Leading, Guarding And Educating By Example
Guarding, educating, and leading is the responsibility of a guardian. Different levels of guardians are responsible for people under his guardianship. It was narrated by Abdullah bin Umar, in one of the prophetic traditions, the Prophet SAW said:
“Surely! Every one of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges: The Imam (ruler) of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; a man is the guardian of his family (household) and is responsible for his subjects; a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them, and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a guardian and responsible for his charges.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 7138)
The abovementioned prophetic tradition emphasizes the responsibility of each level of guardians or leaders. Besides the level of leadership that has been spoken by the Prophet, there are many levels of leaders in the current time.
For example, a teacher is a guardian for his students in terms of intellectual needs. A husband is a guardian of his household in terms of daily needs. A ruler is a guardian of his people in terms of leading, policymaking, and law enforcement. A religious leader is responsible for his people in terms of spiritual needs.
Different levels of guardians or leaders may have different responsibilities. However, there is one duty that is shared among them which is the duty of instilling morality and ethics. Morality mainly refers to guiding principles, while ethics refer to rules or prescribed actions and behaviours.
In Islam, morality and ethics encompass the concept of righteousness and good character. The body of moral and ethical virtues are prescribed in the Quran and the Prophetic Tradition. There are many moral and ethical virtues prescribed in the Quran and the Prophetic Tradition such as truth-telling, integrity, honesty, generosity, respect, graciousness, and sympathy.
Parents are responsible for guiding their children towards good behaviour throughout the growing phase. Teachers teach their students on morality and ethics during the school period. Religious leaders spread moral and ethical values through regular preaching. A ruler regulates good moral and ethical conduct through policy and law enforcement.
However, the cultivation of morality and ethics is not effective if it does not include setting a good example. The guidance, teaching, preaching, and law enforcement is not going to work in cultivating morality and ethics if it is merely being portrayed by paper or being spread through speech. The guardians themselves must portray full compliance with what they say and enjoin.
Words are merely sounds uttered by the tongue. Good guardians communicate their words through actions. The action is what puts the meaning into the words said. In the context of leading, guarding, and educating, words that are followed by actions are far more influential than words alone. Actions speak louder than words.
In other words, children will likely behave in accordance with how their parents behave. A student will likely follow the teaching from a teacher who demonstrates his own teaching. People will likely obey policy from a leader who displays compliance with the policy that he set up.
To behave and act in line with words said is also a part of Islamic teachings. In fact, refusal and inability to comply with their own words is displeased by Allah. This is recorded in the Holy Quran:
O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do. (Surah Al-Saff (61): 2-3)
Not only the inconsistency of actions and words is detested by Allah, but it will also negatively affect the process of cultivating morality and ethics too. A guardian or leader who is not adhering to his own saying will be sending the wrong message to the people under his guardianship.
In the eyes of the people, it may be presumed that there is a lack of seriousness and integrity in inculcating morality and ethics. As a result, particular teaching, policy, and preaching on ethics and morality go in one ear and out the other. Eventually, it leads to normalizing the act of vandalizing the moral and ethical values. Ultimately, the problem of unethical and immoral conduct will persist endlessly.
Therefore, in order to guide people to better moral and ethical conduct, a guardian or leader must gain confidence from people under his guardianship and leadership by showing a full commitment to his words. After all, morality and ethics are inclusive for everyone.