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Agony Aunt: How to Pray on Time at Work

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 28th January, 2024

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Hi Aunt Maya! I’m starting a new job in London and am a practising Muslim who prays five times a day. The last time I had a job, it was at a cafe and I was only given a 20 minutes break during long shifts that I would spend eating. I would go home and try to say all of my prayers together, although I was often unsuccessful in doing so. This role is an office job. Since the time has gone back, I will be missing Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib. I have been to this workplace before and know there is no ‘quiet place’ without people (they depend a lot on teamwork) where I can pray. While we get an hour off for lunch, it is usually spent socialising or going out with others. Moreover, they are quite strict and are not often happy with questions that employees ask; like extra requests, etc. Can you advise me on how to say my prayers on time?

Maya Areem Responds:

Salam alaykum, 

First of all, congratulations on your new job. May Allah grant you immense barakah in this new role and reward you for the step you have taken towards maintaining your salah.

It already sounds like salah is important to you, and it makes you uncomfortable that work is getting in between your regular prayers. 

The Prophet ﷺ was asked: “Which deed is the dearest to Allah?” He replied, “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” (Sahih Bukhari) 

The anxiety you have in your heart when you have missed your prayer or the rush to make it all up in one go is a sign that your heart is guided towards Allah and fulfilling your obligations of salah. It seems to me that you are being nudged to pay attention to what is in your heart and should do whatever you can, and more, to ensure you are praying your salah on its time. The two key challenges are timing and space.

While your employer is not legally obligated to provide you with extended time and space to pray, each salah is likely to take you only 15 minutes in total, including wudu. 

The first port of call is timing. Given that you have an hour for lunch this is the time you could pray dhuhr, and if asr comes in during this time you could pray asr when it comes in too. If the time of lunch is down to you, you can coordinate this. This may mean sacrificing socialising and opting for a lunch option that will allow you to pray and eat in that hour. 

If you can only pray dhuhr in this time, then it becomes a case of finding time for asr and maghrib. Is there an option to take a shorter lunch and use the remaining time for asr and maghrib?

With regards to the challenge of space, you may have to pray in the sight of colleagues. I know this may seem daunting at first, but your colleagues, and hopefully the workplace, will very quickly become accustomed to it. Keep a pocket-sized prayer mat on hand and look around the office for a space that you can use for each salah, even if it is not ideal in terms of privacy. As long as it is clean and a valid place to pray, offer your Fard salah there; this may even be at your desk. This will require a bit of discipline in managing your time and fighting fear and self-consciousness, but it could be a workable solution. 

If your workplace has a Diversity and Inclusion team, it could be beneficial to engage in a respectful conversation with them or Human Resources to communicate your need to perform regular salah. Perhaps draw a parallel with non-Muslim colleagues taking coffee or smoke breaks, assuring your supervisor that your prayers will not disrupt the workplace. Taking a step towards this conversation, no matter the outcome, could also open the door to opportunities and ease for many more employees who will come after you. 

I understand how daunting it may feel to approach this conversation. But when we put Allah first, above everything else in our lives, everything will fall into place in ways none of us can even imagine.

The Prophet also said: “You do not leave something for the Sake of Allah, except that Allah compensates you with something better than it.” [Ahmad, and Al-Arna’oot and Al-Albaani classified it as authentic]

However, with all that being said, if management does not seem open to any type of conversation, perhaps try offering each prayer at its correct time and see what happens. You are best suited to take this call, but it has been said that seeking forgiveness is easier than asking for permission when it comes to the workplace. 

At the end of the day, while times are tough and earning a stable income is definitely a priority, there are no excuses for neglecting our salah and only very specific circumstances allow us to shorten or merge our prayers. 

Start by taking the steps above, and if your prayers continue to be affected due to strictness from your workplace, it may be worth considering a more inclusive workplace. Again, while this may be a difficult decision to take and a lengthy process, it is Allah’s promise to us that He will facilitate our affairs when we trust Him. 

“And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.” [Surah al-Talaq 65:4]

May Allah bring ease into your life, reward you for your intention to try and pray on time, make you steadfast in your prayers and guide us all. 

Love + duas, 

Aunt Maya

If you would like some wisdom from Aunt Maya, send in your problems here! Please note Aunt Maya may consult the opinion of others from time to time and ask the Amaliah community for their advice too. Aunt Maya is not a licensed therapist or mental health professional.

Maya Areem

Maya Areem

Maya is a teacher by day and student by night. She hopes to pass on what she learns.