Concept of Quality Leadership in Islam


Talking about leadership, we should know that it’s really important for everybody without exceptional. It’s a needed and it isn’t a gift or something that exist since we born. Everybody can learn, practice, and be a leader. But to learn, practice, and even to be, is not easy as we think. First, we have to learn and know what’s a leader is? How is the character? Why we need it? Who is the example? And still many question, surely.

Why we need to be a leader? Because, we are as a social being we have to lead our life through a mutual relationship with others. We are completely unable to do something alone. So, we can’t ignore that it’s our urgency. Every organization or a group of people, they seek for the people who can be a successor for them. A research from IBM CEO Study informs the criteria of the ideal leader below:

From the picture above, creativity is the important thing for a leader. But beside it, leader must also have integrity, global thinking, influence, openness, dedication, humility, and fairness. They are also should focus on sustainability. Leadership itself is defined as the state or position of being a leader that goes with or in front of a person or an animal to show the way or makes them to go in the right direction.[1] As a term of sociological aspect it is a “process of social influence” in which one person can enlist the aid, co-operation and support of others in the accomplishment of a common matter. It refers to a process of influencing and supporting others to work enthusiastically toward achieving objectives.[2]

Describing leadership as an extra-ordinary features of man Dr. Ferid Murad, the Nobel laureate in medicine in 1994, says: “Leadership is the ability to see beyond assumed boundaries, and to come up with solutions or paths that few can visualize. The leader must then project this vision for everyone to see and pursue.”[3]

In other word, to be a leader in conventional concept is have to persuasive, solve the complex problem, motivate others to success and predictable. The definition of leadership literally is being proved by the research from IBM CEO Study before. Then, briefly leadership is a big work and a qualified character that everyone must seek.

Leadership in Islam

Islam, the complete code of life, declares leadership as a trust (Amanah), and gives a detailed description about it. According to the Islamic view, leadership is a sacred position that can solve the problems of humanity and guide them to the eternal betterment of here and hereafter. It is a person or a group of people who guide and lead the followers, the humanity from the brink of destruction to the way of Allah. Giving preference on human welfare Islam exposes leadership as a psychological contract between a leader and his followers that he will try his best to guide them, to protect them and to treat them fairly and with justice. Hence, the focus of leadership in Islam is on doing well.[4]

Great Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun in his excellent book Al-Muqaddimah draws a new dimension of leadership. He says: “Leadership is an outcome of interaction between different social groups.”[5] Al Buraey says: “An Islamic leadership is to the one that seeks happiness for the individual and society.”[6]

Rasulullah has given the best example for the role of a leader. He said that his duty in being a messenger of the God is just to restructure the perspective of people about attitude. Rasulullah is having the quality of a leader perfectly. Even, with that he can involve as the most of influence people in the world. Islamic figure who existed after Rasulullah period also gave their influence in leadership. For example the khalifah ar-rasyidin, the khalifah of Muawiyyah, Abbasiyah, Usmaniyah dynasty and the other momentous dynasty of Islam have given us a great heritage. From then on, we have to learn and analyze the secret of our great figure in bringing their leadership.

Ali bin Abi Thalib as fourth khalifah, in discussing leadership said:

“O People! You know that it is not fitting that one who is greedy and parsimonious should attain rule and authority over the honor, lives and incomes of the Muslims, and the laws and ordinances enforced among them, and also leadership of them. Furthermore, he should not be ignorant and unaware of the law, lest in his ignorance he misleads the people. He must not be unjust and harsh, causing people to cease all traffic and dealings with him because of his oppressiveness. Nor must he fear states, so that he seeks the friendship of some and treats others with enmity. He must refrain from accepting bribes when he sits in judgment, so that the rights of men are trampled underfoot and the claimant does not receive his due. He must not leave the Sunnah of the Prophet and the law in abeyance, so that the community falls into misguidance and peril.”[7]

Ali bin Abi Thalib wish for the existence of a leader in Islam society or in community. In order Muslims can receive and feel the prosperous inhabitant, good guidance and law, peaceful condition, and closeness with God. Though this leadership is too perfect and almost impossible to materialize -considering that the world is full of crime and tyranny- but we should to know and remember that in khalifah ar-rasyidin leadership, they can to materialize it.

Al-Mawardi thought that attribute to be a leader or Imam there are: fairness, perfect knowledge, capability in establishing jihad, mental and physical health, courage, and explicit. But al-Farabi -in his book al-Madinah al Fadhilah- and Ibnu Sina agree that a good leader is a philosopher, considering they are the most influence philosopher in Islam. Ibnu Sina added some requirement in leadership that leaders are skilled in law of Islam (Syariah), give priority to spiritual of Islam and morality of society, and behave fair.

Observing the historical phenomena of ancient period (before sixth century), there are three typology that prominent from all historical figure and placed on the peak of social pyramid. They are philosopher, king, and prophet. The philosopher type, due to their great intellectual which are reflective, theoretician, and speculative have placed them on the peak of the pyramid. They were been in upon the king and even prophet.[8] For example, Plato as one of the most influence philosopher of Ancient Greek was really prominent than other Ancient Greek figure. Plato also argued that the ideal society is the society which is leaded by the philosopher.

Based on the explanation above, the basic of leadership in Islam:

  1. Iman (faith), leader of Islam must believe or have faith in Allah and Rasulullah. They radiate their faith in their words and deeds. They must behave good behavior, they talk in good manner, and they have a pure heart as they have faith in Allah. Allah says in the holy Quran: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority (leaders); and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.”[9] Therefore, people who believe will follow the lifestyle of the messenger (Rasulullah) and the good leaders in their place.
  2. Ilm wa Hikmah (Knowledge and wisdom): To achieve proper knowledge and wisdom is an obligatory requirement for a good leader. In Islamic point of view, Hikmah does not mean the wisdom and special knowledge merely, it is such a divine gift that comes only through an inner enlightenment and by seeking sincere guidance from Allah; it is the ability to apply knowledge to a particular situation to bring about the most desirable outcome. Allah mentions this quality for leadership in the holy Qur’an: “Their Prophet said unto them: Lo! Allah hath raise up Saul to be a king for you. They said: How can he have kingdom over us when we are more deserving of the kingdom than he is, since he hath not been given wealth enough? He said: Lo! Allah hath chosen him above you, and hath increased him abundantly in wisdom and stature. Allah bestowed His Sovereignty on whom He will. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”[10] Therefore, we cannot deny that knowledge is important thing for leadership. With knowledge, leader can decide and arrange the concept of his leadership for his people or community.
  3. Adl (Justice). Justice is the vitally need for leadership. It just the antonym of tyranny and tyranny must completely remove. Allah said in al-Quran: “O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Inform of what ye do.”[11] Even in the circumstances where verdict goes against own interest Islam commands Muslim to be fair and just. Allah says: “O you, who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witness to Allah, even as against yourselves or your parents or your kin and whether it against rich or poor, for Allah protects both.”[12] As Ali bin Abi Thalib also said: leader must refrain from accepting bribes when he sits in judgment, so that the rights of men are trampled underfoot and the claimant does not receive his due.


Leadership in Islamic perspective is completely leaning to the prosperity and success of the people who are leaded. Islam realized that leadership is important thing for life in the world. It can lead people, not only to the prosperity and success in here but also in the hereafter. There is no reason for refuse that leadership is necessary. At least, every Muslims have their own responsibility to lead and guide their life as Rasulullah said that everybody is a leader and every leader must responsible to the leadership.

Last word from me: We don’t have to be Plato in our leadership. However we have to follow the prophet in his leadership ‘style’. Leadership characteristic (style) of the prophet is faith, honesty, integrity, trusteeship, knowledge (intelligent), morality, and amorousness to the society. This leadership characteristic can change the Arab society from poverty into prosperity, from barren desert into water spring which also influences the discourse and long journey of world history.


[1] Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford/University Press, 2005), p. 875

[2] H. Koontz, Management : A global perspective, New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 499. Taken from Mustafa Monjur, Concept of Leadership and Quality of a Good Leader,, d.29.08.2015

[3] Dr. Rafik Issa Beekun & Dr. Jamal Badawi, Leadership; An Islamic Perspective, London, 1998, p.10. Taken from Mustafa Monjur, Concept of Leadership and Quality of a Good Leader,, d.29.08.2015

[4] Dr.Rafik I Beekun & Dr. Jamal Badawi, Leadership; An Islamic Perspective, London, 1998, p.4. . Taken from Mustafa Monjur, Concept of Leadership and Quality of a Good Leader,, d.29.08.2015

[5] Ismail Mat,  Islamic Leadership: Concepts and perspective,, d.25.09.2010. . Taken from Mustafa Monjur, Concept of Leadership and Quality of a Good Leader,, d.29.08.2015

[6] Ismail Mat, Islamic Leadership: Concepts and perspective, p. 29

[7] Nahjul Balagha, p.50, quoted in Imam Khomeini: Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini; edited and annotated by Hamid Algar, Mizan Press, Berkeley, CA, US. 1981. p.67. Taken from Mustafa Monjur, Concept of Leadership and Quality of a Good Leader,, d.29.08.2015

[8] Komarudin Hidayat, Wisdom of Life, Noura Books, Jakarta. 2014. p.147

[9] Al Qur’an, 4:59

[10] Al-Quran, 2: 247

[11] Al-Quran, 4: 135

[12] Al-Quran, 5: 8


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