Effective leadership requires trust and autonomy. Arguably, if trust is lost the leader should be removed and if autonomy is lost the leader should resign gracefully. This is the practice of our pious predecessors. Shah Rafi al-Din1 (1252-1308) outlined the following conditions before his appointment as principal2:
- Operational matters of every department should vest on the opinion of one person. On this principle, no member of the committee should meddle in the running on the operational matters of a department. Opinion or advice should be presented at the appropriate moment as determined by the committee collectively.
- If one gives me help or good advice I will be thankful, however, the implementation will be based on my opinion.
- Whosoever, be it a member of the committee or of the public, finds an issue worthy of objection they should not quarrel with the principle rather they should lodge the complaint to the committee. Whatever the outcome the principle will not be culpable.
- Whenever the committee gather the principal should not be absent even if the topic of discussion is himself. In any event the committee reserve the right to object at anytime and the principle [has the right] to be given an opportunity to answer.
- On a necessary issue if the principal cannot wait for gathering of the [whole] committee all the committee should be informed in writing and they must accept the necessary outcome.
- The income of the Madrsah should be in the principle’s control as the principle must have access to the required funds for necessary expenditures. If more than the necessary amount gathers [the surplus] should be deposited to the treasurer.
- The principle will go to the madrasah at a fixed time and carry out relevant duties at that time.
- It is appropriate that all members of the committee join and place their signature on this proposal so that the principal has a source of support.
Autonomy is important for the smooth running of an operation. Whilst the ulama will be unanimous in this against external influences they are differed in the level of autonomy afforded to the executive internally. Hadrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) gave his leaders strategic and operational control whilst Hadrat Umar al-Faruq (may Allah be pleased with him) gave them only operation control whilst he guided them strategically.
The question is in the event of a dispute, who makes the final decision; the ihtimam (executive) or the shura (committee). This is an age old issue with some granting the right to the ihtimam and some to the shura whilst others have opted for the executive if he is pious or else the shura. Allah knows best. The general ruling is that the executive has priority as is apparent from the practice of Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) during their reign3. However, the issue that has divided the scholars nowadays is the calibre of the appointed leaders.
Regardless of the ruling, micromanagement, vetoes and the general reduction in autonomy of the executive seems to have adverse affect leading to internal power struggles and dissension; a dangerous mix4. The question boils down to the role of the shura and the ihtimam. It is the duty of the shura to appoint a leader who above all else is pious; this will ensure trust. It is the duty of the pious leader to uphold the shariah, consult the learned, layout and implement the best course of action without hindrance; this requires autonomy.
The key issue is of trust. The shura must trust the executive to deal with the operational matter autonomously. The shura's position is a grave one - they must accept the executive wholesale or else remove him from office altogether. This is the single most important function of the shura.
Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
11 Jumada II 1433
3 May 2012
- 1. He is one of the six founders of Darul Uloom Deoband and its earliest principle (1284-1285 and 1288-1306). One of the successors Shah Abd al-Ghani Mujaddidi; he is known for his piety and unique administrative skills.
- 2. Hakim al-Islam Qari Muhammad Tayyab (1421) Dar al-Ulum Deoband Bunyadi Usul Awr Maslak in Maqalat Hakim al-Islam p. 142
- 3. Hadrat Abu Bakr Siddiq’s decision to send Hadrat Usama b. Zayd and escalate the dispute regarding Zakat was correct despite opposition from the companions (may Allah be pleased with them). Hadrat Umar Faruq’s decision to remove Hadrat Khalid b. Walid as commander and the stoppage of land grant was correct despite opposition
- 4. See rule 3 and 4 of the usul hashtgana