We tend to think of meetings as spaces where minds meet; but what if we redefined meetings as spaces where souls meet?
Although there are lots of books and resources that discuss how to run successful meetings, in this article, I’ll explore how we can approach meetings from a spiritual perspective and the impact our spirituality has on the quality of our meetings.
I’ll also try to answer the question: how can our meetings be conduits of Barakah (Divine Goodness) for ourselves and organizations and even a means of personal and team-wide spiritual development?
This article will be useful for team leaders, managers, and really anyone who wants to see more Barakah in their work meetings insha’Allah.
Meetings As Spaces Where Souls Meet
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “…souls are like recruited soldiers, those that recognize one another unite in harmony and those that do not recognize one another are at an aversion”.[Muslim]
To understand the above hadeeth, we need to understand that the beginning journey of our soul is not the moment we entered this world. Instead, the origin of all souls was when they were created by Allah SWT, and made us witness His Divine Existence. Allah SWT says in the Quran:
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنۢ بَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا۟ بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَآ ۛ أَن تَقُولُوا۟ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَـٰذَا غَـٰفِلِينَ
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”Quran 7:172
So in that pre-existence world, some souls met each other while some did not. That connection carried into this realm which explains how sometimes you may walk into a meeting and ‘click’ with someone even though you never met them before, or, the opposite happens – you try hard to work with someone and even though they are a nice person, you feel some kind of unexplained aversion to them.
To be clear, this is not an excuse to avoid working with some people because you don’t like them or create in-groups and cliques with people because you enjoy working with them. Instead, we should understand this hadeeth from two perspectives:
- When we enter a space, we don’t just bring our professional selves to work; we bring our whole soul to work. And our soul may or may not connect with those in the room.
- Just because we don’t connect with someone at a spiritual level doesn’t mean I should shun them; instead, we should see their presence as a test of our character and spiritual development. And if we can learn to work with them with ihsaan, that can only benefit the whole team as we’ll be able to learn from each other dispite our diverse and different way of thinking and being.
When You Bring Your Whole Soul To A Meeting
Dr. Abdallah Rothman, in his article “What Islam Offers to Modern Self-Help: An Islamic Paradigm of Psychology,” shares the following structure of the soul:
He argues that unlike popular conceptions within modern psychology, an Islamic perspective of the soul includes multiple aspects, namely: body, mind (Aql), spiritual heart (Qalb), spirit (ruh), and self (nafs). These aspects integrate together to form the spiritual being we know as a human being.
Therefore, when a soul attends a meeting – they bring these different aspects of their soul to the meeting. Moreover, each of these aspects can be impacted by the interactions that happen during the meeting. Below are examples of how each aspect of a soul can be affected during a meeting:
- Qalb (Spiritual Heart): If the Qalab is spiritually healthy and not sick, it’ll be able to perceive the spiritual reality of what’s happening in a meeting and maybe be given insights (baseerah) that can be very beneficial to the team or organization. However, if the spiritual heart is sick with a spiritual disease such as envy or arrogance, it may filter through into the meeting in the form of office politics or toxic behavior.
- Aql (Mind): If the mind is sound – not just mentally but spiritually sound – a person will use their Aql to make spiritually-intelligent decisions during the meeting. For example, instead of just performing a cost/benefit analysis of a project from a Dunya (wordly) perspective, they’ll consider the Akhira (hereafter) perspective of a project and its long term benefit, thus using their Aql to make a spiritually intelligent decision for this world and the next.
- Nafs (Self): Perhaps the part that is most ‘active’ in meetings is the Nafs (Self) which, if not disciplined, can be self-centered, territorial, and egotistic. We’ve all witnessed how the Nafs, if left unbridled by the Qalb and Aql, can wreak havoc in meetings. On the other hand, if we keep our nafs in check during meetings, we might go through tough conversations without feeling threatened or blamed by what is said.
- Spirit (Ruh): This is the antidote to the Nafs. The pure part of your soul that wants to pull you up to higher meaning and purpose. It wants to connect to the Divine and heavenly realities instead of earthly desires. It can be idealistic at times – but it’s precisely this idealism that makes it an important voice to hear during meetings.
- Body: Let’s not forget the physical side of our being – our bodies – which are the vessels of our soul. If we give our body its right – with rest, nutrition, and exercise – we’ll show up to a meeting in a much better state than if we are tired or unhealthy (We cover the topic on how to take care of your body in detail in our Wellness Masterclass). Also, simple things like dressing up and being well-groomed for a meeting will impact your performance and presence during the meeting vs. showing up scruffy (or wearing your PJs on zoom calls!).
Suppose we accept that meetings are spaces where souls meet and that each soul has different aspects which can be affected in various ways during a meeting. In that case, we need to design our meetings as conducive environments where we bring the best aspects of our soul to a meeting and reduce the triggers that may bring out the negative aspects of our soul.
Moreover, let’s not forget that in addition to managing our souls, we have an archenemy that wants to negatively influence us, whom we need to be aware of – and that is Satan
Practical Tips to Design Meetings for Barakah
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that we advocate for individuals and organizations to adopt Barakah Culture instead of Hustle Culture.
Barakah Culture is God-centered, hereafter focused, and purpose and impact-driven. Whereas Hustle Culture is ego-centered, worldly-focused, and material results-driven.
If we want to fuse our meetings with Barakah – we first need to adopt the Barakah Culture worldview as a team and then design our meetings as opportunities for whole soul development.
Below are ideas for designing such meetings that we brainstormed with our community members during our weekly calls (a meeting that was in itself full of Barakah!).
We collected ideas on what to do before, during, and after the meeting to maximize Barakah – whether we meet in-person or virtually. I summarize the key points from our discussion below:
Before the meeting
- Set the intention for the meeting: Why are you conducting/attending the meetings? What’s the intention behind it? How can you level up your intention for the meeting, so it’s more God-centered, Akhira-focused, and purpose/impact driven? (Hint: Use the Barakah Journal to help you level up your intention for the meeting).
- What Barakah Culture mindset, value, or ritual will you fuse into the meeting? You can use our Barakah Culture Cards as a tool to help you pick a mindset, value, or ritual to practice in the upcoming meeting. For example, if you decide to practice an “Abundant” mindset – you’ll be conscious of sharing your ideas and not hoarding information.
- Schedule the meeting outside of prayer times: Make sure meetings don’t clash with prayer times and if for some reason you can’t avoid the clash, make sure that you schedule prayer breaks during the meeting or you inform the meeting host that you’ll need a 10-15 mins break for your prayers. Meetings should not be used as excuses to miss or delay prayers.
- “Tie your camel” and prepare for the meeting thoroughly: Don’t try to wing it at your meeting; it shows a lack of adab and respect for all attendees. If you’re the host, send the agenda early with relevant documentation. Make sure that the tech equipment and space are suitable for the meeting, etc. If you’re attending the meeting, read about what will be discussed during the meeting, have your own notes ready, and ask questions before the meeting if things are unclear.
During the meeting:
وعنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: ”ما جلس قوم مجلساً لم يذكروا الله تعالى فيه، ولم يصلوا على نبيهم فيه، إلا كان عليهم ترة؛ فإن شاء عذبهم، وإن شاء غفر لهم” ((رَوَاهُ التِّرمِذِيُّ وَقَالَ: “حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ”)).
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whenever a group of people sit in a gathering in which they do not remember Allah the Exalted, nor supplicate to elevate the rank of their Prophet, such a gathering will be a cause of grief to them. If Allah wills, He will punish them, and if He wills He will forgive them.”Al-Tirmidhi
- Attend the meeting in a state of spiritual purity: Right before the start of a meeting, I recommend that you make wudu (ablution), so you reduce the influence of Shaytaan upon you during the meeting. If you’re able to – ask your colleagues to do the same and come to the meeting with wudhu. If you have more time, pray 2 rakats and ask Allah for ease and facilitation during the meeting. Also, seek forgiveness often before the start of a meeting so your personal sins don’t impact the meeting outcome.
- Say Bismillah consciously: Start the meeting with an audible and conscious Bismillah – truly internalize that you’re starting this meeting “In the name of Allah”. If you can, after Bismillah, begin the meeting by thanking Allah (hamd) and sending peace and blessings upon Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to add more Barakah to your meeting.
- Start with a Mindful check-in: If you are the meeting host, ask all team members to check in and share where they are at a personal level. This helps you assess people’s emotions and spirituality and may inform how the meeting is conducted. E.g., If someone is having a bad day, as a leader, you can ease the pressure off them during the meeting until they are in a better state. (BONUS: You can try a Mindful Practice advocated by our Mindfulness Masterclass Instructor, Wadud Hassan. He asks attendees to take 3 deep breaths and then explore how they are arriving with their mind, body, and heart.
- Be vigilant of Shaytaan: Be conscious of Shaytaan trying to create animosity between your team members or fuel anger and arrogance in the room. Saying “Audhu-billahi min ash-Shaytaan-in-Raheem” when arguments rise helps – or asking teammates to change their positions if things get heated up can help.
- Make proper shura: The purpose of meetings is to discuss topics thoroughly and not force your ideas on the team. Make your case, but be open to changing your mind or adopting decisions you may not like.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلْقَلْبِ لَٱنفَضُّوا۟ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَٱعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَٱسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
By an act of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them- had you been harsh or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you- so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him.Abdul Haleem 3:159
- Pause for Athan/Salah: I once attended a meeting with a leader of a large Islamic bank. When the athan went off – he went quiet and paused the meeting. After the athan, he asked that we take a break for Salah and resume the meeting after Salah. This was a powerful example of Barakah Culture in an organizational setting.
- End the meeting with the kaffartul-Majlis dua:
وعن أبى هريرة رضى الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم “من جلس في مجلس، فكثر فيه لغطه فقال قبل أن يقوم من مجلسه ذلك: سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك، أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك، إلا غفر له ما كان في مجلسه ذلك” ((رَوَاهُ التِّرمِذِيُّ وَقَالَ حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صحيح)).
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever sits in a gathering and indulges in useless talk and before getting up supplicates: ‘Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika, ash-had an la ilaha illa Anta, astaghfirullah wa atubu ilaika (O Allah, You are free from every imperfection; praise be to You. I testify that there is no true god except You; I ask Your Pardon and turn to You in repentance),’ he will be forgiven for (the sins he may have intentionally or unintentionally committed) in that assembly.”At-Tirmidhi
After the meeting
- Pray istikhara: At the end of the meeting, once you have all the key decisions, pray istikhara either as a team leader or an attendee on all the decisions made and ask Allah SWT for Barakah in those decisions.
- Thank people: Send a thank you note to people who impacted you during the meeting. Maybe they shared something that inspired you or went the extra mile with their part of the presentation. The thank-you doesn’t need to come from the team leader only; it can be amongst team members themselves – privately or publicly.
- Seek forgiveness: Sometimes, in meetings, we say or do something that may be inappropriate. Reach out to the person you may have unintentionally offended and seek their forgiveness. If it’s something that you feel impacted the whole team – write/speak to them individually or as a group and seek forgiveness. Don’t let Shaytaan run between you and cause enmity.
- Give sincere naseeha and feedback: Sometimes, you may notice a behavior from someone they may not be aware of that negatively impacts the meeting, e.g., showing up late always, or rolling their eyes when someone disagrees with them, or constantly interrupting the speaker. After the meeting, speak to them privately about the behavior and how it impacts the meeting. Give them sincere naseeha regardless if they are the CEO or the youngest intern.
- Take action and take responsibility for the decisions made in shura: When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) conducted shura on what to do before the battle of Uhud (whether to stay in Madinah or leave the city walls). The decision was made to go out of Medina – which wasn’t his personal preference. However, once the decision was made, he put on his armor and prepared to leave. Even when the companions felt bad that they convinced the Prophet to do something that he didn’t prefer – he didn’t change his mind but committed to the decision made in shura.
- Pray for your team: After the meeting ends, and perhaps after your istikhara prayers, take time to pray for your team privately. Ask Allah to bless them, ease their affairs, inspire them, and not let Shaytaan come between you all. These duas will be the spiritual glue that will keep the team harmony together.
- Reflect and introspect: Take some time to reflect and hold yourself accountable for your performance during the meeting. Not only from a professional point of view but also from a spiritual point of view. How was your qalb during the meeting? How was your nafs? What can you do differently next time to improve your professional and spiritual performance? (Hint: Use the end-of-day reflections in the Barakah Journal to help you with this exercise).
The above is not an exhaustive list of things you can do to attract Barakah to a meeting. However, I hope it’ll inspire you and your team to start thinking of meetings not as dreaded time-wasters but as opportunities to cultivate Barakah for yourself and organizations, Insha’Allah.