Qualities of an Admirable Muslim Leader

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat

First, let’s talk about what it means to be a leader in Islam. Leadership in Islam is something that is a central part of the missions of the Prophets of Allah (peace be upon them all). Just as a shepherd is needed to lead a flock leaders are needed to guide and represent a community. Leaders provide guidance, direction and focus for the communities they serve by using their skills, experience, knowledge and expertise. Leadership comes in several forms and isn’t just relegated to religious leadership, but community-building, business, education and other areas. We must also keep in mind that in our tradition leadership was never a position or status ever proactively sought. When one truly becomes a leader in the truest sense of the word, the burden and expectations are enormous. Many leaders have to make personal sacrifices for the well-being of the communities they serve and have a responsibility to serve their communities in the most professional, just, and ethical manner. Islam discourages the practice of seeking leadership; if a person desires it for power and glory rather than serving the people by implementing the divine laws, he is not fit to occupy it. Almighty Allah (swt) and His Rasool (SAW) has guided humanity in every sphere of life. They have also guided us in matters of selection of our leader. Different people have different perceptions related t o choice of leadership.
Some people think leader should be smart and handsome. Some people think leader should be quick and intelligent. We need to know what Allah (swt) and His Rasool (SAW) has recommended in this regard. Allah (swt) has elaborated the incidence of prophet Samuel. People of Israel came to him and demanded for a king or leader under whose leadership they could fight with non believers. Prophet Samuel told them that Allah (swt) has selected Taloot as a king for them. They objected on his leadership because he was not wealthy. Prophet Samuel told them that wealth was not a criteria in choice of leadership .He told them Taloot deserved to be a king because he was having knowledge and power. This incidence has been narrated in Holy Quran in following manner: Have you not thought about the group of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Musâ (Moses)? When they said to a Prophet of theirs, “Appoint for us a king and we will fight in Allâh’s Way.” He said, “Would you then refrain from fighting, if fighting was prescribed for you?” They said, “Why should we not fight in Allâh’s Way while we have been driven out of our homes and our children (families have been taken as captives)?” But when fighting was ordered for them, they turned away, all except a few of them. And Allâh is All-Aware of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers) And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them, “Indeed Allâh has appointed Talût (Saul) as a king over you.” They said, “How can he be a king over us when we are better fitted than him for the kingdom, and he has not been given enough wealth.” He said: “Verily, Allâh has chosen him above you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allâh grants His Kingdom to whom He wills. And Allâh is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.” (Al-Baqarah 2:246-247) These verses clearly indicates that two important attributes of leadership are: Knowledge and Power. Knowledge guides the king or leader to the right path he is able to comprehend the situation wisely due to his knowledge and than after probing the situation he should have power to take decision accordingly .If he does not have power than he is unable to implement his decisions. Power refers to the psychological, decision and physical power .So any person who is strong in his decisions ,and is able to cope with circumstances with bravery he should be chosen as leader. Besides knowledge and power justice, patience, .sound judgment are also important attributes which should be possessed by the Muslim leader.
In Surah Sad Allah (swt) has narrated the incidence of Prophet Dawood (Aliehis salam) who once gave a decision in favour of 1st party without listening the opinion of the 2nd party Allah (swt) corrected him on that instance and guided him that he should listen to the opinion of 2nd party in future. This incidence has been narrated in Holy Quran in following manner: We made his kingdom strong and gave him wisdom and sound judgement in speech and decision. (Sad 38:20) And has the news of the litigants reached you? When they climbed over the wall into (his) Mihrâb (a praying place or a private room,). (Sad 38:21) When they entered in upon Dâwûd (A.S) he was terrified of them, they said: “Fear not! (We are) two litigants, one of whom has wronged the other, therefore judge between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, and guide us to the Right Way. (Sad 38:22) Verily, this my brother (in religion) has ninety nine ewes, while I have (only) one ewe, and he says: “Hand it over to me, and he overpowered me in speech.” (Sad 38:23) Dâwûd said (immediately without listening to the opponent): “He has wronged you in demanding your ewe in addition to his ewes. And, verily, many partners oppress one another, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and they are few.” And Dâwûd guessed that We have tried him and he sought Forgiveness of his Lord, and he fell down prostrate and turned (to Allâh) in repentance. (Sad 38:24) So We forgave him that, and verily, for him is a near access to Us, and a good place of (final) return (Paradise). (Sad 38:25) O Dâwûd! Verily! We have placed you as a successor on earth, so judge you between men in truth (and justice) and follow not your desire for it will mislead you from the Path of Allâh. Verily! Those who wander astray from the Path of Allâh (shall) have a severe torment, because they forgot the Day of Reckoning. (Sad 38:26) These verses clearly indicate two other attributes of leadership i.e., Patience and Justice. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was very conscious about justice and never compromised on it and there is a hadith narrated by Aisha (radi Allaha anha), the wife of holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which indicates his sensitivity about this justice: Aisha (radia Allaha anha), the wife of Allah’s Apostle (SAW), reported that the Quraish were concerned about the woman who had committed theft during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle (SAW), in the expedition of Victory (of Mecca). They said: Who would speak to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) about her? They (again) said: Who can dare do this but Usama b Zaid, the loved one of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) ? She was brought to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) and Usama b. Zaid spoke about her to him (interceded on her behalf). The colour of the face of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) changed, and he said: Do you intercede in one of the prescribed punishments of Allah? He (Usama) said: ‘Messenger of Allah, seek forgiveness for me. When it was dusk. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) stood up and gave an address. He (first) glorified Allah as He deserves, and then said: Now to our topic. This (injustice) destroyed those before you that when any one of (high) rank committed theft among them, they spared him, and when any weak one among them committed theft, they inflicted the prescribed punishment upon him. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, even if Fatima daughter of Muhammad were to commit theft, I would have cut off her hand. He (the Holy Prophet) then commanded about that woman who had committed theft, and her hand was cut off. ‘A’isha (further) said: Hers was a good repentance, and she later on married and used to come to me after that, and I conveyed her needs (and problems) to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) (SahihMuslim: Book 17, Hadith 4188).
Another important attribute which is to be possessed by the leader is communication skill. A leader must be excellent in communication so that he can convince people. When Prophet Mosa (aliehis salam) was bestowed with prophet hood he invoked Allah to bless his brother Haroon (aliehis salam) as his associate the reason given by Mosa (aliehis salam) has been mentioned in Holy Quran in the following way: “And my brother Hârûn (Aaron) he is more eloquent in speech than me so send him with me as a helper to confirm me. Verily! I fear that they will belie me.” (Al-Qasas 28:34) Similarly piety and Simplicity are two other important attributes which should be possessed by leader: Allah (swt) has said in the Holy Quran: Verily, the most honourable of you with Allâh is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqûn (pious – see V.2:2). Verily, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Al-Hujurat 49:13) There are number of verses in the Qur’an that reveal leadership qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). One of these is the following verse: It is is by some mercy from Allah that you have been gentle with them. Had you been rough and hard of heart they would have dispersed from around you. So pardon them, ask for forgiveness for them, and consult them. Then when you have resolved, put your trust in Allah.
Allah loves those who trust Him. (3.159). The verse is clearly referring to people who were around the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and could have left him. The people who were physically close to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are technically known as his “Companions.” The verse first highlights the mercy and gentleness with which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) treated his Companions. The Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) mercy for the believers in general is mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an where he is described as being “toward the believers compassionate and merciful” (9.128) and “a mercy for those among you who have believed” (9:61). But he is also described as being “a mercy for all people” (21.107) not only the believers. Verse 3.159 emphasizes the utmost importance that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was merciful and gentle rather than rough and hard of heart for the success of his mission. It states that, otherwise, even his very close Companions would have deserted him. This reveals a great wisdom: even the revelation of the Qur’an and directly witnessing numerous miracles of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would not have stopped the Companions from abandoning him, had Allah not combined them with making His Prophet’s (PBUH) heart full of mercy and kindness. In fact, this very mercy was behind many of the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which helped people with their various needs and, accordingly, strengthened their faith as well. The secret of the continuous spread of Islam is not only the Qur’an, as claimed by those who tend to limit or underestimate the role of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), or even the Qur’an and the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The secret is the divinely-created combination of the Qur’an, the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and his most noble and attractive qualities of mercy, kindness, and compassion. The Caliphs of Rasool (SAW) i.e., Abu bakar,Umer ,Usman and Ali (Ridwanillahee aliehim ajmaeen) were all pious and simple people but ruled the globe and proved themselves as successful leaders of their age. Similarly Allah (swt) has commanded believers that they should support people who are truthful and avoid fraud leaders. Allah (swt) says: O you who believe! Be afraid of Allâh, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds). (At-Tawbah 9:119) So summing up the discussion the attributes which are to be possessed by the leaders are as follow: (a) Knowledge (b) Power (c) Sound Judgement (d) Patience (e) Justice (f) Communication skills (g) Piety (h) Simplicity (i) Truth. May Almighty Allah give us toufeeq to choose our leader by keeping in view the attributes pointed out by Allah and His Rasool (salal laho aliehi waslaam)…. Ameen.

(The author an Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar writes regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own)


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