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Islamic Movement

Muslim Leaders And Leadership Traits

Imran Khan

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

The Muslim community, wherever it may reside, must ensure that it does not have a leadership that is ignorant, incompetent and immoral. This is a very demanding issue. Part of the process would be to finally confront that leadership.

It could be an individual confrontation where an individual goes to the corrupt leader or, a collective corrupt leadership. Not much will be achieved despite the quality and quantity of logic, proof, Qur’anic evidence and ahadith presented to that leader or leadership. Examples abound in the Muslim world today whether Muslims are in a majority or reside as minorities in a particular locale.

But if that leadership is brought to the attention of the public who are serious about setting the record straight and that corrupt leader or leadership faces the community on the issues, then that corrupt leader or leadership will begin to adjust, if it is adjustable.

If not, it will disintegrate and vanish. Then the community has to take the responsibility of bringing to the fore a leadership that comes from within the ranks of the Muslim community. When choosing a leader or a leadership, people should not confuse an Alim with an Imam.

You may have an Alim, meaning a scholar or a person who has knowledge of the Arabic language, in the tajweed of the Qur’an, in chemistry, geography, etc.

There are different levels, compartments and fields of knowledge.

But having that knowledge is one thing and assuming the leadership role is quite different. The two have different sets of requirements.

It is obvious that knowledge is a necessary component of leadership. But it is not the only qualification that makes a leader. There are other qualifications such as his sense of justice, his sacrifices, his care for the Muslims and the oppressed people around him, his suffering with the Muslims and the society.

If they are happy, he is happy with them. If they are sad, he is sad with them. He laughs when they laugh. He cries when they cry. These are an integral part of leadership. They are part of the characteristics and qualifications to becoming leaders.

To automatically say that because a person has combined a few disciplines, i.e., tajweed with tafseer with the Arabic language and a few others, he becomes a leader is confusing the essential ingredients of two different characters.

It is essential to see this clearly in order to begin to understand how to adjust this set-up and stage.

Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him—(pbuh)) said the best leaders you have are the ones who you like or love and they like or love you; you grace them and they grace you; and the worst leaders that you have are the ones that you hate and they hate you and you curse and condemn them and they curse and condemn you (Sahih Muslim).

Without going into the responsibilities of a leader and leadership and leaving aside all the lip service, the rhetoric and the made-for camera antiques, Muslims should take a look around them and measure the general conditions of life with the conditions that the leaders live in. Thereafter, they should make a call to establish whether these leaders are bound with the oppressed, the denied and the poverty-stricken, or whether these oppressed, denied, and poverty stricken are actually seen as a burden and a curse on them! Muslims should take a look around and see if the leaders are on one planet and the multitudes are on another planet!

ICIT director Zafar Bangash points out that there are certain qualities unique to Islamic leadership that are often lacking in other systems. Islamic leadership inspires people by their own example. They have qualities such as modesty, simplicity, sincerity, courage and self-sacrifice—what Islam calls taqwa.

Imam Muhammad Al Asi provides further details of the role of a leader and the personal qualities of a leader. But before doing so he describes legitimate leadership as enjoying divine sanction in which each person must qualify for it on merit.

By virtue of man being Allah’s vicegerent or representative on earth (Al-Qur’an 2:30; 6:166; 38:26) he is immediately under certain constraints. He is not free to act as he chooses nor must he submit to the wishes of any group, be it a majority or an influential minority. He must act only to implement Allah’s laws on earth.

There is thus a fundamental difference between the Islamic concept of leadership and that of other systems where aspirants to high office often say and do what the people want irrespective of their merit.

If the leadership is illegitimate and it does not admit to reason then its followers definitely will not accept that leadership.

Imam Ahmad Cassiem concludes that in Islam whoever forms part of the leadership must be one of us, from the best of us and must be from the most of us. They must be the most-sincere, the most knowledgeable and the most fearless.

Once those criteria are fulfilled, we should have no fear that even collectively if we make mistakes, it will always be rectified within that same unit of leadership.

Leadership is about accountability; it is about responsibility. It means leading from the front and not hiding behind the people pushing them to make sacrifices while staying back.

Sometimes leadership must take unpopular decisions because populism is not part of Islamic etiquette, it is not part of Islamic principles. Falsehood and insincerity have no status in the Islamic community.

Leadership is not about perks, it is not about praises, it is not about being in the limelight.

‘Careerism’ has no status amongst Islamic leadership. Allah’s Prophet says that if a person covets leadership, then don’t give it to him. (Sahih Muslim)

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 2

Ramadan 22, 14452024-04-01

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