Selected Notes and Reflections on the Concept of Leadership in Islam

By Dean Macacuna A. Moslem
Assistant Secretary
Office of the President
Malacañang, Manila

(First of a Series)


​“O my son! You are a King now. From now on, getting angry with you is our share and your part is to be tolerant. When we are crossing with you, it is your duty to gain our hearts back; when we blame you, it is your part that you must be patient. When we are wrong and weak, it is your part to be helpful and tolerant of our mistakes.  When we are in trouble and disagreement with each other, it is your duty to work and urge us to work hard!”

​The foregoing caveat capsulizes the concept of leadership in Islam.

​The Islamic model of leadership emphasizes the principle of servant and master relationship. The leader as servant and the followers as masters.

​“Everyone is a shepherd (carrier) and everyone is responsible for those under his care – a king for his subjects, a man for his family, a woman for her home and her husband, a servant for his master’s property, a child for his father’s property.”

​Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, said “if a man is appointed as the chief of even ten persons, his hands will be tied together round his neck. He will be brought before Allah in such a state on the day of Judgment. He will either get salvation on account of his good and just deeds or be ruined on account of his sins. The beginning of leadership is censure its middle is the shame and its end is the insult and punishment on the day of Judgment (Ahmad).

​Leadership in Islam is a trust. Often, it takes the form of an explicit contract or pledge between a leader and his followers that he will try his best to guide them, to protect them and to treat them fairly and with justice. Leadership is an amanah (a trust) and at the same time a tremendous responsibility to the Almighty Allah, the supreme power as well as to discharge of his duties towards the people (Mahluq) or his followers to the best of his abilities.

“Trust is a virtue” – He who could not be trusted is not a Muslim. The Quranic injunction is explicit.  “ O ye that believe! Betray not the trust of Allah and the Messenger….”

“If Allah appoints a person in authority over the Muslims, and he fails to redress their grievances and remove their poverty, Allah will not fulfill his needs and not remove his poverty on the day of Judgment. (Abu Daud, Tirmidi)

​Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “your best leaders and rulers are those whom you love and who love you (in return), and for whom you pray and who pray for you and your worst leaders and  rulers will be those whom you hate and who hate you, and whom you curse. Then Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked: “O Messenger of Allah shall we not disassociate from them? “No! So long as they establish the prayers among you. (Muslim).

​The followers are “bound to hear and obey the orders of the authority, in hardship and in ease; willingly or unwillingly, and even when you are treated unjustly” (Muslim).

​“It is obligatory upon a Muslim to listen and obey (the authority) whether he likes it or not; save when he is asked to do something sinful. If he is asked for a sinful act then there is no hearing and obedience.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

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