007)

Disability based harassment:

This includes any type of discrimination or harassment on basis of a person's disability or if the person is treated less favorably if the person did not have the disability. Harassment that is based upon a person's relative or associate having a disability is also c considered as harassment towards the person. Derogatory or intimidating references to an employee's mental or physical impairment because he or she uses a therapeutic device or aid, a wheelchair or needs a loud speaker telephone, or uses a guide dog, a hearing dog, or other trained animal. Another form of disability harassment is abusive behavior or remarks towards employees who have an intellectual disability or remarks about malingering to employees who have made a request for compensation.

Harassment based on Racial Discrimination:

Racial discrimination constitutes a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin of a person which has the purpose of ending or hampering the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom. Harassment on the other hand occurs when employees are targeted by;

  • Use of racially derogatory words, phrases, and remarks.
  • Demonstrations of a racial or ethnic nature such as a use of gestures, pictures or drawings which would offend a particular racial or ethnic group
  • Comments about an individual's skin color or other racial and ethnic characteristics
  • Negative comments about an employee's religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs)
  • Expressing negative stereotypes regarding an employee's birthplace or ancestry
  • Negative comments regarding an employee's age for example, when referring to employees 40 and over.

Gender-based harassment:

Harassment can also take the form of commenting on gender based differences which be stereotyped, against reality and rude and offensive to the opposite gender. Employees or supervisors may make disparaging remarks about subordinates' or colleagues' gender that are not sexual in nature but aimed at highlighting differences such as performance capability, mental or intellectual capability or strength and relating that to gender differences.


At times whistleblowers or individuals inform of such derogatory acts being conducted can come in the limelight of harassment. As they make allegations of reports being made by employees who are being harassed, even when there is no formal complaint from the employees being harassed. The organization may have to protect this group from harassment also as they may be targeted by the offenders or the victims of harassment as they do not want publicity.


All the various types of harassment mentioned in the above chapters have been disallowed in Islamic teachings. Defaming people based on ethnic or racial differences has been strictly forbidden. Also office politics should be refrained from which can include backbiting about people about their professional capacities to obtain favoritism in the work place. Below Quranic references regarding some types have been provided. The following cover most of the offences made in work place harassment and disability and racial discrimination.

Woe to every kind of scandal-monger And backbiter (Surah Al-Hamaza, 1)

O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the(former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by(offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to beused of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are(indeed) doing wrong. (Surah Al-Hujraat, 11)

Our religion stresses on being respectful to everyone. No one can put down anyone else or speak harshly to others based on racial or religious differences.

Allah loveth not that evil should be noised abroad in public speech, except where injustice hath been done; for Allah is He who heareth and knoweth all things. (Surah An-Nisa, 148)

Islamic teachings ordain us to modest and respectful to others including people of the opposite gender. Therefore all forms of sexual and gender based harassment are not allowed. Both men and women have been told to lower their gaze and be respectful. Any time of relations of sexual nature apart from with the spouse are strictly forbidden.


We have seen that harassment is not considered an allowable practice by society as well as religion. One should fear Allah and aim to live in a harmonious environment even at the work place.

Together with strengthening our faith some legal laws are also needed to keep a check on people in organizations. All organizations should formulate rules to clarify what is harassment and how it should be addressed. A written policy statement on the organization's commitment to positive working relationships and practices in the workplace, including refusal to tolerate any form of workplace harassment should include:

* endorsement by the Corporate Head;

* a clear definition of harassment, including unfair discrimination on the basis of gender, disability, cultural background and race etc. and noting that behavior can be considered as harassment even if no harassment was intended;

* a statement that the corporation's objectives in eliminating harassment are:

o to have a workplace that upholds the Corporate Values;

o to ensure all employees are treated with courtesy and respect and without harassment;

o to promote appropriate standards of conduct; and

o to help everyone to perform to their full potential;

* a commitment to prompt action when harassment is alleged;

* a clear statement that suspected harassment may be dealt with under the misconduct procedures;

* a statement that all employees have a responsibility to ensure that their own behavior cannot be seen as harassment; and

* Encouragement for staff to take action when confronted with behavior which breaches the harassment policy.

If all the corporate organizations follow this simple plan for formulating a harassment policy the incidence of occurrence of this crime can be greatly reduced. As such behavior if still carried out will be punishable according to corporations' rules and also according to religion

O ye who believe! Why say ye that which ye do not?

Grievously odious is it in the sight of Allah that ye say that which ye do not (Surah As-Saff, 1-2)


* Workplace harassment to make punishable (2007, May 31). Daily Times

* Rizvi, M. (2003). Pakistan Code for the workplace [Online] available

* http://www.

* Various articles on types of harassment.

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