10 Leadership Characteristics from the Life of Rasulullah (S) By Dalia Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed joined us virtually during the national leadership retreat to speak on the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a topic that Mogahed believes underscores the purpose of engaging with the seerah, or life of the Prophet, in detail.

“The seerah carries within it lessons to learn and apply in our daily lives, and that is why you have to engage with the seerah actively, why the seerah must be debated with other people,” Mogahed said. “It needs to be studied and extract lessons from it to apply to our lives.”

Mogahed shared a list of ten characteristics of the Prophet (PBUH) as a leader, encouraging students to engage with the list and apply each of the characteristics to their lives before creating their own lists of qualities a leader should have:

1. Accept leadership with reluctance

“When the Prophet (PBUH) was first told to start the dawa, he was addressed as someone who was covered up, who was afraid of the weight of the responsibility,” Mogahed said. “This is a man who understood the gravity of what was about to happen, and he in his humanness was afraid of it. He stepped into the role of leadership with a dignified humility.”

2. Be a coalition builder without compromising the core.

“The Prophet (PBUH) was able to make alliances with people he didn’t agree with. There is no greater sin than idol worshipping, and yet the Prophet made an alliance with these people because it was of strategic importance to do so to meet the mission that he had,” Mogahed said. “But he never compromised on his own beliefs.”

3. Look for innovative solutions

“As a leader, seek innovative solutions. The Muslims were going to be surrounded and outnumbered in the Battle of the Trench, and there would have been serious casualties. The Prophet (PBUH) was seeking creative solutions i.e. building the trench.”

4. Accept the outcomes of legitimate processes even if they are against what you want.

“When there is a legitimate process in place such as a vote or a board election and it was done properly, then you have to accept the outcome and move forward instead of lobbying for your point of view,” Mogahed said. “When the Prophet (PBUH) was preparing for the Battle of Uhud, it was his opinion to fight from within the city. Yet, because there was a consensus of the people to go out and defend from Uhud, that is in fact what he did.”

5. Cater to the emotional needs of your followers.

“The Prophet (PBUH) understood and responded to the emotional needs of his companions. The companions were overjoyed at the Prophet’s (PBUH) dream, that they thought they would be able to go back to their homeland for Hajj. On the way, they found out that the normal route to Mecca was intersected by an armed group of the Quraysh, so instead they had to take another path, which was more difficult—so difficult that their shoes were worn and feet were bleeding. A delegation of the Quraysh met them and wanted to negotiate a peace treaty—a treaty that was extremely unfair to the Muslims and kept them from getting into Mecca that year. The companions were devastated, and he understood that the need of the companions in this moment was important.”

6. Seek advice

“Humble yourself and seek advice. Seek advice on things you know nothing about and know everything about. The Prophet (PBUH) was an expert on human nature but he still sought advice.”

7. Prioritize pardon

“Rush to forgive others. This is so important in the way we respond to the vicious attacks on Islam right now. After the Prophet (PBUH) went to Ta’if and was rejected, an authentic narration said that JIbreel came and offered him that Ta’if be destroyed and he refused. In fact, his only prayer was that they be guided. Sometimes enemies are easier to forgive than friends who betray you, but the Prophet (PBUH) forgave his friends as well. The Prophet (PBUH) still forgave a friend even though he tipped the Meccans off before battle.”

8. Check your ego at the door

“There is absolutely no place for ego in Muslim leadership. When the Prophet was traveling with a group of companions, they decided to slaughter a lamb for dinner. The only job left for the Prophet to do was gather the firewood, which was the hardest job, the job nobody wants. The companions said ‘Oh no, you are the Prophet of God. It would be our pleasure to serve you.’ And the Prophet responded, ‘Allah does not love a servant that distinguishes himself from his companions. So don’t be above any job.”

9. Stick to the facts

“So many problems occur when we let our assumptions about others drive us. The Prophet (PBUH) had hypocrites in his community. These hypocrites were known to him; Allah told him who they were by name. He could have prosecuted them for what they had in their heart. But he did not. The hypocrites were never taken and punished. We need to be a community that sticks to the facts, that doesn’t go after people without evidence.”

10. Focus on obedience, not outcomes

“You will be asked ‘Did you obey the commandments of Allah?’ and not the results of your actions. Completely relinquish your attachment to the outcomes of your actions. The Prophet told us: if you are planting a tree, and the end of the world comes, finish planting the tree. That tree will not make it, but the outcome is not your concern. Your concern is to follow through on your obedience and then have the belief that, because the outcome is not in your hands and only in the hands of Allah, that it is only up to you to work, and not to worry.”

May Allah help us implement these characteristics into our daily lives, keep our intentions pure, and guide us with every choice we make so we can be the leaders our Prophet (PBUH) showed us to be.