chapter  7
21 Pages

Islamic ethics in secular organizations

Exploring practices of 30 Muslim managers in the Alsace region of France
ByAlioune Bah, Isabelle Barth, Lovanirina Ramboarison-Lalao

The issue of ethical considerations in the actions of Muslim managers is addressed with respect to the meaning it gives to their practices (Toutout, 2012; Arbouche, 2013). Ethics is part of a long list of aspects associated with the act of managing (Barth and Martin, 2014), but its link with Islam has rarely been explored in the managerial literature to date. To redress this gap partially, our exploratory text extends prior research on the relationship between ethics and people management in the world of business (Pauchant, 2000; Genaivre, 2006; Dion, 2007; Renouard, 2013). Our study is cross-disciplinary in that it takes a three-pronged approach to the issue of Islamic ethics: managerial, philosophical and religious. While an overwhelming research on diversity have acknowledged the benefit of different diversity attributes like gender, origin, and culture, etc. (Cox and Blake, 1991; Kramar and Syed, 2012; Konrad et al., 2006), religion has been over the years a ‘neglected diversity dimension’ (Gebert et al., 2014). However, there is today an attempt to study religious issues, especially in the field of HRM (see chapter 1). While there is a surge of HRM studies that articulate Islam and management in Western countries (for review, see Budhwar and Mellahi, 2010; Syed and Pio, 2016; chapter 1), our study follows more specifically recent research in the French context (e.g. Pras, 2007; Galindo and Zannad, 2015; Ramboarison-Lalao and Bah, 2016) by exploring the link between Islamic ethics and management of people within French secular organizations. Beyond its grounding in theological thinking, ethics is largely underpinned by a wealth of philosophical studies that, from the time of the Stoics to the perspectives opened up by Levinas (1982; 1992), seek to identify universal behaviours. In this respect, the demands of Stoic morals as well as the infinite character of the views of Levinas on ethical responsibility invite each individual to appropriate ethics to itsfullest extent. In the present study, our conceptualization of ‘ethics’ is inclusive of religious ethics insofar as it goes beyond the affirmation of fundamental human values extolled by religion. However, we should note that Islamic ethics as envisaged in the individual behaviour of the manager espouses exemplarity, benevolence, understanding, solidarity and the ability to guide individuals towards conduct that is conducive to the happiness of everyone (Arkoun, 1969; 1982; 2010a). In calling for individual responsibility as a guarantor of the construction of peaceful social relationships open to progress, we examine whether Muslim managers and employees, via their respective positions in the business world, are constantly engaged in imitating the prophet of Islam, considered a model of irreproachable behaviour for them (Sourdel, 1990). We should point out that our main research question is underpinned by accounts of the life of Mohammed (the Sunnah) in order to discuss the practices of the managers under consideration.