MUHAMMAD Leader of the Leaders

MUHAMMAD Leader of the Leaders

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In today’s chaotic world, a plethora of demagogues are leading the humanity astray. The so-called leaders have failed rather miserably in filling the common man’s life with happiness, prosperity and satisfaction. In this dearth of good and effective leadership, the life of Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) is a guiding lamp. It can most prudently serve as stepping stones to the success in the otherwise dark and deep sea of ignorance – for mankind in general and leaders in particular. And who is a leader? – literally everyone of us, as the Holy Prophet, the true leader of mankind, once said:

“Each one of you is a guardian and responsible for those of whom he is in charge. The ruler is guardian and thus responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for those under his care. A woman is guardian of her husband’s household. A slave is the guardian of his master’s property. Likewise, each one of you is a guardian (leader) and is responsible for what he is entrusted with.”

Abdul Ghani Ahmad Barrie defines a successful leader as “one who attains his ends in the best possible manner, with the least inconvenience to the team, at the minimum cost, in record time and with a high quality performance.” None can rival our Prophet who attained his end of dominance of Islam in the best possible manner. With least possible inconvenience to accomplish such an astronomical task, at the minimum cost of 456 companions (who were martyred), in record time of just 23 years and no doubt with a high quality performance that continued to lead the world for a millennium despite several defects of his descendants.

Some of the Prophet’s manifest qualities that made him the architect of the most glorious revolution on earth are as follows:

Absolute Faith in Allah: Footfall of the following infidels was visible from the Cave of Thaur – where the Prophet along with his companion Abū Bakr took shelter while migrating from Makkah. Abū Bakr asked: “What will happen now?” The Prophet replied calmly, “Abū Bakr, what do you think of those two, whose third is Allah; do not fear; He is with us.”

Once when the Prophet was lying asleep beneath a tree, a pagan appeared with an unsheathed sword, waving which he asked, “Who will save you from me?” By the time Prophet woke up and answered with serenity, “Allah!” The effect of such self-possession at such an hour was so overwhelming that the sword fell down from his hands.

Absolute faith in Allah which naturally results in intrepidity and self-possession beyond par is sine-qua-non for a good leader.

Sense of Responsibility: This quality is inevitable to discharge an assigned duty. The Prophet was very much conscious of this sense. It was the consciousness of the onerous responsibility he had to shoulder that made him run convulsing to his home after the first revelation and ask his wife to cover him up. His sense of responsibility was not bare; it was coordinated with a sense of accountability. For the Prophet, the concern of accountability was so stirring that when Abdullah bin Zubair once recited the Qur’anic verse: “Consider then when we shall bring forward witnesses from every community, and will bring you, (O Muhammad) as a witness against them all” the Prophet started sobbing so much that tears dripped down the beard.

This sense of responsibility supplemented by a sense of accountability helps a leader to exert him and never to take any task for granted.

Anguish and Restlessness: The Prophet was perturbed at the ignorance and sternness of his people over falsehood. Without caring for his health, wealth, life and family – day and night he devoted to his mission. Once he was ill, and with wet cloth on head (to assuage fever) he set off from home to convey the message of Islam, despite all the protest of his wife. This characteristic of our Prophet is best epitomised in the Qur’an: “(O Muhammad!) You will perhaps grieve yourself to death because these people do not believe” (Shura – 3).

Such anguish and restlessness is the lifeblood of a movement. Revolution could not be brought just through conferences in cosy chambers. Essential thing is sweating it out in the ground as the Prophet did.

Patience and Endurance: It is futile to quote the Taif incident. The treatment meted out to the Prophet there could even have shaken up the mountains. However the Epitome of Patience (may Allah bless and greet him) was unmoved and refused to pray for the annihilation of those hooligans.

The Prophet made tireless strivings without much tangible gain for 13 long years in Makkah; contrary to it we want to reap the harvest the very next moment of sowing seeds, and sometimes without even sowing one. A leader has to endure the problems and adversities and must take a decision with cool mind. It might also be discerned from this incident that, a leader must not wish ill even of his sworn enemies.

Steadfastness: The Islamic army was retreating in the Battle of Hunain. However the feet of the Commander remained firm as he continued to inspire his people. His illustrious companions did respond. Firmness of the commander resulted in an outright triumph. Steadfastness against alluring offers of ‘compromise with wrong’ is also indispensable. The Prophet’s reply to chief tribes of the Quraish is historic in this regard: “Even if the sun is put on my right hand and the moon on my left, I will never budge from this task until I emerge victorious or perish in this noble endeavour.”

Such iron-willed determination in unfavourable conditions and an unyielding attitude when the question is of fundamentals is another leaf which our contemporary leaders must take out from the Seerah of the Holy Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him).

The Teacher: A pagan started making water in Masjid-e-Nabawi. Companions rushed to give him a sound beating. The Prophet held them back saying, “Let him finish it,” and after that he called the guilty and affectionately tutored him that such acts must not be performed at such sacred places. Later he ordered his companions to cleanse that filth. A true leader is a teacher to the core. It is an art of rectifying people without their feeling bad. Because this “feel-bad” factor would arouse a rebellion kind of attitude which is not desirable. A leader must be master in this art as our Prophet was. Whenever the Prophet had to point out a mistake or misdeed of someone, he would not announce the exact name but would address people collectively like, “What has happened to people that they are committing such and such things.” Thus rectification was done without damage to the self-respect of the person concerned.

Appreciation: Being ‘Uncle Scrooge’ while appreciating someone is vicious and immoral. The Prophet used to appreciate his companions magnanimously. For expedition of Tabuk a call was given to help the Ummah monetarily. Rich companions of the Prophet set examples by giving up half or full of their assets for the cause. One poor companion brought a handful of dates which he had earned by toiling for hours together. The Prophet accepted his contribution openheartedly and scattered those dates over the heap of contributions, giving precedence to this so little a contribution monetarily but weighed heavily in the eyes of the leader. His appreciation to Lady Umme Ammara and Saad bin Abi Waqas is well documented in history. Such appreciation can motivate a person further to better his work in future. Though, appreciation should also be within limits never ever reaching the boundaries of eulogy which is again a misnomer. While appreciating or admonishing someone, the Prophet followed the moderate path.

Building / Leading a Team: United we stand – the Prophet lived this saying as a leader. The Prophet established an Islamic centre at Daar-e-Arqam for the believers during the very initial stage of his prophethood. While migrating from Makkah, he built two mosques on his way to Madinah. And after reaching Madinah the first work done was building a mosque for Muslims to congregate. He also made one Ansari (helper) and one Muhajir (migrant) brothers in Islam. It is worth adding that the Prophet united arch enemy tribes Aus and Khazraj, uniting all of them through the common thread of Islam. The Prophet consolidated them into a team which was a wall of the molten lead.

The leaders especially in the present situation must engrave this exemplary quality of the Prophet in their mind. It is high time they stopped wrangling and wasting time and energy over petty issues and lead the Ummah to the path of victory, glory and salvation.

Democratic Culture: A good leader never behaves as dictator. The Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him), despite being God’s messenger and possessing unquestionable authority over his companions, sought their advises and never “imposed” his will upon them. The stationing of troops in Badr was according to the advice of Habab Bin Manzar. The Prophet complied to combat the enemy outside Madinah (in Uhad) on the insistence of youth. Even the idea of digging a trench surrounding Medinah was given by Salman Farsi.

There must be freedom or even encouragement to speak, to criticise, to suggest and to correct the leader. The leader who refuses to involve others in decision making is most fatal for the cause.

Condoning Sins: To err is human. Nevertheless outcasting any faithful on one, or two mistakes, is vitriolic. Hatib bin Abi Baltaa in order to ensure the safety of his family in Makkah sent a letter to Quraish informing them about the Prophet’s secret assault. After recovery of the letter and hearing him, the Prophet condoned this ‘act of high treason’ keeping his previous services to Islam in mind. Today human resource is wasted in abundance by scrutinising minutest judgement errors and misdeeds. This attitude of our contemporary leaders must be revised in the light of Prophetic guidance.

Accepting the Responsibility of Judgement: The Prophet advised farmers of Medina on his personal discretion to sow dates in a different manner. Farmers followed his advice but harvest was lesser. They complained to the Prophet. He replied, “I am only a human being, if I tell something from God’s behalf, take as it is; but if I tell something on my own, you have your own choice (you better know your worldly affairs).” While aligning the soldiers in Badr, the Prophet struck a companion with his bow and told him to stand straight in queue. He asked the Prophet for qisas for the pain that the Prophet’s bow has caused to his bare stomach. The Prophet pulled his robe up displaying abdomen and told the man to take his revenge. It is a different story that the companion did that only to kiss the Prophet. The lesson is self explanatory. A leader should not only take full responsibility for his decision but also be ever ready to compensate for the wrongs of his decision. Because a leader, though superior to many, is not a super man.

Long term planning: Farsightedness in an inextricable attribute of a leader. He could never be intimated by the short term hurdles but sees miles ahead. He is like a perspicacious chess player who has a map of nearly 100 moves and countermoves ahead of the existing position. The anguish of nearly all the companions was palpable on the endorsement of ‘degrading’ terms at Hudaibiyah. Nevertheless the confident Prophet persisted with the strategy. The Qur’an later called it an ‘open victory’ – this treaty proved to be beneficial for Islam in the long run. The Prophet condoned mischief makers of the Quraish after the Makkan victory. It implies much wider significance and wisdom on the part of the Prophet. Those lives were worthy for Islam, in later stages, when Islam was to ‘swallow’ a major chunk of Africa, Asia and Europe. It demanded prolific manpower directly trained under the Prophetic guidance, to manage its affairs. Slaying all of them would have meant disaster for Tarbiyah of future generations as well as for the image of Islam. Thus a leader must be blessed with a third eye and the sixth sense.

Lively personality – Never beyond reach: The Prophet was omni-cheerful and possessed a smiley face. He used to crack (dignified) jokes at regular intervals. Once an old lady asked him, “Will I go to Jannah?” The Prophet replied, “No old woman can go to paradise.” The woman was perplexed for some moments only to jump with joy when the Prophet added, “Old woman will be given her charm and youth again and then she’ll enter Jannah.”

It is conspicuous enough that Pluto’s idea of a philosopher king sitting at the apex of social hierarchy is not at all an ideal. A leader, in simple parlance must be an ‘Aam Admi’. Foreign visitors to the Prophet often failed to distinguish the Prophet – the king – the commander – from amongst the people. The Prophet hated leaders sitting idle and his people working. Therefore one would observe the Prophet heaving bricks for construction of mosque, or digging trench with stones tied on the stomach. Bear in mind, a leader is not master but servant of his people. This dictum, austerity and selflessness which was the virtue of our Prophet must be followed by our leaders.

Task according to merit: Every man possesses a special talent. A leader is one who identifies it, nurtures it and utilises it for the cause. This was exactly what the Prophet was consummate in. He wished glad tidings or paradise to some ignorant pagans on just their resolve to stick to the five pillars of Islam. On the other hand we see the Prophet demanding Ali to sleep in his “dangerous” place on the night of Hijrah. He ordered Naeem to foment dissension in the rows of infidels during the Battle of Trench. He ordered Zaid bin Thabit to learn Hebrew. Thus a leader is one who respects merit and respects it at all costs. Here again we learn from the Prophet who appointed young and athletic Usama bin Zaid as commander of the army that also included the illustrious companions like Abū Bakr and Umar. A leader must also nurture the budding talents by assigning different responsibilities and projects though they must not be overburdened.

Soothing Companions: The Prophet distributed the booty of the Battle of Hunainrather charitably among new faithfuls (after the Conquest of Makkah). The Ansars felt this. Sensing this unease, the Prophet called them for a sitting and addressed them: “I distributed the wealth amongst others which will last only for a few days. So that they believe but left you because I am assured of your faith, O people of Ansar Do you not agree that others will take sheep and goats and you carry away Allah’s Prophet with you.” The whole environment after the Prophet’s discourse was so charged up that Ansars started crying.

There are numerous pearls of wisdom for leaders from this incident. First; to pacify ‘new comers’ is encouraged in Islam. Second, though there was unease, there was no discontent or rebellion. Still the Prophet preferred to nibble every cord of this net of Satan. Thus a leader should clarify his position from time to time and ensure that there is as less as possible dubiety regarding him in his followers.

Adoption of wisdoms: The Prophet was not at all hesitant to adopt good things of others provided they are not anti-Islamic. Thus viable Persian idea of trench was accepted. It was considered better to send emperors authentic letter with a ring-stamp, which was new in Arabia. Prophet even wore expensive clothes to receive foreign delegates. The Prophet climbed up the Mount Safa in order to disseminate his message efficiently. Using best medium of communication, we should use the best available means – old or new – to accomplish the end.

It is now clear as a day that Prophet’s attitude was as per his hadith, “wisdom is a momin’s lost virtue, acquire it from wherever you find it.” Here our leaders are also expected to somehow diminish their infatuation with past customs and methods and try out modern ones. Means are always flexible, not the end. It must be remembered that due to such reactionary Ulemas who opposed Sultan’s attempt to modernise Turkish army on European lines – we lost caliphate in the last century. The error must not be repeated. Then O, Leader take the initiative and make experiments – you are the heir of the Prophet.

Gentleness: Success of a leader lies both in quality and quantity of people following him. The key of achieving devotion of the fellow beings is described in an address by Allah to the Prophet. “(O Prophet) it was thanks to Allah’s mercy that you were gentle to them. Had you been rough, hard hearted they should surely have scattered away from you” (3–159). It is also height of the rectitude of Prophet that he was not only gentle for his companions but his gentleness exceeds even to infidels, staunch enemies and even animal folk. A plethora of people sworn Iman because of this gentleness, as was the case with the Jew who has lent a few a few Dirhams to Prophet and was demanding it ferociously before the appointed term. Prophet cool headedly placated him and fulfilled his undue demand somehow. This virtue is pivotal for the obedience and devotion of people as well as expansion of message in society.

With this arduous but nonetheless a valuable discourse the thing very much clear is the fact that our Prophet was amalgam of virtues.

(innaka ala khulukin azim)

Here we are recapitulating a few virtues which are extremely pertinent in Indian context. As discussed earlier, Prophet established Islamic centres (Daare Arqam + 3 mosques) for Muslims to congregate, pray, learn, discuss etc. nowadays it is required to have a web of mosques and Islamic centres weaved across the nation from where work of Dawah and Tarbiyah may be organised. Needless to add every mosque must have a madarsa of its own.

Makkan predicament was stiff but the word ‘hopelessness’ was missing from the    Prophet’s dictionary. After strenuous hard work for years in Makkah when the reply of Makkans was hopeless he did not give up thinking his work done. He consistently hunted for new grounds, approached new tribes and eventually succeeded. Prophet was a living missionary – why? – He knew that his duty was to convey his Lord’s message to his fellow men; he knew he was witness unto mankind. After the Prophet are not we witness unto mankind? – Then where is the zeal, vigour intensity and passion? Which was so glaring a feature of our Prophet. If we are and indeed we are heirs of Prophet so let us start our ‘prophetic’ mission of conveying the truth, to our families, friends and neighbours… at least.

Prophet was unyielding in fundamentals but he was not blind to reject any genuine cooperation which is coming even from a non-Muslim. His uncle Abu Talib helped him magnificently and he never objected. He sought refuge of several Qureyesh chieftains in Makkah period. In this there is lesson for our leaders to come out from their ghettoes and build common platforms for achievement of those ends which are common between us.

Our behaviour must be just, modest and gentle as was our Prophet’s for Muslims, in particular as Quran says,

There has come to you a messenger of Allah….who is distressed by the losses you sustain, who is ardently desirous of your welfare and is tender and merciful to those who believe.” (Tauba– 128)

And for non Muslims in general as the Prophet could not sleep on the night of Badr when the prisoners of war were tightened with ropes. After losing of ropes only, he managed to sleep. He was a motivator par excellence; his addresses were laconic and thought provoking which could move thousands together. His actions spoke (and thus motivated) louder than his words. His scintillating character is still the source of motivation for crores of people. Every leader must try to be a source of inspiration and motivation for his followers.

The tenderness of heart, the purity of character, truthfulness of soul, immediately in manners, purity in words and deeds, honesty, modesty, chastity, courage and what of our prophet’s virtue is not relevant today? Every virtue is indigent of volumes to explore the pearls of wisdom concealed.

The solution for all the grievances of mankind – The key of devastating the trap of demagogy lies in opting for the wisdoms of leadership articulated practically by Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) throughout his life. It is height of intelligence and farsightedness to adopt the Prophetic ways, the Qur’an reminds us: Verily, in the messenger of Allah, you have an excellent example. (33.21)

Then!  Are we fools to pause! Let us pledge to enshrine Prophet’s virtues in our conscience. Let us resolve to dedicate ourselves to prophetic mission. Let us vow to bring revolution in soul and soil. May Allah make – treading upon this thorny path of prophets, and blessed ones – easy for us!