Friday Sermon: What are the qualities in a leader that Muslims should be encouraged to elect on?

“Appoint as commander the one who in your sight is the most sincere in the way of God, the most chaste of heart and the most outstanding in intelligence, slow to anger, accepts pardon, is gentle to the weak and harsh to the strong.”

“Appoint as commander the one who in your sight is the most sincere in the way of God, the most chaste of heart and the most outstanding in intelligence, slow to anger, accepts pardon, is gentle to the weak and harsh to the strong.”

Sermons 1-5 looked at how Islam supports the building of a society, while also encouraging political engagement and creating a hierarchy of priorities of Islamic values by which to judge party manifestos.

In this discussion we will look at the qualities that a leader should have and what is prohibited to base the choice of leadership on for Muslims.

The Qurโ€™an provides the arguments of the disbelievers in rejecting the leadership of the Prophets for their own, tribal leadership. There is a common thread amongst these verses and that is wealth; they believed the wealthier the person, the more appropriate he is for leadership. There are also secondary reasons for leadership in their view: the size of the family and number of followers – or popularity. All of these are rejected by Allah (swt).

ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู†ููˆุญูŒ ุฑู‘ูŽุจู‘ู ุฅูู†ู‘ูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ุนูŽุตูŽูˆู’ู†ููŠ ูˆูŽุงุชู‘ูŽุจูŽุนููˆุง ู…ูŽู† ู„ู‘ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽุฒูุฏู’ู‡ู ู…ูŽุงู„ูู‡ู ูˆูŽูˆูŽู„ูŽุฏูู‡ู ุฅูู„ู‘ูŽุง ุฎูŽุณูŽุงุฑู‹ุง

โ€œNoah continued: ‘O my Sustainer! Behold, they have opposed me [throughout], for they follow people whose wealth and children lead them increasingly into ruin.’โ€ (71:21)

ูˆูŽูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ู„ูŽู‡ู ุซูŽู…ูŽุฑูŒ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู„ูุตูŽุงุญูุจูู‡ู ูˆูŽู‡ููˆูŽ ูŠูุญูŽุงูˆูุฑูู‡ู ุฃูŽู†ูŽุง ุฃูŽูƒู’ุซูŽุฑู ู…ูู†ูƒูŽ ู…ูŽุงู„ู‹ุง ูˆูŽุฃูŽุนูŽุฒู‘ู ู†ูŽููŽุฑู‹ุง

โ€œAnd so the man who had fruit in abundance said to his companion, bandying about his views: I have more wealth than you and am mightier in followers.โ€ (18:34)

ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู„ูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ู†ูŽุจููŠู‘ูู‡ูู…ู’ ุฅูู†ู‘ูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ูŽ ู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุจูŽุนูŽุซูŽ ู„ูŽูƒูู…ู’ ุทูŽุงู„ููˆุชูŽ ู…ูŽู„ููƒู‹ุง ู‚ูŽุงู„ููˆูŽุงู’ ุฃูŽู†ู‘ูŽู‰ ูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ู ู„ูŽู‡ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูู„ู’ูƒู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู†ูŽุง ูˆูŽู†ูŽุญู’ู†ู ุฃูŽุญูŽู‚ู‘ู ุจูุงู„ู’ู…ูู„ู’ูƒู ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ู ูˆูŽู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูุคู’ุชูŽ ุณูŽุนูŽุฉู‹ ู…ู‘ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุงู„ู ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ุฅูู†ู‘ูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ูŽ ุงุตู’ุทูŽููŽุงู‡ู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ูƒูู…ู’ ูˆูŽุฒูŽุงุฏูŽู‡ู ุจูŽุณู’ุทูŽุฉู‹ ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ุนูู„ู’ู…ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุฌูุณู’ู…ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ู ูŠูุคู’ุชููŠ ู…ูู„ู’ูƒูŽู‡ู ู…ูŽู† ูŠูŽุดูŽุงุก ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ู ูˆูŽุงุณูุนูŒ ุนูŽู„ููŠู…ูŒ

โ€œAnd their prophet said unto those elders: ‘Behold, now God has raised up Saul to be your king’. They said: ‘How can he have dominion over us when we have a better claim to dominion than he, and he has not [even] been endowed with abundant wealth?’ [The prophet] replied: ‘Behold, God has exalted him above you, and endowed him abundantly with knowledge and bodily strength and perfection’.โ€ (2:247)

This third verse provides significant guidance on the necessary qualities of leadership. In response to the claim of wealth, the response is knowledge is superior. Bodily strength is also stated. This is because in that period part of leadership required strength on the battlefield. Given that this may not be a criterion today as leadership in warfare has changed, this means that knowledge is always the permanent and a primary requirement, whilst secondarily there may be relativity in requirements.

Muhammad Rayshari writes: โ€œHonesty is the most fundamental principle in the administrative policies of Imam Ali (a). He set up honesty and truthfulness as a steadfast principle. In the Umayyad culture, honesty is meaningless. All sorts of fabrication, lies and imposture are the motif of their politics.โ€ (Imam Ali and Political Leadership, pg 27)

Based on this, Rayshari quotes a number of narrations to support this as being the central quality when electing your leadership. Under the chapter โ€˜Election of Righteous Administratorsโ€™, he writes:

“Imam Ali (a) in his his instruction to Malik al-Ashtar wrote: For every person there is a right over the ruler, such that if it (the right) is set correctly, the persons life will be set aright to that same extent. But the ruler will not accomplish what God has enjoined upon him except by resolutely striving for Godโ€™s help, by making himself adhere to the truth and being patient in enforcing the right, be it easy for him or burdensome.

“Appoint as commander the one who in your sight is the most sincere in the way of God, the most chaste of heart and the most outstanding in intelligence, slow to anger, accepts pardon, is gentle to the weak and harsh to the strong.

“Look into the affairs of your administrators. Employ them after having tested them and do not appoint them with favouritism or arbitrariness. Whatever fault of your administrators you overlook will come to be attached to you.โ€ (Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter 53).

The Qurโ€™an states that a person is responsible for their actions and will have a share in it, for the good or evil they attach themselves to (4:85): โ€œWhoever rallies to a good cause shall have a share in its blessings and whoever rallies to an evil cause shall be answerable for his part in it.โ€ ู…ู‘ูŽู† ูŠูŽุดู’ููŽุนู’ ุดูŽููŽุงุนูŽุฉู‹ ุญูŽุณูŽู†ูŽุฉู‹ ูŠูŽูƒูู† ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ู†ูŽุตููŠุจูŒ ู…ู‘ูู†ู’ู‡ูŽุง ูˆูŽู…ูŽู† ูŠูŽุดู’ููŽุนู’ ุดูŽููŽุงุนูŽุฉู‹ ุณูŽูŠู‘ูุฆูŽุฉู‹ ูŠูŽูƒูู† ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ูƒููู’ู„ูŒ ู…ู‘ูู†ู’ู‡ูŽุง

Based on this, Imam Ali (a) also said: โ€œAppoint the pious, the knowledgable and people of good policy for taking charge of the works.โ€ (Tuhuf al-Uqool, pg 137)

In the chapter โ€˜Refraining from Employing (electing) the Treacherous and Feebleโ€™, Rayshari also mentions the following narration from Imam Ali (a):

โ€œKnow, O Rifaโ€™a that this position of governance is a trust, so whoever betrays it on him will be the curse of God until the Day of Judgement. And whoever employs (elects) a traitor (of this trust), truly [Prophet] Muhammad (s) will despise him both in this world and the world to come.โ€

Looking into the background, reliability and track record of public officials is therefore a necessary thing. Actions speak louder than words. Take for example Barack Obama who campaigned on the slogan of โ€˜Hope and Changeโ€™ and was elected to bring that. Wikileaks shows one month before the 2008 election giant Wall Street bank Citigroup submitted to the Obama campaign a list of its preferred candidates for cabinet positions in an Obama administration.

Citigroupโ€™s recommendations came just three days after then-President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which allocated $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue the largest Wall Street banks of which the biggest beneficiary was Citigroup given $45 billion.

From that same list was appointed heads of the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Defense, Chief of Staff, the Office of Management and Budget, Education, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, the Domestic Policy Council, and more.

Was this a trustworthy leader? To campaign on โ€œChangeโ€ only to appoint whoever the Banks demanded?

On the other hand a good example was when former Prime Minister David Cameron invited newly appointed Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to be a guest of honour at the Rugby World Cup opening match. Rather than going for a photo-op and inconsequential event, he fulfilled his โ€œpre-existing commitmentsโ€ in helping a family with their housing situation.

Thus the Muslim is obligated to know the character and trustworthiness of the candidate they vote for, to the best of their ability.

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