What Makes a Good Leader?

What Makes a Good Leader?

Leadership and Justice



When his Lord tested Ibrahim’s faith, (by His words) and he satisfied the test, He said, “I am appointing you as the leader of mankind.” Abraham asked, “Will this leadership also continue through my descendants?” The Lord replied, “The unjust do not have the right to exercise My authority.” (2:124)

Allah the Almighty mentions in Surah Baqarah, when the Lord of Ibrahim tested him, and he fulfilled his test, then Allah the Almighty said, ‘I am going to appoint you as the leader of humanity’. Ibrahim (peace be on him) asked whether his leadership would pass down to his descendants. Allah the Almighty replied that His pledge would not include the wrongdoers.

In another verse Allah the Almighty said,

And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.

Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.’


Just Leadership

From these verses, if we were to highlight the most important lessons, we see the first theme speaks about leadership: Allah appointed Ibrahim (peace on him) as the leader of humanity, and then straight after Ibrahim (peace be on him) asks ‘What about my children, my descendants?’ which is a very natural thing, of course as a parent you are always concerned about your family, and as a leader as well. So Allah puts the criteria for the appointment of any leader. He said ‘My pledge will not include the wrongdoers’. It means that the leader has to lead with justice.

Justice is the key word and in the Hadith which has been narrated by Al Bukhari and Muslim, of the seven categories who will have the shade of Allah’s throne on the Day of Judgement[i], number one is a just ruler.

Justice is therefore an important quality in any leader, and anyone who is in the position of authority whether he is a parent, whether a leader in his work, whether he is a project manager, in any position of responsibility. Justice is number one.

Bridging the Gap by combining the Talents of Old and New Generations

The second theme which Allah the Almighty mentioned was that Ibrahim (peace be on him) in building the foundation of the house responded to the call of Allah Almighty who asked him to build the Ka’bah and he asked his son to come and help him with this task. As Ibrahim (peace be on him) was 86 when his first son Isma’il was born, when Isma’il was 16  Ibrahim (peace be on him) was 102 years when he built the Ka’bah. He was an old man and he needed the energy of the youth, so he asked Isma’il to come on board, to support and help. In that very verse we see the successful combination between the energy of the youth and the wisdom and the knowledge of our elders. This is exactly what we need in any community. We need to bridge the gap between generations, we need to marry the two together, we need activism.

The Qualities of Real Leadership

Be involved

The leader is not the one who is sitting on his throne and throwing commands at his subjects. The leader is on the ground, working with them and supporting them. Ibrahim (peace be on him) was doing the construction work with his own hands with his son Isma’il.

Be humble

Towards the end of this same verse, Allah the Almighty highlighted the fact that Ibrahim’s (peace be on him) main concern was acceptance of his deed, when he asks with complete humility: ‘Our Lord accept it from us.’ He is not showing off, he us not doing this for the sake of the followers or getting votes for his election or the likes on Facebook! His concern is Allah Almighty. His concern is ‘Ya Rabb, accept it from us’. This is the reflection of humility and sincerity and this is what I usually call a window to the unseen. We have plenty of these windows in the Qur’an. Allah Almighty opens a window for us to the unseen to give us insight into scenes we did not witness, to show us some deep lessons and this is one of them.

Be sincere

Whether you are in the position of leadership, in the driving seat or the passenger seat you need acceptance from Allah the Almighty. Be careful not to do it for people’s sake. Do not do it because of self-gratification. Make your intention purely for the sake of Allah. He is the All Hearing the All Knowing, He hears our supplications and He knows our intentions deep down.

Be caring

The supplication of Ibrahim (peace be on him) was, ‘Our Lord make us submissive to You and make our community submissive to You.’ We can see from this what sort of leader he is – a visionary leader, a sincere leader. He is concerned about the succession and about the generations to come. He is not satisfied with just what he has achieved for himself or for his family or his followers or ministers etc. No. He is concerned about the well-being of the people and the community and generations to come. He is not acting out of pure self-interest, but thinking for the future.

I hope we can see the leaders of our country genuinely concerned about peoples’ interest, whether we join the EU or stay in the EU or leave the EU, it is not about scoring points against our opponents or against the other parties. It is about the real interests of people in this country. I am not for or against anything. But I am saying we need genuine concern. We need empirical research which shows people what is best for us in the UK and for generations to come. That is true leadership.

So we ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be leaders of justice and leaders of fairness and leaders of humility. And we ask to accept from us poor humble efforts. Ameen


Khutbah delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim 11th March 2017

Transcribed by Reza Omar

[i] The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said: ‘There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: a just ruler; a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two men who love each other for Allah’s sake, meeting for that and parting upon that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position (for illegal intercourse), but be says: “I fear Allah,” a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.’ (Bukhari)


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.