Man has free will. A leader has the opportunity to uplift a nation by his or her enlightened leadership. “Those who, if We establish them in the earth, will observe Prayer and pay the Zakat (obligatory almsgiving) and enjoin good and forbid evil. And with God rests the final issue of all affairs” (The Holy Quran, 22:42). Freedom of faith, freedom to practice one’s religion, spreading social goodwill and establishing law and order in the society are signs of a beneficial leadership.
The negative use of freewill by a leader results in instability, discontent and deterioration of law and order. “And when he is in authority, he runs about in the land to create disorder in it and destroy the crops and the progeny of man; and God loves not disorder” (2:206). Deterioration of law and order, danger to human life, economic insecurity and unnecessary wars are signs of apathetic leadership.
Ultimate reward at the end will go to the righteous leaders who guide their people to goodness to increase goodwill and harmony in the society. “Remember the day when We shall summon every people with their Leader. Then whoso shall be given his book in his right hand—such will read their book, and they will not be wronged a whit” (17:72).
Aim of the leaders should be to bring people and nations together to create a harmonious world. Fanning divisions and animosity among people cannot lead to peace and beneficial relations among people. “How can it be when, if they [your adversaries] prevail against you, they would not observe any tie of relationship or covenant in respect of you? They would please you with their mouths, while their hearts refuse, and most of them are perfidious” (8:7-8). Lack of compassion, inability to abide by treaties and finding excuses to avoid keeping one’s word are signs of unfit leadership.
Truly beneficial leadership develops from perseverance, following a righteous path and seeking heavenly guidance. “And remember when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands which he fulfilled. He said, ‘I will make thee a Leader of men.’ Abraham asked, ‘And from among my offspring?’ He said, ‘My covenant does not embrace the transgressors’” (2:125). Righteous leadership cannot be inherited automatically. It cannot be attained without merit, diligence and right conduct.
For a harmonious, peaceful and prospering society, righteous leadership needs a righteous people. A righteous leader is ineffective when his followers are not watchful of their attitude and behavior and are wayward. “And those who say, ‘Our Lord, grant us of our wives and children the delight of our eyes, and make us a model for the righteous. It is such as will be rewarded a high place in Paradise because they were steadfast, and they will be received therein with greeting and peace, Abiding therein. Excellent it is as a place of rest and as an abode” (25:75-77).
Only a righteous society led by righteous leaders can lead to a paradise on earth.