Mspiration sits down with Moustafa Fahour, the co-founder of the upcoming Islamic Museum of Australia and corporate business leader. Brother Moustafa offers us valuable life tips learned from both the corporate world and the family home.
Anyone who has the right intentions I really believe that Allah SWT will take them on the right path. And it also works when it comes to achieving the task because if your intentions are correct then it will eventually lead to a better execution of that task. You know, I look at the museum as an example. The intention behind it was how do we create social cohesion and bring attention to the wider community of the positive contributions that Muslims have made. I look at this journey of three years and there have been hardships along the way. Sometimes I would sit down and think should I be doing this? Am I doing this the right way and then subhanAllah after that period of hardship all of a sudden you are excited again because you get funded. I remembered thinking: wow, this was a lesson and I realised that nothing comes easy. At the end of the task you will realise there is blessings in it and you can really feel it. Sometimes it can be now, sometimes it can be later in the future but when it happens you will think SubhanAllah!
Intentions and persistence are linked together. It is about not giving up. That is probably one of the biggest things I learned from being involved in both the business and the not for profit sector. When I was younger, and you will probably laugh at me when you hear this, I remember hearing Tupac Shakur say “if you believe you can achieve.” Now I know it’s a bit weird mixing a rapper with what we are talking about but since I heard it from a young age it has stayed with me. Persistence can only come by really believing that what you are doing is really the right thing. That belief will keep you persistent no matter how many times you are knocked down. Now if you have the wrong belief or intention you can still be persistent but it will eventually break down. All of us are going to experience moments when you are persisting and it is still too hard and I felt that way many times during the journey of the museum. Now whenever I feel like that the first thing I try to do is go back to reality. By that I mean my core fundamentals. My deen (faith), how am I going with that? How are my intentions, are they correct? I sit there going through these things and I analyse them and then get up and continue because during that dark period, that is where your persistence really comes in and show itself.
On Team Work
It is about having the right people around you to support what you are doing. I have learned this more in my corporate career and took advantage of these lessons in the not-for-profit world. They say a CEO’ role is not strategy, it is actually on the organisational structure. If the CEO has the right people they will make the right decisions. You cannot be the best of everything. We are human beings and we can’t make the right decisions all the time but with the right people around you will achieve your objective. Allah SWT has created us all differently and the skill is in leveraging of each other. One leadership story that I always remember is of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH and the twigs. The prophet PBUH called his companions and took the twigs and tied them together and asked them to break it. The companions couldn’t do it. Then he undid it and asked them to break the twigs again. Now, you can break a twig one by one. That’s why I love that story because it is about sticking together and working together as well.
For me it’s about remembering my roots and bringing myself back to it. Now that can be religion, culture or how we were brought up. For me to remain grounded I keep telling myself that I am a human being like everyone else. I am no better and all I can do is keep trying to get better for my faith, the person that I am and the husband, father and son that I am. My previous job was to advise people from the Forbes Rich 100 list. These are individuals that a lot of people envy and they sometimes treat you to this lifestyle. This why the corporate world can be like a web, if we don’t ground ourselves you will keep getting pushed and pushed. I had to learn to step back, say Alhamdulilah, and know I am there for a reason. That intention keeps me grounded. It keeps me grounded when I come home to my family. It makes me realise that hey, I am talking to my wife here, not some CEO and at the very least she deserves equal respect. I will tell you something about what meeting all these CEOs taught me: no matter how much money you have in the world, it does not guarantee happiness. I actually found that it brings more problems. Seeing that in person made me realise that what we see on TV isn’t what you want to envy. What you want to be is someone that is close to your faith and family.
We sometimes think it’s about working hard physically and mentally. But it’s also about working hard on your relationships with people. It’s about keeping that promise. When I promise someone that I will do something I will go through anything to make sure that I deliver on that. But also, we always think hard work is about what happens outside the home. Hard work also means working on your family and your kids. I think a lot of us, and me included, are guilty of this in that we sacrifice our family for the job and even community work. We have to remember that our family is our foundation which supports us to do this. So we have to at least give them back the time and respect. This becomes especially important if you have young kids because they are watching you. As a father you are a mentor to them and they are watching you to see what is right and wrong.
This is a big philosophy for me and we need it now more than ever. It all begins with the idea that your word is your bond. I always felt that if you truly believe in something then you will put yourself on the line for it. This is something that I learned from the corporate world because you see a lot of people are scared to make that call or put themselves out there, especially when it goes wrong. You know, I think about our faith and how we are judged by our intention. If you know what’s right and wrong and you have the right intention then you wont be scared to make that decision. And if you have faith then Allah SWT will lead you to right path and make the decision the best one. Also when things go wrong you will not be afraid. If you had the right intention then just put your hand up and say I’m sorry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting mistakes because we are not perfect. This is actually what I look for when hiring people. Everyone wants to talk about what went right because that’s easy. As well as focusing on their achievement I also ask what went wrong along the way. The person that expresses those things and agrees, with actual humbleness, that a couple of decisions did go wrong it gives you the belief they did have the right intentions and they learned from what happened. If you are sincere in what you do, how you do it and show accountability for it then the more respect you gain.
It’s about all the principles and points that we discussed. This is where it all comes from. Islam is a way of life, not just a religion. It governs how we conduct our business, deal with families and our neighbour. These transactions and interactions are all a reminder that there is a greater being out there, that Allah SWT is watching. This life is nothing but a test for us and true happiness is in the next life. The more that I developed into my career the more I realised the greatness of Allah SWT. You can see it in the business world, believe it or not, but you just have to put yourself out of the box. Let’s take the global financial crisis for example. You have bankers all around the world, these smart people thinking man-made laws are the best and they set up these things called Collaterise Debt Obligations. At the time people thought it was just fantastic. All of a sudden that one instrument brings down the economic super-power of the world as well as Europe and all the major banks. A lot of people are looking for an economical term behind it but what I see is Allah SWT’s reminder to us that as smart as we are, as much as we create, there will always be something that will bring us back to our element: to realise that we are just human beings.
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