Leadership and Islam
Principles of Success According to the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (s)
Effective Leadership principles of Prophet Muhammad (s)
Author: Muhammad W. Khan
It is a well-known fact that the Prophet of Islam (saw) was the supremely successful man in the entire human history. But he was not just a hero, as Thomas Carlyle has called him. According to the Qur’an, he was the best example for all mankind. He has shown us the way of achieving supreme success in this world. By studying the life of the Prophet (saw), we can derive those important principles which were followed by the Prophet (saw). Indeed, the Prophet of Islam (saw) was a positive thinker in the full sense of the word. All his activities were result-oriented. He completely refrained from all such steps as may prove counter-productive.
First Principle: To begin from the possible
This principle is well explained in a saying of Aishah. She said: “Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two options, he always opted for the easier choice.” (Al-Bukhari) To choose the easiest option means to begin from the possible, and one who begins from the possible will surely reach his goal.
Second Principle: To see advantage in disadvantage
In the early days of Mecca, there were many problems and difficulties. At that time, a guiding verse in the Qur’an was revealed. It said: “With every hardship there is ease, with every hardship there is ease.” (94:5-6).
This means that if there are some problems, there are also opportunities at the same time. And the way to success is to ignore the problems and avail the opportunities.
Third Principle: To change the place of action
This principle is derived from the Hijrah. Hijrah was not just a migration from Mecca to Medina. It was to find a more suitable place for Islamic work, as history proved later on.
Fourth Principle: To make a friend out of an enemy
The Prophet (saw) of Islam was repeatedly subjected to practices of antagonism by the unbelievers. At that time the Qur’an enjoined upon him the return of good for evil. And then, as the Qur’an added, “You will see your direst enemy has become your closest friend” (41:34). It means that a good deed in return of a bad deed has a conquering effect over your enemies. And the life of the Prophet(saw) is a historical proof of this principle.
Fifth Principle: To turn minus into plus
After the Battle of Badr, about 70 of the unbelievers were taken as the prisoners of war. They were educated people. The Prophet(saw) announced that if any one of them would teach ten Muslim children how to read and write he would be freed. This was the first school in the history of Islam in which all of the students were Muslims, and all of the teachers were from the enemy rank. Here I shall quote a British orientalist who remarked about the Prophet of Islam (saw): He faced adversity with the determination to writing success out of failure.
Sixth Principle: The power of peace is stronger than the power of violence
When Mecca was conquered, all of the Prophet’s (saw) direst opponents were brought before him. They were war criminals, in every sense of the word. But the Prophet (saw) did not order to kill them. He simply said: “Go, you are free.” The result of this kind behavior was miraculous. They immediately accepted Islam.
Seventh Principle: Not to be a dichotomous thinker
In the famous Ghazwa of Muta, Khalid bin Walid decided to withdraw Muslim forces from the battlefield because he discovered that the enemy was unproportionately outnumbered. When they reached Medina, some of the Muslims received them by the word “O Furrar (O deserters!)” The Prophet (saw) said “No. They are Kurrar
(men of advancement).” Those Medinan people were thinking dichotomously, either fighting or retreating. The Prophet (saw) said no. There is also a third option, and that is to avoid war and find a time to strengthen yourself. Now history tells us that the Muslims, after three years of preparation, advanced again towards the Roman border and this time they won a resounding victory.
Eighth Principle: To bring the battle in one’s own favorable field
This principle is derived from the Ghazwa of Hudaibiyya. At that time, the unbelievers were determined to engage Muslims in fighting, because obviously they were in an advantageous position. But the Prophet (saw), by accepting their conditions unilaterally, entered into a pact. It was a ten-year peace treaty. Until then, the meeting ground between Muslims and non- Muslims had been on the battlefield. Now the area of conflict became that of ideological debate. Within two years, Islam emerged as victorious because of the simple reason of its ideological superiority.
Ninth Principle: Gradualism instead of radicalism
This principle is well-established by a hadith of Al-Bukhari. Aishah says that the first verses of the Qur’an were related mostly to heaven and hell. And then after a long time when the people’s hearts had softened, the specific commands to desist from adultery and drinking were revealed in the Qur’an. This is a clear proof that for social changes, Islam advocates the evolutionary method, rather than the revolutionary method.
Tenth Principle: To be pragmatic in controversial matters
During the writing of Hudaibiyyah treaty, the Prophet (saw) dictated these words: “This is from Muhammad, the Messenger of God.” The Qurayshi delegate raised objections over these words. The Prophet (saw) promptly changed the word and ordered to write simply Muhammad, son of Abdullah.
These were the principles through which the Prophet of Islam (saw) gained that success which has been recognized by historians as the true success.
Source: Khan, Muhammad W.  “Prophetic Principles of Success.” Minaret, September issue, pp. 8–9.