From all the previous stories and Qur’anic stories we can conclude that Allah is emphasizing one message. Allah puts us in a spot, severs our means and gives us hardship to check our devotion, belonging and connection to Him. He tells us repeatedly of what happens if we don’t follow His sequence. We are presented with a sequence of defeat and a sequence of victory. If we follow Allah’s message regarding our situation, Allah promises us victory. If we do not choose the journey of faith with Allah, Shaitan takes us to journey of defeat. Whether or not we like it, we are swept in the sunnah of Allah. Either we behave according to what Allah wants and obtain victory, or Shaitan makes us despair, impatient, moody, pessimistic and we suffer defeat.
There are also the following sunnah to be observed in our journey of victory.
If an individual is defeated, the family unit is defeated. If the family is defeated, society is defeated and this ripple effect extends towards the defeat of the entire nation. It is a collective defeat, and we can never rise as a nation unless we rise individually, from within, when we reinforce our knowledge, trust, belonging and faith in Allah. The more we believe the more we have victory. The less we believe, the more defeated we are.
If we become complacent and are comfortable with being in a state of defeat, Allah will not change anything for us! If Allah loves us, He will make us think about our defeated condition and motivate us to dislike that condition instead of remaining indifferent about it. Hence the second step is when Allah allows us to arrive at a realisation and be alert that we are in a status of defeat.
Once the awareness and self realisation is awakened, then the heart is ignited with a desire to emerge from the situation of defeat. If Allah wills it, we will desire change because we dislike the status of defeat and are motivated to change the circumstances as soon as possible.
When we are defeated, our senses are drugged by dunia. We cannot comprehend our situation. But once you hear the message, it will give us the realisation that we can change, rise up and be a different person. Once we have passed stage 3, we start looking for guidance from someone who can change our condition. If we are sincere, Allah will allow us to find someone who will guide us. He will use others to guide you, whether through reading material, lectures, a man or a woman.
Finding our Mentor
A study of the Qur’an and Islamic history will show that from time to time, Allah selects men and women with the qualities beloved to Him to spread the message. Allah has given him the vision and the knowledge to show his communities the way out of our defeat. Even Messengers and Prophets, when they died, left the message and the knowledge, not legacies in terms of buildings and monuments. Such knowledge is transmitted from person to person.
If we want to learn how to bake a cake, we cannot do it by just reading a book. We have to observe and learn the technique from someone who will also correct our mistakes until we have mastered the skill. It is the same with driving a car. We need to find an instructor to teach us, no matter how many driving manuals we memorize. Similarly, with Islam, we need someone qualified to guide us, where we can see the knowledge in action.
Such people are around us, but we need to find them with sincerity. He or she doesn’t have to be a millionaire or have a title or a string of degrees. Mankind tends to focus on the superficial, but Allah can honour someone without status. We have seen from the stories of Talut and Jalut and the The man from Surah Ya Seen that the choice of person was unrelated to money or status. Talut had no money, title or social connections, yet he was chosen by Allah to be the leader of his people. We have the ultimate example – the illiterate, orphaned Prophet (SAW) who is the most elevated person in mankind. Therefore, look beyond a person’s means and look at his character, deen and wisdom.
Even from history, we have seen that Allah usually sends simple, unsophisticated people to spread His message – the salt of the earth who can appeal to the masses at the grassroots level. Isa AS and Zakariyya AS were carpenters. Musa AS was a simple shepherd. It is a means for Allah to remind us to be humble. In the story of Talut and Jalut, his community was expecting Allah to select someone who outranked them to be their leader, but Allah humbled them by sending them Talut, a simple, unassuming farmer whose greatness lay in his piety.
Why is this? It is also to block any excuses obstructing us from the journey of iman based on the lack of our resources or qualifications. We cannot blame the lack of wealth, or even the lack of education. Allah wants to demonstrate to us that knowledge and status come from Allah, and not from nobility or finances.
One of the distinct characteristics of a good mentor is that he shuns fame, and is not seeking glory or titles. One of the sunnah of Allah is that such a person cannot demand for the position. People will find him, but he does not promote himself to be a leader. There is no self interest, and when people choose him, there must be total unity of the heart for him to be the cause of guidance.
Such a person must possess a set of qualities. He must have the skill to both speak and listen. He must understand the meaning of obedience and be able to follow up his actions with goodness. He must not be argumentative, and must behave with adab (manner), character and ikhlas (sincerity). All this criteria sounds overwhelming, but if you are sincere, Allah will send someone your way to guide you. It might even be your next door neighbour!
We have leadership at many levels. A mother, for example, is the leader of the next generation. How can a mother scream the house down and then expect obedience? How can a husband command respect if he has no qualities? How can one have any followers if he has no virtue or quality?