Dear brothers and sisters, we all are guilty of making a wrong choice in life. That’s just part of life. And often we end up paying for that wrong choice. Sometimes we make a choice based upon outwardly benefit and not giving thought to the overall benefit to ourselves in this world and the next.
As humans, our choices are made individually but we are all influenced by other people whether this is unconsciously or consciously. Those other people we could say are role models for us.
There are people who take pride in their country and so someone from there is a role model. Others choose sportspeople, singers, famous people etc.
There is a hadith on this in which it is said that:
The Prophet SAWS went past a man and asked his companion, what do you think of this man? He said he is one of the honourable people, he is a man who wanted to find a wife they would give or interceded they would listen.
Then they passed another man and the prophet SAWS asked what about this man? He said he is one of the poor Muslims he would struggle to get married if he asked and not many will listen to his intercession.
The prophet SAWS said this person is better than a whole worlds worth more than the precious man.
Dear brothers and sisters, the danger with this approach is that if those people, despite their fame and popularity, are on the wrong path with Allah SWT, then we could potentially follow them in that path of misguidance and ignorance.
Allah SWT speaks of this danger in the Quran. In Sura Ahzab, ayat 67-68, it says:
And they will say, “Our Lord, indeed we obeyed our masters and our dignitaries, and they led us astray from the [right] way.
Our Lord, give them double the punishment and curse them with a great curse.”
Dear brothers and sisters, the point we need to make here is one of a learning method. As humans, we are always learning. It’s acute in our earlier life because we know so little and we attend schools, colleges and universities but that isn’t where learning stops.
The point is though that as Muslims, we are living in the world after the revelation of the Final Testament, the Quran, and the recording of the actions and sayings of the practical application of the Final Testament, i.e. the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed SAWS.
But as important as it is to follow the Sunnah, it becomes difficult not to take on the advice of people as role models around us. That can lead to problems as role models can be subject to mistakes and worse still, mislead.
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to be more intelligent in our way of learning than that. As human beings we need to understand our learning process and with that understanding, become people of sound mind and critical thinking.
What is that learning process we all embark upon? It’s a 3 stage process and it is defined here.
At first we are ignorant. This is stage one. As we gain more knowledge we can become arrogant, claim we are right and stubbornly hold onto our opinions. Those who stop here, well, their opportunity to learn is over.
Or we can be humble and move ahead. We learn to discuss and share viewpoints and take the best thereof without regard to who it is from. This is stage two and this is called wisdom.
Finally we realise that taking the best thereof is not always right. Two or more people, even entire groups may agree on something and they may all be wrong. In these matters, we seek out the truth with a passion ourselves, researching and utilising all the tools at our disposal such as from mentors, role models, internet and books. When we get to the truth we know it’s the truth because we find no contradictions and no compromises. This is guidance.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Prophet SAWS is our first and foremost role model. We should be using his, and indeed the knowledge acquired from all Prophets, as part of our decision-making process.
However, role models are also needed that are around us today. Purely because that is human nature and we cannot deny its necessity in our everyday lives.
Therefore, this concludes with a practical checklist on how we should be choosing role models to help us remain on the straight path:
- You should choose your role model in light of the major goals in your life. Find someone who has been through the same path you are about to take and therefore can help you avoid the path of trial and error they have embarked upon.
- Take account of your personality and way of being when looking at a role model. For example, if you are a soft-spoken person then a role model that has an aggressive attitude might not be best match. There is no hard and fast rule to this. Some people might prefer opposites to themselves, the point here is to be self-aware of this point and take it into account.
- Choose multiple role models. For example, one for character, one for work, one for Islamic teachings, one for Family life, etc. And importantly, only allow them to be a role model for their chosen area. Having multiple role models allows one to avoid becoming overly dependent should one of them stumble, which inevitably as humans we are all capable of doing.
- And lastly, and most importantly, keep your role-models in check by constantly weighing them up against the Quran and Sunnah. If they consistently contradict this then they should not be maintained and it’s time to look elsewhere for a role model.
Dear brothers and sisters, choices are a part of life. And mistakes will always be made. However, when it comes to being on the right path, an understanding of how we educate ourselves and how we choose role models is the key to obtaining correct knowledge and making the right choices in life.
May Allah SWT enable us to choose our role models wisely. May Allah SWT enable us to think critically on our choices and may Allah SWT reward us for our efforts in this regard.
Ameen Walhamdullilahi Rabilalameen.