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Written by Louay Safi   
Oct 09, 2005 at 05:36 AM
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Visionary Leadership*
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Eloquence (Fasahah): Another important quality of leadership is the ability to articulate ideas and views with clarity and eloquence. Eloquence is important not only for persuading followers to adopt the proposed course of action and committing themselves to a specific set of values and purposes, but also to negotiating and communicating with opponents and competitors.

Again, the Qur’an stresses the importance of eloquence through the example of Musa (Moses) whose initial reaction, when he received the divine commission to call Pharaoh to the way of God, was to plead for the inclusion of his brother Harun (Aaron) in this mission based on the fact that:

My brother Harun is more eloquent in speech than I: so send him with me as a helper, to confirm (and strengthen) me: For I fear that they may accuse me of falsehood. (Qur’an 28:34)

Enterprise (Iqdam): One of the qualities that distinguish leaders from others is their enterprise. This trait reveals itself though the initiatives taken by a leader in his or her drive to carry out their mission. The leader’s enterprise is usually manifested by self-confidence, boldness, and willingness to take risk whenever necessary, as well as by personal energy, diligence, and hard work. The Qur’anic equivalence of the term “enterprise” is al akhdh bi quwwah (taking with might). This meaning can be found in Allah’s injunction to Musa to take the divine mission with firmness and strength:

And We ordained laws for him [Musa] in the Tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said): Take and hold these with strength and enjoin your people to hold fast to the best of the precepts. (Qur’an 7: 145)

It is this attitude of “taking with might” that one sees in the boldness of the young Abraham when he stood firmly before the elders of his community and told them: 

Fie upon you, and upon the things that you worship besides Allah! Have you no sense? (Qur’an 12:67)

It is the same attitude observed in the energy exhibited by Nuh (Noah) as he pursued his mission with diligence and hard work, despite the negative response he received from his people:

He said: O my Lord! I have called to my people night and day, but my call only increased (their) flight (from truth) . . . . So I have called them aloud; further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private. (Qur’an 715-6, 8-9)

The attitude of “taking with might” can also be seen in the bravery displayed by Musa as he stood before Pharaoh and demanded that the children of Israel be released from their servitude in Egypt. Responding to Pharaoh’s showering his favors upon him when he was taken in as a member of the royal household, Musa said:

And this is the favor with which you do reproach me that you have enslaved the children of Israel. (Qur’an 26:22)

In this way, he reminded Pharaoh that his mother’s decision to set her baby boy in the boat that took him, by divine design, to the royal palace where he was raised was precipitated by the servitude imposed by Pharaoh himself on Musa’s people: the children of Israel.

The same attitude is revealed in the self-confidence shown by the Prophet when he stood on the mount of al Safa and called his people to the way of God:

Tell me, O men of Quraysh, if I were to inform you that I see a cavalry on the other side of this mountain, would you believe me? They answered: Indeed, for we trust you and we have never known you to tell a lie. Muhammad said: Know then that I am a Warner, and that I warn you of a severe punishment.[5]

Compassion (Rahmah): Self-confidence, boldness, and courage do not produce effective leadership if they are not balanced by kindness, courtesy, and compassion. The latter are the result of the leader’s genuine concern for the well-being of subordinates and for those who come under his or her responsibility and reflect an attitude of compassion and humility. It would be quite difficult for a leader who lacks this trait to keep people attracted to his or her message or stay interested in them for long. It was the Prophet’s kindness and good manner that kept the believers attracted to him:

It is by the mercy of Allah that you have been lenient with them [the disbelievers]. Were you severe or harsh hearted, they would have broken away from you: so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them, and consult them in (public) affairs. (Qur’an 3: 159)


Conviction (Yaqin): Conviction and patience are a leader’s most important qualities, for the leader’s conviction in his or her mission and purpose lies at the root of all other traits, including resolve and perseverance, knowledge and wisdom, enterprise and eloquence, leniency and forbearance. It is for this reason that the higher the leader’s responsibilities and the more volatile the environment in which he/she operates, the more crucial is his/her persona1 conviction in his/her mission.


The Qur'anic Narrative
The Qur'anic Narrative

Leading with Compassion
Leading with Compassion


Tensions and Transitions
in the Muslim World

Peace and the Limits of War

The Challenge of Modernity 


Blaming Islam

Foundation of Knowledge

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