Friday, June 08, 2007

Leadership, Muslim style

If I was to be asked to consider leadership in Muslim society, I would refer to four roles for leadership: the Imam, the Faqih, the Wali and the Amir.

The Imam leads the prayer in the mosque.

The Faqih or Scholar is the source for legal rulings, he or she understands the shariah and the context.

The Wali or Saint is the spiritual and moral guide for the community, reminding them that eternity is always more important.

The Amir or Leader is the political leader of the community and would represent the community in its various affairs to the wider society.

The search for heroes, which is so much a part of the Western cultural canon-context, amongst Muslims means that we sometimes seek individuals that fulfil all four roles. It may the case, as I think it is, that there are some incredible and unique individuals that we look towards who combine these four roles within their expansive personalities. However, it is also the case that these individuals are rare. In reality, most individuals combine a couple or perhaps three of these qualities.

So, one person may be a faqih and an Imam, but not an Amir.

Or another, could be an Imam and an Amir, but not a Faqih.

Or another, could be a Wali and an Amir, but not a Faqih.

Or another could be a Wali and a Faqih, but not an Amir.

Or four people could fulfil each of these four roles for a community centred around a mosque.

The problem here is who decides, because sometimes a Faqih may be called upon to be an Amir in moments of crisis, and this may not be suitable, or an Amir may decide to act as a Faqih and this may not be suitable as well. Who should decide? The individual himself or the community?

The greater problem is that we seek someone who is a Wali, Faqih, Imam and Amir, and there may be some individuals out there who can fulfil this role, but unfortunately, I don't think there are enough to go round for the whole British Muslim community. The rest will have to deal with a division of labour.