Religion, Politics and Leadership

Federal elections in Germany will take place in a few days on the 24th of September. Around 61.5 million Germans will vote for their political representation in national parliament. For the first time since the end of the Second World War the “Alternative for Germany”, a party that many consider right-wing extremist, is very likely to make it into parliament. With campaign slogans like: “Burka? We prefer bikinis.” it tries to make Islam a divisive issue. A couple of weeks later on the 15th of October, Austria will also elect a new national parliament. The Freedom Party of Austria uses the topic of Islam in its campaign, too. Religion and in particular Islam are recurring issues in political debates.

In the recent TV duel between the two main contenders for German chancellor, the candidates were asked whether they had gone to church in the morning. Both Schulz and Merkel started their sentence with “I was not today…”, to continue with mentioning some religious institutional practices. This followed some social media uproar with many challenging that this kind of question was asked in the first place.

Religion is pervasive, yet elusive

Whether the question was appropriate and useful or not, the reactions show that religion is a contested issue. Pervasive, yet elusive. The largest party in German parliament has the C for Christianity in its name. Angela Merkel is the daughter of a pastor. The former president of Germany, Joachim Gauck, who retired a couple of months ago, is a trained pastor himself. His successor Frank-Walter Steinmeier is a devout Christian, too.

When we look over the Atlantic, we recently witnessed some religious leaders in a group prayer laying hands on Donald Trump reiterating their support. Mike Pence, the Vice-President, is a devout Christian, whose beliefs strongly impact his policy views. Other leaders around the world stress their religiousness and how it impacts their policies and way of life.

More generally, a PEW (2015) study shows that around 6 billion or 84% of the world population is somewhat religiously affiliated. This number is expected to grow both in absolute and relative numbers to over 8 billion or 87% of the world population by 2050. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas (2001) speaks of a “post-secular society” and the theologian Paul Tillich (1957) calls faith an “ultimate concern”. All in all, this highlights that we should not ignore faith, but rather engage with religion both critically and constructively.

Religion – a double-edged sword for leaders

religion & leadershipHowever, we do not know much about how religious beliefs impact leaders. I have zoomed in on this issue in a study with Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders entitled “Religion & Leadership”. The study illustrates that religion is a double-edged sword that can cause both harm and good in and for leaders and beyond. Potential pitfalls are worldly negligence, non-critical reasoning, exclusivity claim and a belief in divine right. Potential opportunities are personal harmony, deeper meaning, social caring and lived values. If pitfalls are overcome and opportunities embraced, religion can be an anchor and compass for individuals, organizations, and societies in a complex world.

Notable Works Compilation


The Said Business School community collected notable works. My contributions are comments on “Leisure, the basis of culture” and “Siddhartha”.

Peter Tufano, Dean: “The compilation – like its predecessor, Critical Thinking 2012 – takes as its starting point the premise that the way that a community comes together is not determined by individuals’ qualifications, skills, or research profiles, but by their ability and willingness to share the way they think and feel, especially about the ideas that have profoundly influenced them.”



Religion & Leadership

religion & leadershipAncient Wisdom for a Modern World?

Religion is often a taboo. Yet, leaders need to put religion back on the agenda – to take it seriously, to be aware of its pitfalls and opportunities, to be inclusive, and to capture religion as a force for good.

The new study on religion & leadership can be downloaded here. Blogposts about the study are here and here. An article and radio feature (in German) here. Here is a link to an executive education course that builds on study insights.

Pitfalls & opportunities

Religion is a double-edged sword. In the study, I identify four pitfalls and four opportunities for leaders:pitfalls & opportunitiesHow should leaders engage with religion?

The study suggests five ways forward:

  1. Take religion seriously
  2. Harness the power of religion, be wary of its downsides
  3. If religious, find personal and social balance
  4. Put religion on the diversity agenda
  5. Offer room for faith

Impressions from the LEAD launch eventimpressions

Foreword: Entrepreneurship & Management in an Islamic Context

The book “Entrepreneurship and Management in an Islamic Context” is now available. I was asked to write the Foreword, which I am happy to share here:

I am honored and humbled to write this Foreword for a handbook that presents a comprehensive overview in an emerging area of research offering manifold insights for theory and practice. The oeuvre in front of you reaches across space from Ghana, Jordon, Lebanon to the UAE; across time from early Islam to the present; across categories such as ethnicity, gender, nationalities and age; and across topics from Islamic Entrepreneurship, Finance, Leadership to Management. It also tackles both text and context: from sacred scripture up to profane practice.

While religion matters in entrepreneurship and management practice, its theory and theorization is dominated by a sacralized secular hegemony. Yet, religion is a social fact that matters in and around organizations; and the social sciences explain – not prescribe – reality. Islam specifically is the second largest religion in the world with a growing number of adherents. Religion in general and Islam in particular thus warrants much more critical engagement and analysis through management scholars. Such scholarly pursuits connect work with worship to examine what I call ‘wor(k)ship’, whereby religious people wish to do well while adhering to their faith, rather than compartmentalizing their lives into different spheres.

The false dichotomy between the public and private, the professional and the personal underlies a deep desire to structure and categorize, to identify and delineate boundaries in a complex modernity. These socially constructed boundaries enable and constrain us concurrently. They are double-edged swords. The predominant scholarly pursuit for parsimonious explanations as well as the increase of scholarly specialization has lead to jurisdictions within our very own professional communities and the partitioning of the objects of inquiry. This handbook, in contrast, offers an interdisciplinary approach that bridges rather than reinforces artificial boundaries.

Even more so, I believe that, unfortunately, the theoretical partitioning has permeated the very phenomena to an extent that theory does not simply explain, but rather forms reality. Academics may wish to restrain the world through theory and thus fall trap to the attempt to create a world according to their sometimes too simplistic imagination, rather than depicting the richness of reality. The handbook at hand offers a counterpoint. This may also help bridging what is sometimes called in the Christian faith the Sunday-Monday divide and whose equivalent may be the Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday divide for Muslims. The handbook thus offers practitioners a mirror to their religiously shaped intent, rather than to their learnt and potentially unintended practices.

I am grateful to the editors Veland Ramadani, Léo-Paul Dana, Shqipe Gërguri-Rashiti and Vanessa Ratten and the many contributors that they have taken upon themselves to push our knowledge frontier forward – in a realm that (still) faces many challenges. Religion is an integral part of our social and societal spheres, i.e., our soci(et)al context; yet largely absent from our literatures. This work is a significant step to counter that neglect by zooming in on the Islamic context. It remains for me to say to the reader that I wish this to be an illuminating, thought and practice challenging and changing read.

2 Gastbeiträge zur Flüchtlingskrise

Die meisten Forscher schweigen zur Flüchtlingskrise

Wie können Flüchtlingscamps besser organisiert werden? Wie kann Forschung verstärkt in der Gesellschaft wirken? Warum sich Wissenschaftler selten an Diskursen beteiligen. Artikel hier.

Eine Chance für Deutschland

Die Flüchtlingskrise fordert und überfordert die Gesellschaft und die Institutionen. Wir sehen bereits: es gibt und braucht mehr Eigeninitiative der Bürgerinnen und Bürger. Genau diese Herausforderung birgt eine riesige Chance für Deutschland und für jeden einzelnen. Artikel hier.

Entrepreneurship from an Islamic Perspective

Article published in Journal of Business Ethics (2015), 130(1): pp. 199-208.


Research about the role of religion in entrepreneurship and more broadly management is sparse. In this conceptual article we complement existing entrepreneurship theory by examining entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective (EIP).

Islamic Entrepreneurship

EIP is based on three interconnected pillars: the entrepreneurial, socio-economic/ethical and religio-spiritual. We outline how Islam shapes entrepreneurship at the micro-, meso- and macro-level, indicate how Islam may be considered an entrepreneurial religion in the sense that it enables and encourages entrepreneurial activity, review research streams interlinking Islam with entrepreneurship and management and outline promising research approaches.

Further information here.

Update: An interview here.

Wir Knowmaden

stifterverband_logoDer Essay “Wir Knowmaden” wurde von dem Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft ausgezeichnet. 

„Der Mensch wird frei geboren, und überall liegt er in Ketten“, schrieb der französische Philosoph Rousseau. Er könnte von unserer Bildungslandschaft gesprochen haben. Sie gleicht häufig einem ermüdenden Bildungskorsett statt einem ermündigenden Bildungsgerüst. Knowmaden werden so gefesselt statt entfesselt. Was macht eigentlich unsere Bildung aus uns und wir mit ihr im digitalen Zeitalter? …”

Weiter geht es hier oder auch hier.

Das islamische Wirtschaftsrecht

Das Buch “Das islamische Wirtschaftsrecht” herausgegeben von Islamisches WirtschaftsrechtAbdurrahim Kozalı, Ibrahim Salama & Souheil Thabti, ist erschienen.

Es basiert auf einer gleichnamigen Tagung, die an der Universität Osnabrück stattfand. Ich durfte ein Kapitel zu Unternehmertum aus einer islamischen Perspektive beisteuern. Eine Zusammenfassung des Vortrages & damit auch Kapitels schrieb Souheil Thabti für die Gesellschaft für Arabisches & Islamisches Recht in einer Mitteilung:

“Mit dem Vortrag des Doktoranden Herrn Gümüsay (Universität Oxford), der über das Unternehmertum im islamischen Verständnis (EIP, Entrepreneurship from an Islamic Perspective) und seine Auswirkung auf die Arbeitsweise in Unternehmen referierte, endete der erste Konferenztag. Seine Untersuchungen zielen darauf ab herauszufinden, wie ein Unternehmen wirtschaftet, das von einem religiösen Muslim geführt wird, wie ein religiöser Geschäftsführer entscheidet und wie sich Shareholder verhalten.

Im Fokus seiner Betrachtung standen drei miteinander in Zusammenhang stehende Säulen, auf denen EIP basiere: Die erste Säule bestehe im Streben nach Möglichkeiten, Wert zu schaffen, die zweite sei eine sozio-ökonomische bzw. ethische, die auf die gesellschaftlichen Interessen und Bedürfnisse abstelle, und schließlich stelle die dritte Säule die religiös-spirituelle Grundlage dar. Gümüsay zufolge stehen diese Säulen in einem Zusammenspiel und beeinflussen sich gegenseitig. EIP sollte nicht bloß als soziales oder ethisches Unternehmertum verstanden werden, weil letzteres nicht auf religiösen Textquellen basiere und keinen konkreten religiösen Vorgaben folge.

Auch stellte er klar, dass EIP nicht Muslimen allein vorbehalten sei, sondern auch Nicht-muslimen offenstehe. Ein Unternehmen, das sich islamischen Vorgaben verschreibe, müsse in seiner Unternehmensstruktur Personal (Geschäftsleitung, Mitarbeiter, etc.) muslimischen Glaubens aufweisen, um als islamisch bezeichnet werden zu können. Ungeachtet dessen stelle der Islam an sich keine ökonomischen Theorien auf, weshalb es verfehlt sei, von Islamic Entrepreneurship oder Islamic Finance zu sprechen. Vielmehr biete der Islam einen Rahmen, innerhalb dessen Ökonomen selber Theorien und Modelle aufstellen könnten. Man solle daher von einer Ökonomie bzw. einem Unternehmertum aus islamischer Perspektive sprechen, die/das auf islamischen Werten gründe und sich am Rahmen dieser orientiere.

Die Tatsache, dass auch Menschen mit religiösem Bezug Unternehmen leiteten oder in Unternehmen arbeiteten, zeige die Wichtigkeit der Einbeziehung der Religion als Element in die Unternehmensforschung. Dabei wirke sich EIP auf der Mikro-Ebene (Einzelunternehmen), Meso-Ebene (die zwischen Mikro- und Makro-Ebene vermittele, z. B. Organisationen) und Makro-Ebene (Markt, Staat) aus. Er kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass in diesem Bereich noch viel interdisziplinär geforscht und Religion als ein den Menschen prägendes Element mehr in die wissenschaftliche Unternehmensforschung einbezogen werden sollte.”

Weitere Zusammenfassungen hier.