There is a proverb that says “A fish rots from the head down.” Another word that has the same meaning from a different perspective is as follows: “Where the head leads, the feet follow.” The truth put forward by these proverbs is the same. An important fact that needs to be emphasized, especially for this century, is revealed in these brief words.
In order to bring this truth to closer to understanding, we can first give the following example that we live every day. The reward of praying salah in congregation and its value in the sight of Allah Almighty is known to everyone. If someone from the congregation happens to have an excuse that invalidates his salah and in a way that cannot be understood from outside, this does not bind the congregation and the imam who leads the salah. That person’s excuse does not nullify their salah.
However, if the imam leading the salah has such an excuse, it can affect the prayer of the whole congregation. If the congregation is not aware of the situation of the imam, – Allahu a‘lam (Allah knows best) – maybe their prayers are accepted by Allah Almighty, but this time they may be deprived of the reward of the congregation. In other words, people save themselves, but the result expected from a collective worship or a spiritual work cannot be obtained.
One of the most important issues in Islam is that prayers are held collectively or Muslims come together for good on various occasions. Friday Prayer, Eid Prayer and other prayers performed in congregation and Hajj worship are among the best examples to be given in this regard. When all these acts of worship are performed together, they turn into a general act of worship, and Muslims support each other like the cogwheels of a factory. A small number of Muslims can obtain the reward, goodness and spirituality that thousands of Muslims cannot achieve separately.
The fact that the prayer performed with congregation is 27 times more rewarding is among the most important indicators of this situation. The fact that millions of Muslims coming together in Hajj gain great spirituality in a short time, and perhaps even their being described as a small awliya, may be among the examples that illuminates our subject. If you ask whoever returns from Hajj or Umrah, he will explain this spirituality very easily.
The fact that Muslims come together at all levels and act together can ensure that any aimed result is achieved in a much shorter time and in a much more secure way. But the most important point that should not be overlooked is the spirituality of the representative who will represent the Muslims who come together and their spiritual personality, and whether his intention is pure or not. Because the expected outcome of a good deed performed by coming together depends on this.
Individuals may be honourable, blessed and pure. But their reaching the target they want to achieve with an action they do by coming together is directly proportional to the spirituality of the person they choose as a head for themselves. The sincerity of the representatives whom the Muslims follow and who represent the people of faith is especially important. That person should not be followed just because he has a way with words or he is ‘presentable.’ Otherwise, the labour of years, the time spent and all the deeds yield no results. This does not contribute to the Islamic world. Maybe even it can be the case that Islam comes to harm because of the malicious intentions of the one who has the role of leading.
Scholars are the heirs of the Prophets. But being a scholar is not just about knowing well, explaining well, or having an impact on others with his words and actions. Today, these concepts can be mixed. However, what makes the scholar a scholar is to act in accordance with his knowledge. In fact, it is to have sincerity when acting in accordance with his knowledge.
In this regard, our Prophet (pbuh) said in a Hadith Sharif: ‘Mankind are ruined except for those who know, and those scholars who know are ruined except for those who act [upon what they know], and those who act [upon what they know] are ruined except the sincere – and the sincere are in immense danger.’ Or a wording close to it. (‘Uqūdu’z-Zabarjad v2 p324)
As mentioned in the the Epistle on Sincerity (the 20th Flash, Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi), Muslims should follow the scholars who act in accordance with their knowledge, who are also sincere and keep this sincerity throughout their lives. Otherwise, the results of the joint works and the good works that are tried to be carried out together come to nothing. Of course the rewards of those works are still given to those who struggle. But the successes expected from the projects that will revive the Islamic world again cannot be achieved.
In short, “Where the head leads, the feet follow.”