Islam and leadership

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In the Name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful

Leadership in Islam is a trust (amanah).It is a psychological contract between a leader and his followers that he will try his best to guide them, to protect them and to treat them fairly and with justice. The focus of leadership in Islam is on doing good.

According to Islam, every person is the “shepherd” of a flock, and occupies a position of leadership. 

What a Muslim is required to do

Muslims must

Appoint a leader during a trip

Select a leader to lead the prayer

Choose a leader for other group activities

Reflect on this

Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of your

Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their

livelihood in the life of this world: and We raise some

of them above others in ranks so that some may

command work from others. But the Mercy of your

Lord is better than the (wealth) which

they amass (Qur’an, Zukhruuf, 43: 32).

Reflect on these

Ahadith

“Behold! Each of you is a guardian, and

each of you will be asked about his subjects.”

“When three are on a journey, they should appoint

one of them as their commander.”

“Muslims must appoint a leader during a trip, select a leader

(imam) to lead the prayer, and choose a leader for other

group activities.”

Leadership roles from an Islamic perspective

“A commander (of the Muslims) is a shield for them.”

According to Islam, the two primary roles of a leader

are those of servant-leader and guardian-leader.

 A leader is the servant of his followers (sayyid al

qawn khadimuhum). He is to seek their welfare and

guide them towards good.

As the guardian-leader the Muslim leader protects

his community against tyranny and oppression,

encourages God-consciousness and taqwa, and

promotes justice.

Moral Bases of Islamic Leadership

Leadership in Islam is rooted in belief and willing submission

to the Creator, God. It centers on serving Him.

To serve God, a Muslim leader is to act in accordance with the

injunctions of God and His Prophet (saw), and must develop a

strong Islamic moral character.

This moral character will be reflected by his increasingly strong

belief in God as he progresses through four stages of spiritual

development:

iman, islam, taqwa and ihsan.

 

Moral Bases of Islamic Leadership:

Iman

Iman is faith in God. Iman implies belief in the Oneness

of God and the prophethood of Muhammad (saw).

A leader with a strong iman will consider himself and all his

possessions as belonging to God. He will bow his ego, his

ideas, his passions and his thinking to God.

Iman also implies belief in the life hereafter and in one’s

ultimate accountability for one’s deeds. A leader with a firm

iman will not dodge responsibility for his actions,

and will continuously emphasize good deeds.

Moral Bases of Islamic Leadership:

Islam

Islam means the achievement of peace with God, within

oneself and with the creation of God, through willing

submission to Him.

Because of his or her iman, a leader who practices Islam

will never see himself as supreme.

Ali Ibn Abu Talib’s (ra) letter to Malik al-Ashtar an-Nukai,

the new Governor of Egypt, stresses this point in the

following manner:

Malik, you must never forget that if you are a ruler over them,

then the Caliph is a ruler over you, and God is the supreme

Lord over the Caliph.

Moral Bases of Islamic Leadership:

Taqwa

Taqwa is the all-encompassing, inner consciousness of

duty towards God and awareness of one’s accountability

towards Him.

When imbued with taqwa, a person’s frame of mind—his

thoughts, emotions and inclinations—will reflect Islam.

Taqwa will restrain a Muslim leader or follower from

behaving unjustly—whether to community

members, to customers, to suppliers or to anybody else.

Moral Bases of Islamic Leadership:

Ihsan

Ihsan is the love of God. This love of God motivates the

individual Muslim to work towards attaining God’s

Pleasure.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) describes ihsan as follows:

“To worship God as if you see Him, and if you cannot

achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that

He is looking at you.”

The constant feeling that God is watching is likely to prompt

any leader or follower with Ihsan to behave at his best.

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