NAWAF AL SABAH WRITES– Islam, soon to become the most followed religion worldwide, currently second to Christianity, garners some of the most devout followers. Muslims are committed to daily prayers (salat) on schedule.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Muslims are mandated to close businesses during prayer time. Unfortunately, this practice is beginning to raise debates around profitability, as prayer time is  believed to cost the country huge losses.

With the Muslim population in Saudi Arabia at 97.1%, and most practicing daily, these business breaks are costing an estimated $150 billion. And even though only Muslims practice during Salat,  non-Muslim citizens or business persons have to abide by this Muslim practice. Malls come to a standstill, and customers have to wait to receive services.

The math behind the Salat explains the gravitas of this financial loss: each prayer lasts approximately 30 minutes to an hour, so, considering that there are four Salats in a working day, the Saudi economy comes to a standstill for about 2-4 hours every day.

Apart from economic losses and inconveniences, there are other associated delays. Employees are quick to take breaks and reluctant to resume their respective duties, causing further delays and lost  profits. Travelers have to wait at gas stations that close briefly and patients have to wait for  pharmacies to re-open.

In order to mitigate these damages, perhaps business owners might consider rescheduling the breaks for salat practice and reduce the time taken— that is, by cutting the 30 minutes of prayer in  half. In some parts of the Kingdom, vital businesses at top-notch malls have already incorporated a praying in shifts policy, ensuring that  business operations do not shut down at once.

Can prayer practices be adjusted to meet economic  realities? Let’s hope so. Religion is holy, but business matters, too.

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