Aga Khan and Malala; Muslim Role Models

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child, teen and an adult has someone or the other to look up to in his or her life, and wants
to-be-like that person and eventually becomes one.  Indeed, good role
models are a key to the success of a civil society.

I have been
studying religious pluralism and civil societies for the last twenty
years, and have found a sense of regret among Muslims for the dearth of
role models. Invariably they compare themselves with the Jewish
community more often than they care to admit.  At least twice a year, an
email makes the rounds showing the innumerable Nobel laureates among
the tiny Jewish community versus the negligible numbers among the big
Muslim community. It almost appears that they cannot move forward
without some one leading them.

despair, there is hope, we have a few good men and women who are great role

In the last 100 years we have had legends like Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal, Maulana
Abul Kalam Azad and others who have created institutions of learning or left a legacy of
critical thinking.  They were not only heroes for Muslims, but for others
as well.

These individuals followed the foundational Sunnah of the prophet to
be Amins, the truthful, trustworthy, Just and without barriers between
them and people of other faiths and traditions. They contributed towards
the common good of humanity. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad was called Amin
by fellow Citizens who were Jewish, Christian and Pagans. That should be our model; to be contributors and be the Amins of the society.

the last 50 years, we have had a few great men and women, but we did
not accord them the place they deserved.  It’s time for us to recognize
them for their contributions and their legacy in building better
societies for humanity.

There are plenty of men and women in religion, business, arts, sports,
music, entertainment and academic fields, but very few in civil

The following men and women have created enduring
values to last for generations to come, it is their legacy. I am embarrassed that I could
not come up with
more names from around 56 Muslims nations, but I welcome them all.

  1. Abdurrahman Wahid  (planted the vision of Madinah like society),  
  2. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (Critical thinking in Islam),
  3. Malala Yousafzai (Role model for women),
  4. Aga Khan (Role Model for Universal human development) ,  
  5. Benazir Bhutto (a symbol of Democracy), 
  6. Muhammad Yunus (an economic model of uplifting the down trodden)
  7. Aamir Khan (Cultural Pluralism and his Satyameva Jayate Series), 
  8. Abdus Salam (Physicist and Nobel Laureate),
  9. Abdus Sattar Edhi (Charity),
  10. Al-Waleed bin Talal (Research in Education)
  11. Abusaleh Shariff (Solutions for up-liftment of minorities )

Abusaleh Shariff is relatively less known than the others, but his pioneering research work
about Indian Muslims has become the foundation for economic, educational, social and
statistical models for planning societies, and finding pluralistic solutions
for the majoritarian-minoritarian conflict mitigation in a given society.

Gamal Abdel Nasser could have been one of the heroes, had he succeeded in
creating a value for Arab Unification, he could not make it.  Mahathir
Muhammad could have been an economic hero, but his work was time-bound and not
timeless, and he did not leave anything impactful other than the rhetoric. What
did Yasser Arafat leave behind?  I am not sure about the legacy of
Muhammad Ali Jinnah- is anyone following his vision other than hanging his
pictures on event walls?  General
Pervaz Musharraf had all the potential to re-establish Jinnah’s vision, a
secular pluralistic Islamic model nation – but he blew it. 

though Kings Abdullah of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Muhammad Ali, Dilip
Kumar or Shahrukh Khan are big names, they have not
contributed to the common good of humanity, once they are gone, they are
gone. Would they be legends in Muslim history? Are they Amins of the
society at large? We need to discuss.

I am glad at least Malala and Aga Khan have been
recognized worldwide, and their work is not restricted to just
one community, but most people around the globe will look up to them for
what they represent. 

It is our duty to honor
and cherish individuals who have dedicated their lives in building bridges
between communities. Their pioneering spirit in facilitating communities to
know and to respect each other must be appreciated.

I urge
fellow Muslims to work on writing about these men and women, and how their work
can last for centuries to come. Can we include them in our school text books,
Islamic social education at Mosques and private schools? They are our role
models, aren’t they?   

To be a Muslim
is to be a peacemaker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill for
peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony
with his creation; life and matter.# # #

by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Presentation of the Gold Medal by
the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Ottawa


Mike Ghouse is a Muslim speaker,
thinker and a writer on pluralism, Islaminterfaith and other topics. He
is committed to nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam and
building cohesive Societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the
day, all his writings are at   

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