Critical Issue: Find Someone To Tell You The Truth

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In our Muslim community, an interesting phenomenon has occurred. Once people become successful, they become surrounded by people who treat them as saviors. Once an Islamic scholar gains repute or recognition, people will flock to him or her literally begging them to solve their problems.

"YOU are so amazing, I don't know who else can help me except YOU. I don't want to talk to anyone else, YOU are the only one who will understand my problems. YOU changed my life."

This type of rhetoric is far more common than most people may necessarily be aware of. Once someone has taught a few courses, or spoken at a few conferences, they are immediately bombarded with this type of rhetoric wherever they go.

It is not just in the scholarly realm. Once a person gains a reputation for organizing a good event, people will approach them as if they are the only ones who can organize an event successfully.

"No one else can design a flyer that looks that nice. No one else understands how to manage a seminar or schedule. No one else knows how to market and get such a good turnout."

Similarly, in some communities even a board member or president can start to enjoy some status.

"It is through YOUR hard work that all this is happening. We don't know where our community would be without you."

This is a complicated problem. Our community faces serious issues in all these areas and it is difficult to find adept people. This causes them to go overboard in their praise and trust of such individuals. On the other side, no matter how sincere and well meaning a person is, such rhetoric does have some effect.

Individuals may be well grounded, but it is not enough. It is vital for them to have someone in their ear to tell the truth at all times. It is important to have people who are not in awe of celebrity status or perceived success. The more famous or successful a person is, the more important this becomes. You need someone who can "call you out" when you push your limits. You need someone who is not afraid to speak up and criticize something when needed. This is the essence of good shura (consultation/advice). The problem is that many times people lack those sincere people who can actually give them that advice.

This is where relationships with people become even more important. Your best relationships are often your oldest ones. The people who cared for you before you "made it big" will be the ones who care for you after. The people who helped you grow are the ones who want you to succeed. Their criticisms or "truth telling" are only there to help you succeed even further.

Never think that you have the Midas touch, and never become the emperor with no clothes. Keep people who can level with you in your corner - no matter what stage of success you have reached.

Remember what the righteous successor to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Abu Bakr is reported to have said,

O Allāh, make me better than what they think of me, and forgive me for what they do not know about me, and do not take me to account for what they say about me