The Circle Group > Readings > Prophet Muhammed (sal)

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The Healing Light of the Prophet Muhammad (sal)

Bismillaahi-r-Rahmaani-r-RaheemOh Allah, we ask You for words which will make certain Your Mercy, actions which will make certain Your Forgiveness, freedom from every offence, a supply of every virtue, entering Jannah and safety from the Naar.

 

Allahumma inna nasaluka mujibati rahmatika, Wa’aza’ima magfiratika, wa salamata min kulli, Itmin, wal-ganimata min kulli birrin, wal-fawza bil-jannati min-a nnar.

The Healing Light of The Prophet Muhammad (saws)

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 (excerpt from lecture)

The Importance of Attitude

But we must also do our part.  Even the allopathic doctors now recognize that the attitude of the patient is a part of, if not at least half of the cure. Without the inner motivation, or the opportunity for that motivation, there can be no cure, no good health, no lasting happiness, and no purpose. 

 

How important is attitude?  We need only look at the example of the Prophet (sal) to see. 

Once a group of Jews in Medina greeted Nebi Muhammad (sal)) by saying, “Al Samu alaykum,” which means, “Death be upon you.”  Aisha (raa) grew angry and retorted, “May death be upon you, and curses!”  The Prophet (sal) disapproved of what Aisha (radiy Allahu Ta’aalaa anha) had said, commenting,

Innallaaha yuh.ibu-r-rifqa fi-l-amri kulih.

Truly Allah loves kindness in everything. 

 

Allah (swt) loves kindness in everything, from everyone, in every circumstance.  Even if there is no kindness in return, still, there should be kindness

 

We may say to ourselves that such attaining the goal of that frame of mind and heart is unattainable, but most important is our aspiration to that goal.  To aspire is natural (himma); but to have positive results, i.e. contentment, fulfillment, sense of progress, it is necessary also to extricate oneself from the grips of disillusionment, fear, and self-doubt. To identify these symptoms, we must genuinely ask ourselves whether or not the “I” wants to change.  Every one of us says we do, but it is normal to question whether our aspiration and intention (niyat) can be transformed into something of a higher nature; something that is lasting (a maqam), not a momentary experience.  Regular appointments with the spiritual doctor can assure us of progress toward full health and well being, but there is more to understand. The doctor prescribes or gives methods to practice, which assists our body, heart and soul to regulate themselves (like the immune system does for our physical body).

One Sufi master said that,

No one may be transformed into something greater or higher than the ordinary man by any act or will from the Teacher.  Yet, somehow this expectation is fostered by some Teachers (and students), and certainly hoped for by indolent mureeds and mureedas.  It is not the role of the teacher to be a miracle worker, although to the receptive heart, many apparent miracles transpire between the teacher and the student. “

 

The guide certainly can help to mollify our reactions to circumstances; can give us new perspectives, better tools, inspiration, good guidance, and the continuous blessings of his knowledge and his power, developed through his efforts, meditations, prayers, and the blessings of his Shuyukh.  But, for the radical change that is necessary for the transformation from sleep to wakefulness, from illness to health, from fear to courage, from doubt to belief, from otherness and blame to selfness and responsibility, it requires totally sincere, practical effort and an active, participatory life in the good works of society, and of the Order, and of the enterprises of the Sheikh, with more than equal attention to inner development, prayer, meditation, service, and community responsibility. It requires that attitude of nebi Muhammad and openness for the fayat (divine energy) to flow over our hearts, as it did with Rasulallah (sal). Obviously, to achieve this it requires a unique individual with a burning desire to achieve a deep level of spiritual awakening. 

 

By looking at Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  alayhi wa sallam), we see the best example an awakened individual, of someone living the attributes of Allah, with a deep awareness of His nearness to Allah.  In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) said,

…My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him.  When I love him, I am the ears with which he hears, the eyes with which he sees, the hands with which he strikes, and the feet with which he walks.

 

We see this most clearly in Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  alayhi wa sallam).  The Prophet was a conduit for the attributes of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa tacaalaa) as they are expressed in Allah’s creation. From his light and life we learn to live in the realm of possibilities not just linear probabilities. 

 

To the Sufi, as with the Prophet (sal), all circumstances are essential for developing the qualities necessary to attain higher goals. After all, what is the Divine intention behind creation/life as far as we can understand?   Is it not to develop the highest potential in human beings; to realize their divine origin? Is it not the reality of ‘understanding’ the Names of Allah? Yet, since the names are endless, one needs to focus on the lata’if as a means of developing the natural vision or perception from within themselves.

 

This prescription is progressive and builds inner and outer health and well being. Just as the revelations to Rasul’llah were progressive and timely and build his inner and outer strength and well being.  To take the daily outer activities and attribute spiritual significance to them is desirable; it is desirable to weave the outer and the inner aspects of life together.  Certainly, the interactions with others in the workplace, the home, or social realms are always opportunities for affirming the Divine names and the Divine attributes; what I refer to as Universal spiritual values…i.e. compassion, tolerance, perseverance, patience etc.  They are always an opportunity for refining one’s own self, seeing one’s weaknesses, and developing compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and patience. 

 

As one advances on the spiritual journey, the truth is revealed about our real state and place:  Manarafa nafsu faqad ‘arafa Rabbah[i] “Whosoever knows his self, knows Allah;” the result is automatic: the more one develops a detachment from physical ailments and previous mental fears, the more one is free. 

 

Affirming Unity in Diversity

As we come to know our self better, we see that we are both unique and alike in our state and our challenges.  We must know the right approach to the problems and challenges of life.  Ibn Araby wrote,

The Divine relationships are diverse only because of the diversity of the states.  So there is a remedy for each state… The ill person calls out, “O Cure-Giver!  O Healer!”  Another one who is hungry calls out, “O Provider!”  Another who is drowning calls out, “O Helper!”


 

These ‘differences’ illustrate the Mercy of the diversity within the Unity that is Allah (swt).  The Prophet himself said,

The differences among my followers are a mercy.

 

This tolerance for diversity amidst unity is the core of the love of the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  alayhi wa sallam).  Everything in Creation is a reflection of what is found throughout it, not only the Universes but also a reflection of the essential attributes and relationships within the dynamic reality  (Allah swt).  Therefore, we can posit that there is relatedness (nisbat) between the names/attributes that are describing Allah (swt) to His Creation/creatures.

 

Just as we realize that Allah (swt) responds appropriately to circumstances depending on the circumstance or individual; even differently to the same circumstance at different times or in different individuals, so too we see the same thing reflected in nature and especially human communication.  It is precisely these parallel characteristics that affirm the continuity and coherence and balance; that affirm the verity, the absolute Truth of the Creator, of Islam.

 

Striving to ‘overcome’ differences it does not mean to end them, but to incorporate them into our understanding and thinking.  Indeed in diversity we find commonality. Take for example, animal behavior.  As I prepared this lecture I was watching a woodchuck outside my window.  He was no more than 10 feet from me; if I open the window to speak to him, to tell him how beautiful he / she is, he will run.  But I sit and watch and marvel at his beauty and attentiveness. The longer I look the more I see, the more I feel relatedness to him/her. He/She stands on his haunches…arms folded , small beard coming from his cheeks like ‘mutton chops’ of the 1700’s.   He looks calmly, turning left then right, peaceful… I am relating to him by my human characteristics and values.

 

When we naturally see such things, reflect upon them:

“…Kadhalika Yubayyinu llahu lakumu-l-ayati la-allakum tatafakkarun…” (Qur’an 2:219)

Allah makes clear the signs to you in order that you might reflect

‘inna fi dhalika la-ayatil-li-qowminy-ya’qilun

‘…Surely in that are Signs for a people who use their intellect…’ Qur’an 13:04

 

Success Come to Those who Make Sincere Effort

In conclusion, let me speak to the importance of sincere effort in awakening our hearts and reframing our thoughts.  If you can awaken your heart, you will find that in your heart, you are standing in the presence of the Prophet (sal); of the Auliya, of the ‘changer of hearts’.  In your heart, you are standing in the presence of the abdals, ( deputies of Allah), you are standing in the presence of the Shuyukh.  You will be strengthened and you will be liberated.  By concentrated focus and meditation on the heart, and then the other lat’aif, under the proper direction, one becomes attuned to the subtleties of the light and its diverse manifestations in the outer realms and in the inner realms. And progress is made quickly. There is no replacement for reframing one’s mind through the verification of the hearts’ submission.  There is no replacement for reframing one’s heart through the turning of attention (Main mutawajjeh Qalb ki taraf, Qalb mutawajjeh hay zat pak ki taraf). 

 

“Reframing” in this context, means not only putting things that happen in a positive form, and approaching them in a positive way, but also requiring that they are consistent with the mizan harmony of the inner and outer worlds/ systems.  There is no place better to do this than in meditation, association, and accompaniment with love (mayyiat-i-hubb) with the Sheikh.  There is no better effort than respect and trust, service and practice, and more practice. I will leave it to another talk or private conversation what that really entails; suffice it to say that the key is love and our subject today really is about being open to develop love, reflect the light of love, and receive it in return.

                       

There is no better resonance than the heart of the Beloved, to be entered into in prayer and meditation, so attend to yourself.   Be attentive to the guides. In the mid fourteenth century A.D. Khwaja Allaudin Attar, was asked the question, “Can one give up things by one’s own will?”  He replied:

It is desirable that there should be a guide with the spirit of Mohammed in him, so that the heart can lose its own existence in the existence of the guide. 

 

The great teachers have said that success comes only to those who make sincere effort. My beloved guide, Hazrat Azad Rasool, spoke constantly about sincere effort and progress.  The help that a teacher can give is dependent upon the readiness of the student to obey the instructions that he or she is given.  Without zealous work, the deeper meanings will never be found.  The accomplished man or woman that is guiding can only influence a pupil for a few days at a time.  There is a saying:  “Perseverance cannot be given.”

 

Khwaja Allaudin said,

When we took part in the groups of Khwaja Bahaudin Naqshband, we tried to hold on to remembering our aim from morning to night. Nevertheless, among all the companions, there were very few who were capable of holding on for one day until nightfall. 

 

What does this do to you when you hear this?  Does it inspire you, or does it give you an excuse to remain distant from yourself?  Love alone is the key to inspiration and freedom, effort and progress, studentship, and mayy’iat (accompaniment).  It is effort that is going to make the difference.

 

There is no way, without putting our spiritual life first and working at it, that we can escape the fear of change and the anxiety that we all have.  There is no way, without doing this, that we can get beyond the negative and destructive history that fashioned our character and life circumstances, and our lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, or it’s reciprocal: arrogance.  Fear and arrogance are the same:  a lack of ability to be secure in one’s self. I do not think there is anyone in this room who does not have a spark to ignite the fire of realization; bi ithni ‘llah

And as we fan that small spark, it is the light of Rasullah that will grown in our hears and our lives.  As we free ourselves from fear and arrogance, we will be more and more open to the Prophet (sal), who Allah tells us in Qu’an, is our light:

“O Prophet! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a Bearer of glad tidings, and a Warner, and as one who invites to Allah by His leave, and as a Lamp spreading Light.” (33:45- 46)

Yaa ayyuhaa-n-nabiyyu innaa arsalnaaka shaahidañw-wa mubashshirañw-wa

nadheeraa.  Wa daaciyan ilaa-Llaahi bi’idhnihi wa siraajam-muneeraa.


[i]  As reported from Ibn al- Sam’ani’s Qawa’id fi Usul al-Fiqh by al-Zarkashi in al-Tadhkira (p. 129), al-Suyuti in the Durar (p. 258 §420) and in the fatwa entitled al-Qawl al-Ashbah fi Hadithi Man ‘Arafa Nafsahu fa-qad ‘Arafa Rabbah in his Hawi lil-Fatawi (2:412) as well as al-Sakhawi in the Maqasid and al-Haytami in his Fatawa Hadithiyya (p. 289).

 

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Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid was invited to speak at the Islamic Center in Richmond, Virginia, on March15, 2009.

  bismillah

THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD: THE UNIFYING VOICE OF ISLAM

Bismillâh, Alhamdulillâh

Praise be to Allah, the Turner of the hearts and sight. 

O Allah, fix our hearts on the best of Your ways,

and make us face You in our way, and bestow blessings on the beloved intercessor,

the mercy of all the worlds, the lighthouse of the survivors, the harbor of the knowers.

 La ‘ilaha ‘il-Allaahu, Muhammadan Rasulullah.  There is none worthy of worship except Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa),  and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.  Surely he is the best of those created by Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa).

 The opportunity to speak on the life and example of of Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) is an opportunity to place the Prophet’s love of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) and his subsequent role as Messenger to humanity in the right perspective. The perspective of “NOW”.  The Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) plays a role in our day-to-day existence as a model for life.  More than this, he is a metaphor for the love of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa)-and for love itself.

 Human beings today, especially in the Westernized world, (which I remind you is everywhere, not just in the West)  hold such fragmented perspectives that even the subject of love has become compartmentalized.   It has come to connote primarily physical relationships and love of objects.  But it must also be understood as eshq and the accompanying ecstasy (wajd) that provides a seamless awareness and consciousness of swimming in the ocean of Rahmat that is Allah, that is Al Haqq

Contrasts of Love (Eshq) and Yearning (Himma)

Each day, our worldly lives confront us with the contrasts between the reality of dunya, and the reality within the deep recesses of qalb:  in the world of love and total submission.   Life is filled with vicissitudes, with alternating experiences of nearness and distance from Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa), from Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam), and from one another.  The challenges and demands of love, the surrender and trust of love, are often all too intertwined.

 What is this eshq, this love?   It comes from the word ashiq:  to love passionately; to be loved passionately.  It also implies a seamless connection.  It has no beginning, no ending.  It is only the Love of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa).

 The lover and the beloved are drawn together in their himma (ardor, eagerness, and yearning) for one another.  We all know this Love.

 Himma is a yearning that is disquieting.  It preoccupies the lover.  So, too, it suggests an element of distress.  Grief, worry, even affliction:  all are part of himma.  This himma-this affliction of love (eshq)-has two sides, as we see in the life of the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam).  On the one hand are the anxieties of life.  Yet, amidst these anxieties can be found magnanimity, heroism, gallantry (humam); solicitude, care, and attentiveness (ihtimam); the gentle lulling of a baby to sleep with a lullaby (tahmeema).   In himma, we begin to understand the seeds of love that were planted in the soil of our souls long ago, to be grown to their maximum potential in the light, the Nur-i-Muhammad

 The himma that rises in our hearts, that turns our lives around, is a metaphor for unity (tawhid).  Tawhid is the reality (and the only reality) that is Islam:  this seamlessness of passion and love.

Unity: The Basis of Islam

Tawhid is the basis of Islam, the Unity that is Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) the thread that unites all the seemingly disparate aspects of our lives.

 Outwardly, tawhid manifests in community (ummah).  Consider the many forces that serve to unify people within Islam.  All believers are called to bear witness to one Truth, al Haqq.  All are held responsible for the same burden: the khalifat for which Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) created us.   All are mandated to care for one another, as the Prophet instructed us:

God loves those who love His creatures, and who, for the love of Allah, disperse His wealth; who, though longing for it themselves… 
 Wa yut.’imuuna-t.-t.a’aama ‘alaa h.ubbihii miskiinanw-wa yatiimanw-wa ‘asiiraa; ‘innamaa nut.’imukum li-wajhi-l-laahi laa nuriidu minkum jazaaa’anw-wa-wa laa shukuuraa.

…bestow their food on the poor, the orphans, the needy and captives; who feed you for the sake of Allah and seek from you neither recompense nor thanks. (76:8-9).

Finally, all believers are enjoined to be a unified community, functioning as a cohesive whole for the good of humanity.

Wa’tas.imuu bi-h.abli-llaahi jamii’an-w-wa laa tafarraquu.  Wadh-kuruu nicmatal-laahi ‘alaykum ‘idh kuntum ‘a’daaa’an fa’allafa bayna quluubikum fa’as.bah.tum-bi-ni’matihiii ‘ikhwaanaa….

And hold fast all together by the rope Allah stretches out to you, and be divided not among yourselves.  And remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became brothers…(3:103).

 Waltakum-minkum ‘Ummatun-y-yad’uuna ‘ilaal-khayri wa ya’muruuna bil-ma’ruufi wa yanhawna ‘ani-l-munkar: wa’uulaaa’ika humu-l-muuflih.uun. 

And let there be of you an ummah to call to the good, to enjoin virtue and forbid vice.  Those who do so are the felicitous (3:104). 

As Muslims, we see tawhid as a fundamental principle; “creating unity” is therefore an oxymoron.  Fragmentation and disunity are more apparent than real.  Unity always underlies our diversity.  Without the foundation of tawhid, without the sense of community, without diversity in unity, there could be no Islam. 

Yet, Muslim societies today are fraught with schisms.  Fear and contractiveness characterize much of the communication among our brothers and sisters.  One need spend only a short time on the Internet to come across dialogues turned into diatribe.  The sweet, subtle melody of the love of Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) is lost under a cacophony of  takfir.

How far we have come from the himma of the lover for the beloved!  How distant we are from the seamless, ceaseless exchange of love (hubb) between the Lord (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) and his Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam), and between the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Lord (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa).

Nurturing the Seeds (Habbaa) of Love (Hubb)

Let us look again at the word hubb, and how comprehensive it is. 

Hubba means to love, to evoke affection, amicability.  Habeeba means beloved, sweetheart.  Related words include habaab (aim, goal); muhabbab (agreeable, pleasant, desirable); and tahabub (mutual love, concord, harmony).  Mahabba is the love that rises up in the heart.  Ahabba describes the state of the camel who kneels down and refuses to stand up again.  Such is the determination of the lover, who will not budge from the state of love.

From the same root comes the word habbaa, meaning “seeds.”  In the thirty-third ayat of Sura Ya Seen, we read,

Wa ‘Aayatul-lahumu-l-‘ard.u-l-maytah:  ‘ah.yaynaahaa wa ‘akhrajnaa minhaa h.abban faminhu ya’kuluun.

And the sign to them is the lifeless earth in winter.  We give it life and bring forth from it seeds so that from it, they may eat of it (36:33).

The seeds, the habbaa, are potential, waiting to be realized.  The potential comes to fruition when the seeds break out of their shells and emerge in a new state, in which they re-create their own seeds.  The dynamic of life repeats through the power of hubb.  This is the story of the lover and the beloved, the story of the lovers of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa), the story of the lovers of Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam).

The story begins in the seed of love within our hearts.  The dead earth is a heart that is not awakened.  What nourishes the heart?  Love.  Not just selfish love, but mutual love, as in the Hubb of the Prophet Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) towards Allah (Subh.aanahu wa tacaalaa), and of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’aalaa) towards the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam).  Not love focused solely on one’s own well-being, but love that encompasses everyone, as did the love of Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam).

A Model of Kindliness, Compassion, and Tolerance

How aware are we of the limitless ability of the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) to love and respect others, without distinction of race or creed?

Following the Battle of Badr, a Meccan by the name of ‘Umayr ibn Wahb of the Quraysh came to Medina, intent upon killing the Prophet.  As he approached the mosque where the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) was, Umar ibn Khattab (radiy Allahu Ta’aalaa anhu) took note of his sword and moved to stop him.  But the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) called to Umar to let the man enter.  Inviting Umayr to sit near him, he began to speak to the would-be assassin.  He talked to ‘Umayr with great affection, kindness, and sweetness.  Then, he recounted in exact detail the assassination plot that he and an accomplice had devised.  ‘Umayr was astonished, for they were the only two who had known of their intentions.  So impressed was he by the Prophet’s insight and generosity that he accepted Islam.  Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) neither reprimanded nor punished ‘Umayr for having set out to kill him.

What kind of power lies in an individual who could unify enemies and strangers?  How many people in the history of humanity has remained a major global force, more that 1400 years after their passing?  Clearly, we are discussing a person of strength and courage, gentleness and concern.

Not only in words but in deeds, the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) was true to the guidance:

Make things easy, not difficult.

He avoided attending the Taraweeh prayer one night because he did not want to place an undue burden on the believers.  He arrived at the mosque, saw the people gathered, and retreated to his quarters, for he realized that if he did the prayer every evening, it would be interpreted as a fard.  On another occasion, when Mu’adh (radiy Allahu Ta’aalaa anhu) extended the congregational prayer, the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “O Mu’adh!  Are you putting the people on trial?”  He repeated this three times, ensuring that Mu’adh understood his disapproval.

He continually guided his sahaba to express care and concern towards all people.  A man asked the Holy Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allah! How am I to know whether I did good or bad?”  The Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, 

Idhaa sami’ta jiiraanaka yaquuluuna qad ah.santa faqad ah.santa; wa’idhaa sami’tum yaquluuna qad asa’ta faqad asa’ta.

When you hear your neighbors say, “You have done good,” then you have done good; and when you hear them say, “You have done bad,” then you have certainly done bad.

The Holy Prophet (s.alla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had so much mercy for others that he was pained whenever he saw anyone in need and thought always of others before himself.  In the battle of Uhud, when the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam) was struck in the face and his teeth were broken, he said: 

O, Allah!  Forgive my companions for abandoning me.  They are ignorant.  I remain with them, because I am your servant and slave, in order to illumine their hearts.

If we aspire to be counted among the lovers of Nebi Muhammad (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam), then surely we must contemplate, humbly and sincerely, where we stand in the long shadow of the Prophet (s.alla-llaahu  ‘alayhi wa sallam).  How do we act towards our families and neighbors, let alone our enemies?  How do we respond when we see others in pain, misery, grief, loss, and disbelief?….

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Bismillaahi-r-Rah.maani-r-Rah.eem
The Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
A Role Model for Leaders in the Modern and Post-Modern World and Beyond
by
Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid

Bismillâhi-r-Rahmâni-r-Raheem, Bismillâh, Alhamdulillâh
Allâhumma salli wa sallim alâ sayyidinâ Muhammadin, wa alâ âlihi wa sahbih

There are no greater challenges today than to love sincerely, to submit sincerely, and to believe sincerely, for we live in a world filled with disease. Social, mental, environmental, and spiritual problems plague the post-modern era, and we must learn to find strong, effective, and skilled leadership to combat them. Exercising leadership today is not easy task. When Allah bestows on us the ability to lead, as indeed He bestows upon each of us, in whatever form our responsibilities take, we find that we need practical tools. These tools originate in love, and take shape in the respect, trust, and humility that characterize a Muslim leader.
We are encouraged to love the Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). If we love someone whom we imagine is always near us, assisting us and guiding us through the example of his life, if we carry with us an image of this man who we are told was of sturdy build, with thick, wavy hair, a full beard, a fair complexion framing a pleasant smile, and large, dark eyes; this man who was kind, truthful, patient, and tolerant; then from our feeling of nearness to him, we will have respect for him. When we have respect for him, we will have trust in him. When we have trust in him, we will follow him.

    Qul ‘in kuntum tuh.ibbuun Allaaha fattabi’uunii yuh.bib-kumu-llaahu wa-yaghfir lakum dhunuubakum – wallaahu Ghafuurur-Rah.iim
    Say, (O Muhammad, to humanity): If you love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Qur?an 3:31).

There is more to following the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) than feeling love for him. We need results in the world we live in. We need results hour by hour in our daily lives.
Part of the amanah-the trust given to us by Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa)-is the duty of leadership. Leadership has a collective, global dimension, as Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)makes clear when He says,Waltakum-minkum ‘ummatuny-yadcuuna ‘ilal-khayr…
Let there be of you an ummah to call to the good… (Qur’an 3:104). It also has specific, day-to-day dimensions; for example, the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

    When three are on a journey, they should appoint one of them as their leader.
    Leadership is primarily a responsibility to guide others. It requires a psychologically compatible relationship between the leader and those whom he or she leads. This in turn requires trust and fairness, patience and justice, compassion and tolerance, understanding and perhaps even love. In Islam, these attributes which we associate with Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)are also seeded in our own ruh. Our fitra (our essential nature)is good. If we can guide on the basis of that fitra, without our guidance being adulterated by the influences of dunya, then we will lead towards goodness and away from that which is bad, evil, or destructive.
    Every Muslim has leadership responsibility in some way: as a parent, teacher, manager, head of an organization, employer; in each of the many roles that we play. If Islam is a way of life (not just a religion separate from daily life), then fulfilling our duties consciously is part of that way of life. We become conscious leaders by understanding not only our responsibilities, but the adab and the examples of leadership that are put before us, primarily by the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

The Modern/Post-Modern Context for Leadership

The American society that surrounds us is fragmented, self-indulgent, ill with material selfishness. Familiar roles and ways of life that many of us carry from earlier days in other countries and cultures do not apply well here. Many influences are acting upon us, including the influences of ignorance that have pervaded institutions of knowledge. Bearing this in mind, we can see that today it is perhaps more important than ever that Muslims develop their abilities to lead.

Increasingly, Muslims are seeking and expressing a collective identity, not only in Muslim societies, but also within non-Muslim societies and in the global arena. We are seeing the growth of Muslim political action committees and civil rights groups, such as AMC and CAIR. In addition, more Muslims are exercising leadership in the global marketplace, as Islamic multinational corporations set up offices throughout the world. Global Islamic investment portfolios and Islamic banks in Europe and Asia are growing. In sum, society today is having to deal with Muslims not just on an individual or regional political basis, but as a sophisticated presence in the global landscape. Yet, disparity exists between the oft-used label “Islamic” and the lack of identification with one voice, one agreed-upon understanding, and one agreed-upon leadership of the ummah.
Modernism and post-modernism have significantly influenced Muslims’ ability to have a positive effect. First, modernism drew an artificial line between the intellect and spirituality, replacing belief in God with belief in rationalism, determinism, and individualism. Modernism also fostered the rise of materialism and the breakdown of the extended family.
Post-modernism arose partly from a recognition of the problems with modernism. Post-modernists have reacted against the division of secular and spiritual, but kept the I-centered world view. We find today attempts to re-introduce a sense of hagiography, myth, and quasi-spirituality, coupled with values such as tolerance, pluralism, dialogue, utilitarianism, community service, and environmental protection. But the post-modern mentality remains skeptical of (if not negative towards) religious models. Instead, it promotes a “buffet-style spirituality and ethics,” where individuals are free to pick and choose elements from diverse traditions: a little Zen Buddhism, a little nostalgic Judaism or Catholicism, a little supposed Sufi dancing or Tai Chi. (Note that Islam is usually not included-at least in this form of aberration.) Post-modernism also encompasses our era of information technologies and unprecedented scientific and medical discoveries, such as the Human Genome Project, medical technologies that extend human life, and bio-chips that may one day meld humans and computers.
Life today seems to be rapidly changing, although the changes are confined within a fairly limited and destructive environment. What makes us in awe of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is that there is no aspect of human society today that he did not deal with 1420 years ago. In contemporary terms, we would say that he was a sociologist, a psychologist, a military commander, an international leader, a manager, a physician, a head of state, a philosopher, and a visionary (just to name a few of his roles). Through him, we see Islam as a comprehensive way of life. We see the shari’ah being lived, and we can extrapolate standards by which to operate and to evaluate the degree to which we are living the Islamic way of life successfully.
What principles of leadership can we draw from the example of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)? Once we recognize the principles, what criteria can we use to examine how well we are following them? Every time we aspire to uphold an ideal, we need a feedback mechanism. We need to learn to evaluate how well we are following that which we espouse. Today I would like to briefly outline several Islamic leadership principles and accompanying criteria for their evaluation. Countless guidelines may be extracted from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam); but given limited time, I will focus on just five principles.

 

Leadership Principle #1: Accountability

The Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) demonstrated that all good guidance must be rooted in submission to Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa).

    Laa hawlaa wa laa quwwata illaa bi-Llaah.
    There is no power and no strength but in Allah (Hadith).

We begin there, and that is Who we are accountable to.
When an instruction or guidance came from Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)to the heart of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), he internalized and manifested it. It was as if the instruction arose from within himself. This is what we might call the highest level of obedience. The lowest level (which many of us may be familiar with) is reluctantly responding to what we have been asked to do. The second level is doing it, but with some hesitation as to our ability to obey. The next level is responding gladly. And again, at the most refined level of obedience, the instruction arises as if it is coming from within ourselves, in harmony with the Divine Will.
We must aspire towards the highest level: towards the same level of obedience and trust as the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had. Leadership has very little to do with being in control, and a great deal to do with keeping our hearts and minds open to the guidance of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa).
This process begins with a sincere accounting of ourselves. The Prophet (salla-llaahu alayhi wa sallam) said,

    H.asibu anfusakum qabala an tuhasibu; wa zinu ca?malakum qabala an tuzanu calaykum.
    Account for yourselves before you are accounted; weigh your actions before your actions become a weight upon you.

Before we can lead anyone else, we have a little certified private accounting to do. (This is my new definition of CPA: Certified Private Accounting.) We know from the Prophet’s example that prayer and meditation are valuable opportunities to account for ourselves. The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also practiced accountability through daily circumstances.

Abu Daud (rad.iy Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated a Hadith (possibly da’iif, but with a useful message nonetheless). He said,

    “I bought something from the Prophet (salla-llaahu alayhi wa sallam) before he received his prophetic commission. As there was something still due to him, I promised him that I would bring it to him at a place, but I forgot. When I remembered three days later, I went to that place and found him there. He said, “I have been here for three days waiting for you.”
    Before the battle of Badr, as the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was reviewing the ranks of soldiers, he gently prodded one of them on the belly with an arrow to move him back into line. The companion said, “O Prophet of Allah! You have hurt me!” The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) immediately lifted his shirt and said, “Do the same to me” (whereupon the companion kissed him in the same spot) (Lings 146).

Are we as committed to accounting for ourselves before Allah (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), to honoring our agreements, and to receiving feedback? These are measures of how well we are living up to the criteria of accountability.

Leadership Principle #2: Humility

Leaders today often seem more concerned with political power or wealth than with ethics, knowledge, values, and human well-being. Muslim leaders are no exception. In fact, some are arrogant and naive enough to think they can “capture” Islam for themselves. Claiming to represent all Muslims, they often institutionalize their own prejudices (mostly cultural), bigotry, and accusatory natures.

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said:

    Don’t ask for a position of authority, for if you are granted this position as a result of your asking, you will be left alone without Allah’s help to discharge the responsibilities and duties involved in it. If you are granted [authority] without making any request for it, you will be helped by Allah in the discharge of your duties.

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) set a standard for leadership based on the needs of the moment, not the desire for status. Once when no men were left in the household of a companion who had gone to battle, he helped the family milk their livestock daily. When he was with his companions, he did not insist on making every decision himself, because he believed in Allah’s intention in creating humanity, and he had respect for and confidence in others’ abilities. He epitomized the Qur’anic description of “those…who [conduct] their affairs by mutual consultation… (42:38),” taking the advice of Hubab ibn al Mundhir (rad.iy Allaahu ‘anhu) regarding the wells of Badr, as well as the questionable advice of those who advocated attacking at Uhud (Lings 143, 174)

In light of these examples, one way we might evaluate our own leadership, whether in the home or in society at large, is by noting whether our willingness to take control is balanced by a willingness to relinquish it and to trust in others’ capabilities.

We also might observe the ways in which we show respect, and start to note the degree to which we are consistent in this regard. The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) treated everybody with adab, no matter what his or her job was. Whether the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was in the presence of a shepherd or an calim, a merchant or the head of a tribe, he treated them all with equal respect. It is valuable to ask ourselves: would we?

Leadership Principle #3: Seeking and Sharing Knowledge

Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)states in the Holy Qur?an:

    Hal yastawi-lladhiina yaclamuuna walladhiina laa yaclamuun? ?Inna-maa yatadhakkaru ulul- albaab.
    …Are those who know equal to those who know not? It is only those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition (39:9).

And, furthermore,

    wa-fawqa kulli dhi ‘ilmin ‘aliim.
    …and over every lord of knowledge there is one more knowing (12:76).

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never gave up the pursuit of knowledge. But he made clear that knowledge is to be pursued not simply for its own sake, but rather in a spirit of service to humanity. He said:

    There is no envy except for two:…[one of whom is] a person whom Allah has given wisdom and who acts up to it and teaches it to others.

 

How can we take these guidelines as criteria for leadership today? One obvious area for application lies in the realm of information technologies.
The information revolution has given us a much more concrete experience of our common destiny as Muslims. But it has also brought to light critical differences among individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions. It has underscored the need for constructive dialogue in order to share knowledge, foster appreciation of our varied perspectives, clarify agendas, and work together to perfect our understanding of the message conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
Writing in the early 1960s, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) noted that Eastern Muslims were infuriated by some of the teachings that Elijah Muhammad attributed to Islam. He wrote, “…I reminded [these Muslims] that it was their fault, since they themselves hadn?t done enough to make real Islam known in the West. Their silence left a vacuum into which any religious faker could step and mislead our people” (Haley 171).
Forty years later, we have better tools for reaching out, for learning from each other, for expanding our knowledge so that we can guide ourselves, our children, our communities, and others who come to this Path. But still, misinformation (if not disinformation) infects our ummah and encourages flawed leadership.
We can and should use every practical means for correcting misperceptions, from schools and study groups, to the Internet and virtual technology. Because very few of us can claim deep knowledge of Islam, it is best to focus on sharing our expertise in specific areas related to practical, day-to-day applications of Islam (for example, how a Muslim approaches financial transactions). Otherwise, even with the best of intentions, we may pass along information that is not correct.
We can measure our leadership in sharing knowledge by how well we are imbuing the truth about Islam not just in Muslim programs, but in the mainstream Western educational system. Another criteria lies in how well we are demonstrating Islam in the way we relate to one another; our employees or employers; our clients, neighbors, and acquaintances. Perhaps the best way we can share our knowledge is by expressing it through our professions, whether in medical ethics or scholarly research; finance or corporate management; political decision-making or psychological counseling; law and justice or the raising of children.

Leadership Principle #4: Being Responsive

We see in the decisions of the Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that sometimes, the same issues were dealt with in different ways depending on the people, the place, the time, and the way information came to him.
Often when people approached him with a complaint, he would seek more information before responding. He would offer a recommendation only when he was satisfied that he had sufficient understanding of the situation.
To be willing to listen, to pursue understanding of what one is hearing, to make decisions based first and foremost on one’s understanding of Qur’an and the Shari’ah: these are criteria for decision-making based on the life of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
The principle of responding may often mean not to respond in the moment, but to seek out the best possible information before a response is given. As communication technologies put us in contact with our global ummah, we are gaining the ability to instantaneously consult those who know more than we do about specific subjects. We need no longer travel for months to reach the khanaqah or zawiyya of a great Shaykh to hear a moment’s truth, nor must we cross oceans to receive the teachings of esteemed scholars. We can now access one another much more quickly-if we are humble enough to recognize our need for understanding and to seek out those who can offer it.
Although the response to a specific issue may take time to evolve, the attitude of the response should always be one of respect, with adab and a commitment to understanding in all but the most egregious breaches of Islamic conduct. We can never really know what motivates an individual until we take the time to hear, to study, to listen, to reflect. Let?s not forget the our Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

    “Don’t tell me; don’t tell me; don’t tell me.”

We can also assess responsiveness by considering how well we are acknowledging and addressing the interests of non-Muslims. By the blessing of Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa), I have been involved in developing and presenting leadership training workshops for more than 20 years-predominantly in the “secular” world, but based on the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). During the time that I have been active in this field, I have seen a notable shift towards emphasizing qualities like compassion, honesty, patience, self-reflection, respect, and understanding. Americans today are receptive to these terms (albeit with the post-modernist overlay that tries to exclude their religious connotations and place them in the context of a looser, alternative spirituality). Nonetheless, this environment presents an opportunity to bring forth the true egalitarian, values-based, responsibility-based, unified, tolerant attitude that is Islam and that characterized the life of our Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
When the energies of Muslims are focused on exemplifying these attitudes in their service, in their family lives, in their businesses, in all their interactions, then we will be meeting one of the criteria for leadership. But all too often, we find Muslims focusing on the unfortunate sectarian divisiveness that arose early among us, and remains today as a wall between the Truth and the hearts of other human beings.

 

Leadership Principle #5: Inspiring Others

One of the most beautiful qualities of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was his gentleness and his relentless commitment to a humane way of life. Because he trusted in Allah more than in his own knowledge, perceptions, or experiences, he firmly believed that everything would work out in the long run, if he made his effort. He was a living testimony to

    Laaa ‘ikraaha fid-deen: qat tabayyana-r-rushdu mina-l-ghayy.
    There is no compelling in religion; [the Way of] Guidance is clear [from the way of] error… (Qur?an 2:256).

 

The essence of the Islamic teachings is universal and recognizable even by those who are not Muslim, let alone Mu?min. The power of the message of Truth is so great that even today, it can pierce the veils of materialism, consumerism, and individualism. (If we doubt its power, we need only reflect on how many people in this room embraced Islam despite being raised in the West.)
Perhaps this is why Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)in the Qur’an stresses not only the rules of Islam, but the means through which Islam should be communicated. Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa) revealed to the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam):

    Wa laa tusa’-‘ir khaddaka linnaasi wa laa tamshi fil-ard.i marah.aa; innallaaha laa yuh.ibbu kulla mukhtaalin fakhuur.
    Do not speak to the people with your face turned away, nor walk proudly on the earth, for Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster (31:18).

    Wa qul-li-‘ibaadii yaquulu-llatii hiya ‘ahsan.
    And tell My servants that they should speak in the most kindly manner [to those who do not share their beliefs]… (17:53).

    Ud’u ilaa Sabiili Rabbika bil-h.ikmati wal-mawcidhatil-h.asanati wa jaadilhum-billatii hiya ah.san. ‘Inna Rabbaka Huwa Aclamu biman-d.alla can-Sabiilihii wa Huwa aclamu bil-Muhtadiin.
    Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortation, and reason with them in the best way. Lo, your Lord best knows those who go astray from this path, and He knows best those who are rightly guided (16:125).

    Fa-bimaa rah.matim-min-Allaahi linta lahum wa law kunta fadh.-dh.an ghaliidh.a-l-qalbi laa-nfad.d.uu min h.awlik.
    By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people. If you had been stern and ill-tempered, they would have dispersed from around you (3:159).

Leadership is not a thing. It is a process-a process by which a leader seeks the voluntary participation of followers in an effort to reach certain goals and objectives. For Islam to be operant in people’s lives, it has to come from love and yearning. We will know we are being effective leaders when the people whom we influence start arriving at faith themselves, from within.

Educating for Future Leadership

The five leadership principles I have just suggested-accountability, humility, the seeking and sharing of knowledge, responsiveness, and inspiring rather than coercing others-are only a few of the many that we can extrapolate from the life of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). But I hope even this brief overview sheds light on the attractiveness of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
It is not incidental that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. People find in it a consistency and positivity that they rarely find elsewhere. Yet, we in the United States need to look towards the needs of the younger generation of immigrant Muslims, many of whom are drifting away from the faith.
In my work with young adult Muslims, a recurring theme in discussions is that whereas their parents may see themselves as Pakistani, Nigerian, Malaysian, Ghanaian, Indonesian, Indian, Senegalese or Iranian Muslims (etc.), the young people see themselves first as Americans. Their questions center around how to maintain their faith, practices, and sense of uniqueness and special responsibility in this society. They love their parents and do not wish to totally reject their culture; but they do not understand family roles as they are lived in other countries, and they certainly do not aspire to exactly replicate their parents’ lives. Often, they know little about Islam-because for them, Islam has always been included on the list of “cultural activities,” not personal choices (and after all, personal choices are what America is all about). Those who have received formal Islamic education often have found it dull, didactic, and more reflective of their parents’ original culture than of the current realities of growing up in the United States.
Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa) tells us in the Holy Qur?an:

    Innal-insaana khuliqa haluu’an….
    Verily, the human being is created with a restless disposition (Qur?an 70:19)

To match our restless disposition, education must not only present facts, but stimulate the soul. Memorizing all the behavioral prohibitions of Islam is not the goal of education; nor should the goal be earning a degree or getting a high-paying job. Rather, we need to create the schools, programs, processes, and methodologies that support the inherent search for real knowledge. We must offer our children a broad-based education that stimulates a vessel that can be ever-filled. It must create a mind that is both flexible and receptive, strong and resilient. The fertile fields of the intellect and the heart must be tilled if trust (tawakkul) and faith (iman) are to grow.


Conclusion

It may be hard to conceive of living up to these ideals of leadership in a world of competition, hate, and misunderstanding; a world where genocide rampages through societies as if it were an acceptable way of life; a world where drugs appear in the most remote villages; a world where women and children are disrespected at best, victims of violence at worse. But this is our duty as Muslims, as human beings, as khalifas of Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)in the twenty-first century. As we re-examine our leadership roles and responsibilities using the standards set by the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), let us pray to Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)that a light may come on in our lives, enabling us to realize the power, knowledge, and potential that He has given us. Let us develop the trust, nearness, and respect that turn into real, sincere love in our hearts.

O Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa) help us to fulfill our commitment to You, to the ummah, to our society, to this world. O Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa)may all those who do wrong actions in the name of Islam be awakened to their errors and ask forgiveness. O Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa), may no one lead Muslims wrongly, including ourselves.
O Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa), may all the brothers and sisters here today receive Your blessings, and may we come to better understanding among ourselves in the spirit of our ummah and our capacity as sincere seekers of truth. In our broader society, may those who are not Muslims in knowledge, but are Muslims in practice, become truly Mu’minoon in their relationship with You. O Allah (Subhannahu wa ta’alaa) bless all people around the world with peace, and guide rightly our government leaders.
O Allah (Subh.aanahu wa ta’alaa), enable us to humbly, sincerely, and graciously accept our responsibilities as leaders. Guide us to raise up our children to be “the comfort of our eyes” (25:74). O Allah, enable us to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the most noble leader of humanity and the best model of humility and modesty, self-control and truthfulness, adab and integrity, patience, perseverance, and love.

    Wa Llaahu lahu ul-h.aqqi wa huwa yahdis-sabil.
    H.asbuna Llaahu wahdahu wa ni’mal-wakil
    .
    Wa salli ‘ala sayyidina Muh.ammadin wa ahli wa sah.bihi ajma’iin
    wal-h.amdu li-Llaahi rabbi-l-‘alamiin.
    Truth belongs to Allah; it is He who shows the way.
    Allah, alone, suffices us, and what a fine guardian is He!
    Blessings upon our Master Muhammad
    and his family and companions altogether
    and praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

Jazakallah khair. Asalaamu aleikum wa rah.matullaahi wa barakatuh.
References
Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.
Lings, Martin. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Kuala Lumpur: A.S. Noordeen, 1983.

Bismillâh, Alhamdulillâh

Allâhumma salli wa sallim alâ sayyidinâ Muhammadin, wa alâ âlihi wa sahbih

In discussing the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as “the mercy to all the worlds,” one frequently hears comments about the Prophet as an ideal role model. But the concept of “role model” is rarely explored in depth. Today, I would like to dive into this concept, specifically in the context of contemporary American society.

Throughout history, human beings have been drawn to stories of heroes. From Biblical figures to Beowulf, from historical models such as the early prophets to the latest media creations, heroic individuals have touched a chord in people, because they have affirmed the highest human ideals.

When I was a child, I used to listen on the radio to Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. They punished the bad guys in ways that were just, courageously upheld good in the face of evil, and dedicated themselves to serving others. Every society has similar heroes of its own, many of them far more real than the radio cowboys of my youth. I had the privilege and honor to march with Martin Luther King, Jr.; I spent time in India with the followers of Ghandi and Khan Ghaffar Khan, and with Mother Teresa. We have all watched heroes and heroines like Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela help their communities and countries emerge from oppression, poverty, apartheid, and other hardships. In the midst of prejudice, violence, despair, and corruption, they have remained committed to justice and the well-being of others, without personal gain as their incentive or motive.

We find ourselves today in a society that is sorely in need of such heroic direction. Just look at the news of recent months: the random violence, promiscuity, hollow materialism, addictions, breakdown of families. We seem to be living in the days of the de-construction of the value base of society. Even our heroes have changed in the past twenty to thirty years. The just, mannerly, respectful, and peace-loving model of the Lone Ranger has given way to lawless, crude, and destructive models such as Rambo and Robocop. Now is the time to reach back to the positive heroic models of real values. It is time to launch the re-construction of a values-based society, by revivifying our heroic ideals.

As Muslims, we have the best possible heroic model right in front of us, in the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa) tells us in the Holy Qur’an:

    Laqad kaana lakum fii Rasuulil-laahi ‘Uswatun Hasanatul-liman kaana yarjullaaha wal-Yawmal-Aakhira wa zakarallaaha kasiiraa.

    Verily in the messenger of Allah you have a good example for one who looks to Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much (33:21).

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is a perfect example of the loving, compassionate, and merciful hero. Yet, from the years following the khulafah rashidoon (radiy Allaahu ‘anhum) until the present, we have not seen this model fully reflected in Islamic communities.

One of the most notable, but least successfully emulated, qualities of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was his capacity to infuse an ancient culture with new models. In a society of fierce tribal competition, he fostered cooperation (as, for example, when he enabled all the tribes to participate equally in lifting the Black Stone into the Kaaba). In a society where revenge was customary, he chose to forgive Abu Sufyan, Hind, and many others. In a society where slavery was acceptable and the rights of women were disregarded, he advocated the freeing of slaves, and honored women’s rights.

To create, sustain, and pass on evolutionary models has always been the role of the hero. It must be our role, too, as the khalifas of Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa), and those who stand in the line of the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Each of us can participate in the construction of a more ideal environment. What is needed is a counterculture movement: a new kind of counterculture movement that is positive, as opposed to always criticizing.

Abu Hurairah (radiy Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that someone said to the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allah, supplicate against the polytheists.” The Prophet replied:

    I have not been sent to curse, but I have been raised up as a mercy. (Karim 325).

To follow the example of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as a mercy, we must set aside our inclinations to curse. By “curse,” I mean not just to say bad words or have negative thoughts, but to blame, attack, or become hostile and psychologically defensive towards non-Islamic influences.

Yes, we need to defend the rights of Muslims. We must support organizations that are upholding the right of Muslim women to wear hijab at work, the right of Muslim employees to have time to do their prayers, the right of Muslim children to have their holidays off from school. Yes, we must act together to overcome the bias directed towards Muslims. (For example, we need to work for the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act.) These are critical issues, and we are grateful to the courageous and committed people who are addressing them — people in whom we find some touch of heroism.

But our lives as Muslims should not revolve around “anti-” activities: anti-Western, anti-materialism, anti-technology, or any other anti- stance. Rather, we should infuse society with new models, based on the values taught by Nebi Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). These values are positive and “pro-” — pro-active, pro-ductive, pro-found. Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa) guided the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in the Holy Qur’an:

    …wa qul ‘aamantu bimaaa ‘anzalallaahu min-Kitaab; wa ‘umirtu li-‘a’-dila baynakum. ‘Allaahu Rabbunaa wa Rabbukum. Lanaaa ‘a’-maalunaa wa lakum ‘a’-maalukum. Laa hujjata baynanaa wa baynakum….

    …say: “I believe in whatever Scripture Allah has sent down, and I am commanded to be just among you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. Unto us our works and unto you your works; no argument between us and you…” (42:15).

Think about the vast wealth of values expressed by Islam. Think about new and old faith and commitment to the values of justice, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, patience, love, and respect that have been brought to the United States by Muslim immigrants, in recent centuries and — as research now suggests — even prior to European settlement. Think about the values that have been re-affirmed by native-born Americans who have embraced Islam. These values exist in your home, and in my home; in your Muslim community here, and in our small Muslim community in Virginia. But on a larger scale, the unfortunate reality is that these values and the individuals who exemplify them are not the dominating force in the American Muslim society today. They are not the predominant voice and face of Islam that is being put forward to non-Muslims.

Why not? Because there are still those among us who stir up feelings against Islam among both Muslims and non-Muslims, by their intractability, negativism, narrow-mindedness, arrogance, misunderstanding and mis-construed understandings of Islam. Most of all, they marginalize the American Muslim community through their fear of assimilation. Of course, we should not be assimilated into a materialistic, non-Islamic thinking, non-Islam-respecting society. On the other hand, retreating into Islamic ghettos only reinforces non-Muslims’ ignorance and fear of Islam.

What is mercy? The opportunity to be merciful. Asking, “What is the mercy of the Prophet?” or “Why is the Prophet merciful?” is less important than addressing how that mercy manifests.

There is no better way to express the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) “as a mercy for all the worlds” than to translate those teachings into real-life experiences and values. There are countless opportunities to exemplify these teachings through programs, activities, schools, professional leadership, and other forms of community participation that are fully acceptable to mainstream secular society, yet at the same time are purely, sincerely, and effectively Islamic.

Some might say that it is contradictory to have a purely Islamic program and make it acceptable to American society. It is not. More than twenty years ago, I founded two non-profit organizations in Bedford. One is overtly Islamic; the other is not overtly Islamic, but operates on the basis of Islamic principles. According to its by-laws, mission statement, and constituency, it is a secular organization; but it is solidly grounded in our Islamic way of thinking and serving others.

Ali ibn Hasan (radiy Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

    The main part of wisdom after deen is love for human beings and doing good to everyone, pious or sinner (Karim 326).

This Hadith is not just a statement of an ideal, but a pointer towards a scientific process. If our activities reflect the deen of Islam, then they will be vessels for the fayad (effulgent energy) that flows from Allah, through the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), to all Muslims and believers.

    Yaaa-‘ayyu-hallaziina ‘aamanus-tajiibuu lillahi wa lir-Rasuuli ‘izaa da-‘aakum limaa yuh-yiikum; wa’-lamuuu ‘an-nal-laaha yahullu baynal-mar-‘i wa qalbihii….

    O you who believe! Respond to Allah and the messenger when He calls you to that which quickens you; and know that Allah comes between the man and his own heart…(8:24).

Any believer — whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other faith — will feel and respond to the attractive power of this fayad.

Consider two of the most famous Islamic role models in the U.S. today: Muhammad Ali and Hakeem Olajuwon, the basketball player. Some might object, “But those are sports stars; they aren’t really models of people out there representing Islam.” To this I would say, “Perhaps that is the point.” How many people ever thought about the religion of the Lone Ranger? Presumably, he was Christian, given that he was a mainstream role model in a predominately Christian society. But he and the other heroes of that era were not advertising their religion in ways that fostered “us” versus “them” divisions. Rather, they were standing for certain values: the protection of women, good against evil, justice for even the perpetrator of wrong doing. (The bad guy was not shot hundreds of times with an automatic gun and then blown up for the thrill of it.) They were even standing for multi-culturalism. At a time when the term “cultural diversity” had yet to be coined, the best friend of the Lone Ranger was a Native American.

Heroes of all times and places have stood up for values that resonate with human beings’ fitruh. To the extent that Muhammad Ali is a model of courage and continued service in the face of physical disability, and to the extent that Hakeem Olajuwon exemplifies good sportsmanship, humility, and piety, they are touching the core values and aspirations of all people. It is their life of Islam, not their label of Islam, that makes them effective role models.

There is a natural attraction (jethbah) towards these kinds of exemplary individuals. This attraction can later open the heart to be drawn towards the greater Truth, which is the foundation of life and of our fitruh, called Islam. Herein lies a very pure da’wa, based on the experiences and observations of Muslims by non-Muslims. Is this not the way Islam spread through most of the world?

In the early centuries A.H., as Muslim and Sufi merchants, scholars, and (in some cases) soldiers lived and worked in non-Muslim societies, the people who met them accepted Islam as a valid model. From Spain to China, people accepted the Islamic model because it made sense. Their cultural conditioning did not block the ability of Islam to reach deep into their hearts and fulfill their essential needs and aspirations.

Today, via satellite and e-mail, we can transmit the message of Islam to people of totally different backgrounds all over the world in an instant. Ironically, however, we have trouble getting the message across in our own homes. A significant number of Muslim children in the United States are leaving Islam, at least for a period of time.

The solution to our children’s disaffection does not lie in more didactic lessons in Islamic studies. Whereas didactic lessons may work well in an Eastern environment, in a Western environment, young people are accustomed to interactive educational approaches. They are not “nailed to chairs” and lectured to in school. If they are lectured to about Islam in their homes or Islamic schools, they may tune out.

Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa) states in the Qur’an Sharif:

    ‘An-Nabiyyu ‘awlaa bil-Mu’-miniina min ‘anfusihim….

    The Prophet is closer to the believers than their selves… (33:6).

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is always standing between ourselves and our heart, but if we do not turn our young people’s attention towards the heart and towards the place of Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa) and the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in the heart, then they will conceive of Allah as being distant, and the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as being merely historical, and Islam as being philosophical, instead of spiritual. As their role models, we must set the example by infusing our knowledge of Islam and the Shariah and Sunnah with spirituality. For us and for our children, standing for prayer, doing recitations, fasting and all the other facets of Islam need to be more than merely “religious” experiences. They must be spiritual experiences. This is exactly why we are here today, praising the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

While exemplifying the spirituality of Islam, we also must model its broadness and flexibility. We come from diverse national and ethnic backgrounds; but most of our children are Americans by birth. From the start, they are meeting, influencing, and being influenced by people of all the many races, religions, and cultures that make up the American tapestry. It may be tempting to try to create mini-Pakistans, mini-Malaysias, or mini-Lebanons here in the States, to replicate an environment where Muslims are a majority and everyone shares the same culture. In culture, we find comfort and familiarity, nostalgia and security. But cultural isolationism is out of synch with the reality of our children’s lives.

We have all seen the limitations and the lamentations of focussing first on culture, and second on our relationship with the Almighty. At the center of our children’s upbringing must be their personal relationship with Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa). This relationship unites all Muslims, giving us a sense of community and family far greater than our ethnic borders.

Our young people need heroic role models of Muslims who are fully contributing citizens of the United States. They need examples of how to find their place as Muslims in American society, instead of Muslims outside of the decision-making aspect of that society.

Our young people are well aware of the shortcomings of this culture. They are the ones that see the violence, drugs, smoking, and sex all around them. What they need from us is not just warnings and rules, but tools. They want to know how to make a difference.

For this, they need good models. Let me return, then, to the necessity for heroes. Whether fictional or real, all heroes represent values that are practicable. Each of us must demonstrate what it means to put spiritually-based values into practice. We must prepare our children to express justice, tolerance and patience, kindness and self-confidence, so that they can go forth into society, proud that they are Muslims and with the skills needed to build a better world. We must give them our blessings to become the educators, journalists, television producers, scientists, architects, and civil servants of the future.

Many of us are first, second, or third generation immigrants, whose families were drawn to the United States by hopes for personal and financial security, or who were forced to leave their homes as refugees. As new arrivals in the West, our families wanted little more than adequate food, housing, incomes, and opportunities for education, so that their descendants could enjoy a better life. They naturally guided their children towards the most secure and remunerative professions, often as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and engineers.

But times have changed. The majority of Muslims in the United States today did not just land. Most of us have the personal freedom and financial security that our predecessors dreamed of. Now it is time to diversify our roles in American society, so that we can positively affect that society to the benefit of all its citizens.

If the children of so many immigrants from Iran, Somalia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and now Bosnia and Kosovo, and elsewhere — and if the children of so many African American Muslims — can excel in school (as they are doing), and graduate with high degrees, and become doctors, engineers, and lawyers, then we owe it to them to expand our own horizons. We as their elders need to release ourselves from the materialistic world view that says that our children must pursue affluence and prestige. Let our young people become public school teachers. Let them become social workers, urban planners, and contributors at all levels of society, and let us be equally proud of them, whether they make $200,000 a year or $25,000 a year. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta’alaa) states:

    ‘Al-maalu wal-banuuna ziinatul-hayaatid-dunyaa: wal-baaqiyaatus-saalihaatu khayrun ‘inda Rabbika sawwaabanw-wa khayrun ‘amalaa.

    Wealth and children are an ornament of life of the world. But the good deeds which endure are better in your Lord’s sight for reward, and better in respect of hope (18:46).

If we and our children are embodying the teachings of the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) through a wide range of venues, then we will be in a much better position to effect the re-construction of American society.

Herein lies a plan of action for Muslims to become integrated on a values basis, not assimilated on the basis of compromising their beliefs. Mohammed will stay Mohammed, and will not become Mike. Da’oud will be Da’oud, and not David.

The point is not just to keep Islamic names. The point is for Muslims in America to have their own distinctive voice and role, while being respectful of and able to interact constructively with all other cultures.

Respect for cultural and spiritual diversity has been a cornerstone of the ideological infrastructure of the United States since its inception. As Muslims, we can take the lead in promoting this American ideal, for our way of life has accepted diversity for 1420 years. Umar ibn al Khattab (radiy Allaahu ‘anhu) reported:

    I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “I asked my Lord about difference of opinion among my companions after my death. Then it was revealed to me: ‘O Mohammed! Verily your companions in My sight are in the position of stars in the sky: some of them are stronger than others, but for every one there is a light. So whoso takes recourse to that upon which they stand, inspite of their differences of opinion, is upon guidance in My sight’…” (Karim 546-47).

Unfortunately, within our own midst we find cultural prejudices, biases, and inabilities to talk to one another across philosophical differences.

    The Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “…my ummah will be fragmented into seventy-three sects, all of which will be in hell-fire except one.” His companions asked, “O Allah’s Messenger, which is that?” The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, “It is one to which I and my companions belong.”

Nebi Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sought to guide humanity to a better understanding of our purpose in Allah’s creation and beyond; to find ways to achieve that purpose; and to transmit that purpose in each generation, using all that Allah has given us, all that the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) enjoined us to find when he said, “Seek out knowledge from cradle to grave.” We are not to stop in the 12th century, or the 14th century, or even the 19th, 20th, or 21st century. We have to find new and better ways to fulfill the purpose of Islam. What is that purpose? Subhaanallah: to praise Allah — to find every way, every means to remember Allah.

We come to subhaanallah through Islam, meaning that which is fulfilling, that which makes us safe and secure, that which leads us to always have the security of others in our minds and hearts, that which causes us to bring forth our mercy and our compassion. (Mercy is found in humility, and the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was a humble man.)

In his Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din, Imam al-Ghazali recounted the story of a Muslim man who said to his Jewish neighbor, “Allah has sent a Prophet amongst us, who has summoned us to Islam, and we have submitted. He has also revealed to us a Book, which confirms the Torah.” To this, the Jew astutely replied, “You speak the truth, yet you cannot carry out what he has brought you. We find his description and that of his community in the Torah; he does not allow a man to cross the doorstep with hatred in his heart for his Muslim brother” (Al Ghazali 41).

If we really aspire to be of the rightly-guided sect (not the 72 others!), we must acknowledge the degree to which we hold on to petty enmities among us. Why should differences of opinion mar our capacity to love one another? Umar ibn al Khattab (radiy Allaahu ‘anhu) once said,

    Whenever [the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Abu Bakr (radiy Allaahu ‘anhu)] consulted with me, I expressed my opinion. Sometimes, they accepted my opinion; and sometimes, they rejected it. But thanks to Allah, Rasulullah (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was pleased with me and so was Abu Bakr… (Al Ahsan 25).

Within the overriding unity of Islam, there can be multiple approaches to the truth. We may be Shi’a, Salafia, Sufi, adherents of this or that madhab. But (as Shaykh Noorudeen pointed out at this gathering last year) we all believe in Allah, we all affirm that Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is Allah’s Messenger, we all pray, we all do wudu, we all believe in all the prophets.

The Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

    Two brothers are likened to a pair of hands, one of which washes the other (Holland 21).

Note that he did not say, “One of which slaps the other.” He certainly did not say, “One of which makes obscene gestures at people who are not brothers to scare them away,” or, “One of which lashes out at non-Muslims who enter our mosques without hijab.”

Like two hands, we can be more effective working together than singly. As the Prophet (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) observed on another occasion:

    Allah will not gather together my followers over misguidance, and the hand of Allah is upon the united body… (Karim 307).

Working in harmony, striving to be role models and to contribute creatively to our societies according to the example of Nebi Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), we can have a profound effect on the culture of this country. As we become more effective in American society, we will become more effective globally, as well, for the United States is the world’s leading exporter of culture, attitudes, and values.

The Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

    A group of my community will remain constant to the truth, conquering their enemies until the command of Allah comes to them while they are still in that condition.

In conclusion, let us understand that the Prophet Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sent as a mercy more than 1420 years ago, but the mercy still extends to us today. As Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:

    …Fallaziina ‘aamanuu bi-hii wa ‘azza-ruuhu wa nasa-ruuhu wattaba-‘un-Nuural-laziii ‘unzila ma-‘ahuuu ‘ulaaa-‘ika humul Muf-lihuun.

    …those who believe in [the Prophet], and honor him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful (7:157).

As we hear the praises of Nebi Mohammed (salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), sing his praises, and listen to poetry of his praises, we should remember clearly the goal of all that praise, and carry it with us as we leave this gathering.

Wa Llahu lahu ul-haqqi wa huwa yahdis-sabil.
Hasbuna Llahu wahdahu wa ni?mal-wakil.
Wa salli ?ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa alihi wa sahbihi ajma?in
wal-hamdu li-Llahi rabb il-?alamin.

Truth belongs to Allah; it is He who shows the way.
Allah, alone, suffices us, and what a fine guardian is He!
Blessings upon our Master Muhammad
and his family and Companions altogether
and praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

Asalaamu aleikum. Jazak Allaah khair.