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28 Feb 2024

Expressions of Faith as a Muslim Woman in the Civil Service

Expressions of Faith as a Muslim Woman in the Civil Service

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Taznin Maham is the Head of Digital Oversight and Data Policy within the Department for Health. She is a British-Bangladeshi student of Global Public Policy (MsC) with interests in British Muslim culture and indentity. Outside of academia and policy-making, she enjoys travelling and reading.

Expressions of Faith as a Muslim Woman in the Civil Service

I value the Civil Service for allowing me to bring my true self to work and be open about the sensitivities of practising my faith.

The Civil Service is a diverse workforce which ties together a myriad of people to deliver the best outcomes for the public. Within this cohort, we see many that practice faith as best as they can.

In striving for remembrance and honesty, it is important for Muslims to perform their duties in the best manner they can. Not just performatively, but with diligence, honesty, and integrity. I remember that Allah (SWT) honours all halal and honest work, and the earnings we make from our work are indeed Allah’s favours upon us.

Understandably, it can seem daunting to ask for accommodation. Often Muslims fear being a burden on their workplace, and we try to dim our needs in an effort to not seem difficult or be ‘othered’ at work.

However, in doing so, we do a disservice to our spiritual self, often blocking our blessings and denying us a closer relationship with our Creator, a habit that I am also guilty of.

To me, the first step to amalgamating Islamic values with your workplace is true transparency and authenticity in wanting to practice your faith to the best of your ability.

One of the core values of our religion is prayer.

In the Quran, Allah decrees the significance of worship; and even advises, that once worship has been performed, to go out and resume working. He says,

“And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” [Al-Jumu’ah, 10].

In essence, I am all too aware that I cannot neglect my spiritual duties for my work. These same spiritual duties bring me closer to Allah, who then blesses me with the bounty of my work.

As a Civil Servant, I am grateful for my department’s efforts in allowing my religious values to flourish.

There is a secluded faith-based room in our offices to allow Muslims to pray in the office, with additional wet rooms for ablution. I am privileged to be able to take a few minutes out of my day for prayer breaks.

To achieve this, I had to take the first step in having these conversations with my team.

I realised I had felt worried for no reason; all I needed to do was start an honest conversation about my needs. In turn, this helped my managers understand the best practice for other Muslims in the team too.

For me, these prayer breaks are much-needed spiritual meditation. You could say, they serve as the calm during the chaos.

In turn, I come back to work feeling refreshed and restored. In remembering God, I find myself grateful, and ready for the challenges ahead of the day.

Furthermore, Allah advises Muslims to work in the morning and to use the night for rest – It is written

“And made the night as a cover, and made the day for livelihood.” [An-Naba, 10, 11].

As a Muslim, I make effort to establish a healthier model of working, one that acknowledges the importance of health and well-being.

This can prove difficult with demanding deadlines and heavy workloads, which means I can find myself working out of hours and sending late emails. This can set an example for others to follow suit.

Therefore, I remind myself of my role in shaping the cultural and ethical dynamics of the office and strive towards establishing a more cohesive environment.

I try to encourage daily walks; breaks from my desk for coffee catch-ups and mindfulness practice.

Resting is imperative to allow us to do our work to the best of our abilities, without clouded judgement or irritability from a lack of rest.

Islam emphasises the need for community, and I can find this in my day-to-day role with the support of the Muslim Network within the Civil Service.

Narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other”(Sahih al-Bukhari 2446).

The Muslim Network across the Civil Service champions the work of Muslim Civil Servants. It aims to tackle unconscious bias and to recognise, improve and understand the experiences of Muslims.

For me, it is important to make the effort to be as active as possible in the life of the Islamic community within the Civil Service.

I often attend faith-based discussions and events, hosted by my own Department’s Muslim Network.

Having this network helps me to establish rapport with fellow Muslims in my department, sharing knowledge, and advice and learning from shared experiences.

Whilst I am not by any means the perfect Muslim, I appreciate the spaces where I can strive to better myself genuinely, faithfully and flexibly.

I’ve studied International Relations (BA), and now I am currently studying Global Public Policy (MsC) at SOAS. With thanks to the Aziz Foundation for making it possible to pursue my academic interests in the sphere of policymaking.

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