Selected Traditions on the Nature and Position of Leadership

The prophetic traditions presented hereinunder highlight Islam’s balanced stand on the role and responsibility of a leader. Neither veneration, on the one hand, nor self-profession or self-validation, on the other, are allowed to exceed clear limits when it came to the matter of a leader’s true position and value.

1. Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Muhammad! O master, son of our master! O best of us, son of the best of us!” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“O people! Fear Allah and do not let Satan deceive you! I am Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, the servant of Allah and His Messenger. By Allah! I would not love for you to exalt my status above where Allah Almighty has placed me.”

~ Musnad Aḥmad

2. Narrated `Umar (ra) : I heard the Prophet (saws) saying, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle.”

~ Sahih Bukhari

3. Narrated ‘Aisha and Ibn ‘Abbas: “On his death-bed, Allah’s Apostle put a sheet over his face and when he felt hot, he would remove it from his face. When in that state (of putting and removing the sheet) he said:

“‘May Allah’s curse be on the Jews and the Christians, for they build places of worship at the graves of their prophets.’” [(By that) he intended to warn (the Muslim) from what they (i.e. Jews and Christians) had done].

~ Sahih Bukhari

4. It has been reported on the authority of ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Samura who said: “The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said to me:

“’Abd al-Rahman, do not ask for a position of authority, for if you are granted this position as a result of your asking for it, you will be left alone (without God’s help to discharge the responsibilities attendant thereon), and if you are granted it without making any request for it, you will be helped (by God in the discharge of your duties).’”

~ Sahih Muslim

5. It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr who said: “I said to the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him): ‘Messenger of Allah! Will you not appoint me to a public office?’ He stroked my shoulder with his hand and said:

“‘Abu Dharr, thou art weak, and authority is a trust; and on the Day of Judgment it is a cause of humiliation and repentance, except for one who fulfils its obligations and (properly) discharges the duties attendant thereon.’”

~ Sahih Muslim

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