The successful career of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a political leader, aside from his primary role as a spiritual guide, is yet to receive widespread attention from religious leaders, let alone the general public. In conjunction with the current political atmosphere and the impending 14th General Election, this article will highlight several key characteristics of the politics in Islam based on the syariah.
Politics is not just a matter of governing, but also a vital tool for education, spiritual, awareness, human understanding and the dissemination of values and principles.
Islam teaches us to achieve this through various peaceful means, including through sincere advice, providing role models, rational persuasion, exemplary leadership, and others.
Politics in Islam aims to guide people towards good and abstain from evil. Integrity, honesty, and trust are key Islamic values that also apply to politics. These values are underpinned by the firm
conviction that the ultimate reward lies not in this world, but in the hereafter and admission to paradise.
These are among the ethical principles of taught and practised by Prophet Muhammad. Another exemplary leadership trait of his, as the leader of the city state of Madinah, includes open consultation (shura), where different views and constructive criticisms are welcomed, and input from the Companions were taken into consideration, and sometimes acted upon.
The Prophet also practised delegation of power. This can be seen in the appointment of Muaz bin Jabal as a governor to Yemen.
This was done to the extent that the Prophet allowed Muaz to practise his independent reasoning (ijtihad) in matters on which no clear text was found in the Quran and Sunnah.
The Prophet’s leadership also emphasises persuasion as opposed to coercion. Winning the people’s hearts has always been the Prophet’s primary approach.
It is through his high spirit, inspiring leadership, a keen understanding of societal reality, and humanitarian values that the Prophet successfully transformed his people from the state of ignorance (jahiliyyah) and idol-worshipping, to worshipping Allah, the one and only Creator.
Aside from transforming his society, the Prophet was also known to engage with major personalities and train them into new generations of future leaders.
Notable instances included the second caliph, Umar Khattab, a once famous drunkard and a fierce opponent of Islam, who became one of the bravest companions in the history of the Khulafa al-Rashidin, and the first Muslim leader to vastly expand the Islamic territories.
Gaining power has not always been the Prophet’s goal. The ultimate objective of leadership lies in his message to invite humans to the ways of Islam. The Prophet was not hostile to non-Muslims, but invited them in a peaceful and felicitous manner. In a famous narration, the Prophet said: “The best among you are those who have the best manner and character.” (Bukhari)
If however, they refused to do accept Islam peacefully, they were will then be protected by the state under the “zimmi” agreement.
The zimmi agreement was in fact ahead of its time in the era of tribal warfare, and far from intending to treat non-Muslims as second-class citizens.
The so-called Machiavellian attitude of “the end justifies the means” is not at all compatible with Islam and must be vigorously opposed and discouraged. Islamic principles dictate that both the means and the ends conform to the teachings of Islam. Mere imbuing of Islamic-sounding names or terminology in political activities do not make them Islamic.
Such instances of abuse include cases where religious vocabulary is used to mislead innocent and uninformed folks for political gain.
Also not in line with the Prophet’s teaching is the practice of uncovering or scrutinising the personal and private shortcomings of political rivals and disclose them in public to gain support.
This contradicts the Prophetic teaching of concealing the faults of others, so that Allah do the same for us in the hereafter.
This, however, does not include matters of public interest.
Aside from the many Prophetic principles and values above, the practice of tolerance and understanding are essential to preserve peace and harmony in a multicultural society.
The single pursuit to gain votes and acquire power, at any cost, is not only against the precepts of Islam and the way of the Prophet, but would only lead to chaos and abuse in society.
In conclusion, the four most
noble characters of Prophet Muhammad SAW (pbuh) were: trustworthiness (siddiq), integrity (amanah); communicative (tabligh), and intelligence (fathonah).
These are also the prime traits that leaders of political parties can emulate. Such characters have a high potential to bring about transparency, tolerance, cooperation and unity among the people.
All leaders should exemplify the positive values of the Prophet (pbuh), and fulfil their responsibility to serve the people, and not seek power for personal gains.
The writer, an associate professor, is Deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 27 April 2018