To answer this question, I believe, one should ask " Who wants me to be a leader?" "Am I supposed to be a leader?" "If I have qualities of a leader then, why I am not a leader?"
A lot of soul searching is required when one points a finger towards himself in an attempt to discover his own traits and qualities. We know that at the bottom of our hearts there lie talents and abilities unknown to us. It is only through hard work, goals, missions, passions and emotions that there is the power of bringing them to light. One of the ways to discover talents and abilities, hidden in us, is to examine the traits of successful people, who eventually become leaders of their own communities or countries.
One of the research studies about the lives of successful leaders has revealed that the common trait among them is their capacity for sustained work. They work harder than an average person, once an objective and goal have been formed. It has been said time and again that the primary difference between a big man and a little man is that the little man quits when he is tired and sleepy, while that is the very time when the big man works harder. He works hard with the intention of getting people to work together towards a common goal beneficial to all.
There are quite a few human qualities and traits that are needed to become an effective leader. The most important and basic are hard work and awareness of time. Human beings have not yet discovered or invented substitutes for time and hard work. Today, time is still the most precious commodity known to man. In order for one to become a leader one has to work harder and longer hours. In this context, it must be noted that no human being has ever died due to lack of sleep. It is also quite likely that people will consume more food during those long hours of hard work because of loss of excessive energy.
Islam has provided these two basic elements of success in the form of Prayer (Salat). For this purpose let us consider the Islamic call for prayer - the Adhan, which is called five times a day. The psychological impact is tremendous at dawn, when the entire humanity is in the arms of sleep and the proclamation is made through Adhan that prayer is better than sleep.
Time is an element that is given the most importance and significance in the life of a Muslim - male or female. Five daily prayers regulate the lives of a Muslim, and makes Muslims more aware of time.
Another important aspect of Prayer that stands out is that a Muslim remains occupied and busy throughout the day. It has been said if you want a job to be done right and successfully, give it to a busy person. A busy Muslim who is active and who has regard for time is conscious about the use of time and is ready to accept and perform a job that may be assigned to him. Laziness, lack of work and inactivity has been recognized as the worst enemies of human beings. Salat i.e. prayer, in other words, is preparation for a Muslim to become more active, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Now, two factors emerge from Salat and sleep; one is that a person can work longer hours if he restricts his sleeping hours to a minimum; two, a person who is able to regulate his time can effectively and efficiently use it. Muslims have a duty to alleviate the sufferings and sorrows of the community by working hard to put into practice the Islamic solution for the ills of humankind; and the training needed to do this is through Salat.
If you can work hard, have a mission, have a goal in mind and are ready to work long hours to accomplish that goal, then you are a leader. A leader is a person who finds a need and fills it. He takes a lead in doing a task, initiates action and sees it through to the very end. He keeps his vision and mission in perspective and continues to work until results are achieved. It must be realized that leadership is a series of actions, not a position. The emphasis is on taking action. You must find a need, no matter how small it is, in the community and make plans to fulfill that need by taking appropriate action, and become one of those people who make things happen. Remember, there are three kinds of people in this world. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.
We know that Islam is a way of life. It involves Huqooq-Allah, Huqooq-un-Nafs and Huqooq-ul-Ibad.
We are very good in Huqooq-Allah --- a person's duty towards God, belief in one God, not associating partners with Him, and doing good in this world and preparing for the hereafter and try to live a clean and good life --- If we were to collectively grade our selves as practicing Muslims, without being too conceited, we can probably give our selves at least a B grade if not an A in Huqooq-Allah.
In the area of Huqooq-un-Nafs --- a person's duty towards himself or herself, consuming only Halal or permissible foods, not harming one's body, even committing suicide --- In this respect collectively we can probably give our selves the same grade as in Huqooq-Allah.
In the area of Huqooq-ul-Ibad --- a person's duty towards humanity, being good to others, not harming others, getting involved in helping others in improving their quality of life, helping orphans and poor --- our collective performance is quite poor. Without getting into grades lets just say that we need to improve ourselves significantly in this area.
I strongly believe that our performance in the area of Huqooq-ul-Ibad is responsible for the many ailments in the Muslim community. God tells us in the Quran (3:110) You are the best community that has been raised up for humankind... We need to make sure we uphold this verse of the Quran and be an example for peace, liberty and justice for all.
God does not help the condition of a people until they make an effort to help them selves. To wait for a savior to come and help us is also a maligned attitude. Each and every one of us has to chart-out our Quranic responsiblity in all walks of life. We must improve our collective performance in the area of Huqooq-ul-Ibad to achieve the very best.
Please, prepare yourself to assume the position of a leader in this world; in this life. Find a need of the community and fill it. Become a leader ... take action. Work for the welfare and improvement of humanity. Make things happen.
Mohammad Yacoob is former Vice Chairman of The Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles and the former President of Masjid-Ul Islam in Inglewood.
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