We are starting off our “POWER TO BE SERIES” which aims at inspiring and empowering Muslim women with Safiya Mohammed who started off as a banker but Alhamdulilah today, she is the General Manager of MRS Holdings.
Read on to know how she excelled in her career but not at the detriment of her deen
- What’s your name?
My name is Saufiyah Mohammad
- What do you do?
I am an in-house counsel at MRS holdings, I work as the company secretary/General Manager as well.
- How long have you worked in this field?
I started my career in banking, I was a banker for almost 12 years. I joined the Oil and Gas company in 2005. And called to bar in 1991 and then I got into banking. Now I am in oil and gas and I have been in the industry for 15 years. So, I have a post-call experience of about 29 years
- How did you get into it?
I studied law and that is how I got into this job. You can either practice as an external counsel which is as an advocate or you can work in-house as a legal practitioner.
- What were the challenges you faced as a hijabi in the corporate world, how were you able to remain steadfast on your faith and be the amazing career woman you are?
The challenges I actually encountered were from women.
Unfortunately, they were either my bosses or they were in HR and they tell you, you know what you cannot wear the hijab.
but that’s when I always stand my ground, you don’t have to be rude, just state your points. You have Sikhs who wear the turban and some people want to wear wigs and I won’t say they should not wear it. Whenever I am faced with challenges, I just calm down and explain my deen. Let them know this is an injunction from my lord. I am a Muslim, so you can’t tell me I can’t wear my hijab. That is who I am and I also follow the dress code.
You know as a lawyer, it’s always easy to argue with them because I know the constitution. I have freedom of expression as stipulated in the constitution. Corporate law doesn’t say open your hair, it said dress corporately which I do.
I have seen Muslim women that look amazing in the hijab, even the picture of Mary, Mary had a veil on. So, I just put in my best at work, judge me by my output not how I look. When I was in HR and a woman told me, no you can’t dress like this, I asked her, says who? What has my dressing got to do with my performance at work, has anyone complained that my hijab is affecting how I work and have I complained about people wearing wigs? And when she kept saying no, I sat her down and asked her what is it about my hijab she doesn’t like, reminded her I am a Muslim and this is a part of me.
I was able to convince her. It’s all about understanding the deen, explaining it to them in a polite manner and handling any issue well. Be modest in your dressing, because trends come and go but your hijab will stay forever.
You know, the whole purpose is to worship Allah. That is the drive, the motto. I have had my challenges but I always think that if my purpose on earth is to worship Allah, who dare stop me.
- How did you manage your Muslim and career identity?
So, Hijab and my job. As a banker…you know Iman itself is if Allah blesses you. Alhamdulillah, some of us, Iman grows. The fact remains that I have never gone without a scarf on my head right from when I was growing up.
But you know hijab in the banking sector, it’s who you are, it’s the Islamic code of dressing. Your faith and culture define you.
Muslims are defined by Islam and the level of devotion of belief is different. You find that some people wear the full hijab, some are partial hijabi, some don’t even wear it at all, notwithstanding that doesn’t mean they are not a Muslim. It’s about individual and hijab is not about the veil, it’s the complete dressing.
It has been a good journey for me. Also, I have always worn long dresses, top with long hands and not too fitted clothes so I won’t contradict the injunction of hadiths and the Quran. A Muslim woman is supposed to come out in a modest way and that has been the culture.
So, my experience has been very wonderful because Allah comes first in my life and if Allah comes first in your life, whatever you do will be guided by what he teaches. So, Alhamdulillah in the bank I always have a turban or scarf and wear clothes that are Islamically compliant. I used to buy my corporate wears from Syria before the war but now I buy from the local market, from people like Nufaesah and the rest.
So, Alhamdulillah the journey so far has been good. As long as I do my duties at work, everything is good.
- How can we be Muslimahs and excellent at what we do?
Taqwa and the will of Allah. Being excellent is about obeying and sticking to the rules of the game.
what you stand for is what you will deliver, nothing less. To be excellent at your job, you need to be disciplined, first of all, you must know what your job is about, how to do the job, not only know but also how to improve yourself, go for training, share ideas and get better at your job. Alhamdulillah, over the years I have discovered that when you imbibe this discipline culture and deliver what is expected of you, improving on what you know, seeking assistance on what you don’t know and also being consistent, in sha Allah the sky is the beginning.
Excellence at work requires a lot of personal sacrifices but not at the detriment of your deen and religion. Excellence at work also means subscribing to the rules of Allah at work, HOW? Give your colleagues their due, help your subordinates when they need you, you give organization your best and also make sure to observe your salat. Make sure when you make guidelines to excellence Allah is at the top of your list. Don’t spend your break time recklessly, you can use that time to observe salat. So, Alhamdulillah, sticking to all these rules has made me excellent.
- Tips for being confident and assertive in the workplace?
When you have people that are shy at work, they don’t follow the deen because Islam is a religion that gives you confidence. Walahi. What is confidence? It’s the knowledge that you know that will help you to be confident and be bold. Honestly being a Muslim gives me more confidence to be in front. I have to be the forerunner, it makes me feel so wonderful to be a Muslim.
Islam talks about excellence in everything we do, look I still go to my Quranic school every Saturday so I can learn more about the deen. You need to learn more, learn about what Allah says, you need to seek knowledge and you can face the whole world when you know Allah is with you.
We hope you enjoyed our first power to be series. We will definitely do more series.
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