You have two choices-Either choose luxurious life or an ordinary life. What will you choose? Of course a luxurious life. Who wants to live an ordinary life. However, the most influential person and the great leader in history chose otherwise that you never think of over luxurious life.
In a hadith (teachings of Islam) it is narrated that The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was sitting with the angel Gabriel when he looked up into the sky and saw another angel descending. Gabriel said to the prophet: “This is the first angle has ever come down since he was created.” The Angel said: “Muhammad, your Lord has sent me to give you a choice: Shall he make you a king and prophet, or a servant of his and a messenger?” Gabriel signals him to be humble before his Lord. The prophet said: “I prefer to be a servant of God and his Messenger.” [Ahmad]
This was Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) who was so humble that he chose to be a servant and messenger of Allah instead of King and Prophet. He would have chosen the first one (king and prophet) however, he did not because as hadith expresses that being humble is great. There is a great wisdom in his choice of being humble.
Being a king or wealthy does not always make a person arrogant but in almost every case it is seen that ego, feeling-superior and seeking-privilege arise when luxury is seen. However, in the case of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as he chose to be a servant and messenger of Allah he was humble and modest throughout his life even after being a leader of Muslims and triumph over Mecca.
Let’s take a tour in the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) that can help us to understand the intensity of his humbleness.
Once Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was travelling with his Companions. The time arrived to prepare food. He asked them to slaughter a sheep. Since preparing food was needed more people the companions themselves started delegate tasks ownself. What happened next was an evidence to the humbleness of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to a hadith, a man said: I will slaughter it, another one said: I will skin it out. A third said: I will cook it. So the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) said: I will collect wood for the fire. They (companions) said: “No. We will suffice you that work.” “I know that you can do it for me, but I hate to be privileged. Allah hates to see a slave of his privileged to others.” So he went and collected firewood. [Khulasa As- Siyar p.22]
Do leaders nowadays hate to be privileged? Absolutely no. They die to be privileged. It is one of the great pieces of advice for those who aspire to be a leader- Do not try to be privilege-seeker.
Another example of humbleness of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) will question the leadership of all the leaders out there.
When Aishah (May Allah Be Pleased With Her) was asked about what the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) would do in his house. She replied: “He would serve his family and when the time for prayer came he would go out and pray.” [Al-Bukhari]
Nowadays we do not have time to spend quality time with family, Forget about serving the family. This hadith is an advice for all of us and especially aspiring leaders to be there with your family to serve them. Spend quality time with them as much as possible.
A leader sleeping on a mat under a tree. Can you imagine this? According to a hadith, Abdullah (May Allah Be Pleased With Him) said: The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) lay down on a mat, which left some marks on his skin. So I began stroking my hand over his skin so that the marks would disappear and said: O Messenger of Allah, please give us permission to put something on the floor for you to sleep on without leaving such marks on your body?
The Prophet replied: “Keep the worldly pleasures away from me, and keep me away from them, for the lifespan of one in this world goes so fast that it is similar to the time a riding person would spend to rest in a shade under a tree after which he has to leave and continue his journey.” [Tirmidhiyy, and Ibn Majah]
The hadith is crystal clear that there was no lack of money to get something on the floor to sleep for Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon) as he was offered the same. However, it was his humbleness, rather he would not want to lose his humbleness that is why he refused.
There are many hadith that explain humbleness and modesty of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). However, I would like to conclude with one hadith that tells us the Prophet was not privilege-seeker and greed for luxury, but always wanted humbleness.
“O Allah, make me live humbly and make me die humbly, and gather me among the humble on the day of resurrection.” [At-Tirmidi]
As Robin Sharma is his books ‘The Greatness Guide: Powerful Secrets for Getting to World Class’ writes that everybody is a leader at his or her own responsibility. So, be humble and modest to be a great and admirable leader.