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It is an interesting thesis to see how religious and cultural beliefs may affect business philosophy and practices. In Pakistan, there is increasing trend in the business community to subscribe to visibly religious practices. For example, if you happen to go to market during Ramadan in Karachi, at the beginning of the day, you will find most shopkeepers reciting Qura’an. This is the opening of the day. During Ramadan, the charity increases manifold; rations are distributed to the poor, Sehar and Iftar meals are offered to anyone who is willing to take, and an air of benevolence is seen to be prevailing. On regular days, recorded recitation of Qura’an opens the day for many shops and offices. At least one major pharma company had Qura’an recording on their telephone exchange, and you would hear it when you called or waiting to be connected to the concerned person. Thousands of traders are active members and subscribers of religious groups, particularly ‘Tableeghi Jama’at’, they go with their groups for tableegh in Pakistan and abroad. A lot more come especially to attend the congregational ‘dua’ at the end of the annual session.

Pakistan is our own country; we know who we are and what we do. I shall return to Pakistan businesses after sharing from a study published in April 2022 by European Corporate Governance institute. The study has been done by Gu Zhihui from Nankai University Business School China; Hao Liang from Singapore Management University – Lee Kong Chian School of Business, European Corporate Governance Institute; and Hanyu Zhang also from Singapore Management University. They studied the relationship between exposure to Confucianism and corporate behavior. Before we dive deeper into the study, it is in order to introduce Confucius and his teachings.

Confucius – 551 BCE to 479 BCE

We know that ancient China holds the longest recorded history among ancient nations; over 7,000 years. They were the pioneers in paper making, printing, paintings, silk making and so on. They have an equally long literary history also.

Confucius was born in 551 BCE in Qufu area which is part of present-day Shandong province. He is China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, whose ideas have profoundly influenced the civilizations of China and other East Asian countries. It was the time of Zhou dynasty which ruled for over 800 years from 1045 BC to 221 BC. He came from an aristocratic family of Kongs of Lu, with a string of eminent scholars who acted as counselors to rulers. By the time Confucius was borne, the lineage were not left with the hereditary entitlements, but they were still considered employable as they were well-versed in ritual arts: music, archery, charioteering, writing, and arithmetic. His father, Shu-liang He, died soon after Confucius’s birth.

Confucius did many small jobs and finally became minister of crime in Lu government. He was effective in handling law and order problem, but his he was even more impressive in diplomatic assignments.

Political and dynastic rivalries and competitions between rulers and nobility led to the loss of his position and he went into self-exile which took him on a long journey that lasted 14 years. Confucius spent much of this time looking for rulers who might be willing to be guided by his vision of virtuous government, but it was in vain. Confucius somehow thought he could set things right in the world. Confucius was trying to teach that the moral resolve of a few could have a beneficial effect on the fate of many and was teaching it.

Confucius’s disciples were young men from a wide range of backgrounds – aristocrats, common gentlemen, merchants, farmers, artisans, and even criminals. He did not actively recruit them, but they attached themselves to him to learn from his many skills. Among his earliest disciples, three stood out: Zigong, Zilu, and Yan Hui.

There are three main sources which throw light on the life, events, and thoughts of Confucius. The Analects is the work most closely associated with him. It is a record of his life in fragments, collected into 20 sections. It was probably compiled within the first century after Confucius’s death, apparently by a handful of young disciples. It took another 200 – 300 years of minor changes to become what it is today. The second work that is central to the study of Confucius is Zuo commentary, which covers that period in the state of Lu, and also throw light on his intellectual ancestry and the roots of his moral thinking. The third source is a long biography of Confucius by Sima Qian, China’s most distinguished historian, written in the first century BCE.

Teachings of Confucius

Confucius thought that the rites, or ritual (li) – encompassing and expressing proper human conduct is all spheres of life – could steady a man and anchor a government. “Give your parents no cause for worry other than your illness,” he said. “When your parents are alive, do not travel to distant places, and if you have to travel, you must tell them exactly where you are going.” (The Analects, 2:6, 4:19). “Be gentle when trying to dissuade them from wrongdoing,” Confucius advised. “If you see that they are inclined not to heed your advice, remain reverent (jing). Do not openly challenge them. Do not be resentful even when they wear you out and make you anxious” (Analects, 4:18).

To be Continued…….

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