مَنْ نَصَبَ نَفْسَهُ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَاماً فَعَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَبْدَأَ بِتَعْلِيمِ نَفْسِهِ قَبْلَ تَعْلِيمِ غَيْرِهِ، وَلْيَكُنْ تَأْدِيبُهُ بِسِيرَتِهِ قَبْلَ تَأْدِيبِهِ بِلِسَانِهِ، وَمُعَلِّمُ نَفْسِهِ وَمُؤَدِّبُهَا أَحَقُّ بِالاْجْلاَلِ مِنْ مُعَلِّمِ النَّاسِ وَمُؤَدِّبِهِمْ۔
Whoever places himself as a leader of the people should commence with educating his own self before educating others; and his teaching should be by his own conduct before teaching by the tongue.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #73)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
The Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) emphasizes the importance of self-education and leading by example before teaching others. Let us delve into the deeper meaning of this enlightening Hadith in light of the Quran.
The key words in this Hadith are (places himself) "نَصَبَ", (as a leader) "إِمَامًا", (education/teaching) "تَعْلِيمِ", (conduct) "تَأْدِيبُ", and (tongue) "لِسَانِهِ".
The word "نَصَبَ" implies the act of appointing or assuming a leadership role. It signifies taking responsibility and guiding others. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) advises that one who assumes such a position should prioritize self-education before teaching others.
The term "إِمَامًا" refers to a leader or an Imam. It can be understood as someone who takes charge and provides guidance to a group of people. This can apply to various contexts, such as religious, social, or political leadership.
The word "تَعْلِيمِ" means education or teaching. It encompasses the imparting of knowledge and guidance to others. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) emphasizes that one should begin by educating oneself before attempting to educate others.
The term "تَأْدِيبُ" refers to conduct or behavior. It signifies the way one carries oneself and the example they set through their actions. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) highlights the importance of teaching through one's own conduct, as it holds more weight and influence than mere words.
The phrase "بِلِسَانِهِ" refers to teaching by the tongue. It emphasizes the significance of verbal instruction and communication. However, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) advises that teaching through one's actions should precede teaching through words.
To further understand the wisdom behind this Hadith, let us turn to the Quran for guidance. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) repeatedly emphasizes the importance of personal development and leading by example.
In Surah Al-Hujurat (49:13), Allah says,
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.
This verse highlights that true nobility and leadership lie in righteousness and piety. It is through personal growth and self-education that one can attain the qualities necessary to guide and teach others effectively.
In Surah Al-Qalam (68:4), Allah says,
And indeed, you are of a great moral character.
This verse praises the character of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), highlighting his exemplary conduct. It serves as a reminder that teaching through one's actions is a powerful means of influencing others.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) understood the importance of leading by example. His knowledge, wisdom, and impeccable conduct made him a role model for Muslims throughout history. He was known for his humility, justice, and devotion to Allah.
By prioritizing self-education and personal development, a leader can inspire others to follow suit. When people witness the positive transformation and noble character of their leader, they are more likely to be motivated to learn and grow themselves.
Moreover, teaching through actions creates a lasting impact. Words may be forgotten, but the impact of one's conduct remains etched in the hearts and minds of others. When a leader consistently demonstrates the values they preach, it fosters trust, respect, and admiration among their followers.
In conclusion, the Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) emphasizes the importance of self-education and leading by example before teaching others. By prioritizing personal growth and embodying the teachings they wish to impart, leaders can inspire and guide others effectively. This principle aligns with the Quranic emphasis on righteousness, character, and the influence of one's actions. May we all strive to educate ourselves and others through our conduct, following the noble example of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).
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