About the Author(s)

Hamid Mukhlis Email symbol
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social and Business, Aisyah University of Pringsewu, Lampung, Indonesia

Sulieman Ibraheem Shelash Al-Hawary symbol
Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Business, Al al-Bayt University, Mafraq, Jordan

Hoang Viet Linh symbol
Faculty of Business Administration, Van Lang University, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Ibrahim Rasool Hani symbol
Department of Business Administration, Al-Mustaqbal University College, Babylon, Iraq

Samar Adnan symbol
Faculty of Law, Al-Nisour University College, Baghdad, Iraq


Mukhlis, H., Ibraheem Shelash Al-Hawary, S., Viet Linh, H., Rasool Hani, I. & Adnan, S., 2022, ‘Religious capital and job engagement among Malaysian Muslim nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 78(1), a7830. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7830

Original Research

Religious capital and job engagement among Malaysian Muslim nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hamid Mukhlis, Sulieman Ibraheem Shelash Al-Hawary, Hoang Viet Linh, Ibrahim Rasool Hani, Samar Adnan

Received: 09 June 2022; Accepted: 23 July 2022; Published: 06 Sept. 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Even if religiosity has long been introduced as the major cause for backwardness by anti-religion philosophers, the divine religion has been an important source of value for individuals and society, encouraging them to shape economic and sociocultural outcomes. In this manner, religiosity and religious capital (RC) are the stimuli for society-wide development. Against this background, religion can have positive implications for enriching individual and social economy. Assigning tasks, providing guidance on productivity and more effort, living a purposeful life, establishing effective socio-economic institutions and assessing functional behaviours in organisational settings are accordingly among the ways in which RC induces economic behaviours. On the other hand, job engagement (JE) has been one of the relatively common concepts within the novel approaches to human resource management. Considering employment and the promotion of standard Islamic culture, how religion and JE are associated is thus of utmost importance. Hence, this study aimed to investigate the effect of RC on JE among 2500 Malaysian Muslim nurses working in Kuala Lumpur and Penang hospitals during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2021, as the statistical population selected via random sampling. A standardised questionnaire was also administered as the data collection tool, whose validity and reliability were confirmed. The SPSS and LISREL software packages were further utilised to analyse the data. The study results revealed that RC had a significant positive effect on nurses’ JE in the course of COVID-19 (p = 0.83, t = 11.94).

Contribution: The research findings suggest that reinforcing RC in Islamic societies, such as Malaysia, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, affects nurses’ sense of hope, faith and beliefs regarding their capabilities to achieve career success.

Keywords: religion; Islam; religious; religious capital; job engagement.


To reflect on human behaviour, social scientists have thus far examined the effects of religious teachings among the most significant contributing aspects. On the other hand, ancient philosophers have long deemed religion as a sociological issue, viz. an external factor with no influence on society-wide development. In the early 20th century, however, Max Weber demonstrated a relationship between Protestantism and economic growth. Therefore, religious capital (RC) can be assumed as a factor for shaping the development of any society. Otherwise, RC does not work because people may underestimate religion with only a few simple beliefs, where the positive effects of RC fade away and are no longer applicable (Guiso, Sapienza & Zingales 2003). The important point regarding the growth and development of society is the type of education that religion provides for improving the quality of the labour force there. According to Schultz (1961), as the founder of the human capital theory, society-wide development depends on the high quality of labour force as a determinant, while classical growth theories have not focused on this issue. The importance of RC in boosting the quality of human behaviour can be accordingly effective in the growth and development of society and bringing about quantitative and qualitative changes to its economy (Lehrer 2004).

Every human is valued and even has a character and respectability in a religious society. This veneration is vital from two perspectives: firstly, the person’s own perspective, which means that individuals attach importance to themselves by recognising the attribute of being a ‘divine caliph’ (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 30) and the noblest of all creatures, and secondly, the perspective of society. That is, people in Islamic society do not neglect maintaining their own dignity and even honouring and glorifying others. This approach prevents the establishment of monotonous labour–employer relations and develops them into comradeship and equality, which can moderate the relationships in the workplace (Aust, Matthews & Muller-Camen 2020). The observance of ethics in this line contains trustworthiness, absence of backstabbing and character assassination, fair judgement, justice, satisfaction, generosity, leniency and friendship, God-fearing attributes, piety, etc., as deep-rooted institutions in religion, which can refine organisational ethics flawlessly (Mohammed 2013). Being in a positive environment while creating job engagement (JE) and synergistic effects accordingly enhances organisational productivity and efficiency and results in better performance. Thus, religious tendencies increase both job attachment and its consequences (Saged et al. 2022). On the other hand, organisations are now progressively more realising the worthlessness of financial success versus the costs of human value, trying new ways to help employees balance their work and family life and then develop their potential capabilities in the workplace at the beginning of the new millennium (Zamaniyan et al. 2016). Organisations are also constantly restructuring themselves to maintain their competitiveness in today’s world by eliminating different levels of management, changing strategies to workforce reduction, merging with other organisations and outsourcing their activities. Such measures are often taken to flatten the organisation as much as possible and thus minimise labour costs by shrinking the management levels and compounding productivity. These changes sometimes lead to a rise or fall in the size and variety of labour force, which may cause problems for human resource management (De Stefano et al. 2018).

In Malaysia, the Ministry of Health is required to guarantee public health by directing and coordinating various organisations and agencies. In this regard, improving quality and justice in service delivery is only possible with law management and enforcement. Despite the responsibilities assumed by the Ministry of Health and the affiliated hospitals and healthcare centres for clients, some measures should be taken towards the medical staff in order to help them obtain positive attitudes. In addition, during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, nurses serving on the front lines of healthcare are encountering many challenges in the workplace, such as job stress, lack of commitment, fatigue, etc., which produce discomfort to them and patients. Nursing is also a stressful job that typically involves high levels of physical and mental workload, which has now been felt more than ever before, especially in the course of COVID-19 and because of its special conditions. As the pandemic continues to spread, the number of patients has multiplied and the need for healthcare services has redoubled, resulting in high workload among nurses fighting against the virus in hospitals. The nurses’ occupational dimensions during the COVID-19 pandemic have been strongly influenced by the expected features of the disease, including fear and uncertainty. At the onset of COVID-19 and with the upsurge in hospitalisation rates, an unpredictable situation has also arisen, directly exposing nurses and other medical staff to this disease. At the same time, the shortages of personal protective and diagnostic equipment have contributed to this panic and sense of insecurity. In respect of many challenges in the nursing profession, the variables that improve nurses’ JE is worth addressing. Therefore, optimising positive attitudes in the medical staff is of utmost importance. The present study aimed to examine the effect of RC on JE among Malaysian Muslim nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

Religious capital

The word ‘religion’ is used in the Western world for the schools within a religion and in the sense of religion itself. The concept of religion in this study and its meaning was thus considered beyond the common religions, viz. Islam, Christianity, Judaism and (in a more general sense) the Abrahamic religions, so it included theism and belief in the oneness of God and the resurrection, in order to shed light on the relationship between the general principles of religion and JE. The most important document for the approach to religion can be the holy Qur’an, as the authentic religious source free from any distortions. The definitions provided for religion are accordingly given in different verses in various forms, including: ‘Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He submitted in all uprightness and was not a polytheist’ (Surah Al Imran, Ayat 67). Elsewhere, it is also stated that:

And who is better in faith than those who fully submit themselves to Allah, do good, and follow the way of Abraham, the upright? Allah chose Abraham as a close friend. (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 125)

Similarly, the holy Qur’an deals with religion in many verses (e.g. Surah Al-An’am, Ayat 79; Surah Al-An’am, Ayat 161; Surah Yunus, Ayat 105; Surah An-Nahl, Ayats 120, 123; Surah Ar-Rum, Ayats 30, 31; Surah Al-Bayyina, Ayat 5; Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 135; and Surah Al Imran, Ayat 67). In the eyes of God and with regard to the divine interpretations, religion is characterised as seeking truth, submitting to God and most importantly, not associating with polytheism, which is natural. This important point is highlighted in Surah Ar-Rum, Ayat 30, as follows:

So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness O Prophet – the natural way of Allah which He has instilled in all people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the straight way, but most people do not know.

Even though traditional to modern philosophers have not yet reached consensus about the concept of nature, it generally includes conscience, practical reasoning perceptions and inner tendencies, such as the desire for immortality, beauty, virtue, goodness, peace and love. Based on this interpretation of religion and the concept of nature in the institution of religion, the conceptual relationship between JE and religion can be easily concluded.

To explain RC conceptually, expert opinions in relation to this concept can be delineated. Religious capital refers to the skills and experiences, formed through religion, embracing religious knowledge, awareness through religious institutions, such as the church and so on (Rupasingha & John 2009). Religious capital also represents macro beliefs which are practised following an internal voice without being forced by an external one. Furthermore, RC arises from the function of faith. In this sense, firstly, faith constantly stimulates people from within, which creates the necessary motivation and strength in them and as a result paves the grounds for change and transformation. Secondly, it determines the direction of human evolution (Mehregan & Daliri 2010). Religious capital is thus a storehouse whose owner can do things that other people would not be able to fulfil easily. Researchers have also defined RC as a person’s specific skills and experiences of religion, which includes religious knowledge, familiarity with rituals, religious theories of the church, along with mixing with believers and friendship with religious people (Babaei Pilhrud 2014).

Religious capital can accordingly strengthen many structures of society; for example, it can socially lead to the development of participatory institutions and cooperatives as the bases for economic development and social welfare.

Institutions for qarz al-hasna [benevolent loans], zakat [as a form of obligatory charity], alms-giving and the like are also established to help the needy. In the individual domain, RC reduces corruption, poverty, crime, etc., which is effective in improving security and social welfare (Mahmoudian Zamaneh 2013). If RC is based on the divine religion, it can even make people increase spending in the way of God. Thus, RC has a positive effect on spending in the name of God, because the costs of living in this world are cut with the growth in RC and one spends more for God. This additional cost demands more effort, which in turn reduces the cost of living (Ezzati, Nasirkhani & Afshinfar 2017). The use of RC also has a direct consequence, creating peace of mind for people, because a believer, without fear of not making a profit, is convinced that the rewards of the hereafter are certain, and this reassurance increases activity in individuals to achieve more desirability using RC (Ghafarifard et al. 2020). The RC concerned here is that formed from Islam-oriented faith.

Job engagement

Given the importance and role of the health system in the quantitative and qualitative development of society, attention to the human resources of medical organisations is of considerable importance. Human resources eager to work in therapeutic environments can lead to efficiency and effectiveness. It is natural that the more enthusiasm there is for work, the easier it will be to achieve the desired goals. Now, if managers and officials related to the health system in general provide conditions for nurses to be enthusiastic about their work and activities and programmes designed to be performed with better quality, the performance of medical organisations will certainly improve. Job engagement is a relatively new and broad concept in the field of psychology and human resource management that is related to productivity and helps to increase the effectiveness of the organisation. Job engagement is considered a positive and real way of thinking that is described by enthusiasm, job attraction and dedication to work and provides the desire to work and the satisfaction of that desire. Along with the general tendency towards positive psychology, the desire to work has been proposed as a concept in contrast to burnout. Eagerness to work is defined as a positive state of mind towards the job, and instead of a specific and temporary state, eagerness to work refers to a fixed and pervasive psychological state. One of the novel and relatively common concepts in the modern approaches to human resource management is JE. Although many definitions have been proposed so far for JE, none has been accepted by all, because this concept is among the new paradigms in the field of human resources. It has thus received multiple definitions because of being exploited in various ways (Albrecht, Breidahl & Marty 2018). In several definitions, JE is considered as an attitude (viz. a person’s desire to do good deeds), and in some cases, it is a behavioural model (i.e. attempts to work harder and beyond the job). In other references, it has been assumed as a positive outcome (i.e. improving creativity and innovation through employee participation and ideation) (Attridge 2009). According to Gibbons (2006), talented people’s JE is an emotional and intelligent relationship that employees establish with their job, organisation, managers and colleagues and influences their augmented efforts for this purpose. Maslach and Leiter (1997) have also reflected on engagement as positive real thinking, described by power, sacrifice and attractiveness, which provides the desire and satisfaction of people in terms of JE. In addition, Truss et al. (2006) considered engagement to be the fruit of creating opportunities for employees to communicate with their colleagues and managers. Affirmed by Hewitt (2004), JE refers to the enthusiasm and interest that employees have in their organisations. Another study had also found a growing consensus that engagement could mean high levels of energy and job involvement (Bakker 2017). Thus, engagement is often defined as an intellectual and emotional commitment to an organisation (Inam et al. 2021) or the amount of voluntary effort exhibited by employees in the workplace. Frank, Finnegan and Taylor (2004) correspondingly described engagement as employees’ positive attitudes towards an organisation and its values. In this line, Kahn (1990) characterised personal engagement as the expression and use of the individual members of an organisation in work-related roles. As the first one to apply the term JE, he believed that people express and use themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role-plays. Moreover, Shuffle et al. proposed the most common definition for JE, describing it as a positive satisfying mental state related to work, in which a person has a strong feeling and effective connection with one’s work-related activities and considers oneself as a person capable of responding to demands. They also stated that engagement was more than a temporary, specific emotional state and referred to a transmittable, emotional cognitive state with much focus on a particular subject, event or behaviour (Harunavamwe, Nel & Van Zyl 2020). Employees’ JE accordingly consists of three aspects, viz. cognitive, emotional and behavioural. The cognitive aspect is related to employees’ beliefs about their organisation, managers and working conditions. The emotional aspect is further associated with how employees feel about themselves and their organisation, leaders and the dominating conditions in the workplace. Finally, the behavioural aspect of JE is assumed as a factor that creates value-added for the organisation and includes employees’ conscious and voluntary efforts to boost their job involvement, which leads to tasks endowed with more time and interest (Phillips & Roper 2009).

Research method

The applied research, using a descriptive survey for data collection and field observations to reflect on the relationship between the variables, was conducted on a statistical population of 2500 Muslim nurses from Kuala Lumpur and Penang hospitals, Malaysia, selected via random sampling. A standard questionnaire was accordingly used to collect the data, whose validity was confirmed by content validity and the opinions of professors of theology, social sciences and psychology, as well as the model fit indices in the linear structural relations (LISREL) software. The reliability of the questionnaire was then evaluated by the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient in the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. To measure RC, 16 items from the scale developed by Sepahvand et al. (2018) were utilised. This questionnaire comprised four components of existential critical thinking, personal meaning production, transcendent awareness and state of consciousness. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this questionnaire was equal to 0.82. To examine JE, nine items from the questionnaire designed by Phillips and Roper (2009) were recruited, using three components, that is, cognitive, emotional and behavioural. The responses to the questionnaire items were based on a five-point Likert-type scale. According to Momeni and Faal Ghayoumi (2016), the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this questionnaire was 0.78, wherein the values above 0.7 indicated its good reliability.


Upon distributing the questionnaires among 2500 Muslim nurses at Kuala Lumpur and Penang hospitals, Malaysia, 2384 completed questionnaires were returned and the rest were excluded from the data analysis. The findings regarding the demographic characteristics also revealed that 54% of the nurses were female and 46% were male. In terms of the level of education, 68% of the respondents had a bachelor’s degree, and 29% and 3% of the individuals held a master’s degree or a PhD degree, respectively. The nurses’ maximum age range here was estimated to be 36. The mean and standard deviation (SD) for the research variables are illustrated in Table 1.

TABLE 1: Mean and standard deviation of research variables.

The relationship between the research variables (Figure 1) was presented by structural equation modelling (SEM) in the form of path coefficients and t-values. Moreover, the model fit indices suggested the desirable validity of the research tool because chi-square/degree of freedom (df) = 2.2456, p = 0.000 and root mean square error approximation (RMSEA) = 0.074.

FIGURE 1: Structural equation modelling.

The results of the relationship between the research variables are outlined in Table 2. Based on the path coefficient, which is positive and t-value more than 1.96, the relationship between RC and JE was determined.

TABLE 2: Regression coefficient and values of partial indices related to research hypothesis.

According to Table 2 and upon testing the research hypothesis, the hypothesis was confirmed at a 95% confidence level. Considering the t-value being over 1.96 and the path coefficient of more than zero at the 95% confidence level, the positive significant effect of RC on nurses’ JE was established.


In a religious society, every human being is respected and has character and dignity. This honouring means that by recognising the position of the divine caliph and being a noble creature that is worthy of being a human being, we should recognise the dignity of humanity and pay attention to it from a social point of view. That is, in Islamic society, in addition to maintaining their own dignity, human beings are obliged to honour and glorify others and should not neglect it. This approach prevents the establishment of inflexible labour–employer relations and is flexible to the role of brotherhood and equality, which can moderate and soften the context of labour relations. Observance of ethics, including loyalty, absence of slander, lack of unjust judgement, observance of justice and fairness, contentment, generosity, mercy and friendship between people, fear of God, piety, etc., as institutions rooted in religion can be a perfect refinement of organisational ethics. Having a positive environment while creating job motivation and synergy of each other’s effects optimises the results of job motivation, including productivity, efficiency and better performance of the organisation. Therefore, the existence of religious tendencies increases both job attachment and its subsequent results. On the other hand, organisations are now increasingly recognising the worthlessness of financial success versus the cost of human value, and at the beginning of the new millennium, they have found new ways to help employees balance their work and family lives, as well as to develop their potential in the workplace. The flexible and creative paradigm of spirituality has also emerged in response to these needs and pressures, and many scholars have emphasised this. Spirituality is, in fact, the realisation of the capacity for human worth. Spirituality means the human belief in moving forward and in relation to a superior force, the belief in oneself and others, on the basis of which a sense of awareness, connection and betrayal arises. Virtues such as wisdom, justice, moderation and patience, as well as religious attributes such as destiny, hope and piety can be linked to spirituality, given that ‘spirituality is acquired, not innate’. In today’s world, organisations are constantly reorganising in order to maintain their competitiveness. These organisations are in the form of actions such as elimination of management layers, reduction strategies, merging with other organisations and outsourcing activities. These activities are carried out to flatten the organisation as much as possible and thus reduce labour costs by reducing management levels and increasing productivity. These changes, which affect the number and diversity of the workers, will cause problems for managers of organisations. Religious capital is the most important source of value in society. Today, most societies demand a direct focus on RC for their economic growth and development, because this type of capital is endowed with a high capacity whose build-up makes the flow of economic growth and development more secure and less costly. The impact of RC on economic growth and development in the society is such that it is assumed as the end result of the wholehearted faith of its members, which boosts trust among them, and consequently, it reduces risks and uncertainties. Some parts of income in societies are thus spent on monitoring, enforcing the laws and controlling individuals. Following the increase in RC, the effects of committing crimes by individuals are reduced or allocated to other sectors. Another point is that faith and RC supplement people’s desirability because of the positive belief that they will turn a profit. Ensuring profit accordingly makes individuals more motivated to do their work, so economic prosperity is promoted in the workplace and society. In general, RC in any society moderates the cost of supervision and control and helps raise new motivation, efforts and norms, making people follow such behaviours and norms, even those who do not have religious faith or have relatively low RC. If the religion in a society has a high quality (viz. it is the divine religion, not a superstitious and distorted one) and finds its proper position, it can act as capital and lead the society towards spiritual and material progress and excellence. The individual RC can thus prepare a person in such a way that, with higher spirituality, they become ready for better production, appropriate conduct in society and more effective presence in all socio-economic fields and accordingly reach material and spiritual growth to do good to society. The individual RC is thus founded on one’s faith, whose penetration and depth makes RC much more effective. The social RC also provides favourable structures for the material and spiritual growth and excellence of the society and creates a dynamic, vibrant and active one. Furthermore, it promotes civil and socio-economic institutions that help the whole society grow, and through this, cause further society-wide religious and cultural growth and development and reinforce its foundations. Therefore, the constituents of the religious structures of a society can be considered useful assets for development that are effective in all the aspects of individual and social life.

Faith, as a wholehearted acknowledgement, pervades the effect of religion and its teachings on all human behaviours in the depth of human existence. As a result, faith can be considered the main source and institution of individual RC. Obviously, it has a cumulative effect on individual RC, shaping and strengthening the structure of the social RC. In summary, faith in God, the afterlife, divine mission and guidance, spirituality and angels strongly affects the belief-related, emotional and functional structures of individuals, and the behaviours of individuals are then formed based on the religion. These behavioural structures lead to the formation of capital, and the outcome is the same capital called the individual RC. However, such structures can be even created religiously without faith. This can be formed without the existence of individual faith through social institutions, individual and social habits, norms and so on. Hence, the effect of faith and RC are unrelated, but these two factors can shape each other. In the same way, faith has a fundamental effect on social RC and its structuring through the formation of individual RC, because behaviours, practices, institutions and others in the society are produced by individuals. No doubt, most constituting elements of the structure of the social RC are the outcome of RC from the past and the historical and environmental characteristics of the earlier and recent societies. However, the effectiveness of these attributes amplifies with the strengthening of religious faith – which can be by itself influenced in some way by RC. The impact of such characteristics depends on the depth of their weight in the society; their quantitative and qualitative extent, functioning and value for people; accuracy; spiritual health; and usefulness, as well as acceptance by the members of the society and the like.


Religion is thus a stimulus for the quality and quantity of actions, behaviours and their results. This can be promising, forward-looking and even conducive to growth and development, mobility and change, improved productivity and investment, creation of a specific pattern of consumption and savings, etc. Accordingly, religion can be effective in individual and social variables as a forward-looking motivating factor. This impact is similar to that of physical capital. Therefore, religion is a capital accumulated within an individual or a society. In either case, this capital can rise or fall.

Taking account of religion with a more general approach beyond the existing ones and with a natural and moral aspect, beyond the rituals and customs as the inner spirit and content of all heavenly religions, it is concluded that religiosity promotes justice, fair pay, higher ethical standards and piety; it encourages good deeds and discourages evil ones; it respects equality, brotherhood, etc., all of which can increase JE (p = 0.8, t = 11.94). However, the effects of religion on the quality of believers’ behaviour go beyond job satisfaction. As the present study investigated the effect of RC on JE among Malaysian Muslim nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the theoretical logic of confirming the research hypothesis implied that nurses could benefit from higher JE by bolstering RC.


Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

H.M. was responsible for writing and reviewing the manuscript. S.I.S.A.-H. was involved in conceptualisation. H.V.L. was responsible for methodology. I.R.H. visualised the presented ideas. S.A. curated the data.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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