(photo : The author speaking at the release of The Cool Breeze From Hind)

Dr Wasim Ahmad
Department Head of Islamic Studies
Preston University Ajman

We probably do not. Why? In the modernized set-up and the institutions that have developed in the collective life, every organized segment of it – from family to governments – has a leader and an in-charge. This is already in practice, naturally. Beyond this we do not need a leader per se. We only need intuitive individuals who may give ideas and show a different dimension or perspective as per the situations. We may value them as givers of ideas and as individuals. Beyond this we do not need to revere them and gravitate around them for some charisma. This is anathema to Islam, our ideal that we aspire to follow despite all our failings.

If a ‘leader’ was always going to be a requirement, the prophets would have continued to be sent. However, there is a strong reason for the discontinuation of prophets. Prophets are, in fact, a supernatural source of knowledge. If this door is kept open for ever the human beings will not be challenged and will always rush for ready made answers. This is exactly what was discouraged by the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) and he trained his Companions into the art of thinking (the most difficult job on earth).

It is in order to remember here what Iqbal has said in the context of the reasons for the finality of Prophethood (khatm-un-nubuwwah). He writes: “…. The Prophet of Islam seems to stand between the ancient and the modern world. In so far as the source of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the ancient world; in so far as the spirit of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the modern world. In him life discovers other sources of knowledge suitable to its new direction. The birth of Islam is the birth of inductive intellect. In Islam prophesy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition. This involves the keen perception that life cannot forever be kept in leading strings; that, in order to achieve full self consciousness, man must finally be thrown back to his own resources. The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality (of prophethood).” (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam; edited and annotated by M Saeed Sheikh, Institute of Islamic Culture, 2-Club Road, Lahore, 4th edition: April 1999 pp 100-101) More details could be found in the chapter titled ‘The Spirit of Islamic Culture’. The philosophy behind the finality of Prophethood needs to be understood more.

Our main problem is lack of resourcefulness of the individuals due to a number of factors, education being the biggest of those. Yes, the community invests a lot (of time and resources) in the education but does not get proper results especially from the traditional religious institutions.

Contrasting our situation with the West we find that it does not crave for ‘leaders’ in our sense of the word. This is because of the prevalence of that education system which makes everybody a ‘leader’ and makes her / him more and more resourceful, thoughtful and critical in outlook, generally speaking. Once this is achieved there is no need for a leader.

We need that education system which fosters more critical thinking, de-conditions the individuals and teaches them to utilize their latent capacities to the maximum extent possible. We need more teachers who are better prepared for the job in our classrooms than we need leaders.

(This article was contributed to JAIHOON.COM by the author)

posted : Jan 08 2010