This Blog Series explores The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Leadership Model of Quranic Moral and Spiritual Values of Excellence, and is based on my Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies research, at ISRA’s Centre for Islamic Studies & Civilisation, Charles Sturt University.
In this third article, we discuss and analyse Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) values based leadership model in terms of the key Quranic moral and spiritual values of excellence he both taught & embodied in his lifetime mission – at a collective level – that produced the greatest transformation in the society, consciousness and moral order of life in the Arabian Peninsula.
These transformational values we shall explore here include:
It all began with his establishment of the first Islamic state in Medina, which was founded on the comprehensive Quranic laws, principles and commandments and the Prophet’s sunnah (examples, sayings, instructions and guidance). Medina became a democratic welfare state and government, offering complete equality for the citizens at all levels: political, economic and social. (Noor, 2015)
A key success principle in Medina was the establishment of many new rules – he established gradual rather than abrupt changes that would have had negative impact. Alcohol consumption being prohibited in four stages is an example here. With his ongoing values teachings, habits were being transformed at all levels of society, even as basic as hygiene, such as washing hands before eating, brushing teeth when taking ablution and many others.
1 – Worship Rituals
The Prophet (pbuh) knew that without an interior change at the individual level, the social, economic & political programs would be short lived. So, he began teaching Islamic ritual actions that nourished and sustained the new beliefs and values and that served as a solid form of creating well-being in the community. (Armstrong, 2006) Ritualised parts of Islam included five daily prayers, the observance in one month of the year of fasting and zakat or the charity payment for the poor. (Noor 2015)
In the case of Zakat, it became obligatory for wealthy Muslims, in the new Muslim community (ummah) to give a proportion of their income in donation to the poor. It removed the egotism that was customary in traditional Bedouin generosity. Instead of displaying their reckless, often extreme liberality, they now offered regular contributions to the weaker members of society.
The “new karim” was no longer someone who gave his fortune away in one night, but someone who practiced justice in giving. (Armstrong, 2006) Zakat also served as a removal of old ingrained beliefs, for example regarding the fear of poverty.
Daily devout prayers (salat) served as a daily reminder of their new ideologies, assisted them in remembering and making Allah as their first priority. Not only were the five daily prayers being performed in congregation, but the Friday prayers became a platform for the Prophet (pbuh) to teach the newly revealed verses and rulings and values to the new community, propelling the whole society into a transformation of an Islamic civilisation.
Daily prayers was now a daily reminder of remembering and making Allah as their first priority.
The mosque also became a focal point for the unity of the Muslims. (Dogan 2014) As a place of worship gathering five times a day, it served to increase their solidarity and unity, became a multipurpose centre of the new Islamic nation as well as parliament for the new Islamic government. Gulen (2005) points out that the significance of the mosque for collective life of the Muslims was unquestionable. Meeting there five times a day in the presence of God, their Master and Sustainer, increasing their belief and submission to Islam, strengthened their solidarity.
2 – Brotherhood & Unity of Man
The Prophet (pbuh) also created a powerful unity through the establishment of a pact of brotherhood between the Ansars or host Medina community and newly arrived emigrants, who both were now obliged to support and help each other, sharing everything they owned, which they did enthusiastically, nurturing close relationships, similar to the modern day process of mentoring. (Noor 2015)
This pact encouraged the Ansar to take on one of the Meccan Companions as brothers, which established strong ties of brotherhood and achieved deep, strong sincere relationships between them. The strength of these bonds can be observed in this conversation between two men, “Brother, you have left everything in Mecca. This house, with everything in it, belongs to both of us now”. (Dogan, p27, 2014)
Another key factor at play here was the fact that previously, loyalty to the tribe was before anything else, including before justice, whereby you supported your tribe whether right or wrong. Years later the Prophet (pbuh) strategically used this tribal loyalty practice to teach a new lesson: he said: ’Support your brother whether he is right or wrong.’ His companions asked him, ’We can understand if you say that we should support him if he is right but how can we support him if he is wrong?’ He replied, ‘Support him by stopping his wrongdoing. Otherwise Allah will punish him. If you stop his wrongdoing, you are in fact supporting him.’ (Baig, 2012, p112)
Undoubtedly underlying the above success in fostering brotherhood, was the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) had solid interpersonal skills and knew his people well. He was their “coach, counsellor and mentor”. (Noor, p50). He (pbuh) was able to bring out their best by skilfully listening to their needs and concerns, understanding their characters well and then acting accordingly. (Dogan, 2014)
He was a coach, counsellor and mentor.
3 – Social Support and Relationship Building
Through the close personal relationships he fostered, he was well aware of his followers’ personalities, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and suffering. (Elamin, 2008). Understanding his followers and engaging with them effectively is a significant factor that transformed their characters and thinking towards peaceful and cohesive ends.
Alongside this role, he was known for being a warm, friendly human being with a strong sense of humour which he knew how to use in boosting his follower’s morale towards building solid friendship, love and support, never passing someone without a smile. In essence, he deservedly earned the love and devotion of his followers dealing with their daily problems and concerns and as aforementioned, thereby earned their trust and respect. (Dogan 2014)
4 – Mutual Consultation
Mutual consultation, the next key Quranic moral and spiritual value of leadership excellence that the Prophet (pbuh) practiced at a collective level proved to be a success factor because it encouraged a strong sense of participation and collective commitment to the Islamic goals being nurtured, especially when problems arose regarding issues or people that needed wise decision making. (Noor, 2005).
The Prophet’s consultative leadership practices succeeded because they were founded on effective engagement, interaction, management, communication, collaboration and partnership, which facilitated him being continually connected and on excellent terms with others.
He established this principle so soundly among his followers and himself counselled them on his personal affairs, advising that “whoever takes counsel, does not regret it in the end.” (Dogan, p2, 2015). One such event was before the early Muslims first battle – the battle of Badr, where he consulted his Companions on a number of issues in the scenario facing them where the Muslims consisted of about 300 soldiers, whilst the Meccan army about 1000 soldiers. (Dogan, 2015).
Here he highlighted how even big decisions were made on the basis of consent, including at other times with consent taken from the masses which always proved to useful and provide successful outcomes. His willingness to take advice and listen to others facilitated the making of wise strategic decisions. The story of Auda abu Tayi’s is a good example, where the control of water wells which was literally a matter of life or death in a desert environment was resolved peacefully as a result of his approach. (Adair, 2010)
This was all thanks to his approach to shura or mutual consultative, which prevented the use of positional authority in making decisions exclusively. Instead, he created a system where decisions were reached through consensus instead of compliance. His approach here nurtured a spirit of shared responsibility, team spirit and collective unity. (Mir, 2010)
He nurtured a spirit of shared responsibility, team spirit and collective unity.
5 – Education
Turning now to the educational side of the Quranic moral and spiritual values of leadership excellence that the Prophet (pbuh) taught at a collective level that contributed to the success of the new community, following are its key aspects.
The morality the Prophet (pbuh) taught via his personal example and in line with the Quran, moulded the actions of the people and served in him developing a new ‘hygienic, ethical and moralistic’ conscious society. (Noor, 2005)
He morally uplifted a whole nation through the moral and spiritual values & knowledge he imparted, which led to a whole shift in the consciousness of Arabia towards religious and spiritual inspiration, uprightness, a brand new eagerness to do good in all walks of life and many others based on the Islamic values he taught. This new moral shift played a powerful role in protecting the comprehensive way of life he developed, fostered life, preserved the well-being of families, developed the intellect of people and more. (Noor 2005)
He did all this by focusing on promoting the value of education – an essential element among the early community, where illiteracy had been so high that less than 10 people in the entire peninsula were literate. (Yusuf, 2000).
The Prophet (pbuh) established schools dedicated to teaching literacy skills, offering food and accommodation. Large numbers of companions took up this motivating offer. The environment created saw the teaching of the Islamic/Qur’an values, principles and practices while others taught how to read and write. (Al Azam, 2003) The effectiveness of this system meant that his companions were now able to teach others which they did far and wide.
The branches of knowledge he taught were many, often by observation of his communities needs, for example, he noticed basic hygiene and etiquette was lacking (e.g. washing hands before meals, thanking Allah at mealtimes, brushing teeth etc) and incorporated that into his educational programs.
An important principle that led to his success however was the encouragement he gave to his community to engage in discussions, question things, create dialogue and reflect always in terms of their actions and thinking.
Through this promotion of critical reflection, outdated cultural standards diminished with an inward focus towards self-improvement (Spears, 2005). With this movement underway from tribal to progressive thinking, the Muslims were being prepared for higher level concepts within the new society. The concepts of tawhid (monotheism, unity) and taqwah are one such example, which before the coming of Islam were quite foreign to the community. However, under the Prophetic leadership and guidance they came to understand monotheism and taqwah with a gradual pull towards a new and higher consciousness. (Elamin, 2008)
Another interesting method employed by the Prophet (pbuh) towards this end was via the use of surahs that were intimate and encouraged self-examination though provoking questions. For example, phrases such as, “Have you heard? Do you consider? Have you not seen?” Introspection of this nature cultivated and encouraged new thinking processes. Long-held beliefs and assumptions such as regarding concepts like divinity, the individual self, social responsibility etc were being gradually transformed with this emergence of a new awareness through discussion, reflective thinking and questioning.
The key foundation that led to these immense changes in consciousness that superseded tribalism and ethnicity however stems first and foremost from the Qur’an itself on all levels – literally and in terms of its transformative teachings. Elamin (2008) states that the Quran literally changed their spirits – simply as a result of hearing the recitation. Recitation he explains is based on patterns of breathing and the changes that ensued were the result of breathing patterns and the combinations of sounds and meaning never experienced before in human history. This combination of the sound, meaning and breath control he says is what evoked a change in consciousness (Elamin, 2008).
Written by Cynthia Aisha Meguid
Well-Being – Teacher, Educator, Consultant & Coach
This blog article is based on my Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies Research, at ISRA’s Centre for Islamic Studies & Civilisation, Charles Sturt University, Australia.
Continue reading Part 4: The Prophet Muhammad’s Leadership Model of Quranic Moral and Spiritual Values of Excellence – at the State Level