Agribusiness in Islam: An En Vogue Career Path with Holistic Rewards

Merits of Agriculture in Islam

Business is an integral component of Islam, as is agriculture. The Holy City of Mecca provided Prophet Muhammad SAW the forum for preaching Islam, and early Muslims travelled extensively in connection with business through which Islam reached East and West Africa and East Asia. After establishing Medina, one of the first steps which Prophet Muhammad SAW took was the establishment of brotherhood among the Ansars of Medina and Muhajirs from Mecca, towards the economic rehabilitation of the Muhajirs with Medina as an agribusiness centre. Prophet Muhammad SAW also instituted many laws regarding cultivation and marketing of agricultural products. In their article “Agriculture and Agribusiness from the Perspective of Al-Qur’an and Al-Sunnah”(International Journal of Trade, Economics and Finance, 08/2013; 4(4):191-1960) authors Joni Tamkin Borhan and Muhammad Ridhwan Ab. Aziz stated that Islam views the agricultural sector as fard al-kifayah (an obligation of the society), and an important source of food production for mankind since ancient times that should not be neglected. Earnings through agriculture and agribusiness are regarded honourable endeavours from the Islamic spirit, because a person who is involved in food production is not only looking after himself, but also the rest of the community. This is actually akin to donation (sadaqah) in Islam. Prophet Muhammad SAW said:

“There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.” (Bukhari)

And Allah S.W.T. stresses in the Qur´an:

“And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet), set thereon mountains firm and immovable, and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance. And We have provided therein means of subsistence, for you and for those for whose sustenance ye are not responsible.” (Surah al-Hijr:19-20)

and

“The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. Allah giveth manifold increase to whom he pleaseth: and Allah careth for all and he knoweth all things.” (Surah al-Baqarah:261)

From the above hadith and Quranic verses, the status of the farmer is one of nobility in Islam. Muslim youths of today should therefore take advantage of this bounty bestowed by Allah SWT to agricultural endeavours.

 

Are Islamic Principles Outmoded?

Islamic principles with regard to agriculture and agribusiness are still very much en vogue in this age of social media. Islam views science, technology and industry as the study of reality and of how matters can be managed to improve the condition and living standards of humanity.  Allah SWT has made this clear in Al-Qur’an:

“Do you not see how Allah has made serviceable to you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth, and He has loaded you with His favours, both the open and the hidden.” (Surah Luqman: 20).

The central tenet of the Islamic economic system is to secure the satisfaction of all basic needs for every individual completely and to enable them to satisfy their luxuries as much as possible. This is achieved by obliging each capable person to work, so as to achieve the basic needs for himself and his dependants. Prophet Muhammad SAW said:

“Whosoever sought the life (matters) legitimately (halal) and decently he will meet Allah SWT with his face as a full moon; and whosoever sought it arrogantly and excessively he will meet Allah while He is angry at him.” (Bukhari)

Being a farmer is an honourable profession. Farmers will benefit mankind and other creatures of Allah SWT by providing food for them through agricultural activities. The main contribution of farming is the production of food sources to feed the nation. This worldly provision, however, is not just limited to guaranteeing sustenance for mankind. It also creates a sustainable and healthier environment. The spiritual contribution of farming is a charity towards mankind and animals, which carries a considerable reward in the afterlife. Islam raises the status those who are involved in and seek halal livelihoods in the agricultural sector, in which their efforts are regarded as acts of charity and good deeds. Islam as an all-encompassing way of life has elaborated aspects related to agriculture and agribusiness comprehensively from the very beginning. All these concepts and aspects of agricultural activities if applied accordingly in our modern lifestyle will contribute greatly to the development of the Islamic ummah. Islamic principles of farming are thus still pertinent and applicable today. A faith-based approach to agricultural literature, pioneered by Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) through their manual entitled “Islamic Farming: A Manual for Conservation Agriculture” was launched in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2014. This is the first manual that speaks to Muslim farmers in the language of the Al-Qur’an and As-Sunnah and offers significant potential to bring sustainable farming principles and practices to millions of Muslim farmers in Africa for the first time.

 

Farming is Fashionable… and Halal Too!

Muslim youths must see the concept of rizq, and the earning of it, from the angle of Islam. Nothing in Islam constricts development or disfavours innovation and creativity. As a matter of fact, Islam provides the ultimate guide for human progress and advancement through Al-Qur’an (read “Islamic Farming: A Manual for Conservation Agriculture” above). We have seen earlier in this article the virtues of farming and agribusiness, and bounties of Allah SWT for these agricultural endeavours, which collectively form the unique “fashionableness” of a farming career in the eyes of Islam. Now, Muslims must understand that, spending their youthful energy working in the farm is not the ultimate success. The ultimate success will come as thus:

“Say: Who has forbidden the fine clothing of Allah and the good and wholesome kinds of provision he has brought forth for his slaves? Say: On the day of rising they will be exclusively for those who believe during the life of this world” (Surah Al-A’raf:32)

And this is why, Allah SWT says:

“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties for (the price) that theirs shall be the Paradise….” (Surah At-Tawbah:111).

So for the youths who have yet to have confidence to step into the farming world and make that very important change for themselves, their families, their country, the world and the ummah, remember the hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW:

“Let not the fear of people stop anyone of you from saying what is true, or doing something important, because what you say or do will not keep you from your rizq, or keep you from your ajl (life span).”

 

For our readers in Africa, kindly consult our associate The Sahara Green Company, Abuja (Twitter: @TheSaharaGreen)  to give your agribusiness career a headstart.

For our readers in Malaysia, do visit the Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Show 2014 (MAHA 2014) at Taman Ekspo Pertanian Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor in November 2014 to obtain the information you need on agribusiness. Visit the MAHA 2014 website for more information on the event. 

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Keep Calm And Love HR

When I first graduated, I didn’t care much for HR. Never thought about it, never had anything to do with it. It looked complicated. Labour law looked complex. I went into corporate legal as early as my first job and was doing policy-making and employment-law related projects to handle, but operational HR was handled by someone else, and it didn’t look like something I would be good at doing.

I gravitated towards HR in the early 2000’s when I met my then HR Assistant named Rohayu.

I was then the Head of Corporate Services and HR was under my purview. Rohayu or Kak Ayu as we called her, had a natural talent for HR and having her in my team was a pleasure, but it was her trademark style of dealing with people that magnetised the rest of the staff towards the HR Department and made me very interested to analyse the HR function, and her working style, with much interest. At places where I worked before, HR is not viewed with enthusiasm, and I wondered why the case was different in this organisation, particularly, where Kak Ayu was concerned.

I figured out soon enough that she viewed her job as a means of connecting with people. She smiles at everyone. Always ready to listen to anyone who has a problem. Always willing to help. Was efficient in her work and when the answer was a “No” she would make an iced cupcake out of it. I watched her touch the lives of the rest of the employees in that organisation. She used her job to help people. And she seemed to enjoy it.

She was Big Sister to all of us. While I was just The Bossy Boss, the Division Head whom people rarely talked to because, well, I didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway. To me, being in charge of HR was all about compliance to laws and policies, discipline and punishment, and being a perfectionist so that I could have a reason to tick off those who are not. I was a Law and Policy Person, not a People Person. After working with Kak Ayu, I realised I was doing it wrong, but I liked that realisation, and that became my tipping point.

The nobility of HR is obvious to me now after more than 15 years on the job, but I understand if many people still don’t see it and if many HR practitioners are not actually “feeling” it. Not everyone loves you.

Why is HR hated? I will address this in detail in another post but here is a big reason why: the way the company is managed puts HR as second class citizens. HR bears the brunt of mismanagement and bad organisational climate. HR people get frustrated and take it out on their jobs.  Employees do not know this. The one who gets the black sheep image is HR.

I however urge everyone to give HR a break. Take time to talk to your HR Manager or Officer. Not just when it comes to your performance appraisals but as a friend. Get insights into their job, why and how they got into the field. I can tell you one thing. HR people love their job. Even if they don’t show it. It takes a lot to be a HR practitioner, and you cannot do it without love.

My favourite HR influencer, Dave Ulrich,  professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan Partner, The RBL Group, defines six competencies for the HR professionals. Please read them, so that you can see the mettle that makes up your HR colleagues and the challenges they have to rise to in order to keep their jobs, and to keep yours.

Yes we are all these things, and yep, HR is more than meets your eye. But these are roles that we play which we are not manifestly seen to be playing by other employees.

If Ulrich couldn’t convince you, then let these HR-by-HR articles entice you:

http://hrringleader.com/2011/08/19/top-10-reasons-to-love-hr/

http://hrjourneys.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-i-love-hr.html

http://www.payscale.com/compensation-today/2011/01/hr-staff

I love my job for a far bigger reason. Because it humbles me. After I started adopting Kak Ayu’s HR style, I opened my door, closed my mouth, and lent my ears to staff grievances together with the HR team. I binned the perfectionist attitude (problem), got into the shoes of the others, and rolled up my sleeves to solve their problems together with them. That was many many years ago. Today I reap the reward: not a tangible reward, but a spiritual one. And that is a true reward indeed.