continued from last week
Ninth Principle: Gradualism instead of radicalism
This principle is well-established by a hadith of Al-Bukhari. Aishah says that the first verses of the Qur’an were related mostly to heaven and hell. And then after a long time when the people’s hearts had softened, the specific commands to desist from adultery and drinking were revealed in the Qur’an. This is a clear proof that for social changes, Islam advocates the evolutionary method, rather than the revolutionary method.
Tenth Principle: To be pragmatic in controversial matters
During the writing of Hudaibiyyah treaty, the Prophet (saw) dictated these words: “This is from Muhammad, the Messenger of God.” The Qurayshi delegate raised objections over these words. The Prophet (saw) promptly changed the word and ordered to write simply Muhammad, son of Abdullah.
These were the principles through which the Prophet of Islam (saw) gained that success which has been recognized by historians as the true success.
Challenging the Process
Leadership is an active and dynamic process. While ineffectual leaders sit around and react to events, successful leaders’ islamically seek Allah’s help and challenge the status quo. In challenging the process, you have to be innovative. At times, you will need to redefine the process in a way that tears down the physical and mental barriers that others have imposed on our nation.
Experiment and take risks while challenging the process with the understanding that you may not always succeed. Each failure, however, can be viewed as a learning opportunity. For example, let’s assume that you are learning how to play soccer. If you stand behind the ball but do not try to kick it, what have you learned? How can you improve your soccer skills? Similarly, if you have never opened your community’s place of worship up to members of other faith-based communities, how can you learn to work with them? You cannot shout for public help in times of need when you refuse to honour their request for your assistance. Go on; try, experiment, and fail if need be, but get up and improve.
The example of the Prophet (s) being pelted with stones at Taif and coming near defeat at Uhud should serve as a constant reminder of the need to rise above temporary setbacks and to keep on trying with good faith.
While challenging the status quo, you, as a leader will often encounter many challenges. For example, you may be assailed by your fellow faithful more viciously than by members of other faith-based communities. At times, your family may be harassed. You may even be asked to step down as leader. You may pay dearly for seeking to make a positive difference, and may wonder why you are making such sacrifices when no one appreciates them. Before giving up and accepting the status quo, remember the following hadith (saying) of the Prophet (s) narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar and reported by Al-Tirmidhi (hadith no. 5087) and lbn Majah:
He who mixes with people and endures the harm they do is better than he who does not mix with them or endure the harm they do.
Leadership is about sacrifice and paradigm shifts. Prophet Muhammad challenged the world view of jahiliyyah (ignorant period) and encountered many obstacles. Jesus, Noah, Moses, Lot, Abraham (peace be upon all of them) were beloved by Allah, but this did not make them immune to suffering. Syed Qutb and Malcolm X paid with their lives, but never backed out Muhammad Ali lost his world boxing title, even though his conviction was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Anwar Ibrahim spent years in jail and paid with his reputation and health.
Challenging the status quo is never easy, but reaching the vision outlined by your strategic plan may demand no less of you. In a hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id Al Khudri and Abu Hurayrah and reported in Sahih al-Bukhari (hadith no. 7.545), the Prophet (s) said:
No fatigue or disease, no sorrow or sadness, no hurt or distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.
Inspiring a Shared Vision
When challenging the status quo, you need to have a vision of what you want your nation to accomplish. This is your main task. This vision is the source of your country’s mission statement and long-term strategy. In addition, you must involve your followers and increase their commitment to the vision. Engaging in shura (dialog) can help fine-tune the vision. You can also pray salat al-istikhara (special prayer) to ask Allah to validate the content and direction of the nation’s future direction.
Once the vision is developed, effective leaders work to commit themselves to it and then to communicate it to others so that they can share it and align themselves with it.
The general idea is to share your vision with your country’s members in order to increase their commitment to its implementation. To help others share the vision, explain it to them using “simple images or symbols or metaphors that communicate powerfully without clogging.
Conclusively, leadership is about delegating authority, and a central principle of delegation is that authority must be delegated with appropriate resources, i.e. the means to accomplish the task one has been delegated with, enabling others to act, modeling the way, encouraging the heart, and be a listening leader.