Alhamdulillah Rabil 'Alameen, Wassalatu wassalamu 'ala sayidil mursaleen Sayidna Muhammad wa alihi wasahbihi ajma'een.
This is the text of the speech delivered by Keysar Trad at the Islamic leadership symposium in Brisbane on Friday the 6th of November 1998.
Wanting to be the leader otherwise I will not get involved.
I do not want to follow or apply the ideas of others because:
I feel that I know better than them, or I am better than
they are, or because,
I want to take the credit, or because
I do not want my work to benefit their fame.
Then there are those who justify their own behaviour to
themselves by withdrawing and excusing this as their way of
giving up on a community which does not matter or care,
and so, they can no longer participate.
They do not stop to think about life, about the constant struggle to compete for khayrat (goodness and good deeds). They become consumed in the situation, they consider that they have given you a chance and now, they will give up on you because they have seen your errant ways. What about their own errant ways which you overlooked. This does not come into consideration. They have a superiority complex, their personal esteem does not allow them to attribute fault to themselves, fault always rests in others. With many critics and social hermits, these complexes will not go away without solid effort and a strong will to change.
When people amongst us allow themselves to fall prey to this disease, or allow themselves to label others and refuse to cooperate, they, if they do any work, will end up duplicating efforts, and sooner or later, they will obey satan and completely withdraw from Islamic work.
The prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) was very clear in his direction, that if three of us embark on a journey, or an activity, then we must appoint a leader. This makes any three people a team, rather than scattered fragments.
There are many benefits to working as part of an Islamic group, working as a group allows members to pool their resources and experiences, it allows them to share and evaluate their ideas, and it brings Barakat (blessing) to their activities. The prophet (peace and blessings upon him) told us that the hand of Allah is with the Jama'at. Individual effort is not enough to rebuild Islam and rejoin the scattered fragments of the Muslim Community and take it forward. We have to appreciate the efforts of each other and to stretch our hands to cooperate with each other - a Cooperation, according to the guidance of Allah - Alal Birri Wattaqwa (In accordance with decency and piety).
Working as a group allows the individuals to achieve more goals, instead of each person taking on all the problems, tasks can be allocated, each to the one who has expertise in that field - together, we can focus on the issues, we can dissect these issues and organise and systematically and methodically find and apply solutions to these issues.
Working as a group motivates each member into action, you end up with a specific goal and a specific priority, not a hotch potch of issues not knowing with which to start or where to begin.
Realising the importance of working as a group - we have to select a leader in accordance with the Hadith of our beloved messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him). When we talk about leadership, we have to face up to the struggle in the Nafs (self) between following and the ambition to be the supreme leader. This is the ambition with many who refuse to belong to a group - they desire for leadership or they will not participate - they desire for their ideas to be followed or accepted or they will brand the group as bad. Religion is Naseeha (advice) according to the hadeeth, it is giving and accepting Naseeha, not just the supremacy of personal ideas. People in this group fail to realise or recognise that the affairs of Muslims are a matter of Shura or consultation - they neglect this and then, their Nafs takes over. There are no dictators in Islam, no emperors and no infallible people. Even our great messenger (peace and blessings upon him) made Shura and consulted with his people. A man with the guidance of heaven on more than one occasion put the ideas of his team ahead of his own because this is the principle of shura (Islamic consultation) and the principle of good leadership. That you respect the ideas of your followers - and if there is no religious text that conflicts with their view, and their view is the Shura view, then apply it sincerely even if you do not agree with it.
We need to evaluate ourselves and recognise whether we have the ability to do this, if we do not have the ability to apply Shura, then none of us is fit to lead.
Another essential attribute and characteristic that we need to look for in ourselves to see whether we have the potential to lead is our willingness to serve those whom we are leading. Are we willing to consider their legitimate needs, to go through personal discomfort in order to alleviate their concerns. Consider that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) considered it his responsibility to look after the well-being of even the animals in his Khilafa, he said that he was accountable for an animal that may trip in a pot hole in Iraq - which was the extremity of the Islamic Khilafa, he felt that he would be accountable if he did not fix the road. He would make night sorties into his towns and villages and listen to the concerns of his people. He went to great pains to alleviate the concerns of a widow who complained of poverty - he saw it as his responsibility as the Khalifa that all the Muslims under his Khilafa are satiated - as the leader, he made sure that he ate at the standard of the poorest in his Khilafa, so his food was bread and salt or bread and oil. Until all the people in his Khilafa had a higher standard of food, he was not prepared to allow himself any luxuries. The example of his wife, a granddaughter of the prophet (peace and blessings upon him), when she desired some sweets, he refused to allow sweets to be in his house, he said if there was any spare money in his stipend, this should be placed back in the common treasury as the Muslims were more deserving of this extra than himself - this was a situation when his wife cut down on the purchase of bread and salt and saved enough to buy a piece of Halwa, a little bit of sweet, he took this Halwa to the treasury and had it allocated to the poor and then reduced his stipend as he found that he was able to live on a lesser quantity of bread and salt. We know also that the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) starved one day and ate almost to satiety on the next, he as a leader did not eat his fill everyday, he recognised that his followers were not able to eat their fill, so he chose to experience their hardship with them.
If you feel that you cannot give the legitimate needs of your constituent members priority over your own luxuries, then you are not fit to be their leader.
In our societies and communities, you can perhaps take the example of Uthman, he did not take any stipend, he only used his own wealth which he had accumulated through trade prior to his Khilafa, he as the Khalifa gave salaries to his governors out of his own wealth and did not touch one Dirham out of the treasury for that purpose. As a leader, you may be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, you have a separate income, do you feel that you can lead a Muslim organisation without taking advantage of any personal benefit? Can you promise that you will not get the organisation to pay your home phone bill, or any other personal expenditure? If you cannot, and you still wish to be a leader, then go lead something that is not related to Islam, otherwise you are just buying for yourself a spot in Jahannam.
Another important characteristic of the Muslim leader is to live in accordance to the system which you claim to uphold. As a Muslim leader, your outward and inward life must be in accordance with the will of Allah as revealed and exemplified in his messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him).
You the person who wants to lead a Muslim organisation, how much of the attributes of the messenger (peace and blessings upon him) do you apply in your life?
Do you try to apply his express Sunna?
Do you try to follow his Sunna?
Do you apply his Sunna in your house amongst your family?
How much do you know about Islam?
Are you living like a Muslim?
If you can not answer these questions in the affirmative, then, my dear brother, I advise you to be satisfied as a follower, as a student, until you are ready for leadership.
A leader must follow the system which he claims to believe in, he must embody its teachings and encourage his followers to follow and apply every aspect of this system, he does not apologise for aspects of this system, he actually upholds it and promotes it within and outside his community. Are you willing to do any of this? If not, I with your best interest in my heart plead with you to be content with following until you reach this standard.
We have the example of Abu Bakr and Umar telling their followers that they only deserve their loyalty for as long as they are applying the law of Allah, and that they must set them straight if they deviate, what will you do when a constituent attempts to set you straight?
The classic statement by Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) when he asked a Muslim how he would support him, the man said that as long as Umar applied the law of Allah and the Sunna of his prophet (peace and blessings upon him) he would support him with his sword and if he deviates he would set him straight with his sword. Umar, the Giant, concerning whom the messenger (peace and blessings upon him) said: If Umar was to travel in one path, satan would run away and take a completely different path, the man who was known for his strength, was being told that if he deviated, he would be set straight, by this single Muslim. As the great leader that Umar was, he said: Alhamdulillah who has given Umar a Muslim in his Khilafa who would say this to Umar.
As I said, try and measure yourself against this standard. If you are going to be the type of leader who will reject constructive criticism, who will demonise and punish those who advise him, then stay away, we do not want you, however, if you are going to be like Umar, then come, take this chair and I will listen to you.
Do you have the Kafa`a (The qualification), if not, then pledge your alliegence to the Muslim who possesses these qualification, or choose one who is closest to these qualifications and work together, towards developing these qualifications within each and everyone of you.
We are all leaders in one respect or another, as the hadith says Kullukum Ra', you are all in charge, just like shepherds, and each and everyone of you will be brought to account with respect to that over which you have been placed in charge. There are some who must be satisfied, for their own sake, to be only in charge of their families, or of their homes and be followers outside, and others who must be in charge outside their homes - and must take the responsibility over others.
Another quality of the leader is that he must take responsibility for those he is leading, he will be accountable for them, if they do wrong, he is responsible for correcting this wrong, if they do nothing, he is responsible to motivate them into action. Are you willing to be responsible for others, for their well being, for their actions, for their inaction, for their development? If not, just come in, help as much as you can, but, choose a leader other than yourself.
Leading is taking the responsibility to work diligently with little compensation. It is an accountable task.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) told us that if you seek it, it will be a greater burden than you will be able to bear, and if it comes to you, whilst you are hesitant, because you are alert to the responsibility, then Allah will help you over it.
Now that I have discouraged many, I will change the direction of the talk - if anybody walks in now, they will not have a clue of what I am talking about - so be it.
Sayyidna Yusuf (peace upon him) said: Ij'alni ala Khaza`inil Ard, Inni Hafizun Aleem. He asked the king of Egypt to be placed in charge over all the storehouses, the most valuable treasury of the land, and he put forward his qualification for the job, he said: Inni Hafizun Aleem. He said that he is trustworthy, and knowledgeable, he has the honesty and the skill to look after the stores. He asked the king for the most senior position, to be his treasurer! A prophet of God, asking an idolatrous king to be made his treasurer, he told him his qualifications, of honesty and knowledge, the king immediately gave him the job.
From this we all learn, that if any of us has qualifications for any responsible job where you calculate that no other can do it, you must make these qualifications known. If you have a leader and you are more qualified than this leader, or your organisations has positions and you are more qualified for these positions, it becomes your duty to advise them of these qualifications, and it becomes their duty to evaluate these. If you are not appointed leader, then apply these qualifications to assist the existing leader, and be thankful to Allah for allowing you to apply these qualifications in His service without bringing upon you the burden of leadership.
The hadith tells us that whoever places a person in a position when there are others more qualified, then this person has betrayed Allah and His messenger.
We know that Abu Bakr used to offer his own position as Khalifa at every Khutba, he would ask the congregation if any felt more qualified so that they could relieve him of this great responsibility.
If you know someone more qualified to lead a Mulsim organisation than yourself, you must offer them the position, and if you are the most qualified, you must make these qualifications known, and you must bear the responsibility if you are chosen. You will be committing a sin if you shun this responsibility when you know that you are the most suitable person for it, when your community comes to you with the job and you know that you are the most qualified to fulfil its requirements, it becomes your duty as a Muslim to take the job - Allah will help you over it.
However, if you hold fast to this job, and you know that your community do not want you, the hadith tells us, whoever takes the leadership over Muslims whilst they detest his leadership, then the Zimma of Allah and His messenger will be innocent of what happens to this person. This person is really an usurper, this person becomes a traitor to the trust.
There is a struggle between leading and following, there is also severe warning for the Muslim who dies without a pledge to an Imam. The Hadith says that this person dies a death of Jahilia - we all know that the people of Jahilia were Pagans, they were idolators. If you die in this manner, then you are like the people of Jahilia. Our deen is the deen of Jama'at, it is a community based religion, we are not monks, hermits or isolationists. We are part of the community, and part of our role in life as Muslims is to work as an united community.
O you who believe, obey Allah and His messenger and those charged with authority amongst you.
O you who believe, do not put your own opinions and your own feelings and your own whims over those of Allah and His messenger.
O you who believe, do not raise your voices over that of the messenger - your deeds will be lost whilst you are unsuspecting.
May Allah forgive me and you - Wassalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.
Copyright rests with Myself (Keysar Trad)