By Mohamedarif M Suleman – (Nairobi, Kenya)
A century ago, when the now over-100,000 Khojas began their journey in what was to later become a model of organization and a systematic approach to meeting the needs of the community at large, little did the founders and pioneers of the time know what was to be the consequence of their labour.
It is without doubt that from amongst all the Islamic sects, groups and organizations put together as well as all other affiliated groups emerging from the Indian Sub Continent, our community has tremendous experience and knowledge to share with the others. The aspirations and the ambitions of our forefathers in very adverse times and amidst difficult conditions, may today seem like a normal move towards progress, but it must have been a very difficult ride upwards.
And from the time when formal organizations (Jamaats) were set up to overlook the affairs of the community, the curve towards our organizational success has been systematic and gradual. Many of our leaders who have given their entire lives and other resources, must be lauded for their valiant work that has served to bring us to where we are at this point in time. In this regard, whereas we may now all have various choices and pursuits in life, our common denominating aspiration must be that of delivering further progress to our children and grandchildren so that the path for them is defined and organized. There could be no better service that each one of us as an individual could do to posterity and its eventual success.
But our aspirations are limited to the presence and ability of our leaders. Leaders who, once having accepted nomination into the managing seats, must then receive the aspirations of the community in a systematic approach and with broad mindedness, and then translate these aspirations into visions, goals and missions. Within our community setup therefore, a leader must always be cognizant of his or her responsibility to compare and contrast the aspirations of the present generation to the experiences and lessons of the past communities. A hundred years is not a short period of time, and it is only in presence of the knowledge of previous performances that the future can be aptly charted out. Naturally, a well balanced and a well meaning leader is one who will shrug off his obstinacy and his own personal ambitions in the face of a spirited representation not only of the people he or she presides over, but as well to the tenets of our faith and the laws of Shariah. Without these essential ingredients, anything new will appear progressive to the leader, and their decision will therefore be based on external or foreign acceptance of a concept or an idea.
If one were to exrapolate this line of argument to a higher level, it should be noted that a leader’s position is always very senisitive and critical. The decisions made while in occupation of the seat must therefore be made cautiously and with due regard. For a good leader, there is no room for favouritism or of giving eminence to just a few people,a nd to regard what they would utter as the only right way ahead. If such would be the case, then a leader ceases to be the legitimate representative of a people and instead becomes a ruler.
Whereas we have generally been very fortunate in being blessed with visionary leaders who have brought development to the community and have at least endeavoured to put universal aspirations into real projects, this glorious past must not let us into a concave of insensitivity to continue upgrading our leadership skills and dispositions. Many times, leaders are unable to dispense themselves completely to the demands and dictates of the chair but instead are seen as personalizing issues and affairs.
As a community we must all aspire, and then having expressed our aspirations within real parenthesis, rightfully entrust and expect our leaders to respond to our aspirations. The leaders must in turn comprehend the vastness of their seats, distinguishing their personal circle of friends, favourably referred to as the advisors, from the general wants and needs of the people and the parameters of Sharia.
One very important understanding of leadership is the awareness of the presence of workers and other buzzing leaders. In absence of proper scales and measures that are free from personal likes and dislikes, leaders of all times are usually compelled to pinpoint people of merit and discard those that are perceived to be unproductive. While this is rather practical in the general scenario, a community fueled by honorary workers cannot afford to incur any form of wrath from individuals either because they are opposed to a common leadership view, or in some instances seen to overshadow existing leaders. Just as when we spend huge amounts of time at work and naturally expect our jobs to be rewarding in some way, the people who selflessly put their own hours into community service, at the least do expect a consideration to contribute in the grand scheme of leadership and organization.
The leader must possess certain qualities that we regularly hear of, and our choice must therefore be based on such historic as well as empirical facts rather than on availability of time and or personal material resources.
Whenever we have such good leaders, history will record, that our aspirations have been met.