Special qualities of Islamic Leadership

Imam Murtada Gusau

Not surprisingly, our learned and erudite brother, Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau dedicated his sermon of this week to the concept of leadership. In a week in which we are expected to elect our national leaders, such a guide is indeed necessary. Below, are excerpts from the long and very educational sermon he delivered yesterday. – A.U Yusuf

By Imam Murtadha Gusau


Effective Islamic leaders are models of what they preach and demonstrate integrity in how they behave. There is consistency between their values, their vision, their standard and their behaviour. For many groups, effective leaders are especially able to represent a sense of hope and encouragement for people. They also inspire trust 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 anyone 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 people.

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  center  of  authority. And he is  the driving  force  for  the  people.

Other  Spiritual, Practical  and Technical  Qualities  are:

  1. Taqwah, deep spirituality with excellent  conduct  and character  are  the  special characteristics of  a leader  from the Islamic point of view. This  is  to be  done  through a constant struggle to improve:
  2. Close relation with Allah the Almighty.
  3. Love of the  Prophet (Peace be upon him), love of the Sahabah (Prophet’s companions)  and love of the Ulamah (Sincere Islamic scholars).
  4. Concern and fear  of  the  accountability in the Day of judgment (Akhirah).
  5. 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.
  6. 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, trustworthy, and someone with a history of selfless service.
  7. Competence. He should have the  critical  skills  of  leadership, i.e., observation, analysis,  coaching,  recognising the potentials, delegation and feedback.
  8. Decision-making ability after  appropriate consultation and then the ability  to  implement that decision.
  9. A 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 towards their true objectives.
  10. Strategic leaders must  have  the  potential  to  understand  their  own  moods  and  emotions,  as  well  as  their  impact on others.  They must  be  friendly and social.
  11. 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.
  12. A strategic leader should have the ability  to  speak,  write  and  use  modern  techniques  of  communication.  Moreover, he must  have good physical health.
  13. A strategic leader should be willing to take risks. Routine work  however well done never make a great leader. Good leaders always charter  the unknown path. They must accept and  seek new challenges.

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 a current 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  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 once it is thrust upon you. We know that public position  is  not  attractive,  but full  of  responsibilities.  We  should  have firm  faith  in Almighty Allah.  He is the one  who  gave  us  this  responsibility  and  He will  help us  to  fulfil it, by His special grace.

I pray to Allah to 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.

This Friday sermon was delivered on Friday, February 15, 2019, in Okene, Kogi State.

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