Rafed English

The Role Model

Introduction  When an individual wants to develop as a person in this world or have a higher status in the afterlife, they usually look for a role model, an example, or a pattern to follow or take influence and experience from.  Having a role model can sometimes happen consciously and other times unconsciously, and this proves that it is a human instinct to follow the footsteps and patterns of the person, thing, or idea we believe to be righteous and upright, charmed by, or attracted to. Islam’s ideology encourages people to follow positive role models.

A positive role model is a person who has reached Allah’s satisfaction. For example, Allah (swt) in the holy Quran gives Muslims a role model in how to behave with the enemies of Allah: “Indeed, there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him when they said to their people: Surely we are clear of you and of what you serve besides Allah; we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone”(1)
This was a role model for a specific situation, what if Muslims wanted a role model for general and different situations? Allah (swt) states in the holy Quran, “Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much”(2). Unfortunately there is a misconception about the Prophet (pbuh & his household) being a role model with many who have no knowledge claiming that this is the Prophet and no one can be like him, as he is a super-human whose potentialities and characters were all beyond the abilities of an ordinary human. The answer to this is that the Prophet is a human like all of us, which the Quran repeated several times, “Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your Allah is one Allah”(3). Therefore, if he can do something we can as well. It is true that there is a side or aspect to Him (pbuh& household) which makes him different from us and sets him apart from us, which is the prophethood, and light, which Allah (swt) gave to him. Secondly, such statements would be contradictory with the verse of the holy Quran, which stated that he is a role model, and the many different sayings that state it as well.
Imam Ali (a.s) stated, “Certainly, in the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) was sufficient example for you and a proof concerning the vices of the world, its defects, the multitude of its disgraces and its evils, because its sides had been constrained for him, while its flanks had been spread for others; he was deprived of its milk and turned away from its adornments.”(4)
In addition, “You should follow your Prophet, the pure, the chaste, may Allah bless him and his descendants. In him is the example for the follower, and the consolation for the seeker of consolation. The most beloved person before Allah is he who follows His Prophet and who treads in his footsteps. He took the least (share) from this world and did not take a full glance at it. Of all the people of the world he was the least satiated and the most empty of stomach. The world was offered to him but he refused to accept it. When he knew that Allah, the Glorified, hated a thing, he too hated it; that Allah held a thing low, he too held it low; that Allah held a thing small, he too held it small. If we love what Allah and His Prophet hate and hold great what Allah and His Prophet hold small, that would be enough isolation from Allah and transgression of His commands.” (5)

1.      60:4 translated by Shakir
2.      33:21 translated by Shakir
3.      41:6 translated by Shakir 
4.     Nahj Al-Balagha sermon 160 
5.    Nahj Al-Balagha sermon 160


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