Melbourne Cup Reflections…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Growing up I was oblivious to the Melbourne Cup festivities, right through uni too, I heard about the race that supposedly stopped the nation but I couldn’t be bothered to even take note of some of the things that go on. I remember my first Melbourne Cup day in the office, everyone was excited about dressing up, getting drunk and betting on horses with the most unusual names. I spent the day before the races turning down various sweeps and betting syndicates and had to explain to everyone why I didn’t have an interest in gambling or the idea of heading to the pub for the races.

I was the only Muslim in the office so this was new to many of my colleagues but everyone was understanding. I requested to be excused from the afternoon lunch at the pub and my manager was very accommodating so while the rest of the office got drunk and lost all the money they played on the races, I stayed back and had a quiet afternoon in the office. This took place towards the end of my first year in public practice and despite being excused from the actual drinks and gambling that afternoon, I recall feeling very uncomfortable in the office and began noticing how different I was from everyone else.

By this time, the euphoria was wearing off and I began noticing a few changes taking place that I wasn’t very happy with so I remember questioning whether this was the right work place for me. Fast forward a few months and my prayers were answered, I received a job offer from a smaller firm up the road that turned out to be alcohol free, gambling free and pork free. My new manager was mormon and my new colleague was a fellow Muslim brother I knew from an Islamic camp a few years before.

The new office was awesome, didn’t have to deal with the office drinks, drunken parties, gambling or dirty talk. All the food was halal, afternoon drinks were replaced with afternoon tea and office parties were replaced by jet skiing, mini golf and gelato overlooking the beach. Halal food, halal entertainment, a boardroom for our prayers and a 2 hour lunch break for Jumuah… Perfect. My first Melbourne Cup day in the new office was actually quite enjoyable, no one cared about the races, not a beer in sight and instead off drinks at the pub, the manager treated us to a little lunch and dessert which was a good change in routine.

I spent 2 Melbourne Cups at the new office which was quite enjoyable and comfortable… lots has changed since then and by the next Melbourne Cup I found myself working from home completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the corporate world. I am so grateful for the way things turned out. After working in public practise for 3 and half years, despite a very Muslim friendly work place in my last job, the freedom and luxury of working from home and working for yourself is absolutely amazing. The challenge now is maintaining an Islamic working environment while having complete flexibility and control of my own working conditions. It’s easy to complain about restrictions and limitations when you work for someone else, the real test is whether or not you can fulfil your duties, both religious and professional when you have control of your time and workload.

I hope and pray that my new boss allows my faith to flourish beyond the restrictions and limitations of the corporate lifestyle. Looking forward to many more Melbourne Cup Days in my virtual office away from the drinking and gambling. While I am grateful for my experience, I also pray that anyone out there subjected to less than the ideal working environment be granted the strength to maintain their faith and prosper in their line of work.

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