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Humility (Tawadhu’) As an Attribute of a Leader

My dear brothers,

Allah s.w.t has ordained the main responsibility of man as a khalifah on earth. Allah s.w.t says in surah Al-Baqarah, verse 30  :

And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalifah, they said: What! Will you place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and extol Your holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.

Here, khalifah means one who develops the world to the mutual benefit for all. This means that the responsibility that has been thrust upon mankind is not limited only to humanity alone, but is all-encompassing.

Our beloved Prophet s.a.w. has also stated in a hadith:

“Everyone of you are leaders, and everyone of you will be accountable for those whom you lead; an Imam is the leader of his people, and is responsible for them. A husband is a leader of his family, and is responsible for them. A wife is the leader of the household and she is responsible for the people in her care.”

My dear brothers,

Even as individuals, we all have our own unique responsibilities of leadership. No matter how small that position of leadership is, we need to observe and understand the required attributes that we should have, in order to carry out our responsibilities well.

One of these important attributes is humility. Allah s.w.t. says in surah al-Hijr, verse 88:

“and lower your wings (i.e. be humble) to the believers.”

It is clear from this verse that Allah s.w.t. has told us to be humble, in all places and towards all people.

This attribute, of tawadhu’, tells us that we are not perfect; that we have weaknesses and shortcomings. Thus, by practising tawadhu’, we have to be open-minded towards any criticisms or complaints and treat them as opportunities to improve ourselves. We should not dismiss the critics as being overly critical or to think badly of them, without reflecting on the merit of their words.

When asking for feedback or in listening to criticism, we also need to be humble, and not to be obsessed with our position or status, and therefore dismissing others. For example, in our family life, a husband has to be willing to accept a rebuke from his wife and not use his position as head of the family to ignore his wife’s opinion or dismiss her suggestion.

Likewise, at work, the supervisor has to listen to the workers if he truly wishes to improve the work environment. In addition, with an improvement to the work environment, he will find that productivity will rise, as will the quality of work, in general.

As a leader, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the people under us, in order to feel and empathise with their needs. As our beloved Rasulullah s.a.w. has said in a hadith narrated by Ad-Dailami which means:  “The leader of a people will always serve his people.”

Saiyidina Omar r.a. has also said:

” The head of a people is their khadam (servant).”

This is also the idea of service leadership. Thus, a leader needs to feel that their role as a leader is that of service. We should serve those under our charge, in executing our leadership role. We should not lead just to feel powerful, to feel what it is like to have power over people. In the end, such leaders will only do petty things to show that they are in power, while hoping to get monetary rewards or praise, rather than helping their people. A leader who knows that he is doing a service to the people will be more humble and will not be power-hungry. This is the best of leaders.

My dear brothers,

As parents, a father who has a teenage son or daughter needs to understand the teen’s position, to listen to their problems, and not to compare his teenage son’s or daughter’s experiences with his own. Heed these words of wisdom: “Raise your children for their time, for they live in a different time from you.”

Being ready with a listening ear is also important for a humble leader. This is what is meant by the adage: “Try to understand before wanting to be understood.”

Maybe the reason why teens feel it is easier to talk to their friends rather than their parents is that they understand each other more, understand their friends’ needs and mostly, think that their friends will be more ready to listen to them, to take the time to listen, unlike their parents.

Beloved brothers,

Leadership is a duty and a responsibility upon us. This duty and responsibility has to be carried out to the best of our abilities, because the outcomes of what we do is truly great. Not only that, we will be judged on how we have carried out our responsibilities on this earth by Allah s.w.t. in the hereafter.

Let us together strive to act in humility to those we have under our care. Let us place ourselves in their position, to try to understand, to take the time to care about their problems and to spare the time to listen to them. Let us be more willing to accept criticisms or rebukes. Let us all continue to improve ourselves and carry out our duties and responsibilities to the best of our abilities, Amin.

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