Leadership

The Islamic Mentorship Paradigm:  A Case Study of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn and Nūr ad-Dīn

The Islamic Mentorship Paradigm: A Case Study of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn and Nūr ad-Dīn

Mentor: An experienced and trusted adviser.

In the world of business, mentors are crucial for success. Every good business book recommends getting a mentor to help you succeed in your field. This is true in Islam as well. Mentorship has always been an important part of Islamic relationships.

But how does the Islamic concept of mentorship differ from modern understanding?

In this article, we will explore the answer to this question through a practical example; the relationship between Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayūbī and his mentor Nūr ad-Dīn al-Zengī.

Brief Biographies of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn and Nūr ad-Dīn

Nūr ad-Dīn al-Zengī was a commander of the Seljuk army in Syria during the 12th Century. His father ʿImād al-Dīn was also the commander of the Seljuk army, and he took over the army after his father’s death. Nūr ad-Dīn conquered Damascus, liberating it from the rule of the crusaders’ allies, and unified the greater Syrian region making it part of the Seljuk Empire. However, he wasn’t able to liberate Jerusalem, which remained under crusader control. (Alkhateeb, pp. 100-101)

Nūr ad-Dīn was the teacher, commander, and mentor of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayūbī. In was under his care that Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn grew into the successful leader that he is renowned across the globe for being. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn spent his youth training under Nūr ad-Dīn and developed a very close relationship with him. (Sallabi, vol. 2 pp. 30-31)

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayūbī is one of the most famous Muslim leaders in history. He was a commander of the Abbasid army during the 12th Century. He is most famous for fighting against the crusader invasion and repelling them from the region. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s legacy can be summarized in three major accomplishments; liberating Egypt from the Fāṭimids, liberating Jerusalem from the Crusaders, and establishing the Ayūbī Dynasty in Egypt. (Alkhateeb, p. 102)

The details about Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s life, and his relationship with Nūr ad-Dīn, in this article, have been extracted primarily from Dr. Ali Salabi’s three-volume book Salah ad-Deen al-Ayubi. Firas Alkhateeb’s Lost Islamic History was also consulted for additional details.

Islamic Mentorship: A Spiritual Framework

This brief summary of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s life and accomplishments doesn’t reveal any differences between the Islamic and modern systems of mentorship. Through effective mentorship, Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn grew into a confident leader who achieved worldly success and accomplished his goals. He was even able to accomplish some of the goals that his mentor was unable to accomplish, like the liberation of Egypt and Palestine.

However, there is a big difference between the two systems of mentorship that can only be uncovered by digging deeper. That is what we will focus on now.

While it is true that both modern mentorship and Islamic mentorship are effective in achieving worldly goals, it is important to note that this is not the primary focus of Islamic Mentorship. It is simply a byproduct of it. The focus of Islamic mentorship is on achieving righteousness, eternal salvation, and the life of Barakah.

The achievement of worldly goals, in this context, is considered a matter of destiny. The focus is on pleasing God, achieving closeness to Him, and attaining Barakah in this life. If all of this is accomplished, then worldly success is simply the cherry on top and a matter that is left up to destiny.

How Nūr ad-Dīn prepared Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn for true success

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn started serving Nūr ad-Dīn at a very young age. Nūr ad-Dīn recognized his potential and developed a close relationship with him so that he could help him develop his skills. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn was so close to Nūr ad-Dīn that he was like a private secretary to him. (Sallabi, vol. 2 p. 30) It was in this position that he was able to learn from Nūr ad-Dīn’s personality.

Dr. Ali Sallabi describes the relationship between Nūr ad-Dīn and Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn as follows:

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn was influenced by the Sultan Nūr ad-Dīn who gave him a brilliant example of devotion and a serious sense of religious responsibility; he learned from his sincerity and self-sacrifice, and how to converse with his lord in private prayer in his own place of worship, taking from that the spiritual strength to engage in Jihad. (Sallabi, vol. 2 p. 31)

This quotation summarizes some of the key differences be the Islamic and modern systems of mentorship. Nūr ad-Dīn’s methodology focused primarily on spiritual development. Prayer, sincerity, responsibility to God and devotion were all essential qualities that Nūr ad-Dīn helped Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn develop. This fits in the Islamic Paradigm for success, which teaches us to be God-Centric, Purpose-Driven, Hereafter focused, Sincere, and have a sense of responsibility.

Nūr ad-Dīn taught Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn how to take spiritual strength from prayer. This is an essential quality that every Muslim mentor needs to pass on to his/her mentees. A Muslim’s life must revolve around prayer, and this prayer should provide the necessary spiritual strength to fuel our productivity.

Nūr ad-Dīn also focused on a serious sense of religious responsibility. This is another important concept. Islamic culture emphasizes the importance of having a sense of responsibility. This sense of responsibility is religious in that God had made us His representatives on earth, and we are responsible to Allah for what we do with our lives. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn how was taught this sense of responsibility from a very young age, and it guided his focus for his entire life. This is the result of effective Islamic mentorship.

A third crucial quality that Nūr ad-Dīn taught Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn was sincerity. In Islam, sincerity is crucial for success. Without sincerity, there is no reward, no Barakah, and no real success. Everything revolves around sincerity. This is why it is crucial for a Muslim mentor to guide his mentees towards sincerity. Without it, there is no success.

These are three of the most important things that Nūr ad-Dīn taught Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn. from this relationship, we learn the proper Islamic method of mentorship, the focus points of such a relationship, and we can see the fruits in the results.

The effects of successful mentorship on Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn

This beautiful mentorship led to the Barakah effect in the life of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn. Let us take a look at some of the blessed accomplishments on Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s life.

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn converted Al-Azhar into a Sunni university. It continues to operate today and is currently the oldest active university in the world. Many of the greatest scholars of every generation since have studied or taught at al-Azhar University. This is the Barakah of sincerely setting up a traditional Islamic University in Egypt.

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s legacy is fondly remembered by Muslim and Non-Muslim alike. He remains a popular hero renowned for his justice, forgiveness, and tolerance to other faiths. He is even promoted as a hero in several movies, TV series and even videogames. How many leaders can say that Muslim and Non-Muslim alike will still take them as a role model a thousand years later?

The third aspect of Barakah in his legacy is the Ayūbī and subsequent Mamluk dynasties. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn’s conquest of Egypt created two amazing dynasties that ruled Egypt for centuries. First were the direct descendants of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn, the Ayūbīs. Then came the Mamluks, a dynasty of freed slaves who started life as loyal servants of the Ayūbīs. This legacy includes the Mamluks defeating the Mongols at the Battle of ʿAyn Jālūt, similar to how Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn defeated the crusaders in Jerusalem.

All of these are clear examples of the Barakah found in the legacy of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn which carried on into his successors, and their successors. As long as sincerity remained, the Barakah remained, and it lasted for centuries.

Summary: Muslim mentors should primarily focus on spiritual success

As Muslims, we believe that success is in Allah’s Hands. It is a matter of destiny and so we should trust Allah’s plan for us. It is far more important for us to focus on spiritual development by improving our relationship with Allah, sincerity and focus on the afterlife. One of the ways to achieve this is through a strong mentor.

A good Muslim mentor will assist his mentee in changing their perspective from the material towards the spiritual. A good mentor, like Nūr ad-Dīn, would teach their mentee the importance of Salah, Dua, Tawakul, and sincerity.

A relationship like this is blessed and leads to Barakah in one’s efforts and projects. When seeking a mentor, we should seek out righteous mentors who can help us elevate ourselves spiritually, and move our goals in a direction that is pleasing to Allah.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 0 comments
History of the Umayyad Empire

History of the Umayyad Empire

This video is a module from my latest online course; Muslim Golden Ages: Rise & Fall.

Through this course, you will

  1. unlock the hidden history of Muslim civilizations that has been kept a secret for too long.
  2. discover the key contributions of Muslims to various arts and sciences.
  3. understand how the Muslims fell from power, and how history was rewritten to hide our accomplishments.
  4. be inspired to become the best version of yourself and rise to greater heights.
  5. contribute to a discussion on how the ummah can rebuild itself and enter a new golden age.

In this course, you will NOT learn about:

  1. Too many names, dates and locations. (The focus is on beneficial knowledge)
  2. Sectarianism. (The course focuses on positive contributions, not criticisms)
  3. Political history and wars. (unless relevant to the topics…like the Mongols!)

Who is this course for? (You, of course!)

  • History Buffs.
  • Muslims who are curious about their legacy.
  • Muslim Teenagers who want to learn the real history of science and culture.
  • Parents who want to teach their children the correct history of science and culture.
  • Anybody who is tired of the Islamaphobes controlling the narrative and wants to empower themselves with the true history of the Muslim world.

Who is this course NOT for?

  • Sectarians who want history to reflect their worldview.
  • People who are unable to study history without bias.
  • Anybody who has no interest in the history of the Muslim world at all.
  • Young children as some of the content is mature in nature!

Join the course today by clicking here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 0 comments

Ertugrul Season 1: 4 Lessons I Learned

Ertugrul Poster

Ertugrul Season 1: 4 Lessons I Learned

Note: Dirilis Ertugrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul) is a Turkish Historical Fiction TV Series.
Seasons 1-3 are currently available on
Netflix.

This isn’t a review of Ertugrul Season 1. It is a reflection on some lessons that hit me when watching it. It took me a while to get down to watching the show, but after several recommendations, I am glad that I did.

Ertugrul is everything I wished for in a Muslim TV series. It is grounded, realistic, well acted, and portrays Islamic teachings is a practical, non-preachy, manner. I really love the show. Having finished watching Season 1 a few weeks ago, I decided to reflect on it for a while before writing.

I learned a lot watching Ertugrul but here are the four things that really hit me, which many people aren’t talking about:

1. The power of Media (especially TV Series) in shaping our cultures

I always knew that TV Series played an important role in shaping cultures. But until now almost any example I have seen is negative. Over the past two decades, I have seen the cultures of many Muslim homes eroded by Secular TV Series and their (lack of) morals. Slowly, some Muslims became accepting of Zina, Homosexuality, and all kinds of sin. The power of TV to influence the minds of the average person is scary.

Ertugrul is the first true example I have seen of the opposite. Over the past two months, I have been amazed by how many good qualities my friends, family and myself have picked up from this show. Ertugrul is bursting with good examples of everything: parenting, respecting parents and elders, treatment of spouses, honoring guests and so much more. And it really amazes me at how fast people are picking up these good qualities from watching this show.

Just imagine, two months of watching a Muslim TV series influenced some people so positively, imagine a generation raised on such wholesome media!

2. There is room for Historical Fiction in the Muslim world

I love fiction and believe it to be an extremely powerful tool for motivating people. A lot of people’s minds are captured by fictional stories. And they are influenced by these stories, whether they realize it or not.

However, the Muslim world has mixed opinions on fiction. There are Muslims who consider fiction completely Haraam and a waste of time. I know this, because such people gave me a hard time about my latest book ‘Ahmad Climbs A Mountain” which is fictional.

But there are also many others who appreciate a beneficial fictional story and realize there isn’t anything Haraam about it.

Ertugrul is historical fiction. Meaning that although it is based on history, with Ertugrul, Sulaiman Shah, Ibn Arabi, etc. all being real people from our history. The core story-lines are fictional to create an exciting Action-Adventure series.

And despite this, people have been very accepting of the show. In fact, I am yet to find Muslims bashing it for being fictional. This shows that there is room for more historical fiction in the Muslim world. Which gives me courage to finally work on some ideas I’ve been keeping locked away for the past few years. 😉

3. We really need our own media

It has become extremely difficult for Muslims families to find wholesome programs to watch. Almost every modern-day show promotes the liberal agenda and tries to force the LGBT agenda upon viewers. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in Muslim media.

Ertugrul is a great first step in the right direction. It is proof that Muslims can produce high quality exciting TV series that are grounded in Islamic culture and beliefs. Ertugrul clearly shows what we are capable of producing and that there is a demand for such products.

Now we need more companies to follow in its footsteps and produce more awesomeness. We know that the average person’s beliefs and views are shaped by the media they view. So we really need to invest in and produce our own awesome media.

My hope is that this will lead to a generation of Muslims that will grow up on Muslim media. And as a result, they will be proud of their Muslim heritage and culture. Such a generation could really make a different is revitalizing Islam in their countries.

4. Dignity, Honor and Respect are beautiful but forgotten aspects of Muslim culture

We don’t talk about these topics enough, and as a result we live in a time when the Muslim world lacks honor, dignity and respect. This show is proof that the best way to teach these qualities is not through talking, rather it is through demonstrating.

In this show, we see so many beautiful examples of men and women who are honorable, dignified and respectful to each other. When you see characters like Hayme and Ertugrul, you actual feel respect for them because of the way they carry themselves. It is really something that needs to be seen to be understood.

In an era in which people are confused about gender, Ertugrul teaches us that when men are real men, and women are real women, people will love and respect them. There is no need to try to be like the opposite gender. If you want respect, be true to the teachings of Islam.

If for no other reason, I would love for more people to watch this show just to observe the manners, dignity and respect the characters carry themselves with. I hope that through repeated viewings of such beautiful manners, we will all start to mimic their behavior, and revive these Sunnahs in our lives.

Your Thoughts

So there you have it, four things I learned from watching Season 1 of Ertugrul. Share your lessons in the comments below!

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 9 comments

4 Personal Development Lessons from Surah Al-Kahf

Virtues of Surah Al-Kahf

From the established Islamic traditions for Fridays is to recite Surah Al-Kahf. Regarding this, the ProSurah Al-Kahfphet (peace be upon him) stated, “Whoever recites Surah Al-Kahf on the day of Jumu’ah, will have a light that will shine from him from one Friday to the next.” (Bayhaqi)

One of the meanings of ‘light’ in such contexts is guidance. This means that Surah Al-Kahf serves as a means of guidance for those who recite and reflect upon it once a week. As part of our weekly reflection on Surah Al-Kahf, here are four Personal Development lessons extracted from the four core stories of Surah Al-Kahf.

1. Focus on what is within your control

A common lesson in personal development is the motto: “Do not allow what is outside your control to stop you from doing what is within your control,” The people of the cave personify this lesson. These were a small group of seven believers in a town that wanted to harm them.

Not many options were available for them, but they focused on the few options they did have. They did have the choice to believe, so they did. They did have the option to leave town, so they went to the cave. And they have the power of dua, so they invested in it and were saved through a miracle.

The lesson is clear: Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. Allah will take care of the rest.

2. Wealth is not success. It is what you do with it that matters.

The second story of Surah Al-Kahf focuses on the parable of a wealthy farmer who was deluded by his wealth. He began to boast and look down upon others, and eventually he lost everything. This story teaches us that wealth is temporary and is not the true measure of success. Wealthy people can fall and poor people can rise up. These changes in financial situations occur all the time.

As believers, we see wealth not as success but as a tool and resource. It can be used for success if we use our wealth to do good deeds and help others. When we have  wealth, we need to do the opposite of this man. We need to stay humble, thank Allah, care for others, and utilize that wealth to benefit the ummah. In this lies the real success.

3. Benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of others

True Personal Development requires us to humble ourselves and learn from others. Whether it is through their books, articles, lectures, workshops or personal mentorship, we learn from others and cannot learn on our own.

In Surah Al-Kahf, we see the example of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) travelling a great distance to meet and learn from the wise Prophet Khidr (peace be upon him).

Prophet Musa’s (peace be upon him) long journey and willingness to learn from others should inspire us to be the same. Whether it is Islamic knowledge or personal development, we rely on those with more knowledge than us to grow. We need to humble ourselves in order to learn from them.

4. True Leadership is about justice

The final story in Surah Al-Kahf is about Dhul Qarnayn. He was a leader and Allah gave him power over many countries. Allah tested him with power and said that he had the ability to treat people kindly or punish them. Dhul Qarnayn passed the test by choosing the middle way: Justice.

Dhul Qarnayn chose to be kind to good citizens and punish the criminals. In doing so, he showed us the true meaning of leadership. Leaders don’t treat everybody the same. They do not treat the criminals and law abiding citizens the same. This is not justice. Justice means protecting those who are good by punishing the criminals.

Islam teaches us to be just, even if it is against our own selves and our own families. This justice is something we all must learn if we wish to succeed in leadership roles. We must not favor people due to family relations or other reasons. Each situation must be viewed objectively and each individual dealt with justly.

Conclusion

Surah Al-Kahf is a powerful Surah full of amazing lessons. The more you reflect on it, the more you learn. Try reflecting on it from new perspectives and you will gain new lessons. Let us try to do this during our Friday recitations.

Learn more Tafseer with our exclusive eBook: Themes of the Quran

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 2 comments