Islamic Leadership: Heirarchy, Roles, and Systemics

Islamic Leadership as a counselor involves wearing many hats and acting under various constraints, We must enter institutions and act as peace and public officers, or chaplains / counselors and other professionals. Keep this in mind during this module and answer the questions that follow.

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Leadership from an Islamic perspective: Becoming an effective Muslim leader

The Islamic Workplace

This lecture on leadership is based partly on the book "Leadership from an Islamic Perspective" by Professor Rafik Beekun and Professor Jamal Badawi, and is a very short excerpt from the Islamic Management Series lectures which have been designed to help leaders of Muslim organizations become effective, Insha Allah.

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Presented by:



Mina Management Institute,

119, Jalan Kampar, 30250, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

E-mail: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Dr. Adalat Khan is the president of Mina Management Institute who specializes in Islamic Leadership, Conflict Resolution and Management strategies. His academic qualification includes Doctorate in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration and various post-graduate diplomas. Born in the NWFP province of Pakistan , Dr. Khan is currently permanently residing in Malaysia . Dr Khan is currently involved in pioneering research on Islamic Leadership Principles and its relevance to today’s leaders and their organizations. He had appeared in numerous radio and television programs and was associated with Pakistan Television as a compare and talk show host. A prolific writer who has written several articles publications, which are published in United Nation's publications, international magazines, WORLD EXECUTIVE DIGEST, and Management Times, and News Straits Times etc.



DR ADALAT KHAN [email protected]


Leadership is a great quality and every great organizational success besides other factors owes its credit to the leader who led it to glory. Small groups, families, organizations, states, empires and even the world at large need good leaders who can lead their respective followers and organizations to success. Every human endeavor needs a unifying and driving force for success and that driving force is ultimately traced to good leadership. It is also worth noting that every one of us in some capacity, sometimes, or somewhere is a leader. Leadership should not be confused with the role of only those who make headlines but in essence almost everyone have sometimes somewhere, somehow played a leading role.

In this paper my major goal is to glean through the annals of history and study the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his wise Caliphs and infer from it the key success principles which were responsible for great achievements in their lives. I am convinced that the Islamic Leadership principles practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and subsequently by his Caliphs and pious followers which if practiced will provide success principles equally useful both for Muslims as well as non Muslims.


In the Holy Quran God addresses human beings as his representatives or vicegerents on the earth providing them with all the necessary skills, principles and tools to lead their lives towards glory and also to lead others towards realizing their fullest potential.

"It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful" (Al-An'âm 6: 165)

As a representative of God Himself, human beings are assigned great faculties and qualities which if properly deployed could result in the achievement of miraculous goals. However to reach these goals one needs to follow certain principles and tools which are also known as success or leadership principles. Where do these tenets come from? Where can we find them? How to get them and use them? To answer these and identical questions let us first deal with the first question and identify the key sources of Islamic Leadership standards.


Islamic Leadership Principles are primarily derived from the following key sources:

The Holy Quran.

The Holy Prophet.

The Wise Caliphs.

Pious Followers


"There has come to you from Allah Light and a Plain Book." (5.15)

The Holy Quran is the primary source of leadership and success principles. Revealed by a Supreme author, God, its message has universal and eternal relevance. It is a complete Code of Life which contains guidelines on spiritual, social, economic and political aspects of human life. It is the last and complete edition of divine guidance and teaches the success and leadership principles which can guide life towards success and highest attainment. The beauty of the Quran lies in the universality of its use and completeness of its message. It is meant for everyone and in its following lie the success and prosperity of not this or that nation, but the entire human race. There are 6346 verses in the Quran which deal with various aspects of human life and offer advice and guidance. In some of these verses lie key attributes and qualities which if acquired will make one successful in any human endeavour. Faith, struggle, knowledge seeking, piety, charity, decision making etc. and identical concepts which form the core of leadership principles are contained in this book. It is through the understanding and application of these principles that one can perfect his/her leadership and achieve mega results. As representatives of God Himself human beings are very privileged to strive for excellence in every field of their endeavors and make things happen for themselves and those they lead. The leadership lessons contained in the holy Quran which will be detailed in the subsequent chapters offer keys to success and advancement. These concepts about leadership are either directly communicated or reflected in stories about earlier prophets and wise persons in the Quran. For example in one of the verses the Qur'an highlights an important aspect of Islam's concept of leadership. After successfully completing a number of tests, Prophet Ibrahim is given the glad tidings that he has been appointed a leader of all the people. "What about my progeny?" asks Ibrahim. "My covenant does not include the dhalimeen (oppressors)", comes the divine reply (Al-Qur'an 2:124). An important point emerges from this dialogue: an oppressor is not fit to be the leader of people. This is just a single example of how leadership is dealt with in the Quran. There are many more lessons and guidelines in the Quran which provide exemplary leadership principles for everyone to follow. In essence going through the Quran and understanding its contents one will be delighted to discover timeless wisdom based principles which are as relevant today as they were yesterday or thousands of years ago.

The Holy Prophet.

Who is the Greatest Leader of all times? In intellectual debates, philosophical discussions, and the biographies of great people who ever lived on the earth one name always appears on the top –Prophet Muhammad. The Quran also bears divine testimony and states that he is the best of leaders according to the following verse:

"For you the life of the Prophet is a good model of behaviour" (33:21).

The above view is not only held by his followers but also great personalities of other religions. These include some of his opponents as well who hold him in high esteem and consider him as the greatest personality of all times. Michael H. Hart author of the book “The 100”, French Philosopher Lamartine, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Carlyle and many other great intellectuals agree that Muhammad (pbuh) was one of the greatest leaders who ever lived and pay him great tributes.

It is thus through the study of Prophet Muhammad’s life, deeds, sayings and personal qualities that valuable leadership lessons can be derived. Three aspects of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) will be discussed here which will form the second source of Islamic Leadership Principles. These are:


Seerah is an Arabic word which means a way of life while Sunnah also an Arabic word means "Method" and provide excellent examples of the altruistic leadership principles practiced by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is through the study of his life and biographical events derived from it that Islamic leadership models are formulated. The Prophet began his message with a handful of individuals, organised them into dedicated groups, then into larger coherent organizations, until the process led to the setting-up of an Islamic State. This clearly required the development of a versatile political leadership process of incredible complexity and effectiveness.


Hadiths are the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) which were compiled by his companions. These were later on incorporated into great collections the Hadith (i.e. traditions) Books of Bukhari, Muslim etc. The collectors of traditions adopted a very scientific system in collecting the Traditions. They did not record any tradition except with the chain of narrators. Every tradition gives the name of the last narrator of the tradition from whom he learnt the tradition and so on back to the Prophet or Companion of the Prophet. In many of Hadiths the Prophet has directly and indirectly explained the leadership qualities and the importance of leadership. In one of his Hadiths the Prophet said:

“Each of you is a shepherd, and all of you are responsible for your flocks.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)

In yet another Hadith the prophet said:

When three persons go on a journey, let them put one of their number in command." (Abu Da'ud on the authority of Abu Sa'id)

The above two sayings of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) emphasizes the importance of leadership while a number of his other Hadiths have identified key qualities and principles which shall account for a person’s success.

The life, deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) offer excellent leadership models which if put into practice produce excellent results on individual as well as organizational performance. An orphan boy who faced hardships and whose guardianship changed hands three times since birth to adulthood Muhammad rose to be an undisputed leader of all times. He is a powerful role model that by following his example tremendous results can be achieved. This alone exemplifies his tremendous achievements because he totally practiced what he preached, and spent his life according to the divine Quranic teachings.


After the Holy Prophet, the first four Caliphs namely Abu Bakar, Umar, Uthman, and Ali followed the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and achieved extraordinary results. In fact their time is considered as the “Golden Age” of Islam because total justice, prosperity, progress, development, and ideal leadership principles characterized that era. The Caliphs were ideal leaders who guided their followers to the Right Path and discharged their duties as leaders in exemplary and extremely humane manner. In the chapters that follow we will discuss some of their leadership traits and life stories which will testify the highest quality of standards held by them.

Besides the wise Caliphs there are many more leaders and people of great wisdom who practiced the Wisdom-based principles of Islam and followed the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Jamaluddin Afghani, Salahuddin Ayubi, Jalaluddin Rumi, Iqbal, Tun Mahathir and many more who shaped human history and achieved tremendous achievements are just a few examples. Review and analysis of their thinking, deeds and achievements will provide us with the timeless principles. By tapping into their knowledge and skills, attitude and behaviour critical advantages in life can be achieved.


The paper will discuss key Islamic Leadership Principles and their importance for a Muslim as well as any other leader.


The primary methodological approach adopted in this paper is to study Islamic leadership as illustrated in the existing literature specifically Quran, Hadiths, and Seerah of the Holy Prophet. Included in this paper is a review of the existing literature regarding the definitions, leadership principles and success strategies of the Islamic leadership and Islamic leadership model. This study contains the results of a qualitative research study conducted on the Islamic leadership methods utilized by Muslim leaders. The fundamental proposition of this paper is that the Islamic leadership principles and model applied by any one to any leadership situation will lead to success and achievement of goals.


Quranic wisdom, the life of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) and his sayings, the deeds of the Caliphs and traits of pious followers offer the most beautiful and marvelous principles. Principles which can unlock success, sayings which can unite the hearts of humanity, deeds which if replicated will help anyone achieve almost anything in life. Why is it so? And why are they so powerful? Because they are divine and powerful laws which are time-tested and immortal, models which are bound to succeed, and methods which have worked again and again. Everything in this universe operates by certain laws and principles. Scientific laws such as the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics and other laws provide sound models on which scientific discoveries and inventions took place and the system of universe smoothly operates. Human lives also need laws and principles, specifically if one wants success, then Divine principles are needed which can be derived from the sources discussed above.

Leadership in Islam is considered as an amanah (a trust) and a responsibility. A leader is required to meet his obligations to God ,the Supreme Power as well as to discharge his duties towards the people (Makhluq) or his followers to the best of his abilities. It says to the rulers that the authority vested in them is not their private property but is a trust and that they should discharge the obligations of that trust to the utmost, like upright and honest people, and should carry on government in consultation with the people. It says to the ruled, the power to choose your rulers has been bestowed upon you as a gift from God and you should, therefore, be careful to invest only such persons with governing authority as fully deserve it, and after vesting this authority in them, you should give them your fullest cooperation and should not rebel against them, for if you do so, you are merely seeking to demolish that which your own hands have built.

Failure in any one of the aspects will be a total leadership and followership failure and both the leader as well as the followers will be held responsible and answerable. Meeting these duties will not only earn one the blessing of God the Almighty but will also fulfill his duty towards his fellow beings be they leaders or followers. To meet the leadership challenge both to one’s creator as well as to fellow human beings with flying colors there are certain parameters which must be followed.

There are many laws and principles and models but grouped together we can classify them into the following cardinal principles and values:

1. Faith and belief.

2. Knowledge and Wisdom.

3. Courage and determination.

4. Mutual consultation and Unity. (Fraternity and brotherhood.)

5. Morality and Piety. (Honesty and trust.)

6. Superior communication.

7. Justice and compassion.

8. Patience and Endurance.

9. Commitment and Sacrifice.

10. Lifelong Endeavour.

11. Gratitude and Prayers.


“God is the protector of those who have faith: From depths of darkness He leads them forth into light” 2:257

Faith lays the foundation of greatness and success and nothing happens unless one believes in its happening. One of the greatest qualities commonly shared by all great leaders who ever lived was their strong faith and belief in higher entity, themselves or their ideas. Faith and belief are thus the key qualities which determine the quality of one’s leadership. No other religion has placed so much emphasis on faith than Islam. The Arabic word used for faith and belief is Iman which is at the core of Islamic teachings. In Qur'anic phraseology, Iman (faith) has been regarded as the starting point of everything and "good actions" without Iman are useless. So the starting point must be Iman. A faith and belief in one’s ideals helps people overcome all their difficulties and achieve their goals. Faith and belief precedes determination, actions, and solid achievements. History is full of great examples where ordinary people achieved un-imaginable things because their faith and belief system had locked them into those things. Every great leader, every worthy achiever, and every person who achieved things which others thought were impossible had faith and belief. Faith and belief are the quintessentials of good leadership and without these qualities a leader will become hollow and empty. This is the spirit which drives a person towards greater heights. However I must clarify here that Faith and Belief must be grounded on good and righteon pillars and not bad and evil ones. There are people in fact thousands of them who believe in evil, bad, irrational, and un-natural things. They may get whatever they wish to get but they are not great leaders, because great leaders have noble values and great missions and their faith and beliefs are based on all things right.

2. Knowledge and Wisdom.

“Seek knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Leadership is a great responsibility and to fulfil this important duty the leader must continuously acquire knowledge as per the above advice put forward more than fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In numerous ayaats or verses of the Holy Quran human beings are advised to seek knowledge and wisdom. “...Say: ‘Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.’” (Qur’an, 39:9) This verse asks us an interesting question which makes us think that those who have knowledge are not equal to those who lack it. Knowledge is power and any leader who wishes to excel his/her leadership prowess must acquire knowledge. Knowledge is one of the major reasons which determine the rise and fall of civilizations and their leaders. A close look and analysis of the world’s great civilizations and their rise and fall will disclose that perhaps the single most important factor which caused them to rise to greatness or bring about their disgrace was the presence or lack of knowledge. Great civilizations which dominated human history for many years such as the Byzantine, Roman, Greek and Islamic. Civilization besides other factors can actually trace their demise to when the pursuit of knowledge by their leaders and followers was ignored. In Islam the acquisition of knowledge was given high priority even at the very inception of the religion. The Holy Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was a great promoter of a knowledge culture. In many of his sayings he has repeatedly advised his followers to acquire. For example these Hadiths ( His sayings) “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah (SWT) will make Paradise easy for him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-‘Ilm, 10) “The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr”, and “seek knowledge even if it is in China ." are just a few of the sayings which strongly recommend the acquisition of knowledge and learning. Knowledge is indeed power and that is why it was highly recommended by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). At the peak of its glory which is usually called the golden age of Islam, acquisition of knowledge both religious and scientific was also at its peak. In Baghdad , Cordoba , great libraries were set up where scientific, medical and mathematics books were kept along with religious ones. This was the time when the Islamic Civilization was blooming and leading in the acquisition and dispersal of knowledge while other cultures especially the European Christians were wallowing in superstition and ignorance of the medieval age. Science was regarded as black magic and only a few Christian clerics studied it and those who did were considered as heretics and were even burnt at the stakes or excommunicated. Muslims rose to the height of civilisation because of the importance the Muslims of that time attached to learning and knowledge. For more than 1,000 years the Islamic Civilisation remained the most advanced and progressive in the world. This is because Islam stressed the importance of and held great respect for learning and extensively promoted the learning culture. Muslims recognised excellence and hungered intellectually because the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah drove many Muslims to their accomplishment in all disciplines of knowledge.

During those glorious days in Spain , Christians and Jews spoke Arabic and were connoisseurs of Arabic literature and poetry. Seeing the progress and glory of Muslims in Spain and elsewhere the European Christians specially the French made great efforts to acquire access to the reservoir of knowledge in the great libraries of Al-Andalusia, particularly in Cordoba and Toledo . Extensive efforts were made to translate many of the Arabic texts including Quran to Latin. This ultimately played a catalytic role in the progress of the Western civilization. Ironically the demise of the Great Islamic Civilization on the other hand is attributed to some dangerous movements among Muslims which discouraged people from acquiring knowledge. The ascendancy of movements which postulated that non-religious knowledge should not be acquired by Muslims proved to be a negative point in Islamic history. For Muslims it was the start of the decline of the days of its glory as they lost Spain to Christians after ruling it for 800 years being given the choice of either converting to Christianity or expulsion to North Africa or death. The decline of Muslim glory coincided with the renaissance of Europe as Europeans fully deployed the knowledge gained from Arabic texts. This itself emphasizes how great civilizations and their leaders can perish if they do not keep continually acquire knowledge and learning.


“He (God) grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted receives indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the Message but men of understanding.” (Qur’an 2: 269)

Wisdom or hikmah in Arabic one of the most admired, ancient, recurring and popular attributes credited to great leaders is yet another quality highly admired by God himself as quoted in the Holy Quran. The word wisdom though one of the most admired quality is rarely defined or clarified. One of the reasons that wisdom is rarely defined or clarified is probably its intangibility or the many elements it possesses. However one thing is clear Knowledge is not necessarily

wisdom. It is excellence of discernment, discretion, intelligence, penetration of ideas, correctness of opinion, quickness of understanding, and clarity of mind which leads to correct actions and decisions.

3. Courage and determination.

Courage and determination are qualities which every leader must embrace, acquire, and possess. History is full of stories where ordinary people emerged as great leaders because they showed courage and determination. Courage and determination emanate from strong faith and belief and the complete satisfaction of one’s righteousness. The story of Tariq Bin Ziad a young army general is a classic example where courage, determination and confronting his fear led to the achievement of impossible tasks. It is related that the Spanish King Roderick was a very cruel king who inflicted extreme cruelties on his people. Besides being a tyrant and a repressive person he also disgraced his own people. In one such display of his tyranny he laid his hands on a female courtier who was the daughter of Count Julian, the Governor of Ceuta. This infuriated the count so much that he decided to overthrow Roderick and approached Musa bin Nusayr, the governor of Muslim North Africa, for help. Musa got the Caliph’s approval, after which he sent Tariq bin Ziad a young general in 711 to assist the Spanish people and get rid of the cruel King Roderick. Landing at Gibraltar , Tariq's army of 12,000 stood against 60,000 Spaniards, outnumbered 5:1. With his back to the Mediterranean Sea and a seemingly overwhelming force in front of him, Tariq gave the unthinkable order to his men to "burn their boats." His army's only means of escape. Tariq then delivered an inspiring speech and urged his comrades to be brave and think about the end goal, victory, and how they would achieve it. His courage, determination, speech and vision of victory rallied his troops to total commitment to the job at hand. With sheer courage and determination Tariq defeated his strong enemy and led his people to victory. Leaders are indeed with their mettle when they possess courage and determination as part of their character traits.

4. Mutual consultation and Unity.

"And those who answer the Call of their Lord, and to worship none but Him alone, and perform their prayers, and who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend of what we have bestowed on them." Quran 42:38

Mutual consultation (Shura) is a Quranic command as the above verse emphasizes and is listed with other key virtues such as worshipping God, performing prayers, and spending for the sake of God. There is a wisdom in mutual consultation as decisions taken with mutual consultation are supported by everyone and all concerns of the parties involved are addressed. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) himself practiced this value and in almost all important matters consulted with his colleagues and companions. The most outstanding example of the Prophet's Shura occurred on the eve of the Battle of Uhud (3AH). While he was of the opinion that the city should be defended from within, the majority wanted to go out and fight. The Prophet accepted this; he did not impose his own opinion. There is an important lesson here: the followers' trust and confidence is gained if their opinion is respected. Related to mutual consultation is also the importance of Unity as rightly commanded by God himself in Quran verse 21:92 VERILY, [O you who believe in Me,] this community of yours is one single community, since I am the Sustainer of you all: worship, then, Me [alone]!. Perhaps the single most important quality which must be instilled by a leader is creating a unified cadre of followers. Disunity is a cancer which destroys families, organizations, countries and the world community at large. Through mutual consultation a capable leader can prevent chaos and disunity and ensure a united force. This may only be achieved by being willing and open to views and consultation themselves.

5. Morality and Piety.

7:35 “O CHILDREN of Adam! Whenever there come unto you apostles of your own, conveying My messages unto you, then all who are conscious of Me and live Righteously - no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve;”

In numerous verses of the Holy Quran including the above, morality and piety are greatly emphasized not only upon as virtues of leaders but all believers. A leader communities he leads and as such his/her morality and piousness must serve as an example. It is also so since the leaders are entrusted with the affairs of the community and if they are immoral they will not serve the cause of their people. We see from the Seerah of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) that his exemplary honesty and integrity had earned him the title of Al-Amin (The Trust worthy) and Alsadiq (The Truthful) in Makkah even before being appointed by God to Prophet Hood. After the Prophet’s death his wise Caliphs also religiously practiced morality and piety. In his first speech as Khalifah of the Muslims, Abu Bakr Siddiq proved himself an ideal of modesty and humility. There was total absence of the kind of arrogance one finds in modern-day rulers when they assume power. They proclaim their own virtues and the great feats they will perform. Abu Bakr Siddiq's attitude was totally different. He said:

"I have been appointed as ruler over you although I am not the best among you. I have never sought this position nor has there ever been a desire in my heart to have this in preference to anyone else... If I do right, you must help and obey me; if I go astray, set me aright... Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I disobey them, then you have no obligation to follow me"

6. Superior communication:

A leader must be extremely good in communication and must be eloquent and articulate. This is required to communicate the purpose, mission, vision, and goals of an organization. Communication is an extremely important quality which must be learned, practiced and mastered by every leader of a flock. It is needed because the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our communication skills. In fact all the time we are communicating either with ourselves or others. We communicate with ourselves in terms of dialogue, self-talk, thoughts and what some call auto suggestions. We also need to communicate with others, so as to put our messages across, elicit response, sell our ideas, get information and relate. These and many other uses of communication make it extremely important that a leader must master the art of excellent communication skills. Providing information, coaching followers, motivating teams towards excellence and achievement and in fact every facet of a leader’s role requires good and articulate communication. Indeed the Holy Quran itself is the most splendid example of superior communication where some of the most complex matters are beautifully presented. The Prophet, articulated the message of Islam in a way that was immediately accepted by a small group of people in Makkah. Even the Quraish acknowledged that his message had merit but they opposed it because they viewed it as undermining their personal interests. When Utbah ibn Rabi‘ah went to the Prophet with offers of money, beautiful women or a position in the Makkan hierarchy, in an attempt to dissuade him from his mission, the noble Messenger gave him a patient hearing. When Utbah had finished, the Prophet recited Surah Ha Mim Sajda (Surah 41), instead of responding to his suggestions which clearly imputed ulterior motives to the Prophet. The recitation of the Surah had such an effect on Utbah that he returned to his fellow chiefs in utter humiliation, telling them to leave the Prophet alone.

7. Justice and Compassion.

Justice and Compassion are yet other qualities which form the core of Islamic Leadership. Justice without compassion leads to tyranny, while compassion without justice creates anarchy. A leader needs to maintain a careful balance keeping the overall good of society in mind (Al-Qur'an 5:08; 4:135; 7:29).Prophet Muhammad as well as his wise Caliphs and companions attached great importance to justice and compassion. In a suit brought against a Jew by Hazrat Umar, both went to the Qazi. The latter on seeing the Caliph Umar rose from his seat out of deference. Caliph Umar considered this such an unpardonable weakness that he dismissed the Qazi at once. On another occasion when Umar found his own son Abu Shama drunk he had him publicly flogged. In Islam the concept of justice is at such a highest standard that no other system can compete with it. The Holy Quran in explicitly commands that “ O ye who believe ; stand firmly for justice as witness to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For God can best protect both” Quran 4:13. This verse sets such a highest standard that no other religion or system can match it. God the Mighty Wise loves justice and compassion and every true leader must have this trait. Justice, therefore, is a fundamental precept of Islam; even more so for a leader because it is part of his responsibility to maintain a balance in society. Injustice invariably leads to turmoil and conflict. At the same time, justice must be tempered with compassion. An Islamic leader must combine the two in his personality.

8. Patience and Endurance:

Patience (Sabr) and endurance is yet another hallmark of great leadership. God the Mighty Wise himself has praised this quality in many verses of the Holy Quran. The verse “O ye who believe! Persevere in PATIENCE and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah. that ye may prosper.” Quran 3:200. This shows how important patience and endurance is for a leader and a believer in general. This include the capacity to endure; the stamina to persevere in the face of inevitable resistance, difficulty, and opposition in the struggle to bring about improvement of social condition. All great leaders face tremendous challenges and enormous difficulties but with patience and endurance they persevere and achieve the noble goals and missions of their lives. In the face of immense persecution and opposition in Makkah, the Prophet not only showed patience and endurance himself but also counseled his companions and followers to be patient and never give up. At the same time he encouraged them to be dynamic and to be optimistic about achieving their goals. Similarly other prophets such as Ayub, Yaqub, Yusuf and many others faced great tribulations in their lives but patience and endurance helped them to survive and ultimately emerge as winners. One story which displays the highest degree of patience and endurance by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is about his mission to the city of Taif . He had suffered some personal losses in the death of his beloved wife Khadija and his loving After the passing of his uncle Abu Talib, the Makkans had become more hostile towards the Muslims and showed no restraint, even against the Prophet (pbuh). The prophet (pbuh) decided to visit Taif in the hope that they would be more responsive to the message of Islam than the Makkans were. However, the people of Taif also refused to listen to the prophet (pbuh) and refused to accept his teaching. Instead the chiefs of Taif set the hooligans of the town upon him causing him and his companion Zayd to be injured during their escape. They injured him; so much so that they threw stones at him, thereby hurting his feet so badly that they became soaked with blood. Instead of becoming angry or disgruntled Muhammad (pbuh) said a dua(prayers) to Allah and then they moved on towards Makkah. The Angel Jibrael came to the prophet (pbuh) with the Angel in charge of mountains. The Angel Jibrael told prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that if he so wished he would command the Angel of mountains to bury the city of Taif between two mountains. Although the prophet (pbuh) had suffered a great deal in the hands of these people, he replied that maybe their offspring would accept Islam and would proclaim the religion of truth. Due to the kind nature of Muhammad (pbuh), the city was saved from destruction. In fact later on some of the very same people from Taif came as a delegation in 9th Hijra, to Medina . The Holy Prophet treated them very hospitably and took the best care of them and even arranged their stay in the Holy Mosque. (Abu Daud). This inspiring story demonstrates that great leadership indeed requires patience and endurance. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: Whoever remains patient, God will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience. Sahih Bukhari

9. Commitment and Sacrifice:

Commitment and sacrifice are yet other traits without which a leader can not be exemplary. It is through commitment to one’s mission and goals and the mentality of whatever it takes that differentiates great leaders from the ordinary people. In my view commitment may be simply defined as, “ an attitude of people for deploying their total resources towards the achievement of certain goals”. With total commitment also comes the spirit of personal sacrifice. A Muslim leader must be seen to be making sacrifices, only then the followers will commit to the cause and make bigger sacrifices. An Islamic leader needs to be committed to the upliftment of his people and must make personal sacrifices so the downtrodden would have more benefits and facilities. The greater the aim, the higher is the price one has to pay to realize it. Sacrifices consist of both material as well as physical sacrifices. All great leaders practice both and despite all dangers both loss of materials as well as life they endure and achieved their goals. Simplicity is another aspect of personal sacrifice and commitment. This sense of sacrifice and simplicity was practiced by the Khulafa ar-Rashidoon. It is reported that Abu Bakr Siddiq took a small portion from the Bait al-Mal (Treasury) for his family's upkeep because he had to give up his own business when he became the khalifah. On his deathbed, he instructed his family to return to the Bait al-Mal whatever was left of his possessions. It was this example which prompted Umar ibn al-Khattab to say that he had left a very difficult legacy for his successors to follow. During Umar's Khilafat (rule), his companions wanted to increase his stipend from the Bait al-Mal but he flatly refused despite the Islamic domain having extended far and wide and having acquired great riches. Similarly, Imam Ali led a very simple life. A Bedouin once found him shivering in a worn out sheet because he could not afford to buy a better cloth to cover himself in. Such examples of self-sacrifice abound in the history of Islam which made them highly successful leaders at that time. These leaders besides showing extreme level of commitment to the cause assigned to them at the same time offered enormous personal sacrifices and spent a very simple life a quality which can be directly attributed to their success.

10. Lifelong Endeavour:

Islam is a dynamic and practical religion and so are its tenets towards leadership. One of the most important tenets of leadership is the concept of lifelong endeavour for the good of humanity and God’s good causes. The Quran therefore tells all believers “ And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive (with sincerity and under discipline): Quran 22:78”. A true leader thus does not sit idle on laurels but continuously strives towards better conditions and nobler goals. Complacency kills enterprise as well as progress which must be avoided and replaced with the zeal of continuous struggle. Another aspect of lifelong endeavor is the ability to bounce back even after temporary set backs and failures. Renewed vigor and massive hard work are the hall mark of great leaders and they should also ask and encourage their followers to practice the same principles. Islam does not allow inaction, passivity, stagnation in any sphere of human life. It declares that every individual has to strive for better results in his or her life. The Quran clearly states that “ Man can have nothing but what he strives for” Quran 53:59.

11. Gratitude and Prayers

Human beings owe a lot of gratitude towards their Creator as without His blessings and power nothing can happen. Prophet Muhammad has said that “Gratitude (shukr) for the abundance (ni'math) you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue. If we think and see around there are a lot of good things which God has provided us which must be acknowledged and one must be grateful for them. Health, inner peace, family, our beliefs and faiths and thousands of other things which we take it for granted are the gifts of God for which we must be grateful at all times. Gratitude is a morally beneficial emotional state that encourages reciprocal kindness and receipt of further gifts from God. Related to gratitude is the importance of prayers and supplications. It is reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Supplication is the weapon of the believer, the pillar of the religion, and the light of the heaven and earth" (Al-Hakim). Prayers and supplications bring us nearer to God and protect us from calamities and destruction. On the positive side prayers and supplications plead our case to God and he bestows more blessings on us. In verse 60 of Sura “Mu’min” God commands us “ And your Lord says’ “ Call on me; I will answer your (prayers). But those who are too arrogant to serve me will surely enter Hell-in humiliation”. The Quran is full of stories of God’s prophets such as Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Elijah, Job and many others who received freedom from troubles and persecution through the power of prayers. All great Muslim leaders showed exemplary gratitude and offered keen prayers and were thus successful in their endeavors and struggles.


Leadership is a great quality and every group be it a of 3 people, organization, family, a company, or a country needs able and good leaders. On the global scene there is a need for good leaders too as today the world is mired by international conflicts, wars and mutual suspicions which if not corrected can demolish the whole world. The Islamic Leadership Model and the principles associated with it offer a leadership alternative which can open the door of excellence and achievement. The principles are gleaned from the Quran the words of the Mighty Wise, the practice and sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the character and deeds of the Caliphs and other great Muslim leaders who with meager means and enormous hurdles reached the zenith of excellence. These principles and their application are equally useful for every leader be they Muslim or non-Muslim as they transcend racial, religious, and temporal boundaries. Understanding, acquiring, and application of these mega principles can open up the doors to success and progress in every human endeavour. Prophet Muhammad, Caliph Abu Bakar, Umar, Othman, and Ali and their successors practiced these principles and achieved highest places in the annals of human history.


1. Wikipedia online site.

2. Muhathir Muhammad: Islam, Knowledge and other matters, KL MPH Bookstore.

3. Kalim Siddiqui: Political Dimensions of the Seerah, The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought , London and Toronto .

4. King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex, The Holy Quran, English Translation of the meanings and commentary.

5. Kalim Siddiqui: Political Dimensions of the Seerah, Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, London and Toronto , 1998.

6. Alatas and Wan Nor ICLIF Leadership Model an Islamic Alternative.

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