Leadership of The Prophet Muhammad

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Could you describe The Leadership of The Prophet Muhammad?

How did the Prophet choose people for posts?

God’s Messenger was unique in discovering promising and competent persons in his community and appointing them to the work they could do best. Whoever he appointed to a post, he did not find any need to change him, and that person proved, through both his uprightness and competence, that he was a really good choice. This is another dimension of the Prophet’s leadership which demonstrates that he was a Prophet chosen by God.

The Makkan period of Islam was inscribed in the memories of the Muslims as a period of unbearable persecutions and tortures. Not only the poor and unprotected, like ‘Ammar, Bilal and Suhayb, but also those Muslims like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who were from the elite and powerful members of the Quraysh, were severely persecuted.1 In order to save his followers from this maltreatment, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, permitted the poor and unprotected among them to emigrate to Abyssinia, but chose to keep back the powerful ones such as ‘Ali, Zubayr , Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas in Makka, for Islam needed their support to spread and implant itself in Makka. These powerful Muslims were to occupy the highest positions in the administration of the Muslim state in later decades.

Abu Dharr was a poor, blunt and upright man from the desert. When he heard Muhammad’s declaration of Prophethood, he came to Makka and became a Muslim. God’s Messenger used to preach Islam secretly in the earliest stage of his Prophethood. Abu Dharr was a blunt man, never restraining his feelings and always revealing the truth wherever he was. Also, he was very pious and lived an austere life. However, since public administration requires special skills, God’s Messenger did not accept Abu Dharr’s request to be appointed to an administrative post, saying: You are not able to manage the affairs of people. Do not apply for such jobs, for we do not assign such jobs to those who apply for them.2

God’s Messenger refused Abu Dharr, but he implied the caliphate of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. Holding once the hands of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, he said: I have four viziers, two in the heavens and two in the world. Those in the heavens are Gabriel and Michael; as for those in the world, they are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.3 Concerning the future caliphate of ‘Uthman, he declared: It will be a trial for him.4

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, recognized his men much more than they knew themselves. Like Abu Dharr, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha was a man from the desert. He came to Makka and, entering the presence of God’s Messenger, asked rudely: ‘What are you?’ To this rudeness, the Messenger replied very gently: I am a Prophet of God. The gentleness of God’s Messenger was enough for the conversion of ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha, who knelt down and declared: ‘I am to follow you from now on, O God’s Messenger’.

The Messenger did not desire ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha to stay in Makka, because he was not able to endure the torments inflicted upon the believers. So, he told him, as he had once told Abu Dharr: Now, return to your tribe, and preach Islam among them. When, however, you hear that I am victorious, come and join us.

Years later, ‘Amr ibn ‘Abatha came to Madina, and asked God’s Messenger, who was in the mosque: ‘Do you recognize me, O God’s Messenger?’ The Messenger, who had an extraordinarily strong and keen memory (another dimension of his Prophethood) answered promptly: Aren’t you the one who came to me in Makka? I sent you back to your tribe and told you to join us when you heard that I was victorious.5

I mentioned the case of Julaybib earlier. After the moral lesson of God’s Messenger, Julaybib became an honest, chaste young man. Upon the request of God’s Messenger, a noble family gave their daughter in marriage to Julaybib. Shortly afterwards, Julaybib took part in a battle and, after killing seven soldiers of the enemy, was martyred. When his corpse was brought to God’s Messenger, he put his head on Julaybib’s knees and said: O God, this one is of me, and I am of him.6 He had discovered the essential virtue in Julaybib and foreseen his future service for Islam.

The conquest of Khaybar proved to be one of the occasions on which God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, demonstrated his uniqueness in recognizing the potentials, skills and shortcomings of each of his followers. When the siege was prolonged, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: Tomorrow I will hand the standard to one who loves God and His Messenger and is loved by them.7 This was indeed a great honour, and all of the Companions desired earnestly to deserve it. The next day came and God’s Messenger asked for ‘Ali. ‘He has sore eyes’, he was told. The Messenger then sent for ‘Ali and applied his saliva to ‘Ali’s eyes, which, as he swore by God, never again troubled him.8

Despite ‘Ali’s youth, God’s Messenger preferred him on account of his great skills in combat and in taking command. He took the standard and succeeded in conquering the stronghold of Khaybar, which was very formidable.

Whoever God’s Messenger gave a job to, that person became successful in doing it. For example, he described Khalid ibn Walid as ‘a sword among the swords of God’,9 and Khalid never tasted defeat during his whole lifetime. Likewise, besides such great soldiers and invincible commanders as Qa’qa’a, Hamza and Sa‘d, he also made ‘Usama ibn Zayd a commander over a great army in which were leading Muslims such as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Talha and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas. ‘Usama was the son of Zayd, a black Muslim, and emancipated slave of God’s Messenger, and was only seventeen years old or so when he was made the commander. His father, Zayd, had also commanded the Muslim army in the Battle of Mu’ta against the Byzantines and was martyred.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was twenty-five years old when he married Khadija, the daughter of Huwaylid, a widow fifteen years his senior. He did not marry another woman until Khadija’s death in the tenth year of his Prophethood. All his subsequent marriages, after the age of fifty, were directly related to his mission. One of the important reasons for them was that his wives had different characters and temperaments and could therefore convey to other Muslim women the rules of Islam related to women. Each of them proved a guide and teacher for womanhood, and, besides, even the leading figures in the generations following the Companions such as Masruq, Tawus ibn Kaysan and Ata’ ibn Rabah benefited considerably from them. The science of Hadith is especially indebted to ‘A’isha, who related from God’s Messenger more than five thousand Traditions. ‘A’isha was also a great jurist.

Subsequent events proved how wise and apt were all the choices of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, not least in the matter of marriage.

1. I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 3.40–1, 102–3; I. Hisham, Sira, 1.234.”

2. Muslim, “‘Imara,” 16–7.

3. Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11.563, 13.15.

4. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 5.7; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 29.

5. Muslim, “Musafirin,” 294; I. Hanbal, Musnad, 4.112.

6. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 131.

7. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 9; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 34.

8. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 25.

What about the Prophet’s wisdom in leading his community?

A leader gains the love and trust of his people and is followed by them in proportion to his competence in solving their problems, whether personal or public, related to individual, private life, or to social, economic, political affairs touching the community as a whole.

In solving problems, you may resort to force and terror, or apply sanctions or punishments like exile, imprisonment or depriving the guilty of their rights of citizenship, or torture people, or spy into their affairs. However, none of these ways are of much use in the long term; rather, they will bring about a vicious circle, in which the more you struggle to solve problems by such means, the more you entangle yourself in them.

However, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, solved all problems so skillfully and easily that no one disagreed with the issue of his decisions. Although he was sent to a people by nature and habit quarrelsome, ignorant, wild and rebellious, and sent with a mission so grave as ‘to rend mountains asunder’ – If We had sent down this Qur’an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and rent asunder out of fear of God (al-Hashr, 59.21) – he made them into a harmonious community of peace, happiness, knowledge and good morals. Reflect closely upon the utopias imagined in the West, such as The Republic (Plato), Utopia (Thomas More), and Civitas Solis (T. Campanella), you will see that, in essence, they dreamed of the ideal society of Madina in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Mankind have not since then witnessed the equal of that society. However, if they desire to live a happy and peaceful life based on good morals and universal values such as love, mutual respect, compassion, and altruism, they have no way other than to follow the example of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

We described in the first volume how he prevented, through his wisdom, an imminent war between the clans of the Quraysh during the reconstruction of the Ka‘ba. Each clan had claimed the honor of putting the sacred Black Stone in its place. However, the future Prophet of Islam, upon him be peace and blessings, spread his mantle on a piece of cloth on the ground and, putting the stone on it, invited the chieftains of the four major clans of the Quraysh involved in the rebuilding of the Ka‘ba to each take one corner of the cloth. When the cloth with the Black Stone had been raised level with the spot where it was to be placed, he took the stone and placed it firmly in position. It was an ingenious plan and provided yet another proof of his wisdom or gift for problem-solving.

We also saw in the first volume how he prevented a possible moment of sedition after the Battle of Hunayn. Also, he skillfully suppressed an impending conflict between a group of Emigrants and some of the Helpers during the return from the military campaign against the Banu Mustaliq. An internal clash nearly broke out when the army halted by the side of a well. When informed of the matter, God’s Messenger immediately gave the order to march and nipped an imminent clash in the bud.

In understanding the Prophet’s leadership and wisdom, what is the place of Hijra (Sacred Emigration to Madina)?

Emigration to Madina (Hijra) marks a turning point in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as well as in the history of Islam. Belief, emigration and holy struggle are the three pillars of a single, sacred truth. They are the three ‘taps’ of a fountain from which the water of life flows for the soldiers of truth to drink from, so that they may convey their message without being wearied and, when the opposition is too formidable to overcome, set out for a new land without regard for their home, property and family. The Prophet’s emigration to Madina is so significant in the history of Islam and so sanctified that the virtuous men and women around him were praised by God as (and have since been called) ‘the Emigrants’, and those who welcomed them so warmly to Madina as ‘the Helpers’. In addition, the beginning of the era of this religious community was marked, not by the birth of the Prophet or by the first Revelation or such victories as Badr or the conquest of Makka, but by the emigration to Madina.

Despite its significance, emigration is, of course, not an easy thing to achieve. When the believers came to Madina to settle after years of persecution in Makka, they had neither any provisions with which to manage their families, nor any houses to live in. Moreover, some of them were extremely poor, and the others, who had earned their lives by trade, were left with no capital. The Muslims of Madina were mostly farmers, and the commercial life of the city was thoroughly controlled by the Jewish community. Another problem worthy of note is that the people of Madina had decided to make ‘Adbullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul their chief, just before the arrival of God’s Messenger. The settlement of the Messenger brought this plan, and the hopes of Ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, to nothing, and he consequently became a bitter enemy of God’s Messenger and, as chief of the hypocrites, never refrained from making conspiracies to ruin him. In addition, the Makkan polytheists would certainly not leave the Prophet to himself in Madina; they had contacted Ibn Ubayy ibn Salul in order to prevent the spread of Islam in Madina. Ibn Ubayy sent them the news: ‘It is not something to fear that he spreads his religion here. The main danger lies in the possibility that he may ally with the Christians and Jews against paganism. That is the real threat to you.’

After he settled in Madina, God’s Messenger ordered the building of a mosque, and himself took part in the work of building. The importance of the mosque for the collective life of Muslims is unquestionable. They come together there five times a day and, in the Presence of God, their Lord, Creator and Sustainer, they increase in belief and submission to their Lord, to the Prophet and to their religion, and strengthen their solidarity. Especially in the first centuries of Islam, mosques functioned, as well as being places of worship, as centers of learning. The Mosque of the Prophet in Madina was, in the time of the Prophet himself and his immediate successors, the center of government as well.

Immediately after his settlement in Madina, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, established brotherhood between Muslims, particularly between the Emigrants and the Helpers. They loved each other and were very close to each other. For example, Sa‘d ibn Rabi’ took his emigrant ‘brother’ ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf to his house and said: ‘Brother, you have left everything you have in Makka. So, this house, with everything in it, belongs to both of us. Besides, you do not have a wife here, while I have two. Whichever of them you like, I’ll divorce her, so that you may marry her.’

‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf answered him in tears: ‘Brother, may God bless you with your wife! Please show me to the city bazaar so that I may do some business.’9

The brotherhood between the Emigrants and the Helpers was so deep, so sincere and so strong that the Helpers shared everything they had with their emigrant brothers. This lasted for some time. However, when the Emigrants were accustomed to their new environment, one day they came to God’s Messenger and said:

O Messenger of God! We emigrated here purely for the sake of God. But, our Helper brothers concern us to the extent that we are afraid we will consume up here in the world the reward of our good deeds, which we expect to get in the Hereafter. Also, we feel much indebted to them. Please, ask our brothers to allow us to earn our living ourselves.

God’s Messenger sent for the Helpers and told them of the situation. The Helpers unanimously objected to the offer of the Emigrants, it was unbearable to them to be separated from their brothers. In the end, in order to save the Emigrants from the feeling of indebtedness, the Helpers agreed that the Emigrants would work in the Helpers’ fields and gardens in return for wages until they could build their own houses.10

As a second step in solving the immediate problems which appeared after the Hijra, God’s Messenger signed a pact with the Jewish community in Madina. According to this pact, which some scholars describe as a first constitution of the city-state of Madina, the Muslims and Jews were confederated as two separate, independent communities.11 Since, however, God’s Messenger had the initiative in making this pact and acted as an arbiter in all disputes and disagreements, the new city-state of Madina was under the overall control of the Muslims.

In order to guarantee the security of this state on the part of the Muslims, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ordered the establishment of a new bazaar. Until then the economic life of Madina had been under the control of the Jewish community. Shortly after the establishment of the new bazaar, Jewish domination of the economic life of the city declined as the Jews no longer monopolized commerce in the city.

No sooner had the Muslim community of Madina begun to become established and grow in strength than they had to respond to attacks from inside and outside. After the victory of Badr against the Makkan polytheists, the Muslims met them again, this time, at the foot of Mount Uhud. The easy victory won by the Muslims at the beginning of the battle was unfortunately followed by a reverse due to some neglect on the part of the archers. Seventy Muslims were martyred and the Messenger himself was wounded. The Muslim army took shelter on the mountain and were prepared to counter any further attack by the enemy. However, lacking enough courage for a further attack, the enemy forces left the battlefield for Makka. Nevertheless, they changed their mind half-away and again decided to march upon Madina. Informed of this decision, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, gave the order to assemble and mobilize. A single order of his sufficed for the Companions to collect themselves, even though they were ill or wounded. His every call was a breath of life for their souls, a breath that could revive old, rotten bones. Busiri says:

Were his value and greatness to be demonstrated by miracles,

The bones that have rotted away were revived by calling his name.

The half-crushed army set out to counter the enemy. Almost all of them were wounded in different degrees, but no one desired to remain behind. In describing the situation, one Companion said:

Some of the Companions were unable to walk. They said: ‘We desire to be present at the front where God’s Messenger has ordered us to go. Even if we are unable to fight, we will stand there with spears in hand.’ They were carried either on shoulders or on backs.

Seeing the Muslim army marching towards them, Abu Sufyan, the commander of the enemy forces, ordered his troops to return. In praising those heroes of Islam, the Qur’an says:

Those to whom the people said: ‘The people have gathered against you, therefore fear them’; but it increased them in faith, and they said, ‘God is sufficient for us; an excellent Guardian is He.’ (Al ‘Imran, 3.173)12

9. Bukhari, “Manaqib al-Ansar,” 3; I. Kathir, 3.279.

10. Bukhari, “Hiba,” 35; Muslim, “Jihad,” 70.

11. I. Hisham, 2.147.

12. Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 25; I. Sa‘d, 2.42–9; I. Hisham, 3.99-111, 128.

What is the place of consultation in the Prophet’s life and

the Islamic way of government?

The sagacity or wisdom of God’s Messenger also demonstrated itself in the counsels he made with his Companions. Counsel or consultation is so important in Islam that God’s Messenger did not take a decision, especially in public affairs, without consultation. He sometimes held counsel even in his personal affairs. To cite only a few examples:

• During the campaign against the Banu Mustaliq, ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, was accompanying the Prophet, riding in a litter. At one halt she lost her necklace; she set off alone to find it only to return and discover that the army had left without her, the camel drivers thinking she was in her litter. She was later found by Safwan, who was charged with collecting what was lost or left behind caravans. There followed a scandal and ‘A’isha’s fidelity was questioned, mostly by hypocrites.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was sure of the fidelity of his wife. However, since hypocrites made this into a pretext to defame God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, he consulted with some of his Companions like ‘Umar and ‘Ali. ‘Umar said that ‘A’isha was undoubtedly chaste and pure, and that she had been slandered. When asked how he knew, ‘Umar answered:

O God’s Messenger! You were once praying. You stopped and explained that the Archangel Gabriel had come and informed you that there was some dirt in your slippers. If there were some impurity in ‘A’isha, your wife, God would certainly have informed you of it.13

God’s Messenger, who said, Whoever takes counsel, does not regret in the end,14 never neglected to consult those who could give informed advice on a particular matter.

• He also consulted with his Companions before the Battle of Badr, which was the first major encounter between the Muslims and the Makkan polytheists after the Emigration, whether to fight against the Makkan army approaching. The Muslim force numbered 305 or 313, while the Makkans numbered around one thousand.

Miqdad ibn ‘Amr stood up on behalf of the Emigrants and said: ‘Spur your horse forward even to Bark al- Ghimad; we will follow you, with no one left behind.’ When the Messenger turned to the Helpers in order to learn their views, Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh stood up and said:

O God’s Messenger! I think you are waiting for the opinion we will give. This is our opinion: Here we are, at your command, with our souls and possessions. Take from our goods whatever amount you wish; and as many people as you desire are ready to sacrifice themselves in your way!15

All of his Companions, whether Emigrants or Helpers, promised to follow him in every step he took, and to carry out all of his orders. Despite this, God’s Messenger took counsel with them about almost every matter concerning the community as a whole so that doing so should be adopted or appropriated by everyone as a Sunna.

• Again, in the Battle of Badr, the Muslim army was positioned somewhere on the battlefield. Hubab ibn Mundhir, who was not a leading personality among the Companions, stood up and gave this opinion:

O God’s Messenger! If you were not ordered by God to be positioned here, let us be positioned around the wells and close up all but one of them in order to prevent the supply of water to the enemy. You set up your camp at the side of that one well (from which we will take water), and we will encircle you.

The Messenger adopted this view.16

• In the fifth year of Hijra, the Quraysh made an alliance with certain desert tribes and Jews of the Banu Nadir, who had emigrated from Madina to Khaybar. However, the Prophet, forewarned of their plans, consulted with his Companions about what to do in order to defeat the enemy offensive. Salman al-Farisi gave him the idea that they should dig a defensive trench around Madina, a stratagem hitherto completely unknown among the Arabs.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, adopted the idea and ordered the digging of the trench. This war was therefore called, after the trench, the Battle of the Trench or Ditch.17

• The Muslims found the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiya unpalatable, and showed some reluctance to perform the Prophet’s order to sacrifice the animals they had brought to sacrifice in Makka during the rites which the Treaty prevented them from observing. God’s Messenger consulted with his wife Umm Salama about how to respond. She gave this opinion:

O God’s Messenger! Do not repeat your order lest they should disobey you and perish. Sacrifice your own animals and take off your pilgrim dress (ihram). When they understand the order is decisive, they will perform it unhesitatingly.

God’s Messenger acted according to the counsel of his wife.18

13. Halabi, Insan al-‘Uyun, 2.613.

14. Maythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 2.280.

15. I. Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 3.162 ; Muslim, “Jihad,” 83 ; I. Hisham, 2.266–7.

16. I. Hisham, 2.272.

17. I. Hisham, 3.235; I. Sa‘d, 2.66.

18. Bukhari, “Shurut,” 15.

 

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