A beautiful aspect of Prophet Muhammad’s leadership is combining authority and power with mercy and gentleness. This combination is difficult to achieve. Those who are merciful and gentle may fail to become leaders, lacking firmness and decision-making skills.
“It is by some mercy from Allah that you have been gentle with them. Had you been rough and hard of heart they would have dispersed from around you. So pardon them, ask for forgiveness for them, and consult them. Then when you have resolved, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who trust Him.” 3.159
The Prophet’s beautiful qualities look even more impressive as the verse tells us more about the different contexts in which he has to exercise them, as it proceeds to command him to “pardon them” and “ask for forgiveness for them.” Clearly, the Prophet was required to show his mercy and gentleness even in situations when his Companions were involved in some kind of wrongdoing and misbehaviour that required forgiveness from God and pardoning by the Prophet.
The verse then commands the Prophet to consult with the Companions about decisions he needed to make. These were not decisions about the basics of faith, which are determined by God as revealed in the Quran, but about short-term and long-term issues of the Muslim community and the management of the relationships with other communities. The command to the Prophet to consult his Companions had two objectives. First, to seek various views so he can be best informed about the available options. Second, to get buy-in from them for whatever decision he intends to make. This is a genuine consultative process that involves both the Companions and the Prophet.
For the battle of the Trench, the Prophet discussed with his Companions their defensive options against an army that was 3 to 4 times their size. Salman Al-Farsi suggested digging a trench around Medina that would neutralize enemy. The Prophet agreed to the plan which ultimately proved completely successful.
The essentiality of consultation in Islamic leadership is confirmed elsewhere in the Quran in the context of mentioning commendable attributes of the believers:
“And those who answer their Lord, perform prayer, whose affair is determined by consultation among themselves, and spend of what We have given them.” 42.38
Needless to say, the leadership qualities the Quran promotes are not found in most Muslim political leaders today. Consultation has been replaced by dictatorship; whereas mercy, kindness, and forgiveness have given way to brutality and harshness. Furthermore, the leadership that the Quran promotes are applicable in various walks of life, not only politics, including at work and in the environment of our own house.
On the other hand, the conditions of the Muslim communities are really depressing and make us feel so bad. Day and night, we read about the massacres committed by the Syrian regime. This is very devastating.
The status of Muslims today is very sad and the situation is terrible. There are some points that need to be addressed. We believe that Islam is the truth. Whatever happens to the Muslim Ummah, whatever the challenges or difficulties are, it should never shake our confidence in the validity of the Faith.
We also believe that life in this world is a test. The questions of the test are the difficulties we encounter. Our response to these challenges is what determines our success or failure in this test.
So, our duty is to do our best to succeed in the best. Our homework is to exert every effort to serve the just cause of the Ummah and to defend it. That includes all kinds of deeds that seek to elevate the status of the Ummah, starting with such small acts as removing dirt from the street to great sacrifices made in defence of Islam. Being a practicing or a good Muslim does not mean secluding oneself in the Mosque for long hours and withdrawing from life.