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.

7 Virtues Reloaded

We reflect on the present to change the world of tomorrow with virtues from the past.

The book “7 Virtues Reloaded” which I co-edited together with Katharina Diel-Gligor and Wolfgang Gründinger is finally out! Members of the Think Tank 30 of the Club of Rome have applied wisdom, moderation, courage, justice, hope, faith and love to current societal topics such as the educational system, data abuse, energy sustainability or social and cultural struggles of meaning. We reflect on the present to change the world of tomorrow with virtues from the past. Foreword by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. A review in English by New Books in German can be found here and in German here.

You can purchase the book e.g. from Amazon, but if you wish to make the publisher a favour, buy it directly from the Vergangenheitsverlag.

Und da das Buch “7 Tugenden Reloaded” auf Deutsch erscheint:

Im Vorwort schreibt der Co-Präsident7 Tugenden Reloaded des Club of Rome Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker: “Das Buch greift aktuelle gesellschaftspolitische Probleme wie Bildungsmisere, Generationenkampf, Datenmissbrauch und Wutbürgertum sowie Energiewende, soziale Sinnkrise und Kulturkampf auf und orientiert sich bei der Suche nach werteorientierten Lösungen an historisch überlieferten Tugenden.”

Das Teaser-Video zum Buch hier. Ein Video von Arte Future zum Buch gibt es hier.

Aus dem Klappentext:
Weisheit, Gerechtigkeit, Mäßigung und Mut gegen Bildungsmisere, Generationenkampf, Datenmissbrauch und Wutbürgertum? Hoffnung, Glaube und Liebe als Visionen für Energiewende, soziale Sinnkrise und Kulturkampf? Die Welt ist in Bewegung. Wir müssen uns in der Hektik des immer schnelleren Wandels ständig neuen Herausforderungen stellen und sind dabei auf der Suche nach Orientierung und nachhaltigen Lösungen. Aber wonach sollen wir uns richten, wenn nur sicher ist, dass nichts bleibt, wie es ist? Die jungen Köpfe des Think Tank 30 der Deutschen Gesellschaft des Club of Rome schauen genauer hin und entwickeln Zukunftsmodelle, um die Welt von morgen mit klassischen Tugenden zu gestalten. Ein herausforderndes Debattenbuch: intelligent, visionär, aktivierend.

Apropos Kapitel Weisheit: Hier mein Wunsch an unsere Bildungsministerin Frau Wanka, zunächst erschienen auf Zeit Online, und hier ein Post zu Bildung & der Gründung einer Meta-Universität.

Dhikr & Boxing

I have written an article for the forthcoming Special Issue of the Journal of Management Development. The overarching theme of the Special Issue is the Practical Wisdom for Management from the Islamic Tradition. In a former version of the article, I briefly compared my ethnographic experience in a Sufi Dhikr Circle, a mystical Islamic organization, with Wacquant’s experience as a participant-observer of boxing. This section did not make it into the final article. So here it is:

// Comparing ethnographic experiences

Much of the ethnographic experience resembles what Wacquant (2003) depicts in “Body and Soul”. Wacquant (2003, p. xi) describes the difficulty to depict anthropologically the practice of boxing: “how to account anthropologically for a practice that is so intensely corporeal, a culture that is thoroughly kinetic, a universe in which the most essential is transmitted, acquired, and deployed beneath language and consciousness…”. I feel equally in awe while the voice becomes a sound and rhythm mechanism and less a communication tool between humans. Communication through both read-singing and body movements occurs less between humans and rather between us and God, as well as between us and the environment pursuing what may be termed the “Unity of Existence (Lewin, 2000). The environment is not a religious décor, but actants which themselves perform religious practices like dhikr.

// Transcending the boundaries between physical & spiritual

Wacquant (2003, p. 17) continues to illustrate the difficulties in becoming a boxer: “…to become a boxer is to appropriate through progressive impregnation a set of corporeal mechanisms and mental schemata so intimately imbricated that they erase the distinction between the physical and the spiritual, between what pertains to athletic abilities and what belongs to moral capacities and will.” The activities during dhikr seem to have the same goal, to erase the distinction between the physical and the spiritual, between what the body and what the soul focuses on. The result, according to Wacquant (2003, p. 17), is that “[t]he boxer is a live gearing of the body and the mind that erases the boundary between reason and passion, explodes the opposition between action and representation, and in so doing transcends in actu the antinomy between the individual and the collective that underlies accepted theories of social action.” Equally, dhikr erases boundaries or merges the parts of the human being and merges the human with the Circle community and the environment, whereby the human becomes one with himself and with the social (humans) and non-social (environment) surroundings.

Wacquant, L. (2003), Body and Soul: Ethnographic Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer, Oxford University Press: Oxford.

The Role of Muslim Elites in Germany & Europe

Last year at a Passover Seder evening the US Ambassador to Germany looked around the dining table and asked some members of the Muslim community: When will there be one single phone number to reach Muslim representatives? It was a bit like Kissinger’s question: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

A couple of weeks later I was asked to present a lecture at the University of Osnabrück – in a way on this phone number – titled: the Role of Muslim Elites in Germany & Europe. The lecture became a book chapter and the book “Islam & Diaspora” edited by Prof Dr Rauf Ceylan has now been published. Since the chapter is written in German, a few thoughts here in English:

// Muslim & Elite

Both terms, Muslim and elite, are highly contested. Who is a Muslim? Who is part of an elite? Who says so? Should we employ the notion of an elite at all? And why talk about a Muslim elite in particular? To read or hear the responses, I guess, dear reader, you would have to learn German or invite me for a coffee.

// Majority & Minority Elites

Muslims form the biggest non-Christian religious community in the European Union as well as on the European continent. They are nonetheless a minority. As such, their elites are co-determined by the majority elite and society as a whole. A minority elite is thus not necessarily as minority-representing as might be assumed.

There are only few Muslims who form fully part of the societal elite. This is partly because many Muslims come from a working class background and, as pointed out by Dahrendorf, we live very much in a society with unreal mobility, a cooptation in disguise.

// Participation & Plurality

The Muslim community needs context-specific qualifications, networks and resources as well as the aspiration to participate in their societies. In other words, they need both: the ability and desirability to partake in all societal structures and processes. They will have to increasingly institutionalize on a European level to participate in European-wide discourses and offer platforms for intra-European exchange between nationally, regionally and locally organized actors.

Muslims in Europe are at the beginning of a forming process. Yet this forming process does not need to result in a homogeneous group. On the contrary, the Islamic tradition is rich in encouraging co-existence and plurality of thought and practices. A single telephone number is neither likely nor desirable.

Book Content:

siddhartha – hermann hesse

Jedes Mal aufs Neue bin ich begeistert von der indischen Dichtung, die so viel Wahrheit enthält. Ein bisschen Siddhartha steckt in uns allen: der Mensch, der strebt: nach Sinn, nach den Fragen der Tiefe, nach ihren Antworten. Und wie Goethe es treffend ausdrückt: „Es irrt der Mensch so lang er strebt.“

// Irren

So irrt Siddhartha – so irren wir – und Siddhartha stellt die rhetorische Frage an seinem Freund, dass es vielleicht so sei, „daß du vor Suchen nicht zum Finden kommst?“ Genauso kann man natürlich vor lauter Ablenkung, dass Irren vernachlässigen.

Die Suche nach den Fragen der Tiefe ist eine sehr persönliche, auch wenn man sie teils gemeinsam begehen kann. Siddhartha meint: „Weisheit ist nicht mittelbar. Weisheit, welcher ein Weiser mitzuteilen versucht, klingt immer wie Narrheit.“ Und: „Wissen kann man mitteilen, Weisheit aber nicht.“ Man jemand den Weg andeuten, tragen müssen einen die eigenen Füße.

// Streben

Es ist faszinierend, wo und wie Siddhartha lernt. Statt sich über scheinbare Hindernisse zu ärgern und sich damit selbst zu quälen, sieht er sie vielmehr als Teil des Weges und Teil des Ziels. Und vielleicht hätte Siddhartha Mark Twain zugestimmt, als er meinte: „I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.“ Das Leben als Ganzes lehrt.

Wir streben nach dem warum wir leben; ein Streben, das uns so tief innewohnt und das einen erquicken lässt, in dem Moment, in dem man ein Quäntchen oder Tröpfchen Faszination vor sich und in sich wahrnimmt, und für einen kurzen Augenblick es ergriffen hat, bevor es einen aus den Händen rinnt – wohl aber seine Spuren hinterlässt.

// Haltbares

Dieses Streben bei gleichzeitigem Innehalten auf dem Weg führt zu reflektierter in sich geruhter Bewegung. Bedachte Schritte, die sich den Fragen der Tiefe annehmen – ohne von ihnen eingenommen zu werden – bewirken ein Innehalten bei Bewegung, welches eine zögernde, angenehme Weile hervorbringt. Durch diese tun sich faszinierende verborgene Spuren auf und lassen so einiges Haltbares erkennen.

Vielleicht ist dies Dichtung, vielleicht Wahrheit.