Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a human being who was chosen by God to deliver His final message to mankind. As Islam is not merely a religious faith that governs only the relation between man and God, but rather a complete way of life that seeks to regulate all aspects of human life, the Prophet’s role gave him the leadership of the Muslim community in every respect. He was the religious, social, military, and political leader of all Muslims.

In other words, he combined both religious and secular leadership. In doing so, he set the regulation of people’s affairs at a new level, making clear that appropriate religious and moral values must govern all aspects of life.

Today, most people throughout the world suggest that religion should not interfere with politics or economics, or even social relations. When we look at what this means in practice we find that people accept that politicians lie, misrepresent facts and try to deceive others and their own population. Even in the most liberal democracies, people accept much of this as normal. The scandal of members’ expenses in the British Parliament is a clear example that self-interest is an acceptable justification for unethical behavior.

The Prophet laid the foundation of a system of management that showed great insight and looked at the interests of the community and ensured that friendly relations should prevail within it. Wherever a group of people needs to work together, either for themselves or for society, someone should be chosen as the head of the group. This would ensure that they would stick together and that their work would be mutually complementary and without duplication.

How many people should be in the group to need to have someone acting as its chief? The Prophet made this very clear. He said: “When three people travel together, they should appoint one of them as their head.” This will ensure that the group will have someone responsible for keeping them together so that none is left out at some point on the way because the others wanted to move on. If they face a problem on the way, they are in it together. Without someone taking this responsibility, any one of them facing a problem might find himself alone while the others move on.

The Prophet sent out many expeditions, some very small. Indeed one of them consisted of only eight people. Others included several hundred men. In all cases, he appointed a commander. He gave the commander clear instructions with regard to the treatment of his men and the mission they were undertaking. He set very high standards in the treatment of opponents. No plundering was allowed. No one should be fought except an enemy who is out to fight Muslims. Even with enemies, no religious person, elderly man, woman, or child should be killed in any circumstances.

What were the criteria the Prophet applied in choosing such commanders? The two basic criteria were ability and love. No one was given a command by the Prophet unless he had the qualities that make him able to handle the job in hand very efficiently. Moreover, he must be known to love his fellow Muslims, keen to ensure their welfare. He must also be acceptable to them. With regard to the first criterion, the Prophet said: “Whoever appoints someone as head of a group of ten people, knowing that among them there is a better one to lead them, betrays God, His messenger, and the Muslim community.” Even in worship, the leader must be acceptable to the congregation. The Prophet says: “Anyone who leads a congregation when they dislike him, his prayer does not go beyond his ears.” If prayer is unacceptable because the imam is disliked by the congregation, then this applies in an even greater measure to all situations.

– By Adil Salahi