The questions what is leadership, who is a leader, what are the roles of a leader and whether leaders are born or made, always reverberate in our minds. We often ponder over the million dollar questions of what the attributes of leaders are and how an effective and influential leadership can be demonstrated. These and many other similar questions need to be answered and understood in order to better understand the role of our holy prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the context of a leader.
While leadership can be defined and explained in many different ways, one simple but comprehensive definition of leadership in its most elemental level is that “communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves”. Building people’s confidence, giving them a sense of purpose and providing an exact and accurate road map to follow to achieve the purpose is what leadership all about. Leaders are role models and leave a significant impact on the lives, minds and spirits of their followers.
Muhammad, the mercy for mankind, was one of the greatest leaders if analyzed in the context of the time in which he emerged. It was his leadership that turned a barbaric and the most violent people into one of the most civilized nations of the world. The people who once were ruthless and had gone to the lowest depths of humanity were elevated to the highest level of human qualities. Through his integrity and power of character, the people who were illiterate and did not have an iota of knowledge became exemplary rulers, successful strategists, efficient administrators and extraordinary intellectuals.
Muhammad profoundly demonstrated the attributes of a leader almost fifteen hundred years ago. Once he gathered his people and asked them by pointing out a mountain “if I tell you that behind this mountain your enemy is coming to attack you, will you believe me?” All of them shouted in one voice “Surely we will believe you because you have never lied in your entire life.” This shows his credibility among his followers. The blind obedience, trust and the willingness to accept every single word of the master without any doubt marks the first attribute of leadership.
The second attribute of leadership was demonstrated when the prophet was offered gold, silver, money and beautiful women as a temptation to deviate away from his mission. The words uttered by him as a response are written in bold letters in history. He said “If Moon is placed in my one hand and the Sun in the other, by God I will never go back from my mission.” This signifies that leaders are never greedy. They are never sold out and never compromise on their convictions for material gains and worldly pleasures.
The third attribute of leadership was displayed in the field of Badr. Only 313 Muslims were confronted with a huge army of thousands of soldiers. The enemy also outnumbered in ammunition and weapons. The Muslims did not have any resources and were tired, but they fought and got a victory which is remembered as a symbol of bravery in Muslim history. This victory shows if you are true then believe in Allah and fight without taking much care the army and resources. The power of your truth will fore superpowers to bow down before you.
The event of conquering Mecca set an example for all leaders to come. When Mecca was conquered, the holy prophet forgave even his worst enemies. The enemies who had inflicted unprecedented atrocities upon the prophet on countless occasions were all forgiven when the prophet had every authority to take revenge. A leader must have the ability and courage to forgive his enemies when required.
The last attribute was shown when the holy prophet was on his death bed. When the prophet departed, there was no money in his home to make arrangements even for his funeral. A leader is he who does not leave treasuries, accounts, assets and property after his death. Anyone who lacks any of the above attributes does not qualify the criteria of leadership and, hence, should not be called a leader.