Quarterly: Issue No 57
QUALITIES OF ISLAMIC LEADERSHIP
In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah (Glorified be His Name), and peace and blessings be upon his beloved Messenger Muhammad, his family and all his companions. Ameen!
With regard to the qualities of Islamic Leadership, let us first get to the main source of Islamic Law i.e. Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem, and read what Allah says with regard to the qualities of Islamic Leadership. Allah says:
It was by the Mercy of Allah that you (O Prophet) were lenient with them, for if you had been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when you are resolved, then put your trust in Allah. Verily! Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him). (Surah Ale Imraan: Chapter 3: Verse 159).
This verse of the Noble Qur’an contains specific guidelines for leaders, and as Muslims we all are leaders in some way or the other. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “All of you are shepherds, and each one of you will be questioned (on the Day of Qiyaamah) concerning his flock.” (Bukhari & Muslim). Let us now reflect on each one of these guidelines given in the above-mentioned verse that are most relevant to Islamic Leadership.
“It was by the Mercy of Allah...” Our beloved Prophet is being reminded by Allah that the mercy, including all of the virtues and favours he displays, are all bestowed to him solely by Allah. This is a very important point to keep in mind for any leader. Generally, there is a perception of those in leadership positions nowadays to assume that they are in those positions because of their own efforts. Though it is certainly true that in many instances, hard work and perseverance have assisted particular individuals in their rise to that position, even the possession of these qualities have been bestowed by Allah. To acknowledge this at the very beginning of our affair is one of the keys to real power in leadership as it helps to make us humble. Our beloved Prophet said in this regard: “No one humbles himself for the sake of Allah except that Allah elevates him.” (Muslim)
We must recognize that everything comes from Allah. This is also one of the keys to gaining an increase in good things, for we can not give thanks for blessings we do not recognize. In recognizing Allah for blessing us with the qualities that have helped us to become capable leaders, we are able to thank Him for those blessings. By doing so, we will be blessed even further. Allah says: “If you give thanks, I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless, verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.” (Surah Ibraheem: Chapter 14: Verse 7)
By recognizing that everything comes from Allah also helps us to realize our own limitations. Though we know that we must work hard to accomplish our goals, however, at the end of the day, we do not control the outcomes of our own strivings. As soon as we begin to accept that fact we instantly gain peace of mind, for we do not endeavour to burden ourselves with things beyond our control. Furthermore, when in the position of leadership, we are less likely to look for innocent parties to blame for failures that occur. This helps to create a healthier and more productive social environment for everyone.
“… that you (O Prophet) were lenient with them (your companions)” Our beloved Prophet said: “Gentleness does not exist in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it defiles it.” (Muslim & Abu Dawood). In many cases, when we are in leadership positions, we tend to impose our authority on others. In certain cases this only creates stubborn rebellion and opposition. In others, it brings about grudging compliance. Neither of these cases is reliable and workable. Gentleness, on the other hand encourages willing compliance.
“… for if you had been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about you.” Here Allah is telling His beloved Messenger that; despite your charisma, your concern for the believers and all of your other excellent and positive characteristics; were you harsh and hard-hearted, your companions would have left you. This is another great principle for us in terms of how we should approach leadership and positions of authority.
People who are harsh in their leadership styles very often demand respect. They should remember that respect that is demanded is seldom lasting, and it is never sincere. Leaders who are fair and gentle attract talented individuals, while those that are harsh are usually intimidated and threatened by talented people and generally ignore them. The insecurity of such leaders is sensed by talented people who are secure within themselves. This leads to them shying away from harsh leaders. This subsequently leads to a corrupt or incompetent inner circle developing around leaders who demand respect through harsh treatment and crude mannerisms. Our beloved Prophet said: “When Allah desires good for a leader He gives him a good circle of advisers. The opposite is also true.” (Bukhari)
“So pardon them …” i.e. (O Prophet) pardon their abuses. We should always be the first to pardon others, specifically where our rights are involved or where the transgressions we observe arise from sheer ignorance. One of the greatest qualities we enforce upon ourselves when we are quick to pardon is the acknowledgement of the fact that Perfection is Allah’s alone. Once we firmly recognize this fact, we will remember that we do not expect perfection from ourselves, nor do we expect it from others. However, we must strive for perfection and constant improvement. But we must realize that perfection is simply not our lot in life. When our parents, spouses, children, employees, co-workers and others understand that they have room for error in their dealing with us; they will be more relaxed and therefore less likely to err. This is a simple truth yet not very widely acknowledged. We must also understand that when we are merciful and forgiving, we invite Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness into our life. As Allah says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Verily, among your wives and your children there are enemies for you (i.e. may stop you from the obedience of Allah), therefore beware of them! But if you pardon (them) and overlook, and forgive (their faults), then verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-Taghaabun: Chapter 64: Verse: 14)
“… and ask forgiveness for them ...” When we seek Allah’s forgiveness for someone we are acknowledging that there is only so much we can do for them. After this we are implicitly saying that we are deputing their affair to Allah Who can really do much more for them. We are also letting them know that we are concerned for their ultimate wellbeing and salvation. When this message is conveyed to those under our leadership we will find them most happy and committed, ready to serve, for they understand that we do not just see them as assets to be exploited. Rather we see them as Allah’s servants whom we can help along on their road to salvation.
“… and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs” Mutual consultation is one of the pillars of social relations in Islam. The more people we involve in a project or decision-making process, the more beneficial and successful will our approach be to that project or decision. Islam has high respect for the idea of due diligence in public decision-making methodology. We should deliberate and consult before making far-reaching decisions. One of the reasons for our contemporary weakness is that we have moved away from this great pillar of social relations.
We should also understand that team work will always accomplish more than single individuals. These instructions help us to build strong teams and organizations. We should also understand that “good” can always be “better”. One of the first things mentioned by Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), upon assuming the Caliphate, was: “If I do well help me to do better.” The Caliph Abu Bakr was sending out two messages. The first was that I can always do better but only with your help. The second was an invitation to get involved. Good leadership does not wait for involvement to happen, it actively encourages it. In this verse of the Noble Qur’an, our beloved Prophet, who was divinely guided at all times in religious matters, is encouraged to consult his companions. This command of consultation was revealed because he was laying the foundation for effective rule and leadership to guide those succeeding him. However, we will only be the beneficiaries of such wisdom he bequeathed to us if we implement these teachings in our lives.
“And when you are resolved …” Once a course of action has been chosen it must be accompanied by decisiveness. Great leaders are decisive, after due diligence has been exercised. No one will follow an indecisive leader.
In confronting the challenges before us as Muslims in this age of fitnah we should understand that resolve is one of the qualities we will need. Allah says in the Noble Qur’an: “You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves, and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah, but if you persevere patiently, and become conscious of Allah at all times, then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs, and that is from the great matters (which you must hold on with all your efforts).” (Surah Ale Imraan: Chapter 3: Verse 186)
“… then put your trust in Allah …” Allah never disappoints. When we trust in Him, we will never be disappointed. People will always disappoint us, in some real or perceived ways. Though these disappointments usually do not result in any permanent damage to our social relationships, they can be frustrating. But when we place our trust in Allah we remove this great cause of our frustrations. When we trust in Allah, we also are less demanding of people. This is one of the ways to encourage others to do more for us voluntarily and willingly. What is given voluntarily is given sincerely. Sincerity is a quality that helps bring blessings to our actions. Ultimately, the value of our actions is associated with the blessings they contain, and not in their number or quantity.
Allah loves those who place their trust in Him. If Allah is for us and with us, no one can be against us. As leaders we want Allah on our side. This is one of the keys to our success. When we befriend ourselves with Allah, we befriend ourselves with the Source of all Strength and Power. Trusting in Allah is just one of the things we can do to invite His love. Hence, trusting in Allah, being good and excellent in all of our affairs for His sake, turning to Him in repentance, being conscious of Him, purifying ourselves, patiently persevering and being just, these are all qualities and actions that invite Allah’s love. When we become the beloved of Allah then, as He says in a sacred tradition (Hadith Qudsi): “I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he grasps and the feet that convey him. [In this state] if he were to ask anything of Me, I would grant it. And were he to seek my protection, I would protect him.” (Bukhari)
One pivotal element of the Muslim faith is the brotherhood that unites us in the love of Allah and His Messenger and invokes loyalty amongst us. Muslims have rights to remain safe in our own peripheries; we don't hurt them, we don't conspire against them or strike them in their backs. “Do not have enmity for each other” is what our beloved Prophet taught us. (Bukhari) When our revered Prophet was asked who the best Muslim was, he replied: “One from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe” (Muslim). “Bringing about reconciliation is better in degree than fasting, prayers and sadaqah.” (Abu Dawood). Meanwhile, if we do fall into the perils of fighting, we need to do our best not to over abuse this disagreement with dissipation. The Prophet warned us that this characteristic is a sign of hypocrisy: “Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner”. (Bukhari)
May Allah give us the tawfeeq to be among those who say “we heard and we obey”! Ameen!
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Umhlanga Rocks, KZN