Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Humane Leadership in Islamic Approaches

Written By

Mohd Faridh Hafez Mhd Omar

Submitted: 29 January 2022 Reviewed: 15 February 2022 Published: 08 April 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.103735

From the Edited Volume

Leadership - New Insights

Edited by Mário Franco

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A leadership style that meets the interests thus ensures the sustainable development of humanity would be a key factor in the current disruptive world. Leadership in Islam prioritizes human values and that becomes a founding principle as stated in the Qur’an and the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Using a descriptive method from previous studies, this study found that three issues would make the country a failed state. Prior to that, a leadership that values humanity is identified as a new approach that deserves attention as it was shown successfully through the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Such approaches were proven in the following events: 1) to make peace between communities; 2) recognizing the right to life and prohibiting murder; 3) no coercion in religion and social problems; and 4) da’wah activities which are inviting to goodness and forbidding evils. This study concludes that humane leadership that incorporates with fundamental principles of Islam while upholding the universal values of humanity should lead a new narrative in the current disruptive world.


  • humane leadership
  • Prophet Muhammad
  • the Islamic approaches

1. Introduction

Islam views leadership as the most important element that would drive organizations or states forward. Good leadership has a great responsibility in ensuring that the governance of the organization or state meets and preserves the rights of civil society with the guidance outlined by Islam in terms of policies and approaches. Trust from the public is the only pillar that deserves attention to build a sustainable development where the benefit of society is the main concern of leaders. This is because, leadership according to Islam has two direct relationships at one time, namely obeying the ruling of Allah (SWT) and fulfilling the interests of the society at large. Explaining further about the two relationships as Allah (SWT) recorded in surah Ali-Imran: 103, Samsudin [1] stated that this verse can be a stimulating factor in increasing motivation and subsequently has a greater impact on leadership performance.

However, these two elements seem increasingly neglected in today’s leadership setting despite both are proven as unseparated coin in solving human crisis [2]. Even worse when the term “Islamic leadership” is only fluent on the lips but increasingly vague in implementation at all levels of organization and state administration. Muhammad [3] found the Islamic leadership system, especially in the political system in Malaysia, has caused various wrong perceptions that lead to suspicion and scare toward Islamic leadership. As Malaysian political development has formed upon the dualism of Islamism-nationalism and conservative-progressive and always colored by the religion which is Islam, thus these splits were not at all surprising given the fact that the battle between these two schools of taught has been ongoing since the early 1900s [4]. In the global scene, failure in coordinating the ideology of political Islam has contributed to the rise of terrorism and violent extremism [5] thus affected the narrative to Islam as a religion of peace and security.

As a result, leadership with Islamic values that uphold the principles of divinity and recognize human relations is seen as failing to create sustainable development within the Muslim society as well as the society as a whole. Therefore, the depravity of evils in society, as well as the occurrence of leadership crisis on its understanding and application, has become causes to the deficit of trust in bringing peace and preserving human values, although Islam is recognized a peaceful religion. Analyzing reality where appreciation on values-based leadership is important yet not overwhelming, Islam is consistently seen very much intact in defining the meaning, concept, and impact of leadership toward the development of society as well as the state.

However, as these issues might influence the notion of humanistic values in the long run, it could worsen the true understanding of Islamic leadership and ultimately also affects human development, economic justice, and national well-being after Islamic leadership, and Muslim leaders were seen as a leading cause to global crisis. Therefore, this paper’s objective will explain in detail the concept of Islamic leadership that has had evolved since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) where human values work as focal point in his leadership in sustaining peace and security within the society. Bringing current crises in today’s leadership that deprived the values of humanity need great attention to be solved by Islamic leadership approaches.


2. Islamic leadership according to previous and contemporary Muslim scholars

Scholars in the past have discovered various definitions to explain the meaning of Islamic leadership. Imam al-Mawardi’s (d. 422H) definition on the term has been referred by many scholars after him, as he said “Islamic leadership is a task to replace the prophetic duty in preserving the religion (Islam) and managing worldly life.” Such a novel definition of al-Mawardi’s was repeated in the classical works of Muslim scholars like al-Ramli (Nihayah al-Muhtaj fi Syarh al-Minhaj and Ibn al-Azraq (Badai ‘al-Silk fi Tabai’ al-Malik) [3].

In addition to that, Ibn Khaldun is also one of the scholars who unraveled the basic definition of Islamic leadership in his magnum opus al-Muqaddimah. Muhammad [3] says Ibn Khaldun defined leadership has the same responsibility as the caliph where it should lead all human beings to live according to Shāri‘ah for the balanced well-being in both this world and the hereafter. This is because every command set by Allah (SWT) in this world is measured by God’s acceptance and mercy. Instead of calling for doing good and stopping evils, thus as a caliph, the vital role should be played is ensuring the implementation of religious teachings in daily life. In fact, it should transcend into diverse community that celebrates diversity and differences within commonalities. Hence, the definition of a leader explained by Ibn Khaldun has emphasized on the religious aspect as an undeniable guiding principle in the humanistic management and administration of the country.

In addition to that, Muhammad [3] has elaborated another definition of Islamic leadership from the point of view of other scholars such as Rashid Rida, Ibn al-Azraq al-Qalqasyandi, and al-Juwayni. In his summary, it can be understood that all these scholars translate Islamic leadership by including the administration task with the interest of public is at top priority. Preservation of Islam and ensuring the implementation of maqasid Syariah (the highest objectives of Islam) must be advocated, while the welfare of the society in social, economic, education, and politic are developed justly and peacefully. Muhammad [3] then summarizes al-Juwayni’s view with the following statement:

“Leadership must be an ‘exemplary leadership’, which has comprehensive approaches in preserving public matters in accordance to religion by prioritizing perseverance of national security, the interests of the people, overcoming malpractices with da’wah (calling to goodness) with discussions and dialog as a tool for helping the oppressed, ensuring that those who have the right get their rights, also ensuring that those rights are not taken away by any party [including the government or leaders].”

The definition of Islamic leadership has evolved and been broadened over the centuries. This is important to counter Moten’s [6] examination as he said leadership from an Islamic perspective which has so far been neglected or misrepresented because it is studied based on European experiences. Responding to this, Gazi [7] emphasizes the pivotal to examine the root of why the concept of leadership in Islam is different from the West. Thus, the views of contemporary Islamic scholars on the definition the term deserves to be discussed.

For example, Beekun and Badawi [8] view leadership in Islam as a basic two-way relationship between an individual and Allah (SWT) directly. The existence of a relationship between two individuals which in turn is translated in the aspect of leadership is upon their faith in Allah (SWT). So leaders had responsibilities to achieve the high-end demand of leadership. Apart from that, leadership in Islam is also referred to as a noble moral activity and communication process toward achieving a common goal [9]. Thus, leaders are distinguished from followers in terms of knowledge, commitment to the teachings of Islam and holding higher moral values. Altalib [10] and Chowdhury [11] shared the view of Islamic leadership combining the process of volunteerism in inspiring and mentoring followers to achieve the vision together.

Leadership or al-Qiyadah is generally associated with al-Siyasah, al-Siyadah, al-Imamah, al-‘Umara’, alRi‘ayah, al-Wilayah, al-Ri’asah, and al-Khilafah. All these words are defined as leadership. Thus, leadership in Arabic language covers a wide area and is not limited to state or racial (group) leadership but extends to leadership in the fields of knowledge, worship as well as custody and guardianship of a trust [12]. Leadership is the influence exerted by an individual in a situation directed toward achieving specific objectives, mission, and vision [13].

Upon that understanding, leaders are warned that they cannot imply autocratic leadership but must act humanely in leading a state or an organization. In many Islamic works, explained leadership in Islam is a trust that binds the leader from abuse of power or deviance in making the decision. Instead, the leader is responsible for providing guidance, preserving, and fulfilling the rights or demands of the followers fairly and justly [14]. As leadership in Islam is a combination of relationships – with human beings and Allah (SWT), Gazi [7] asserted that Islamic leadership is to lead achieve and compete to be ahead of others to seek the measure of Allah and success in this life and hereafter. Therefore, Kader [15] emphasizes that the focus of Islamic leadership is to promote good deeds in the name of Allah (SWT), the Muslim community, and mankind as a whole.

Therefore, it is clear that previous and contemporary Muslim scholars have similar perspectives on the meaning of “Islamic leadership” and its impactful toward societal development. In fact, their statements are complemented, although they come from different centuries while maintaining the fundamental, preserving maqasid syari‘ah, promoting goodness, and forbidding evils which are basic values of humanity that must be attended by leaders. In other words, this concept reflects that the Islamic notions of tajdῑd (renewal) and islāh (reform) are basic goals for Muslim leaders to attain [16]. The leaders who promote these two concepts are the people who occupy themselves in the things conducive to goods, not the things conducive to evil or bad in the light of Islamic essences. Upon these notions, Malik, Safarudin, and Mat [17] acclaimed that putting the best leaders to lead the country will justify Islamic leadership attributes in places.


3. Values of humanity in the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the best role model in all aspects of life, including leadership. His leadership ability had a great impact on Meccan people both before and during his appointment as the Messenger of Allah (SWT). Prophet Muhammad’s leadership received extensive acknowledgment from many researchers mainly the West despite they have different views on his personality [9]. For instance, Hart [18] in his book “The 100: A ranking of most influential persons in history” listed the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the top place in the 100 influential leaders throughout human history.

Prophet Muhammad’s leadership style can be referred to the Al-Qur’an and hadith. From these two main sources, there are three principles that form the leadership framework of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): the element of Tauhid, the element of ibadah (obedience to the Shariah or the law of Allah), and the element of akhlaq (the personality of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on a daily basis). It is believed that the goal of leadership highlighted by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) either before he was appointed as the Messenger of God or after is only to elevate the human’s dignity to deify Allah (SWT) by obeying the shariah as enshrined in the Qur’an and hadith thus make the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as an example to follow. Each of these elements is explained by Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an through verse 70 of surah al-Isra’, verse 4 of surah al-Tīn, and verse 52 of surah al-Zāriyyāt. It can be concluded that these three principles show that the value of humanity is the main focus in the Prophet Muhammad’s leadership style. This leadership style is the key to get true happiness for human beings in this world and the hereafter.

Discussing this matter further, Abbasi et al. [19] explained value and accountability that created by the creation of man are two basic things that are emphasized by Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an many hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In surah al-Isra’, verse 13 and 14 says.

We have bound every human’s destiny to their neck.1 And on the Day of Judgment, We will bring forth to each “person” a record which they will find laid open (13). And it will be said, “Read your record. You ˹alone˺ are sufficient this Day to take account of yourself.”

Meanwhile, the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Ibn Umar said, he heard from Nabi Muhammad (peace be upon him) who says:

“Everyone of you is a guardian and answerable with regard to his trus’” (al-Bukhari: 212).

Syahansyah [20] highlights four values of humanity that can be learned from the character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) thus shaping his leadership style. First, the peaceful agreement between races and tribes is the backbone of the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Medina which he was refusing to continue the tradition of ignorant practices that are fond for fighting or war. Explaining this matter further, verse 107 in surah al-Anbiya emphasizes as “We did not send you, O Muhammad except as a mercy for all the worlds” is a special declaration from Allah (SWT) to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is responsible to ensure prosperity and mercy to all creatures created by Allah (SWT).

Elaborating further the definition of “rahmatan lil-‘ālamīn” generally means loving and caring. Ar-Raghib al-Ashfahani (d. 502H) described the word al-rahmah as al-riqqah (gentleness) or al-ihsān (virtue) or al-khayr (goodness) and al-ni’mah (enjoyment). Therefore, Syahansyah [20] explained this word is musytarak, which is an indication to use the meaning of the word that tied or determined with something else after it.

In addition, al-Imam Ibn Jawziy gave 16 literal meanings to describe the meaning of mercy based on the al-Quran [21]. The 16 meanings are (1) heaven, (2) Islam, (3) faith, (4) prophethood, (5) the Quran, (6) rain (al-matar), (7) sustenance, (8) pleasure, (9) health (afiya), (10) bestowal (al-minnah), (11) delicacy (al-riqqah), (12) forgiveness (al-maghfirah), (13) vastness (al-si’ ah), (14) love (al-mawaddah), (15) maintenance (al-'ismah), and (16) light (al-shams). So in general, most of the meanings expressed by Ibn al-Jawzi describe the nature of love and mercy brought by Allah and His Messenger in this worldly life until the day of judgment (akhirah). Therefore, it is very clear that the value of humanity through peace and avoiding conflict in leadership is very important to every Muslim leaders as has been shown by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Secondly, Islam consistently prohibits the killing of any individual. This stance is a value that must be considered in leadership while realizing any leader holds the power to start a war or can give an order to take anyone’s soul without clear justification. The consequence of killing any individual and its prohibition was reminded by Allah (SWT) in surah al-Maidah verse 32 which means:

“That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity. ˹Although˺ Our messengers already came to them with clear proofs, many of them still transgressed afterwards through the land.”

The above-mentioned verse clearly forbids one person to kill another individual. Not only that, taking away (killing) the life of human beings, is considered the same as killing humanity as a whole. Islam never teaches to kill anybody and never made emotional be a justification or motive in any action. Killing here means taking the one’s right to live. While living in the world is necessary to be accountable to Allah (SWT). Peace in Islam becomes something that cannot be negotiated with anything else. Even so, war is allowed to take place if to obtain peace and to defend the right of territorial sovereignty by fulfilling the conditions as prescribed in the Al-Quran and hadith.

Preserving life is one of the five objectives of al-maqāsid al-syar‘iyyah. Imam al-Syatibi explained that the preservation of life or hifz al-nafs is the second most important thing that needs to be preserved after religion (hifz al-din) [22]. In line with that goal, Islam was revealed with the aim of elevating and preserving human values based on compassion and community [23]. It is understandable that the objective of preserving life has to do with the protection and implementation of the universal principle of human rights, namely the right to life (Al-Isra: 31–33). In another surah, the Qur’an also emphasizes the importance of providing protection to the weak and oppressed (Al-Balad: 12–16). Thus, it is very clear that the principle of preserving life also includes the following understanding; everyone has the right to life, has the right to live, and improve the standard of living, everyone also has the right to live in peace and well-being physically and mentally, and everyone has the right to feel safe and secure from the threat of violence and destruction. Arummi [23] concludes that all the aspects mentioned include the guarantee of safety of life, limbs, and also human dignity.

The third that become a pillar of values of humanity in the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is there is no compulsion in religion. Syahansyah [20] refers to the whole understanding of surah al-Kāfirūn verses 1 to 6 which is the basis of understanding there is no compulsion in religion and also social problems. Syahansyah explained that this surah is a proposition on no coercion in all matters related to individual life including in the question of governance of life affairs where each individual is given the freedom to choose what is best for himself.

According to Friedmann [24], no compulsion in religion in Islam is a trait of tolerance inherited since the early days of Islam. Although the people of Mecca and Madinah were not forced to choose Islam, but what happened was that a group of Muslims who believed in Allah (SWT) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were forced to leave Islam while in Mecca before the Hijrah. Such incidents happened on Bilal bin Rabah, Ammar bin Yasar, and several other companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and this shows that tolerance did not exist among the Quraish people in Mecca ([24], p. 103). Having said that, al-Qur’an is a proof of the implementation of tolerance without coercion in religion, thus the Sahīfah Madīnah treaty made by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) immediately after leading the city of Madinah proves that the Islamic leadership recognizes peaceful coexistence where indirectly rejects racism and preserving equality as well as guaranteeing the right to freedom of religious choice [25].

Sahīfah Madīnah signed in 622 AD between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the leaders of the Arab tribes in Medina was considered to be the earliest document of statehood in the history of human civilization [25]. In addition, the agreement reached in the Sahīfah Madīnah is also recognized as a guiding model of coexistence in the diversity of society’s different races and cultures in this modern era [26]. The Sahīfah of Madīnah has 47 articles, and the following are the things that need to be agreed upon while respecting the principle of no religious compulsion:

  1. brotherhood treaty between the Muhajirin (those who migrated to Madinah from Mecca) and the Ansar (the people of Madinah);

  2. the safety of non-Muslims living in Muslim neighborhoods in Medina;

  3. a public declaration that Medina was a Muslim territory;

  4. acknowledging the Quran and Hadith are the two main sources in Islam;

  5. Prophet Muhammad is the head of state;

  6. Cooperation of all Muslim or non-Muslim residents to defend Madinah from enemy attacks.

It is very clear that the leadership style led by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has the highest interest of values in humanity. With the Sahīfah of Madīnah as an example, it shows that the Muslim population must respect and treat the non-Muslims with good consideration and generosity. In a situation where the non-Muslims does not do any harm or become a threat to the Muslim population, then tolerance should be shown. This matter is explained by Allah (SWT) in surah Al-Mumtahanah, verse 8:

Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair.

Fourth, the value of humanity that can be emulated from the personality of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is from the command to call to Islam (da’wah) with three basic principles: wisdom, good advice, and debating or discussing politely and kindly. These three basic principles are based on verse 125 of surah al-Nahl:

“Invite ˹all˺ to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord ˹alone˺ knows best who has strayed from His Way and who is ˹rightly˺ guided.”

Da’wah aims to invite people to obey Allah (SWT) in accordance with the Qur’anic mission as mentioned in surah al-Zāriyyāt verse 56. This verse emphasizes that the duty and responsibility of human beings are to serve Allah by following all His commands and abandoning all His prohibitions. Therefore, the implementation of da’wah which is the task inherited from all prophets must be used methods or approaches that are appropriate to the target group so that it does not become a slander to religion. This is important in ensuring the effectiveness of da’wah and its development continues effectively. The importance of proper approaches and methods in doing da’wah is due to the nature of Islamic da’wah assured human life by ensuring eternal goodness in the hereafter [27].

Da’wah is one of the noblest acts that entail a high reward. Da’wah is one of the means to propagate Islam to others. This is unanimously agreed in Islam and the Qur’an itself which absolutely go against compulsion in religion. People need to be convinced the truth that Islam brings to mankind. According to Račius [28], the word “da‘wah” in the Qur’ān has three primary meanings, namely (1) worshiping God or idols, 2) addressing, asking, and calling (God, idols, and people), and (3) inviting to religion (Islam or other). The first two meanings of “da‘wah,” worshiping and calling, are frequent in the Qur’ān, for example, in 2:186, 3:38, 6:40, 11:22, 11:106, 19:48, 19:91, 22:12, 72:18, and others. Meanwhile in the last meaning, the Qur’ān urged the Prophet Muḥammad to appeal to pagan Arabs and (occasionally) Jews and Christians, for example, in 12:108, 13:36, 16:125, 23:73, 40:10, 41:33, and 70:17.

Ismatullah [29] explains the method of da’wah from verse 125 of surah al-Nahl where Hamka states that this verse is a basic guide to the prophets in conveying the message of Islam so that people have straight path toward Allah (SWT). The word wisdom in this verse carries various interpretations among scholars. For example, commentators such as Imam Fakhrul al-Radzi explained the word al-Hikmah in the verse is the basic approach in inviting people to do goodness effectively. It should be based on the revelation of the Qur’an and refer to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and it must be based on true religious understanding in ensuring that the target group understands the essence of what is to be conveyed [30]. Meanwhile, Wahbah al-Zuhailiy thinks that the wisdom (al-Hikmah) in the verse has been bestowed on a chosen and pious servant such as Luqman al-Hakim, as a great gift from Allah (SWT). This attribute was given to justify the deep understanding and intelligence level anyone had in considering the best decision to make ([31], p. 2024). Furthermore, wisdom can also be referred as a noble attribute that describes activity of da’wah. Thus, the wisdom in da’wah includes any behavior and manners, speech, community service, and leadership [32]. So it is clear here that the element of wisdom is important in the management of humanity which is not limited to religious questions but also covers the welfare of society.

The second element in the same verse is mau‘izah al-hasanah or a good advice. In conveying the message of da’wah through the method of good advice is important. This is because human beings have soft heart and instinct; hence, good speech and advice are more easily to be accepted than hurtful messages and feelings [33]. In this regard, Hamka in his tafsir Tafsir al-Azhar explains that the element of good advices should start from the home where education and teaching from parents in the home have a direct impact on da’wah activities outside the house and on the various target of da’wah [29].

In addition, there are many examples of good advice used by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in conveying the message of Islam in Mecca and Madinah. Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah [34] explained that the method of giving good advice shown by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has a positive effect where the noble values are successfully normalized among his companions and family members and then show that his leadership style has high human values [17]. In the meantime, Mohamad et al. also listed the important elements that must be present in conveying good advice, namely gradual delivery, contextual, be exemplary, repetitive methods, direct communication, metaphorical methods, and stories ([17], pp. 7–15). For example, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke about something, he would repeat the matter three times so that those who heard the matter could understand it well, as narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari, meaning:

“From Anas bin Malik, and Prophet (peace be upon him) says; verily whenever Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke, he will repeat it three times so that people can understand” (no.94, Sahih al-Bukhari).

Having good discussions or giving good arguments has an intrinsic human value that defines the relationship with leadership style. It is worth to note from the mentioned verse, Don [33] through Fu’ad Ifram al-Bustani explains the meaning of “mujadalah” is a method of debate with politeness and proficient in the issues discussed where the purpose is only to reveal the truth. Zin [35] emphasizes that the arguments must be reasonable, appealing to reason and refrain from indulging in polemics, sophistry, and controversy. Elaborating further on this, he points out that “one should adopt a comprehensive method to convince the addressee which includes: arguments and appeal to his feeling; condemnation of evils and deviations as well as repugnance to all that lies embedded in the human nature, warning of the consequence of evil; soundness of argument, excellence of guidance and righteous deed.” Another point mentioned is that “admonition should be administered in such a manner as to show sincere concern for the welfare of the addressee.”

The goal of having a good debate for truth is also recorded in surah al-Ankabut verse 46 which means:

“Do not argue with the People of the Book unless gracefully, except with those of them who act wrongfully. And say, “We believe in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to you. Our God and your God is ˹only˺ One. And to Him we ˹fully˺ submit.”

And from surah al-Fussilat verse 34:

“Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond ˹to evil˺ with what is best, then the one you are in a feud with will be like a close friend.”

Based on above three keywords – wisdom, good advice, and good argument - the priority is to bring rational dialog and discussion with all parties. Thus, it is important for a leader to have these skills to debate or discuss with facts and evidences in revealing the truth so that none is persecuted at the end of discussion. Abdullah Nasih Ulwan [36] stressed that it is important for the preacher (da’wah activist) owned two strengths in debating or arguing which can help them to convey the true message and then be accepted with an open heart. The two strengths are satisfactory strength (quwwah al-iqnaiyyah) and factual strength (quwwah al-hujjah). In Syed Qutb’s view, these two strengths belong only to the prophets and some of the da’wah scholars and activists only because the mission is to elevate the rank of da’i and quality them to the degree of al-‘azīm [33].

Based on the discussion through the descriptive method of literature review, it can be understood that the leadership style of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when in Mecca and Madinah has signified the values of humanity as requirements to meet the basic human nature as the best creation (Al-Quran, Al-Tīn: 4). So many explanations are shown in the Qur’an and the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding the value of humanity which is the cornerstone in leading people toward goodness and abandoning evil for the sake of eternal prosperity in the hereafter.

Even so, the world today faces leadership problems that stem from a misunderstanding of evaluating the human aspect in human beings. The next discussion will discuss some of the current problems that stem from leadership styles that do not give priority to the humanitarian aspect. Failure to prioritize human values in leadership has the potential to jeopardize the development of the global society and further destroy the civilization of a country.


4. Crisis of human values in today’s leadership

The exemplary leadership inherited by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is to strengthen the practice of Islamic teachings that elevate the human dignity in this world and in the hereafter. It is appropriate to Muslim leaders today to pay attention to the advancement of society by values-based development. This is because the value of humanity that already exists in each individual, without limiting on one’s background of race, religion, culture, and language, is the key to the successful development of civilization as well as a state.

Francis Fukuyama in his book The Great Disruption explains that the strength of civilization and the development of a country depend on the paradigm shift of human values (humanity) on the changes that are happening globally in various sectors such as economic, social, information, and political leadership structure. Assessing these factors, he asserts that social law and universally shared moral values do not lie in individual choice; instead, it also depends on the social system and the strength of the leadership structure ([37], p. 85). Therefore, he also thinks that the value of humanity in an uncertain global environment will be determined by the political factors of power compared to the values that exist in religion ([37], p. 126).

For example, “trust” is the most important value that binds togetherness between civil society and leaders or administrators within the national structure as well as public and private organizations. Yet, the world today faces a crisis of trust at all levels of organizational and national leadership. A report from the Edelman Trust Barometer shows from 2016 to 2020, four sectors: governments, business organizations, NGOs, and the media, which are facing a crisis of public confidence despite the growing global economic sector. In addition, the same report also states that clerics are in the same group as politicians and businessmen, who have the lowest “believe” scores compared to the media and NGO activists. This crisis of trust stems from the public view that these three groups are not convinced that they are able to solve the problems they face, including managing the country out of the global crisis. Although most studies state that the ability to manage the economy is the biggest factor influencing public trust, the ability to lead by focusing on the well-being of human values also contributes to increased levels of trust in leaders. If this matter is not given priority, then slowly the value of humanity will erode from the compass of leadership and will eventually collapse the social system as a whole [38].

Corruption has had a major contribution to the collapse of human values in the current leadership setting. The worse of corruption can bring down a strong civilization, and rebuilding a destroyed civilization needs time. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 report states that since January 2020, the global has not only faced a health and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also faced a protracted corruption crisis. According to CPI 2021 spokesperson Delia Ferreira Rubio, “the crime of corruption is the only problem unsuccessfully solved by most countries compared to health problems.” Apart from that, the failure to manage the crime of corruption is because there is no precise definition to describe the meaning of “corruption” [39]. On that basis, some of the corruption cases that occur involve the top leadership of a country. This means that the human values glorified by Allah (SWT) are not respected by leaders, thus willingly involve in corruption. On that basis, to stop one from involving corruption needs a proper planning. For example, in Indonesia, coworkers and leaders are the main factors that contribute to a person engaging in corruption and at the same time these two groups are also the main indicators in ensuring that corrupt practices do not occur [40].

Generally, researcher views corruption is a domestic crime in any country. It is a local cultural phenomenon that depends on the level of understanding and cultural values of the society [41]. Thus, in modern perspective, a person who is not involved in corruption is not able to justify another person who is involved in a crime of corruption because he or she has different values of belief and point of view. However, in the Islamic point of view, corruption is a major crime that can damage the whole system and structure of a prosperous society, thus demean human dignity [42]. Human dignity held high position in Islam and has direct connection to leadership. Azra [43] explains that Islam places great emphasis on the concept of akhlāq al-karīmah or moral par excellence. In this regard, Islam strongly opposes all types of activities that violate the values of human dignity such as corruption, theft, and robbery which can result injustice to others.

Of equal importance, abuse of power is also a problem in today’s leadership. Many reports state that world leaders from both the Western and the Islamic world are involved in abuses of power. Noam Chomsky in his book Failed State states that a leader who fails to preserve his citizens from violence and destruction can be considered a failed state ([44], p. xi). Not only that, for the leader of a country who abuses his power and commits violence or brings harm to another country, is also categorized as a failed country. This is because, every life has the right to live in peace and prosperity as enshrined in the declaration of human rights (UNDHR). Therefore, the power in the hands of leaders should be used in preserving universal human values and rights as prescribed by law (international and local). Take the example from Muslim world where many were associated with the act of abuse of power in their leadership. In fact, abuse of power has originated from a misinterpretation of religion and leadership concepts that Willy, Karwur, and Karouw [45] found as a major cause to violent extremism and terrorism that happened in Iraq and Pakistan.

Having said that, abuse of power can occur anywhere including at the highest levels of the nation and also in the workplace in small organizations. Based on 20 years of study, Dacher Keltner [46] stated that the workplace or company/organization is the easiest place for abuse of power to occur without being noticed by the individual involved. This is because, within an organization, a person has the authority or can be empowered due to promotion or change of department based on the job performance. Yet, having such power has slowly made him or her irritable, unethical, and selfish which eventually at last engages in abuse of power. To Dacher Keltner, this situation is called “the power paradox” and it is just as dangerous as the country’s leaders abusing power for personal gain. In other words, the abuse of power can erode the value of humanity in oneself and fail to respect the value of humanity in others. On that basis, one good example made by Manuela Priesemuth as she launched the “Time’s up for toxic workplace” campaign and accordingly this campaign was expanded to the election of national leaders who openly abused power to the public.

Concurrent to these crises in today’s leadership that obstructed the development of global society, at times Muslim population is expected to rise to 2.2 billion by 2030, Shadi Hamid [47] argues Islam and Muslim readiness in reshaping the world outside the Arab world play a major role in governance, law, and politics. He further emphasizes the exceptionalism of Islam in the leadership manifestation that can be played by Muslim leaders in a value-neutral sense in response to twentieth- and twenty-first-century challenges. Such notion has firstly been analyzed by Sardar’s Islamic Futures: The Shape of Ideas to Come as the future is controllable and common societal desires and goals have influenced in shaping future Islamic resurgence and realization [48]. Realizing that, Hasan [49] reminds that the ummah is in dire need a new breed of leaders who committed to lead Muslim societies and nations out of valley of despair and indignity to a better future civilization of Islam. Inspired by the Prophetic model of leadership, the future leaders that Muslim must produce shall embed the following characters: high moral integrity, taqwā, and deep spiritual and moral awareness (ihsān) of Divine omnipresence and omniscience. In fact, Rafiki [50] had done great work by simplifying 56 leadership attributes from Quranic verses that celebrate the value of humanity. These can be a future consideration in determining Islamic leadership approaches toward humane leadership framework.


5. Conclusion

The concept of Islamic leadership is built on principles and concerns for human values. From the discussion of the literature, it shows that Islamic leadership is blended with human development in an integrated manner with an emphasis on four values that can be emulated from the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The elements of humanity found in the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are peace between communities, recognizing the right to life and prohibiting murder, no coercion in religion and social problems, and the practice of da’wah calling to good and forbidding evil.

Nonetheless, today’s leadership is seen not to adhere in elevating the dignity of human values in their leadership style. The problems of corruption, abuse of power, and deficits of trust in leaders both at the national and organizational levels are becoming a global trend today [51]. The involvement of key national leaders in corruption and misuse of power for personal gain has slowly resulted in the country’s development being disrupted and had bad impact on the well-being of civil society. Therefore, the Muslim community firmly rejects leadership that ignores and debunks the basics of human values as highlighted by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) where such examples can be referred in the Qur’an and hadith.

To sum up, it can be concluded that the future of balanced society lies on a leadership style based on human values which are embodied in the basic principles as outlined by Islam. This is not optional to Muslim leaders except agreeing to practice Islamic leadership within these frameworks and making them a policy in the administrative and leadership approach. With that application of human values, it would definitely elevate “human leadership” as a new approach of human development in a comprehensive and holistic manner now rather to wait in the future.


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Written By

Mohd Faridh Hafez Mhd Omar

Submitted: 29 January 2022 Reviewed: 15 February 2022 Published: 08 April 2022