Transitioning from Person-led to Process-driven
Any leader who is serious about the long term impact of his leadership and is keen that his message must continue to be spread after his death must seek to transition the nature of his leadership from being Person-led to Process-driven. So what are the requirements for a movement to become global in nature and to survive and grow long after its founder? I believe there are three which if fulfilled, result in Global Influence.
The first requirement for a global movement is a Core Ideology that has clear simple but powerful concepts, appeals to people and attracts believers, and is easy to teach and follow. The leaders would be the ideologues; who teach the ideology, make necessary periodic adjustments, interpret it, propagate it and above all, preserve its integrity. Included also are the schools and universities, the writers, researchers and scholars who study the ideology and become its lifelong proponents.
When people start to follow a leader they come from their various origins so the leader quickly needs to create a binder that transcends their inherent original boundaries. Without this he will not be able to weld them together into one people.
When Rasoolullah(SAW) brought Islam, the Arabs were a tribal people, identified by their tribal identity, loyalty to which was a cardinal principle of their existence. It was for this reason that some of the tribes supported Rasoolullah(SAW) even when they had not accepted Islam. However strangely and in direct defiance of this principle, his own people, the Quraysh opposed him. However tribal loyalty was also the reason why in pre-Islamic times, the Arab tribes were famous for their vendettas that spanned generations, often over some trivial matter that would have long been forgotten. Yet enmity on its account continued and was handed down from father to son.
In Madina this internecine warfare between the two major Arab tribes of Aws and Khazraj reached a stage where by the time Rasoolullah(SAW) made Hijra, effectively all their major leaders had been killed in skirmishes. The major task that Rasoolullah(SAW) had was to unite all these disparate Arab tribes under one banner and give them one common identity which would serve to cement them together into one people. This was something that was unheard of at the time and which sadly today once again has become a story from the past.
Brotherhood of Faith
It is interesting that the Islamic calendar does not start from the date of birth or of death of Rasoolullah(SAW) but from the date of his journey to Madina with the intention of starting a brotherhood of faith, the Ummatul Muslima and the establishment of the Islamic state. Structures are important because they influence behavior.
Without structures and systems behavior depends on the personal will of individuals which can change and the work of a generation may be completely lost. However if robust structures are created which can serve to give meaning to generation after generation, then you can be assured that the core ideology which gave them birth will remain vibrant and powerful. The biggest challenge that Rasoolullah(SAW) faced was to bring together people who were hereditary enemies, not only on one platform but make them brothers to each other and to get them to love one another such that they would be willing to sacrifice even their lives to protect someone who used to be their enemy. It was a challenge that anyone other than the Messenger(SAW) of Allah(SWT) would not even have attempted and as such it is one of the proofs of the Divine nature of the Prophethood of Muhammad(SAW). Finally it was a challenge that could not have been accomplished without the help of Allah(SWT).
For a people used to thinking in terms of race, tribe and lineage and to discriminating against one another on all those bases, what was the amalgam, the adhesive that would bind them despite all their racial and tribal diversity? This is where the power of the Core Ideology – Islam – came into play and Islam became the binding force. A man became the brother of another man, not because of his tribe or family or race but because of what he carried in his heart – a belief that there was nobody worthy of worship except Allah(SWT) and that Muhammad(SAW) was His last and final Messenger(SAW). It was this belief that joined not only Arab tribesman to Arab tribesman, but Arab to non-Arab, black to white to red to yellow across the world. All this may seem strange today because we seem to have lost it all and gone back into the age of pre-Islamic darkness of ignorance, discrimination and racist thinking but Allah(SWT) is witness that this miracle of Rasoolullah(SAW) did happen.
Allah(SWT) revealed about forming an identity on the basis of religion:
Truly! This, your Ummah [brotherhood] is one religion, and I am your Rabb, therefore worship Me (Alone).
And verily! This your religion (of Islâmic Monotheism) is one religion, and I am your Rabb, so keep your duty to Me.
Allah(SWT) reminded the people about their past with which they were themselves very unhappy because of the immense suffering of insecurity and tragedy that they brought on themselves thanks to their pre-Islamic customs and that it was Islam which released them from this slavery to ignorance and misguidance. He said:
And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allâh (Qur’ân, Islam), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allâh’s Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islâm), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allâh makes His Ayât (proofs, evidence) clear to you, that you may be guided.
A’al Imran 3:103
Allah(SWT) also said:
And He has united their (i.e. believers’) hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allâh has united them. Certainly He is All-Mighty, All-Wise
An example about how this happened in Madina when Rasoolullah(SAW) made one Mahajir (Immigrant – foreigners to Madina who migrated there for the sake of Islam) with one Ansaari (Supporter – inhabitants of Madina); the Ansaar went to Rasoolullah(SAW) and said, “Please split the palm groves between the Muhajiroon and us.” Rasoolullah(SAW) refused. So they said, “Then let the Muhajiroon work in the farms and we will split the crop with them.” So Rasoolullah(SAW) agreed. But then the Ansaar did most of the work and then they would split the harvest with the Muhajiroon. So the Muhajiroon came to Rasoolullah(SAW) and said, “Ya Rasoolullah(SAW), we have never seen people like these. They comfort us when they are poor and they are generous when they are well off. They work in their farms and then they still split the harvest with us. We are afraid that they will take all the reward from Allah(SWT) and leave us with nothing.” Rasoolullah(SAW) said, “No, as long as you are grateful and make dua for them, Allah(SWT) will also give you reward.”
O! Allah(SWT) what has happened to us today? Where did all this disappear to? Will it ever return or are we, those who love you and love your Deen, destined to weep our tears until we meet you?
New Rules of the Ummah – Breaking of old ties
The political situation in Madina was very complex with several communities with different political ties. Rasoolullah(SAW) was building a new nation based on faith which was a new bond and went against the grain of their traditional bonds. Allah(SWT) was revealing Ayaat to declare the need to break the old relationships and to form new ones based on Islam. He said:
O you who believe! Take not for Auliyâ’ (supporters and helpers) your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the Zâlimûn (wrong-doers). 24. Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight … are dearer to you than Allâh and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allâh brings about His Decision (torment). And Allâh guides not the people who are Al-Fâsiqûn (the rebellious, disobedient to Allâh).
Allah(SWT) ordered the Muslims to break their old tribal relationships and to form relationships on the basis of faith. Company is extremely important in the building of faith and the brotherhood and Allah(SWT) was underlining this critical element. This was critical because as mentioned earlier the tribal bonds were age-old and sanctified by tradition. The new relationship of faith was something that the Arabs had no experience of and which required them to transcend all their old prejudices against each other and treat each other as brothers no matter what they had done in the past. This bonding was a severe test of faith because it was Islam and their belief in the Qur’an and in the prophethood of Rasoolullah(SAW) that was being tested. The true test of any faith is action on its basis and the Sahaba proved true to the test.
New Bonds – Basis of friendship
After cutting the old ties Allah(SWT) now set another basis for relating to each other. Allah(SWT) told the Muslims who their real friends were and on what basis friendships must be formed. This is critical to remember because friends corrupt or guide one. Allah(SWT) described the believers and their qualities by which they are recognized. Allah(SWT) pointed the believers to the sources of help and guidance that they must align towards. Allah(SWT) pointed out the mistakes of those who had received the scripture before the Muslims and what they did with it and He warned the Muslims against repeating those mistakes. He assured them that if they were truthful and faithful to their religion then they would become winners in this world and the next.
Verily, your Walî (Protector or Helper) is Allâh, His Messenger, and the Believers, – those who establish As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, and they bow down (submit themselves with obedience to Allâh in prayer). 56. And whosoever takes Allâh, His Messenger, and those who have believed, as Protectors, then the party of Allâh will be the victorious. 57. O you who believe! Take not for Auliyâ’ (protectors and helpers) those who take your religion for a mockery and fun from among those who received the Scripture before you, nor from among the disbelievers; and fear Allâh if you indeed are true believers.58. And when you proclaim the call for As-Salât [call for the prayer (Adhân)], they take it (but) as a mockery and fun; that is because they are a people who understand not.
By means of these Ayaat of the Qur’an, Rasoolullah(SAW) was able to set forth clearly the criteria of differentiating good from evil, right from wrong and to give those who followed him a basis on which to form new ties that were free from their racist and tribalistic thinking and values. This was the new identity that bound them together.
We don’t want to repeat all that we have already mentioned about the first of the requirements to create a global movement. What is important to note here is that in the initial stage the personality of the leader plays a huge role in drawing people to the movement. It was the personality, manners, diplomacy, nobility and grace of Rasoolullah(SAW) which drew people to him and to Islam. There was nobody who accepted Islam purely on the basis of theological argument even though he did not like Rasoolullah(SAW). The Sahaba loved Rasoolullah(SAW) more than they loved anyone else including themselves. Allah(SWT) bore witness to this and said:
The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are their (believers’) mothers (as regards respect and marriage). And blood relations among each other have closer personal ties in the Decree of Allâh (regarding inheritance) than (the brotherhood of) the believers and the Muhajirûn (emigrants), except that you do kindness to those brothers (when the Prophet joined them in brotherhood ties). This has been written in the (Book of Divine Decrees)
Al Ahzab 33:6
So it is critical for the leader to be liked and loved in order to be obeyed because initially that is the reason why he will be obeyed especially in situations where the followers may not agree with or like his decision in a particular case. This became very clearly evident in the case of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya where the Sahaba clearly didn’t like the terms of the treaty but followed Rasoolullah(SAW) simply because their love for him and trust in him and in the fact that he was being Divinely inspired overcame their own personal feelings and hesitation.
Not being rigid in decision making
At the time of the Battle of Uhud, when the attack of Quraysh on Madina was imminent there were two opinions about the preferred course of action to protect Madina.
One was to fight in Madina, in the streets so that the women and children could also take place in the fight. This was the opinion of Rasoolullah(SAW) and the leader of the Munafiqeen, Abdullah ibn Ubayy; for different reasons of course.
Another opinion was to fight outside Madina. This was the majority opinion mostly of the youth, all those who could not take part in Badr and who felt that they had lost out and that the enemy would never dare to enter Madina and so if they didn’t go out to fight they would miss the battle. They said it was shameful to allow the enemy to come inside Madina and so they should fight outside. They put pressure on Rasoolullah(SAW) to do this and so he went inside his house to put on his armor.
Given his stature, and the Sahaba’s love, admiration and respect for him, Rasoolullah(SAW) could have easily imposed his will,
and none would have opposed him. He however decided according to the will of the majority. As this was on Friday, in the subsequent Khutba Rasoolullah(SAW) emphasized the need for resoluteness in the battle field. After the prayer some of the Sahaba felt that they had perhaps insisted on their view and persuaded Messenger of Allah(SWT) to do something against his better judgment and view. Sa’ad ibn Muaadh(RA) and Usayd bin Hudayr(RA) two of the more influential leaders of the Ansaar carried this message that they were sorry that they put pressure on him and that they were willing to go with whatever he wanted to do. Hamza(RA) carried this message to Rasoolullah(SAW) who was inside his private apartment. Rasoolullah(SAW) came out and said, ‘It is not appropriate for a prophet to put on his armor and then to take it off until Allah(SWT) judges between him and his enemy.’
1. Those in authority should not impose their will on their subordinates. Leaders should not be rigid in their decision making and should be prepared to listen and take into account the views and emotions of those under their authority. This is not because the leader does not know what to do but because in the end proper implementation of the decision will happen only if there is commitment to it from all those who are affected by it. If the leader does not listen to his followers and does not take into account their concerns then there is every likelihood that especially those who are lacking in total commitment to him will either do things halfheartedly or defect altogether. Many times, listening to the opinions of others does not mean to change your decision but simply to give them a patient and respectful hearing so that they are reassured that their concerns, fears and aspirations have been taken into account by the leader before he came to his conclusion.
Another reason to listen to subordinates and holding your decision in abeyance is because it is entirely possible that people may have critical information that will affect the outcome of the actions that you are about to take. If this information is withheld from the leader and he is not informed either because he will not listen or because people are afraid to tell him something that appears to be contrary to his known preference, then his decision will necessarily be faulty. Not only will such a decision not have the commitment of all those who had the information and did not share it but it is most likely to have a negative impact which will seriously undermine future credibility of the leader.
One must consult his companions because in consultation there is blessing in the decision and brings the hearts of people together. Consultation also alerts the leader to incipient conflicts which can become critical if not addressed early. Finally consultation gives the leader a measure of the commitment of his people. That is the reason Allah(SWT) advocated Shura (consultation) even for Rasoolullah(SAW) who was the recipient of Wahi (Revelation) and so the question of his either being wrong or ill-informed does not arise. Shura will benefit the leader no doubt but its chief benefit is in its nature to build consensus.
And those who answer the Call of their Rabb [i.e. to believe that He is the only One Rabb (Allâh), and to worship none but Him Alone], and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as- Salât), and who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend of what We have bestowed on them
2. Once a decision is made, as far as possible it should be carried out and everyone including those who were not in favor of the decision should help to see it followed through till the end. This is the essence of teamwork. Once team members have expressed their opinions then it is essential that they stand firmly behind the leader in his decision even if the final decision is not to their entire satisfaction. This demonstrates a commitment to the cause which the leader represents and to which they have committed is a critical quality of followership. Today we are very vocal about the lack of leadership but we forget the importance of followership. From the Seerah of Rasoolullah(SAW) and his Sahaba there are innumerable examples of the Sahaba having been in disagreement with the leader’s decision and expressing their disagreement but then standing firmly behind the leader and demonstrating their commitment, even if it meant losing their lives in that process. The incidents of Al Hudaybiyya, the army of Zayd ibn Haritha(RA) and its dispatch to Mo’ata, the war against the Murtaddeen (apostates) are all examples of this spirit of followership which was the secret of the success of the leadership of Rasoolullah(SAW) and his Khalifa, Sayyidina Abu Bakr As Siddeeq(RA). Hesitation after a decision is made is highly undesirable. At critical junctures to vacillate between different points of view could be extremely harmful.
3. Make every person you come into contact with feel important. One of the essential qualities of a leader is to keep those who follow him and are under his authority satisfied that he or she is not being neglected and feels left out by the leader. Amongst the remarkable attributes of Rasoolullah(SAW) was that he interacted with the Sahaba in such a manner that every Sahabi felt that he was closest to him. Rasoolullah(SAW) would give his complete attention to the person he would be speaking to and would look directly at him and turn towards him. Even in his public addresses it was his way to speak, looking directly at people so that each person felt that he was being directly addressed. Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas(RA) was one of these and one day asked Rasoolullah(SAW), ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW), who is the closest to you among the people?’
Rasoolullah(SAW) replied, ‘Ayesha.’ Abdullah ibn Amr(RA) persisted and asked, ‘And among the men?’ Rasoolullah(SAW)
said, ‘Her father.’ This answer was not only because Abu Bakr Siddeeq(RA) was in fact the closest companion and friend of
Rasoolullah(SAW) but because there was a religious dimension to this answer as Abu Bakr(RA) was to follow Rasoolullah(SAW) as his Khalifa. Notwithstanding this answer it was a fact that every Sahabi felt that he was the closest to the Messenger(SAW) due to the high regard and close attention he received from Rasoolullah(SAW). This was one of the reasons they loved him beyond everything else and were willing to sacrifice anything for him.
References: Excerpt from Sheikh Mirza Yawar Baig Publications