RELIGION: The Characteristics of A Just Leader

By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In The Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Servants and Messenger.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! Let me ask you please! Who is a leader? This expression contains a key word “lead”, which means “to show the way.” It is a quality of a person who can drive people forward with a view to achieve a common goal, like a captain on a ship, caliph, president/commander-in-chief of a Armed Forces, governor, and CEO of a company, etc. There are some general inevitable characteristics that an individual must possess to be able to become a successful pioneer, such as confidence, honesty, communication skills, empathy, optimism, encouraging, intuition, acting as a role model, courage and so on. For Muslims, no one has ever come closer to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in having headship distinctiveness and they consider Prophet Muhammad as the greatest reformist and leader. Allah (SWT) has regarded Him (Peace be upon him) in the Noble Quran in these words:

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [Quran, 33: 21

Because of possessing great leadership capabilities, He (Peace be upon him) was chosen as having the honour of being the last Prophet of the Almighty, and is said to be followed and obeyed in order to thrive in the hereafter. The entire life of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), the Exalted is full of such instances and examples where He showed exceptional traits of an unbeaten principal in both the religious service as well as in handling a lot of secular issues. He was always observed as a personification of morality, honesty, truthfulness, understanding of others, and enlightening effective commanding etc. which is why we are directed by the Creator of universe to pursue His “Uswa Hasanah” (the Best Examples) in every walk of life.

My Respected People! As well as providing direction, inspiration, and guidance, good leaders exhibit courage, passion, confidence, commitment, and ambition. They nurture the strengths and talents of their people and build teams committed to achieving common goals.

Studying the characteristic of leadership is useful because we tend break things into characteristics to make big concepts easier to handle. There are common traits that define leadership, and finding them only takes some study of those who have been successful. By actively building on these traits you can develop into a stronger leader.

Here are some of the most common traits in the characteristic of leadership:

  • Share Their Vision – A leader with vision has a clear idea of where they want to go, how to get there and what success looks like. Be sure to articulate your vision clearly and passionately, ensuring your team understands how their individual efforts contribute to higher level goals. Personally working toward your vision with persistence, tenacity, and enthusiasm will inspire and encourage others to do the same.
  • Lead By Example – As a leader, the best way to build credibility and gain the respect of others is to set the right examples. Demonstrate the behaviour that you want people to follow. If you demand a lot of your team, you should also be willing to set high standards for yourself. Aligning your words and actions will help to build trust and make your team more willing to follow your example.
  • Demonstrate Integrity – A leader with integrity draws on their values to guide their decisions, behaviour, and dealings with others. They have clear convictions about what is right and wrong and are respected for being genuine, principled, ethical and consistent. They have a strong sense of character, keep their promises, and communicate openly, honestly and directly with others. Displaying integrity through your daily actions will see you rewarded with loyalty, confidence, and respect from your employees and the people you led.
  • Communicate Effectively – The ability to communicate clearly, concisely and tactfully is a crucial leadership skill. Communication involves more than just listening attentively to others and responding appropriately. It also includes sharing valuable information, asking intelligent questions, soliciting input and new ideas, clarifying misunderstandings, and being clear about what you want. The best leaders also communicate to inspire and energise their staff.
  • Make Hard Decisions – To be an effective leader, the ability to make fast, difficult decisions with limited information is critical. When facing a tough decision, start by determining what you are trying to achieve. Consider the likely consequences of your decision and any available alternatives. Make your final decision with conviction, take responsibility for it and follow it through. Being a resolute and confident decision-maker will allow you to capitalise on opportunities and earn the respect of your team. President Buhari has truly disappointed us, we had good expectations of him when he came to power, but today, we have seen that he has failed. We must learn to speak the truth always. Leadership is about making others better politically, religiously, economically, socially, in bringing infrastructural developments, etc…
  • Recognise Success – Frequently and consistently recognising achievement is one of the most powerful habits of inspiring leaders. For people to stretch themselves and contribute their best efforts, they need to know their work will be valued and appreciated. Find ways to celebrate the achievements of your people, even if it’s through a simple ‘well done.’ As well as boosting morale, it will also strengthen their motivation to continue giving their best.
  • Empower Others – Great leaders understand that for people to give their best, they must have a sense of ownership over their work and believe that what they’re doing is meaningful. Communicate clear goals and deadlines to your team, and then give them the autonomy and authority to decide how the work gets done. Challenge them with high expectations and encourage them to be creative and show innovation.
  • Motivate and Inspire – The best leaders drive their team forward with passion, enthusiasm, inspiration and motivation. Invest time in the people you lead to determine their strengths, needs, and priorities. As well as making them feel valuable, this will help you to understand the best way to motivate them. Continually reinforce how their efforts are making a difference, and encourage the development of their potential with meaningful goals and challenges. Again, creating a legitimate rapport with your staff makes it less likely that personal issues and resentment can creep in and derail the group. When your team knows that you are empathetic to their concerns, they will be more likely to work with you and share in your vision, rather than foster negative feelings.

Also being a consistent leader will gain you respect and credibility, which is essential to getting buy-in from the group. By setting an example of fairness and credibility, the team will want to act the same way.

And another characteristic of leadership that lends itself to credibility. Those who are honest, especially about concerns, make it far more likely that obstacles will be addressed rather than avoided. Honesty also allows for better assessment and growth.

Having the vision to break out of the norm and aim for great things – then the wherewithal to set the steps necessary to get there – is an essential characteristic of good leadership. By seeing what can be and managing the goals on how to get there, a good leader can create impressive change.

Effective communication helps keep he team working on the right projects with the right attitude. If you communicate effectively about expectations, issues and advice, your staff will be more likely to react and meet your goals.

Not every problem demands the same solution. By being flexible to new ideas and open-minded enough to consider them, you increase the likelihood that you will find the best possible answer. You will set a good example for your team and reward good ideas.

A strong vision and the willingness to see it through is one of the most important characterizes of leadership. The leaders who believes in the mission and works toward it will be an inspiration and a resource to their followers.

Of course, there are several other theories about leadership and leadership styles where different skills come into play. But no matter what your approach, if you display the previous traits you will be well equipped to lead a team successfully.

Respected Servants of Allah! When Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz assumed the caliphate, he wrote to al-Hasan Ibn Abi al-Hasan al-Basri asking him to write to him and describe the just leader.

Al-Hasan (rahimahullah) wrote:

“Be it known to you, O Commander of the Faithful, that Allah instituted the just leader to be the redress of every wrong-doer, the discipline of every unfair person, the correction of every corrupt man, the strength of every weak one, the justice of every wronged being, and the refuge of every frightened individual.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is like a shepherd who is tender toward his camels and kind to them; he takes them to the best pastures, prevents them from going to dangerous places, defends them against wild beasts, and protects them from the harms of the heat, cold, poverty and the hunger.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is like a father who feels compassion for his children, works hard for them when young and teaches them as they grow older, earns for them during his lifetime, and saves for them after his death.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is like a tender mother who is dutiful and kind to her baby, who bears him and gives him birth unwillingly, who brings him up as a child, staying up at night when he does, and being quiet when he is at rest; she suckles him for a time and then weans him, she rejoices when he is healthy and is saddened when he is in pain.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is the guardian of orphans and the widows, and treasurer of the poor, educating the young among them and providing for the older ones.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is like the heart among the other body organs: they are healthy if the heart is healthy, and sick when the heart is sick.

The just leader, O Commander of the Faithful, is the one who stands between Allah and his servants; he listens to what Allah says and conveys it to them, he looks to Allah and makes them look too; he is led by Allah and he leads them. Therefore, O Commander of the Faithful, in relation to the realm given to you by Allah, may He be exalted and magnified, do not be like a servant whose master entrusted him with his wealth and dependents, but who wasted the wealth and drove away the dependents like tramps, thus impoverishing his master’s family and frittering away his wealth.

Be it known to you, O Commander of the Faithful, that Allah has prescribed punishments to act as deterrents to wicked deeds and vile acts. So if these deeds and acts are committed by those responsible for implementing the punishments, what will happen? Allah has prescribed punishment as a means to better living for His servants. So if the one who should be doing justice to them kills them and starves them what will happen? And remember death and what follows it, O Commander of the Faithful, when you will have no adherents and no supporters to help you against it; so provide for it and for the great terror that follows it.

Be it known to you, O Commander of the Faithful, that you have a home other than the one you are in now. In it you will abide for a long time. Your loved ones will abandon you and leave you in it all alone. Provide for it that which will remain with you.

On the day when a man flees from his brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his sons.” [Quran, 80:34–36]

Remember, O Commander of the Faithful:

“… When what is in the tombs is resurrected, and what is in the breasts is gathered.” [Quran, 100:9–10]

Secrets will become manifest, and the Book:

“… Leaves out nothing small or great but has recorded it.” [Quran, 18:49]

Now, O Commander of the Faithful, while you still have time and before the arrival of the appointed hour of death and loss of hope: do not lead Allah’s servants as the ignorant do, and do not behave with them as oppressors do, the way the domineering arrogant ones conduct themselves with those they deem to be weak, for they observe no covenant or compact of protection. Otherwise, you will end up bearing your burdens and other burdens too, and you will carry your loads and other loads too. Do not be deceived by those who enjoy what causes you misery and those who eat good things in this world of theirs, for you will then lose your good things in the Hereafter. Do not look at your power today but look rather at your power tomorrow, when you are captive in the snares of death, standing before Allah, may He be exalted, and in the presence of the Angels, the Prophets, and the Messengers, when:

“All faces shall be humbled before the Living, Self-Subsisting One.” [Quran, 20:111]

O Commander of the Faithful, although I have not achieved in my Sermon what earlier men of intellect have, I have not withheld advice and sympathy from you. Consider this letter of mine to you as would a healer who gives his beloved to drink bitter medicine because he hopes for the cure and good health it will bring about. Peace be upon you, O Commander of the Faithful, Allah’s mercy, and His blessings.” [See Al-Iqd Al-Farid, vol. 1, page 49-51]

Respected Servants of Allah! Wallahi leadership is not a child play, it is a serious affair. And I believe our leaders should begin to learn to take criticism seriously, study them and make correction. Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab said:

“Only a man who loves you will criticise you.”

But today, we take criticism the way Pharaoh (Fir’awn) took it when Prophet Musa (AS) criticized him for the wrong he was perpetrating. We are looking at everyone who criticise us as an enemy. We must learn to look beyond sentiments if we really want to progress, grow and develop. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) encouraged giving advice to the leadership, but unfortunately we Nigerians abhors taking advice, we prefer sycophancy and hypocrisy.

And we must fear Allah and always tell the truth. The APC government under President Muhammadu Buhari has lost control, everyone is on his own; they have failed us. Let us fear Allah, we should not think about the religion of a person, his region or his tribe. Let’s think of how someone cares about us, how he responds to our needs, our affairs and our plight. President Buhari has truly disappointed us, we had good expectations of him when he came to power, but today, we have seen that he has failed. We must learn to speak the truth always. Leadership is about making others better politically, religiously, economically, socially, in bringing infrastructural developments, etc., as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. We must re-examine what we have done wrong, and ask Allah (SWT) to forgive us. May Allah (SWT) change this situation for the better. Ameen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! 2019 elections is around the corner for those among us who Allah will bless with a long life. We should put on our thinking caps and make our individual and collective decisions on which candidate to support at all levels, based on an objective assessment of the MASLAHA and overall good of Nigerians. It is my hope and expectation that in making a choice between the candidates, people will take into consideration the need for credible, fair and courageous leadership to truly steer the country away from insecurity, unemployment, poverty, hunger, injustice, uncertainty, disunity, ethnic and religious crisis and the remaining problems our country are facing.

I strongly believe that the only way you can show you love President Buhari is to tell him the simple truth, which we have been doing long before now, but when we advised him how to do better than the previous governments, we were tagged Buhari’s enemy by his blind followers who feel that whatever he does is right.

Leadership is about the people. Your primary responsibility has to be the welfare of the people. Anything short of that is a total failure. You cannot torture people in the name of governance. People are dying because of hardship. If You do that, you waste all the goodwill. The blind followers will follow you.

I felt that if Buhari fails, it is like the Muslims and the North that have failed, because he is a Muslim and from the North. So he should fear Allah and hand over to the person he knows will do better than him. We feel the pains of Nigerians.

The leaders who do not fulfil the rights of people justly and betray their trust and the promises they made to people, Allah will exclude them from paradise and hell is their lot. Imam Al-Bukhari reported that:

“Al-Hasan narrated on the authority of Ma’qil bin Yasar al-Muzani, that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said:

“Allah does not entrust to anyone the affairs of his subjects and he dies acting dishonestly towards them, Allah will forbid paradise for him.”

Respected Brothers and Sisters! The following are excerpts from the Caliphs Abu Bakr Siddiq and Umar bin al-Khattab’s (RA) Inaugural Speech after becoming leaders.

Abu Bakr said:

“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me. Truthfulness is synonymous with fulfilling the trust, and lying is equivalent to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, Inshaa Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully (someone else’s), Inshaa Allah. No group of people abandons struggle in the path of Allah, except that Allah makes them suffer humiliation. And evil/mischief does not become widespread among a people, except that Allah inflicts them with widespread calamity. Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. And if I disobey Allah and His Messenger, then I have no right to your obedience. Stand up now to pray, may Allah have mercy on you.”

Umar said:

“The mantle of Caliphate has fallen on my shoulders. I swear it before Allah that I never covered this office. I wished that it would have devolved on some other person more worthy than me … In the performance of my duties, I will seek guidance from the Noble Book, and will follow the examples set by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr. In this task, I seek your assistance. If I follow the right path, follow me. If I deviate from the right path, correct me so that we are not led astray. Now brothers I offer a few prayers and you say Ameen to them. O Allah, I am hard, make me soft to promote the Truth, to comply with your injunctions and to aspire for a better life in world and hereafter… O Allah, soften my heart for the faithful so that I attend to their needs with a sense of dedication… O Allah give me the power of self criticism and self assessment … O people, you have some rights on me which you can always claim. One of your rights is that if anyone of you comes to me with a claim, he should leave satisfied. Another of your rights is that you can demand that I take nothing unjustly from the revenues of the State. You can also demand that I fortify your frontiers and do not put you in danger. It is also your right that if you go to battle I should look after your families as a father would do while you are away. O people, remain conscious of Allah, forgive me my faults and help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by Allah.” [See Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah of Imam Ibn Katheer, vol. 6, page 305-306]

My Respected People! Please how far our leaders are today from this shining display of humility by Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar before their people! And wallahi they spent the rest of their lives trying to fulfil their pledges to their people!!

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.

Wassalamu Alaikum,

Your Brother:

Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached through: gusaumurtada@gmail.com or +2348038289761.



Categories: Opinion, Religion

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