Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Teamwork and Leadership in Islam

It is well known that, since the beginning of time, man is unable to live in isolation. We Muslims believe, even with all the beauties in Heaven, Adam (peace be upon him) was made a wife – Hawa’ (Eve) – for the sake of companionship – and this marked the formation of the first team on earth.

In Islam there are so many successful examples and stories on teamwork and leadership. The father-son relationship of Ibrahim and
Ismail building the Ka’bah, Dangerous migration of the handful of Muslims to Abyssinia, joint leadership of Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) etc.  Working together has always been important in Islam and it falls upon all believers to honor this responsibility and hold on to the rope of God together.

Noble Quran says, hold firmly all together the rope which Allah SWT had stretched out for you and be not divided among yourselves. (Al-Imran 3:103). It shows the guidance was given and a lot of good can come out of hanging on together and helping each other out in times of difficulties.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also stern about Muslims working together as a team. In a beautiful hadith, he once said: “Faithful believers are to each other as the bricks of a wall, supporting and reinforcing each other. So saying, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) held his hands by interlocking his fingers.” (Al-Bukhari)
The interlocking device of our tiny limbs of our fingers represents how close people can be to each other, without breaking apart, and how much stronger they can be, without allowing anything to fall through.

Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There is no Islam without Jama'a (team) and there is no existence of Jama'a without leadership and there is no leadership without submission” (Reported by ad-Darimi in his Sunan). This is a very important hadith that highlights the whole concept of teamwork and its necessity in a nutshell.
The Hadith also emphasizes the need of an Ameer (someone who would lead the group). Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that “if there are three of you appoint one of you as the head” Showing that even the smallest group has to have a leader.
Islam has always looked highly upon leadership as the “head” of teamwork, reminding Muslims to select the best of leaders according to creed and leadership qualities and also to be good followers of such a leader. 
Leadership in Islam is a trust (Amanah). It represents a psychological contract between a leader and his followers that he will try his best to guide them, to protect them and to treat them fairly and with justice. Overall, the focus of leadership in Islam is on doing good.
Being a good follower does not mean to follow blindly at every whim and fancy, but to be honored as part of a team and to play the important role in implementing policies, strategies and, in general, being an honored and dignified member of the community or work environment. It is also important to endorse what is good and avoid what is evil.
Appraising leaders is also allowed, contrary to popular belief, as long as it’s also done in a dignified manner. In every leader there is only a human being, who in himself has his own flaws and fears, and is as human as anyone else, no matter how intelligent he is.
Consequently, a good follower is also someone who can help commandeer the leadership when he or she sees something amidst. This can be done without insults and violence, unless the leadership turns into stern oppression.
This is where the Shura steps in. The Shura (consultation) is one of the Islamic principles of leadership. A leader, in a Shura situation, would be unable to reign freely and make decisions based on personal interest, as the Shura becomes his main consultative panel, comprising of learned men and representatives of all walks of life of the community and to help make daily decisions as a team. This way, disputes in society/workplace can be quickly elevated to the Shura in order to ensure that all persons are well taken care of and decisions again, are not made on solely one person.
It is well known that Prophet Muhammad used to consult his closest companions and also his wives in times of uncertainty and he himself had his own Shura during his time. Even though molded by the Quran, the Prophet still needed help from peers to ensure he was reaching out to the masses.
The binding of team work in a Shura is essentially check and balance. Everyone plays a role for the betterment and leadership is essentially a responsibility, not a luxury, as seen in many occasions today. The Shura is there to help keep the leader on the right path and in between them too – to keep on the same route. Since the strength of Islam really rests on the brotherhood, a reliable Shura will help all fall into the right place.
Everyone should play an integrative role to help to achieve targets, reach the highest and contribute to the nation as a whole. Working in teams and effective leadership is a crucial need for this and will hope the best for the coming year Insha Allah.

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- Sharmila :)

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