Leadership at its Best

Even after more than fourteen centuries since his passing, people are researching and writing books on the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). SYED KAZIM looks into those aspects of the Prophet’s personality which made him one of the greatest leaders of all time.


Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.Leadership is the process of encouraging and helping others to work enthusiastically towards objectives. Leadership is the behaviour of an individual when he is directing the activities of a group towards a shared goal.

Before Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) became the Prophet, he performed various activities and went through various stages of his life which directly and indirectly helped him to develop the characteristics of a great leader. From being a shepherd, the Prophet (pbuh) learnt the art of leadership. During this period, he acquired many superior human characteristics such as generosity, good temper, good behaviour towards neighbours, tolerance, truthfulness, trustworthiness, patience and avoidance of wicked behaviour.

A great leader is one, who always thinks about the future. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) had a great vision to establish Islam on the earth; thus, he trained people who could carry the mission forward to different parts of the world after he departs. He trained a whole generation of leaders who had the requisite knowledge and a high degree of the sense of sacrifice. He started alone, but in his final sermon, he addressed around a hundred thousand Muslims. A good leader is one who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal, but a great leader is one who creates leaders.

As a leader, the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) took great care of his people’s religious as well as economic needs. Not only did he preach, but he was also concerned about their economic well-being. He made treaties and alliances with many tribes. He taught the world diplomacy that was built on morality and honesty. He honored all his treaties and he defended his people. He was aware of the surrounding circumstances and made his people ready and alert. He never initiated a battle or a war, but when he was attacked he was firm and decisive. He always emphasized peace and harmonious relations.

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) possessed superior skills with regard to Emotional Intelligence; the incident of Taif is the best example in this regard. When the persecution increased in Makkah, and some of the followers found it difficult to live in that environment, he allowed them to migrate to Ethiopia and seek the help of the Christian King there. In Ethiopia Muslims found peace and they reciprocated the King’s hospitality with prayers and support for the King and his party. Muslims’ relations were so good with the monarch that he grew to love Islam and before his death he became a Muslim.

Great leaders just don’t give orders but they work along with the group. They don’t say “Do it” but they say, “Let’s do it”. They don’t take advantage of their superiority but they use it effectively and responsibly. Once Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions went on a journey and on the way they stopped to rest. They decided to set up a small camp and cook their food. The companions decided to divide the work among themselves. One companion said, “I will go and kill the lamb for meat.” Another companion said, “I will clean the ground around the camp.” The third companion said, “I will do the cooking.” Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “I will bring wood for the fire.” All the companions said with one voice, “No, we will do that for you.” But the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) replied, “I very well know that you all will do that for me. But it is not good for me to sit idle while you work. I am your companion; I must work as much as you do. Allah does not like any one to enjoy any superiority over his companions.” So saying, he went to gather fire wood. Even during the battle of Trench, when a big ditch had to be dug, he also worked along with the companions to accomplish the task.

As a leader, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) use to assign the task to the right person. Amr ibn al-Aas (ra) was appointed by the Prophet (pbuh) to lead the Muslims, including the great companions of the Prophet, in the battle of ‘Thatu Salasil’, just four months after he embraced Islam. He seny Musab bin Umair (ra) to do Da’wah as he was very polite.

Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) wisdom was demonstrated when he consulted his companions. This practice is so important in Islam that he never reached a decision, especially in public affairs, without it. Sometimes he even held counsel about his personal affairs. He (pbuh) once said, “Whoever takes counsel, does not regret it in the end.” He consulted his companions before the Battle of Badr, the first major post-Emigration military encounter, about whether the Muslims should fight the approaching army. He consulted his companions before the Battle of Trench and it was during this session Salman al-Farisi (ra) gave the idea of digging a defensive trench around Madinah. He also consulted his companions when the hypocrites raised questions on the modesty of Aisha (ra). This consultation helped him to take sound and effective decisions which contributed to his good leadership.

As a leader, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was of an intelligence that far exceeded those around him. He also possessed great capacity to solve difficult problems with ease. When the Black Stone was displaced, each family of Quraish wanted the honor of placing it back. They decided to leave the decision to the person who would enter the Masjid-ul-Haram first the next day. The next day they found that it was Muhammad (pbuh) who was the first to reach the place. After seeing the members of all the four families, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) put his robe on the floor, took the sacred Black Stone and put it in the centre of the robe and said: “The chief of each family will take one corner of the robe and lift it together.” When the robe with the Black Stone was lifted to a reasonable height, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took the Black Stone and placed it in its proper place by his own hands. None felt insulted and each had his share of the privilege and honor. This is how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) succeeded in uniting the ever fighting and ignorant Arabs with his honesty, justice and noble character.

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was a very good motivator and possessed praiseworthy virtues. When he saw Zubair (as) with a turban, he said, “What Zubair, today angels have come with red turbans to fight.” He said about Ali (ra): “I am from Ali and Ali is from Me.” He said about Abu Bakr (ra), “Had I made anyone a friend other than Allah (swt), it would have been Abu Bakr (ra)”. He also said about himin his last sermon, No one has been a better companion for me than Abu Bakr (ra).” Statements like these encourage an individual to work and excel in what they do.

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was fully dedicated to his mission. The Quraish approached the Prophet (pbuh) saying: “We will give you wealth, power and other material possessions if you stop your preaching.” But the Prophet (pbuh) rejected the offer. And when the unbelievers approached him through Abu Talib, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) replied, “O Uncle, even if you put the Sun in my right hand and Moon in my left, I will not give up this mission (of spreading God’s word) until I die.”

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was a universal leader. He accomplished his mission within a short span of 23 years. He possessed human skills, conceptual skills and technical skills, and all these skills are required and very much necessary for a great leader. He was a leader who changed the entire society by moving them from darkness to light. He possessed many qualities like, having a great vision, taking good care of the people, emotional intelligence, working along with the group, assigning the task to the right person, consultation, intelligence, solving problems with ease, dedication towards the mission, absolute belief in the message, personal courage, strong willpower, personal knowledge of each follower, strong character, praiseworthy virtues and no worldly ambitions, which went on to make him a great leader. He was a leader whom people blindly followed and obeyed, whom people loved, whom people wanted, and still want, to imitate. He was such a great leader that, to this day, many other great personalities of the world appreciate his leadership. Even after 1400 years, people are researching and writing books on his leadership. Truly, the Qur’an has rightly said, “In the Prophet is the best example”.