Yes, I want to become a leader – An inspiring leader who can unite people, fight against corruption and injustice, and build a nation where people can live without fear.
We are falling short of good leaders today. Today’s leaders are racing towards power, usurping the property of the helpless and snatching away the identity of the homeless. The world today has become a pit of hatred and bitterness where human beings are deprived of their fundamental rights, their promised freedom, and even their voice against injustice and corruption.
As we suffer the consequences of poor leadership, questions like “ What makes a good leader”? often pops up in our minds. We end up wondering why leaders of today end up displaying weak character on acquiring power and leadership. We clearly live in a time where the world is demanding better trendsetters. Widespread dissatisfaction with the corrupt and unjust leaders and the breakdown of trust in many states and institutions are clearly visible throughout the nation.
The need for good leadership is not unique to Muslims but is a global problem. The words of Martin Luther King Jr stand true when he famously lamented how our scientific and technological advancements have outstripped our humans, hence ‘we have guided missiles and misguided men.
Abraham Lincoln famously said: ‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.’
This quote clearly indicates how Lincoln understood the significance of character and integrity when one steps into the zone of leadership. There are too few leaders history has witnessed who have managed to embody this like Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X.
But how can one forget to talk about great leaders without mentioning the name of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ who is not only the greatest commander in the eyes of Muslims worldwide but even to noted non-Muslims researchers and historians such as Michael Hart, who named Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as number one in his compilation of the hundred greatest leaders in history?
We find an abundance of examples of the golden qualities in the life of the Prophet ﷺ.
His integrity was established from a young age along with his consistent display of honesty and truthfulness in his dealings with people. During the dispute of the Blackstone, when the young Muhammad ﷺ walked in, the Makkan leaders declared ‘Al-Amin has arrived’ and accepted him as the solution provider.
His strategic decision was apparent during the treaty of Hudaiybiyah when he designed an agreement with the Makkans which left his followers disappointed in the short term, but it led to the conquering of Makkah in the long term.
His courage was prevalent during every battle and every challenging period faced by his people. Once at night during the Madinan period, the companions were awoken by a frightening loud noise. As they cautiously stepped out of their homes to see what was going on, they saw it was a horse which had lost control, but luckily someone brave had swiftly come out and brought the horse under control. It was none other than the courageous Prophet.
He was the embodiment of the Quranic framework Al-Qawi Wal Amin. The Prophet displayed the need to be both competent and good. He was known to be an able speaker who had the gift of ‘jawam’ul kalima—a poetic way with words enabling him to say much with only a few words. He was a skilled swordsman, with excellent equestrian skills but also had day-to-day practical skills from construction to sewing.
He was brutally fair and just, such that during a dispute between a believer and a Jewish person who had been framed, he gave the verdict in favor of the Jewish person in light of the evidence. He similarly declined giving leadership roles to companions whom he felt would not be sufficient just in their role.
He was a focused decision-maker who moved to action soon after he came up with the best decision. He was a firm believer in consulting and worked on the expertise of those around him.
The aforementioned leadership qualities have not only strong foundations in Islamic tradition but are also universal in nature, hence making it globally applicable to any leader be it Muslim or Non-Muslim.
In today’s plural, multicultural and multi-faith environment, universality is like gold dust. We are in desperate need of people who will be able to offer leadership across various beliefs and boundaries. Muslims need to be able to act as ethical sparks in society, living up to the values taught by our Prophet. They need to be inclusive of their ideas so that they can benefit a wider sect of society.
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