By Saud Inam
September 18, 2015
Pope Francis, in recent times, has gained the admiration, love and respect of people of all faiths, including Muslims. In many ways Pope Francis embodies the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is in the example of the Pope that we see the example of one who of another faith becoming successful in his or her life in spirituality, character and leadership. And, I believe as Muslims we can learn from the Pope’s successes by seeing how it mirrors the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),
What are some lessons we can learn from Pope Francis as Muslims?
Character is Important
You may not agree with Pope Francis or his positions, but you have to admire his character. Few leaders today show the character Pope Francis shows in his speech and actions. It is his character that draws people to love him, admire him and respect him so much. I am reminded of the power of character in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prior to receiving revelation from Allah.
He was known as Al-Amin (The Trustworthy) and was known in Makkah for his character. It was the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s character that drew people close to him, drew admiration for him and increased love and respect for him. Thus, we learn that in our lives character is an extremely important in gaining the pleasure of God first and the love, admiration and respect of people.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “I have been sent to perfect good character. (Muwatta 1614)”
In these times where politicians speak a lot about promises and change, Pope Francis exhibits exceptional leadership and actually walks the talk. And, we are in dire need of people who walk the talk.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had many great attributes, one of which was his ability to show excellent leadership. There is a difference between being a boss and a leader. The Prophet used to lead by example, not just talk. He used to suffer with the community and used to feel their pain and also taste their success when they succeeded. Thus he was a leader who was aware of the challenge of his community and a leader who took charge of situations.
The Pope does all of this in so many beautiful and humbling ways.
Finding Confidence in Faith
Pope Francis finds his confidence through his faith. His faith guides his decisions, and he draws examples from the Bible to guide his decisions and actions. For some people, finding that faith is something that should be private and not discussed publicly, is irrelevant, and does not offer solutions to the problems of the world. Pope Francis is an example of how faith can be relevant and offer solutions to the world.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) offered solutions to the challenges facing his community. Islam, in fact, offers solutions to many of the challenges our world faces today. Unfortunately, some Muslims are unaware of how to apply Islam to their lives and communities’ challenges. Some even shy away from their Muslim identity in public or tone it down.
This is the opposite of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who spoke with confidence about Islam and was confident in his identity, belief, values and morals. And, this is the opposite of how Pope Francis lives his life and leads his congregants.
Taking Unpopular Positions
In these difficult times Pope Francis is exhibiting strength of character by taking positions on issues that many other politicians and religious leaders, who are tied down by various influences, interest groups and pressure, are unable to do. He takes unpopular positions on issues and topics, which in this day and age is extremely difficult to do while living under the relentless microscope of the media, with its power to demonize, shame or mock celebrities, politicians and religious leaders.
Pope Francis speaks truth to power and does so in a position of confidence.
We remember that Islam was unpopular during the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He took popular positions on issues facing the people of Makkah including but not limited to fighting for women’s rights, the rights of the weak, human rights, environmentalism and other social justice causes.
Make Faith Relevant
Lastly, Pope Francis makes Christianity and faith in general relevant in a significant way. He draws inspiration from the Christian faith to address the challenges facing the world. In a world that largely makes religion to be irrelevant, he has boosted confidence in the religious community to apply faith and religion to solve the challenges of the world.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made faith relevant to the challenges of his time and Muslims should start to do the same by applying Islamic principles, values and beliefs to address the challenges in their own communities.
As Muslims we should be inspired and encouraged by Pope Francis and learn how a man of God in a world that seeks to make religion irrelevant is so successful in using faith as a source of good. His actions and words should push us to study the seerahand the character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and embody his sunnah in our lives – only then will we gain not only the love of the people, but also the love of Allah.
Saud Inam is a Muslim American activist, social entrepreneur, blogger and Project Manager for Discover Islam-USA a Muslim American media company dedicated to producing high quality media about Islam and Muslims. He is always on the lookout for more opportunities to help empower the Muslim American community.