Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah once said: it’s is better for people to endure under a tyrant for 100 years than it is for them to go one night without a leader.
The general rule regarding leadership is that without it, one can only expect chaos and disharmony. Religious leadership in Islam is a necessity mandated by divine law; (daroorah shar’iyyah) and something that Muslim people, wherever they may reside, should never be without.
There is no such thing as a perfect leader; some are better than others. Leaders and followers both learn through the experience if they are fortunate. Leaders are people and as per their nature, people change from state to state. Ignorant leaders can learn or receive advice, weak leaders can find strength, arrogant leaders can learn humility, unjust leaders can become just, and inexperienced leaders can become wise with time. Of course the opposite can be true with respect to all of the above.
The truth is, no one really knows in advance just how well a leader will perform in discharging his duties. Leaders die, and are succeeded by another and in some cases, leaders are voted in and out of office. Some leaders are removed for various reasons and replaced by someone else who may be better or worse than the previous one, and there are leaders, that have been forcibly deposed, overthrown, or assassinated.
A leader can inspire you as well as cause you to lose heart. Oftentimes there are layers of leadership so if there is a void, someone can step up from behind and serve in his stead. Throughout Muslim history, there have been numerous types of leaders at different times, for different Muslim peoples, and each had their own set of responsibilities, sphere of authority, function and challenges. There have been Imams, Amirs, Sultans, Haakims, Kings, Prime Minters, , Viceroys, Shahs, Sheikhs, Generals and revivalists who have all been leaders for Muslims one way or another.
There are leaders who guide people to the truth, and there are those who lead people astray.
There are great leaders, and there are dismal ones.
The underlying premise behind leadership in Islam is that someone has taken responsibility for the affairs (umoor) of the believers. Even when the Muslims were a minority, the Prophet ﷺ never allowed that people would be dispatched without a leader. When the Muslims made the first hijra (migration) to Abyssinia, the Prophet ﷺ appointed Ja’far ibn Abi Taalib as Amir. When he would send detachments in campaigns and expedition, he never did so without appointing a leader from amongst them.
The highest form of leadership in Islam after prophethood itself, is the Khalifa , and the most basic form of religious leadership is the Imam of the home and congregational prayer. Much can be said about leaders and what is ideal and desirable with respect to them, and the Quran, the sunna, as well as the books of fiqh and usool are replete with information and guidelines on the topic. However, being leaderless in Islam is simply unthinkable. Many Muslim communities are trending towards a leaderless existence.
Another trend is for communities to have administrative leadership without any direct spiritual leadership. The fact that to be leaderless is a condition that many of us have become accustomed to does not mitigate its negative consequences. May Allah guide. …
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
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