Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Leadership of Muhammad

You can be appointed a commander or manager, but you are not a leader until your appointment is ratified in the hearts and minds of those you lead, recalls John Adair in The Leadership of Muhammad ( He writes that Muhammad perhaps discovered his ‘natural gift for leadership' when leading caravans.

Travelling back in time, the author opens the chapter titled Caravan Leader by narrating that the Quraysh – Muhammad's tribe – were once part of a larger confederation of tribes in the Najd desert known as the Bani Kinana. The Quraysh were in the business of caravans for they were merchants, he informs.

Leading a caravan
To explain how the role of a caravan leader was an exceptionally responsible one, Adair lists the things that needed to be done before a caravan left Mecca, for example – tasks included selecting and hiring a hundred or more camels and camel-drivers, assembling and packing loads, buying provisions and tents, preparing weapons, and securing money for expenses and for the camel-drivers' wages.

In the desert, all accountability for the caravan rested solely on the shoulders of the caravan leader. “He was without any means of communication with the owners once Mecca had receded from sight. Nor was the caravan insured. If any property in his care was damaged or stolen, it was the caravan leader and his kinfolk who were obliged to recompense the owners.”

Every large caravan was headed by a qaid (pronounced ‘akide'), an Arabic word that could be applied to a guide, the leader of a raid on another tribe's camels, or a military commander. Tracing the roots of the word leader to the Anglo-Saxon word ‘laed' that means a road, way, path or course of a ship at sea, and the verb ‘laedan,' which means to go or travel, the author avers that leadership is clearly a journey concept. A leader, literally, is one who leads the way by going first; the one, too, who may cause or make others go on a journey and holds them together in a body so that they do not get out of touch or lose their unity as a body, he elaborates.

Citing an apt quote of Muhammad, that on a journey the leader of a people is their servant, Adair reasons that a true leader serves those whom he or she leads, both as a group – meeting their needs to complete their journey safely and their needs to be maintained as a cohesive whole – and also as a set of individuals, for each individual on a journey may have small needs or problems as the journey proceeds.
Insightful study.

From D Murali's review in Business Line. More Here. 

It was a miracle...
In the book – Adair separates the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from his divine mission: “Muhammad was both exalted and humble, capable of vision and inspiration, yet at the same time dedicated to the service of people. This idea (of leadership) accords well with what we now know to be the universal truth about the nature and practice of leadership”.
It was his leadership which turned a few of his followers in 610 CE into 124,000 who performed Hajj under his leadership in 633 CE before his life journey on Earth came to an end. This one of the miracles which no other biblical prophets had accomplished in the short span of 23 years. In 2007, the estimated world Muslim population was over 1.8 billion, second the Christianity. Muslims are expected to become the largest religious community in the world by 2015. Fifty-seven United Nations members are Muslim-majority countries.
I would highly recommend this book to all the educated non-Muslims expcept those who love to cash-on the Israel Lobby – as I don’t want them to develop heart problems.

From Rehmat's review in his blog. More Here.

The dimensions of his leadership
God’s Messenger was unique in discovering promising and competent persons in his community and appointing them to the work they could do best. Whoever he appointed to a post, he did not find any need to change him, and that person proved, through both his uprightness and competence, that he was a really good choice. This is another dimension of the Prophet’s leadership which demonstrates that he was a Prophet chosen by God.

The Makkan period of Islam was inscribed in the memories of the Muslims as a period of unbearable persecutions and tortures. Not only the poor and unprotected, like ‘Ammar, Bilal and Suhayb, but also those Muslims like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who were from the elite and powerful members of the Quraysh, were severely persecuted.1 In order to save his followers from this maltreatment, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, permitted the poor and unprotected among them to emigrate to Abyssinia, but chose to keep back the powerful ones such as ‘Ali, Zubayr , Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas in Makka, for Islam needed their support to spread and implant itself in Makka. These powerful Muslims were to occupy the highest positions in the administration of the Muslim state in later decades.

Abu Dharr was a poor, blunt and upright man from the desert. When he heard Muhammad’s declaration of Prophethood, he came to Makka and became a Muslim. God’s Messenger used to preach Islam secretly in the earliest stage of his Prophethood. Abu Dharr was a blunt man, never restraining his feelings and always revealing the truth wherever he was. Also, he was very pious and lived an austere life. However, since public administration requires special skills, God’s Messenger did not accept Abu Dharr’s request to be appointed to an administrative post, saying: You are not able to manage the affairs of people. Do not apply for such jobs, for we do not assign such jobs to those who apply for them.

God’s Messenger refused Abu Dharr, but he implied the caliphate of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. Holding once the hands of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, he said: I have four viziers, two in the heavens and two in the world. Those in the heavens are Gabriel and Michael; as for those in the world, they are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Concerning the future caliphate of ‘Uthman, he declared: It will be a trial for him.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, recognized his men much more than they knew themselves. Like Abu Dharr, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha was a man from the desert. He came to Makka and, entering the presence of God’s Messenger, asked rudely: ‘What are you?’ To this rudeness, the Messenger replied very gently: I am a Prophet of God. The gentleness of God’s Messenger was enough for the conversion of ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha, who knelt down and declared: ‘I am to follow you from now on, O God’s Messenger’.
The Messenger did not desire ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha to stay in Makka, because he was not able to endure the torments inflicted upon the believers. So, he told him, as he had once told Abu Dharr: Now, return to your tribe, and preach Islam among them. When, however, you hear that I am victorious, come and join us.
Years later, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha came to Madina, and asked God’s Messenger, who was in the mosque: ‘Do you recognize me, O God’s Messenger?’ The Messenger, who had an extraordinarily strong and keen memory (another dimension of his Prophethood) answered promptly: Aren’t you the one who came to me in Makka? I sent you back to your tribe and told you to join us when you heard that I was victorious.

A leader gains the love and trust of his people and is followed by them in proportion to his competence in solving their problems, whether personal or public, related to individual, private life, or to social, economic, political affairs touching the community as a whole.

In solving problems, you may resort to force and terror, or apply sanctions or punishments like exile, imprisonment or depriving the guilty of their rights of citizenship, or torture people, or spy into their affairs. However, none of these ways are of much use in the long term; rather, they will bring about a vicious circle, in which the more you struggle to solve problems by such means, the more you entangle yourself in them.

However, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, solved all problems so skillfully and easily that no one disagreed with the issue of his decisions. Although he was sent to a people by nature and habit quarrelsome, ignorant, wild and rebellious, and sent with a mission so grave as ‘to rend mountains asunder’ – If We had sent down this Qur’an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and rent asunder out of fear of God (al-Hashr, 59.21) – he made them into a harmonious community of peace, happiness, knowledge and good morals. Reflect closely upon the utopias imagined in the West, such as The Republic (Plato), Utopia (Thomas More), and Civitas Solis (T. Campanella), you will see that, in essence, they dreamed of the ideal society of Madina in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Mankind have not since then witnessed the equal of that society. However, if they desire to live a happy and peaceful life based on good morals and universal values such as love, mutual respect, compassion, and altruism, they have no way other than to follow the example of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

We described in the first volume how he prevented, through his wisdom, an imminent war between the clans of the Quraysh during the reconstruction of the Ka‘ba. Each clan had claimed the honor of putting the sacred Black Stone in its place. However, the future Prophet of Islam, upon him be peace and blessings, spread his mantle on a piece of cloth on the ground and, putting the stone on it, invited the chieftains of the four major clans of the Quraysh involved in the rebuilding of the Ka‘ba to each take one corner of the cloth. When the cloth with the Black Stone had been raised level with the spot where it was to be placed, he took the stone and placed it firmly in position. It was an ingenious plan and provided yet another proof of his wisdom or gift for problem-solving.

We also saw in the first volume how he prevented a possible moment of sedition after the Battle of Hunayn. Also, he skillfully suppressed an impending conflict between a group of Emigrants and some of the Helpers during the return from the military campaign against the Banu Mustaliq. An internal clash nearly broke out when the army halted by the side of a well. When informed of the matter, God’s Messenger immediately gave the order to march and nipped an imminent clash in the bud.

From an article in More Here.

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