Sunday, April 21, 2013

What makes a True Leader?

The other day I was reading an article about the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor at Wits University. The article was very positive and many people seemed to be happy that this man was appointed, believing that he would bring positivity to the University. I liked what I was reading and not only because the new Vice-Chancellor of my old University happens to be a Muslim man, but because it seemed that he actually has the necessary value system required for a true leader.

One particular thing stood out for me and this was with regards to the home of the Vice- Chancellor.

The article stated that:

“In June this year Prof. Habib is due to take up residence at Savernake, the historic residence of all Wits VCs since 1948. Situated on Parktown Ridge, it is a stately, heritage home but it is now in its 109th year and needs restoration. The issue of leaders and their homes is a sore point for South Africa and Habib has wisely and astutely avoided the excess trap. Instead he has requested that all restoration be put on hold until he and the team led by Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Finance and Operations Professor Tawana Kupe have properly examined the costs involved “and separated what is necessary expenditure from extravagance”.

So yes, the issue of leaders and their homes is a sore point in South Africa because recently the preposterous amounts of money spent on personal homes by our “leaders” has come under the spotlight. Yet this isn’t an issue unique to South Africa, this can be seen all across the world. So-called leaders around the world live in luxury while majority of the people suffer. What’s wrong with that you may ask? I mean shouldn’t leaders live better than others when they are the “most important people of the country”? If this is our way of thinking then we have no idea what a true leader really is.

Let me tell you a little bit about a true leader. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him). I urge you to read historical accounts for yourself to understand this unique leader, but in case you don’t get to do this let me share a little with you. The house of Muhammad (pbuh) was the same as the houses of all the other people. He lived in a simple home, amongst the people. In fact, he (pbuh) even had less than the other people in the community. He slept on the floor on a mat which left marks on his blessed body. He ate very little, and sometimes went days without eating. His food was dates and barley and he only ate meat dishes occasionally. He lived what he taught and his life was testimony to the fact that he had the best interests of everyone else in mind. He would give away money to Bedouins and peasants, and whenever money was brought to him he would not sleep without having distributed that money to the community. His daughter Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) once hanged a fancy curtain (and in fancy I mean printed with flowers) and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) refused to enter her home, when she asked why he said something to the effect that her curtain is too extravagant.

Besides living like the people, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) worked with the people. He built the Masjid Nabawi in Madinah with the people. In one of the battles known as the Battle of the Trenches, he dug the trenches with the people. Speaking of battles, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was always on the battle field with the people, an equal, not a leader giving orders to those in battle while he sits comfortably in his home. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah), this was a true leader in all regards.

The leaders which followed him practised this perfect example as well. They took very little provisions for themselves and gave the rest to the people. The entire system was based on the well-being of the people. Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) used to walk around the community at night to see that the people are doing okay and sometimes he would even help old ladies to do their chores. Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) when he saw his wife had extra money (which she had saved up) decided to reduce the amount of money he got because he thought they had excess. When the community asked the daughter of Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) to speak to her father and tell him to take more provisions for himself he said something to the effect that Muhammad (pbuh) and Abu Bakr have both passed away and returned to Allah, if I want to join them then I cannot live a life of excess.

SubhanAllah , Indeed there can be no better leader than our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The world will never see a greater leader than this, and if anyone wants to be a good leader, a just leader and a leader that deserves to be followed, then that person needs to adopt the value system of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

I know that there are many lies made up in these times about our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but in a world filled with such deception, where injustice is the order of the day, where leaders look out only for their own interests, I am not surprised that people would want to discredit the man who stood for everything opposite to what they stand for. Of course it is up to everyone to believe what they will, but I can tell you that with real knowledge people will see the truth as did so many before them.

I will leave you with some quotes about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and I will say that if any leader, whether it’s a vice- Chancellor of a University or a President of a country, if they had to adopt the leadership style of Muhammad (pbuh) then not only would they be successful but the people they lead would find peace, happiness and contentment instead of suffering, fear and oppression.

Jules Masserman in a Time Magazine article entitled: “Who Were Histories Great Leaders?” wrote:

“Leaders must fulfil three functions:

1.      Provide for wellbeing of the led,

2.      Provide a social organisation in which people feel relatively secure,

3.      And provide them with one set of beliefs.

People like Pasteur and Salk are leaders in the first sense. People like Gandhi and Confucius, on one hand, and Alexander, Caeser and Hitler on the other hand, are leaders in the second and perhaps the third sense. Jesus and Buddha belong in the third category alone. Perhaps the greatest leader of all times was Mohammed, who combined all three functions.”(Emphasis mine)

I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers and his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absoloute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle”(Mahatma Gandhi)

He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings and completely revolutionized the worlds of human thought and behaviour for all times to come. (Sir George Bernard Shaw)


May Allah Almighty guide us all, Inshaa-Allah!
Image 1 from here
Image 2 from here

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