Larisa Lewis: The Importance of Role Models

In our everyday lives, there is a strong emphasis placed upon role models and mentors; to get where we want to be in life we must know how to behave, how to speak, where exactly the right place is, and what exactly is the right time to be there. To learn these things, we simply observe these role models and mentors, and we to some extent mirror ourselves after them. Usually these are people who have acquired some status or achievement that we also want to reach, and we strive to be them and even further more we strive to be better than them. This same effort can be observed in Sufism.

In Sufism, there is also a strong emphasis placed upon the value and role of role models. In the realm of religion, a role model should be one who has studied to acquire knowledge and gained a nearness to the divine that one can only imagine at the time. These individuals are in place to not only show us what we want to be, but to also provide us with the guidance that is necessary to get into a mindset that will lead us onto that same path.

The most prominent role model in the Qur’an is the prophet Muhammad, who is described by Ernst in Teaching of Sufism as “…the guide and…the guided”. From this we can gather that he is a role model for those with a lower level of understanding and divinity as he “guides” them but he is also the “guided” in that his actions are all guided by the direction of God. The prophet Muhammad serves a medium for us not only to know what it is to be select or near to God, but he is present for us to know what is necessary to BECOME near to the divine—to gain our own personal relationship and to become one with the divine as we unveil ourselves.

Muhammad, and any other role model alike, must talk the talk and walk the walk, as Ernst counts him as a “…’beautiful example’ of the Messenger of God…in all that is correct in his morals, his deeds, his states, his commands, his prohibitions, his authorization, his encouragement, and his deterrence.” In this quote we are made aware of the intent of the prophet; he is not here to mislead or misguide, but instead he is present to tell us what to do (and what not to do) and what is good and bad in the pursuit of divinity. Role models are important because they are wise and they have become.