Essential Qualities of Islamic Leadership

Rulers are not necessarily accomplished leaders
Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Hijjah 21, 1439 2018-09-01

Islamic Movement

by Zafar Bangash (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 7, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1439)

“There always have been people who kept saying things like ‘we can’t do it,’ ‘our enemy is too strong,’ ‘we don’t have this,’ ‘we don’t have that.’ The Islamic Republic is a blessing that has proven to us, ‘yes, we can do it.’” – the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei

In Islamic governance, leadership is extremely important, as indeed it is under any other system. This is also true of industry and other organizations. There are certain qualities unique to Islamic leadership that are often lacking in other systems. Similarly, rulers are often confused with leaders. Is there a difference?

A ruler is a person who occupies a certain position in government, such as president or prime minister. Even if such a person has come to occupy this position by winning an election, it does not automatically confer on him (and rarely her) the title of leader.

Today, Donald Trump is the president of the United States but does it make him a leader? True, he won the election in 2016 (although some would dispute that) but most Americans would agree that he does not inspire much confidence, much less show any ability to lead. A ruler simply occupies a position. The moment he is knocked off that perch, the person is consigned virtually to oblivion. A ruler follows routine matters and if he is able to do so with efficiency, then he is considered a good ruler.

Leaders, on the other hand, are made of different material. First and foremost is the fact that they have a vision. Second, they are able to give a directional course for people to follow. Then they inspire people by their own example. Leaders also have certain qualities such as modesty, simplicity, sincerity, courage and self-sacrifice. This is what Islam calls taqwa — doing everything that Allah (swt) orders them to do, and refraining from what He has forbidden. They pursue no personal or parochial interests. Instead, they are motivated by the desire to serve the people and strive to realize their legitimate aspirations.

Leaders are also able to withstand pressure, such as threats, inducements, and other impediments in the pursuit of their goal. Entrenched vested interests in society try to first ridicule them and if unsuccessful, they resort to intimidation. If intimidation does not work either, inducements are offered to derail them off their course. “Every man has a price,” is an old adage. Leaders, however, are not for sale, at any price. They cannot be intimidated or bought. These are the qualities that distinguish ordinary people (rulers) from leaders.

Let us cast a cursory glance at the world today and see how many rulers truly qualify as leaders? We will not detain ourselves too much with the Western world where a number of institutions exist to ensure the system works smoothly even if a totally dumb person reaches the top (Trump in America is a good example).

What about the Muslim world and what constitutes ideal leadership there? Committed Muslims know that none other than the noble Messenger (pbuh) was and remains the model for them, as Allah (swt) says in the majestic Qur’an (33:21). Many people including some Muslims might argue that he was the Messenger of Allah and we are ordinary human beings. True, but the ideal has been shown to us and we are required to emulate his example to the best of our abilities.

In the Muslim world today, only a few personalities — the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei of Iran and Hizbullah leader Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah — qualify for this honor. It would be immediately obvious that both emerged from the roots of Islamic tradition and not from Western or other forms of secular education or institutions. It is a sad reflection on the Ummah that out of nearly 1.8 billion Muslims, we cannot point to any other examples.

Among the qualities of a great leader are his ability to accurately analyze the prevailing situation and offer a directional course of action. To bring about a convergence of words and deeds, there is also need to ensure that officials and people think alike. This is also among the responsibilities of a leader to guide officials and people so that they work toward a common objective.

Only a leader with steely determination and sterling qualities of fearlessness and wisdom can guide a country such as the Islamic Republic of Iran that is faced with so many grave challenges. Similarly in Lebanon where Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah has led Hizbullah to defeat an enemy — Zionist Israel — many times “stronger” and more heavily equipped. It is almost certain that leaders with lesser qualities elsewhere would have and indeed have buckled under such pressure exerted by their enemies. Not so the Rahbar of the Islamic Revolution or Sayyid Nasrullah of Hizbullah.

Let us remain with the Islamic Republic for a while. Perhaps no other country in modern history has faced such severe pressures as the Islamic Republic. It has been subjected to decades of illegal sanctions and an external war that had the backing of the entire world. Islamic Iran fought that war alone and valiantly defended its honor and integrity.

Simultaneously, there was a relentless campaign of sabotage and assassinations carried out by the munafiqin. Both the leadership and people of Iran they inspired withstood all these tests with courage and determination. It was only possible because the leadership guided the people in the right direction and kept them motivated.

Far from buckling under or surrendering to the bullying tactics of the enemies, the Islamic Republic has increased its global influence, especially in the surrounding region. Today, the Islamic Republic has influence in countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Yemen. This influence has not come about through coercion, à la the US or its European allies, but by means of extending sincere help. This is referred to as Islamic Iran’s “strategic depth.” In a speech delivered on May 23, 2018, the Rahbar addressed this issue, “One element of power is our defensive capability: defense at a distance. Another element of power is our strategic depth. Presence in regional countries and support for the people of the region is the strategic depth of the Islamic Republic: the Islamic Republic cannot give this up. No wise government will give this up.”

Referring to the demands of Western hegemonic powers led by the US, especially relating to Iran’s missile capabilities, the Rahbar stated firmly, “Building various missiles and missile power is a source of security in the country.” Addressing scientists and academics, the Rahbar pointed out that the young generation does not remember the days when Tehran was subjected to barrages of missile attacks day and night. “Houses were destroyed and innocent lives were lost in Tehran! The enemy’s missiles reached cities near the front-lines — like Dezful, Ahwaz, Suse, and other towns and cities — and other cities even farther! We did not have missiles or other means of self-defense, we simply had to watch all the suffering as our hands were tied,” the Rahbar said in another address on June 4, 2018.

This is how the enemies of Allah (swt) and humanity operate. They subject people, especially committed Muslims, to horrendous crimes because they dare to chalk out a separate path based on justice and fairness. Such a path is seen as detrimental to the interests of the predatory powers, especially the US.

To confront such imperialist and Zionist plots, a country has to be strong internally. There has to be internal unity and cohesion and it must have the means to defend itself. This is what the Islamic Republic has achieved.

The Rahbar referred to this when he said, “Our youth have made us the foremost missile power in the region. The enemy must know if they strike us just once, we will strike back tenfold! So, missiles are a source of security and strength for Iran. Notice that the enemy has focused on our strengths: they have set their sights on our missile program. Unfortunately, some inside the country are going along with the enemy, echoing the enemies’ words by saying, ‘What’s the use of our missile program?’”

The US military budget is $719 billion. It has also allocated $1.1 trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal. The US maintains more than 900 military bases worldwide, many of them in countries bordering the Islamic Republic. Yet the Americans and their Zionist allies insist that Iran should not have any missiles and that it must withdraw its advisors from Syria. They realize that Iran’s presence in Syria gives it strategic depth.

America has entered Syria illegally in violation of international law and without the permission of the Syrian government. Iran’s advisors are there at the specific invitation and request of the Syrian government to defend it against the imperialist-Zionist-Saudi-backed takfiri terrorists that have caused havoc in the country.

Iran’s missile capabilities and its presence in Syria frustrate the predatory powers’ evil design, hence their shrill propaganda against the Islamic Republic. “They are opposed to the country’s defensive and military strength because this is an element of power and because this is the strategic depth of the country. Our enemies are opposed to every means of power and every element of national strength,” said the Rabhar in his address Iranian to scientists.

“My intelligent and talented youth,” the Rahbar went on, “today arrogance is fighting against us because our power has engulfed the region. Such is the power of the Islamic Republic. What is considered as elements of national power in our opinion is seen as disturbing elements in the eyes of our enemies and that is why they are fighting against those elements. They are opposed to the expansion of the Islamic Republic’s power among and beyond regional countries. They are opposed to the country’s defensive and military strength because this is an element of power and because this is the strategic depth of the country. Our enemies are opposed to every means of power and every element of national strength.”

Providing guidance in the form of a question, the Rahbar said, “What is the way to confront this?” He advised the assembled young scientists and youth, “We should rely on our elements of power despite and contrary to the wishes of the enemy. We have announced before and we would like to announce once more that the defensive resources and power of the country are not negotiable and they cannot be bargained over. Can they come and criticize us for having such and such defensive means, for having such and such forms and versions of them and for producing and researching into them in the first place?”

The Rahbar firmly rejected any bargain with the enemy on these crucial issues, “We will not bargain and negotiate with the enemy over those things that increase, provide, and support national power. We are moving forward on the path of the country’s power and this falls on you” (address to the scientists and youth on 10-25-2017).

Iran’s strategic depth continues to expand at the expense of the enemy powers that have no right to be in the region in the first place. When this wave of awakening spreads to other people in the region, they would rise up against the presence of arrogant powers and demand their expulsion from the region. That day is not far off, insha’allah.

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