Allaah says in the Qur`aan,
"Indeed in the Messenger of Allaah you have an excellent example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allaah and the Last Day and remembers Allaah much" [al-Ahzab, 21].
Transliteration: Laqad Kana Lakum Fi Rasuli Allahi `Uswatun Hasanatun Liman Kana Yarju Allaha Wa Al-Yawma Al-`Akhira Wa Dhakara Allaha Kathiraan
This is a very great blessing for this ummah. Allaah has given us a perfect example of how to apply this religion. In every aspect of our lives, we have a human example to look to. We can see how he behaved under different circumstances and we can know with certainty that the way he behaved was in accordance with the revelation of Allaah.
This is just one of the many blessings that we Muslims have received. In the other religions, such as Christianity or Judaism, they do not have such a wonderful example. They do not possess a detailed and authentic record of how their prophets lived. Hence, when it comes to day to day matters in their lives, they have no authentic reference that they can turn to that will give them the satisfaction of knowing what God wants from them in each and every moment of their lives.
If we look at how humans behave around us, it is common or normal for people to look at others and to take them as their examples. Indeed, for the majority of the people, it seems that they are in need of an example. Perhaps such examples give them guidance, hope and confidence.
al-Hamdulillaah, Allaah has provided us with the best possible example. We Muslims do not have to look to the kinds of people that the non-Muslims are looking at as examples and sources of guidance. We don`t have to look to movie actors, rock stars, athletes, or politicians as our sources of guidance. Believe it or not, this is who the disbelievers are looking at as their examples. This is why they always have such people give "public broadcasting announcements" about AIDS, drinking while drunk and so forth. These people are asked to give these announcements because they are the people that so many others look up to, admire and take as their role models. The saddest thing is when Muslims also start taking these people as their role models. Allaah has blessed us with the most excellent role model and yet we turn to people like this.
"The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets" (Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, and others, according to al-Albaani, it is sahih, Sahih al-Jami as-Sagheer, no.6297)
They have the knowledge to understand the Qur`aan and the Sunnah and see its guidance for today. And they have the taqwaa to apply that knowledge today. Knowledge without taqwaa is not sufficient, and taqwaa without knowledge is also not sufficient.
That is who we should be taking as examples for our own lives. But there is another very important aspect to this topic that I would like to stress. That is, whether you like it or not, whether you even realise it or not, virtually every single one of you is an example and a role model for somebody else. Again, you may not realise that fact but it is the case. The Messenger of Allaah (saw) was an example for the entire ummah, and this role has passed on to us with respect to certain individuals. Some reflection will make you realise that this is exactly the case.
Many of you have younger brothers or sisters. It is very common for younger brothers and sisters to look up to their older siblings. Many times their older siblings are much closer to them than their parents, with respect to age, lifestyle, environment, problems, concerns and so forth. Therefore, they may not look to their parents in issues that concern drugs, alcohol, sex, dating and so forth. There may be a generation gap and they feel that their parents are out of touch with what is going on now. Perhaps even more dangerous, there may be a cultural gap - wherein immigrant parents have children who grew up in this country and children are definitely Americans while the parents are still somewhat Pakistani, or Arab or Malaysian or whatever the case might be.
So they look up to their older brother or sister. They look to see how their older siblings are coping with their own problems. They take their example because of the love and mutual trust that usually exists among such siblings. What kind of example do you set for younger siblings? Are they memorising the Qur`aan because they have seen you memorising the Qur`aan and you have influenced them or encouraged them to memorise the Qur`aan? Or are they spending all of their time playing basketball and chasing after members of the opposite sex because that is the example you set for them?
One of the greatest influences on others is the set of friends that a person has. In fact, the Prophet (saw) said,
"The person follows the way of his dear friend". (Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, al-Albaani calls it sahih, See Sahih al-Jami as-Sagheer, no. 3545)
People always want to impress their friends and fit in with the group that they hang around with. Just think about when you were growing up, didn`t you do many things just because your friends were doing them? If it was a fashion they were following, you wanted to follow the same fashion. If it was something dangerous or harmful, such as taking drugs or alcohol, it was your friends` examples that gave you the courage to try or do the same thing. What kind of example do you set for your friends?
Many of you are also parents. Listening to one`s parents is something greatly stressed in Islaam. The Prophet (saw) called disobeyed parents one of the greatest sins one could commit.
Parents usually have a great deal of influence over their behaviour. There used to be an anti-smoking commercial in this country in which a father sits down and starts smoking and his small son sits next to him and picks up the cigarette package. Then the ad stated, "Like father, like son". This is very true. One time I was visiting a Muslim family and they had a small child. The small child kept looking at my beard and finally said, "You should remove that beard. See, my father does not have a beard".
It is very natural for children to have an extreme love for their parents. Love is one of the greatest factors in following a role model. One love them and therefore, wants to be like them. In fact, sometimes children take their parents as the standard by which they judge all other peoples and actions. Even to the point that if they are told something from the Qur`aan or Sunnah, they reply, "But my parents don`t do that and I believe that my parents are very good Muslims and therefore..."
There is a very important aspect concerning any role model but I want to mention it explicitly here while talking about parents as their children`s role models. You have to remember that, as the cliche goes, "Actions speak louder than words". Many parents are very sincere and well-intended with respect to their children. They tell their children that they have to be Muslim and apply the laws of Islaam. They teach this to their children over and over. However, at the same time, their actions display something else. They are telling their children one thing and they are behaving in a different manner. Many times it is your actions that have a much greater effect on your children than the "thereotical teachings" that you are giving them. If you tell your children that they have to pray and you yourself do not pray, they may be more affected by your example than what you are telling them.