Prayer and productivity
In a well known paper on religion and economic growth, Barro and McCleary find
economic growth responds positively to the extent of religious beliefs, notably those in hell and heaven, but negatively to church attendance. That is, growth depends on the extent of believing relative to belonging. These results accord with a perspective in which religious beliefs influence individual traits that enhance economic performance. The beliefs are, in turn, the principal output of the religion sector, and church attendance measures the inputs to this sector. Hence, for given beliefs, more church attendance signifies more resources used up by the religion sector.A major Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa that echoes these conclusions.
'Praying is a good thing ... 10 minutes should be enough,' Al-Jazeera television personality Qaradawi says in a religious edict, or fatwa, published on his website.Read the whole thing, which is interesting throughout.
Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the well-known requirements of making a pilgrimage to Mecca and of giving alms to the poor.
Two of each day's five sessions -- the dhuhr (noon) prayer and asr (afternoon) prayer -- fall within working hours, bringing work to a standstill at least twice a day in many places.
A prayer generally takes an average of 10 minutes, but it can be extended if a worshipper chooses to recite one of the longer verses of the Koran.
And before the prayers themselves, there is also a mandatory ablution during which worshippers must wash their faces, hands and arms, feet and heads. In large office buildings, the trips to the bathroom can also eat away at valuable work time.
Qaradawi's plea to reconcile faith and productivity may hit some hurdles as it risks upsetting the deeply entrenched custom of 'prayer breaks' at work.
Society's increased Islamisation over the past 30 years has already silenced some critics of long prayer sessions.
According to an official study, Egypt's six million government employees are estimated to spend an average of only 27 minutes per day actually working, reflecting a real problem with productivity.
Qaradawi's fatwa is aimed at removing prayer as a pretext for not producing.