Leadership is a basic requirement in every human society. Without leadership, chaos and disorder rather than law and order, would be the norm. Every social human group, however small or large, is bound to lose direction and purpose if it lacks leaders. Unity of purpose, peace and progress altogether constitute the ultimate which leadership is designed to achieve. However, this ultimate is not just about leadership or leaders; it is about having good leaders in leadership positions.
Islam defines leadership in the light of every position of responsibility; cutting across all levels of social human interaction. A leader in every social human group, whether in our public or private life is, according to authentic prophetic traditions, a ‘shepherd’ and will be asked about his ‘flock’, which comprises of his followership. Abdullahi Bn Mas‘ud, Radiya-llahu Anhu (RA), reports that the Prophet, Salla-llahu Alayhi Wasallam (SAW) said, “Each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you will be asked about your flock”.
For leaders to be effective in their leadership responsibilities, Islam provides basic principles that are clearly illustrated by the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) and the four rightly guided Caliphs. Compliance to these principles of responsible leadership would rightly guide the human society in the management of its political, social, economic, religious and all other affairs that pertain to healthy relationship between man and his creator as well as between man and fellow creatures.
Leadership must be seen as a public trust, which must not be betrayed. Every leader is accountable for such a trust; first to the Creator of heavens and earth, and thereafter to fellow men and women who gave him the mandate (either through a selection process or by appointment) to lead them. While he is accountable to Allah for his personal conduct, he is on the other hand responsible to his people who have put their trust in him. It is based on this sense of responsibility that the First Khalifah in Islam, Abubakar As-Sadiq (RA) said, “Certainly, I consider the most powerful among you as weak until I’m able to take from him that which does not lawfully belong to him; and I see the weak among you as the most powerful until I’m able to protect (and provide for) his rights to the fullest” Sadly, some leaders nowadays find pleasure in deliberately taking ownership of what lawfully belong to others, sometimes with impunity, as if such were their legitimate earnings.
A responsible leader must ensure that lawful citizens are duly protected and catered for. He also has a duty to ensure that the law is allowed to take its course on wayward individuals or groups. However, beyond all the virtuous qualities expected of a responsible leader is one most important principle that is central to leadership. It is called justice. Allah instructs in Qur’an 4:58 “Allah commands you to render back your trusts to those whom they are due, and when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice” Any outright deviation from these basic principles of leadership, especially in the administration of justice, aberration that may lead to insecurity is bound to set in. Most often, insecurity starts with simple forms of social evils, which degenerate thereafter into violent and complex forms of evils.
In Islam, the foremost responsibility of leaders is to administer justice and provide protection for all citizens in accordance with the provisions of the Qur’an, regardless of faith, colour or race. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 5:9 “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witness to fair dealing…” Although the Glorious Qur’an is the primary constitution that should guide the entire life of man, Allah (SWT) enjoins leaders to handle the common affairs of their people through consultations. Allah (SWT) mentions this in Qur’an 3: 159 “… and ask for (Allah)’s forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs…” Regrettably, some leaders at various levels of governance today do not think it is important to listen to those who gave them the mandate to lead especially when it concerns matters that affect the common interest of their followers.
To say that we are on trial as a country isn’t an overstatement. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 30: 41 “Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the mead) that the hands of men have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back (from evil)” As responsible followers, citizens also have their pertinent role to play in the search for solutions to our current set of predicaments in Nigeria. Whether as a leader or as a follower, everyone must look inwards with a view to re-inventing ourselves. Let us sincerely confess and renounce our wrongdoings including the injustices between ourselves. There is need for us all to renew and strengthen the bond between us and our Creator so that He, the Irresistible, would redeem our country from all the trials confronting us as a country, as a state, as a local government, as a community, as a clan, as a family and as an individual.
Leaders must ensure that justice prevails and is administered fairly without discrimination. Criminals and law breakers must be seen to be punished according to provisions of the law; to deter potential offenders. The failure to bring criminals to book is partly responsible for the unceasing perpetration of evils and crimes on the land. As an institution, government needs to rise to the occasion and live up to its constitutional responsibilities. Section 14(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states categorically that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
May Allah (SWT) guide us to protect, preserve, uphold and defend the responsibilities placed on our shoulders as leaders or followers, amin.