Event Review: Imam Afroz Ali’s “Living Islam: Motivation, Servant Leadership & Forty Hadiths of Imam Nawawi”
Part One: Beneficial Action Through Servant Leadership
Imam Afroz Ali’s workshop with the mentioned title was truly a beneficial workshop which highlighted the aspects of servant leadership and its realities. It was a humble gathering but needless to say, a whole lot of points were learnt. I’ll try my best to summarise the day’s workshop in this review.
The building blocks of Beneficial Action
When it comes to beneficial action, it is important to first check our sincerity. Imam Afroz mentioned that merely saying “for the sake of Allah” could be a veil from our sincerity. Sincerity comes down to our goals, purposes and intentions.
In the last few verses of Surah al-Furqan, Allah s.w.t. describes the qualities of the servant leader. Verse 74 mentions, “…. and make us leaders of the people of taqwa”. Essentially, a leader is the one whom people consider to be a leader. The leader of a people is the reflection of the people. There is a huge responsibility upon the person who chooses to lead others, and therefore, a Muslim is discouraged from proposing themselves to lead others. In other words, shouting out, “Vote for me!” isn’t exactly a good idea.
This kind of leadership refers to external leadership. What we will discuss in relevance to “servant leadership” refers to the aspects of “internal leadership”.
External leadership vs Internal Leadership
External leadership refers to how you lead and influence others. This will only come about if you have internal leadership. Thus this goes back to good character, and good character is a pillar of leadership.
The servant of The Merciful (‘ibadurrahman)
The leaders of The Merciful are never those that are not merciful. And what is merciful, you might ask? Well, merciful doesn’t refer to those who sit back when they are oppressed. Don’t mistake merciful people and people of forbearance as weak. In fact, they are stronger as they can control their anger and emotions.
The Quraysh were referred to in Arabic as jahil. In translations, jahil means ignorance. However, the word jahil refers more to people who are haughty and unforgiving. Essentially, jahil is an absence of forbearance (in Arabic: hilm). The Prophet s.a.w. dealt with the Quraish with hilm, even though they treated him with their jahil behavior, such as insulting him.
People of hilm are not afraid of being firm. They are not people of rudeness. Mercy and firmness come together to a process that brings about benefits.
Servitude: to serve Allah (‘ibaadah)
Everything that we do must ultimately lead to please Allah swt. Worship – ibaadah in Arabic – is an English word that changes our mindset. Due to this, people have reduced ibaadah to a set of rituals, thinking that ibaadah only means to pray five times a day, to fast during Ramadhan, to pay zakat.
As an example, mothers who wake up to feed their children in the middle of the night may think that doing so takes time away from doing tahajjud. The reality is, the act of feeding their children in itself is an act of ibaadah. Some scholars have even equated it to qiyamullail.
Imam Afroz also adds that women are at the highest level of reward when they pray alone at home, whereas men have to pray in congregation in the masjid to equate the rewards received by women.
[pullquote_left]“The one who is foremost in the consciousness of Allah s.w.t. does so by serving him.”[/pullquote_left]
5 categories of our actions
- Iman (faith)
- Ibadaah (worship)
- Maa’shurat (human interactions with others)
- Mu’amalat (interactions with the environment, etc)
- Akhlaq (character)
Beneficial Action (‘amil as-salihat)
Islam is based on two principles: tawhid (believing in the oneness of Allah s.w.t.), and accruing beneficial action. Whatever you do, its benefit should be greater than yourself. For something to be a beneficial action, it should benefit others. We must act in a manner that manifests our true recitation of the shahadah.
“Anything you do in life will include another aspect of creation, particularly another human. “
Let’s face it. We aren’t a single entity living in this world. The fact of the matter is, we live among billions of other humans and whatever action we take, is bound to include another aspect of creation. As such, Imam Afroz mentions three particular aspects of our lives that seem to affect only us at first, but actually leave a huge impact on others.
Firstly, eating. Healthy food is beyond the importance of just one’s own self. Besides eating for personal well-being, eating also provides the energy to care for the family and most importantly, the energy for us to carry out our ‘ibaadah.
Secondly, clothing. Clothing oneself is beyond the importance of just one’s own self. Yes, it is mainly as a protection from the elements. But it also reflects social safety and well-being – the way people dress dictates the way they behave. It also gives us an opportunity to be ambassadors – our clothes portray a confident Muslim. Needless to say, there is also the “outward” and “inward” hijab. The importance of clothing ourselves outwardly reflects also on how we clothe ourselves inwardly. Therefore, dress code is the social responsibility that is incumbent upon everyone.
Lastly, leisure. Being mentally well is beyond the importance of just one’s own self. We have a duty to be environmentally aware. Our mental wakefulness directly affects others around us and it will be a cause for us in taking constructive action.
3 particular actions of Servant Leadership
People are motivated to act for different reasons. Some people help others so that they can be influential, while others see it as a personal achievement. What’s important as a servant leader, however, is to be foremost in your consciousness of Allah s.w.t. through helping others.
It is through the serving of creation that we show gratitude to Allah s.w.t. Service for others are in many forms, one of them is in terms of dakwah; and that is to help people see Allah s.w.t. By doing this, you start to know Allah s.w.t. through his creation.
Inherit into yourselves the attribute and nature of Allah – for example, you need to live as a generous person to recognize and know that Allah is generous. We need to be merciful to recognize and know that Allah is merciful (ar-rahman). This is known as tahallaqu bi akhlaqillah – being characterized by the characteristics of Allah s.w.t.
Reflect on His creation and His signs. When we are on the expressway, and our destination is Changi Airport, we will look out for the signboards that will lead us there, disregarding any other signs. But if we aren’t heading to Changi Airport, we wouldn’t give those Changi Airport signboards a second look. So ask ourselves. Have we found the signs of Allah? Or have we already found it and looked at it, but have yet to act upon it?
The signs are all around us – The Quran, and the entire creation. These are signs that point to the way of Allah s.w.t. The reality is that we are stuck at the signs, admiring it but not acting upon it.
People often manage others and not lead. You manage things, but lead people. People are different from things. People contribute, machines make. As a servant leader, one should always be aware that his actions reflect his character. The Prophet s.a.w. led by example, and he is the best of examples.
People often relate to leading others. So there is the aspect of external versus internal leadership. And there is also extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation. What really motivates us? Extrinsic motivation refers to being motivated to do something if you get a reward. Sincere concern versus motive (a plan, a plot) – are we doing it because of sincere concern for another, or is there a motive behind our actions?
Creation and The Creator
If you do not utilise what Allah s.w.t. has given you in the manner that is pleasing to Him, then you are not truly grateful. Being grateful (shukr) is the opposite to rejection (kufr). There are two types of kufr: kufr an-ni’mah (rejection of the favours of Allah) and kufr al-iman (rejection of faith). The rejection of favours will lead to the rejection of faith because a person will think that they contribute directly to getting the favours, when in reality, all those favours come from Allah s.w.t.
Barakah and Blessings
To attain barakah in our actions we should combine our personal resources (favours from Allah) and our personal relationships with The Creator’s creation. This will produce synergistic results, in other words, blessings and barakah from Allah s.w.t.
Essentially this is what a servant leader does – manifesting the blessings of Allah s.w.t.
To summarise, this is what servant leadership is and is not:
|Is not about||Is about|
Part Two – Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths
The second part of the workshop involved Imam Afroz going through some of the hadiths from Imam Nawawi’s book 40 Hadith.
[box_light]1st hadith: From the Amir al-Muminin Abu Hafs ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, that he said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saying, ‘Actions are only by intentions, and every man has only that which he intended. Whoever’s emigration is for Allah and His Messenger then his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever’s emigration is for some worldly gain which he can acquire or a woman he will marry then his emigration is for that for which he emigrated’.”[/box_light]
Hijrah (emigration) literally means to flee from one thing to another as the other thing is safer. It generally means to move from one thing worse to something better. So ask ourselves, what’s our hijrah?
Our hijrah is to flee from the danger in this dunya. Dunya itself literally means, that which is ephemeral and will finish (come to an end), to an extent that it is worse than hellfire. At least in hellfire, the immense pain is the ultimate realisation that you are away from your Lord. In retrospect, there is no such pain in the dunya that would make us realise our distance from Allah s.w.t. Therefore, make hijrah from this dunya, not for this dunya.
By fulfilling what the Prophet s.a.w. asks you to do, you have fulfilled what brings you to Allah s.w.t.
Imam Afroz went on to state two primary diseases of the heart: heedlessness (ghaflah) and greed (tama’).
Our lives should be driven by the intention that we live it for Allah s.w.t. Essentially, we should always ask ourselves, “Why am I intending what I am intending?”. Thus the categorisation of intention (niyyah) is as follows:
1. Knowing the reality (haqiqah) of your intention.
2. Place of intention – Intention should first be in the heart. Most of the time, for most of us, intention comes from a rational point of view, and that is always from the head, instead of the heart.
3. The hukum (ruling) of the intention – Is the intention obligatory, recommended, mubah (permissible), makruh (disliked) or haram?
4. The waqt (time) of the intention – Our intentions must precede the action.
5. The kaifiyyah (quality) of the intention
6. The syart (condition) of the intention – An intention is only valid for reward if it is within the rules of Islam.
7. Maqsud (Purpose) – The purpose of the intention defines the action in relation to what.
7 Corruptors of Intention
An intention in itself may be corrupted by one or more of the following actions:
- To do an action with the intention to make yourself look good in the eyes and hearts of others, or to avoid doing something thinking that they would look good in the eyes of others. In other words, thinking of “What would people say?”
- To seek praises from people.
- To avoid being blamed by others, to do it to intend that they don’t blame you.
- Seeing that people glorify you.
- To intend to do a particular action so that you can gain material things e.g. .money
- To intend to seek the love of others.
- To intend to do things so that one day they will do it back for you.
[box_light]5th hadith: On the authority of Aishah, who said: The messenger of Allah said: “He who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not of it will have it rejected.”[/box_light]
Bid’ah (innovation) in this hadith refers to introducing something new in the deen in the matters of ‘ibadaah. It is important to take note that it is not referring to the matters of mu’amalat (interactions with the environment, etc) and mu’ashirat (human interactions with others).
The Categories of Bid’ah
- Obligatory – for example, the Holy Quran which is compiled into a book.
- Mubah (merely permissible)
- Disliked by Allah (reprehensible)
- Prohibited (haram) – prohibition of bid’ah refer to those that are added to ‘ibaadah.
[box_light]6th hadith: On the authority of Al-Numan bin Basheer, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say: “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honour, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”[/box_light]
The hadith states that the lawful and unlawful actions are well-defined. The hadith ends by mentioning the heart. Why?
Because if your heart is not sound, you will make the illegal, legal.
The believer is going to be questioned a lot more about the halal than the haram. The truth is, it is easy for the believer to leave the haram, such as drinking alcohol. In fact, our test as Muslims come from how we engage in the halal, for example, limiting food intake or praying our sunnah prayers.
Are we responding to Allah s.w.t. in a manner that is ihsan?
[box_light]9th hadith: On the authority of Abu Hurairah, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say: “What I have forbidden to you, avoid; what I have ordered you [to do], do as much of it as you can. It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their prophets that destroyed those who were before you.”[/box_light]
The first part of the hadith refers to the following:
- Removing from our lives those matters that are haram.
- Doing your obligations at the best of times.
- Remove things disliked (makruh) by Allah s.w.t. from your lives.
- Remove things that are actually permissible out of your lives.
- To only do the things that are recommended and obligated by Allah s.w.t. and His messenger.
Questing vs questioning
Questing means wanting to know more so that you can do it to the best of your ability. Questioning on the other hand refers to asking questions due to being suspicious of the reasons and answers.
We should minimize our questions so that we should know about the deen by ourselves. We should not have excessive questions about “what ifs”. Don’t reduce our deen to a whole bunch of questioning. That is why the next part mentions about people being destroyed due to their excessive questioning.
With that, a day of beneficial knowledge ended, leaving us with many takeaways that we can grab from this. Reflect on them and realize our servitude.[divider]
A travel enthusiast, Salwa enjoys learning about cultures and gaining new experiences. She spends her free time trying to pick up new languages (although there is none besides Malay and English that she can master yet!)