2017 has demonstrated the havoc poor leadership can wreak on communities. The corruption of many an elected official, entertainment mogul, journalist, and religious scholar has been unveiled and all year long, I have ruminated on what leadership means. As always, I am compelled by the Quranic ethos of justice and mercy, in which the Prophetic model is rooted.
The Prophetic model of leadership may be known in modern parlance as servant-leadership. One of the most revealing examples showcasing the Prophetic character concerns a moment when he was sitting with the Angel Gabriel (AS), and commented that he had not eaten in several days. Immediately, another angel was sent to him, saying. “O Muhammad, Allah the Exalted has given you the choice to be a prophet-servant or a prophet-king.” Upon conferring with the Angel Gabriel, God’s Beloved said, “I would rather be a prophet-servant.” [Hasan Hadith, according to al-Suyuti]
There are so many gems to be mined from this exchange, but here are three: The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) believed that leaders must serve their community, not the other way around. Also, consultation with others is a critical aspect of leadership in the Prophetic tradition. Finally, the early Muslim community suffered greatly under an economic boycott and, later, military attacks. The Prophet (PBUH) suffered the same deprivation of food and necessities and still chose not to become a prophet-king such as Kings David or Solomon (AS), though he had been given the choice. Likewise, leaders who wish to follow the Prophetic model today should not expect a life of luxury that is denied to their followers.
Every year, I share with my readers praise-songs of the Prophet Muhammad ~Peace and Blessings be Upon Him ~ in honor of the Mawlid, the celebration of his birth. Mawlid is not just songs and celebration for Muslims – it is also a time to learn about the Prophetic characteristics and try to implement them in one’s daily life. During the Mawlid season, many Muslims follow the Quranic injunction to send extra prayers to the Prophet. Around the world, believers recite poetry and song in his honor, study his noble characteristics, learn how he interacted with family, friends, and foes, attend lectures on the life of the Prophet, and may even fast and spend in charity on his behalf.
“Indeed, God and His angels pronounce blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe! Pray for God’s blessings upon the Prophet, and salute him with a worthy salutation of peace!” Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 56
I have gathered many of these songs and poems in previous years. You can see (and hear) the songs I’ve compiled in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. If I have missed your favorites, please post a link in the comments. And now, let’s dive right into Mawlid 2017! We start our journey in Africa: