Tag Archives: Hadith

Dying to Learn: Why Malala Yousafzai’s Cause is a Fard Kifaya for the Worldwide Ummah – Part 3

“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.”
The Noble Qur’an, Sura Al-Hijr, Ayat 26

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim…Whoever has a daughter, tutors her on good morals, educates her well and feeds her properly; she will be a protection for him from hell fire.”
–Prophet Muhammed (s)

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
–Malala Yousafzai on confronting the Taliban

Includes adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership – The Book

(Continued from Part 2)…The Power of the Pen in the Role of Education

“Proclaim! (or Read!) in the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created—Created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood.. Proclaim! and thy Lord is Most Bountiful,—He Who taught (the use of) the Pen,—taught man that which he knew not.” Al-Qur’an, Surah Al Alaq, Ayats 1-5.

The verses which introduce this section are the first five verses revealed to the Prophet. Since our Creator in the Final Revelation and the Seal of Scripture revealed these verses first, it is logical to surmise that they must be very significant on the notion that the beginning must lay the foundation for all that is to come after. The first command revealed in the Final Revelation is Iqraa! The word has dual meaning of an action taken to receive and impart the Divine Word. The historical account of this ultimately indescribable event relates that the Prophet was frightened, severely shaken, and that his reply was “I cannot read” whereupon he was pressed three times by the Angel Jibreel to read and recite, and thereafter the Prophet under the command and guidance of the Creator, began to read and recite.

In Surah Al-Alaq, Allah (SWT), the One Who created everything including man, says Read in His Name. Our Creator then relates how He grows man from a mere clot, something small, simple and insignificant to become His Crown of Creation the most complex creature to whom is given the responsibility to manage his life and his environment. Surah Al-Alaq simultaneously points to one of the gifts for man’s intellectual evolution and the blueprint for the progress of mankind—the use of the pen.

It is difficult to imagine what life would be like without the technology of writing. In fact, modem civilization, including the much talked about “information age” owes its very existence to the pen. Although today we may casually take these powerful abilities for granted, reading and writing changed the dynamics of communication and interaction, and essentially altered the human experience of cause and effect.

When man began to write and translate thought into symbols, he discovered he could impact others and alter outcomes without necessarily having to be present in the same place or even at the same time. He discovered a new and higher freedom of movement superior to just physical motion; he now had the ability to transfer his thinking independent of his physical presence. Such a monumental change in thinking ultimately changed man’s expectations and redefined the possibilities of greater communication by the powerful idea of impact without physical contact.

Today we have information conveyed by such mediums as satellite, television and radio which has lead to the phrase “real time” to describe the almost instantaneous exchange of information. I submit that these technologies could not exist were it not for the paradigm or concept of projecting oneself outside of the immediate space and time of here and now. It was the pen that changed man’s paradigm and him to arrive at more sophisticated communication concepts. And it is God Who gave the pen to man and showed him how to use it to record, design, account, research, navigate, analyze, verify, discover, calculate, legislate, map, schedule, plan, construct and perform every other aspect that reading and writing has given us.

The secret to progress is no longer a secret. It is right before us in the Qur’an. Throughout the Final Revelation, Allah (SWT) gives us similitudes of how best to manage complexity and the uncertainty of the future. We are told in Surah Al-Baqara (2:282) that there is a preference or superiority of a written agreement over a verbal agreement; while the issue is directly related to trade or commerce, the benefits of writing are universal irrespective of the discipline.

Similitudes such as The Book, The Record and The Pen occur throughout the Qur’an. There are numerous references, but a few shall suffice. Consider Surah Al-Infitar (82:10-12): “But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you,—kind and honorable,—writing down your deeds: they know (and understand) all that ye do.” There is Surah Ya-Sin (36:12): “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and we record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have we taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” Lastly, Surah Al-Ali Imran (3:145) relates, “Nor can a soul die except by God’s Leave, the term being fixed as by writing…” Our Lord is constantly calling our attention to the active process of recording or writing.

In addition to the obvious advantage of accountability of written over verbal expression, there are psychological and creative advantages associated with the processes of reading and writing that impact problem identification and resolution, goal identification and achievement, and the capability of bringing ideas into reality. Often times, we cannot begin to see solutions to a problem or that a problem even exists until the details are organized in print.

Imagine what it would be like to lose all that humanity has learned over the centuries or millennia; we would have to literally recreate the wheel. The descendants of Adam (AS) have been able to organize and advance themselves spiritually and technologically under the Guidance and Mercy of Allah through Divine Revelation and through the preservation and transfer of information from one era and civilization to another.

A Balanced Education

Leaders assuming the mantle of government do not have the right to grant legal permission to read. G-d has already given that right to every human being.

The command given to the Prophet in Surah Igraa is a command given to each of us personally and to mankind in general. To learn what Allah asks of us and to emulate the Prophet’s example we must read Revelation. To learn the practical implementation of Qur’an, we must read the history of the Prophet and the Sahaba.

The early ummah managed and advanced the material world with the same book that brought them the religious knowledge. The impetus imparted in the Qur’an by the Divine Mandate to Read allowed the ummah to also read (observe) the material world and advance the information previously discovered by Greek Civilization and others.

Our Islamic ancestors became world leaders because they sought a balanced education. Unlike the fundamental error in reasoning that separated religion and science and the spiritual from the material under the scholarship of earlier Christian savants, Al-Qur’an provided man with the correct equation for education:


To neglect the first element of the equation is to become a secularist surreptitiously defined by a working premise that man’s creativity makes him God. To neglect the second is to be practically disoriented and hopelessly fatalistic…incapable of managing our own homes, much less the larger life of a community.

There is a reciprocal relationship between education and leadership. Balanced education promotes competent leadership; competent leadership in turn cultivates an environment for balanced education. Balanced education creates an environment wherein each believer is encouraged to seek Qur’anic knowledge and worldly knowledge without the fear of losing one’s faith. There is no inherent merit in illiteracy, religious or otherwise, any more than there is in poverty.

The failure of Pakistani (and Afghan) extremists to educate the masses regardless of gender denies basic human rights, undermines the very foundation of their society and future and denies to the rest of the world the valuable contributions that would otherwise emerge from Pakistan’s group intellect that includes Malala Yousafzai and every Muslimah and Muslim in Pakistan.

If Afghanistan is to take its seat at the table of global leadership, then its people must encourage and protect the right to balanced education and broad intellectual development structured upon the foundation of Qur’an and we must encourage them to continue the fight against those who would have them and us live in the dark ages.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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Dying to Learn: Why Malala Yousafzai’s Cause is a Fard Kifaya for the Worldwide Ummah – Part 2

“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.”
The Noble Qur’an, Sura Al-Hijr, Ayat 26

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim…Whoever has a daughter, tutors her on good morals, educates her well and feeds her properly;she will be a protection for him from hell fire.”
–Prophet Muhammed (s)

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
–Malala Yousafzai on confronting the Taliban

Includes adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership – The Book

(Continued from Part 1)… Muslims must be diligent in the pursuit of knowledge irrespective of its origin or realm. Origin refers to knowledge originating from different peoples and realm refers to secular or spiritual knowledge.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Adopt knowledge from wherever it comes. Seek knowledge even unto China. No poverty is worse than ignorance; no wealth is better than intelligence. Whoso pursues the road of knowledge, God will direct him to the road of Paradise; and verily the angels spread their arms to receive him who seeks after knowledge; and everything in heaven and earth will ask grace for him…

Verily the superiority of a learned man over a mere worshipper is like that of the full moon over all the stars. Acquire knowledge for it enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and an armor against enemies.”

The above words from the Prophet (s) convey to the individual and society that one must be driven to learn; that government must devote resources and arrange priorities such that the individual is enabled and encouraged to meet the personal responsibility of education.

Valuation and Protection

The final responsibility for cultivating a climate of educational excellence is to preserve or safeguard that which has been learned and to preserve the process that leads to discovery and improvement. The first level of this responsibility is valuation and it means having the requisite respect for intellectual leadership.

Valuation occurs when the group recognizes that its strength and viability is dependent upon the intellectual development of all its members. The successful group will place a premium upon and devote resources for the protection and utilization of its intelligentsia.

The global history of our religion certainly reflects a deep respect for scholars and teachers and for the leaders who supported them. We do not need to go too far back to see what happens when intellectual leadership is stifled. Perhaps the best contemporary example of what can happen to a people when it loses its best minds is seen in the tragic annihilation of Cambodia’s intellectual resources (human and material) by the late dictator Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

From my own ethnic experience, the great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, placed a premium upon intellectual valuation. Du Bois’ proposition of the “Talented Tenth” was an assertion that a progressive African-American community is inexorably linked to the development of an African-American intellectual leadership.’

I am not sure whether the percentage is one tenth, a fourth or a third, but all people need a critical mass of competent and sincere leadership or as Brown states, a “truth brigade” that understands the importance of intellectual valuation and protection. But you can’t sustain a truth brigade or a talented tenth until less you expand educational opportunity to the masses.

After valuation, the second level of responsibility is protection and advancement of knowledge through the written word. Next time, the power of the pen. (To be continued).

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era – Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Series Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era…

I pray all of you had a wonderful weekend. The rain cleared up here in North Florida, and we’re back to being the Sunshine State.

Over the weekend, I thought about the major categories of subject matter we might discuss. We have flexibility. Your input can affect the subject matter and categories. But for now, I’ve set 8 major categories as follows:

1) Leadership
2) Stewardship & Governance
3) Strategic Planning
4) Shuraa
5) Organization & Structure
6) Fund Raising & Financial Administration
7) Governing Documents
8) References

Posts will be archived under these categories for easy reference. The above categories are also among the most common areas that nonprofits are seeking guidance.

I’ve also decided to publish pieces when necessary, in more than one category at a time to allow us to deal with issues simultaneously. Besides, rarely do leaders have the luxury of dealing with one matter at a time. Publishing in various categories simultaneously might help us deal with issues as they present in real life—not as stand alone concepts but as part of a multi-dimensional leadership and management strategy.

Now that we’ve handled the administrative issues, I now return to our transition discussion with Part 2 continuing from last week.

The discussion we are currently having has bearing at both our national level of identity and local level. Leaders and administrators must be asking the question:

a) Are we building offices of leadership with a greater emphasis on institutionalizing the offices and their responsibilities and authorities or are we building offices around personalities?

b) The question must be asked not only for the Office of the Imam, but for every person leading a concern. Ask, how did the current office holder assume his or her position of leadership?

Compare the leaders and their offices with the PBL vs. ISTL Table (from last week’s post). Organizational leaders should be honest with themselves and their constituents and ask: Are we preparing the organization for perpetual institutional leadership responsibility?

An even more fundamental feature present in every successful organization is a plan for Succession of Leadership. If you don’t have one, you don’t have institutional leadership. You have personality-based leadership. And one of the worse political and operational crises for an organization is to be forced out of personality-based leadership because of unplanned circumstances.

One of the other major characteristics of personality based leadership vs. institutional leadership focuses on acceptance of the current leader’s mortality and for planning purposes, the organization’s immortality or more properly perpetuity. When I say acceptance, I don’t just mean an intellectual acceptance. Yes we all know we must live here. But even in our personal lives, have we gone beyond intellectual acceptance? Have we made administrative preparation and put our affairs in order as we (Muslims) are supposed to do according to Al-Qur’an?

So the acceptance that I am referring to at the organizational level means that the acceptance goes to the next level–a level of action which reflects that the organization knows it must plan ahead for new leadership. The two key components of a succession plan are:

1) Training and development; and
2) Executive Order Assumption of Authority by Office of Leadership

The first component, training and development (together) is a long term “natural” structural component of a successful organization and it relies upon an organizational having a “total learning environment” along with a critical respect for youth development all the way from toddler through college and early adulthood. Successful organizations are incubators of leadership. Such organizations are naturally attuned to rising stars and can help groom new leadership by pairing, at an appropriate age, apprentices with established leaders–from the Office of Imam to all other offices of leadership. If you’re leading an office and you don’t have a person half your age assisting you and learning from you, then you’re already well behind the leadership succession power curve.

The second level of succession preparedness deals with the issue of sudden executive leadership loss. Let’s take for example a hyper scenario where all of your executive leadership is attending a convention or conference and travel together on the same transport and an accident occurs in which all of them are lost. Who’s in charge of your masjid?

Now I have spoken a lot about the Office of Imam as though it were the senior or most significant office of leadership in a masjid. That’s because in most of our organizations, it is likely that governing documents filed with the state may name the Imam as the President for purposes of an organizational filing. In our organizational culture, many still have the Imam as the “chief executive” of the organization. I believe it is time to re-examine this structure in light of 33 years of the leadership of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Now this is where it would serve our purpose to have a simultaneous posting. So, I have posted another discussion (essay) in Organization and Structure titled: The Case for Expanding Shuraa Practically as a Mercy to the Office of Imam, Other Leadership and the General Body of a Masjid.

We are entering into more complex discussion with the introduction of Organization and Structure while still dealing with succession of leadership. The reason why I want to “merge” these topics now is because truly preparing the organization for succession means not having too broad a span of control on one office holder, namely the Imam. I believe historically, we have given too much span of control to one person. Now I’m not saying such span was not appropriate for the times, but I am saying that as an organization evolves and as knowledge becomes more dispersed throughout the organization, the organization is best served by decentralizing the responsibility and the requisite authority to get tasks accomplished. We have historically placed too much emphasis on a single office of leadership as a result of mainly four (4) factors:

1) Overdependence on personality in lieu of institutional leadership.
2) Cultural and organizational leadership models left over from 1975-85 transition.
3) Other religious (Christian) and socio-ethnic influence.
4) Mis-correlation of the office of imam with the Office of the Prophet.

Now there’s a term we have to define—span of control. Simply put, if you give one person too much span of control over organizational outcomes, people, decisions, etc. then we have overburdened him. We have to have realistic span of controls for an office holder. Now in the beginning of an organization’s life cycle, the span of control will be centralized in one person or just a few persons for many reasons including:

1) Size of the organization.
2) Gross organizational knowledge. Remember, the less primary knowledge dispersed throughout the organization the more dependence on one person.
3) Organizational infancy with a corresponding narrower agenda and operational objectives.

So span of control is a leadership and management term that refers to the extent or scope to which one person is personally responsible for people, resources, tasks and desired outcomes. Now one can have a wide span of control over persons, so long as those persons have a reasonable span of control over their management responsibilities. One person can have a wider span of control over people than over tasks or desired outcomes. I like to make the distinction that one leads people and manages things; that’s what I have been taught and that concept has worked well for me. Thus the span of control will differ greatly when one is functioning as a leader than as a manager. Again, we lead people and we manage things…the difference is in the skill sets required for leadership and management.

Hopefully with my post in Organization and Structure, I can bring up to date a diagram, Exhibit A-1: Masjid Organizational Structure Model, that appears in Appendix I of Genesis. I am grateful many communities have benefitted from the model. I still believe it has its importance. But the day I finished the schematic was the day it became outdated. Well not exactly, but the point I am trying to make is that organizations are just that, organs and organic; they are organs for us as a community and society. Organizations are organic entities composed of people, for the benefit of people or the Creation, and managed by people. Organizations change over time and management structures have to change to continue serving the organization. Organizations are living, breathing, organic things and if you have systems and documents that have aged and you have not reviewed them to see their current applicability or capability to advance the organization into the future, then the leadership has failed in that regard.

I previously mentioned the span of control for the Office of Imam has been too broad for most of us, especially in the 21st century. One of the philosophical constraints in updating and adapting structure and organization for succession of leadership has been our perception of just what the Office of Imam is. While that in depth discussion is for a later topic, I will reiterate what I mentioned recently on American Muslim 360: The Office of Imam in America is just one component of the Office of the Prophet’s (s) leadership. The Office of Imam is not the successor to the Office of the Prophet (s). If we think about it, even the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs were not successors to the Office of the Prophet(s); they were successors to several components of the Office of the Prophet’s leadership. We too often are demanding from our Imams what the early community needed from the Prophet (s). The Office of the Prophet was a multi-dimensional, multi-level leadership involving vast religious, governmental, military, administrative, diplomatic, and a host of other responsibilities. No Imam that I am aware of in American is functioning in his office in that capacity. Furthermore, our perceptions or misperceptions (as followers) are responsible for us too often unfairly laying “guilt trips” on our Imams on a host of issues such as compensation, shuraa, and 24-hour availability.

Now what do you think can happen to an individual whose leading a group of people who thinks he is the only one in the Office of the Prophet’s leadership? Mind you now, in actuality he is in only one of the offices of leadership established and demonstrated in the Prophet’s personal and public life.

In reality, the group intellect together best represents the Office of Prophet Mohammed as a leader. That means every one directly charged and not directly charged with responsibility in a masjid form the office of Muhammed’s (s) leadership. If we apply such understanding combined with the knowledge that each of us has a role to play, then we would have more realistic expectations of what one man is capable of; and that one man would have greater respect for the group intellect and his own limitations and what he himself is capable of. Then the political contract can be more successfully executed between a community and all its leaders.

Again, I invite you to see this week’s post in Organization and Structure. In brief, the discussion is on Shuraa and Structure and I propose we must fundamentally rethink the structural design of our institutions, namely we should begin looking at separating religious duties, obligations, and functions from the day to day and strategic administrative obligations. When I say separate these functions, I don’t mean separate them as in the mosque or masjid from the state or spiritual from the secular; I mean separation in terms of span of control. It’s time to free the office of Imam for bigger tasks. It is also time to allow the institution to grow, to prepare for succession of leadership and a host of other administrative internal and external community obligations. Based on the maturity of your organization, it may be time to replace the system of the Imam as the sole chief executive with a system of an imam and a president of your institution.

Now last week, we asked a question that for us goes to the central issue of our transition from personality-based leadership to institutional leadership and hence has a bearing on the way forward: Can a charismatic, personality-based leadership (and particularly messianic one) really transition supporters, followers, helpers, etc. to “effective” institutional leadership while still alive?

I would really like to hear your answer to this question. I mentioned three individuals last week in the context of answering the question: Washington (as in George), Mandela (as in Nelson), and Arafat (as in Yasser). So I’m going to let my comments go for another week and hope to hear from you.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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