It’s funny the way leadership and power is viewed, in the Muslim community and elsewhere. Everyone wants to be in control. That is, until they have to be responsible. Which is probably why so many who wind up in “control”, or positions of leadership or authority, do just that: act irresponsibly, because to do the opposite would require not only self-sacrifice, but a willingness to constantly deal with things that you “didn’t do”, “didn’t start”, or “didn’t ask for”. In my short career as an imam, I have had a real glimpse into the life of the Prophet ﷺ: not in a scholastic way, not in a textual way, but in a real, tangible “human” way. It requires dealing with ups and a lot of downs. It requires fighting fires you not only didn’t start, but fighting fires you don’t always feel equipped to fight. And here comes the true glimpse into the Prophetic life: it is God Who is in charge, Who Decrees, Who Compels us humans to situations not of our making, but of His Design, always to a greater good, even if that greater good lays outside of our (spiritual) peripheral vision.
I have been giving a lot of thought to the role of the imam in the lives of American Muslims. I think about how so many portions of our community are under served and the reasons being are plenty with enough blame to be cast on both sides of the minbar. But I thought I would share a hadith from Ibn ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم cousin and close companions, may God be pleased with him, in which he made the following statement:
عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ حَدِّثِ النَّاسَ، كُلَّ جُمُعَةٍ مَرَّةً، فَإِنْ أَبَيْتَ فَمَرَّتَيْنِ، فَإِنَّ أَكْثَرْتَ فَثَلاَثَ مِرَارٍ وَلاَ تُمِلَّ النَّاسَ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ، وَلاَ أُلْفِيَنَّكَ تَأْتِي الْقَوْمَ وَهُمْ فِي حَدِيثٍ مِنْ حَدِيثِهِمْ فَتَقُصُّ عَلَيْهِمْ، فَتَقْطَعُ عَلَيْهِمْ حَدِيثَهُمْ فَتُمِلُّهُمْ، وَلَكِنْ أَنْصِتْ، فَإِذَا أَمَرُوكَ فَحَدِّثْهُمْ وَهُمْ يَشْتَهُونَهُ، فَانْظُرِ السَّجْعَ مِنَ الدُّعَاءِ فَاجْتَنِبْهُ، فَإِنِّي عَهِدْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَصْحَابَهُ لاَ يَفْعَلُونَ إِلاَّ ذَلِكَ. يَعْنِي لاَ يَفْعَلُونَ إِلاَّ ذَلِكَ الاِجْتِنَابَ
On the authority of ‘Ikrimah: Ibn `Abbas said, “Preach to the people once a week, and if you dislike to then preach to them twice, but if you want to preach more, then let it suffice to be three times a week. Do not make people weary of this Qur’an. If you come to some people who are engaged in talk, don’t interrupt their talk by preaching, otherwise you will bore them. Rather, you should keep quiet, and if they ask you, then you may preach to them at the time when they have a desire to hear what you say. And avoid the use of rhymed prose in invocation for I noticed that God’s Messenger and his companions always avoided it.”
What really grabs me the most about the Salaf, the companions, etc., is their earnestness and their directness. Food for thought.