Because, leadership is firmly linked to truth, and dilution of truth these days on a global level is a mark of failing leadership.
That is why the greatest leader – by any definition of that term – that the world has ever known was distinguished from the very beginning, and throughout his life, by an unshakable adherence to truth and integrity.
I am referring here to Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, a greater leader than whom never existed throughout human history, judging by any standard.
Nothing provides a stronger proof of this than the honorific titles of Assadiq and Al-Ameen that the pagan world had conferred upon Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, during his youth at Makkah.
These Arabic expressions mean someone who is true in his speech as well as in his conduct – a man of integrity in every aspect of his life and character.
Whether in speech or in conduct, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, set the best standards for human beings to follow. For, he was, even before Allah picked him as his messenger to humanity, always honest and truthful, in his word as well as in his deed.
And honest and truthful he remained during all of his tenure on earth as God’s emissary to the humankind.
Islam Is Leadership
For Muslims – or for anyone else – Islam is leadership.
It is leadership over one’s own person and situation; leadership in one’s family; leadership in one’s neighborhood and immediate environment; leadership in the society; and leadership in the broader arena of human life in general.
There isn’t a situation in life where from an Islamic point of view leadership is not an issue.
Every one of you is a shepherd, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is reported to have said, each responsible for a flock.
I have never come across a more amazing definition of leadership than this.
According to a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, for Muslims the quorum for leadership is three.
“When three Muslims set out on a task together, let them,” says the noble Hadith, “appoint one of them as a leader.”
That means, from an Islamic point of view, when there are three people together – whoever and wherever they may be – they must choose one of them as their leader.
The specific wording of the Hadith is of critical importance here.
It is highly significant that the Hadith does not say, “Let one of them become the leader.”
So also the Hadith does not say, “Let one of them appoint himself the leader.”
Nor does the Hadith say, “Let one of them assume leadership” or “assume the charge or mantle of leadership.”
The Hadith, on the other hand, clearly states, “Let them appoint one of them as leader.”
The locus of power and action on the question of leadership in this Hadith is clearly the general membership of the group – every one of the three people in the group.
In a broader societal context, this would automatically mean the people – the public, the masses, the citizenry.
It would mean every single member of the community or society.
This is the concept that the Qur’an, on more than 200 occasions, refers to as Annaas – the people.
This was an amazingly powerful, groundbreaking and revolutionary – and gender-neutral – concept that the Qur’an introduced to the world in the seventh century of the Christian era. But the Muslims, alas, threw away this divinely ordained gender-neutral concept of Annaas in the Qur’an – and the way of life that it signaled – and replaced it in their English translations of the noble book with the gendered expression of Mankind.
Mankind, unlike the Qur’anic Annaas, was part of the legacy and lexicon of the Christian West’s male-centered view of the world with its roots in the Bible.
As for this Hadith itself, citizen representation and participatory democracy never had a clearer, crisper or more elegant expression than these divinely articulated words issuing out of the mouth of the man whom Allah had chosen as his messenger to humanity for all times to come.
The self-evident principle embodied in this Hadith is free and informed choice on the part of everyone in this elemental social grouping of three. I am characterizing the choice as informed because each member of a group of three is expected to know the other two quite well.
According to the Hadith, it is from within the group that the leadership emerges; and it is a leadership that is put in place by the other two in the group of their full volition.
This provides a strong foundation for a divinely ordained participatory and democratic culture in Muslim communities and societies.
And it creates a culture of participation in the life of Muslims that ranges from the most elementary and personal to the most complex and political.
The Muslims, however, in less than a half-century from the death of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, replaced this choice-based participatory electoral system of leadership and government with hereditary monarchy.
The resultant culture of generalized authoritarianism and political oppression has continued to haunt the Muslims right down to the present times, in their private as well as public lives.
Leadership Is Accountability
Also in Islam, leadership is accountability.
In Islam, everyone is a leader in his or her own domain – and therefore accountable for it.
This was the all-encompassing Islamic model of leadership that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, laid out over 1400 years ago.
Therefore, leadership in Islam is the responsibility – before God and man – to do the right thing; to be the best you can be; to mobilize the best and the most resources you can; to utilize the best available means and work to improve them continually; and to provide, to the best of your ability, the support everyone else in your family, neighborhood, society and the entire world may need.
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