I've just had the opportunity (alhamdulillah!) to attend an Al-Maghrib double-weekend seminar on the two weekends either side of my spring break, this past weekend and the one before. The topic of the seminar was the Seerah, i.e., life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and it was called The Shepherd's Path. (Taught by Shaykh AbdulBary Yahya, may Allah protect him)
One thing we learned in the seminar was that all the prophets were shepherds, even Muhammad saws. And we learned some of the lessons that a person learns by being a shepherd. I found them interesting and profound, so I thought I would share these on my blog.
Basically there were six major lessons learned from being a shepherd.
Firstly, patience. Sometimes a flock doesn't want to go where they need to go, so the shepherd has to have patience while trying to lead them in the right direction. The Messengers (pbut) needed patience when trying to guide people to the truth, because people wouldn't necessarily accept it. Recal that Noah (pbuh) was preaching for 950 years with only a few people accepting his message.
Secondly, gentleness. This is because sheep especially are very gentle animals--it doesn't work to be harsh with them. Similarly, people are also turned off when someone is harsh or rude with them, so the Messengers (pbut) needed to learn how to be gentle.
Thirdly, being a shepherd allows one the opportunity to reflect on God's creation. Because the shepherd has to lead the flock away from cities and such so the animals can graze, he can look at the mountains and the valleys and the sky and think about the wonders of God's creation. This makes me think of Psalm 8 in the Bible which mentions the creation as demonstrative of the Majesty of our Lord.
Fourthly, the job of a shepherd is to bring the flock away from danger, without them knowing they are in danger. And that is basically what the Messengers (pbut) had to do--to guide mankind without the people really understanding the danger of neglecting their message. The shepherd is able to see danger before the flock can, and the Messengers (pbut) also had knowledge that we do not, because of revelation. There is a teaching from Muhammad (saws) that gives the example of someone having set a bonfire in the desert, and of insects (like moths) trying to jump into the fire because of the bright light, but he, the Messenger (saws) was trying to grab them all and keep them from jumping into the fire.
Fifthly, being a shepherd teaches responsibility. The shepherd has to answer to a higher authority (i.e., the owner of the sheep) if something bad happens to them.
And lastly, being a shepherd teaches the value of work. The Prophet Muhammad saws was working as a shepherd to help his uncle Abu Talib provide for the family. It wasn't exactly easy work, and the wages were typically low, but it was still a way for the shepherd to contribute to his family's livelihood or to earn some money for himself by working, as the job was typically most suited for young boys.
So overall being a shepherd was like training to be a leader and to be a teacher, giving the Messengers (pbut) the qualities they needed to preach the message. There is a lot we can learn from that, I think, to be a da'ee. These are the qualities that someone who wants to teach Islam and call people to Islam needs to have. Especially since we are trying to follow in the footsteps of the prophets, pbut, and the footsteps of our beloved Messenger, Muhammad saws.