Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Leadership of Muhammad (Book Review)

This book is a biographical inquiry about one aspect of Prophet's Muhammad's life: his leadership. 
Title: The Leadership of Muhammad
Author: John Adair
Publisher: Kogan Page Limited
Year: 2010
Pages: 96 (e-book version)
Language: English
An interesting, captivating and entertaining page-turner. 

Once you start reading it, you cannot put it down until you read the very last word; yet you feel that you would like to learn more about the character of the human being who had more impact on our world than any other.   

Other then the introduction and conclusion, “The Leadership of Muhammad” consists of eight short chapters:
  1. In the Black Tents of Bani Sa’d
  2. The Shepherd
  3. Caravan Leader
  4. Dwellers of the Desert
  5. Muhammad ‘The Trustworthy One’
  6. Sharing in Hardship
  7. Humility
  8. From Past to Present
The Author
Adair is a world renowned authority on leadership. 
He has authored over 40 books that were translated into many different languages. Some of his books are “Not Bosses but Leaders: How to lead the way to success” and “The Inspirational Leader: How to motivate, encourage and achieve success” (see his web site for further details and titles).  

In 2009, the United Nations System Staff College in Turin appointed him as the United Nations Chair of Strategic Leadership.

The Book in Summary 

The book reflects the tribal tradition of leadership where many qualities are to be learned from such a modest society 

This book is definitely not a full biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); however the author provides a summary of his biography at the end of the book and touches the most important aspect of his character as a role model and best leader known to mankind due to his significant influence on our world; having more than 1.8 billion followers to date worldwide. The book reflects the tribal tradition of leadership where many qualities are to be learned from such a modest society.

Muhammad and His Religion
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is probably the most misunderstood historical figure in the West. Such a beautiful human being has been related to violence and bloodshed while the opposite is, without any shadow of doubt, the absolute truth.  The Leadership of Muhammad by John Adair is a masterpiece in highlighting some aspects of his character through his leadership that changed the world forever.

There’s no argument that Muhammad’s religion is the central topic everywhere. Whether we are talking about the Middle East crisis or the world trade center, Islam and Muslims are the focus.  When reading the book, I suggest the reader to focus on what made Muhammad an exceptional leader not what current day media says about him, his religion, or his followers.

It is worth mentioning that there is no human being on the face of the earth who is more loved than Muhammad (peace be upon him).  When addressing Muhammad, Allah the Exalted has mentioned in the Qur’an in chapter 94, verse 4 what is translated as: “Have we not exalted your fame?”  Indeed, Muhammad’s name echoes through the minarets during the call for prayer of the five daily prayers in mosques around the world.

The Perfect Leader
Adair addresses the key points that influenced Muhammad to become a perfect leader; his childhood, the way he lived, his tribe’s influence upon him and finally his religion and dedication to God.  He transforms this into anecdotes that allure you to extract a specific nature about Muhammad by often asking the reader similar questions like: “Did you see any of those qualities in Muhammad?”

What is fascinating is that the author uses proverbs throughout the book, explanation of English words from their Latin or Greek roots, Shakespearian paraphrases, quotations of famous writers, from the Bible and from both the Qur’an and the sayings of Muhammad (hadith), as well as key notes at the end of each chapter to summarize the ideas he is trying to convey.

Emphasizing the importance of history, the author also mentions exemplary stories from the life of Muhammad’s companions and Muslims throughout history, who turned to be successful leaders as well; showing that Muhammad’s legend still lives today and until the end of time. This book is definitely easy to read and takes only a few hours to complete.

It is a lesson in leadership through the character of Muhammad; being the best leader that ever lived on this planet and the most loved human being on the face of the earth.  So this is not merry theories about leadership, it is a practical example demonstrated through the life of Muhammad and the different events that shaped his character as a great leader who also recognized leaders from their youth and raised them as such.  Toward the end, the author nicely summarizes leadership in our modern context; a true leader has the way to inspire others who will be behind the success of influential organizations.

Author's Background Demonstrated
Muhammad was both exalted and humble, capable of vision and inspiration, yet at the same time dedicated to the service of people 

What gives this book an edge over other books is that its author lived in the Middle East, in Jordan, and mingled with its tribesmen where he learned the religion of Islam and about its Prophet from a closer perspective.  So he included Arabic words which he thoroughly explains giving non Arabs the chance to learn few words from one of the oldest languages that is still spoken nowadays the same way it was spoken fourteen hundred years ago.  Learn words such as Qa’id (leader) and its different uses.

He also has described the camel in such a detail that I really would like to own one, and I would also love to eat a good meal in a desert tent around the fire.  He narrowed the difference gap between us and desert dwellers; people who have so much to share and who have high moral values such as their extreme generosity, that only a person who stays among them would only understand.

The author also draws you closer to the 7th. century, the time when Muhammad lived, by his detailed and descriptive aspects of the Bedouin life making you feel as a member of that society.  He also brings you back and forth from history into the near future to demonstrate Bedouin values.

In this book, Adair disconnects the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from his divine mission: “Muhammad was both exalted and humble, capable of vision and inspiration, yet at the same time dedicated to the service of people”. 

It was Muhammad’s leadership which turned few followers in Makkah to nearly a hundred and twenty five thousands who performed the farewell pilgrimage (Hajj) with him. In 2007, the estimated world Muslim population was over 1.8 billion, second to Christianity. Muslims are expected to become the largest religious community in the world by 2015. Fifty-seven United Nations members are countries that have a Muslim majority.

 Pros and Cons

The only critic I have about the book is that Adair assumed that Muhammad must have been a caravan leader in order to earn some of his leadership skills; however, he did not have any solid facts.

The part that I liked the most in this book is when the author speaks about trust in chapter five.  A good leader must be trusted by the people he serves.  This reminds me of the recent revolutions in the Arab world.  For the obvious reasons, people did not trust their leaders.  I quote:

Trust being lost, all the social intercourse of men is brought to naught”.
Livy (Roman Historian).


The author concludes that leadership is a skill learned and developed in a person the same way Muhammad developed as a leader: “You are not born a leader, you become one”.

Unfortunately not all appointed leaders know how to lead; successful leaders were among the people, not above them.  See Muhammad’s leadership in action; read this book to learn more about the intelligence, perseverance, calmness, confidence, integrity, honesty, humility, tolerance, patience, gentleness, generosity, wisdom, mercy, courage, and even humor of Muhammad, illiterate Prophet yet a brilliant leader who was once a shepherd boy from the desert while addressed by his tribesmen as ‘The Trustworthy’.

See how Muhammad endured hardship to serve his people and lead by example: “He served to lead and knew how to do things at the right time in the right way”.  Learn his moderate approach, how he changed the world forever, and how much we are nowadays in desperate need for someone like him (may peace and blessings be upon him).

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