FRIDAY SERMON: The Burden of Leadership, by Abu Jabir Abdullah

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Abu Jabir Abdullah

I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

“Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (Allah) gives you! Truly, Allah is Ever All-Hearer, All-Seer.” Qur’an 4:58

A highly conscious man who understands the demands of leadership will not aspire for leadership position. Its overwhelming nature can be a huge burden in this world and in the hereafter. Yet, no society will succeed without sound leadership. The similitude of a society’s need for leadership is like that of an engine to a car, the car does not move without it. Similarly, no society advances without good leadership. Islam has placed an extremely important obligation upon the leader because literally the safety, security, economic stability and religious needs of the citizens are part and parcel of his responsibilities.

On the burden of leadership, the Prophet (may peace be upon him) was reported to have said in a hadith recorded by Bukhari and Muslim on the strength of Ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of a people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects….” In essence, the leader of a country is responsible for the entire citizens of the country for which he is definitely going to be asked by Allaah as to how he fulfilled the trust given to him.

Leadership is transformational and should never be retrogressive. Someone defined leadership as “leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations-the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations-of both leaders and followers.” Leadership position is exclusively kept for qualified persons who must have basic qualities of an ideal human along with practical and technical as well as special qualities. He must be able to command respect, have sincerity of purpose, ready to make sacrifices, open-minded, optimistic and must have detailed knowledge of the responsibility of a leader.

In addition, due to the burden of leadership, a leader must have the ability to make decisive decisions after effective consultation. This requires a serious person with courage to embrace criticism with the ability to implement, guide, supervise and control the affairs of the led in order to achieve the desired positive goals which is fair to all and not just privileged few.

In commenting on the above referenced verse of Qur’an 4:58, Shaykh Salih Fawzan said in Aljazeerah newspaper, “this is addressed to rulers and those in authority. Trusts (amaanaat) here refers to official positions and positions of high office, which Allaah made a trust that is entrusted to the ruler. The way in which it is to be fulfilled is by choosing people who are competent and have integrity, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the caliphs who came after him and the Muslim rulers after them appointed to various positions those who were fit to hold those positions and were able to fulfil these duties as prescribed in Shari’ah.”

The burden of leadership as enshrined in the Islamic paradigm of leadership demands fair treatment of the followers by the leaders. This was emphasized on in the authentic narration in Sunan Abu Dawud where the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have said that, “If Allaah puts anyone in the position of authority over the Muslims’ affairs and he secludes himself (from them), not fulfilling their needs, wants, and poverty, Allaah will keep Himself away from him, not fulfilling his need, want, and poverty.”

What a burden this must be for the leaders of today who live in isolation far away from the reality of the needs, wants and poverty of their followers? Very few leaders of today fully understand the sufferings of their followers. Metaphorically, a leader that lives almost twenty-four hours inside an air-conditioned environment will hardly fully understand how stressful and hard it is to work under the scorching sun to earn a living. Leaders of today live in a different reality with their followers, while they enjoy the luxury and extravagant package that leadership affords them, their followers languish in unfulfilled desires, unachievable hopes and unremitting sadness.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) having understood fully the burden of leadership and asking it to be given exclusively to those who are qualified for it, he said in a narration in Sahih al-Bukhari that “You will be anxious to lead, and this will be a source of remorse to you on the day of Judgement.”

Conversely, Allaah may He be Exalted out of His Infinite Mercy will honor certain people on Judgement Day amongst whom is a just ruler. In a narration in Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There are seven whom Allaah will shade with His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His: the just ruler,…..” The scholars said, just ruler is first mentioned because of how important he is and how far-reaching his benefits are.

Be a servant-leader, be a transformative leader and have sincerity of purpose only then will Allaah help you.

Mr Abdul can be reached on twitter: @Penabdull, instagram: @Penabdul