By Sr. Nadia Mhatey
Lack of Leadership and the Muslim Personality
Many of us have heard the lamenting voices of Muslims across the world saying that there are no real leaders, there are no Muslim men and women willing to step up to the plate when it comes to responsibilities which need to be shouldered in our communities. This statement can be heard from every level of society: global, national and local. So how did we become a nation searching in every nook and cranny for people to lead us, when we were once led by very intelligent and capable people who were catalysts to helping Muslims fulfill their purpose in this world? This is an issue which can be discussed from many perspectives because it’s cause is not one. The roots of this crisis stem from many directions. These articles will make an attempt to focus on one key aspect, that being the development and maintenance of the Muslim personality.
In order to establish leaders who will be effective in guiding the Muslims towards prosperity, there is one element which is crucial in serving as a prerequisite for this, and that is the development of a Muslim personality. A Muslim personality can be thought of as those attributes and characteristics a believing Muslim should have. It also includes the awareness of the traits a Muslim should possess in light of their ranking in society (as a sibling, parent, son/daughter, student, employer etc) When a person’s traits and characteristics are in line with those of a Muslim character, only then can that person be seen fit to rise up the challenge of leadership, be it in one’s home, university, community, city or country.
Ways of developing the Muslim personality and bringing out the leaders in our children
This notion of raising people who are sound in their Islam and capable of leading and guiding others is one which all parents undoubtedly keep in mind. Every parent, Muslim or non-Muslim, wishes that their child grow up to live their life to its fullest potential, and parents take steps early on to ensure that their children take part in what they are best at so that they may grow in that field. For example, one mother may feel her child is best at building and construction so she may purchase blocks or Legos to occupy her child as well as further develop their interest in it. This example can be extended to every Muslim household where parents wish their child to grow up with a background in Islam and its teachings and go on to do something productive with their lives. It is here during one’s childhood that the foundation of a person’s personality and character are laid out. It is developed solely depending on what qualities the parents choose to nurture and which ones they choose to overlook.
So the question is asked, how much of an impact can parents have on their children’s personalities? We know from science that one’s personality and behavior is influenced by genetics as well as the environment one grows up in. While the genetic factor is not one that can be changed, the environmental factor is. In fact, it is the environment around a person which brings out the qualities and behavior they will come to adopt in their life. This is where parents and family play a pivotal role in the development of a child’s personality.
One way parents can help children filter through all possible behaviors and adopt the ones appropriate for a Muslim is by displaying those behaviors themselves. Children learn what they see best. The following are some qualities which children should see exhibited by their parents:
- Respect for others
- Good planning
- Implementation of Islamic morals
How to develop these qualities in children:
The quality of being responsible is one that mothers and fathers display on a daily basis. Responsibility and accountability for one’s actions are also key in Islamic teachings. Relating this to the family, the Prophet (saw) has said: “Surely! Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges: The Imam (ruler) of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; a man is the guardian of his family (household) and is responsible for his subjects; a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them; and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for his charges.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Responsibility is a lesson parents can teach their children in many ways. Put your kids in charge of something one day and hold them accountable for it. This can be done even in daily occurrences such as doing chores or homework. Praise them for getting the job done, reprimand them for not getting it done. Be gentle yet firm, and do not let children skate by without fulfilling their responsibilities. Teach them accountability and point out to them the consequences for doing something compared to not doing it. If teachable moments like this are made use of frequently and consistently, the notion of being responsible for one’s actions will become ingrained into the children early on.
Respect for others
Children need to learn how to respect others indiscriminately, be they older, younger, challenged or simply different in religion or race. Children should learn very early on that every human is worthy of respect. This is another quality which can be learned quickly if parents take care to exhibit it at every opportunity presented. A good leader respects the people he or she is leading, and never considers themselves to be above or better than them.
This is a quality which is not easily grasped by many people, even adults. Parents should coach their children into first of all recognizing situations where patience needs to be adopted in place of anger. Helping children become familiar with feelings of anger and frustration is the first step to knowing when patience is needed. Questions such as “How did that make you feel?” and “Can you explain to me what you’re feeling right now?” are good conversation starters and will help kids begin to analyze their feelings. This also provides parents with a good outlook into what way the child can deal with those feelings, in order to help them find a solution.
Like responsibility, this is a quality which parents can exhibit for their children on a daily basis. Kindness towards ones family members, neighbors, pets etc will be become embedded into children when they see it done over and over again, to the extent where they feel this is the natural way of dealing with others. Indeed the Prophet (saw) said, “If gentleness is found in anything, it beautifies it, and when taken out from anything it damages it.” (Sunan AbuDawud) Children can also be shown the beauty of kindness by talking with them about it. Conversation about parents actions and the reasoning behind them can help children understand the motivation behind it. For example, “Why did you think we went to see Mrs. ______ when she wasn’t feeling well?” or “How can we help Mr. _____ if he’s not able to drive to the store?”, are questions which can get kids to start thinking of acts of kindness on their own.
Organization & Good Planning
These are qualities which are essential for a good leader to have and they are skills which improve with more time and experience. However, parents can still lay the foundation for good organization in their children early. Let the kids decide what ingredients they will need to make their favorite dish, or how much pizza they will need to order for the whole family. Giving children chances to take the lead in the house and asking their opinion will do so much to raise their self-esteem and confidence in their ability to achieve all of the above mentioned qualities.
Implementation of Islamic Morals
All of the qualities mentioned above are ideals and morals which every Muslim, young and old, should strive to implement in their day-to-day lives. For children, they are best learned and stored when they are put in action by the people around them. With this being done correctly, our children will begin to put these behaviors into practice and hopefully store them as mechanisms for dealing with every aspect of their lives.
- Lack of Leadership in Youth – HS and College Students
- Steps to developing a Muslim personality