An Islamic perspective of leadership: Said Nursi and sayyidhood leadership

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According to Said Nursi (1877-1960), there is no position except servanthood in Islam. His argument is based on the hadith ‘sayyidul qawm khadimihum’ the master of the people is the one who serves them which is quintessential of Islamic leadership. To him, a nation’s ruler is a public servant and ruling does not mean domination and despotism. Nursi states that rulers are obliged to serve people and he considers serving as the second article of an Islamic constitution. Instead of calling Islamic leadership servant, guardian or transformational style as some scholars argue in the modern time, I would call Nursi’s understanding of leadership ‘sayyidhood’ which is drawn from his Magnum Opus Risale-i Nur. To him, leadership through action comes before leadership through words. Sayidhood leadership is universal as Islam. This article will take the concept of sayyidhood in the hadith as a theoretical framework, beginning with the analysis of the hadith’s literary meaning and grammatical usage. It also suggests that Nursi revives four major characteristics of sayyidhood leadership which are tamthil (the inadvertent overspill of genuine practice), istighna (a state of being expectationless), ithar (altruism) and musbet hareket (positive action). By applying these four major principles, the leader can be independent, exemplary, pluralistic and altruistic. He or she will be persuasive rather than oppressive and universal rather than ideological. Sayyidhood leadership minimises, selfishness, nepotism and egoism, however, it is highly idealistic and Muslim leaders rarely apply
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-115
Number of pages26
JournalTranscendent Philosophy
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2018


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