بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا
Qala innee jaAAiluka lilnnasi imaman
[Allah] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, Quran 2:124)
Allah said to Ibrahim:
إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا
“I’m going to make you a leader for the people.”
The harf لِ in Arabic is this idea of service. Allah made Ibrahim an imam, a leader that is in service of the people.
And Ibrahim had a vision. He had a mission and he had a vision – not only for himself, but for his descendants. He said to Allah:
قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي
Qala wamin thurriyyatee
[Ibrahim] said, “And of my descendants?”
And Allah’s response was
قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ
Qala la yanalu AAahdee alththalimeena
[Allah] said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, Quran 2:124)
“My promise to you that does not include those who do wrong, but otherwise the promise is fulfilled.”
So Ibrahim’s first question to Allah was what happens in the future? Because he knew it wasn’t just about him. He knew it wasn’t just about his one generation. He knew it would have to also be continuous, that it would have to continue on after him. So he was concerned about that because he had seen it in his own life. Hadn’t he? He saw it in his own life where his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father passed down their tradition and their tradition was that his family was the one who created the idols. So he’s thinking, “What about my children? Are they going to follow my way or are they going to follow my father’s way?”
Ibrahim has this concern for the future, and that is one of the times where the word Imam is mentioned in Quran. So from that we learned that one of the qualities of an Imam is thinking about what comes next. Thinking about not just today, not just tomorrow, but five years from now. What’s going to happen 10 years from now? Or 15-20 years from now? What’s happening in the next generation?
Have we applied this leadership quality to our own community? Have we applied it to our own families? I know with everything that’s going on, it’s very difficult to think that far ahead. Most people are thinking about what’s happening right now. What’s going to happen to the stock market? What’s going to happen to my family? What’s going to happen because of COVID? What’s going to happen in the election? But Ibrahim was also facing so many trials and so many tribulations, the kind that we will not face. He was asked to sacrifice his son. We’re not asked to do that yet. He still was thinking about what the future looks like. He was thrown into a fire by his own people. He confronted the king. So he was also going through difficulties, but he was able to take the time to think about the future.
The word Imam shares a root – hamza, meem, meem – with the word ummah or nation. It also shares the root with the word which means in front. It’s also shared with mother.
Imam al-Shaf’i called his book on the principles of Islamic law Al-Umm – the reference book, the source book, the source material for the principles of Islamic law. Allah refers to the Quran as Kitab-al-Umm. It’s the reference for all books. It is the chief book. And so all of those things are related. And when you think about al-Umm, you think about mother, you remember the compassion, the love. You remember the mercy that mothers have for their children. That is how the Imam leads. That is the approach because there are different approaches to leadership, aren’t there? We see one approach in the white house. It’s one leadership approach. There’s other leadership approaches.
What was the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)? That’s what I would like to talk about today.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “On the day of judgment, when it is so hot and the sun is just so close and people are sweating – not just because of the heat of that day, but because of their own actions pondering upon and reflecting upon our lives, – there will be those people who receive the shade of Allah”. The shade of Allah doesn’t just have the physical cooling effect, but it also has the effect of lowering that anxiety because you have received the shade of Allah. This is a good sign. And so among those people who received the shade of Allah is one who remembers Allah in solitude. They cry when Allah’s name is mentioned and the first one is Imam al-Adil, the just leader. Usually when we hear this, you might think of the politician. You might think of the governor. We might think of the president, the Khalifa.
كُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ
“Each and every one of you is like a shepherd. And each and every one of you has a flock to take care of and each and every single one of you will be held responsible.“
Each and every single one of us is a shepherd in some way. Think about the people in our lives that we are leaders of in some way. Think about the people who take us as role models. It might be a younger sister. It might be a younger family member, a neighbor. It might be a coworker. It might be employees. It might be the people who work under you at work. It could be many different ways. It could be your own family. It could be your children.
Each and every single one of us are leaders.
We have to think about how can we apply the qualities of love, or those qualities that are defined by the prophets and the Quran. How can we apply those into our own lives?
Allah says about the Prophet (pbuh):
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ الله أُسْوَة حَسَنَة
“The Prophet is the best of role models for us.”
We should take him as an example. The very first leadership quality that the Prophet (pbuh) that the Quran mentions is that he led with compassion and mercy.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ
Fabima rahmatin mina Allahi linta lahum
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], that you were gentle and kind to them.”
(Surah Al-Imran, Quran 3:159)
“And had you been harsh or hard-hearted they would have run away from you.” We see that in the people that surrounded the Prophet (pbuh), we see the fruits of that leadership, of mercy and compassion. The companions were lining up to defend themselves. The Prophet (pbuh) was going through the lines, straightening the lines, not for prayer, but for actual battle. He had an arrow and he straightened the line. He was going one by one, straightening the line, straightening every single individual and one. One’s belly was sticking out, so the Prophet (pbuh) poked his belly and said, “You’ve come out of line, get back into line”. And the man complained. He said, “Oh, Prophet of Allah. You’ve injured me by poking me with this arrow”. The Prophet of Allah was looking at him and the man said, “Oh, Prophet of Allah, you must let me retaliate. You’ve done this to me, and I should be able to poke you back.” And this is when they’re getting ready for battle.
So the Prophet (pbuh) lifted his shirt and said, “go ahead”. Then the man kissed him. He hugged him and he kissed him, and he said, “If this is my last moment, I want to embrace you one last time”. That was the kind of love that the companions of the Prophet had for him. That love was not the result of a harsh way. That love was not created through fear, but it was created through mercy, and through compassion.
The second quality of the Prophet (pbuh) is that he put others before himself. Some people think once they become a leader, it means they get the best parking and the high end office, and it means they get this many benefits. But the Prophet (pbuh)’s leadership was not that of being a king, but rather he was someone who was in service of others. He put others before himself, and told his people, “whatever I leave behind, give it away”. There were many times during his own life where he would give things away to those who were hungry, those who were poor, those who needed it.
There’s the story of how Abu Bakr went to the Prophet (pbuh) and showed him that there was a stone tied to his stomach because of the hunger that he was feeling. It was a time of drought and the Prophet (pbuh) raised his shirt and there were two stones tied to him. So the Prophet (pbuh) was always putting others before himself. That was his way of leadership. So if we are in any position of leadership, how are we putting others first? Are we able to have that genuine concern for others? Not to the point where we are being taking advantage of of course, but at least to the point where people can feel that there’s a leadership that’s taking place.
The third quality of the Prophet (pbuh)’s leadership is that of being trustworthy for 40 years. The Prophet (pbuh) had this reputation before he was even a prophet that he was the trustworthy, the truthful, and that anyone could leave their belongings with him. There were no banks that time. There was no safety deposit box. There was nowhere that you could keep your belongings. There was no locks on doors. The windows in every home were open windows. So you could not really secure your precious belongings if you were to go somewhere. Many of the people of Mecca were merchants. So it was very common to leave Mecca and go somewhere else for business and for trade, but when they would go, they would sing to someone, “Hey, can you take care of my belongings?” And it was also a common thing that if you left your belongings with the wrong person, you came back and they would say, “Oh, it’s stolen”, when in fact that person had taken it for themselves. But the prophet (pbuh) had this reputation of being so trustworthy that even after he became a prophet and he proclaimed his message, many of the non-Muslims in Mecca would continue to leave their belongings with him. Even though they knew that there was persecution, even though they knew that all of this was going on, they trusted him no matter what. That’s how great his reputation is. What about us? Are we able to actually fulfil those promises? Are we able to actually fulfil what we are saying? Then if and when we make a mistake, are we able to apologize for those mistakes?
There was something interesting that came up in a conversation recently. There was a therapist who mentioned that, as a parent, it’s important to say sorry. We must say sorry to our kids when we make a mistake, because we’re not perfect. Let us say sorry to our kids. When we say sorry to anyone, but especially our children, then we’re teaching them how to be fruitful. We’re teaching them how to have integrity. We’re teaching them that people do make mistakes and that there’s a way to make up for those mistakes. But if we have this aura of: “I never make a mistake and I never admit to a mistake”, that is what the children will learn.
That is the quality that they will take upon, that actually they should never admit that they’re sorry, and should always hide my flaws and faults and should never be open about what they’ve done wrong and what they’ve done right. But actually by teaching our children how to fix something that’s broken, how to mend something, we’re teaching them that integrity. So third quality was the Prophet (pbuh) was someone who was trustworthy.
The fourth quality of the Prophet (pbuh) in terms of leadership – and of course, these are just a few qualities as we don’t have the time to go over all of his qualities – is that he would take Shura. That is even something that is mentioned in the Quran.
وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ
waamruhum shoora baynahum
“He would take consultation.”
(Surah Ash-Shura, Quran 42:38)
Even though he was a prophet of Allah, even though Jabril was coming to him with the words of Allah, he would still in that position in such a position where he’s receiving guidance from the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, from Allah himself. The Prophet (pbuh) would still take consultation from others. Before Badr, he asked, “Where should we stay? Where should we set up camp?” One of the companion said, “We should set up camp at the well. There’s no other water in the area. I know this area, there’s no other water. There’s one well, we should set up camp by the well, and we’ll have water and the Quraysh will not have access to water”. When Medina was being besieged, the Prophet again consulted his companions and it was Suleiman al-Farsi, the Persian. He came up and he said that in Persia, they dig trenches to protect a city. So because Medina on one side was unapproachable, on the other side where Medina was vulnerable, they dug a trench.
That was the result of consultations with the Prophet (pbuh). He would take consultation even after the treaty of Hudaybiyyah when the Prophet (pbuh) was frustrated with the companions because they did not listen. When he said, “Let’s shave our heads and let’s return to Medina without having performed Umrah“, the companions were furious – not at the prophet, but at the turn of events. They had walked and rode in the heat of the desert for miles and miles from Medina to Mecca, wanting to do Umrah unarmed. They were unarmed. They did not pose a threat to the people of Mecca. They just wanted to make Umrah, and see their city once again and see the Kaaba once again. But the Quraysh did not allow it through the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. The Quraysh basically said ‘come back next year‘.
So, the companions were furious. But the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Let’s shave our heads and let’s return to Medina without having performed Umrah. This is the arrangement of the deal. There’s a vision here. There’s a reason for this”. Naturally, Allah called this a great victory.
إِنَّا فَتَحْنَا لَكَ فَتْحًا مُّبِينًا
Inna fatahna laka fathan mubeenan
“Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest.”
(Surah Al-Fatha, Quran 48:1)
Allah said that this was more than what they could have hoped for, more than the Umrah that they traveled for. So the Prophet encouraged them to shave their heads because that is the final ritual of the Umrah. But the people were not listening. So the Prophet (pbuh) consulted his wife and his wife said, “O messenger of Allah, you shave your head, you complete your ritual and everyone else will follow you”. So he accepted that consultation. He was not someone who was too proud to accept consultation. He accepted that consultation. He did that. And lo and behold, everyone followed. They realized that this is the only option.
I’ll end off with this last qualify of the Prophet (pbuh)’s leadership. If you read any list of leadership qualities – for example, The 21 Laws of Leadership by Don Maxwell – you will find this is an essential core principle of a true leader:
A true leader creates other leaders.
A true leader gives other people time to shine. A true leader creates other leaders and the Prophet (pbuh) was the best example of that. When Muaz was a young man, he saw his potential, and he said, “Muaz go to Yemen. The people of Yemen want to accept Islam. You go to Yemen and lead there”. So the Prophet (pbuh) would give people that opportunity. He would look for potential and he would create and nurture more leadership – so much so that, after he passed, there were many who could have taken leadership. There was a Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali. There were many who could have taken that leadership. Even beyond those four, there were many others that were in that consideration. Each time one passed, there were many others who were in consideration for those places of leadership and positions of leaders. So that was a crucial thing.
That brings me back to what I said about Ibrahim. When Allah told Ibrahim that he would be a leader, what did he reply? He said, “What about my descendants? Who will be the leaders after me?”
So we ask Allah, that He helps us to be good leaders in our families, at our work and our community, at all levels of our lives. I ask Allah that He gives us those qualities of the Prophet (pbuh), that He helps us to be merciful and compassionate, that He helps us to serve others, to put others first. I ask Allah that He helps us to lead by example, just like the Prophet (pbuh). I ask Allah that He helps us to nurture and create that next generation of leadership in our community. I ask Allah for guidance for our community and for our families and for ourselves. I ask Allah for the good in this life and the next. I Ask Allah that if anyone is ill, ya Allah cure their sickness. Those that have passed, may Allah have mercy on them and give their families, patience, ya Allah. Ya Allah accept our good deeds and enter us into the highest levels of paradise and unite us. Ameen.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.