Leadership Inspired by Islam

I submitted this blog post as a contribution to RevivingSisterhood.  You can read the original right here.

Leadership Islam

Leadership Inspired by Islam

I am a Muslim woman.  I long for the day I stand in front of Allah and I present to Him the story of my life.  I pray that I stand in complete confidence and happiness in front of a God that is proud of me and what I have done for His sake.  I long for the day He admits me into His infinite mercy and Paradise.  I strive daily to fully align myself with the wisdom He sent to me; the Quran. I strive daily to walk in the footsteps of great leaders whose role model was Prophet Muhammad; peace and blessings be upon him.

Muslims agree that God created them for the sole purpose of His worship.  This is what Allah Himself said in the Quran verse 51:56 “I did not create the jinn and the humans except to worship me.”  A wise teacher once taught me that this verse tells us the purpose of creating humanity.  However, the purpose of creating each individual person is unique to themselves.  This is their calling and their true worship of God is measured by the extent to which they strive to realize it and actualize it.  God has put humanity on earth to be His representatives of goodness and justice.  A world in which those representing God stand up for the rights of the weak in the face of a tyrant oppressor.  A world in which those representing God act like a powerful wind of goodness bringing positive energy for our world.  The impact of the work they do becomes greater than even themselves.  It is not a coincidence that this verse is in a chapter titled the Spreaders.

I recognized my own uniqueness and embraced my responsibility to spread good and justice. A Somali woman, born and raised in the Arab world and having immigrated to America in my teens; I speak three languages and I acquired three different cultures and world views that are crucial to understand the needs of my community.

God had blessed me with the ability to connect with people at a meaningful level and share the knowledge and experience He has given me in a personally relevant way. I use these assets as a platform to spread the goodness, the positivity and God fueled energy that I am committed to on daily basis. The more people we have committed to this purpose of leadership, the more our communities grow and thrive.  Our world would be more peaceful and people would be more tolerant of one another despite their differences.

If we look to our world with an open mind and heart, we would notice the suffering due to injustice.  In my experience speaking, teaching and coaching, I realized that much of the aching in our world would diminish if we took the time to get to know one another. People are curious about one another, people are in a state of fear of each other, and people need comforting and safe spaces that support their basic human need of existing. Instead of using our differences to learn from one another and understand one another, we allowed the fear to isolate us.  How will our children play with one another? How will neighbors feel comfortable to greet one another? How will employees and students feel secure in their positions and learning? How will we cooperate if we are not secure? These are the type of environments that allow hate and prejudice remain unchallenged.

God does not expect us to change the world, he wants us to change ourselves and allow ourselves to reach the potential we are most capable of.  That will change the world.  He will grant His victory and support to those that seek justice despite the currents that are moving against them.

Think about how you can use your platform to bridge the gap of understanding in your diverse community.  How can you lift the vail of ignorance, fear and prejudice from the circles that are closest to you?

In the Quran, as a way of encouragement and reflection, God repeats the stories of the best models of leadership for humanity; prophets and righteous people with an upright character.  They were given the responsibility of challenging status quo, of demanding change with wisdom, of calling for the removal of injustice.  Their responsibilities started with their closest circle of influence; their families, tribes, communities who share their customs and language.  Prophet Shu’ayb peace be upon him beautifully stated the mindset of a reform leader by saying: “I have no desire to do what I forbid you from doing.  I desire nothing but reform, as far as I can.  My success lies only with God.  In Him I trust, and to Him I turn.”  Chapter 11:88.  As a Muslim woman leader in my community, I aspire to this mindset wholeheartedly.

A Letter to the Heart in Pain

letter heart pain (1)

If you are not happy and are experiencing emotional pain, it is because a deep desire and value of yours is not a reality.  Don’t let anyone tell you to forget the pain and just look at the positives in hopes that the sadness will disappear.   Rather, appreciate, count and be grateful to all the blessings in your life AND welcome the pain as a means to change the reality that is causing it.

Then, call upon Allah! Present it to Allah with truthfulness that comes from an aching heart seeking peace and tranquility. Repent for the sins and shortcomings that might have led you to this sadness.  Use His names and attributes.  Use the name AlFattah as He is the Opener. Beg Him to open the doors that are locked from you so you may see with an open heart and clear mind.  Don’t lose hope because you are or feel incapable. Allah AlQadeer, The Most Able is capable.  He alone can make you able.

Ask Him, to strengthen your heart with patience like He did for the mother of Musa as she threw her infant in a dark chest in a moving river.  Can you imagine how this mother felt as she threw her child?  Ask Him to send down His Sakinah (tranqulity) on your heart like He did for Muhammad (saw) and Abu Bakr when the Quraysh was about to capture them with the intention of killing them.  Abu Bakr RA tells us that he looked and acted frantically with fear for the Prophet (saw), can you picture what he looked like before he was supported with the tranquility of Allah?

How blessed are those who despite the pain, fear, worry or sadness they are in, they also feel an immense tranquility bestowed upon them by ArRahman!

How do we gain tranquility despite the pain?

Dhikr, dua, recitation of the Quran, charity, salah and especially, Tahajjud!

A person that dedicates him or herself to the practices that soften the heart and attach it to Allah will certainly be strengthened with certainty of Allah, reliance on Him and gratitude towards Him.  What I personally love is how when we commit to these acts of worship and dedicate ourselves to them, we are in the company of Allah. When you are in the company of Allah, what fear, worry or sadness can overwhelm your heart? Won’t your companion rescue you when you are in dire need?

One of my teachers, Sh. Muhammad Alshareef, teaches that Allah will answer ‘all’ your duas. Yes, all. Nothing is impossible with Allah correct?  Since I am a regular attendee of his Visionaire program, a friend once called me to ask about it and this friend was in deep pain because of the delay of something she had a strong desire for.  She said to me that it wasn’t wise that the shaykh was advertising his program in such a way because certain things in life are simply never granted and it can set people up with false hope.

Sometimes, we all reach a state where we tell ourselves perhaps our dream will never become true!  We cease to believe that they are actually possible.  Who benefits from our state of despair?

What I find reassuring however, is how in the Quran Allah beautifully displays stories of desperate duas being answered even when the answer seemed impossible.  How can an infant in a chest survive in a river? How do barren women in extremely old age have children for the first time? How is the dream of Yusuf alayhi assalam realized after decades of painful separation from his father and family? How is Ayub alayhi assalam cured from a deadly disease and walk away strong, as if never harmed by an illness or loss? How does Muhammad (saw) and his few companions survive the Hijra and come back victorious in less than 10 years? Dua and certainty make the impossible happen. If dua moved a rock for three men stuck in a cave, won’t the Rabb who moved that rock move your rock too?

Appreciate your pain and be grateful to it for it will lead you to be desperate in your dua.

“Be like the young child who will continue to cry to his parents until they give in to what he wants.  If your Rabb has not answered your dua yet, then continue crying to Him.” Sirri AlSiqti

And when you are done making dua and feeling the pain, close your eyes and imagine the bliss of having what your heart deeply desires as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will soon grant it to you.  Smile, laugh, rejoice in the middle of your tears.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَنْصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنْصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ

“O you who believe! If you support Allah, He will support you, and will strengthen your foothold.” Muhammad: 7

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Lessons of a New Marriage (1)

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