Changing the Paradigm for Understanding Ethics in the Construction Industry: An Historical Perspective from the Tradition of Muslim Societies

Imran Malik, Kasim Randeree

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Principles for good governance (work ethics, justice, wisdom and tolerance) were articulated by Al-Ghazali a millennium ago and remain valid today. Al-Ghazali argued that religious convictions provide business leaders with a strong motivation for conducting business ethically, even when their profit motive might not. Therefore, establishing a new global vision for ethical conduct in the workplace based on the universal spirit and message of Islamic teachings is a real and viable possibility.

Today, construction professionals gain integrity to some extent through a corporate ethical code of conduct as well as through the policies formulated by professional bodies. However, codes of conduct and legislation alone are insufficient to ensure ethical conduct within the construction industry. An important aspect of ethics in the construction industry is ‘professional ethics” often interpreted by construction professionals as merely treating others with the same degree of honesty that they would like to be afforded themselves. It has been suggested, however, that professionals in general tend to believe that their obligations to their client far outweigh their responsibility to others.

In the Middle East, the common forms of unethical conduct observed within the construction industry includes the improper treatment of labourers, the awarding of contracts to companies in which an interest is held and exaggeration of experience or academic achievement in resumes and applications. Previous studies have looked at how socio-economic and political factors play a role in formulating construction related ethical positions, but few have considered the role of moral guidance based on religious instruction which is a major driving force for ethical practice within society, particularly in the Arab world. Islamic teachings thus appear to focus on the pragmatic aspects of life while asserting the humanistic and spiritual needs of its devotees. This suggests that the Islamic teachings may well set the foundation for the construction industry based on ethics, in societies where they are recognised.

Using Dubai as a model, this paper seeks to provide an insight into current professional ethical practices in the construction industry regionally and proposes a paradigm shift in understanding ethics through the writings of Al-Ghazali.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 27 Nov 2006
EventInternational Conference on Construction Culture, Innovation and Management - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 26 Nov 200629 Nov 2006


ConferenceInternational Conference on Construction Culture, Innovation and Management
Abbreviated titleCCIM
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates


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