What does love have to do with leadership?

What does love have to do with leadership?

The best and the worst leaders

In a beautiful hadith, narrated by ‘Auf b. Malik, who embraced Islam after the Treaty of Hudabiya, the Prophet (peace be on him) taught us who are the best leaders and the worst leaders. He said that the best leaders are the ones you love and who love you.

As the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:

The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke God’s blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you and whom you curse and who curse you. (Muslim)

عَنْ عَوْفِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏”‏ خِيَارُ أَئِمَّتِكُمُ الَّذِينَ تُحِبُّونَهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَكُمْ، وَيُصَلُّونَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَتُصَلُّونَ عَلَيْهِمْ، وَشِرَارُ أَئِمَّتِكُمُ الَّذِينَ تُبْغِضُونَهُمْ وَيُبْغِضُونَكُمْ، وَتَلْعَنُونَهُمْ وَيَلْعَنُونَكُمْ ‏”‏ . رواه مسلم.‏

The NEW definition of a good leader

This may seem simple at the surface, but it is a much deeper reflection. If you look at it in the context of the time in which it was revealed, this was not anyone’s definition of a good leader! It was not their idea of good leadership. In that time and in that environment, the best leaders were brash, loud and violent otherwise they were considered weak leaders. This is a misconception and misunderstanding of the role of leadership.

Why is love an indication of good leadership

The Prophet (peace be on him) is teaching us that the indicator of a good leader is how much he is loved by his people. Why?

When a leader loved his subjects, employees, team, or followers or family, it means he is fulfilling his role properly. It indicates that he or she is fair and just, treat people with respect and love, listen to them, and good advice. They are aware of what their people are experiencing and they respond to their needs.

Dealing justly with your people elicits their respect and love

If you give people their rights, in return they show respect and obedience to you. They too give you advice and follow your instructions. When your instructions are not right, part of their duty to you is to advise you on how to improve.

Good leaders listen

It is important for a good leader to listen, not to block your feedback. He should not say you have no right to speak or to ask you to review something. This is the mark of an arrogant leader and he will be a failure.

Love is not weakness

A true leader has a good character. Though leadership is not usually judged by love and love is not considered a part of leadership, a true leader brings the element of love into the equation.

Some people might think love is a weakness, yet the Prophet (peace be on him) is telling us the best of our leaders are those whom we love.

Genuine love

This love is genuine. It is not the façade that we see at election time, when we see ministers suddenly holding babies, it is not a show to woo your votes on election day and then instantly disappears along with the minister who returns to business as usual and does not fulfil his function or promises.

Fairness, respect and tolerance

Rather a good leader has good manners, he shows tolerance and understanding, and he has respect for his people. He delivers justice and fairness and equality. This is the good leader. And people love such leaders from their hearts. They are not toadying to them.

Obedience to God

When a leader is observant of his people’s rights, his own rights, and Allah’s rights, then Allah creates love in people’s heart for him.

As Allah Almighty said in the famous hadith qudsi:

My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. (Bukhari)

Obedience is to fulfil Allah’s rights and people’s rights. The one who fulfil Allah’s rights, becomes a better person and this is manifested in their manners and good character and the just way in which they deal with people. This creates love for them in people’s hearts.

Concern for people

The best leaders have concern for people’s wellbeing, their fears and anxieties. They give people comfort in situations of difficulty and hardship. They help them out during times of atrocity and calamity. They are close to people they are not isolated from people in ivory towers. They. They are from the people and with the people and deeply concerned for them.

People love to see their leaders among them. We have seen many good examples during our recent tests. In different countries, good leaders get out and respond to their people’s needs. They supplicate for the ease and shifa of their people and in return people make heartfelt duas for their good leaders and ask Allah to help them deliver more justice and protect them from evil.

The worst leaders

The worse leaders are those who hate their people. They are in their position for the prestige and their own self-interest and business. In reality they don’t care about their people. And people feel this. They despise their leader and they make dua against them because of their evil.

The leaders are goaded by the fact that people do not do what they say, but if they treated them better, they would have listened. Instead their arrogance has put them off and they want to get rid of you.  

The example of the Prophet (peace be on him)

  ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘as (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) neither talked in an insulting manner nor did he ever speak evil intentionally. He used to say, “The most beloved to me amongst you is the one who has the best character and manners.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

وعن عبد الله بن عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنهما قال‏:‏ لم يكن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فاحشاً ولا متفحشاً‏.‏ وكان يقول‏:‏ “إن من خياركم أحسنكم أخلاقاً” ‏ (‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏.‏

We see from this that the best among us those who have the best character. The definition of good character by Hasan al Basri was to deliver goodness, refrain from evil and to have a smiling face.

This was the prophetic character as Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) described him. Qadi Iyad described good character is mixing with people with cheerfulness and becoming close to them by doing good, having compassion, being tolerant of their harshness from time to time as well as having hilm (forbearance) and sabr and not being arrogant, harsh, angry or blaming others.

The aim or good leadership is not be loved. But being loved is the by-product of goodleadership.

Your aim of any leader should not be to be loved, but when they do the right thing, it is inevitable that they will be loved. Doing the right thing automatically opens people’s hearts. If you have good character, people love you. And if you have the opposite, they hate you.

We ask Allah to make us from among those whom he loves, who deliver Allah’s rights and other opens rights. Ameen

Shaykh Haytham Tamim Thought for the Week – 18th December 2020


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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.