Real Parents, Real Heroes

real parents, real heroesHuman relations are a complex and sensitive web of emotions. Family is the foundation of every society. Why does family matter? Well, around one-fourth of the Quran instructs humanity about family matters. Over 1200 verses pertaining to familial matters specify rulings, injunctions, and advice from Allah (swt) to us.

The strength that we gain from our family enables us to go forward and tackle the challenges of life. Hence, a family is sacred, and it is mandatory for Muslims to pay attention to their families and energize them. If the family system crumbles like a feeble mole hill, the society disintegrates also.

True parents are true leaders

The other day, I was brushing my teeth. My fourteen-year-old son Yusuf stood next to me. He was brushing his teeth and making all kinds of swishing sounds and gurgles much to my dislike. For the first time, I realized that he had grown taller than me. I asked him: “Yusuf, what kind of weird sounds are those? Didn’t I ever teach you how to brush your teeth?” He replied: “No dad, you didn’t.”

It just dawned on me that every fault in my child was my failure as a father because I hadn’t modified his attitude or act. True parents are true leaders of their families. In Islam, servants and leaders are one. If one cannot serve his team, he cannot lead. Our Prophet (sa) was always the first in a battle and the last in a caravan. A very important book by Simon Sinek titled Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is worthy of mention here, as it can facilitate the concept of true leadership and parenting.

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Lead by Faith

11 lead by faithThe youth of the twenty-first century has been deeply affected by the social and political turmoil it has witnessed. Every day is a struggle, and in troubled times, passionate hearts and energized minds look for ideals onto which they can cast their mortal selves. So prevalent and severe are the conflicts that the moral compasses of the youth are shaken – in their fear and confusion, they have drifted away from the righteous path set out by all major religions of this day and age. Lessons of tolerance, compassion, sacrifice, brotherhood, and peace have all been shelved away, only to be replaced by the existing prejudices, violence, discrimination, and bigotry. Unless heroes of the past and stories from childhood are revived, our world would face an unprecedented existential threat.

Daring and hopeful about their future, the youth are in need of guidance, which only various institutions working together can provide. These institutions, provided they function relentlessly, can give rise to agents of change.

Home – Every child’s first school

The family provides the very first training. Only the child’s family is aware of his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This knowledge allows the family to protect the child from the “big, bad world outside” and becomes a vital source of encouragement when the child opts to be good, displays acts of kindness, and fulfils religious duties. It is this household environment that moulds the reaction and interpretation of the youth, clarifying for him what is wrong and what is right, while stressing on the importance to choose what is right over what is easy. Parents provide their offspring with solid ground to stand on, and in giving them love, they indirectly guide their children towards what they consider to be right, that is, the values they themselves hold as important.

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[Infograph] Tips on Raising Tomorrow’s Leaders

The youth of today will be the leaders of the Ummah tomorrow. As parents, how can we ensure that our young ones are raised with the best Deen-inclined attributes that enables them to lead the Ummah tomorrow? Aneesah Satriya at Islamographic.com presents the following infograph. tips_leaders-web

Changing the World at Seventeen

Changing the world at 17

It was 619 AD, when in the garden of Taif, the Prophet (sa), nursing his fresh wounds, prayed to his Lord. Nine years later, the entire Taif embraced Islam. And this is where our story begins.

Muhammad Ibn Qasim was seventeen, when he conquered Sindh. His sword struck the very heart of such false practices as idol worship, which prevailed in that era. He conquered not just a piece of land but an entire people living on the banks of the Indus River. It was his courage and persistent acts of goodness that caused his death – he was imprisoned, tortured and martyred.

He was born in Taif in 695 AD. Growing up in the care of his mother, he soon became a great asset to his uncle Muhammad Ibn Yusuf, the governor of Yemen. His judgement, potential and skills surpassed many experienced officers, thus, he was made the governor of Persia.

Interestingly, the Muslim rule he began was not for such worldly purposes as gaining land, power, or simply for satisfying the awe-inspiring leader inside him. He invaded Sindh for a truly humanitarian act.

In 712 AD, some Arab Muslim families were returning in a merchant ship to their homes to Iraq, including widows and orphans. The ship was intercepted at a Sindh port by some Hindu pirates, who looted the vessel and took the passengers as captives. These were men of Raja Dahir, the ruler of Sindh at the time. Qasim’s uncle wrote to Dahir, demanding the release of the prisoners and the due punishment of the pirates. As expected of a cruel ruler, Dahir refused point-blank. This prompted Muhammad Ibn Yusuf to dispatch his seventeen-year-old nephew to do what was required.

Qasim, of course, took the responsibility seriously. Displaying outstanding courage, he crushed Dahir’s troops. The people of Sindh rejoiced at Qasim’s entry. The cruel reign had ended, because Qasim was a promising ruler of commendable character, efficient administration, and a window into the Islamic system of law and justice, which was so fair and sufficient that it inspired the Hindus. He won both their lands and hearts.

There are two versions of his death. The first and most agreed upon account revisits his preparation for the attack on Rajasthan. Qasim’s father-in-law passed away, and the new governor took revenge against the family of the old governor. The new Khalifa Suleman called upon Qasim and made him captive. This imprisonment led Qasim to an early death. He was twenty, then.

Even his death could not diminish the magnitude of what he had done for the future generations. In 712 AD, conquering the area from its Hindu rulers, he extended Muslim rule to the Indus Valley. Just like Alexander the Great before him, he travelled endlessly and subdued the whole of what is now Pakistan – from Karachi to Kashmir within a matter of three years. He managed to do that with a small force of only around six thousand Syrian tribesmen. Allah (swt) was with him every step of the way.

Muhammad Ibn Qasim is a true inspiration for the leaders of all times. To this day, historians believe that had he lived longer, he would have brought the entire South Asian region into the folds of the Islamic empire.

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead

In the Light of the Quran and the Sunnah

By Binte Aqueel, Hina Jamal, J. Samia Mair and Sadaf Farooqi

While Muslims often complain about having a crisis of leadership, paradoxically, there seems to be no dearth of self-proclaimed leaders – people, who think they have everything required to lead the community and are ready to fight for it.

Today, countries, groups, organisations and Masajid have become mired in an ugly struggle for power. Often, a person stands up to fill an essential leadership void in the community, considering himself/herself best fit for the role. Campaigning, electioneering and lobbying are often followed by dirty politics, mudslinging and rivalry. Soon, all those involved in the noble bid to provide a good leadership seem to have lost their goal somewhere in the fight for power. All that matters now is their or their party’s winning at any cost.

Sounds familiar? Sadly, this is the dilemma many countries and organisations face. The quest for good leadership often brings out greed and lust for power not only in country politics but also in the college and work life groups. Everyone wants a leadership position, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to acquire it.

Seeking Leadership

Interestingly, Islam discourages the practice of seeking leadership. In Islam, leadership is an Amanah (trust) and a huge responsibility. The early Muslims used to cry, when they were given a position of authority, out of fear of not being able to discharge it properly.

The Prophet (sa) is reported to have said that anyone, who seeks leadership, is not fit to assume it. Once, two men entered upon the Prophet (sa). One of them said: “O, Allah’s Apostle! Appoint me as governor,” and so did the second. The Prophet (sa) said: “We do not assign the authority of ruling to those who ask for it, nor to those who are keen to have it.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “You people will be keen to have the authority of ruling, which will be a thing of regret for you on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) advised Abdur Rahman Ibn Samurah (rta): “Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand, you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking for it, then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then do what is better and make expiation for your oath.” (Bukhari)

This is not to say, however, that taking up a leadership role is wrong or discouraged. Indeed, the Prophet (sa) encouraged his followers to take up a responsibility, when it was entrusted to them. He said: “Whoever is given responsibility of some matter of the Muslims but withdraws himself, while they are in dire need and poverty, Allah will withdraw Himself from him, while he is in dire need and poverty on the Day of Requital.” (Abu Dawood)

It is discouraged to seek a leadership position out of greed and desire for power. Actions are based on intentions, and we must not doubt anyone’s intentions.

Empowerment and Delegation

Life is an ongoing cycle of events, one of which is that all leaders are eventually replaced. For such transitions to be as smooth as possible, a leader should prepare his subordinates to be able to efficiently take on leadership roles in the future, which bring added responsibilities, require the ability to make critical decisions, and need excellent interpersonal skills to win over hearts of people.

Some leaders tend to follow autocratic and dictatorial leadership styles, thinking that these cast greater awe over a workforce and thus attain better performance.

Clearly, this methodology is in clear contradiction to the style of leadership of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who was an exemplary leader. He was humble, mild-mannered, friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. Moreover, he empowered his close companions to be capable enough to carry on his mission after his demise.

I would like to elaborate on his style of ‘Empowerment and Delegation’ in the light of Ahadeeth regarding the appointment of Muadh Bin Jabal (rta) as the governor of Yemen.

Ibn Abbas has narrated: “The Prophet sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah’s Apostle, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakat from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to their poor.’” (Bukhari)

According to another narration: “When Allah’s Messenger (sa) sent Muadh to Yemen, he went out with him whilst Muadh (rta) rode his riding beast and Allah’s Messenger walked beside him giving instructions. When he finished, he said: ‘Perhaps, Muadh, you may not meet me after this year, but perhaps, you may pass this Masjid of mine and my grave.’ Muadh wept from grief over the departure of Allah’s Messenger. The Prophet then turned facing Madinah and said: ‘Those nearest to me are the pious, whoever they are and whenever they are.’” (Mishkat)

These Ahadeeth make the following points clear:

  1. When a delegation is going off on a long journey, the leader should personally see them off.
  2. The leader should give simple, concise and role-related instructions to the delegate during their final meeting, as reminders of what work lies ahead for the delegate and its importance.
  3. The leader is humble, i.e., he does not mind walking or standing at a lower level than his delegate.
  4. The leader must be honest, when expressing his emotions to his subordinate.
  5. The leader should console his subordinate, when the latter is expressing grief.
  6. There should be love and compassion between a leader and his subordinates, especially in careers related to Dawah and religious instruction.

We can see how perfectly our Prophet (sa) combined the delegation of a leadership role to a subordinate with human compassion, empowering a future leader while simultaneously expressing his love and humility as a leader. He was, perhaps, the only man in history, who brought about the greatest of change in mankind in the shortest time period.

Best Religious Leaders – Close to People

Have you ever tried to contact a qualified, respected Islamic scholar or religious authority figure for some personal issue? These scholars have busy schedules of delivering talks and lectures in institutions and homes, travelling abroad often for conferences and, hence, are often hard to reach. When the common man endeavours to get in touch with them, more often than not, it is an uphill task involving numerous phone calls and/or unanswered emails. Private counsel with them is elusive – no more than a fleeting Salam or handshake following their Dars, before they hurriedly whiz off to their next engagement.

We must remember that a religious leader is a human being just like us. He or she needs time to rest, relax, leisurely hang out with family, sleep, attend to personal errands, read, study, respond to correspondence, plan itineraries and meet relatives. If they were to give private counsel to anyone, who wants to talk to them at any time during the day, they would be constantly pre-empted. Moreover, idleness and over-socialization is common in our culture. People tend to linger to chat about useless topics long after having discussed the required issue. If a religious leader were to give in to every lay-person’s demands on their time, it would not be long before they would not be able to continue their Dawah work.

It is, therefore, all about maintaining a critical balance between work and human compassion. Could it be that religious organizations’ leaders today have allowed themselves to become so overburdened with commitments, that they do not have time for even genuine requests for a sympathetic ear? Is this not against the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa)?

I find this food for thought. Why do our leaders move around with entourages and employ assistants for trivial personal tasks such as ironing clothes, whereas the best leaders of our Ummah, who had to juggle many more balls in the air, such as planning battle strategies, meeting foreign dignitaries and catering to multiple spouses/children, never hired personal assistants?

The proof of the Sahabas’ humility is the way they’d roam the streets at night alone, in their positions as Ameer-ul-Mumineen, to see what was going on at ground level. Prophet Muhammad (sa) never sat at a level higher than his company, except to ascend the pulpit for a sermon. His clothes made him indistinguishable from his companions to a newcomer, who set eyes on him for the first time.

Is this not something worth pondering over?

Here are a few tips that might restore the Sunnah of compassion for laymen for our leaders:

  1. Gain knowledge of the Prophet’s (sa) life and how he handled situations.
  2. Cut down on commitments, so that you have a few days a week with nothing on the agenda.
  3. Spend time with your family – every day.
  4. Play and converse with children randomly.

 

Our Prophet (sa) and those of his companions, who later became leaders, were always accessible to the common man, even poor old women or slaves, who stopped them in their tracks with personal complains. Let us endeavour to emulate their example, when and if we ever occupy a leadership role in our lives, because they were the best of our Ummah.

Leaders in the Business World

The unfortunate situation arising in the United States – and I suspect in other non-Muslim populated countries as well – is that when given the choice between conducting a transaction with a business run by a Muslim and a business run by a non-Muslim, many Muslims (and others) choose the non-Muslim business. And even when there may not be a choice – such as a Halal food store – it is only out of necessity that Muslims frequent it. Why are Muslim-run businesses not always the first choice? In one word-leadership.

A good leader runs a business that has courteous, hard working employees, quality products and services and satisfied customers. The leader sets the tone for those underneath him or her. If the leader is hardworking, ethical and fair and expects the same from the employees, the business will have a good reputation. If the leader does not demonstrate these qualities, or if the leader does have them, but does not require the same of employees, the business will not.

There is no excuse for a Muslim not to be a good leader in business. The Quran and Sunnah give ample guidance on what constitutes a good leader. And unlike many other systems of belief, Islam sets forth what is ethical, responsible and Islamically acceptable in the business context. For example, a multitude of Ahadeeth provides guidance on this issue, including these few:

“The merchants will be raised up on the day of resurrection as evildoers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi and Baihaqi)

“God show mercy to a man, who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.” (Bukhari)

“If anyone sells a defective article without drawing attention to it, he will remain under God’s anger.” (Ibn Majah)

“If anyone keeps goods till the price rises, he is a sinner.” (Muslim)

More generally, as Muslims we are expected to exhibit excellence in everything we do -“Allah has made excellence obligatory for everything.” (Muslim) Our businesses should set forth the paradigm of business practices. Business schools should teach case studies on Muslim-run businesses to their students. Our business leaders should be highly sought after for advice. Indeed, Allah (swt) tells us that we set the example for others: “Thus, We have made you a just nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

The sad reality is that many of us, in the business context and elsewhere, do not rise near to the level of conduct that Allah (swt) expects from us. Even worse, many of us do not even try. And by not doing so, we miss a great opportunity for Dawah – something that is incumbent upon all of us.

Despite some popular misconceptions, Islam was spread by Muslims, who followed the Sunnah and the guidance of Allah (swt) – those, who showed what it truly means to be human. Their exemplary and just conduct as merchants in the market-place set forth a brilliant example for the non-Muslims of the time. In a world so preoccupied with international commerce and making money, business affords us an incredible opportunity not only to better ourselves but to pass the Message onto others.

May Allah (swt) guide the Muslim community and its leaders towards what is right, Ameen.

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

What comes to our mind, when we think of an effective leader: a dynamic and diligent individual who has solutions to every problem; a person, who is courageous and capable enough to take his team to new heights of self-discovery; maybe someone, who is an epitome of self-motivation and high principles?

Anyone, who is entrusted with the responsibility to lead, should possess the eight discernible characteristics of principle-centered leaders. If we wish to excel in our role as a leader, we need to develop the following fundamental principles:

1. They learn continually

Our beloved Prophet (sa) continued to receive revelations till the very last days of his life. His entire life was founded on personal learning and divine guidance. Similarly, it is Sunnah to expand one’s competence and ability to do things. Effective leaders read, seek training, and listen to others. They are curious and eager to develop new skills. They are humble enough to learn something valuable from every person they meet. Most of their learning is self-initiated.

2. They are service-oriented

Remember the time of Masjid-e-Nabawi’s construction, and how the noble companions worked industriously? But rather than just delegating tasks and dispensing orders, who carried heavy rocks right by their side? Who led by example and experienced the same hardship, assuring his team that he was there with them every step of the way? Our beloved Messenger (sa), of course.

The next characteristic tells us the same. If we strive to become principle-centred leaders, we must see life as a mission, not as a career that will begin at the age of twenty-five and end at sixty. An effective leader has nurturing sources within him that prepares him for service. Every morning, he puts on the harness of service, thinking of others.

As leaders, we must have a load to carry. If we only attempt to have an intellectual or moral exercise, we will never develop a sense of responsibility, service, or contribution towards our people.

3. They radiate positive energy

Smile, it’s a Sunnah! It is also a Sadaqah! Principle-centered people have cheerful and pleasant countenances and an optimistic attitude. Their spirit is hopeful and believing.

It is important for one to be aware of his energy; he must understand how to radiate and direct it. When the situation becomes confusing or contentious, a principle-centred leader strives to be a peacemaker and a harmonizer, to undo or reverse destructive energy.

4. They believe in other people

Principle-centred leaders are aware of human weaknesses. Hence, they don’t over-react to negative behaviours. They neither feel vulnerable upon discovering another person’s human weakness nor build up stress within them. They understand that behavior and potential are two different things and believe in the unforeseen potential of all people. Remember Prophet’s (sa) belief in people like Umar (rta), who were initially bitter enemies of Islam? But it was the Messenger’s (sa) belief in Umar (rta) that carved him into the leader, who later conquered that time’s super powers of Rome and Persia.

These leaders also feel grateful for their blessings and compassionately forgive and forget offences. They do not label, pre-judge, stereotype or categorize anyone.

5. They lead balanced lives

Principle-centred leaders are not extremists. They don’t immediately divide everything into either good or bad. They think in terms of priorities and hierarchies, have the power to sense similarities and differences in each situation and the courage to condemn the bad and champion the good. Their actions and attitudes are proportionate to the situation – they are moderate and wise.

They don’t condemn themselves for every mistake. They learn from errors and march on. They live sensibly in the present, carefully plan the future and flexibly adapt to change. For them, success is on the far side of failure. The only real failure is the experience not learned from.

Such leaders read the best literature. They are active socially with many friends and a few confidantes. They share intellectual interests. Physically they are active people as per their age limits. They have a healthy sense of humour; they laugh at themselves and not at others.

They do not intimidate others and are genuinely happy for others’ successes. They are well aware of their own worth; hence, they do not need any manipulative measures for success.

All of the above were modeled by our beloved prophet Muhammad (sa), which makes them absolutely doable and possible!

6. They see life as an adventure

Principle-centred leaders savour life. They do not depend upon the safety of their homes or comfort zones. Their real asset lies in their ability to initiate things, be resourceful, exercise will-power, exhibit courage, march on with stamina and their native intelligence.

They are prepared to rediscover people each time they meet them – they are able to do that by listening, asking questions and involving themselves. They do not label others according to their past successes or failures. A very important quality that they possess is that of flexibility, which enables them to adapt to virtually any situation.

They do not see anyone larger than life. They do not feel an urge to be in awe of the rich, the influential or the famous. They are secure about themselves. They don’t stereotype and categorize people to give them a sense of predictability and certainty.

7. They are synergistic

Synergy is defined as a state, in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. For instance, two and two make four, but when principle-centred people are synergistic, they create more than four – maybe five or six.

Such people are agents of change. They are able to improve almost any situation they land in. They are productive and creative in ways no one ever thinks of, because they work as smart as they work hard.

When it comes to team initiatives, they delegate work, as they believe in other’s strengths and capacities. They build on their strengths and strive to complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others. They do not feel threatened by their team members, if they happen to excel in some particular area; hence, they do not need to supervise them all the time.

When they negotiate or communicate with their team in any adversarial situation, they always remember to separate the people from the problem. They can focus on the other person’s areas of concern, rather than fight for positions. Gradually, others discover their sincerity, stop holding back and give all they have got. Together, they arrive at a synergistic solution.

They have the courage to work with different kind of team members. Take the example of Prophet’s (sa) companions: Suhaib (rta) from Rome, Bilal (rta) from Habsha, Salman (rta) from Persia and Umar (rta) from Arabia. They had very little in common in terms of ethnic backgrounds and social status. Yet, by celebrating those differences and applying them as strengths, our beloved Messenger (sa) was able to create incredible results. He was able to create synergy!

8. They work on self-renewal

Principle-centred leaders practice regularly and consistently the four dimensions of the human personality: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

They exercise to improve their physical capacity. They exercise their minds by reading purposeful material, solving creative problems, writing and reflecting upon their surroundings. Emotionally, they make an effort to be patient with others, listen to them, offer genuine empathy, love unconditionally, and accept responsibility for their own lives, decisions and reactions.

Spiritually, they focus on prayer, study the scripture, fast and offer charity. They are connected to the Lord on a twenty-four hours basis.

Initially, including these four activities into our schedule take time, but, eventually, their wholesome impact will begin to save our time.

Book Reviews (Leadership)

biography_abubakr

Title: Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq

Author: Dr. Ali Muhammad as-Sallabi

Translator: Faisal Shafeeq

Publisher: Darussalam

No. of pages: 784

Available at: All Darussalam outlets

The life of Abu Bakr (rta) is indeed a role model for all the leaders as well as leaders to-be. Abu Bakr was the first Caliph of the Muslims. He had to take extremely critical decisions during his caliphate. This book sheds light on his life and times, along with the leadership qualities that he manifested time and again.

Title: Umar Ibn Al-Khattab: His Life and Times

Author: Dr. Ali Muhammad as-Sallabi

Translator: Nasiruddin Al-Khattab

Publisher: International Islamic Publishing House

No. of pages: 1024

Available at: Dawah Books, Khadda Market, DHA, Karachi

This extensive two-volume, well-researched book on Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) is a must-read for all those, who aspire to be leaders in their respective fields. These books shed deep insight into the life and times of the second rightly-guided caliph. Starting from his opposition and reversion to Islam, going on to the education he received from the Prophet (sa) and finally culminating into the different aspects of his leadership, these books contain many interesting incidents. All incidents have been well-referenced. This is also a must-have for every family library.

Title: Uthman Ibn Affan – Dhun-Noorayn

Author: Dr. Ali Muhammad as-Sallabi

Translator: Nasiruddin Al-Khattab

Publisher: Darussalam

No. of pages: 623

Available at: All Darussalam outlets

The third book in the series of the rightly-guided caliphate takes a look at the life and times of Uthman Ibn Affan (rta). Uthman (rta) became the Caliph after the martyrdom of Umar (rta), as a result of the extremely rigorous selection procedure implemented by the latter. The period of Uthman was one of turmoil, with a lot of friction between the Muslims themselves. The book clears many misconceptions regarding that turbulent period, and is a must-read for all those who wish to acquire deeper insight into the Islamic history.