A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal, one who goes first and leads by example. Others are motivated to follow him. A great leader must have a deep-rooted commitment to the goal. For the Islamic community, the title for the ruler is the caliph. From the article “Khalifah” in Oxford Islamic Studies Online stated that caliph is translate from Arabic word “khalifa”, meaning “successor”, “substitute” or “lieutenant”. This word was use in the Al-Quran to establish Adam’s role as the representative of Allah on earth, also most commonly used for the Islamic leader. The caliph’s functions are the enforcement of law, defense and expansion of the realm of Islam, distribution of funds (booty and alms), and general supervision of government. As reported by Abdullah ibn Omar in Bukhari and Muslim:
Behold! Every one of you is a leader and you shall be asked about those you lead. Imam is a leader over the people and shall be asked about them; a man is a leader of the house and shall be asked about his household ; a woman is a leader over her children and she shall be asked about them.”
My most admired caliph is Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, the great-grandson of Umar bin Al-Khattab, the companion of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and second caliph’s ruler. He was born on 26th Safar 63H (2 November 682AD) in Medina. He studied the Islamic principles and jurisprudence. His father was a Governor of Egypt province and died in 704AD. After two years, Umar was appointed as the Governor of Medina at the age of 24. He was an Umayyad Caliph who ruled from 717AD to 720AD, a man of piety and virtue who reformed the Islamic State and revitalized the true Caliphate of the Islamic state in just two and half years. In the short period of ruling, he made the great impact on the people.
According to articles in Leadership Styles:
What are Common Types of Leadership? stated, democratic or participative (sometimes called authoritative) that includes participation and greater equality between leader and followers. This leader asks, “What do you think?” and may make some decisions by majority rule.
I am very impress when reading about Umar’s leadership and characteristic. For Umar, when the people choose their leader, they can make him accountable. After Caliph Sulaiman, the son of Abdul-Malik died, Umar was appointed as caliph but he was declining to the people and that they have to choose their leader. Upon hearing that, his people shouted with one voice that they have chosen him and thus he became the Caliph. He has changed the selection system to election to show the importance of public support for developing countries. According to Jago, A. G. (1982) in Leadership: Perspectives in theory and research, good leaders are made not born and develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. Even though he came from hereditary ruler but he still want the voice of people, nowadays we called as democracy.
After he was selected by his people to become their leader, he immediately discarded his extravagant lifestyle and tried to emulate Prophet Muhammad and his closest companions. His first action was to return the lavish estates and palaces owned by members of the Umayyad dynasty to the public estate. He gave out all his wealth to the society until he just left only one shirt. No one realize it until he always late for the Friday prayers because he have to wait for the only shirt dried. Before this, the caliph earned 50,000 dinars a year, but after he became the Caliph, he reduced his salary to 200 dinars a year. He lived in very simple way and only concerned with people's lives. As a great leader, we have to be moderate in any way of life. If we looked at the life of Prophet Muhammad, he never appears to enjoy luxury living even though he was the great leader. He just devoted his whole life to Allah and done his job as messenger.
"Did not you hear? Do not you hear? Indeed, simplicity is part of faith "(HR Abu Dawud)
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was of the most pious of Allah's servants. He declared that the Qur'aan and the Sunnah would be the basis of his ruling and that obedience only based on this. He said that:
"Taqwaa is not by praying all night and fasting all day but rather it is abiding by the commands of Allah and staying away from His prohibitions."
His leadership became excellent because of his dedication to implement the Shariah rules. He restored all of the rights to the people that the Shariah had obligated and he took away from those who had taken that which they had no right to take. This is what led to justice filling the earth as the people once again lived under the shade of the system that Ar-Rahman had provided for them and the system that the Prophet Muhammad implemented and the four Khulafaa after him. He also applied the correct Shariah rules related to the economy that encouraged trade and agriculture. He encouraged all the governors to argue people to practice agriculture. If anyone had a piece of land, which he did not cultivate for three years, the land was to be taken and would be given to somebody else who would cultivate. Because of this, the Islamic state began to flourish.
He was very concern about poor people so in his time, people of Medina turned to be rich. One day he went to ask about the job of poor people in Medina. His man told that all the poor people moved away because Umar gave them the wealth. His fruitful achievements lead to the wellbeing of his society, and even when the time for annual obligatory charity from came, no one accepted it, but was to be sent to other towns to raise other's standards of living. Everybody could assist his family without begging. This brought about jubilance among the people and loyalty towards their leader.
We do not have to build the luxury houses, wearing branded clothes and jewelries to say that we are the great leader. Someone can say that the image of successful leader but if we focus to Prophet Muhammad’s lifestyle, he still the greatest leaders and a model until now. We build great buildings to tell the world we are the great nation but our people are still live in hunger and poverty. To be a great leader, people are more important than our families and us. We have ensure our people get everything they need to live perfectly and so we can build the nation hand in hand together. In Umar’s life, he was also adapted the Prophet life. Someone had asked Umar to change the cloth of Baitullah even though it was still new, but Umar refused to do that. He said that the starving people are more important than the change of the cloth, the budget should be given to the rightful people.
As Abu Yousuf in his 'Kitaab Al-Kharaaj' wrote that Faatimah the wife of 'Umar said:
"I never saw a servant of Allah who feared Him more than 'Umar. He devoted his body and his soul to the people. All day he would sit tending to their affairs, and when night came he would sit up while business remained. One evening when he had finished everything, he called for his lamp - from which he used to buy the oil from his own money - and prayed two prostrations. Then he sat back on his folded legs, with his chin in his hands, and the tears ran down from his cheeks, and this didn't stop until dawn, when he rose for a day of fasting.
I said to him, 'Ameerul Mu'mineen, was there some matter that troubled you this night?' And he said, 'Yes, I saw how I was occupied while governing the affairs of the community, all its black sheep and its white sheep, and I remembered the stranger, beggar and straying, and the poor and the needy, and the prisoners in captivity, and all like them in the far places of the earth, and I realized that Allah, the Most High would ask me about all of them, and Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم would testify about them, and I feared that I should find no excuse when I was with Allah, and no defense with Muhammad.'
During other leaders, the state treasury was filling up but all the taxes abolished during his reign. Nothing left due to the abolishing of the taxes and the savings were given to the poor and the needy. According to Ibn Kathir, annual revenues from Persia alone had increased from 28 million dirhams to 124 million dirhams on his reign even though he had abolished all the taxes. He said:
“The state treasury was not meant for the walls but the people, so why should they not be given?”
When he died, one of the people came together with his properties and asked somebody to help him to distribute the properties to the poor people. He was not able to distribute it alone because Umar had made the entire citizen became rich.
Integrity means honesty and trust. It also refers to having strong internal guiding principles that one does not compromise and treating others as you would wish to be treated. The most essential and basic of all leadership skills are the sense of right, wrong and strong guiding principles. It reflected in thinking, attitudes, and actions. People judge your integrity level based on your actions and your words.
Umar was very particular and honest about the country’s wealth. He did not used any single thing of country’s properties for himself. In his office, he had two candles to use. If he wanted to write for state affairs, he would use the candle that belonged to the state and if he wanted to write his own personal letters, he would use the candle, which he bought from his own money. He also ensured that all the governors follow this path. There was a request for papers, but Umar replied, “Make the points of your pens thinner, and write small hand writings including your important matters and leave the details in very short and straight forward form”. This showed that he was very firm about national properties.
Umar enforced the collection of Alms (Zakat) and its fair distribution according to the Shariah rules so everyone who eligible can get the zakat. This system which shows the true justice of Islam, was felt by the entire citizens.
He made the judiciary independent of the executive committee to allow for fair treatment of all Muslims without the interference of the executive committee. He removed all the shadows of royal influence, which generally interfere on the administration of justice. He also enforced the Islamic principles of equity and fair-play. He compensated and remedied all injustices, which had been administered to the non-Muslims, restored their unlawfully seized houses of worship, released their lands and granted them their rights and privileges under the Shariah. This impressed the non-Muslims so much that they embraced Islam in thousands.
He was a very just ruler, he preached justice and practice justice. He did not allow any personal, family, clan or group’s interest to intervene with justice. He was just in his dealing with both muslims and non-muslims. When a muslim man killed a non-muslim in Hira, he ordered the Governor to make sure justice was adhered. Thus, the muslim man was handed over to the deceased family who killed him.
Other story to reflect his justice is, Hisham the son of Malik had a case in the court with a Jew and Umar made him stand side by side with the Jew in the court. This and many more kept angering the family of the Ummayads. It was not long that they plotted to kill him. They bribed a slave to poison Caliph Umar’s food. Having felt the effect, he sent for the slave and asked why he did it. His response was that he was given a thousand dinars, so Umar collected the money, deposited it into the state treasury, and let him go free.
Umar also wrote to his prison guards not to handcuff any jailed person for it prevented him from performing Prayer. He also wrote that:
"If your power over people were to lead you to treat the prisoners unjustly, then remember the Power of Allah over you."
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz’s following the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad was kind and just toward non-Muslims. Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians were allowed to retain their churches, synagogues and temples.
According to the article in Example Leadership Skills List:
10 Great Leader Qualities, the main complaint of employees in nearly every organization of all types, is “lack of communication.” Communication in the context of leadership refers to both interpersonal communications between the leader and followers and the overall flow of necessary information throughout the organization.
During his reign, he urged all the officers to listen to the complaints made by citizens and if any subject had seen an officer mistreating the people, the officer should be reported and that subject would be given a reward from 100 - 300 dirhams.
He also urged the citizen to be his watcher over himself and guide him if he done anything wrong. He said:
"Rulers usually appoint people to watch over their subjects. I appoint you a watcher over me and my behavior. If you find me at fault in word or action guide me and stop me from doing it."
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz’s leadership encourages me to make him as my role model to rule accordingly to Islamic system. His integrity, honesty and justice make me impress to carry out this ethical in my leadership and characteristic. His leadership was so unique and cannot be comparing by others. We, as a Muslim should follow the Prophet Muhammad’s leadership and other caliph to be great leader.
When Umar died, the Roman Emperor was reported to quote:
“I should not be the least surprised if a monk renounces the world and busies himself in worship behind closed doors, but I am simply amazed at this man who has a vast empire at his feet but he rejected it and lived the life of a monk.”
The demise of Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz is truly a lost to Islamic world but the legacy he left in his short period of reign lives on for in the modern times to follow, a true example of a great leader, who live for the people at heart, a leader and a pious follower of the faith. He is the leader who to this day no one is able to emulate his achievements.
Haji Muhammad Nuruddin Al-Banjari Al-Makkay (2002). Al-Khalifah Al-Zahid Umar Bin Abdul Aziz. Maahad Tahfiz Darul Quran Wal Qiraat Berhad
Abdul Latip Talib (2010). Umar Abdul Aziz - Bayangan khalifah al-Rasyidin. PTS Litera Sdn. Bhd
Abdullah Bin Abdul Hakam. Umar bin Abdul Aziz-Peribadi Zuhud Penegak Keadilan. Alam Raya Enterprise
Lucy Gaster (1995). Quality in Public Services-Managers’ Choices. Open University Press
Richard S. Handscombe & Philip A.Norman (1993). Strategic Leadership-Managing the missing links. McGraw-Hill Book Company
Hamid Bashir. 2010 Caliph Umar Ibn Abdulaziz” My Exemplar Ethical Leader [Online],
Available: http://hamidalsharif.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/Caliph-umar-ibn-abdulaziz-my-exemplar-ethical-leader [2012, Oct. 12]
2012 Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, the Fifth Rightly Guided Khaleefah [Online],
Available: http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/concepts/islamic-culture/14603-umar-ibn-abdul-aziz-the-fifth-rightly-guided-khaleefah [2012, Oct. 12]
2011 Khalifah Umar Bin Abdul Aziz [Online],
Available: http://irkhss.blogspot.com/2011/02/khalifah-umar-bin-abdul-aziz.html [2012, Oct. 12]
2009 The Top 10 Leadership Qualities [Online],
Available: www.comparebusinessproducts.com/briefs/top-10-leadership-qualities.html [2012, Oct. 12]
2012 Umar II [Online],
Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar_bin_Abdul_Aziz [2012, Oct. 12]
Junaidah Binti Jamil