Written By Ari-j
Dear GMSA executive,
I greet you with the best of salutations; Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. I pray this letter reaches you in increasing states of health and eeman.
I begin by asking Allah (subhaanaHu wa ta’aalaa) to bless you with strength and hikmah as you take it upon yourself to serve mankind in His course. I pray that He purifies your intentions, forgives your shortfalls and rewards your efforts abundantly.
Leadership is not a task as pleasing as its title may sound. It demands a lot of sacrifice, time and effort. Yet when done solely for the sake of Allah and to attain His pleasure, it becomes very easy via the guidance of Allah.
“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” [Qur’an 29:69]
Dear executive, to be a leader, especially to a Muslim group means you have a lot of people looking up to you. You become someone’s definition of absolute Islam. What you do and do not do is what he or she uses to define what is right and what is wrong in the realms of Islam. There is therefore the need to give up some things including permissible ones especially when they are in public view. Not that you are quitting them because of people, but because it is an opportunity Allah is giving you to be a better person.
The intention with which you take up leadership mantle is very important. This is a space that Shaitan (may he be cursed) can leverage on to put whispers in your heart; something he can easily do via fame. If he cannot get you to disobey Allah outright, he attacks you via deeds you are doing for the pleasure of Allah.
Dear Executive, if to be a GMSA executive is an opportunity for you to finally rock it with your long-time crush, or an opportunity to go on a wife hunting spree, then there is a bit of a problem. The fact that you seek a pious spouse doesn’t mean you are free to play around with the ladies entrusted to you. Not that seeking the spouse is a problem in and of itself, but to abuse the office at trying to reach it is the problem. While it is ‘nice’ to be famous and to be admired by people especially by the opposite sex, you should be mindful not to WISH to earn that via being a GMSA executive.
It becomes more worrying if you begin to think it is okay to speak all night on phone with sisters or to have your social media displays photo-switching from one lady to the other or to hang out more with the opposite sex in the name of I’m just doing my job. It is very worrying if you begin to think that it is okay to upload your ‘before and after’ photos or photos of yourself in a non-standard hijab on social media just to encourage your women folk to wear hijab. No one needs to see where you started from. Just telling should be enough. You should be able to differentiate when you are feeding you own ego from when you are doing your job as executive.
Yours is to ensure the wellbeing of your subordinates. The scope of that has to be defined appropriately. Long calls, late night calls, using photos as dps, chat-switching from sister A to sister B, unrestricted mingling, wishing birthdays, unnecessary photo uploads, unnecessary celebrations of successes etc. are not part of your scope of work.
The moment you begin to become a reason for someone to justify haram (impermissible) or makruh (disliked) acts, you should know that the purpose for appointing you leader is not fully served. If a member should snap; “even the executives are doing it”, so to make a case, then there are issues to be resolved. This is extremely important as you would not know who is looking at you to study Islam. That in itself is not ideal, but it is the reality. Some of these things happen so unconsciously. It gets more interesting when peers and colleagues subtly draw your attention to how much ‘opportunities’ you have for being an executive.
Let me share two personal experiences I had serving as GMSA president and as a deputy committee chairperson respectively.
I woke up one fine morning and decided to wear shorts to a group meeting on campus as against the regular trousers. One that covered my awra (nakedness) as a man of course. As I walked through campus, I could read the surprise on people as the Salaams (greetings) came with interesting facial expressions. The glances said it all. Upon reaching my destination, a non-Muslim lady classmate retorted; “You are in shorts today, which is unlike you.” [Paraphrased]. I smiled about it and went on with my work. Later in my room, a friend comes in and goes like, “Ei Presido, I saw you today in your shorts.” I ask, is it haram? He says: “No, but to go out like that is not very ideal for a president” to which I perfectly agree.
Not that wearing the shorts is haram, it is very permissible provided your awra is covered but the nature of the office didn’t warrant wearing it as a regular attire outside. This is an example of an instance when you may have to forgo a permissible thing for the purpose of a fulfilled leadership.
During my time as a deputy educational committee chairperson prior to becoming president, a brother sent me a text message asking why I was still single. I told him it was a personal decision and that even if I will grab at all it will be in my final year. He then told me of a sister he was interested in and was going to propose to. But decided to talk to me first. There and then he decided he wasn’t going to do the proposal anymore and that he was going to also wait till his final year.
Though I didn’t quote from any Islamic source the reason for my decision, I was his definition of who a Muslim should be. I could have been in a haram relationship by then, from which he could have picked motivation. I’m speaking of someone who didn’t want to get married anytime soon yet wanted to be in a relationship. All he may have wanted was to know if I was also dating so it wouldn’t feel too much like a bad thing as his conscience may be telling him.
Dear Executive, you have to understand what message you are sending to your congregation. You need to understand what it means to be a leader. You should be very mindful of your acts especially those done in public. It may not matter what you say. A lot are looking at what you do. And indeed they are watching. Yes it is your life, but know that the affairs of a people have been entrusted to you and as such they have become stakeholders in what you choose to do. If that is not enough motivation, you should fear that someone sees something bad you do and then adopts it and also shares it with others.
Yours in the service of Allah,