In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.
Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon the course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained delivered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani—provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa. This article is the tenth of the series, and will focus on the causes and removal of the third blameworthy trait of the heart; love of worldly leadership and status.
Love of worldly leadership has three causes:
- The inclination to acquire impermissible things due to desire or whim
- The inclination to establish the truth
- The inclination to experience mere pleasure
Inclining to Acquire Impermissible Things
This is when someone seeks leadership to have dominion over others or to gain favour with people of power. It is seeking to enrich yourself of worldly things rather than to enrich yourself with the pleasure of Allah Most High. It can be something as simple as seeking fame to attract members of the opposite sex. Acting on this inclination is clearly forbidden.
Inclining to Establish Truth
This cause is the best of the three causes of the love of worldly leadership. It is to seek leadership to fulfill a permissible, recommended or obligatory need or to prevent wrongdoing. Acting on this inclination is permissible because we are allowed to seek leadership for good—to increase in the religion and rectify the affairs of others.
When seeking leadership for this end, there are two conditions; (1) sincere intentions and (2) acting within the limits of the Sacred Law towards good outcomes that are free of harm.
You must seek it with caution, ensuring that your intentions are purely and sincerely for Allah. Ask yourself why you’re seeking it. Is it out of a desire to be in the limelight? Or is it out of love to seek the truth and goodness for everyone?
Inclining to Experience Mere Pleasure
This inclination has neither harmful nor good motives in it but rather just for mere pleasure. It is when you would rather be a leader than a follower. Or perhaps you fallaciously believe that being a leader is a form of perfection.
This in and of itself is not impermissible if there are no blameworthy motivations behind it. However, it leaves a person in grave danger, for the moment you seek leadership for mere pleasure, you’ve missed out on the most significant benefit you could have received; the pleasure of Allah Most High.
Chasing leadership for mere pleasure leads to showing-off, hypocrisy, arrogance, and many other blameworthy traits because you’re left acting for the sake of the creation. Beware of seeking leadership out of a whim, for creation will be of no avail for you when you stand in front of the Creator!
This is the case even if you don’t get pleasure from leadership, but seek it “just because”. If you don’t have a sincere intention at the beginning of an act—nor do you strive to retain it during the act—you are in danger.
Removing the Love of Leadership
Generally, the treatment of this disease is knowledge and action.
- Know that rank and status are not true perfections. Perfection is what Allah has deemed to be good, and there has not been intrinsic merit placed in leadership.
- Know the harms of loving leadership. It can lead to pride, arrogance, conceit, showing off and many potential harms to you and others.
- Do things from time to time that lowers you in the sight of other people. This forces you to remain humble and remind you who your Lord is; Allah Most High, not people.
Note: this should only be done with consultation from a scholar because this is contrary to the honour of the human being.
- Distance yourself from people and go to a place of obscurity. This does not mean to become hermit-like in your social isolation, but rather to ensure that some of your worship is in complete seclusion and isolation from people. These can include daily adhkar and night prayers.
When you are out of sight of people, you are more exclusively with Allah—not because of His distance from you, rather your distance from Him. Remove people from the equation, and suddenly the only reason for your virtuous action is His pleasure.
This should not behoove you to step away from your activism or leadership out of fear of pride. Your actions in these positions should not cause you pride because Allah creates all that you do. Do not take credit for His work! How can you feel pride for something you did not actually do?
When doing something that might entail gaining status, always work on your intention and clarify it. Know that your lower-self has whims and desires, and remind yourself that you’re doing it for Allah. This will allow you to keep away from the dangers of leadership with no intention.
The general principle to follow is: do not do anything for other than Allah and do not leave anything for other than Allah.
And there is no safety except in sincerity.
You can sign-up to this course here, our offerings are always free of charge: The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.