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Teamwork in Islam - Living in a Muslim Team

Forming teams and working together, in times where getting ahead alone has become more and more difficult, is essential not only for self-improvement but growth for the Ummah as a whole.

Forming a team and working towards one common goal is loved by Allah. Almost every person has ingrained love for unity and harmony. “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.”
That means, in a team. According to Ibn Khaldun’s al Muqaddimah, the strength of a society is weighed by their team working abilities. The word team itself is actually derived from a German word, which describes a group of horses pulling a carriage. The lead horse of the “team” is usually the strongest and fastest, so that it can set the speed for the rest of the group. The group of horses all pull in one direction and this brings the carriage long distances.

Your Responsibilities as a Team Leader:

1. Accept authority. Teams can only work, when one accepts each others’ strengths and counsel in their respective fields. Teams need members, they don’t need an All-star. Some teams work without having a determined leader, but more common is having a defined leader. In case there is an All-star, it is useful to make him the team leader, if he has the human skills also of leading a team.

2. Watch out for your ego getting in the way. Very important for team work is to keep a positive spirit in the group. When things get stressful, take a time-out. Look at all the positive aspects of your team members and try to focus on them. Don’t take someone’s credit for the work they’ve done.

3. Apply principles of just leadership. In order to keep everyone motivated and contributing their abilities, a leader must be fair and trustworthy. All actions, that can and would create distrust among team members should be avoided. Therefore, it is very important to spread credit to whoever deserves it.

4. The Prophet(pbuh) taught us Maschura (consultation). The purpose of the team consultation is to collect the thoughts of the members of one’s group and develop a plan. It is not as necessary for the plan to be 100% accurate as much as it is necessary for the group to work together. Hence the team may sometimes sacrifice some aspects for the great group team work.
5. Encourage team members to regularly partake in personal/skills development.Skills are learnt and trained, people do not have them from birth. When an organization invests in its members, members feel valued and learn new skills to contribute to the organization.

How to Cultivate a Lively Team Spirit

See yourself in your team as an ant. Teams often suffer from the lion phenomenon. One behaves on the team like a lion – all talk but little action. Instead of being a lion, learn from the ant – whose survival depends on work and cooperation.

Watch out for personal bias. Often, we find that our inner preconceived notion of our team member stands in the way of improving our relationship and cooperation. If you find a fault with your team member, make doua for them and push yourself to give that person the feeling you believe, which is that the fault is not part of them. When you shift your thinking in such a way you become a source of productive support.

Take time off on trips with your team. Lots of team issues become resolved when the team takes a nice, comforting and enjoyable trip together. Getting to know your team is part of becoming a great team.

Reciprocate loyalty. Often, we find that the team members do not identify themselves as part of a team. That is because you have not given them enough feeling of trust by the signals you send out. There is a hidden team code you need to practice consequently. If your team member is there for the team then you have to be there for the individual. This will help build a positive reputation and, inshAllah, help with the future expansion of the team.

Watch out for team motivation. Often, internal tension arises in teams, when the team is not that successful in attaining the goals. People start blaming each other and the motivation goes down even further. As success is mostly based on attitude your best chance at getting ahead is to get your team’s attitude back into the positive. Take a time-out with the team at a restaurant, do something fun together, and then get back into the grind. Show that successful people and teams all had their down turns by posters, sayings, books etc.
Have a library. Set up a team library in which your team members should exchange useful books. Don’t make this a place for gossip magazines. It should be the motivational and inspirational book corner. Team members can put books in and take them out. Make sure you hold the well known inspirational books in your library such as the Koran, Sira, Hayatu Sahaba, Think and Grow Rich, Million Dollar Habits, Fazail Amal, Ibn Khaldun, Don’t Be Sad and other personal development literature.

Challenges of conflict. What do you do when a team member has made a major mistake? Do you directly talk to them or have someone else deal with it? There are actually different mechanisms applied for different situations. Most important is to always keep calm and relaxed. Make sure your heart speaks the language of “I am thinking of you and I am your support”. Do not insult or get emotional. If it concerns the whole team it concerns you as a team leader. If it only concerns you and a team member, maybe it is something you can talk out in a relaxing atmosphere, like at a restaurant in the evening. Try not to choose a time when your team member’s mind is not set on listening, i.e. the member is stressed, etc. Useful occasions are when you are doing sport together, the team trip, or over a cup of coffee.

Establish a team culture. Every 6 months you should collect feedback from your team members on how they currently perceive their team culture. Make anonymous surveys and recognize the reality of your team. Then request your team members to make a maximum of 5 suggestions for improvement. Create an overview of the improvement suggestions and give all the team members this list. Take the first 5 mostly mentioned improvements as the next 6-month goal. After 6 months, collect feedback and evaluate how much the team has excelled from its last status quo. Reward your team for the improvement. This is a process of how to create a company culture. The feedback your team gives you is the truth of your current company culture. That is your starting point for development.

Very important! Setting up your inner compass. Instead of feeling aggravation about a team member or simply working together, become a person who keeps your team in your doua. The more you do doua for your team, the more your team members will become valuable in your heart and this is one of the strongest ties of unity.

Building teams is largely dependent on your inner heart condition. Bring more love into your heart and sincerity to your work and team members. See yourself as a worker ant. The more critical a situation gets, the more relaxed you have to be. Try to get the best out of people by focusing your mind on their strengths. Get to know your team and show true interest in your team members. Most of all: Talk to Allah and ask Him to guide your team toward personal and collective success.


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