The Qualities of a Good Leader In Islam

The Qualities of a Good Leader In Islam

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

All praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid and we ask for His forgiveness. We seek Allah’s refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whosoever Allah guides, there is no one who can misguide him; and whosoever Allah misguides, there is no one who can guide him.

I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, who has no partner; and I testify that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His slave and Messenger.

Dear brothers and sisters! Know that, leadership is a great quality of human nature. Every organisation or group of peoples needs a good leader in order to gain their desired success. As a social being, each and every man has to lead his life through a mutual relationship with others.

He is completely unable to do something alone. Thus, the necessity of co-operation brings out the idea of leadership in our society. Nowadays, the concept of leadership becomes very influential in financial, political and social arena. From the smaller institutions like family, every organisations and even the world body at large need good leader for the perfection of post-modern civilisation.

Islam, the only authentic revealed religion of the world, does not leave this issue unturned. For the upliftment of human culture and society it clearly discusses about the idea, concept and nature of leadership. Islam gives detailed principles, guideline and direction in this context.

The pre-condition and required quality of leadership also described here with great sincerity. This sermon is an attempt to make people aware about the concept of Islamic leadership. The pre-requisites of a good leader are also discussed here carefully, so that with the knowledge of revealed direction we can implement the teachings of Islam and achieve the ultimate success of here and hereafter.

Respected brothers and sisters! Allah the Almighty and His Messenger (Peace be upon him) 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 to choice of leadership. Some people think leader should be smart and handsome. Some people think he should be quick and intelligent.

We need to know what Allah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him) has recommended in this regard.

Dear servants of Allah! ‘Imam’ is an Arabic word which means ‘Leader.’ Imam is the leader of a country who runs administrative tasks of a country. Leader posses some qualities of leadership including qualities of personal character and the ability to motivate others towards the realisation of specific goals are on top of the list.

Leadership qualities can easily understand from Qur’an and Sunnah which we are going to discuss in this sermon In Shaa Allah.

Dear brothers and sisters! Allah the Almighty and His Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has guided humanity in every aspect of life. They have also guided us in matters of selection of our leader who can lead us. Everyone has different perceptions related to the choice of leadership. But we have to consider Qur’an and Sunnah when we have to specify leadership qualities of our leader. In Noble Qur’an, Allah the Almighty says:

“And We made them leaders, guiding by Our command; and We inspired them to do good works, and to observe the prayer, and to give out charity. They were devoted servants to Us.” [Qur’an, 21:73]

From the above verse of Noble Qur’an, we concluded that it is Allah Almighty who appoints the leader. It is not selected by anyone, nor given in a will, nor established by the committee. The role of the leader in Islam is also summarised, to guide and establish the Islamic society. The main aspects of leadership are Knowledge and Power as mentioned in Noble Qur’an:

“Have you not considered the assembly of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Musa (Moses) when they said to a Prophet of theirs, “Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of Allah“? He said, “Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?” They said, “And why should we not fight in the cause of Allah when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?”

But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. And Allah is Knowing of the wrongdoers. And their Prophet said to them, “Indeed, Allah has sent to you Saul as a king.” They said, “How can he have kingship over us while we are more worthy of kingship than him and he has not been given any measure of wealth?”

He said, “Indeed, Allah has chosen him over you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allah gives His sovereignty to whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing [in favour] and Knowing.” [Qur’an, 2:246-247]

My great people! From the above verse of Noble Qur’an, we came to know that Knowledge guides the leader to the right path he is able to assimilate the situation wisely due to his knowledge and then after penetrating the situation he should have the power to take decision accordingly.

If he does not have power then he is unable to implement his decisions that’s why he should have both power and knowledge. Power specifies the psychological decision and physical power. Besides knowledge and power justice, patience sound judgments are also important attributes which should be possessed by the leader.

Being a Muslim we all are leaders in some aspects as mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in one of His Hadith in these words:

“All of you are shepherds, and each of you will be asked concerning his flock.” [Bukhari]

Leadership is about teamwork as no one can alone accomplish anything without followers and for sure Allah’s help. And the important one is that effective leaders are those who are servant leaders. Good leaders are good followers, humble, piety, truthful, simple and they realise that success only comes from Allah, the Almighty.

There is a system of leadership in Islam so the leaders are to be obeyed, and they call to the truth.

May Allah the Most High give us knowledge and strength to choose our leaders by keeping in view the attributes pointed out by Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)! Ameen.

Dear brothers and sisters! Know that, as a result of technological development and modern techniques in today’s world, the strategic effective leadership appeared as modern face of administration. The purpose of today’s sermon is intended to help the professional leaders, whether they are presidents, governors, ministers, traditional/Islamic leaders,

team leaders, managers, school principals, community, religious or any other kind of leaders, to grapple with what exactly their role is, how to be effective in achieving the organisational goals and objectives; and realising the aspirations of their societies. As a leader, what am I to do?

If I want to be an effective leader, where do I begin? What do I focus on? Where do I put my energy or my attention? How can I tell if my priorities are right? How to develop my abilities to be a creative leader?, for someone who is new to a leadership role or for someone who has been on a leadership, these are key questions; we are going to look at in this sermon.

Remember, the main Objectives of the sermon is to give a comprehensive definition of leadership. Because there is often great confusion in people’s mind about the concept of authority and leadership, this sermon distinguishes between the two terms; in addition, it describes the most important personal, practical and technical characteristics of strategic effective leaders.

The sermon presents a model of leadership from Islamic perspective. It shows also the practical ways of how to create and develop a strategic leader. So, the subject of strategic effective leadership and its role in achieving the visions and objectives of any organisation is so important, specially at the time being.

It can be considered as the main tool, which all social and private institutions are used, and dynamic in achieving and accelerating sustainable social and economic development.

Definitions of Leadership

Although Leadership is an integral part of management and plays a vital role in managerial operations, it is not an attribute of business alone. It is in the army, in the government, in universities, in hospitals etc. and anywhere. Where people work in groups, the leadership function emerges and there must be somebody to guide that group.

Dear brothers and sisters! After reading several books on the subject, I think that the best starting definition of leadership you can use is that:

“Leadership is the ability of developing and communicating a vision to a group of people that will make that vision true.”

This definition may sound simplistic and practical. Almost everybody understands it and can grasp the essence of leadership. According to me it is a great point to start reviewing and looking to leadership by knowing first who’s a Leader? For example, Ken Valenzuela (in 2007) stated that:

“A leader is someone who has a vision and can communicate it and make it happen.”

A leader has to develop a vision, has to communicate it and has to achieve it. In order to achieve the vision (or goal) the leader has to master six practices. These can be mentioned as follows:

1. The leader has to vision the future imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. He also has to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

2. The leader has to foster collaboration promoting cooperative goals and building trust.

3. The leader has to strengthen others by sharing power and discretion.

4. The leader has to model the way and clarify his personal values and set the example aligning actions and share values.

5. The leader has to recognise contributions by showing appreciation for individual’s excellence.

6. The leader has to celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

Another definition, the Leadership is:

“The art of influencing and inspiring subordinates to perform their duties willingly, competently and enthusiastically for achievement of group’s objectives.”

It is the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically toward the achievement of group’s goals. It is important to add the element of “willingness” in the above definition. This element differentiates successful and effective leaders from the “common run of managers.” In other words, it’s the willingness of people to follow that makes a person a leader.

Leaders act to help a group achieve objectives with the maximum application of its capabilities. They facilitate process and inspire the group to accomplish organisational goals. Most management experts agree that:

“Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in effort towards goal achievement in a given situation.”

Leadership and Authority In practice, there is often great confusion in people’s mind about the concept of authority and leadership. It is useful to make some clear distinctions between these. Let us look at authority first. Authority has been defines as the right to command.

According to Henry Fayol, authority is the right to give orders and make sure that these orders are obeyed. Authority gives the management the power to enforce obedience. He defines it as “conferred power to perform a service.” Authority can be delegated. We delegate to people the authority to speak or to make certain decisions, or certain initiatives on behalf of the group.

The group, in turn, agrees to accept this person’s authority and respect the actions they take within this authority role. An important aspect of this is that authority is essential something that people were given or it is a position that they are appointed to or elected to. Leadership, on the other hand, is not something that people is given.

It is essentially something that they take. Taking leadership can be described as a decision we make to see that things around us work well or that the situation in which we find ourselves are handled effectively. It does not require any authority. Remember that it is not part of leadership to think for, or impose decisions on, the member of the group. Leadership is an influence relationship rather than authority one.

It is an influence relationship among leaders and collaborators. It is not necessary to occupy a formal position of authority in order to take leadership. There are many people, for example, with no formal authority who regularly take leadership and who make a big differences to the world around them.

There are also people we can think of in positions of authority who are or were outstanding leaders. Similarly, though, there are people who have authority but who do not take leadership for one reason or another.

First, people have to be thought individually. How is each member of the group doing? What is going well for them and where do they need a hand? What potential do they have? Where do they need support from us?

Essentially, thinking about people entails being able to see where they struggle and at the same time, seeing their strengths and their potential. Without these it will be difficult for a leader to figure out what makes sense in any situation.

Secondly, people have to be thought about collectively. This is quite different from just thinking about each individual. What is the situation facing the group? What is going on the group or the organisation as a whole? What are the difficulties, challenges and what are the opportunities that it faces?

What is the potential of this group? Thinking about these questions often involves taking account of such issues as relationships, communication, organisation, morale, power, roles, goals, conflict and oppression. We are trying to understand where the group as a whole is struggling and how we can assist that struggle.

A leader is great because of the followers. Nobody can be a great leader without great followers. In order to be an effective leader you must think about people and situation facing them.

Thirdly, the leader must think about what is happening in the wider situation that has implications for the individuals, the group or the organisation. What is going in the wide environment help us to make sense of what is happening within our group? What are the key issues in the environment that might attend how we see our tasks or how we attain our goals? Thus the leader tries to understand the process operating within the group and between the group and the world at large.

Bennis (in 1998) talks about the leader as someone who helps define reality, interprets events and makes sense of the complexity around people. As the sometimes, Tichy (in 2002) says the role of a leader is to see reality. The ability of leader to name or describe clearly what is happening is often a powerful resource for any group.

Finally, both the group or the organisation and the individuals within it need to be thought about over time. What has happened in the past for this group? What might be happen in the future for the group?

A good leader thinks about individuals in terms of their previous experience. What is happening to them in the present and what is possible in the future. It is not enough to think only in the short term.

The leader must think about how things will be over the long term. Having a clear understanding of both the past and the present and how things might evolve in the future. Having a vision of how things could be different is the key feature of effective leadership. A good leaders had a possibilities change and develop in the people around them.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership entails the common usage of the term strategic. It is related to the concept of strategy-simply a plan of action for accomplishing a goal. Strategy is a plan whose aim is to link ends, ways, and means. One finds both broad and narrow senses of the adjective strategic.

Narrowly, the term denotes operating directly against military or industrial installations of an enemy during the conduct of war with the intent of destroying his military potential. Today, strategic is used more often in its broader sense (e.g., strategic planning, strategic decisions, strategic bombing, and even strategic leadership).

Since the aim of strategy is to link ends, ways, and means, the aim of strategic leadership is to determine the ends, choose the best ways, and apply the most effective means. The strategy is the plan; strategic leadership is the thinking and decision making required developing and affecting the plan.

In short, one may define strategic leadership as the ability of an experienced, senior leader who has the wisdom and vision to create and execute plans and make consequential decisions in the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous strategic environment.

Strategic leadership provides the vision and direction for the growth and success of an organisation. To successfully deal with change, all executives need the skills and tools for both strategy formulation and implementation.

Strategic Leadership from the Islamic Perspective

Respected servants of Allah! In Islam leadership is a process of inspiring and coaching the voluntary followers in an effort to fulfill a clear as well as a shared vision. A strategic leader from the Islamic view is essentially a teacher and a coach. He leads by teaching leadership such that the followers in turn become good leaders.

Good leadership is providing a model to be followed. In Islam leader is not free to act as he chooses, nor must be submit to the wishes of any group, he in a majority or influential minority, he must act only to implement Allah’s laws on earth.

The essence of Prophethood is the exercise of power and authority to achieve the Divine purpose, and this is linked to leadership. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) thus combined in his person the authority of the Messenger, a mentor to common humanity, leader of family, head of state, diplomat, commander of the army, and a pioneer to a world social order.

The biography of the Prophet, therefore, offers an important lesson in leadership in all facts of life, and it is quite essential model for all Muslims and sincere non-Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a model of conduct for the Ummah (Uswatun Hasana).

Leadership is not a professional calling or a preserve of a few selected people. The Islamic view is that every Muslim is a leader in his or her own way. Everybody has leadership responsibility (remember the Hadith ‘Kullukum ra’in…’) and everybody is accountable on how well they discharged that responsibility. Abdullahi Ibn Umar reported the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) as saying:

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible of his flock. The amir (ruler) whose over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband’s house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man’s slave is a shepherd in charge of his master’s property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.”

The society cannot exist or function well without leaders. When any three Muslims are on a journey they are required to select one of them as a leader. Lack of leadership is anarchy. Leadership should aim at excellence in all endeavors. Excellence (Ihsan) is a pillar of religion (usulud Din) and must manifest in whatever a Muslim does.

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) taught us to be perfect in whatever we undertake to do (Itqan al amal). Leadership is both science and art. It is experience and knowledge. Leadership attributes skills are not inborn but are acquired and anybody can learn to be a good leader.

There are personal qualities that distinguish one leader from another. For example, Abubakr al Siddiq had a personality that marked him among men as a leader. The Prophet recognised strength in Umar Ibn al Khattab and always prayed to Allah to strengthen Islam with him.

Special Qualities of the Islamic Leadership

Qualities of effective leadership are: Influence, creates a vision of the future, rational strategy to move to the vision, enlists the support of workers and the ability to comprehend that human beings have differing motivating forces at varying times and in different situations.

Effective Islamic leaders are model what they breach and demonstrate integrity in how they behave. There is consistency between their values, their vision, their standard and their behaviour. For many group effective leaders are especially able to model a sense of hope and encouragement for people. They also model the belief and confidence in the people around them.

For example, when Umar Ibn Al khattab was appointed as a Khalifah (Muslim Leader), he addressed the people, saying:

“Now that I am in charge of your affairs, be sure that roughness has been increased. My severity will show on the unjust and the enemies of the Muslims. But for those who are peaceful, religious, and with good intentions, I am softer on them than they would be with each other.

I will not allow any one to be unfair or to encroach upon somebody else. But those who do, I would put their face on the ground, and put my foot on their chest until they accept what is right. With all this severity I am ready to lower my head to the poor people and to the contented. You can find in me the following characteristics which I promise to maintain:

Firstly, I will never touch any money from the tax we collect, or from alms money.

Secondly, nothing of state money will be spent except in the right way. Moreover, I am going to increase what is assigned to you and to defend the country. I also promise not to lend you to destructive wars, and not to leave soldiers for long period on the front lines. When you go on an expedition,

I promise to take responsibility for your families until you come back. Slaves of Allah, watch Allah in every action. Help me in governing you by being righteous; and help me against myself by giving me the right advice and by stopping me from committing any thing. Having accepted what I wanted to say, I ask Allah for forgiveness for me and you.”

Self-confidence is seen in Umar’s speech which reflects his ambition and strength.

In this speech Umar clarified his policies, stating that severity will be used against the unjust and against aggressive people, while kindness will be shown to the kind and the obedient. Money, on the other hand, will be spent where it is appropriate, and soldiers will not be kept away from their families, and their families will be looked after, the country will be defended and people consulted in decision-making.

History shows that Umar’s words were not mere promise, they were prove in action. There is another point in Umar’s leadership that relates to social change, namely his being kind, generous, merciful and caring.

Umar’s strong personality, his enthusiasm in applying Islam and his unfailing sense of justice, have all contributed to his unmatched success in holding the Muslim Arabs together, expanding Islam, establishing the required financial supervision and the judiciary, and building urban centers in Iraq and Egypt.

So, the effectiveness of leadership depends on the following:

1. Personality and character of the leader.

2. Quality of the workers.

3. Quality and atmosphere of the Jama’ah.

The importance of the personality and characteristics of a leader is that: Leader is the symbol of the organisation and represents its nature and quality. Leader is the centre of authority. And he is the driving force for the Jama’ah.

Other Spiritual, Practical and Technical Qualities are:

1. Taqwah, deep spirituality with excellent conduct and character are the special characteristics of a leader from Islamic point of view. This is to be done through a constant struggle to develop:

a. Close relation with Allah the Almighty.

b. Love of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), love of the Sahabah (Prophet’s companions) and love of the Ulamah (Sincere Islamic scholars).

c. Concern and fear of the accountability in the Day of judgment (Akhirah).

d. Knowledge and practice of Islam, administrative experience, and wisdom (hikmah) of leadership. He must deeply have understanding of the religion and its application in the changing environment. Establishing Islam is the true objective of his life. He must be an example for Iman (faith), Ilm (knowledge), and Amal (action). He must have true love and priority for his mission and the Jama’ah.

2. A leader must demonstrate his dedication and commitment to the organisational mission, goals and objectives by hard work and self-sacrifice. He must be honest, trustworthiness, and someone with history of selfless service.

3. Competence. He should have the critical skills of leadership, i.e., observation, analysis, coaching, recognising the potentials, delegation and feedback.

4. Decision making ability after appropriate consultation and then ability to implement the decision.

5. Successful leader should be flexible in his attitude with Hikmah (wisdom) depending upon the situation but he should be firm in his decisions and zeal to move to the objectives.

6. Strategic leaders must have the potential to understand their own moods and emotions, as well as their impact on others. He must be friendly and social.

7. Effective leaders are proficient at delegation. They are well aware of the fact that delegation will avoid overloading of responsibilities on the leaders. They also must recognise the fact that authorising the subordinates to make decisions will motivate them a lot.

8. Strategic leader should have ability to speak, write and use modern techniques of communication. Moreover, he must have good physical health.

9. Strategic leader should be willing to take risk. Routine work how well done never makes a leader. Good leaders always charter the unknown. They must accept and seek new challenges.

How to create and develop a Strategic Leader

Creation and development of a strategic leader involves a number of important aspects. First, the most important, indeed foundational, part of this preparation concerns values, ethics, codes, morals, and standards.

Second, the path to strategic leadership resembles the building of a pyramid. Shortcuts do not exist, and one can’t start at the top-strategic.

Leaders Are Made, Not Born

Strategic leaders gradually build wisdom, defined as acquiring experiences over time. Strategic leadership begins with organisational values, ethics, codes, moral and standards, the foundation of our profession. Upon this foundation, the leader develops an abstract body of expert knowledge based primarily on experience and basic skills. Continuing education can expand, and accelerate development. One must also remember that there are certain activities that can accelerate these experiences and widen perspectives.

Next the leader exposed to command responsibility and accountability, a vital phase during which the Leader gets his or her first real taste of consequential decision making. Further education in strategic-thinking skills enhances the leader’s competence. In each case, a leader could have opportunities to exercise strategic competency in support of a strategic leader. Ultimately, the leader will participate in strategic decision making and become a strategic leader.

Self-assessment and development are so important interpersonal skills. Self-assessment will help identify strengths and weaknesses. As a follow-up to the self-assessment, aspiring leaders should ask themselves a series of questions: What are my strengths? How can I capitalise on them? Where are my weaknesses? What can I do about them? Where do I want to be in the future? How can I get there?

Do I really want to commit to development? The last question is the most difficult one. Those who answer yes are ready to begin the journey toward becoming strategic leaders. Self-learning is also valuable, especially reading. All strategic leaders read outside their normal area of expertise. Strategic leaders do expand their perspective and increase their conceptual ability, in fact, many of them are experts in a number of unrelated fields. Becoming a “dual expert” helps one think in multiple dimensions.

I conclude my today’s sermon by answering for the question, how to create a leader? Turning other people into leaders is a vital part of leaders job, what can we do to achieve this? Simple steps to turn people into leaders are as follows:

First, we have to raise with people the possibility of their becoming leaders. This we can do in a variety of ways. We can ask them for help. We can praise their leadership qualities; we can create roles and ask them to fill them. We can talk about the need for leadership. And anything that encourages people to think of themselves as having a leadership role will be helpful.

I also conclude by answering for the question, what about those who are not born leaders but have responsibilities? We can say to them they should try to acquire the required qualities of leadership. We don’t ask for position, yet it’s not allowed to escape from the responsibility. We know that the position is not attractive, but full of responsibilities. We should have firm faith in Allah. He is the one who gave us this responsibility and he will help us to fulfill it.

O Allah! We beseech You to show us the way of righteousness together with those whom You showed it; and to give us good health together with those whom You have healed; and to be our Protector, as You are of those whom You protect; and to bless what You have bestowed on us; and to save us from the affliction that You have decreed –for You rule with justice and You are never judged; and he whom You protect shall never be humiliated and he whom You make Your enemy shall never be elevated. Blessed and dignified are You!

And we thank You for what You have decreed, we ask Your forgiveness and we repent to You. O Allah! Please lead us to the good deeds for no one leads to them but You; please lead us to the good conduct for no one leads to it but You; please make us do well in the religion, which is our dignity, and make our lives good for it is our existence, and grant us safety on the Day of Judgment for it is our Final Destination. Please supply our life with all good things and make our death a rest from every evil.

O our Master, the Lord of all Worlds! Please make us desire what You have made lawful and reject what You have made unlawful, and make us by Your benevolence independent of all others, and make our obedience to You turn us away from our disobedience; and by Your generosity and mercy elevate high the word of rightness and of the religion; lead Islam to victory, and grant Muslims dignity in every place on earth. Show us Your strength against Your enemies. O Allah, the most Generous!

I pray, may Allah give us taufiq to choose our leader by keeping in view the attributes pointed out by Allah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him).

Oh Allah! Do not give leadership over us to someone who doesn’t fear you and doesn’t have mercy upon us. Ameen.

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Ever-Living, Who does not die, and Peace and Blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and companions

Credit Br.Murtadha Gusau

Allah knows Best