Leaders inspire and that is where they differ from teachers and mentors. Leadership lies in the capacity to inspire a group of people to pursue an articulated vision, and to ensure their continuous cooperation for the realization of this vision. Leadership does not develop in a vacuum. It has to germinate among a specific group of people, impart a vision to them, mould their attitudes and understand the values and concerns of the community. The task of crystallizing a shared vision necessitates communication skills. Vision has then to be summed up in goals and divided into targets.
Great leaders have mobilized masses with the sheer charm of their personality, sincerity of their purpose, and force of character. Prophet Muhammad was divinely gifted in all these aspects. But where he excelled over all others was his kind, compassionate demeanour, robust listening, polite manners and tolerant disposition. Yet he was never short of grit or suffered from paucity of determination. When it came to principles, he was a mountain of courage. His biography is dotted with such instances. When his uncle Abu Talib asked him to give up his mission under intense pressure from elders of the Quraysh, the Prophet’s reply was, even if the opponents placed Sun and Moon over his palms, he would not budge an inch from his mission. Similarly, he emerged a great strategist when faced with an overwhelming might of the non-believers in the Battle of Trench. His insightfulness was in evidence in concluding the treaty of Hudaibiya.
Several people have leadership qualities. But they lack skills. This is where management practices could be employed to hone skills among individuals to take up the task of leadership of the community organizations. Leading with Compassion by Louy M. Safi draws heavily on the model of the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, with compassion as the major hallmark of his persona. Yet his audience is American Muslims of 21st century.
Though Safi’s postulates could be universally applicable, they are specifically aimed at Muslim communities inhabiting North America, especially in the United States and Canada. Creation of team spirit among a people who come from diverse ethnic background and endowed with culturally plural heritage is indeed an onerous task.
Safi says compassionate leadership combines in itself all three elements in equal measure i.e., compassion, character and competence. Only deeply rooted values act as the anchor of collective action. Islamic management principles are based on both ilm (knowledge of the reality) and hikmah (wisdom) i.e., judgement by which knowledge is brought to bear on action.
The author effectively debunks the present day connotation of certain Islamic terms and explains the Prophet’s action in elaborate detail. For instance, tawakkal alallah is today taken to mean as shunning preparation and planning and explained away as pinning hopes on Allah. But the Prophet’s advice to a colleague to tightly tether the camel to a peg and then repose trust in Allah effectively demolishes the all-pervasive misconception.
Second half of the book deals with organizational structures and management principles involved in managing Muslims institutions such as mosques, schools and Islamic centers in the United States. The book carries great appeal for those who may be looking for induction of Islamic principles in modern organizations. Usefulness of vision and mission statement, aims and objectives, target fixing and tools like SWOT Analysis have also been explained. However, the typographical howlers and grammatical gaffes do add a sour note.
The book will prove a great help and guide for those managing institutions or are engaged in social work.
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj's review of the book 'Leading with compassion' in Islamic Voice. More Here.