Muhammad As A Universal Leader

This article covers the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a universal leader.

His Appointment of Competent People

The Messenger appointed promising and competent Muslims to the work they could do best. He felt no need to change any appointment, for the person proved, through personal uprightness and competence, that he or she was the proper choice.

The Makkan period of Islam was inscribed in the Muslim community’s memory as a time of unbearable persecution and torture. The abuse was not meted out only to the poor and unprotected Muslims (i.e., ‘Ammar, Bilal, and Suhayb), but also to powerful Muslim members of the Qurayshi elite (i.e., Abu Bakr and ‘Umar).1 To protect his followers, the Messenger permitted those who were poor and unprotected to emigrate to Abyssinia. But he kept the powerful ones (i.e., ‘Ali, Zubayr, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas) in Makka, for Islam needed their support to spread and implant itself in Makka. These powerful Muslims went on to occupy the highest administrative positions of the Muslim state.

Abu Dharr was a poor, blunt, and upright bedouin who never restrained his faith or his feelings. When he heard Muhammad’s declaration of Prophethood, he came to Makka and converted. The Messenger used to preach Islam secretly in the earliest stage of his Prophethood. Abu Dharr was very pious and austere. However, since public administration requires special skills, the Messenger did not accept his request for an administrative post, saying: “You cannot manage the people’s affairs. Don’t apply for such jobs, for we don’t assign such jobs to those who apply for them.”2

The Messenger refused Abu Dharr, but implied the caliphates of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman. Holding the hands of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, he said: “I have four viziers, two in the heavens and two in the world. Those in the heavens are Gabriel and Michael; as for those in the world, they are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.”3 Concerning the caliphate of ‘Uthman, he declared: “It will be a trial for him.”4

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He Knew His People

The Messenger knew his people more than they knew themselves. Like Abu Dharr, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha was a bedouin. He came to Makka and, meeting the Messenger, asked rudely: “What are you?” The Messenger replied very gently: “A Prophet of God.” Such gentleness caused ‘Amr to kneel down and declare: “I will follow you from now on, O Messenger.” The Messenger did not want ‘Amr to stay in Makka, for he would be unable to endure the torments inflicted upon the believers. So he told him: “Return to your tribe and preach Islam among them. When you hear that I am victorious, come and join us.”

Years later, ‘Amr came to Madina’s mosque and asked: “Do you recognize me, O Messenger?” The Messenger, who had an extraordinarily strong and keen memory (another dimension of his Prophethood) answered promptly: “Aren’t you the one who came to me in Makka? I sent you back to your tribe and told you to join us when you heard that I was victorious.”5

I mentioned the case of Julaybib earlier.6 After this moral lesson, Julaybib became an honest, chaste young man. Upon the Messenger’s request, a noble family gave him their daughter in marriage. Shortly afterwards, Julaybib took part in a battle and, after killing seven enemy soldiers, was martyred. When his corpse was brought to the Messenger, he put his head on Julaybib’s knees and said: “O God, this one is of me, and I am of him.”7 He had discovered Julaybib’s essential virtue and foreseen his future service for Islam.

The conquest of Khaybar allowed the Messenger to demonstrate his unique ability to recognize each Muslim’s potential, skills, and shortcomings. When the siege was prolonged, he declared: “Tomorrow I will hand the standard to one who loves God and His Messenger and is loved by them.”8 This was a great honor, and all Companions earnestly hoped for it. He gave it to ‘Ali, despite his youth, because of his great military and leadership skills. He took the standard and conquered the formidable stronghold of Khaybar.

Whoever the Messenger gave a job to perform it successfully. For example, he described Khalid ibn Walid as “a sword of God”9; Khalid was never defeated. Besides such great soldiers and invincible commanders as Qa‘qa‘a, Hamza, and Sa‘d, the Messenger made ‘Usama ibn Zayd commander over a great army containing such leading Muslims as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Talha, and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas. ‘Usama was the approximately 17-year-old son of Zayd, the Messenger’s black emancipated slave. His father had commanded the Muslim army at Mu’ta against the Byzantines and was martyred.

The Messenger was 25 when he married Khadija bint Khuwaylid, a widow 15 years his senior. He did not marry another woman until her death in the tenth year of his Prophethood. All of his subsequent marriages, after the age of 53, were directly related to his mission. One important reason for this was that each wife had a different character and temperament, and so could convey to other Muslim women Islam’s rules for women. Each one served as a guide and teacher for womanhood. Even such leading figures in subsequent generations as Masruq, Tawus ibn Kaysan, and ‘Ata’ ibn Rabah benefited considerably from them. The science of hadith is especially indebted to ‘A’isha, who related more than 5,000 Traditions from the Messenger and was a great jurist.

Subsequent events proved how wise and apt were the Messenger’s choices, not least in the matter of marriage.

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The Holy Book

His Wisdom

Leaders gain the love and trust of their people and are followed by them in proportion to their ability to solve their problems. These can be personal or public or related to an individual’s private life, or the community’s social, economic, and political affairs.

Some leaders resort to force and terror, or sanctions or punishments (i.e., exile, imprisonment, loss of citizenship rights), torture, or spying on private affairs to solve their problems. But such solutions have only short-term benefits. In addition, they create a vicious circle in which the more people struggle to solve problems by such means, the more they entangle themselves in them.

The Messenger solved all problems so skillfully and easily that no one challenged him. Although his people were by nature quarrelsome, ignorant, wild, and rebellious, he delivered his Message to them that was so grave that If We had sent down this Qur’an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and rent asunder out of fear of God (59:21). He transformed them into a harmonious community of peace, happiness, knowledge, and good morals. Reflect closely upon the utopias imagined in the West, such as The Republic (Plato), Utopia (Thomas Moore), and Civitas Solis (T. Campanella), and you will see that, in essence, they dreamed of Madina during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Humanity has never witnessed the equality of that society.

In Chapter 4, we described how he prevented an imminent clan war among the Quraysh while repairing the Ka‘ba,10 and how he prevented a possible disaster after the Battle of Hunayn.11 In addition, he skillfully solved an impending Emigrant–Ansar conflict while returning from fighting the Banu Mustaliq. When an internal clash nearly broke out when the army was halted by a well, the Messenger immediately gave the order to march.

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Merging Two Different Communities

The emigration to Madina marks a turning point for Prophet Muhammad and for Islam. Belief, emigration, and holy struggle are three pillars of a single, sacred truth; three spouts of a fountain from which the water of life flows for the soldiers of truth. After drinking, they convey their message without becoming wearied and, when the opposition cannot be overcome, set out for a new land without regard for home, property, and family. The Prophet’s emigration is so significant and sanctified that the virtuous people around him were praised by God as the Emigrants (Muhajirun). Those who welcomed them so warmly to Madina are known as the Helpers (Ansar). The Islamic calendar begins with this event.

Despite its significance, emigration is a difficult undertaking. When the Muslims resettled in Madina after years of persecution, they were destitute. Moreover, some were extremely poor, and others, who had earned their lives by trade, had no capital. The Muslims of Madina were mostly farmers, and the city’s commercial life was controlled by Jews.

Another serious problem was that just before the Messenger’s arrival, the Madinans had decided to make ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul their chief. This plan naturally was abandoned, which made him a bitter enemy of the Messenger and an important foe. The Makkan polytheists still wanted to defeat the Prophet, and worked with him to achieve their goal. He told them: “Don’t worry if he spreads Islam here. The main danger is that he might ally with the Christians and Jews against paganism. That is the real threat.”

After he settled in Madina, the Messenger helped his people build a mosque. The importance of the mosque for the Muslim community’s collective life is unquestionable. They meet there five times a day and, in the Presence of God, their Lord, Creator, and Sustainer, increase in belief and submission to Him, the Prophet and Islam, and strengthen their solidarity. Especially in the first centuries of Islam, mosques functioned as places of worship and as centers of learning. The Prophet’s Mosque in Madina was, in the time of the Prophet himself and his immediate political successors, also the center of government.

Immediately after settling in Madina, the Messenger established brotherhood between Muslims, particularly between the Emigrants and the Helpers. They became very close to each other. For example, Sa‘d ibn Rabi‘ took his Emigrant “brother” ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf home and said: “Brother, you have left everything in Makka. This house, with everything in it, belongs to both of us. You don’t have a wife here; I have two. Whichever of them you like, I’ll divorce her so that you may marry her.” ‘Abd al-Rahman answered him in tears: “Brother, may God bless you with your wife! Please show me to the city bazaar so that I may do some business.”12

This brotherhood was so deep, sincere, and strong that the Helpers shared everything with the Emigrants. This lasted for some time. When the Emigrants had become accustomed to their new environment, they asked the Messenger:

O Messenger of God. We emigrated here purely for the sake of God. But our Helper brothers are so good to us that we fear we will consume in this world the reward of our good deeds, which we expect to get in the Hereafter. Also, we feel very indebted to them. Please ask them to let us earn our own living.

The Messenger sent for the Helpers and told them of the situation. The Helpers unanimously objected, finding it unbearable to be separated from their brothers. To spare the Emigrants’ feeling of indebtedness, the Helpers agreed that the Emigrants would work in their fields and gardens in return for wages until they could build their own houses.13

As a second step in solving immediate problems, the Messenger signed a pact with the Jewish community in Madina. This document, which some scholars describe as Madina’s first constitution, confederated the Muslims and Jews as two separate, independent communities.14 Since the Messenger took the initiative in making this pact and acted as the final arbiter in all disputes, Madina came under Muslim control.

To guarantee Muslims’ security within this city-state, the Messenger ordered the establishment of a new bazaar. Until then, Madina’s economic life had been controlled by the Jewish community. After this, Jewish economic domination began to decline, for they no longer monopolized Madina’s commerce.

While the Muslim community was establishing itself and growing in strength, it was forced to respond to internal and external attacks. After their victory of Badr, the Muslims fought the Makkans again at the foot of Mount Uhud. Their easy victory during the battle’s first part was followed, unfortunately, by a reverse when the archers disregarded the Prophet’s instructions. Seventy Muslims were martyred, and the Messenger was wounded.

The Muslim army took shelter on the mountain and prepared to fight back. Lacking enough courage for a further attack, the Makkan forces left. Nevertheless, they changed their mind halfway and decided to march upon Madina. Informed of this, the Messenger mobilized his troops. One of his orders was enough, even though they were ill or wounded. His every call was a breath of life for their souls, a breath that could revive old, rotten bones. Busiri says:

Were his value and greatness
to be demonstrated by miracles,
The bones that have rotted away
were revived by calling his name.

The half-crushed army set out to counter the enemy. Almost everyone was wounded, but no one wanted to stay behind. In describing the situation, one Companion said: “Some Companions couldn’t walk. They said: ‘We want to be present at the front where the Messenger has ordered us to go. Even if we cannot fight, we will stand there with spears in our hands.’ They were carried on other people’s shoulders or backs.” Seeing the Muslim army marching toward them, Abu Sufyan ordered his troops to return to Makka.

In praising those heroes of Islam, the Qur’an says:

Those to whom the people said: “The people have gathered against you, therefore fear them”; but it increased them in faith, and they said: “God is sufficient for us; an excellent Guardian is He.” (3:173)15

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The Messenger’s 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. To cite only a few examples:

‘A’isha accompanied the Prophet on the Banu Mustaliq campaign. At one halt, she lost her necklace and set out to find it. She returned to find that the army had left without her, as the camel drivers thought she was in her litter. Safwan, charged with collecting what was lost or left behind caravans, found her and brought her back to the army. In the ensuing scandal, her fidelity was questioned, mainly by the hypocrites.

The Messenger knew she was innocent. However, since the hypocrites used this incident to slander him, he consulted some of his Companions like ‘Umar and ‘Ali. ‘Umar said that ‘A’isha was undoubtedly chaste and pure, and that she had been slandered. When asked how he knew, he replied:

O the Messenger, once you were praying. You stopped and explained that Archangel Gabriel had come and informed you that there was some dirt in your slippers. If there were some impurity in ‘A’isha, God certainly would have informed you.16

The Messenger, who once said:

“Whoever takes counsel, does not regret it in the end,”17 always consulted those who could give informed advice on a particular matter.

He consulted with his Companions before Badr, the first major post-Emigration military encounter, about whether the Muslims should fight the approaching Makkan army. The Muslim forces numbered 305 or 313, while the Makkans numbered around 1,000 men. One spokesman each for the Emigrants and the Helpers stood up and proclaimed their readiness to follow him wherever he might lead them.18 During his life, all Companions continually promised to follow him in every step he took and carry out all of his orders. Despite this, the Messenger consulted with them about almost every community-wide matter so that this practice would become second nature.

During Badr, the Muslim army was positioned somewhere on the battlefield. Hubab ibn Mundhir, who was not a leading Companion, stood up and said:

O Messenger, if God has not ordered you to assume this place, let’s arrange ourselves around the wells and then seal all but one to deny water to the enemy. Set up your camp at the side of that open well (from which we will take water), and we will encircle you.

The Messenger adopted this view.19

In 627, the Quraysh allied themselves with certain desert tribes and the Jewish Banu Nadir, who had emigrated from Madina to Khaybar. Forewarned of their plans, the Prophet asked for ideas about how to defeat the enemy offensive. Salman al-Farisi suggested digging a defen­sive trench around Madina, a stratagem unknown to the Arabs. The Messenger ordered it to be done. This war was forever after known as the Battle of the Trench.20

The Muslims found the Treaty of Hudaybiya unpalatable, and were reluctant to obey the Prophet’s order to sacrifice their sacrificial animals without making the pilgrimage. (One condition of the treaty was that they could not enter Makka that year.) The Messenger consulted with his wife Umm Salama. She replied: “O Messenger, don’t repeat your order lest they disobey you and perish. Sacrifice your own animals and take off your pilgrim dress (ihram). When they understand the order is decisive, they’ll obey you without hesitation.” The Messenger did as she suggested.21

A Manifest Victory: The Treaty of Hudaybiya

The Messenger was a man of action. He never hesitated about putting his plans or decisions into action, for that would confuse and demoralize his followers. The Messenger always acted with deliberation and consulted others. But once he had decided or planned something, he carried it out immediately and had no second thoughts or a reason to regret his decision. Before acting, he took the necessary precautions, considered the probabilities, and consulted available experts. The ensuing finality of his decisions was an important reason for his victories and why his Companions followed him so completely.

One event worthy of further elaboration is the Treaty of Hudaybiya. The Messenger told his Companions that he had dreamed they would shortly enter the Holy Mosque in Makka in security, with their heads shaved or their hair cut short. His Companions, especially the Emigrants, were delighted. During that year, the Prophet set out for Makka with 1,400 unarmed men in pilgrim dress.

Informed of this event, the Quraysh armed themselves and the neighboring tribes to keep the Muslims out of Makka. They sent some 200 soldiers, led by Khalid ibn Walid and Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl, as far as Qura’ al-Ghamim. Seeing the Muslims approaching, they returned to Makka to spread the news. When the Muslims reached Hudaybiya, about 12 miles from Makka, the Messenger told them to halt. Learning that there was a shortage of water, he threw an arrow down Hudaybiya’s only well. Water began to gush and fill the well. Everyone drank some, performed wudu’, and filled their waterskins.22

As the Makkans refused to let the Muslims enter Makka, the Messenger sent Budayl ibn Warqa, a man from the Khuda’a tribe (the Muslims’ ally), to announce that the Muslims had come for pilgrimage and thus were unarmed. The Quraysh, in reply, sent ‘Urwa ibn Mas‘ud al-Thaqafi. While talking to the Messenger ‘Urwa tried to grasp his beard, a sign of jesting. Mughira ibn Shu‘ba struck his hand, saying he would cut it off if ‘Urwa tried such a thing again, for his hand was impure.

Mughira was ‘Urwa’s cousin, and had accepted Islam about two months earlier. In fact, only a few months ago ‘Urwa had paid the blood money for a crime Mughira had committed. How Islam had changed Mughira! The Companions’ commitment to their cause and devotion to the Messenger shocked ‘Urwa, who returned to the Quraysh and said: “I have visited Chosroes, Caesar, and the Negus. None of their subjects are as devoted to their rulers as his Companions are to Muhammad. I advise you not to struggle with him.”23

The Quraysh did not heed his advice or give a warm welcome to Kharash ibn Umayya, whom the Messenger sent after ‘Urwa. Kharash was followed by ‘Uthman ibn al-‘Affan, who had powerful relatives among the Quraysh. Although ‘Uthman came to negotiate, the Makkans imprisoned him. When he did not return at the expected time, rumors circulated that he had been killed. At this point, the Prophet, sitting under a tree, took an oath from his Companions that they would hold together and fight to the death. He represented the absent ‘Uthman by proxy in this oath.24 Only Jadd ibn Qays, who hid behind a camel, did not take it.

The revelation that came on this occasion reads:

God was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing allegiance to you under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down peace of reassurance on them, and has rewarded them with a near victory. (48:18)

In that moment of tension, a cloud of dust appeared in the distance. This turned out to be a Makkan delegation led by Suhayl ibn ‘Amr. When God’s Messenger learned this, he took his name (easiness) as a good omen and told his Companions: “The situation has eased.” Eventually, the Quraysh agreed to a truce and the Treaty of Hudaybiya was concluded.

Under this treaty, the Prophet and his followers could make the pilgrimage the following year, not this one, at which time the Makkans would vacate the city for three days. The treaty also stipulated a 10-year truce, that people or tribes could join or ally themselves with whomever they wished, and that Qurayshi subjects or dependents who defected to Madina would be returned. This last condition was not reciprocal and thus was opposed in the Muslim camp. It shocked people like ‘Umar, who questioned the Messenger about it. However, it really was of little importance. Muslims sent back to Makka were not likely to renounce Islam; on the contrary, they would be agents of change within Makka.

Just before the treaty was signed, Abu Jandal, Suhayl’s son, arrived in chains and asked to join the Muslims. The Messenger had to return him to his father in tears. However, he whispered to him: “God will shortly save you and those of your like.”25

Shortly after the treaty was signed, ‘Utba ibn Asid (also known as Abu Basir) defected to Madina. The Quraysh sent two men to demand his return. On their way back to Makka, Abu Basir escaped, killed one man and wounded the other. The Messenger, citing the treaty’s terms, did not allow him to stay in Madina. So he settled at Iyss, a place on the road from Makka to Syria. The Muslims held in Makka began to join Abu Basir. As this settlement grew, the Makkans perceived a potential threat to their trade route. This forced them to ask the Messenger to annul the relevant term and admit defecting Makkans to Madina.26

The Qur’an called the Treaty of Hudaybiya “a manifest victory”(48:1). This proved true for several reasons, among them:

By signing this treaty after years of conflict, the Quraysh admitted that the Muslims were their equals. In effect, they gave up their struggle but did not admit it to themselves. Seeing the Makkans deal with the Prophet as an equal and a ruler, a rising tide of converts flowed toward Madina from all over Arabia.

Many Qurayshis would benefit from the resulting peace by finally reflecting on what was going on. Such leading Qurayshis as Khalid ibn Walid, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, and ‘Uthman ibn Talha, all famous for their military and political skills, accepted Islam. ‘Uthman was the person entrusted with the Ka‘ba’s keys, and after the conquest of Makka, the Messenger honored him with the same task.

The Quraysh used to regard the Ka‘ba as their exclusive property and made its visitors pay them a tribute. By not subjecting the Muslims’ deferred pilgrimage to this condition, the Quraysh unwittingly ended their monopoly. The bedouin tribes now realized that the Quraysh had no right to claim exclusive ownership.

At the time, there were Muslim men and women living in Makka. Not everyone in Madina knew who they were. Some were serving the Messenger as spies. Had a fight taken place in Makka, the victorious Muslim army might have killed some of them. This would have caused great personal anguish, as well as the martyrdom or identification of the Prophet’s spies. The treaty prevented such a disaster. The Qur’an points to this fact:

He restrained their hands from you, and your hands from them, in the hollow of Makka, after He made you victors over them. God sees the things you do. They are the ones who disbelieved, banned you from the Holy Mosque, and hindered the sacrificial animals from reaching their place of sacrifice. If it had not been for certain believing men and believing women (in Makka) whom you knew not—lest you should trample them and thus incur guilt for them unknowingly; that God may admit into His Mercy whom He will—(the believers and unbelievers) had been clearly separated, then We would have chastised the unbelievers among them with a painful chastisement. (48:24-25)

The Prophet performed the minor pilgrimage the following year. The assertion, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” rang throughout Makka. The Quraysh camped on Abu Qubays hill, and heard this portent of Islam’s coming triumph. This was, in fact, God’s fulfilling the vision He had given to His Messenger:

God has indeed fulfilled the vision He vouchsafed to His Messenger: You shall enter the Holy Mosque, if God wills, in security, your heads shaved, your hair cut short, not fearing. He knew what you knew not, and, granted, besides this, a nigh victory. (48:27)

The treaty allowed the Messenger to deal with others. In the post-treaty expeditions, the Muslims conquered the formidable Jewish citadels of Khaybar, telling them either to convert or accept Muslim rule by paying tribute in lieu of protection (jizya). Their neighbors, as well as other Arab tribes, were impressed with the Islamic state’s growing strength.

The Muslims faithfully observed the treaty’s terms; however, a tribe allied to the Makkans did not. The Banu Bakr attacked the Banu Khuda‘a, who were allied with the Prophet. So in December 629, the Messenger marched a 10,000-man army against Makka, and captured it with almost no resistance on the first day of the new year. The Ka‘ba was purified of idols and, over the next couple of days, the Makkans accepted Islam. This was due to happen because:

He has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may uplift it above every religion. God suffices as a witness. Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing, prostrating, seeking grace from God and (His) good pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration. That is their likeness in the Torah, and their likeness in the Gospel is: as a seed that puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers, that through them He may enrage the unbelievers. God has promised those of them who believe and do deeds of righteousness forgiveness and a mighty wage. (48:28-29)

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Stop Racism

Ending Racism

Racism is one of our age’s severest problems. Everyone has heard of how black Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean in specially designed ships, thought of and treated exactly like livestock. They were enslaved, forced to change their names and religion and language, were never entitled even to hope for true freedom, and were denied all human rights. The West’s attitude toward non-Westerners remained unchanged until recent times. As a result, the political and social condition of Africans, even in the case of their descendants who lived in the West amidst non­-black Americans or Europeans as theoretically equal fellow citizens, remained second-class (or even lower) citizens.

When the Messenger was raised as a Prophet, such racism was prevalent in Makka in the guise of tribalism. The Quraysh considered themselves (in particular) and Arabs (in general) superior to all other people. The Messenger came with the Divine Message and proclaimed that: “No Arab is superior to a non-Arab, and no white person is superior to a black person27; Superiority is by righteousness and devotion to God alone (49:13); and: “Even if a black Abyssinian Muslim were to rule over Muslims, he should be obeyed.”28

The Messenger eradicated color-based racism and discrimination so successfully that, for example, ‘Umar once said of Bilal, who was black: “Bilal is our master, and was emancipated by our master Abu Bakr.”29 Zayd ibn Haritha, a black slave emancipated by the Messenger, was his adopted son before the Revelation banned such adoption. The Prophet married him to Zaynab bint Jahsh, one of the noblest (and non-black) Arab and Muslim women. In addition, he appointed Zayd commander of the Muslim army sent against the Byzantine Empire, even though it included such leading Companions as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Ja‘far ibn Abu Talib (the Messenger’s cousin), and Khalid ibn Walid (the invincible general of the age).30 He appointed Zayd’s son Usama to command the army he formed just before his death. Included therein were such leading Companions as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Khalid, Abu ‘Ubayda, Talha, and Zubayr. This established in the Muslims’ hearts and minds that superiority is not by birth or color or blood, but by righteousness and devotion to God.

During his caliphate, ‘Umar paid Usama a higher salary than his own son, ‘Abd Allah. When his son asked why, ‘Umar replied: “I do so because I know that the Messenger loved his father more than me and that he loved Usama more than you.”31

The Last Word

Prophet Muhammad had all the necessary leadership qualities for success in every aspect of life. But, more importantly, he was able to lead his community to success in every field. He is the source from which flowed all later developments related to command, statecraft, religion, spiritual development, and so on in the Muslim world.

In general, leaders should have the following qualities:

· Realism. Their messages and demands should not contradict reality. They should understand prevailing conditions as they actually are, and be aware of any advantages and disadvantages.

· Absolute belief in their message. Their conviction should never falter, and they should never renounce their mission.

· Personal courage. Even if left alone, they should have enough courage to persevere. When some of his pursuers reached the mouth of the cave in which they were hiding, Abu Bakr was afraid something would happen to the Messenger. However, the Prophet only said: Don’t worry, for God is with us. (9:40)

· Strong willpower and resolve. They should never experience even one moment of hopelessness.

· Awareness of personal responsibility. Everything should be directed toward fulfilling this responsibility. In no way should they be seduced by the world’s charms and life’s attractions.

· Farsighted and goal-centered. Leaders should be able to discern and plan for potential developments. They should know how to evaluate the past, present, and future to reach a new synthesis. Those who frequently change their opinions only spread chaos in the community.

· Personal knowledge of each follower. Leaders should be fully aware of each follower’s disposition, character, abilities, shortcomings, ambitions, and weak points. If they lack this knowledge, how can they fill vacant posts with the appropriate people?

· Strong character and praiseworthy virtues. Leaders should be determined but flexible while carrying out decisions, and know when to be unyielding and implacable or relenting and compassionate. They should know when to be earnest and dignified, modest, and always be upright, truthful, trustworthy, and just.

· No worldly ambitions or abuse of authority. Leaders should live like the poorest members of their community. They should never discriminate among their subjects; rather, they should strive to love them, prefer them over themselves, and act so that their people will love them sincerely. They should be faithful to their community and secure their community’s loyalty and devotion in return.

The Messenger possessed all of these qualities, and many more as well. To cite only a few examples, he never even thought of abandoning his mission when confronted with great hostility and tempting bribes. Instead, he would tell them: “Say: ‘There is no god but God,’ and prosper in both worlds.32 When his Companions complained about the harsh conditions and persecution in Makka, he answered:

You show haste. A day will come and a woman will travel from Hira [a town in southern Iraq] to Makka alone on her camel (in security) and circumambulate the Ka‘ba as an act of worship, and the treasuries of the Sassanid Emperor will be captured by my community.33

Once the Makkan leaders came to him and said: “If you meet with us on a day when others, especially those poor ones, are not present, we may talk to you about accepting your religion.” They despised poor Muslims like Bilal, ‘Ammar, and Habbab, and desired special treatment. The Messenger rejected such proposals without a second thought. The verses revealed addressed him as follows:

Send not away those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face. (6:52) Persevere together with those who call on their Master morning and evening, seeking His Face. (18:28)

By M. Fethullah Gülen


1. Ibn Kathir,  Al-Bidaya, 3:40-1,  102-3;  Ibn Hisham,  Sira, 1:234.

2. Muslim, “‘Imara,” 16-17.

3. Muttaqi  al-Hindi,  Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11:563, 13:15.

4. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 5:7;  Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 29.

5. Muslim, “Musafirin,” 294;  Ibn Hanbal,  Musnad, 4:112.

6. His story, which appears in Volume  1, is as follows: One day, Julaybib asked the Messenger for permission to fornicate, since he could not restrain himself. Those who were present reacted in various ways. Some scoffed at him, others pulled his robe, and still, others readied themselves to hit him. But the compassionate Prophet drew him near and began talking with him: “Would you let someone do this with your mother?”  to which the young man replied:  “My mother  and father be your ransom,  O Messenger,  I don’t agree with that.”  The Prophet  said: “Naturally,  no one agrees that his mother  should be a party in such a disgraceful act.”

He then continued asking Julaybib the same question,  substituting daughter, wife, sister, and aunt for mother. Every time Julaybib replied that he would not agree to such an act. By the end of this conversation,  Julaybib had lost all desire to fornicate. The Messenger concluded this “spiritual operation”  by placing his hand on Julaybib’s chest and praying:  “O God, forgive him, purify his heart, and maintain his chastity.”

7. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 131.

8. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 9; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 34.

9. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 25.

10. Each clan claimed the honor of reinserting the sacred Black Stone in its place.

Requested by the tribe to solve this problem,  the future  Prophet of Islam spread his mantle on a piece of cloth on the ground and, putting the Black Stone on it, invited the chiefs of the four major clans entrusted with repairing the Ka‘ba to each take one corner of the cloth. When they raised the Black Stone to the spot where it was to be inserted, he took it and inserted it firmly in its position.

11. Some Ansar were not happy with the way the Prophet divided the spoils after this battle,  which occurred soon after Makka was conquered.  The Prophet gave large shares to the new Makkan Muslims to strengthen their faith. To avoid a communal split, he called the Ansar together and reminded them of what he had bought them, how they had received him,  and that he would always be with them.  When he asked them if they still wanted the booty,  they answered in unison that all they wanted was for him to stay with them.

12. Bukhari, “Manaqib  al-Ansar,” 3; Ibn Kathir,  3:279.

13. Bukhari, “Hiba,”  35; Muslim, “Jihad,” 70.

14. Ibn Hisham,  2:147.

15. Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 25; Ibn Sa‘d, 2:42-49; Ibn Hisham,  3:99-111, 128.

16. Halabi,  Insan al-‘Uyun, 2:613.

17. Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 2:280.

18. Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat,  3:162; Muslim, “Jihad,” 83 ; Ibn Hisham,  2:266-67.

19. Ibn Hisham,  2:272.

20. Ibid., 3:235; Ibn Sa‘d, 2:66.

21. Bukhari, “Shurut,”  15.

22. Muslim, Hadith  No.1834; Bukhari, 4:256.

23. Bukhari, 3:180; Ibn Hanbal,  4:324; Tabari, 3:75.

24. Ibn Hisham,  3:330.

25. Ibn Hisham,  3:321-33; Ibn Kathir,  4:188-93.

26. Ibn Hisham,  3:337-38.

27. Ibn Hanbal,  5:441.

28. Muslim, “‘Imara,” 37.

29. Ibn Hajar,  Al-Isaba, 1:165.

30. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 63.

31. Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 4:70;  Ibn Hajar,  1:564.

32. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 1; Muslim, “Iman,” 355.

33. Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 25.

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