By Imam Murtadha Gusau
• His Leadership Qualities
Drawing on my analysis of the Sirah (Prophet’s Biography), and integrating the work of multiple researchers worldwide, most notably that of John Adair—the world’s first Professor of leadership, who wrote on the Leadership of Prophet Muhammad in 2011, I identified a comprehensive list of over fifty Prophetic leadership qualities.
I then critically reviewed these to seek the top ten. After extensive filtering, merging and examining the list against Sirah (Prophet’s Biography) based evidence, I arrived at eleven qualities, and concluded each of these eleven were vital, and hence would form my definitive list. That list is as follows:
1. Integrity and Trust — built a reputation for honesty and truthfulness; role modelled.
2. Vision — a strategic mind offering vision and direction through inspiration.
3. Courage — showed incredible bravery and confidence in the face of adversity.
4. Competence — was effective, reliable and made an impact.
5. Fairness — was just and meritocratic in dealings including with non-Muslims.
6. Decisiveness — would not sit on the fence, but consider options then make a clear decision.
7. Servant-leadership — led by example; faced hardship with the people; action not just words.
8. Wisdom — able to make considered judgement drawing on knowledge and long-term view.
9. Patience — showed deep resilience, forgiveness and ability to go all the way.
10. Compassion and Warmth — radiated heart, affection, appreciation and gentleness.
11. Emotional and Spiritual intelligence — able to inspire hope; give people purpose and meaning.
My beloved and respected people, it is not difficult to find an abundance of examples of the above qualities in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
His integrity was established from a young age given his consistent display of honesty and truthfulness in his dealings with everyone. During the dispute of the Hajarul-Aswad (The Blackstone), when the young Muhammad (PBUH) walked in, the Makkan leaders declared ‘Al-Amin has arrived’ and accepted him as their solution provider.
His strategic vision was apparent during the treaty of Hudaibiyyah when he framed an agreement with the Makkans which his followers felt disappointed with in the short term, but which saw Makkah conquered in the long term.
His courage was apparent 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 an out of control horse, but luckily someone brave had swiftly come out and brought the horse under control. It was none other than the courageous, beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
He embodied the Qur’anic framework of Al-Qawi Wal-Amin. Hence strong, competence and able, while being trustworthy. Today we find that sometimes good people aren’t the most competent, while the most competent aren’t always being good. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) role modelled the need to be both.
He was known to be an able communicator who had the gift of ‘Jawami’ul-Kalim’—a poetic way with words, enabling him to say much with only a few words. He was an expert swordsman, with excellent equestrian skills but also had day to day practical skills from construction to sewing.
He was scrupulously fair, and just, such that during a dispute leadership between a believer and a Jewish person who had been framed, he gave a verdict in favour of the Jewish person in light of the evidence. He similarly declined to given leadership roles to companions whom he felt would not be sufficiently just in their leadership.
He was a focussed decision-maker who moved to action soon after his mind was made. He was an advocate of consulting (Shurah) and drew on the expertise of those around him. Then he would decide and act. Once as he was making defence preparations and putting on his armour for a military expedition, a companion came to question the plans in relation to the military move. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) knew when the time for discussion and when the time for action was. He said to the companion, when a Prophet puts his chainmail on there is no turning back.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said:
“The leader of a people is their servant.”
He demonstrated this throughout his life from personally building his Mosque to partaking in digging during the battle of the Trench (Khandaq). He was not a self serving leader but in service of a higher cause. This was accompanied by humility and living a simple life. He didn’t have a thrown and sat among his people as one of them, such that when foreign visitors came, they could not immediately tell from a gathering who the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was.
He was wise but practical at the same time. Once a Bedouin came to the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and when the call of nature came he began urinating within the Mosque and prayer area. Naturally this infuriated the other worshippers and companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who started marching towards him in anger. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) intervened, not only by stopping the possibility of the Bedouin getting beaten up, but actually told the worshippers to let the Bedouin finish urinating!
He (PBUH) recognised that this was not an act of aggression but rather the simple Bedouin did not know about the etiquettes of the Mosque and needed to be taught. This was the wisdom of the great teacher — the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who proceeded to counsel the foolhardy Bedouin.
One of the most apparent qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was his incredible patience. For thirteen years he endured abuse and persecution at the hands of his fellow Makkans, including the times when his companions were tortured and in some cases killed. Even the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wasn’t spared having animal entrails thrown at him as he prayed.
One of his most perilous moments was in Ta’if when the people and their children stoned the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) until he was bleeding extensively.
Yet he had to remain patient and resilient through the suffering while painfully seeing his beloved followers grossly mistreated. His internal strength and patience, gave his followers strength and patience until Allah gave them some ease.
Compassion and love was in abundance in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who sought to reflect the compassion of the divine.
Once, an elderly neighbour who would regularly throw rubbish in the pathway of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fell ill. In seeing this, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not celebrate this situation rather showed care and compassion by going to visit the old woman, and preparing food for her.
Emotional intelligence is about regulation of one’s emotions and that of others, to harness good relationships. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught that even ‘smiling was charity.’ Hence he taught to project positive emotions hence keeping oneself happy and making others happy as well. Spiritual intelligence is the next level from the emotional realm. It is about directing oneself and inspiring others towards a purposeful end. It’s about leveraging the power of values to create meaningfulness and seeking to make a difference.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) always warned against living life in a meaningless fashion and called for follower to be great people. Once when an Arab chief called Thumamah Ibn Uthal was captured and set for execution on account of his murder of countless Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) surprised him with hospitality and leniency instead. In the process, he (PBUH) repeatedly enquired into Thumamah’s heart, asking him to open up and say something. Thumamah felt the power of the Prophet’s (PBUH) presence and heart. He could sense the presence of the great man (PBUH) and his heart. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) then released Thumamah unconditionally, but Thumamah found himself warming to the divine purpose and immediately made his declaration of faith without much being said between them. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was less concerned with winning arguments and more concerned with winning hearts. This is what Spiritual intelligence is about.
The eleven Prophetic leadership qualities are authentic, timeless and universal. They mattered in the past, are needed today and will continue to matter in the future In Shaa Allah.
These qualities relate to the wider Islamic notion of character development and spiritual development, something of critical importance for leaders and the key to mitigate against corruption and other pitfalls of power. It is no wonder, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“The best of you are those best in character.”
Imam Al-Ghazali — a master of character development, who deeply understood Prophetic leadership, recognised the need to set an example as a leader. He said in his famous advice to leaders:
“If a leader is upright… his officials will be upright, but if he is dishonest, negligent, and comfort-seeking… the officers implementing his policies will soon become slothful and corrupt.”
• Battle of Hunain: Authentic Leadership in Action
One of the most remarkable events in the Sirah (Prophet’s Biography) is found in the famous battle of Hunain. It is an event that Professor John Adair notes as being an impressive example of managing multiple stakeholder demands with integrity. Hunain was a difficult and challenging occasion in which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) showed great judgement, astute leadership and arguably all of the eleven leadership qualities in one event. As the saying goes:
“Leadership is like a tea bag, you don’t know how good it is until it’s in hot water.”
And in the hot water of Hunain, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) demonstrated why he was the greatest of leaders.
After the peaceful liberation of Makkah, some neighbouring tribes became enraged at the growth and success of the emergent Muslim community. The Bani Hawazin in particular set out on the war path in an attempt to destroy the Muslims. The battleground was the valley of Hunain, near Ta’if where some 12,000 Muslims would meet some 4,000 enemies. In outnumbering the enemy for once (in contrast to Badr where Muslims were outnumbered yet won) many among the ranks felt over confident, complacent and thinking it would be an easy battle.
However, as the Muslims set up camp, they faced a surprise ambush, as the enemy charged forth earlier than expected, leading many of the Muslim soldiers to flee, leaving the courageous Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in danger as he (PBUH) continued to stand his ground before the oncoming attack.
As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his steadfast companions called the fleeing Muslims to return and stand with the Prophet (PBUH), the Muslims eventually regained control and overcame the Bani Hawazin. The lesson to be learnt for those who fled was revealed in Surah Tawbah reminding us of the need to both take preparation and rely on Allah; and not to assume victory solely based on worldly and numeric considerations, but to invoke the metaphysical world and seek the help of Allah as only He can grant success. It is also the case that one can only be deserving of Allah’s help and blessing if one is of good character and is Al-amin (Trustworthy).
The great leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) becomes even more apparent when observing the way he managed different stakeholders and emotions in spite of being in the difficult environment of the battlefield. For example, it emerged that one of the captives was Shaima Bint Halimah — the long lost foster sister of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who happened to get caught up in the battle. Her claim of relation was not initially believed but she asked to see the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and he agreed, but when she came forth he did not recognise her until she showed him a bite mark he left on her arm when he was a child. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) then welcomed her warmly and laid down his cloak so they could both sit and catch up — a wonderful example or warmth, patience and emotional intelligence in the midst of the harshness of war.
Another defining moment was when the defeated and captured Bani Hawazins pleaded for mercy from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This was difficult for the Prophet to grant as his soldiers had an established right to the spoils of war which included booty and captives. However as Professor John Adair notes, he creatively found a win-win approach (Covey concept) by calling upon his men and asking for volunteers to come forward in public and forgo their right (Ihsan concept).
The opportunity to exchange booty for honour by being recognised by the Prophet before their peers was too good an offer to resist for many, hence allowing the Prophet to grant clemency to those who pleaded. To others he offered camels and goats in exchange for captives, leaving stakeholders satisfied — a great example of wisdom, integrity and fairness.
However, there remained one group — some of his closest companions from amongst the Ansar who felt they had missed out completely — gaining little by way of honour or booty. This slight discontentment reached the Prophet, and rather than ignoring the feelings of his people, as some leaders do, he went to find them and ask them about how they felt and why.
The hesitant companions eventually expressed how they felt they had missed out while others gained much, even though they had sacrificed the most. This is where the spiritual intelligence and vision of the Prophet really showed, as he reminded them that while others went home with goats and camels, they the Ansar are the favoured ones who get to take Allah and His Messenger home! The companions wept at this great realisation and felt embarrassed at their earlier feeling of discontentment.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) thus applied almost all the eleven qualities in this one event, and solved immense challenges with incredible integrity.
• Good Leadership and Respectful Pluralism in Today’s World
The eleven Prophetic leadership qualities listed above make for an incredibly good and worthy leader no doubt. Indeed embodying even half of them would make one stand out in today’s leadership vacuum. But cultivating these qualities is not easy, which is why true leadership is ultimately hard won.
Hence I return to the issue of character as outlined in my Lincoln quote at the beginning, and note that this is man’s greatest frontier. Man’s greatness or grotesqueness depends acutely on their character and qualities.
While the aforementioned leadership qualities have strong references in Islamic tradition they are also universal in nature, hence making it globally applicable and useful to any leader, Muslim or Non-Muslim.
In today’s plural, multicultural and multi-faith environment, universality is gold dust. And there is a desperate need for people to be able to offer leadership across beliefs and boundaries. Muslims need to be able to act as ethical beacons in society, living up to the Prophetic (and universal) values. They need to be inclusive and able to serve causes that benefit wider society not just Muslims.
It has often been asked ‘where is the Muslim Mandela?’ It is indeed a pertinent question. In Mandela we see one who embodied many of the Prophetic leadership qualities, yet we struggle to find Muslim leaders today who have even some of these qualities. This is of course not just a Muslim problem as the world in general has not replaced Mandela with an equal.
Muslims believe that there will never again be a leader like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but there is nothing to say there cannot be another great leader like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman or Ali. There is hence certainly no reason why there cannot be another Mandela, if we find it in ourselves to be great people. Let us embody the leadership example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and let the eleven qualities unlock your talent. Now the world is waiting for you.
Dear brothers and sisters, the childish actions and behaviours of the French President Emmanuel Macron and his desperate colleagues, pandering to the worst racist and Islamophobic impulses of their society, have seen them encourage defamation and attacks on the personality of the Leader of all Creation, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to provoke and antagonise their already disenfranchised Muslim community as a scapegoat.
So this year we have another debate: how do we effectively respond to the attacks against the supreme position of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from his jealous enemies?
The entire Muslim Ummah has responded in various ways, from boycotting French goods to statesmen issuing harsh rebukes. Politicians, activists, scholars and Da’awah organisations have gone into overdrive in defending the Best of Creation, the greatest leader of all times, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and calling out the desperate hypocrisy of the French state.
This reconfirms that we need to look at the disputes that we inherited from classical fiqh or aqidah debates differently, in light of the current challenges against the core of our aqidah: the personality and greatness of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
• Make this an international week to reintroduce the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
This is why I propose that instead of debating over the means of celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birth, we do something more constructive and fruitful for propagation of his Sunnah. Let us spend this whole week, as an Ummah, reintroducing him to ourselves and the rest of the world. Let us reintroduce the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the world in a way which is desperately needed today, which might be different from previous centuries: a specific, tailored diagnosis. We need to utilise all available modern communications means in recognising and familiarising ourselves and others with his beauty, greatness, eminence, values, character, and achievements, in a contextualised way for today’s world, Peace be upon him.
The world today is in desperate need of recognising the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad in building communities and nations. The world needs his Sunnah of laying the foundations for a just economic system. The world is in need of his Sunnah in nurturing and reforming people. We are in need of his Sunnah in a politics infused with ethics and morality, unlike that which is widespread today. We need to familiarise ourselves with his Sunnah in wartime and during peace. We need his Sunnah in creating curricula for education. We need to know his Sunnah in the preservation of the ecosystem, as stewards (Khulafah) of the world, not dominators and exploiters. We need his Sunnah in law and order.
The list goes on, of the areas of this magnificent model, Muhammad (PBUH) whose divinely-inspired guidance is there for the taking once again to cure the widespread injustices and disasters that have resulted from being far away from it over the last century or two. Allah Almighty says:
“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honoured him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.” [Qur’an, 7:157]
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Rabi’ul Awwal 13, 1442 AH (October 30, 2020).
Father neglecting his family, and going out with group of Tableegh
There are several cases of men who are heads of families abandoning their homes and going out for number of days and months for what they term as Jihad.
Abandoning your responsibilities at home without adequate care for your family is nothing but ignorance and a lack of understanding of a man’s responsibilities and the duties towards his family that Allaah has enjoined upon him.
One of the greatest rights enjoined by wives in children is that the head of the family should spend on them. Indeed, this is one of the greatest acts of worship and devotion to Allaah that a person can do. Spending on them covers their food, drink, clothing and shelter, and taking care of them including providing everything that a wife and children need to ensure their good health and physical well being is act of striving in the way of Allaah.
Allaah has told us that men are the ones who spend on women, and so they have the status of being qawwaamoon (maintainers and protectors) and of excelling over them, because they spend on them when they give them the mahr (dowry) and maintenance.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means…”[Suratul Nisa’ 4:34]
The fact that this spending is obligatory is indicated by the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the consensus of the scholars and of all wise people.
“Fear Allaah with regard to women, for they are your prisoners. You have taken them as a trust from Allaah, and they are permissible for you through the word of Allaah, and they have the right to be given provision and clothing by you on a reasonable basis.” (Reported by Muslim, 8/183).
‘Umar ibn al-Ahwas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say during his Farewell Pilgrimage:
“Verily, you have rights over your women, and your women have rights over you. As for your rights over your women, they are that they should not allow anyone to sit on your beds whom you dislike, or allow anyone into your houses whom you dislike. Verily, their rights over you are that you should treat them well with regard to their clothing and food.”(Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 1163, and Ibn Maajah, 1851).
It was reported that Wahb said: “A freed slave of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr said to him, ‘I want to go and spend this month there in Jerusalem.’ He said, ‘Have you left enough for your family to live on during this month?’
He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then go back to your family and leave them what they need, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying: “It is enough sin for a man not to give food to the one whom he is supposed to feed.”’”
(Reported by Ahmad, 2/160; Abu Dawood, 1692).
“It is enough sin for a man to withhold food from the one whom he is supposed to feed.”
Allaah will ask everyone who has been given responsibility about whatever he was responsible for, until He asks a man about his family.” (Reported by Ibn Hibaan).
The foregoing indicates that it is obligatory for a man to spend on his family and to take care of their interests. Many hadeeth narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) demonstrate the virtue of this action and show that it is a righteous action in the sight of Allaah. Abu Mas’ood al-Ansaari (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When the Muslim spends on his family with the hope of earning reward, this is an act of charity for him.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1/136).
Spending on one’s family is obligatory according to scholarly consensus. Islam called it sadaqah (charity) lest people think that they are doing it as a duty for which there is no reward, because they knew how much reward there is in giving charity, so that they will not give charity to others until they have given enough to their families. This was to encourage them to give priority to the charity that is obligatory before they give voluntary charity.”
Sa’d ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him: “Whatever you spend on your family, you will be rewarded for it, even the mouthful which you lift up and place in your wife’s mouth.”
(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 3/164, and Musl im, 1628).
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A dinar that you spend in the way of Allaah, a dinar that you spend to free a slave, a dinar that you give to the poor, and a dinar that you spend on your family – the greatest of these is the one that you spend on your family. “ (reported by Muslim, 2/692).
Ka’b ibn ‘Ujarah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “A man passed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and his Companions were impressed by the man’s strength and energy. They said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, if only this was for the sake of Allaah!’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If he goes out to work for the sake of his young children, he is striving for the sake of Allaah; if he goes out to work for the sake of his aged parents, he is striving for the sake of Allaah; if he goes out to work to keep himself from having to beg, he is striving for the sake of Allaah; but if he goes out to work for the purposes of showing off and boasting, then he is striving in the way of the Shaytaan.”
It is not permissible for a Muslim to neglect his family even if he claims that he is travelling for the purpose of worship and righteous deeds, because neglecting one’s family and failing to spend on them is haraam. We have quoted above the advice given by ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr to the one who wanted to stay in Jerusalem: he had to make arrangements for his family’s provision first. So you have to advise your father of the things we have said in this reply, and explain the matter to him politely and kindly. If you can fill the gap left by your father’s negligence by spending some of your own money on your family as much as you can, you will get a great reward, in sha Allaah. We ask Allaah to put all our affairs right. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.
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