Leadership can come from ordinary people, not just presidents
On Monday, many Americans will join in the national observance of Presidents Day by recognizing some early presidents whose beliefs, values...
Special to The Seattle Times
On Monday, many Americans will join in the national observance of Presidents Day by recognizing some early presidents whose beliefs, values and leadership shaped our nation.
Examining the qualities of noteworthy leaders can inspire us all.
President Thomas Jefferson was a great leader. His personal traits and skills helped create a framework for universal equality; he was most admired for his sense of justice, trust, integrity and promise keeping.
Jefferson once wrote: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of God?"
He believed in a supreme being called God and that human rights come from the creator. In his search for moral and legal code, he studied many books, including the Quran.
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, chose to use Jefferson's copy of the Quran (loaned by the Library of Congress) for his official swearing-in ceremony.
A trust from God is how leadership is described in Islam. Every person is considered the shepherd of a flock, who will be asked by God on the Day of Judgment about those they looked after.
The scriptural stories of prophets and kings are one way God teaches through the Quran and every Friday as a ritual, Muslims around the world read chapter 18 ("The Cave") about a great and righteous ruler.
His name was Dhul-Qarnayn, and while some say he might have been Alexander the Great, it is the example of his leadership in the story that is relevant.
God gave him power and authority on this earth, with the ability to punish or to treat people with kindness. In the Quran God says, "Verily we established his power on earth and we gave him the ways and the means to all ends." (18:84)
On his journey to the East, he encounters a people who speak a different language and are clearly strangers to him who are in distress. They offer to pay him to erect a protecting barrier against foreign aggressors.
Recognizing their weakness, he feels a sense of service, not greed. He realizes the power God has blessed him with a means to serve these people, care for their safety and protect them.
In his generosity and humility, he builds an amazing barrier by melting iron and then brass, filling a huge space between two steep mountainsides in order to prevent foreign invaders from harming them.
Afterward, he reminds them the true source of all his technical knowledge, that hard work and great accomplishment belong to God alone, and he remains humble.
Throughout history, noteworthy leaders have worked to protect human dignity with justice and integrity, and Presidents Day reminds us of our nation's notable early leadership.
But leadership today is not limited to presidents. Let us inspire the leader within each of us while being mindful of the responsibility for those we serve as a trust from God with accountability.
If we embody the moral traits of good leadership, we can all make a difference in our own family life, at work, in schools, our community and throughout society, ultimately making the world a better place.
Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org