Islamic work ethic: a critical review

Abbas J. Ali (School of International Management, Eberly College of Business and Information Technology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA)
Abdullah Al‐Owaihan (Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Publication date: 8 February 2008



The purpose of this paper is to present a coherent but critical treatment of Islamic work ethic (IWE). It explores the nature of IWE in the context of cultural and political evolution and offers a cultural and religious perspective pertaining to organization and management.


It briefly investigates the economic and cultural conditions that facilitate the emergence of work ethics and the centrality of trade in Islamic culture. The paper, then, reviews the pillars and foundations of IWE and investigates various empirical studies conducted in various countries.


IWE has economic as well as moral and social dimensions. These along with basic elements of IWE seem to provide the faithful with a sense of worthiness and strengthen organizational commitment and continuity. That is, work is viewed not as an end in itself, but as a means to foster personal growth and social relations.

Practical implications

Offers managers and consults various avenues on how to design teamwork and new methods of change that focus on producing results which reinforce existing commitment and enthusiasm. As justice and generosity in the workplace are considered virtues, issues of a hiring and firing become part of a broader concern with consequences far beyond the organization.


IWE is a multidimensional concept. It links an organization's prosperity and continuity to societal welfare. Its four elements – effort, competition, transparency and morally responsible conduct – have the promise to strengthen commerce and economic progress in today's world.



Ali, A. and Al‐Owaihan, A. (2008), "Islamic work ethic: a critical review", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 5-19.

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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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