“If three people are traveling then appoint one from amongst you to be the amir (leader).”
– Narrated by al-Tabari with a sound chain of transmission.
An essential part of working for Islam is working in a group. There are many possibilities for sizes of such a group but there is always blessing in working in a collective. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said about this: “The hand of Allah is with the group.”
It is possible to accomplish together what cannot be accomplished individually. However, whenever we work together it is inevitable that we will differ in our opinions.
It is therefore imperative in all work that there is a process by which decisions are made. This should be clear, and the method should be known to those involved. This could take different forms: one amir (leader) who makes the final call on things, a simple majority vote, a council that makes decisions, etc. The thing that the Prophet ﷺ is teaching us here is that decision-making chaos is not an option and that authority is important. There should be checks on authority, yes, but at the end of the day there are hierarchies to things. The overarching spirit behind all of this is that the collective is more important than the individual and that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the good of the whole. Having clear processes by which we make decisions is an important aid in supporting that spirit.
So, what he teaches us in this hadith (narration of the Prophet ﷺ) is that order and structure are important. They are not goals in and of themselves, but they are means for the preservation of the collective. So when we are in a group, that group should choose who will lead it and how collective decisions will be made when differences of opinion arise.
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