Characteristics Of Future Islamic Leadership

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member

Dr Ahmad Muhammad Totonji & Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.


The subject of this paper has 3 different components: leadership, Islam, and the future. It is the convergence and intersection of the three that defines the subject of our discussions ie those characteristics needed in Muslim leaders of the future.

A leader from the Islamic view is essentially a teacher and a coach. He leads by teaching leadership such that the followers in turn become good leaders. Good leadership is providing a model to be followed. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a model of conduct for the ummat (uswat hasanat). Leadership is not a professional calling or a preserve of a few selected people.

The Islamic view is that every Muslim is a leader in his or her own way. Everybody has leadership responsibility (kullukum raa’i) and everybody is accountable on how well they discharged that responsibility (mas’ul ‘an ra’yatihi).

“Abdullah b Umar reported the Apostle of Allah ( may peace be upon him) as saying: Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible of his flock. The amir ( ruler ) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband's house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man's slave is a shepherd in charge of his master's property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock" Abu Daud 2:827, Chapter 1089, hadith # 2922

The society can not exist or function well without leaders. When any three Muslims are on a journey they are required to select one of them as a leader. Lack of leadership is anarchy. Leadership should aim at excellence in all endeavours. Excellence (ihsan) is a pillar of religion (usul al ddiin) and must manifest in whatever a Muslim does. The Prophet (PBUH) taught us to perfect whatever we undertake to do (itqaan al ‘amal).

Leadership is both science and art. It is experience and knowledge. Leadership attributes skills are not inborn but are acquired and anybody can learn to be a good leader. There are personal qualities that distinguish one leader from another. Abubakr al Siddiq had a personality that marked him among men as a leader. The Prophet recognized strength in Omar Ibn al Khattab and always prayed to Allah to strengthen Islam with him. These qualities whenever found should be nurturted and given an opportunity to manifest. A leader is great (;abqariyat al qiyadat) because of the followers. Nobody can be a great leader without great followers.

2.0 FUTURISTIC VISIONS- circa 2020

In the next quarter century a lot of drastic changes will occur in the world. WE can extraoplate from today’s situation to work out the future scenarios. By about 2020 technology will have drastically changed the way people lead and manage for example. Bookshops may give way to selling books on line and printeries may not be needed. Robots will design and construct buildings. Many employees will work at home. Information will be so readily available to the common people that government and business will be completely transparent. Communication will have become so easy that the world will for the first time become a real global village. These scenarios will require that people and organizations as well as the leaders drastically change the way they do things. Thus the future is a challenge for Muslim leaders who must start preparing right now.

Leadership styles are going to change from directing to coaching, supporting, and delegating because of changing leadership environment. The following factors will change the environment. Lowering of barriers: information, political and military, cultural and language, distance, and time. Computer technology will greatly change the way we work. Artificial intelligence, expert systems, and decision support systems will take over most of the mechanical leadership and managerial work such as Decision-making, problem-solving, strategy and planning, organizing, controlling, evaluation. leaders will have their time freed for functions such as: communication, negotiation, co-ordination, coaching/training, motivation, and creativity. The low birth rates will result in a smaller workforce. Scarcity of skills will be accompanied by changing worker attitudes: independent-minded, desire for more satisfaction from work, little loyalty to organisation, attitude of disrespect for authority, a hedonistic lifestyle of seeking only pleasure and avoiding any pain. Management style will have to change from authoritative to participative to be able to win the new work-force. The human dimension in management will become predominant. People will win in the People vs machines & systems competition. Motivation and getting the best out of the worker will be the measure of a good manager. Importance of the individual 80:1-10, 17:70 will be appreciated. The economic system will have to change in response: well informed consumer, competition among producers will be based on creativity in quality of products and efficiency of service, political/economic spheres will no longer be relevant. The ecosystem will also change: degradation, concern about the future of life on earth.

Major civilizational changes will occur. The cycle of civilizations (al dawrat al hadhariyat) is one of the constant social laws. Each civilization has a fixed lifespan (ajal al umam) 7:34, 23:43. Many factors contribute to the rise and fall of civilisations. The Islamic civilisation was strong at one time the weakened. Ancient civilisations of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Persia collapsed. The British empire over which the sun could not set collapsed. The US is the current superpower; a time will come and it also collapses. Future leaders must understand the causes of the rise and fall of civilisations inorder to predict the future civilisational scenario.


The study of futurology is now very important for leaders. Futurology studies try to predict changes that will occur based on current trends. Methods of futurology study include: scenario writing, model building, and extrapolation. Specialized institutions have been set up to study the future for example :2000 Committee and the Hudson Institute in the US, Mankind 2000 in UK, Futuriste in France, and the Institute Of Future Studies in London based in London. The work of these institutions can not be said to be perfect prediction of the future but they do identify trends that leaders and policy-makers should not ignore.

Muslims have their own approach to futurology that arises from the basics of their religion. Islam is in the future, it is future oriented. Islam is ahead of us and we are trying to catch up and answer its great challenges. The Islamic ideals are still way ahead and out of immediate reach for most individuals and communities. Islam calls humanity to come and catch up. Islam is the future and hope for mankind. Thus thinking about and working toward the future is moving towards Islam and not away from it. Islam will have a major impact on the New World Order. It is therefore very important that Muslim leaders be future-oriented

The Qur’anic paradigm of the future is summarized in the term knowledge of the unseen (‘ilm al ghaib). Only Allah knows ghaib with certainty (6:73). Some aspects of ghaib are only knowable by Allah and are called absolute (ghaib mutlaq) such as : death 31:34, the last day (yawm al qiyamat) 33:63, 31:34, ruh 17:85. Some aspects of ghaib are knowable by humans and are called relative (ghaib nisbi) for example: history 3:44; the present 8:30; and the future 30:2-4. Human knowledge is however never perfect and is subject to error.

The Islamic attitude to the future is positive. The concept of doom or destruction is alien to Islamic teachings. Yokohama’s thesis about the end of history is unacceptable Islamically. There is always hope that before the last day human effort can always improve some aspects of human life or the environment. The future is studied from a perspective of iman. In a similar way the Muslim faces the future from a perspective of iman that Allah will support and guide the foot-steps of the believers. In the final analysis the righteous shall inherit the earth 21:105, 24:55, 28:5-6

As we study the future we have to be aware of the fact that some aspects are fixed whereas others are changeable. We must deal with the changing and the stable in different ways. The natural laws (sunan llah fi al kawn) do not change. The basic attributes of humans do not change. Humans whio lived thousand sof years ago have he same weaknesses and strengths as those of today. Physical laws do not change; humans know them or do not know them. Here are however continuous changes in technology and its applications. Social organization is also changing all the time. Ideologies change. The ecosystem is also changing mainly because of technological changes. Human cultures e not static; they change continuously.


Creativity is the essence of civilizational change (creativity vs fossilization). Creativity is both rational & intuitive. Creativity is looking at issues from different and new perspectives. Creative thinking is divergent, lateral, and imaginative. The creative mind is: free un-inhibited, exploratory, and prepared. The creative personality is dynamic, non-conformist, and autonomous. The Qur’an encourages creativity and condemns blind following 38:8, 43:22-24, 37:69-71

The knowledge dimension will emphasize depth & understanding and not only knowing. Raw data must be changed into intelligence, knowledge must lead to wisdom. The process of Islamization is a new paradigm in knowledge that will challenge the Euro-centric paradigms of knowledge that are dominant in the world today. Islamization aims at: objectivity of knowledge (al istiqamat) and understanding human nature: 50:16, 11:10, 100:6-8, 70:19-21, 41:49, 18:54 in all its complexity. The ummah can not advance before the knowledge problem is resolved.

The cultural dimension will respect the identity of different communities/societies: 11:118, 5:48, different languages and colors 30:22. The present Euro-centric view of other cultures as primitive will be successfully challenged. Under the new culture, all people will participate in the creation of technology instead of European technology being transferred. Technology: transfer vs creation. A global village will be created on the basis of multi-culturalism and new cultural paradigms will emerge. Islam as a universal faith and way of life will have a lot of contributions to make to this process.


Tables 1-4 summarize the main attributes and skills that ideal leaders should have. We will highlight only some of these here. Taqwa is the basis of all. Leaders must be committed (ikhlas). We have no hope unless we recommit ourselves to Allah. At the moment we are weak; even our weapons are bought from the enemies. Strength of personality and honesty are required in leaders. Pragmatism as a basis for planning and goal-setting. Team-work is the only way to harness all the energy. there is no room for individual work. A good leader must be a good manager and must use the most modern managerial skills in his work. Ader must have human skills. He must encourage and thank his followers.


The Prophet Muhammad and his companions provided models of leadership that are a challenge for us to emulate. The leader is the servant of the people.

Leaders should be gradual in their leadership style as is illustrated in the following hadith about Muadh Ibn Jabal.

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle said to Mu'adh bin Jabal when he sent him to Yemen. "You will come to the people of scripture, and when you reach them, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers to be performed every day and night. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor amongst them. And if they obey you in that, then be cautious! Don't take their best properties (as Zakat) and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah. Bukhari:

Abubakr showed no ambition for leadership; he only led for the purpose of the common good and not any personal or selfish reasons. He was reported to have said:

The Holy Prophet (p.b.h.) was called back (by Allah) and people were not far away from the age of Kufr (infidelity) I became afraid that people might revert to their old religion and fall into differences. I therefore, accepted this responsibility, although I did not like it. Hayat 2: 24 - 25

Omar Ibn al Khattab accepted his mistakes:

“Hazrat Abdullah bin Musaab stated that Hazrat Umar bin Khattab said : Don’t increase the mihrs (dower-money) of your women to more that forty uqiyahs (one uqiyah is equal to 40 dirhams), though she may be the daughter of a high family, i.e. may be Yazid bin al-Hasini Harithi’s daughter. Whoever settles a higher mahr than this, the amount in excess of it will put in the public treasury. Hearing this a woman from the women’s rows stood up. She was tall in stature and had a flat nose. She said: You shouldn’t have said this. Hazrat Umar inquired: And why? That woman said: Because Allah Most Honoured and Glorious has said: And you have given unto one of them a sum of money (whoever great), take nothing from it”.Qur’an 4 : 20. So Hazrat Umar remarked : The woman said the correct thing and the man committed a mistake”. Hayat 3 : 241

Ambition for leadership prohibited

"Abd al Rahman b Samurah said: The Apostle of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) said to me: Abd al-Rahman b. Samurah, do not ask for the position of commander, for if you are given it after asking you will be left to discharge it yourself, but if you are given it without asking you will be helped to discharge it." Abu Daud 2:827, Chapter 1090, hadith # 2923

Abubakr tells muslims to correct him

“If I am upright then follow me; but if I deviate straighten me out” Tabari 10:11

Characteristics of a leader: Abu bukar’s speech on his election

“O Men! Here I have been assigned the job of being a ruler over you while I am not the best among you. If I do well in my job, help me. If I do wrong, redress me. Truthfulness is fidelity, and lying is treason. The weak shall be strong in my eyes until I restore to them their lost rights, and the strong shall be weak in my eye until I have restored the rights of the weak from them. No people give up fighting for the cause of God but God inflicts upon them abject subjection; and no people give themselves to lewdness but God envelops them with misery. Obey me as long as I obey god and His Prophet. But if I disobey God’s command or His Prophet’s, then no obedience is incumbent upon you. Rise to your prayer, that God may bless you” (Muhammad pp 508-511)

Abu bakr’s will to Umar:

“.... I invite you to perform a task which is very tiresome. Fear Allah O Umar! in obeying Allah and maintain piety in obeying Him. Piety is a guard (against evils). This is Caliphate which is taken over by one who may carry out its responsibilities. One who order rightful acts and himself does wrong, asks others to do good and himself act badly would soon lose his earnings, and deeds. Thus if you are appointed as a Caliph to look after the affairs of people, you should try to desist from shedding blood, keep your belly empty from their wealth and save your tongue form causing disgrace to them. You should do all this if possible and one has no capacity to perform anything except by the help of Allah”. Hayat.

Leader not arrogant:

According to Khallad b. Aslam-al-Nadr b. Shumayl-Qatan-Abu Yazid al-Madini-a client of ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan: I was riding behind ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan one hot day when there was an extremely hot wind blowing and he came to the alms-animal pen. There was a man wearing a waist wrapper and an upper garment with another wrapped around his head. He was driving camels into the the alms’ camel pen. ‘Uthman said, “Who do you think this is?” We finally reached him and he was ‘Umar b. al-Khattab. (‘Uthman) said, “He is indeed ‘the strong, the trustworthy one!”.

Leader is responsive

According to Abu Kurayb-Ibn Idris-Mutarrif-al-Sha’bi : A Bedouin came to Umar and said, “My stallion camel has both mange and saddle sores; give me a mount”. ‘Umar replied to him, ‘Your camel does not have mange and saddle sores!” (The bedouin) turned away, reciting the following: Abu Hafs Umar has sworn by God’s name That no mange or saddle sores have afflicted [my mount]. Forgive him, God, that he has given a false oath! (‘Umar exclaimed, “O God, forgive me!” He called the Bedouin back and gave him a [fresh] mount.

Everybody counts :

The weak are also Muslims” Tabari 13 : 183


The western hegemony is a threat to the ummat. In the colonial era we did not realise that we have to deal with them? Muslim leaders must understand and know how to deal with the challenge. Leaders must know how to benefit from the good things of the west and protect the ummat from the bad influences.

Dealing with the west is not straightforward. The west is trying to impose its hegemony. It uses modernised methods?. The Muslim world must return to its roots (ta’asil) and then renew and modernise.

The western media are a challenge since they are able to change the way of thinking of people and their behaviour. Western culture is brought right into our bedrooms. We need an Islamic alternative in media.

The west has specialised institutions on leadership and management. Muslims hardly have any such institutions.

CELDES should study projects that we can co-operate on. We do not need more meetings. The projects must reach all Muslim organisations.


We can not move into the next century without a clear vision. This will enable us protect ourselves.

A challenge to Muslims is the regulation of the question of selection of leaders and succession. It was the first problem that appeared in the ummat after the passing away of the Prophet. It was eventually the cause of the collapse of the rightly-guided khilafat (khilafat al rashidat). We can not move into the next century before resolving this problem. The west has succeeded to a certain extent in resolving this problem but Muslims are still in a lot of problems. The responsibility of a leader is to prepare and train those who will take his or her place. Successors must be groomed to ensure continuity.

Preparing the future leadership involves serious and radical reform of the education system. Reform of the system of the education system requires that the ummat adopt the Islamization strategy. It involves bringing the Qur’an and sunnat to the life and daily experience of the people and actualise the revelation (wahy) in the society. Islamisation of education is a necessity for preserving the identity of the ummat and propelling it into the next century. The dichotomy in the educaiton system can not be allowed to continue.

We must have the courage to set the example of evaluating the present leadership, identifying the weaknesses and strengths and take corrective measures.

Leadership is about change and improvement. We must learn the factors and mechanisms of social change change

Presenting the Islamic alternative and paradigm in leadership..

Shura is still a missing dimension in our personality. Shura is needed at home and in the organisation


Religious dimension:

Taqwa, deep spirituality, Islamic and refined personal manners, adherence to the sharia

Intelligence and wisdom:

intuition, intelligence, flexibility, clear mission and goals, master of detail

Strong, genuine and likeable personality:

will-power & decisiveness, stamina, deep belief in principles, acting on principle, not following the crowd, decision stickability, knows and uses strengths, accepting and compensating for weaknesses, courage, a sense of humor, ability to keep secrets, genuine personality, simplicity, good listener, honesty, credibility

Commitment, motivation and responsibility:

sacrifice, participation, commitment and dedication, a high sense of personal responsibility and accountability, assuming responsibility for mistakes, dependability, high and self- motivation, enthusiasm, positive attitude, optimism, risk taking, truthfulness

Physical and emotional well-being:

good health (physical and mental), emotional balance & security, energy, hard work, energy, positive attitude

Self-control and balance:

self-discipline, self-control, non impulsiveness, firmness in crises and under stress, perseverance & patience, self-leadership, self-sufficiency, action-oriented, being always prepared


basic knowledge of Islam, history, current affairs, specialized knowledge as needed



Ummatic outlook, ability to see the whole picture, positive vision, thinking big, broad perspective, long-term vision and ability to articulate it, understanding maqasid al sharia, belief in success, set high standards

Goals and objectives:

ability to identify and focus on specific goals and objectives, not being distracted by daily problems, consistency, sense of direction, identification with organizational goals

Objectivity and reality:

reality, realism, accept change, living in the present, correct sense of timing, learning from failures


originality in thought and action, initiative, resourcefulness, Understanding and using synergistic relationships
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