Leadership Fatigue, Did You Say?

Mar 12, 2013

Some of those blessed among us with the ability and opportunity to provide some level and kind of leadership to Muslims sometimes complain of “Leadership Fatigue.” Knowing the treatment Muslims at times – maybe I should say “often” – meet out to some of their best and most sincere leaders, who can ever blame them for what they say and how they feel.

But leadership in Islam is a very different ballgame, as some might say. It is almost always a one-way traffic. True leaders under the banner of Islam are – and should always be – in it, not for something they expect to get out of it, but purely because of all the things Allah enables them to give to others.

In other words, true Muslim leaders are in it, not to receive, but to give.

Others may do what they want, but true Muslim leaders have no choice but to do the right thing; keep on doing it; and take what comes out from their Muslim followers on the chin.

They can complain to Allah if they want. They can bring up the matter before their following and discuss it. But they should know that Muslims will always be Muslims. And Muslims have two things going for them.

First, Muslims are human beings, and ungratefulness is ingrained in what people may call human nature.

Next, Muslims are Muslims and they have seen 1400 years of waters of all shades and description flow under their ancient bridges.

Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, once reacted to the way people treated him, and I am paraphrasing his most glorious Arabic words in the Hadith here in my most flawed and imperfect English:

“May Allah have mercy on Musa (Alaihis Salam). His followers used to bother and hurt him worse than this.”

The cure, almost always, is Sabr – putting up with how Muslim followers treat some of their best and most capable, committed and sincere leaders. And it is to be patient and to persevere.

Yes, there are other options open before them – all of them very “human” and, from that point of view, quite understandable. But they are open or closed to the true Muslim leaders depending on the specific scale of their own leadership on the one hand and their closeness to Allah on the other hand.

The Case of As-haabul Kahf – Young Men of the Cave

In earlier times, way before the advent of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in this world, a group of young people, living in a society of aggressive and intolerant non-believers, found guidance from Allah. They discovered the truth (Islam) that Allah gave them and embraced it.

Whether or not they were Allah’s messengers, they suddenly found themselves in a position of leadership. And they were frightened, and who wouldn’t be. Should they go public with their new-found light and preach it to the people and face the consequences or should they quietly walk away from the scene and lie low somewhere, at least till such time as they feel a bit stronger and the times and circumstances a bit more conducive and benevolent.

What a perfectly natural and understandable dilemma that was!

They stood up and carried out their God-given mandate of leadership with their people. They preached and they proclaimed the truth God had given them.

But then what you and I today may call a certain “Leadership Fatigue” factor got through to their hearts and they feared the consequences of their leadership and their preaching.

They feared being stoned to death. And they feared, even more, being forced to abnegate their faith and return to the deviant ways of the Unbelievers.

So, they decided to go and hide out in a cave and lie low – at least for the time being; at least until things got a bit better.

“Leadership Fatigue,” you may call it.

Of course, Allah’s power and presence are as real and immediate inside a cave as they are outside. Allah shut off their hearing inside the cave for years. And Allah put them to sleep and made them stay in their cave for 300 plus years.

When they finally woke up, things had changed radically. An entirely new generation of people had arisen and the violent disbelievers of the past had yielded place to a people more accepting of faith.

Whether or not their earlier preaching and leadership had anything to do with it, what is clear as day is that Allah did what he did, and what he always does, and he totally transformed the society on his own, and he did so entirely independent of any kind of direct participation or help from them.

So, that is what happened when these “Young Men,” as the Qur’an calls them, decided to let what you and I today may call a “Leadership Fatigue” of some kind influence their thinking and behavior: They ended up sleeping for centuries in a cave, while their people marched happily to find God and guidance.

Dealing with the “Fatigue Factor” at My End

I want to complete this writing today, because I do not want it to join its unfinished companions, sitting on my various computers and notepads for years and decades. But before I go, there are two more stories I wanted to add and do so in some detail. But it appears to me, it may take hours, if not days, for me to be able to do that.

So, I am leaving those other stories untreated in any detail here at this point, hoping to come back to them, when and how Allah decides to pull me out of my own cave and enable me to address them.

But I want to at least refer to them very quickly here. That way, readers will be able to ponder them and connect them to the thrust of my main argument about Islam and “Leadership Fatigue.”

And that argument – the one I am making here – is this:

For true and tried Muslim leaders, a certain amount and kind of “fatigue” is natural – and understandable. Muslims do have a tendency to subject their best and most sincere and capable and committed leaders to all kinds of trial by fire.

But true and tested Muslim leaders have nowhere to run but back to Allah. And to the continued service of their people.

Muslim Followers of Hazrat Ali, Radiyallahu Anhu

His Muslim followers more or less “forced” Ali, Radiyallahu Anhu – no one forces Ali to do anything – to wage war on the Muslim rebels at a most delicate and difficult juncture in Muslim history – in the history of the world in fact.

And when Ali, Radiyallahu Anhu, yielded and fought and won, they more or less “forced” him to accept defeat, after Allah gave them victory, just because the rebels had suddenly sued for peace, and raised the Qur’an on their spears, and declared: “Let us all abide by the decision of this book!”

Running Horses on the Corpse of Husain, Radiyallahu Anhu

And then Muslim agents of the Muslim government of the day killed the son of Ali, Radiyallahu Anhu, in what some would describe as “battle.” One can understand that those things happen in battle: someone always gets killed.

But then the same people with Muslim names, and acting in behalf of the Muslim king of the day – for, by then the Islamic Government of the People by the People was fast on its way to becoming a hereditary monarchy of the pagan Roman and Greek variety, ran their horses on the dead, martyred body of Husain, Radiyallahu Anhu

This they did not have to do.

And it defies comprehension.

This was the same blessed body of Husain, Radiyallahu Anhu, that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had kissed and rocked in his arms and carried on his back, when Husain, Radiyallahu Anhu, was a baby.

Muslims Will Be Muslims

So, that is who the Muslims are; and have always been; and, I fear, shall always be.

That means all those who are blessed by Allah by any measure of what may pass as leadership of any kind or level over any segment of them, need to think continually: they may run all they want, but they have nowhere to hide.

For, Allah will bring them back from whatever cave they think they are hiding in, even if it is after 300 years.

Hazrat Yunus, Alaihis Salam, Abandons His Post

Hazrat Yunus, Alaihis Salam, (Jonah of the Bible) allowed “Leadership Fatigue” to overtake him. And he abandoned his post and ran. And he did so without permission from Allah. So, Allah steered him into the belly of what the Bible I think calls the “Whale.”

And there he realizes what a terrible thing he had done. And he starts doing what all good people do: Turn to Allah and begin glorifying him and singing his praises and confessing his own folly and error in judgment.

And the Qur’an does not mince words in pointing that out. He would have stayed in the belly of that whale till the Day of Judgment, says the Qur’an, if he had not turned to glorifying Allah.

Then, of course, Allah rescues him. And then Hazrat Yunus, Alaihis Salam, returns to his post as the leader-prophet of his people, 100,000 or more, which was a huge number in those days, whom Allah then guides and they become Muslim.

If I had the time and energy right now, I would have liked to pursue this story a bit further and in greater detail. But I am going to rest it right here. And, Alhamdulillah, Allah has enabled me to say enough here so the readers can pursue this story and its various dimensions and aspects – and lessons and morals – in greater detail on their own.

The Story of All Stories

Another story I wanted to talk about was that of Hazrat Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, how he went from Makkah to Taif, hoping to find a less hostile and more accepting environment for his mission. He went alone, except for his adopted son, Zaid, Radiyallahu Anhu.

But Taif, in some ways, turned out to be more cruel and unkind to him than perhaps even Makkah was. Not only was he mocked and his message of peace and love and Islam soundly rejected by the leadership at Taif, he was set upon by street urchins, who were turned loose on him by the leadership, and pelted with stones in the streets of Taif, and bloodied till his shoes stuck in his feet in his own congealed blood.

Yes, there he opened his blessed mouth, a mouth that had never cursed anyone at any time, even his worst enemies, and “complained.”

I shudder to my bone every time I read those words. Personification of Allah’s Rahmat – love and mercy – to all the worlds, now having to “complain” to Allah?

God Almighty, what have we done?

But read his words carefully. It was not “about God” that he was complaining. But only “to” God.

Nor was it about “his people” that he was complaining, but only about his own condition: how helpless, unable and inadequate he felt in dealing with them.

God Almighty, what have we done?

Reducing whom God made the Master of the Worlds to this state of pitiable helplessness by our arrogance and intransigence! What hope can there be for a people like us who did that to someone like him – and continue to do so in so many different ways?

Now do you see why we need Allah as Ar-Rahman – the springhead of all love and mercy and forgiveness – and why we need Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as Rahmat – the outflow of that love and mercy and generosity and compassion and forgiveness into the universe?

Wa Maa Arsalnaaka Illaa Rahmatan Lil Aalameen!

Paraphrase: We sent you not except an outflow of love and mercy to all the worlds.

Because without Allah as Ar-Rahman and without Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as Allah’s Rahmat, our goose is truly cooked.

So, he was complaining about himself, and not about anyone else. Here I broadly paraphrase some of what he said at that time:

“Oh Allah, to you do I complain my weakness and my inability to cope.

And my lack of resourcefulness.

And how I have become an easy prey for people.

You are the Master of all those who have been rendered weak and powerless.

And you are my Master too.

To whose care are you entrusting me?

To a stranger who may treat me unkindly?

Or to an enemy whom you may have made the master of my affairs?

But if you are not angry with me, then I don’t really care!”

To All Those Suffering from “Leadership Fatigue”

So, people, this is how the best and the most perfect of leaders was treated by people. And this is how he reacted. He did not run and hide. He instead ran “to” Allah and threw himself at his mercy.

So, to all those suffering from “Leadership Fatigue,” bestowed upon them by Muslims, as Muslims have a habit of bestowing on all those who truly love and serve them, I say:

Fa-Firroo Ilallah!

Run to Allah.

Not away from him – or from his people whom he has chosen to place under your leadership.

And when you run “to” Allah, instead of away from him or his people, there you will find all the support and comfort you need – and all the cure for your “fatigue.”

And all the joy.

In many ways, in Islam, leadership is a one-way street. You do not quit. You do not retire. Even though you may quit, or resign from, or exhaust the terms of, or be thrown out of, all kinds of formal posts and positions.

You just continue to slave to the best of your abilities and skills and powers to your last breath, with greater sincerity and love with every passing day.

Hazrat Ibrahim, Alaihis Salam

Allah made Hazrat Ibrahim, Alaihis Salam, a leader of the people.

Innee Jaa-'iluka Linnaasi Imaamaa!

That is how Allah put it in the Qur’an.

In return, Hazrat Ibrahim, Alaihis Salam, dedicated not only his life, and everything in his life to Allah, but also his very death. He said, my paraphrase:

“My worship, and my sacrifice, and my life and my death, are all for God, the Master of the Worlds.”

So, Muslim leaders, you can’t run and you can’t hide. Just continue to do what you do better, serving your people to the best of your ability; with greater sincerity, dedication and commitment; and with greater humility, honesty and integrity.

And if you must run somewhere, then run to Allah. For, that is where the refuge is: From your “fatigue” and from every other bad thing in your life.

Laa Manjaa wa Laa Malja’ Illa Ilallah!


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