A Mufti is a religious scholar who give fatwas or religious rulings in accordance with Shariah or Islamic law within the context of time and place.
However, in many Muslim societies, Muftis were appointed by rulers and were obliged to give fatwas to defend their interest of the ruling class and maintain silence against corruption, oppression and injustice.
Mohammad Hashim Kamali in his book, ‘Shari’ah Law: An Introduction’ states that “fatwa under the Shari’ah is a vehicle that facilitates the free flow of thought and expression in religious issues, whereas now it has in many countries become an instrument of restriction on freedom of expression in religious matters.”
Therefore, the majority of Muslim people follow independent scholars instead of the assigned Muftis. Muftis can now be considered as ‘semi-free religious counselors.’
In Australia, we are lucky that the imams elect the Mufti. His power is merely symbolic and expected to represent and serves all Muslims.
As it is known, all state positions are called public servant in the West. According to Said Nursi, ‘there is no position in Islam except public servanthood. A nation’s ruler is a public servant.’
This is based on a most prominent hadith relating an incident with the Prophet.
Prophet Mohammad (s) was serving water to his companions when a bedouin came in and shouted: “Who is the master of these people?”
The Messenger answered in such a way that he introduced himself while expressing a strong principle of Islamic leadership and public administration using three words: sayyidu’l qawm khadimuhum meaning, “the master of the people is the one who serves them.”
At-Tabari explains Sayyid as a jurist who is pious, kind, devoted and most honourable of believers. Ar-Razi says that a Sayyid is one who is most noble in religion.
Al-Qushayri states that Sayyid is one who does not want any position, does not expect any rewards from any creation, and is free from any unlawful desires.
By this definition, the attributes of Sayyidhood is more important than a biological connection to the descendants of the Prophet. A Sayyid unites, does not divide and people barely know that he exists.
The Sayyid in the context of hadith is ‘khadim’ which comes from the root word for khadama, service.
Based on that the word ‘khidmah’, meaning to serve, be of service, provide work, or put into operation while ‘khadim’ means domestic servant, attendant, or waiter.
Detailed meanings include a person whose job is to provide a service in a public place, someone who does menial work or is employed as a designated person or government official, or a servant in a royal or noble household.
The pronoun ‘hum’ includes everyone which should be served equally in a tribe or a country.
For serving Muslims or humanity you don’t have to be a Mufti, an Imam or head of an organisation.
Reflecting on the above-mentioned hadith, it is clear as to how the Prophet first serves his people before speaking about the importance of serving people.
He responds to rudeness with a gentle smile before beginning to talk.
Thus, leadership through action comes before leadership through words.
Australian Muslims may need one Mufti but many servants in order to serve humanity.