Written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
Translation by Umm Hajar (ummhajar@gmail.com)

Malaysia has a new Prime Minister. This is a result of the fact that leadership is never static. Leaders come and go. No one can hold the sky up forever. Malaysians have better luck than citizens of other countries because both of our leaders resigned voluntarily. They walked out when they saw the need for it. A dictator who is overwhelmed by power and oppression does not embrace such practice. It is hoped that this dignified value will live on.

Yes, leaders come and go. Likewise, people live and die regardless of whether they are commoners or the privileged. However, the manners and kindness of a leader will be talked about generation after generation. Many leaders have left this world for hundreds and even thousands of years but their deeds are recorded on the pages of history and being read time and time again. People will praise and follow them if they performed good deeds. They will instead be disgraced and detested for their bad deeds.

More importantly, each one of the leaders will have to come face to face with Allah the Most Just. All of his actions will be evaluated and questioned. If he performed good deeds and justness, his rightful place is Paradise that is brimming with bliss no one can ever imagine. If he committed oppression then a terrible penalty will wait for him in the Hereafter.

No one can probably object to the tyranny committed by a leader in power. Its traces may be kept hidden or even justified by their flatterers. Probably, in this world, no one can avenge their acts of injustice and the consequent pain suffered by the people. It can even be overlooked by history. However, the Lord Almighty states in His Book (translated as):

“Consider not that Allâh is unaware of that which the Zâlimûn (polytheists, wrong-doers, etc.) do, but He gives them respite up to a Day when the eyes will stare in horror. (They will be) hastening forward with necks outstretched, their heads raised up (towards the sky), their gaze returning not towards them and their hearts empty (from thinking because of extreme fear).” (Surah Ibrahim verse 42-43)

Right from the beginning, my writing has always been directed to all factions without any hint of partiality. The intention was none other than to observe the principles that I have faith in. Accept this monologue with an open heart. When a person gains a leadership post, many will congratulate him. Yes, we may do that as a gesture to show that his appointment is respected by the people.

However, in reality, the trust and responsibility of being a leader imposes a huge hazard to a person. The hazard is more prominent than the pleasure that it also brings. Because of that, the Prophet s.a.w warned us against the danger that a leadership post can inflict on us if it is not managed properly. He said,

“You people will be keen to have the authority of ruling which will be a thing of regret for you on the Day of Resurrection. What an excellent wet nurse it is, yet what a bad weaning one it is!” (Reported by al-Bukhari)

Moreover, he also stated,

“Allah does not entrust to his bondsman the responsibility of managing the affairs of his subjects and he dies as a dishonest (ruler) but Paradise is forbidden by Allah for such a (ruler).” (Reported by Muslim)

For that reason, when Khalifah ‘Umar bin Abd al-Aziz was appointed as the Caliphate, he became speechless and disturbed. After the appointment, the nobilities who had been waiting for his appearance whispered to his son and asked why his father had not yet appeared in public. His son said,

“Since his appointment as the Caliphate, my father has been continuously praying and crying. When my mother went into the room to see him, she saw tears falling down his cheeks and wet his beard. When asked why, he said, “O Fatimah! The affair of Muhammad’s followers of various races has been bound around my neck. It makes me think of the poor, the hungry people, the sick who are suffering, the commoners who live in difficulty, the oppressed and exploited ones, the faraway war prisoners, the frail elderly, the ones having to feed a big family with meager pay and the likes of them who live in all corners of the countries. I know that my Lord will question me about them in the Hereafter. I am worried that I will not have enough justifications to defend myself and that makes me cry.” (Refer to Mahmud al-Baji, Muthul ‘Ulya min Qada al-Islam, 144).

Many, including the religious cluster with personal interest in minds, will flock to accompany a leader or a ruler. They probably have composed melodious verses to glorify and praise the ruler with the hope that the ruler’s power and wealth will flow into their pockets. I am not interested in such reward.

It is true that I have built relationships with many leaders and rulers but I have not had the time to memorize beautiful verses to recite in their presence. If I wish to recite such verses in the future, I would like to recite it with full sincerity and not pretentiously.

Today, we have a new Prime Minister. We pray that Allah will always bless us by endowing the attribute of trustworthiness and justness to our new leader. We pray that Allah will give him strength in enjoining good and forbidding evil. Although most leaders are aware of their assigned duty but they need to be reminded every now and then. They need to consistently refer to Allah’s command that states (translated as):

“Verily! Allâh commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (Allâh) gives you! Truly, Allâh is ever All­Hearer, All­Seer.” (Surah al-Nisa: verse 58)

They need to always listen back to the speech uttered by Abu Bakr al-Siddiq after he was appointed as the Caliphate. With a soul that was bursting with faith, Abu Bakr stated:

“I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best among you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience.” (Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, 1/361).

The leaders in this country need to be cautioned on many issues and one issue in particular is that many among them always have their reputations contaminated by their cronies and wives. Therefore, they must be careful about this matter. How can a leader control a country if he fails to control his followers or family? These two groups of people, if they are immoral, can jeopardize the reputation, credibility and transparentness of a leader.

The Prophet s.a.w said,

“No Caliph is appointed but has two groups of advisors: One group advises him to do good and urges him to adopt it, and the other group advises him to do bad and urges him to adopt it; and the protected is the one whom Allah protects.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and al-Nasai)

A ruler must be close to the people’s heart and not just close to the crony’s and the ‘towkey’s hearts. Be the kind of leader as stated by Muhammad bin Ka’ab al-Qurthubi when he was asked to describe the justness of a ruler:

“Be a father to the youngsters, a son to the elderly and a brother to those of the same age. Punish the people to the extent that matches their mistake and capability. Do not strike because of your anger even by one strike since that will bring you in among the extremists.” (Ibn Muflih, Al-Adab al-Syar‘iyyah, 1/202).

Yang Amat Berhormat Prime Minister, from afar, I wish you congratulations and condolences. Congratulations on the trust given to you by our country and condolences on the burden of duty that you have to shoulder. The country and the nation yearn to see justness and wisdom in their leader. Have mercy on the people and Allah will have mercy on you!