The writer, Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.
here can be no more abnegation that it is only good leadership that can result in better communities, societies and nations. History is replete with instances where self-serving leaders ran their national ships aground as self-interests, nepotism, conceit and unruliness ruined the very fabric of countries. Even as you read this, we are witnessing more such countries on the brink of similar disasters.
A leadership theory explains how and why particular people end up in positions of leadership.
The emphasis is on the traits and actions that individuals can acquire to improve their capacity for leadership. Leaders claim that a good leader must have high moral standards and strong ethics. Why this information is important at this juncture because eventually, it is the leaders who navigate the destinies of their people.
Several theories have been developed over the years to explain the whole concept of leadership, why and who becomes a leader and what are the corresponding traits of a leader. There is, ironically, a wide gulf amongst what theorists tell us, what thinkers believe and what we see in reality. Once in leadership, there is almost always defiance, self-absorbed logic and a me-versus-them attitude. In other words, the very people who elect a leader, now become adversaries when they ask questions. This is perhaps one of the many reasons why nations or groups disintegrate into smaller new ones.
The Khoja Shiá world is today faced with colossal challenges, both internal as well as external and unless the present-day leadership is alive to the realities at hand instead of pursuing some self-stated legacy, it will not be long before congregations will turn into splinters. From the basic issues of halaal and haraam to the 1,001 interpretations on issues touching on Fiqh. And then this is further exacerbated by the elevated levels of each member’s exposure to new and sometimes questionable knowledge that predisposes him or her to infinitely argue over matters that can potentially create rifts.
Since the responsibility ultimately rests with the government, it is only leaders that can catapult us out of this horrible brew of conflict and contradictions. This theme of what my community means to me, must now also be viewed from an angle of endangerment because unless we do something very active about this, the aftermath of this will be a hollow community with absolutely nothing in common except sharing entertainment time together.
In the words of Sadhguru, “Integrity, Insight and Inclusiveness are the three essential qualities of leadership”. If our leaders will not hold on to these and many such endeared qualities then the community, witness to a breakdown of law and order, is hardly the flock that they can ever shepherd. One of the challenges we now face is the rapid expansion of communities that have eroded qualifiers to being leaders. A clique of leaders, throughout our history, have constantly developed centres, buildings and projects, more often than not, for the benefit of the community, but this expansion cannot be bottomless. It has to be halted so as to catch up with the human development aspect of every organisation. Nevertheless, because these needs are on the rise, the only kind of leader we can expect is a wealthy person whose daily earnings are either automatic, or passive, or his or her daily bread has already been provided for, and some more. Visionaries are not necessarily wealthy, and not all wealth brings vision, so this kind of pressure squarely kills the practicality of anyone except people from a certain social class to assume leadership. And while there is nothing wrong with that, especially if the desire is to serve and not to rule.
Community leadership has got to be restored back to the concept of service (sewa) and firmly uprooted from ideas of corporate hierarchies that make leaders not just distant but effectively disinclined. Our communities need to get back together, on one page. There is too much class-building for now. There is too much concrete building for now. If this urgent step is not taken, then our large centres will be as empty as the hearts of the members, whose beliefs will be scattered across a spectrum of interpretations of matters of faith and practice.
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