Friday, December 1

IMASE: Soulful Careers Click for more info

I think that today's talk, organised by IMASE (or The International Muslim Association of Scientists and Engineers), was intended to provide us, the audience, with inspiring anecdotes and tips on how to get into "soulful careers"; occupations that would bring benefit to not only ourselves but the world around us too.

there were as many in the audience as there were panellists, so what we ended up with was a more intimate discussion and show-and-tell. A few occupations were talked about, ranging from the humanities to Islamic finance to engineering. What follows in an overview of the experiences shared this evening.

Dr Abdool karim Vakil, a History professor at Kings, opened by stressing the importance of Muslims to take part in the Humanities and Social Sciences, saying that they're just as important as more regular and less "boring" areas of work, and furthermore how the under-representation of Muslims in this field is doing more harm than good.

Next up, we had the barrister Salman Hassan. Although not quite, since although he had trained in Law, he actually left the field to concentrate on more altruistic and educational projects. So instead of talking about becoming a lawyer, he stressed the importance of spirituality, and, basically, how "money and status weren't everything". The Ibn Jabal Institute is definitely something I'll be looking into.

Abdur Rahman Malik from Q-News then stepped up to talk about journalism and media. He explained how he had actually fallen into it almost accidentally (he was trained as a teacher and taught Drama for a few years) - although when listening to him it was clear that he might be one who created his own luck. He also talked about how we should be concerned about the health of our souls as well as our bank balances.

Rupon Miah from Centrepoint, a charity dealing with the homeless and surrounding issues, then took the stage. The most interesting thing about this section was how there were many ways to gain a "soulful" career - both subtle and indirect and creative, or more obvious, overt and pragmatic like in the case of joining a charity.

Imran Sharaf covered Islamic Finance. This also had a pragmatic air about it; the speaker explained how he had done his time in a bit Investment Bank to gain the skills required to help in the Muslim World. In this sense joining a profession which may be seen as hard, cold and not soulful at all might not have been the "selling out" it had seemed to be. I think a more subtle point was that it was the employee that made their career soulful, not the career itself.

Finally we ended with Dr Mahbub Gani, a fellow IC graduate, talking about how we should be looking for careers that excite and interest us, since if we have that then the soul would automatically follow - for example by giving example and dawah to work colleagues.

The low headcount allowed us all to have more of a round table than we would have otherwise. We briefly explored some of the points raised; my own question was about how realistic the panellists were being, since not everyone was in a position to leave their jobs for something else, and even if they were how nothing was guaranteed. I also questioned how likely it would be seeing how a few of the speakers had admitted how accidental their current situations actually were.

Still, despite my cynicism I was inspired. Sure, these guys were special cases, but that doesn't mean there aren't things we can do to increase the soul in our jobs; small, non-risky things joining projects outside of work or even setting a good example to our co-workers. And who knows, perhaps with that attitude those of us with less than soulful careers will "accidentally" fall into new ones too?