Educational Leadership:
An Islamic Perspective
At the dawn of 21st century Muslim Ummah is facing multiple crises, the most significant
of them has been that of ‘leadership’. The word itself is full of magic hiding in itself
magnitude of dilemmas and conflicts regarding power and authority, freedom and
liberty, guidance and followership, etc. It is much more than a saga of romance to a
burden of responsibility; a ‘Quest’ or a constant struggle to reach the truth.
Burns had said, “Moral Leadership is not mere preaching, or
uttering of pieties, or the insistence on social conformity. Moral
leadership emerges from, and always returns to, the fundamental
needs, aspirations, and values of the followers.” It may be
pronounced as a paradigm shift: from moralizing to moral
development. Khwaja Nasir ud Din Tusi, when planned
reconstruction of the society after the attack of Hallaku on
Baghdad, had advocated that in order to educate the
downtrodden and the miserable, one must act with love and
patience, and he had advocated teaching logic as a medicine to
remove the ills of “jahlia murrakaba”, i.e. complete ignorance of
scientific knowledge. Perhaps in post 9/11 world the Muslims
educational leaders are faced with the similar challenge.
Geologists also relate to us that every few hundred thousand
years or so the earth's magnetic field flips over; compasses that
today point north will some day point south. The same has
been happening in the world of leadership, the focus on power
has been shifted from authority to responsibility and focus on
compulsive following has been shifted to creating healthy and
positive human relationships. All the latest researches and
studies are focussing upon the ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of
leadership, which is something much more than a simple
personal will of a leader. In the past, leadership development
had mainly concerned with helping people to make
organizations grow - but today the chaos in the world is so
encompassing that we must add on the essential goal of
building a new earth of peace and justice.
Islam is a literate society, which calls for acquisition of knowledge from cradle till grave.
It may be regarded as the first and foremost religious and social obligation. At present
times this objective is being realized through formal education process. In a Muslim
society education is a socialization process of raising young minds and souls
according to the beliefs, values and ethical system encoded in divine law related in the
ultimate book of knowledge, the Holy Qur'an. It is best role modelled through Seerah of
Holy Prophet, Muhammad (SAW). To organize and manage this process is the duty of
educational leadership. Qur'an has guided us,
“We have sent among you a Messenger of
your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and
sanctifying you, and instructing you in
Scripture and Wisdom, and in new
knowledge.” (2 :151)
Here the Qur'an has assigned a role not only to Holy Prophet, Muhammad (SAW), but
has also finalized the responsibility assigned to knowledge leaders who are to follow
him. They have to teach the divine principles to lead a healthy and fruitful life as narrated
in Qur'an. Just teaching the principles is not enough; they have to make it sure that
these principles are actualised in practice, and thus purifying the developing souls to
reach success in this world and the world hereafter.
Leadership is regarded as the ability to encourage, inspire and facilitate others to
maximize their efforts in the pursuit of a vision and agreed upon goals. The leaderÂ’s
principle rule is one of the motivation, helping to set goals and then moving people to
achieve them. Hence, only that leadership can be considered effective which is socially
responsive to the dehumanizing situations maintained by the social, economic, and
political structures of society and strives to create with the people the conditions for
integral human growth. The leader must be a life giver in a sense that he/she structures
hope, must be sincerely and deeply committed to his programme and should also have
the capacity to read and discern history, to be critically conscious of what the practical
reality and pressures are, and to have insights on how to cope with them.
At present, lack of Tarbiyyah, the moral training is leading the youth to indulge in
delinquency. It is not poverty alone; it is the desire to have more and more and no
control over one’s desires and impulses. It is not lack of formal education but informal
education in terms of family values, and teachers’ character. Beliefs and values shape
the personality and character, and lay foundations of culture. If the values are based
upon universal principles of justice and equality, they shall nourish faith and courage in
the young souls, and their spirit shall find a pathway to wisdom, and thus achieving
eternal bliss called
‘Nafs Mutmainna’ (satisfied soul) leading to Jannah – Paradise,
otherwise one shall keep fighting with fires of lust and avarice.
21st century has strongly attributed power to ‘the knowledge’; with the power
responsibility also shifts from the political to the knowledge leadership. It is their task
and duty is to raise the consciousness through generating a mass awareness about
creating a balance in rights and responsibilities. To reach this goal Muslim spiritual
scientists have spoken of the spiritual development in Muslims. According to this view,
“It involves the development of
‘Lataif Khamsa’ rather than ‘hawwas khamsa’. Basarat
(ability to see) is not enough; baseerat (inner illumination) is also required. It is the
realization of the divine potential
Ruh in oneself. This development is initiated through
acquisition of right knowledge learning the divine principles related in Holy Qur'an.
Those who decline to follow the predicament fell from human grace to live a life worse
than animals, and Qur'an pronounces them as
"kalinam’- the mad dogs.”
Teaching is fighting with the darkness of ignorance, making way through its doubtful
mazes of confusion and puzzles of anxiety. Where it is ‘Quest’ for life, it is also avoiding
death in obscurity. Allah says that human life is incomplete without the realization of
potential imbibed in it in form of ‘Ruh’. Any quest where it does signify longing for truth,
it also characterize suffering, loss and even death, and while fighting with death one
learns to live, learning to live is an art – a gift offered by life itself. To know is to live and
to learn is life, whereas learning to live is also learning to give. The task of human
personality development in the right direction can only be realized by following the
Sunnah of Holy Prophet, Muhammad (SAW), through inculcating in oneself the
attributes of Allah. Allah is Rahman and the prophet is Rahman too. They deal with their
subjects with care and affection. They are compassionate and forgiving. They pull one
towards self-righteousness and thus salvation.
At present students have been regarded as human learning machines, where the
assumption is life long learning. Learning means adapting to something new. First of
all, therefore, the leader shall discover his/her own moral centre –
‘The QALB’ and
determine to set a firm foot on the right path –
‘Sirath-e-Mustaqeem’, only then he /she
will be able to engage others in following. According to Muslims the continuity is not
moving along a continuum but revolving round a paradox. It is more like exerting a
large magnetic force field, where Leadership acts as magnet; the leader attracts the
followers and a larger effective magnetic force field is created to pursue one’s mission.
Leadership is both push and pull. They pull the followers through vision, through their
creative and generative ideas. The followers gear these ideas towards action, i.e. push.
For that we need to develop the skills of the followers. Skills are the pushing gearing
force of translating ideas into actions. Skills can only be developed through the
process of formal education.
As Leadership is governed by vision, ideas and values, and ideas can change the
world for the better through activation of creative intelligence; ‘Leadership’ in Islamic
perspective is knowing right and doing right for the rights of others. Leadership
achieves this goal by creating a vision for better future. Leadership constantly engages
oneself in Imagineering what could possibly be stored in future. Leadership belongs to
heart. It deals with feelings and emotions. Heart is soft, because it is flexible and adapts
to different situations. In order to define the ultimate reality a leader may have to
transcend his/her personal reality. It will lead the leader to explore the reality and the
heart to accept those realities thus providing his spirit the wings to soar high and high
absolutely free in the realms of reality. Some issues and ideas, such as power and
liberty, are so attractive to think about. It is important to value them hold them precious
closer to heart, but such ideas also become more vulnerable leading to conflicts and
sometimes metamorphosized into ‘taboos’. It is because something inner, emotional
and personal has been added to them. However leadership is not enslaving the
followers to particular ideas but liberating their souls to think freely for themselves.
An Excerpt from Conceptual Model of Educational Leadership in Islamic Perspective
Seema Arif (2004)
Copyright 2010 Jehan-i-Seema. All rights reserved.
All material in this page is original writing of  Seema Arif. Using it in any form of
publication and print media without prior permission will be considered against violation
of rights. While quoting in research papers proper referencing should be used.
Jehan Nawardi
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