Who is The Ideal Leader in Islamic Perspective ?

By: Azhari Andi*

Islamic leadership is not only an actual theme, but it is also very important to discuss, because it involves the dynamics of Indonesian Muslims who have been experiencing such social mobility. This needs to discuss to give a correct understanding to the reader, especially for the Muslim about  the concept of leader and leadership in Islamic perspective, because the majority of population in Indonesian is Muslim.

Leader has two defenitions: in a broad sense and specific sense. In a broad sense, everyone is a leader, while, in a specific sense,  leader is a person who has power and position. The leader referred in this paper is a leader in the specific sense. When we are talking about leadership, there is a question that always come to our mind :who is the ideal leader? It because being a leader is the most urgent position in public life. He is a spearhead for the people. In Islam, the leader is a glorious position, and has a big responsibility in his hand to make baldatun tayyibatun wa rabbun gafur come true.

As we know that Qur’an as the primary source of Islam explains about the leader and his characteristics who has right to receive mandate of leadership. Who is the  ideal leader according to the Qu’ran? and what is the characteristics of  leader according to the Qur’an?

In the Qur’an, there are some words that indicate the meaning of  leader. They are khalifah, imam and waliy. First, the word “khalifah” comes from al-khalfu that has similar meaning with al-badlu means “to replace”. Accordingly, the word al-khalfu in QS. Al-Baqarah: 255 can be translated as “the rear”. In the same line, the word khalifah means a person who replaces someone’s position.

In relation to the word “khalifah”, according to Al-Rhagib al-Ashfahani “khalifah” means doing something in the name of person whose position is replaced. khalifah can be implemented because the person whose position is replaced replaced is gone, unable to condact his job or respects to him. “khalifah” also means a person who is empowered to manage  broad and limited territory (QS. Al-Shad: 26) with sufficient knowledge (QS. Al-Baqarah: 30).

Second, “Imam” in etymologically means a person who as a figure for society. Terminologically speaking, the term imam in the Qur’an is defined as person who leads people (QS. Al-Qashah: 5) and holds a responsibility on his shoulders to continue the mission of the Prophet in keeping religion and manage the affairs of the world (QS. Al-Baqarah: 124).

Third, “waliy” means supporting, close person, either because of consanguinity, equality principle, position, power and friendship. So it can be used for referreting to protective guardian and partner in achieving a goal. On this basis, the word “wali” in the Qur’an is defined as person who obeys   God’s rules, loves God and is close to Him. He also commands and forbids on the basic of orders and prohibitions of Allah. He believes in the hereafter.

In short, the concept of  leader in the Qur’an is a person who leads a group or community, in his hand the responsibility for managing, developing the people and continuing the mission of Prophet to keep religion with knowledge.

The Qur’an explains not only who the leader is, but also characters of an ideal leader to be given the mandate of leadership. It is very important to know, because the leader is not a trivial matter. Therefore, the mandate of leadership must be given to the right person. At least , The Person who deserves to be given the trust of leadership according to the Qur’an have the following criteria of morality.

First, fairness /al-‘adl (QS. An-Nahl: 90). A leader must be able to have this attitude, for the fairness as constitutes the backbone for him to run the government. In addition, the fairness can create obedience from subordinates and will bring to unity and people will live in prosperity and away from social inequality.

Second, honesty (al-s}idq) (QS. Al-Ahzab: 70-71). The Honesty must be embedded within the leader, because all of his acts in government, he is required to be honest. Without honesty, the leader will bring destruction to a nation, whether it be an injustice, abuse of power, even more it can undermine the nation itself. Therefore, leader must have honesty.

Third, trustworthiness (al-amanah) (QS. Al-Ahzab: 72). Leader should be someone who is trusted by the people. How could a leader can govern without the trust of his people? Surely, this will bring to instability in social and divisions in the community or  other bad consequences. Instead, ama>nah in leader’s personality would take him to always preserve the rights of the people.

Fourth, Fulfilling  promises or commitment (al-wafa) (QS. An-Nahl: 91-92). The character of a leader who is loved by the people is the person who can keep promises. In contrast, leader who breaks the promises is a hated leader. An uncommitted leader will loss public trust, they will against him,  and also will bring  to the destruction of community. If leader has conduct the attitude to keep promises, it will create public trust in running the government and will achieve unity and nation.

Fifth, having knowledge (al-‘ilm wa al-‘aql) (QS. Al-‘Alaq: 1-5). Mukti Ali said that the leader was identical to scholar and person who has moral integrity, because knowladge is a medium to determine the real problem and how to solve it. The leader who has sufficient knowladge is also able to  choose the good one from the bad.

Sixth, having courage (syaja‘ah) (QS. Ali Imran: 172-174). The courage is needed by a leader, such as facing the possibility of an enemy attack. In addition, a brave leader will embed authority on himself and makes the people respect him. It is needed, because leader has to deal with many issues that require courage to take an action or decision.

Seventh, managerial capability (al-khibrah al-siyasah wa al-idariyyah) (QS. Taha: 29-32). Managerial skills are things that must be in leader’s personality. This capability is needed, especially in managing the government.

In addition to the requirement that mentioned above, a leader must also have strength (al-quwwah), affection (al-rahmah), kindness, and the ability to motivate his people.

In relation to the explanation above, Haedar Nasir said that the leader according to Islam is to be a figure who has a capacity of knowledge/ Ulama’ (intelectual), manager (organizational), creators of public opinion and other ideal factors. Ulama’ is not only identified with intelectual, but also the integrity of the attitude “uswah hasanah”. if the ulama’ is identical with the thinkers only, it means we do not need  a prophet, as what Prof. Dr. H.A. Mukti Ali said. It means that the leaders are not only required to have broad intellectual, but also required to have the integrity or morality and be a figur for society.

On the above basis, it can be concluded that the concept of an ideal leader according to Islamic perspective is not only a person who have brilliant brain to lead the society, but also a good morality to be a figure for society.  Both this requirements should be in leader’s personality. If the leader has them, so he will be able to make baldatun tayyibatun wa rabbun ghafuur come true.

*The writer is member of CSSMoRA UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta periode 2013 Interpretation and Al-Qur’an direction.

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