The responsibilities of a leader are like no other. Anyone who is a parent, a manager in his/her company, the head of masjid, a teacher, or generally holds a position of authority knows the responsibility of his or her position.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) held the most challenging leadership positions in Islamic history, wearing many hats at the same time.
As the Messenger of Allah, he was a husband to his family, a teacher to a grand myriad of students, a General of his army, amongst many more.
Dealing with Emotional Turmoil of Loved Ones
The closest comrades to the Prophet, (besides the named caliphs), were arguably his wives. The Prophet had to be especially kind to them, for in their ranks they carried the responsibilities of being the best ambassadors of Islam and recognized as the Mothers of Believers.
While the directives for him came to marry many, the Prophet could never shake of his love for his first wife Khadijah even many years after her death.
Aisha once said:
“I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadijah though I did not see her, but the Prophet used to mention her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadijah. When I sometimes said to him, ‘You treat Khadijah in such a way as if there is no woman on earth except Khadijah.’”
The Prophet never got angry at Aisha’s jealousy. He understood her need for attention as the only wife who have never been married before. While he would explain Khadijah’s epic role during the advent of Islam and what she meant to him personally, he would conscientiously spend more time with Aisha, giving her the attention she needed.
On one occasion, Aisha had wanted to watch a group Ethiopians in sport in the masjid ground, and the Prophet accompanied her until her curiosity was satisfied. While he could have let her watch on her own or ignored her request, he put in that special effort to be by her side, even if the activity seemed “mundane” or unimportant, as compared the plight that he was serving.
Jealousy also surfaced amongst the other wives, in their humanness. The Prophet took in stride to champion their causes. Zaynab bint Jahsh was labeled as the “Mother of the Poor,” for her overflowing compassion towards the needy. The Prophet even recognized this on his death bed, telling them that the one “with the longest hand,” (i.e., the most generous of them), would follow suit in the return to Allah.
Much of the Prophet’s tarbiyyah as a husband helped release the inner turmoil of his wives and it was through the same that all his wives pledged allegiance to him in this life and in the hereafter.
Dealing with Those Who Wish to Commit Sin
Outside the circle of his family and close friends, the Prophet had to deal with a range of people and many of them struggled from breaking away from their old lives (pre-Islam), traditions, and unfortunately bad habits. Nevertheless, he opened the doors to learn without prejudice or judgment.
At-Tabari narrates a man coming to the Prophet asking for “permission to commit zina (adultery).” This request fired up a frenzy amongst the closer companions, with adultery being such a heinous sin in the Quran. Surely, Satan the accursed had gotten to this man.
Prophet Muhammad cautioned his companions and invited the man to sit down. The man obliged and the Prophet asked him calmly:
“Would you like it for your mother?”
The man said, “No.”
The Prophet then advised:
“Likewise, people do not like it for their daughters. Would you like it for your daughter?”
The man replied again in negative.
The Prophet went on listing other female relatives, and the man calmed down to the point that he realized he could do not do upon another what he did not want for his own family.
Had the Prophet reprimanded or embarrassed him in front of the companions no less, probably someone would have gotten hurt, or the man in question would have turned to rebellion, or worse still – an underground rebellion may have been sparked. After all, promiscuity was the norm before Islam.
Yet in his wisdom, the Prophet dealt with the situation calmly and opened doors to even more questions for those who had doubts. He then, in his mercy, put his hand on the man’s chest and said:
“O Allah, forgive his sins, purify his heart and make him chaste,” sealing the man’s security with a powerful du’a to keep him on the right path.
Tarbiyyah with Wisdom, but Trusting Allah in the End
The challenges of a leader is like no other, and many times, leaders are only associated with authority, dictatorship even, discipline, reprimands, orders and punishment.
Prophet Muhammad demonstrates such a different type of leadership: from a husband caring for his family, to a teacher teaching his students, to a General leading an army. The Prophet while encompassing the cohesive authority of Islam, included wisdom, gentility, humility, understanding, and calmness in his tarbiyyah to encourage the tazkiyyah of his followers.
These are qualities that every leader today should try to emulate.
This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date