Leadership is self-reflection, dedication and working for the sake of Allah

By Imran Ssemuddu

The leadership programme organized by International Institute for Muslim Unity (IIMU) alongside Nama Foundation, and the International Islamic University (IIUM) took place in Grand Barakah Hotel, Ampang-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was a 3-day and 2-night  programme which started on Friday 16th and ended on 18th December 2022. 

The programme aimed at equipping young leaders with Islamic leadership mindset to reflect about leadership based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, obtaining new knowledge through lectures and  training from learned leadership scholars. 

In his opening remarks, the director of IIMU, Prof. Dr. Dawood expressed gratitude to NAMA Foundation for collaborating and financing, appreciated the organizing committee, acknowledged the trainers and stressed that the participants make full use of the time and resources available to them throughout the programme. Prof Dr. Dawood went ahead to introduce and invite the first trainer, Prof. Dr. Abdelaziz Berghout, Dean ISTAC-IIUM. 

Prof. Dr. Abdelaziz in his talk on “core leadership skills” emphasized seven (7) aspects. First was time; good leaders use their time appropriately and if time is used diligently, it changes the mindset which makes a difference in life.

Secondly, he mentioned on role models and that Prophet Muhammad (PUBH) as the perfect role model for young leaders because of his all-round leadership qualities including being visionary, compassionate, fair, and patience among others.

The third aspect, he mentioned was on emotional intelligence in which he emphasized how leaders should tolerate others, having empathy, and deal with other people well.

The fourth characteristic was cultural intelligence, which Prof. Dr. Abdelaziz defined as having the ability to understand other people’s cultures, lifestyle, behavior, and reactions to which he gave relevant examples of his native country Algeria.

The fifth point was spiritual intelligence to understand our purpose and relationship with Allah, to worship Allah, and to serve others with humility. 

The other aspect Prof. Dr. Abdelaziz stated was problem solving and creativity. He elaborated on how to deal with problems and challenges of our immediate society.  

Critical thinking and inquisitiveness were other aspects to which he referred to Al-Ghazali philosophy that asserts critical thinking as a process that must lead human beings in the direction of the consciousness of Allah in order to observe His commands. The other characteristic was seeking knowledge, not judging without evidence, working for yourself by creating a curious mind seeking to acquire knowledge through reading critical thinking books and literature to lead the way for young Muslim leaders.

Prof. Dr. Abdelaziz ended his talk by encouraging participants to re-energize their faith, concentrating on common values of humanity with core values of Quran and sunnah as the masterpiece to their way of leading others. 

Prof. Dr. Dawood AbdulMalek Yahya Al-Hidabi, took over and delivered two of  the leadership programmes on “action planning”. 

In more than an hour of activity-filled talk, Prof. Dr. Dawood deliberated on identifying actions required to achieve set out objectives for any given project. Through a series of tasks that enable us to identify viable objectives to be achieved, understanding which tasks are necessary and in what order to reach the target objective. Prof. Dr. Dawood further emphasized the importance of time management as a crucial aspect in action planning for youth leaders. After steps have been established it is then viable to do monitoring and implementations. This can be done by assigning persons who are committed to the action planning of projects. Set your priorities right from the beginning. If you want success in your life, be successful in your salah.

He then underscored that one must be punctual, consistent, sincere, action-oriented, and evaluate yourself, honest, frank and by doing so that is the only way we can grow thus that is the only way we can lead.

The third talk was an open discussion on “Leaders’ Core Akhlaq” where both trainers and participants engaged in a series of group activities on the practices of morality, virtue and manners regarding Islamic theology and philosophy.

Five aspects were outlined as the killers of leadership namely: envy, pride, arrogance, dishonesty, and small-mindedness. After the discussion participants had the chance to ask questions which were answered by the scholars present at the programme (Prof. Dr. Dawood, Dr. Fatmir Shehu, and Dr. Ridhuan Fontaine). 

The fourth talk was delivered by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ridhuan Fontaine from KENMS of IIUM and his topic of discussion was “Leaders’ Effective Habits”. In his deliberations, Dr. Ridhuan conveyed 7 habits of effective leaders in relation to a book by Steve Covey. From an Islamic perspective, Dr, Ridhuan urged young leaders to reflect on the Qur’an and Sunnah as the most relevant source of knowledge and leadership practices, he further mentioned that the mindset is a highly vital aspect in terms of changing challenges into solutions. Being materialistic has robbed off generations of good leaders, thus he encouraged sticking to serving others with an optimistic ideology for the sake of Allah (SWT). Being pessimistic and delusional are evils, and Dr. Ridhuan encouraged leaders to do their good deeds with consistency and dedication that Allah (SWT) will reward them. Giving reference to a YouTube channel (Rod Fontaine) which he created to make his teachings more practical, Dr. Ridhuan places it on record that we humans underestimate the mercy of Allah.

He continued to say that Allah (SWT) is the most forgiving, especially to those that are optimistic and do taubah. As long as we are still alive, taubah should be part of our life as well as the idea of doing good deeds. Before he concluded his talk, he mentioned about Islamic management on areas (valuing people, ethics, and principles), having no quick results in life citing many examples from real life and the Qur’an, good leaders should create a good environment that facilitates others to grow, being humble, ambitious and effecting ideas that change people. Lastly, he stated the importance of creating a culture where Muslims understand the Quran and live by it, this will create responsible Muslims. 

The fifth talk was by Prof. Dr. Waleed Fekry Faris, deputy dean ISTAC-IIUM and his topic was “the leaders’ diseases of the heart”. Prof. Waleed talked about great leaders from the Qur’an giving candid examples of both the life we live today and the great leadership traits of leaders in the Quran for example Omar Bin Al- Khattab who was a unique leader by all measures with nobody denying his success. He further stated that power should be put to good use, when given a chance to be at the front perform well and when at the back do the same with all your abilities. This is how power is, today you have it, tomorrow you may not and this is a change of life however, the principles should remain the same. Prof. Waleed concluded his talk by asserting that “the whole Qur’an is a plan of your life” in which he also deliberated that if you don’t have an aim in life, there is no need for a plan. If you want to achieve  something, you have to plan for it. The Qur’an and seerah contain the plan of our life. But we have to discuss how to implement and achieve leadership goals and objectives. 

The whole programme included mathurat (azkhar), tahajuud prayers, tazkirah by Dr.  Fatmir Shehu, recitation of Surah (Al-Hujurat 1-10) with its tasfeer on the first day and recitation  of Surah (Al-Hujurat 11-18) on the second day. The participants were divided into six (6) groups in which students gave tazkirah among themselves, had brainstorming activities including action planning projects where the participants did real-life projects that focused on sharpening their skills in communication, attitude, punctuality, being caring, teamwork, collaborating, volunteering, mutual respect, giving articulate presentations and speaking skills. The real-life projects were categorically focused on in terms of their ability to be implementable, cost effective as well as being realistic, clear planning of activities and the impact of end results. 

The life-based Muslim youth leadership training program was a great success that moulded participants into understanding the aspects of responsibility, knowing that change starts with self-reflection before impacting others. Attendees from different universities were tasked to manifest the skills learned to elevate their immediate society, to offer different ideas and mindset that brings about transformational action. 

The programmes of IIMU are in the spirit of spreading valuable knowledge, increase engagement amongst youth leaders to use their potential to generate solutions and ideas that will tackle contemporary challenges in the Muslim world and beyond and spiritual intelligence which is about understanding our purpose and relations with Allah (SWH). ***

(This report is written by Imran Ssemuddu, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication, AHAS KIRKHS, who was a participant of the 3-day 2-night programme.)

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