Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Muslim Matters - 28 October, 2014 - 04:00

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is a quote made famous by America's top leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell, in his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The first time I read this quote was in 2002, when I was a rookie teacher at an Islamic school. I remember staring at that statement and thinking, “what does he mean by that?” To find the answer, I kept reading the rest of the book, and my life has never been the same.

I started to look at everything from a leadership lens. The good and bad of every school, masjid, organization, family and even country were directly related to the quality of their leaders. I was so fascinated by this topic of leadership that I went on to study it in graduate school. I also implemented as many good leadership principles as possible in my classrooms as a teacher in public, private, charter and international schools, and as a principal in private Islamic schools in the Virgin Islands and in Houston, Texas. Now, I teach these leadership principles day in and day out in companies, schools, non-profits and masjids internationally, because I know the kind of positive impact that great leadership can make.

When leadership is great, success inevitably follows. Likewise, when leadership is poor, failure inevitably follows. Think about it: give me some examples of successful countries, businesses and masjids and I will point you in the direction of the strong leader that orchestrated their success.

This is the first in a series of articles about leadership in which I discuss why all of us need to understand and live out the principles of great leadership. It doesn't matter whether we are teachers, parents, CEOs, doctors, imams, engineers, sons or daughters; we are all responsible for being leaders.

Abdullah bin Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. An imam is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care. A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for those in his care. The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband's house and is responsible for what is in her care. The servant is a shepherd in respect of his master's property and is responsible for what is in his care. All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.”

What is the modern-day equivalent to the work shepherd in this hadith? IT'S LEADER! So reread the hadith above, but this time, replace the word shepherd, with the word leader.

I believe that it is our responsibility to become leaders, because that's what our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to be, and that is what he was. He exemplified leadership in all areas of his life, and, if we are truly followers of his example, then we will seek to do the same. Also, by looking at the life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through this lens of leadership, my hope is that we will gain an even greater appreciation of how incredible he was, and our love for him will increase.

So let's take a look at the life and leadership of the greatest leader in the history of the world, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) from the lens of the 21 Irrefutable Laws. As you're reading, be sure to contemplate on how we all can follow in the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) example and live out these laws in our lives.

Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person's Level of Effectiveness

The Law of the Lid states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person's level of effectiveness; the lower an individual's ability to lead is, the lower the lid on his potential. Likewise, the higher an individual's ability to lead is, the higher the lid on his potential. In other words, if your leadership ability is judged on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being completely ineffective and 10 being extremely effective – your potential will coincide with your level of leadership. So, if your leadership ability is a 9, you're going to get incredible results, but if your leadership is a 2, your results will be less than stellar.

Let's look at this law based on the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) . How effective was the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in his mission? What was his level of effectiveness?

The fact that I'm writing this article on this blog is proof of how incredibly effective the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  was as a leader. Based on the definition of the law provided earlier, the Law of the Lid proves clearly without a doubt that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  was the most impactful human being to ever walk the face of the earth. His leadership ability was through the roof; therefore, he was able to change the course of human history forever. He was a perfect 10!

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • So what is your leadership lid? If we're not striving to be 10's, then we're not striving to be like the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) .

Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

The Law of Influence states that leadership is measured based on a person's ability to influence others; nothing more, nothing less. Let's look at the influence of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) :

Only a few short years after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his followers were forced out of their hometown of Mecca, he came back accompanied by 10,000 others and became the ruler. Within the next 100 years, the Islamic Empire stretched from Morocco to China. Fourteen hundred years later, Muhammad is the most popular name in the world, and there are over 1.3 billion Muslims spread out across the entire globe. His name is being repeated across the globe millions of times daily. His life is being studied in homes, masajid and universities across the globe. Whether you walk into a mosque in Tokyo, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Bogota or Sao Paulo, you will hear Surah al-Fatiha recited and see people praying the way that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to pray.

The incredible ways Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) influenced the course of human history would require volumes upon volumes of books to enumerate.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How are we influencing or making a positive impact in the world?
  • How are we influencing our families, communities, co-workers, children, cities and countries?
  • If the Prophet's mission was about changing the world, shouldn't ours be too? Should we not also be people of influence?

Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day

The Law of Process states that growth in leadership happens every single day, not in a single day.

Have you ever heard the story about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taking a day off from his leadership responsibilities? Of course you haven't because it didn't happen! He worked tirelessly for the sake of humanity. He worked tirelessly for you and me. Every day was a new challenge for him; a new problem to manage; a new threat on his life or the lives of his followers; a new hypocrite to deal with; a new tribe to negotiate with; a new rumor about him or his family to quell; a new strategy to develop; a new leader to give da'wah to; a new Muslim to teach; and a new world to create. Day in and day out he faced the kinds of challenges that developed and sharpened his leadership skills, to the extent that he became the greatest leader ever.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What do we do to develop our leadership skills, day in and day out?
  • How can we intentionally follow the Sunnah of growing as leaders, day in and day out?

Law of Navigation: Anyone can Steer the Ship, but It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course

The Law of Navigation states that it's the leader who sets the vision for his people and then leads them there.

Are there words to describe the incredible vision of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) ? Can you imagine what it would be like if you and the people you led were tortured, boycotted, mocked, murdered and driven out of your homes and still having the wherewithal to talk about conquering Rome and Constantinople? Allahu akbar! How amazing is that? The Prophet always kept the greater vision for his people at the forefront of his mind and the minds of his people. He never took his eyes off the ultimate prize and greater mission.

He had the vision and foresight to:

  • send Musab to Madinah long before he made hijra to develop a following there before his arrival
  • send the believers to Abyssinia when they didn't want to
  • always remind the people of the greater life to come
  • sign the treaty of hudaybiyya despite some of his companions objections
  • listen to his advisors in the battle of the trench and the thwarted trip to Mecca for Hajj
  • develop young and dynamic leadership all around him so the work would continue after his death
  • know when to be patient and quiet and when to step up and speak out
  • give the right roles to the right people at the right times; ibn Masud, Khalid ibn Waleed and Musab ibn Umary are a few that come to mind

These and countless more examples from the Prophet's life show that he was a forward thinking person of great vision, therefore we should be the same.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How do we exemplify this quality from the Sunnah in our lives?
  • What is our long term vision for ourselves, our families, our communities and our organizations? And what steps do we need to take to make that vision come to life?

Law of Addition: Leaders Add Value by Serving Others

The Law of Addition emphasizes the practice of Servant Leadership, or the concept that the leader is there to serve the people and not the opposite. The Prophet was truly a servant of the people who added value to everyone's life that he came across. Whether it was a ruler that he was inviting to Tawheed; a companion the he was teaching and developing; an old lady whose bags he was carrying; a sick member of the community that he was visiting; or one of the many children in the community that he was raising; he added great value to everyone's life around him. The most incredible fact is that some 1400 years later he is still adding value to hundreds of millions of people worldwide on a daily basis.

There is a saying that has been attributed to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (although I have yet to find an authentic source) that summarizes who he was beautifully. “The believer is like a light rain, everywhere he goes he brings benefit.” In other words, if we want to be like the Prophet, then we should strive to be people that make a positive impact and add value everywhere we go.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • Who did you add value to today?
  • Who can you intentionally add value to every single day? Think of the people that you have influence over…imagine them in your mind right now and think about how you can add value to them day in and day out.

Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the Foundation of Leadership

Without trust, there cannot be leadership. The Law of Solid Ground states that Trust is the foundation upon which leadership and influence is laid. Every leadership guru in the modern world speaks of trust as an integral part of great leadership. What again was the Prophet's nickname before he even became a prophet?

That's right…Al ameen, the Trustworthy. SubhanAllah, Allah was setting up the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for successful leadership and influence well before he became a prophet. Imagine what would have happened if the people had even a little bit of doubt in regards to the Prophet's character? His call was initially rejected despite the fact that he was a person of impeccable character and was known for his trustworthiness.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • If people were to rate your trustworthiness on a scale of 1 – 10, what would your score be? Family? Friends? Co-workers? Business partners? Spouse?
  • Have you ever broken someone's trust? If so, how did you make amends?
  • Has anyone ever broken your trust? If so, did you ever forgive them and were they able to regain your trust eventually? If they did regain your trust, how did were they able to do that?

Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves

The Law of Respect states that people will only follow those who are stronger than themselves. To understand this law within the context of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) life, you simply need to look at the caliber of people who chose to follow him. Omar ibn al Khattab, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Khalid bin Waleed, Ali bin Abu Talib, Othman bin Affan, Asma bint Yazid, Muad ibn Jabal, Musab ibn Umayr, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Az Zubayr ibn al Awam, Talha bin Zaid, Sumayyah bint Khubbat, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abu Obayday ibn al Jarrah, Rumaysa bint Milhan, Salman al Farisi, Suhayb al Rumi, Abu Dhar al Ghifari and Hamza just to name a few.

Leaders, warriors, poets, business moguls, chieftains, scholars from various places of various ages and talents all chose to follow the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The greatest united collection of human beings to ever walk the face of the earth was assembled under his leadership and followed him to the extent that their level of loyalty to him was something that the world had never witnessed before.

They followed him because they respected him and knew that he was stronger than them, because people don't follow leaders who have a lower capacity then themselves. Another example of the strength of the Prophet's leadership is that after his death the Muslims were never 100% unified again.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What do you do to intentionally to become a stronger leader every day?

Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias

The Law of Intuition states that leaders always look at things from a leadership lens. When you study the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), you begin to realize just how incredibly strong of a leader he was. From identifying and developing future leaders, to uniting people from various backgrounds, cultures and races on one shared belief system and way of life; the Prophet's leadership bias is clear. I have shared some examples within the previous laws and will share many more through the remainder of the laws.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • Do you view life through a leadership lens?
  • How keen are you in identifying both good and bad leadership when you see it?


Law of Magnetism: Who You Are is Who You Attract

The Law of Magnetism states that the people that you will attract into your organization, community or your life is determined by you are. Think about the 5 people that you spend the most time with in the world. If you balanced all of their characteristics, mannerisms, mindset and lifestyle and you'll be looking at yourself. That's why the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“A person is on the same way of life as his close companion. Therefore, let every one of you carefully consider the company he keeps.” [Tirmidhi]

This law is actually saying the same thing as the hadith but from the opposite perspective. You will ultimately attract the kind of people that are like you to you. This works both on a personal and organizational level. For those of you who watch sports, why are the great teams able to recruit even more great players to their team? Or even in business, how do Google, Apple, Harvard, Stanford and the likes continue to attract top notch talent. It's because they are attracting who they are. Like attracts like. Or think about the really successful Muslim organizations here in the West: Al Maghrib, Zaytuna, Bayyinah and Muslimmatters .

Now look at the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and who he was able to attract to a cause that was not popular and went against many of the fundamental principles of the society that he lived in? The best and brightest came to Islam through the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) example because that's who he was.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • Are you attracting the right kind of people into your life?
  • If you are not, then what do you have to do, or better yet, WHO DO YOU HAVE TO BECOME, in order to attract the right kind of people to you and your organization?

Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand

The Law of Connection states that leaders always seek to help and connect with others before they ask for help. Are you focused on your own needs or the needs of others? “If you help enough people to achieve their goals, they'll help you achieve yours” Zig Ziglar.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was always focused on helping others. He served people through difficult times of great pain and suffering. He constantly was kind and gentle with people even though they were unkind towards him. How many hearts did the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) touch in his lifetime? And how many hearts has he touched since his passing? He is our guide in life and has taught us how to be outstanding human beings.

I honestly cannot imagine how my life would have played out if I had never studied the life of this great man. What if I went days, months, years without hearing his name? Just the mere thought of life without knowing him is too much for me to bear. I am sitting in a café typing this right now with tears welling up in my eyes.

So if he always sought to connect with and help people first and foremost, what about us? Sometimes we can become so self-centered and focused on our own goals and aspirations that we forget that the Sunnah is actually to focus on and serve others.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How do you intentionally connect with the hearts of others on a daily basis?
  • How do you intentionally serve others on a daily basis?

Law of Inner Circle: A Leader's Potential is Determined by Those Closest to Him

The Law of Inner Circle states that the level of your potential is determined by those who you choose to surround yourself with. I've already mentioned some points of note related to this topic in the Laws of Respect and Magnetism, however I want you to ponder over one point related to this law.

Our potential as leaders is determined by those in our inner circles. What is your potential? What would you be doing if you were living at 100% of your potential in life? I want you think about this and create an image in your mind of you at your absolute best. What would you be doing daily?

I think too many of us settle for lives that aren't our best. I think this is one aspect of the Sunnah that is not present in our discourse at all…the Sunnah of living to your full potential. Was there anything that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) set out to do that he didn't accomplish? Did he not live out to his full potential? Did the sahaba not actively seek to live out their best lives possible?

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) didn't haphazardly choose his Inner Circle. He knew where he wanted to go and what he wanted to accomplish so he made sure that the people who were closest to him were world changers like himself!

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What does the best version of you look like?
  • Who do you need to have in your Inner Circle to help you live up to your full potential?

Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others

The Law of Empowerment states that leaders who are secure in their leadership make it a point to empower others. To understand this, let's consider the opposite…an insecure leader. Have you ever worked with or for someone who was insecure in their leadership? Their insecurity will usually manifest itself through lack of gratitude for their subordinates and co-workers; overemphasis on personal accomplishments and under emphasis on others' accomplishments; purposefully limiting the growth of their subordinates, coveting their position and seeking titles for the sake of the title and not for greater service.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) empowered so many leaders around him in various capacities. He empowered his wives by seeking their counsel and implementing it. He empowered youth by giving them REAL responsibilities. He selected young leaders amongst his companions to lead armies, spread and carry the message to foreign lands, and become scholars and teachers in order to carry the message forward after his death. He empowered the slaves and poverty stricken of their society; gave them dignity and important roles such as appointing Bilal (a former slave) as the Muaddhin (Caller to Prayer).

Empowering others is a critical part of the Sunnah for leaders to follow.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How does a leader go from being insecure to being secure?
  • How do you empower others that you lead and are responsible for?

Law of the Picture: People Do What People See

The Law of the Picture states that people will follow the leader not just in their speech, but more importantly in their actions. Followers do what they see their leaders doing. This is an absolutely critical concept for leaders to understand. If you lead in any capacity, at work, home or in your community, know that you are being watched! I have to admit that I have made my fair share of mistakes during my time as a school principal. I remember one incident in which I was joking around with one of the students and I gave him a funny nickname, or what I thought was a funny nickname, but unfortunately the other students picked up on it and started referring to him with the same nickname. It wasn't derogatory by any means; however I could tell that the student didn't really love being referred to by that nickname. So I tried hard to convince the other students that it was not a good thing to call him and I apologized profusely. The nickname did eventually go away, however the fact that the student may have felt bad due to my account very much saddens me to this day. I ask Al Ghafoor to forgive me for my insensitivity.

This incident and many others taught me a powerful lesson on the importance of always trying to behave with ihsaan, in particular in a leadership role. I say that because when you're not in a leadership position, your actions may not impact others in as great a way as it will when you're a leader. This principle goes so far and so deep. Just look at the Muslim leaders in the west and those who follow them. Followers of a particular movement talk like the leader, act like the leader and even start to change their physical appearance to match the dress and style of the leader.

All of this is precisely why the statement of Aisha raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him) who said that the Prophet's character was like a walking Qur'an is so incredibly profound! He walked his talk! His character was so beautiful that the Sahaba studied and emulated his every move. The minute details of his life have been studied and followed more than any other person's in human history. It's the reason why you see people throughout the world brushing their teeth with miswaaks, wearing long garbs, turbans and cologne (athar).

Followers do what they see, so what are your followers doing?

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How do you ensure that your actions are congruent with what you say?
  • Can you think of examples of good and bad actions that your followers have done directly as a result of the example that you set? How do those things make you feel?

Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision

The Law of Buy-In states that people will not buy into what your vision is until they buy into you as a person and as their leader. Think about this for a second…it is almost never the case that a vision propels people forward without a credible leader pushing that vision forward. Social Media has changed that phenomenon a bit, however for a viral video, message or cause to really make a broad impact, there are leaders that take center stage and make that cause real and take it beyond what it was only on facebook, twitter, vine or youtube.

In terms of the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) life, this is law provides a fascinating insight into Allah's Divine wisdom in selecting and preparing the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in particular to carry out this message. A man of great integrity; a man of the noblest character; a man of great internal and external strength; a man of excellent dress and of medium height and build; the most handsome of men; a man of balanced temperament; a man of great wisdom and patience; an orphan and a former shepherd; this was the man that was selected by Allah to bring the final and perfect message from God to mankind.

It was easy for the people to buy into the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) because he exemplified Noble Character and had an amazing combination of perfectly balanced qualities. Even when his enemies tried to defame him, they really couldn't because anyone who met him and met them would know clearly who was on the path of truth and who wasn't. When people met him, they knew just by looking at him that he was a person of honesty and integrity; that they were not looking at the face of a liar or dishonest man.

Obviously, we can't share the physical attributes of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but we can try to emulate his character and prophetic qualities. If we want to be leaders and agents of positive influence, then people will have to buy into us before they buy into what we're selling.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • When taking on a new position of leadership, was it easy or difficult to get the people to buy into you? How so?
  • When trying to set a new vision for your organization, school or community, what steps do you need to take in order to get them to first buy into you and then your vision?

Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win

The Law of Victory states that leaders always figure out how to lead their teams, companies, communities and even countries to victory. Obviously, in sports, defining victory is simple whereas in the real world what being victorious really means is quite ambiguous. However, the principle remains. Leaders know how to drastically improve the situation of whatever it is that they are leading. Steve Jobs is a great example of this law. Apple was a big hit in the 80's then died down after he left, only to rise to its greatest prominence upon his return to the company in the early 2000's.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) exemplified this law greater than any other human being in history. How he went from receiving the message and being the world's only 'Muslim' to becoming the leader of his people, to being a source of guidance and inspiration for over 1 billion people over 1,400 years later is unfathomable. Despite all odds, with the help of Allah and the support of his companions, he was able to fulfill his mission.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How have you helped those whom you are responsible for leading to victory?
  • What were the key components you needed in order to become victorious?

Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a Leader's Best Friend

The Law of the Big Mo states that once momentum is created by the leader, it helps to propel your mission and/or organization faster and farther then you could have ever expected. Once momentum is established, great things happen and the leader is given far more credit than he deserves. The hard part is creating that momentum and that's where the leadership ability of the leader comes into play. He is responsible for creating that momentum and this is no easy task. Just look to the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and you'll see how difficult it can be.

One can argue that the 'Tipping Point' for the Prophet's message spreading rapidly was the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Up until that point, Islam had definitely gained traction amongst some of the masses and a new capital city was established in Madinah, however it really thrived after the signing of Hudaybiyyah.

It took the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) the entire time in Mecca and then 6 years after the hijra in order to take the message to the point where it spread rapidly and was widely accepted. After Hudaybiyyah, Islam has never stopped growing.

Momentum will take the vision and mission of your company, community and country farther than you could have imagined. It really is a leader's best friend.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How have you created positive momentum in your various leadership roles?
  • What are some of the positive outcomes that have occurred as a result of this momentum that exceeded your expectations?

Law of Priorities: Leader's Understand that Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment

The Law of Priorities states that merely being busy does not equate to being effective. Have you ever been around leaders who move and talk really fast but when you ask them what they've accomplished they have very little to show? These leaders don't understand that in order to be the most effective leader possible, you must intentionally choose to do the right things. The right things are the ones that matter most and the ones that give you the best return on investment for your time.

Think of it like this…time is the most valuable asset that we have, and as leaders we oftentimes have very little of it on our hands. So how we organize that time is extremely important to achieving our highest level of effectiveness. Let me share an example from my own life. As a principal, there are 100 different tasks to be completed at the same time on a daily basis, and I could have easily gotten busy doing all of them simultaneously, and I did! The lack of focus caused me to get burned out very quickly! However, after a couple of years of experience under my belt, I reread about this law and decided to come up with a list of the top 3 tasks that brought me the greatest return and focus most of my time on those three. After much contemplation and reflection, I actually came up with a list of two: communication and coaching. Those were the two things that gave me the greatest return on investment of my limited time. Once I made the switch and started to focus most of my time on these two areas, I started to see much greater results and felt like I was working less. I wasn't, however it felt like I was because I was engaged in activities that not only brought me the best results, but they also were duties that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

Now, let's go back to the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). When we look into his seerah from this leadership lens, you see clearly that he always focused on the biggest priorities at any given time period. In the beginning of the call in Mecca, he focused his time on teaching and training his followers and on his own personal growth in prayer and reflection. Even the Sunnah of Allah is profound in that the verses that came down focused mainly on developing the aqeedah of the believers and their connection with Allah, His Messenger and the next life.

Of course later after the hijrah, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spent much more of his time on community building and spreading the message now that a base city had been established. Finally, towards the end of his life, he spent more time completing his duties to Allah and humanity by putting the final pieces of the message together. His life is a profound example of prioritizing our time depending on current needs and circumstances.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How do you prioritize your time? Which activities bring you the greatest return on investment for your time? Which activities bring the least? How can you do more of the former and less of the latter?
  • Think back on your experiences to an example of when you prioritized well and when you prioritized poorly.

Law of Sacrifice: Leaders Must Give Up to Go Up

The Law of Sacrifice states that in order for you to keep rising up the leadership ladder, you're going to have to make more and more sacrifices. Great leadership means greater responsibility to serve.

This law is exemplified by no one throughout the course of human history better than the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). It seems that all he did was sacrifice for his followers, for you and me, for our parents, for our children and grandchildren to be successful in this life and the next.

The examples of his sacrifices are too numerous to discuss all of them, but I will mention a couple:

  • When the Muslims were kicked out of Mecca and were surviving off of tree leaves and random donations of the most basic food from well-wishers in Mecca, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the hungriest of all of them. He ate last and he ate the least.
  • He sacrificed all for the pleasures of the dunya for a greater cause. Can you imagine if Bill Gates or some other billionaire tycoon came to you and offered you anything that you wanted in the world? Money, mansions, yachts, exotic cars, private jets, the finest jewelry and everything else that the dunya had to offer was yours at your convenience. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was offered this by the wealthy leaders at that time and chose the life of servanthood and struggle for a greater cause instead.

So the question that comes to mind that we have to ask ourselves is: what are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the people? Many of us live self-serving lives in that we do good for ourselves and maybe our immediate families but we don't seek to make a bigger impact in order to serve humanity. Success is what we do for ourselves, but greatness is what we do for others. Real leadership is all about sacrifice. The higher we go up the ladder of leadership, the more sacrifice is required from us.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What sacrifices are you willing to make to keep climbing the ladder of leadership?
  • What sacrifices have people made for you to help you get to where you are today?

Law of Timing: When to Lead is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go

The Law of Timing states that understanding and practicing good timing is a critical component of great leadership. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the right time then great success follows. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the wrong time, there is limited success. When the leader chooses to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, the people get a new leader.

When analyzing the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), we can see how clearly he understood this law. When the companions around him were calling for retaliation for the brutality and torture that they were suffering from, the Prophet understood the importance of timing.

When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) decided to climb the hill outside of Mecca and proclaim his message publicly, he knew it was the right time because he needed certain people to join their ranks in order to strengthen and grow.

When the Muslims were prevented from entering into Mecca to perform the pilgrimage, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) understood that this was a good time to sign the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Even though many of his companions disagree with him and were furious over the terms of the treaty, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) understood that the timing was right for a period of peace to ensure the continued spreading of the message.

Also, when the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was broken, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) knew that the time was right to gather the Muslims together and re-enter Mecca.

His entire life is a study in the law of timing.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • Think about a situation or circumstance that you've faced in the past in which you've followed the law of timing. What results ensued?
  • Think about a situation in which you did not heed the law of timing. How were your results different?

Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders

The Law of Explosive Growth states that if you really want to amplify your positive impact in the world, don't lead followers, lead leaders. It's good to reflect from time to time and ask ourselves, how many leaders have we developed?

I remember a conversation I had about 20 years ago with imam Siraj Wahhaj who I see as a modern day Malcolm X, in which he emphasized how important this issue of leadership is and how critical it is to develop leaders in our communities. I believe that imam Siraj understood this because he is a student of the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I'm not going to mention all of the leaders that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) developed. I'll just remind you of the 4 that stand out the most: Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali raḥimahā Allāh (may Allāh have mercy upon her). Consider the accomplishments of these 4 leaders within a relatively brief time period and we see just how powerful the Law of Explosive Growth really is. To really put that in perspective think about how their lives would have been different had they not received the tutelage and development from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that they did. What would Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali's lives been like had they chosen not to become followers of the Prophet's leadership? It's an interesting thing to consider hypothetically, but alhamdulillah for all of us that they did learn and develop under the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) leadership.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) developed so many leaders around him. He lifted them up; he set a perfect example for them to follow; he added valued to their lives in so many ways and they returned the favor; he empowered them and gave them responsibilities; he instilled confidence in them by believing in them; he gave them hope for a better future; he developed their hearts, minds, souls and character; he encouraged them to seek to be their best physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally; he helped them to become the best version of themselves, thereby creating the greatest generation of people to ever walk the face of the earth ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

What inevitably results when you lead leaders is a profound impact on not only the individuals themselves, but all those who they lead, their families and their communities.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What changes do you have to make in order to develop leaders rather than followers?

Law of Legacy: A Leader's Lasting Value is Measured by Succession

The Law of Legacy states that you can measure a leader's lasting impact by how effective their successors are. I personally understood this law the hard way. The first school that I was a principal of, I did not have a successor who was ready to take over when I left. Therefore, the changes that I implemented at the school didn't last because I did not set up the leadership moving forward.

Alhamdulillah, for all of us, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) didn't make those kinds of mistakes. He set up the leadership for our ummah not only immediately following his death, but gave us examples for us to always refer to until the end of time. I really want you to think about that and how profound it is. The lessons from the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  leadership and the leadership of his successors were examples for us to follow transcending both time and place. I would say without a doubt, that this is the greatest legacy that the world has ever seen!

This is the reason why I wrote this series of articles.

  • To help us better understand leadership and the leadership imperative for all of us.
  • To share some leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) so that we can implement them in our own lives.
  • To appreciate and value how incredibly profound the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was by analyzing it through the lens of leadership.
  • To increase our love of him ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I hope that you have benefitted from this series of articles. I ask Allah to forgive me for any mistakes I may have made and I ask Him to accept any good that may come from it.

I think it's time that we step up to the plate and become the dynamic and inspirational leaders that our deen calls us to be and that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to be. I wish you all the best on your leadership journeys.

The post Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet Muhammad (saw) appeared first on

Town Rallies Around Vandalized Cold Lake Mosque

Loon Watch - 27 October, 2014 - 19:49


(h/t: BSha)

via. CBC News

When Mahmoud Elkadri arrived at the mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., early Friday morning, he was met with a disturbing sight.

The words “Go home” and “Canada” had been sprayed across the front face of the building sometime over the night. Vandals had also smashed two of the mosque’s windows.

“When you’re coming in the morning for a peaceful prayer, it is hard,” said Elkadri, who is one of the mosque’s board members.

“This is our home. My kids have been born and raised in Cold Lake. … I have been in Cold Lake since 1996.”

Only a couple hours later, it was a much different sight. Over the course of the morning, dozens of people from the town showed up to help repair the damage. Some helped paint over the damage, while others taped their own messages to the window reading “You Are Home” and “Love Your Neighbour.”

Cold Lake resident Matt Downey, who came down to the mosque with his daughter to deliver flowers to Elkadri, says he wanted to show that the vandals didn’t speak for the majority of the people in town.

“It’s sad. I mean, these guys are peaceful. I think it is important for the community to show them that we know the difference between extremists and a religion,” he said.

Elkadri said he’s received visits and messages of support from soldiers stationed at the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake.

“We were crying together in the morning. People coming here, people expressing their feelings,” he said.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says the mosque is an important part of the town and that he was disappointed that someone in the community could be behind the damage.

“I just want to say that the Muslim community is at home in Cold Lake, so maybe they need to evaluate whether or not they belong in Cold Lake,” he said of the vandal.

Copeland thinks the vandalism is in response to the shooting in Ottawa that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Wednesday. He said that people are taking out their frustration on the wrong place.

Citizens of Mosul endure economic collapse and repression under Isis rule

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 October, 2014 - 15:56
Many Sunnis were glad to see the Iraqi army go when Islamic State took over but for many the situation is now far worse

Conditions inside Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State (Isis) control, have dramatically deteriorated, residents say, with severe shortages of food and water, no functioning public institutions, and the local economy in a state of near collapse.

In a series of interviews, locals in the Iraqi city paint a bleak picture of life under Isis rule. They say that discontent with the militants who swept into Iraqs second city nearly five months ago is growing. Most public institutions have stopped working and provide no services. Almost all private sector activity and government-funded construction projects have been put on hold. Thousands of workers have been rendered jobless.

Continue reading...

Isis is a monster created by many countries. It requires an international solution | Abolhassan Banisadr

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 October, 2014 - 11:46
Although Isis is a product of the wests policy of domination, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf Arab regimes are also culprits

Isis could not have emerged without support from western powers and their regional allies. These facilitated the travel of jihadis from 80 countries into Syria, funded them, and then trained and armed them. So long as these jihadis were committing crimes in Syria against Syrians and Assads regime (which, to be clear, bears responsibility for the ongoing disaster there), western governments turned a blind eye. After all, at the time Isis was doing the bidding of the same neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who had decided that the overthrow of Libyas despot, Gaddafi, should be followed by the overthrow of Assad. This would then enable them to go for the main prize, the Iranian regime. However, Isis became a problem for the west when, following the pattern established by al-Qaida and the Taliban, they turned their guns against western interests in the region and tried to capture the oil fields of the Kurdish region, which was not part of the plan.

Although Isis is a product of the wests policy of domination, it is also a Sunni version of Khomeinism. It was Ayatollah Khomeini who sanctified and glorified violence under the garb of religion, and the heinous crimes committed by his regime set precedents for Isis. These include the beheading of opposition leaders and others, the execution of prisoners and the injured (which, after the June 1981 coup against me, reached 300-400 a night and climaxed in 1988 when the regime executed more than 4,000 prisoners who had already been sentenced and were serving prison terms).

Continue reading...

Iranian women and the hijab, the persistent stereotype - video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 October, 2014 - 10:43

A documentary explores the complex relationship of women with Islam in their society, still as contentious as ever

I chose the photos for this video from the internet by searching the words Iran, women, and youth. I mixed these images with photos I found on book covers and magazines. I tried to see what was available to the average person in the public sphere about Iran. I borrowed some photos from two great photographers, Newsha Tavakolian and Abbas Kowsari, who generously opened their archives to me. The rest are my own personal and family photographs.

Power of Cliche is a work from 2006. I thought it had passed its expiry date. But the issue of Iranian women keeps being revisited. The cliche continues to resonate, even though we are experiencing a shift in the way Iranian women are used to represent Iran.

Continue reading...

A Sunni, a Shia, and a Pizza

Muslim Matters - 27 October, 2014 - 04:30

As a student of religious studies, I have always been interested in studying how religion has worked as a binding factor to bring people of various faiths together. Growing up as a kid in northern New Jersey in the late 90s, my family became good friends with a Bhori-Shia family who lived down the street from us. Though theological differences between Sunnis and Shias are have been seen throughout the world to set both of these groups apart, our families clicked very well and became very close, not to mention that their son Murtaza was my age and went to school with me.

That wasn't the only similarity between us, rather, there were many. Both my father and Murtaza's grew up in Calcutta, India. Both families lived in similar socioeconomic circumstances. Our mothers became quite close from their initial conversation, both families had similar likes and dislikes, and both had an affinity to their faith groups. Though we recognized that we were a practicing Sunni family and they were dedicated followers of Bhori-Shiism, we did not use our differences to set us apart as much as we used our similarities to come together. When the time of prayer would come, our family would pray in one group while they would pray in their own. There were many areas of theology and worship which both of us differed on, but we were always very close regardless of those issues. We didn't agree on everything, but we also didn't fight to make the other conform.

After almost twelve years of not seeing each other, many failed attempts to hang out, and letting life play its role, I finally got a chance to go out and get dinner with Murtaza in September 2013. He recently came back to the states after studying for seven years throughout the world. He went to a Bhori-Shia seminary in Pakistan where he memorized the Qur'an and completed a course at the same institution, spent time studying at Al-Azhar in Cairo, and also became certified in various Islamic disciplines from various institutions throughout his journey. Murtaza is now finishing his undergraduate studies in Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

We laughed at all the good times our families had together back in the day. It was crazy how we hadn't spoken in years, but we both are on a similar track in life. We both memorized the Qur'an and had a humble knack for Islamic studies in our daily lives, both planned to pursue higher studies, and both had a sense of involvement in our mosques. Much of our conversations of the night focused on our activism within our respective Muslim communities. Surprisingly, as I would explain various challenges that I had faced as a youth activist, Murtaza would tell me his community is going through similar social issues. Whether it was youth programs, addressing social ills, communication gaps between the old and young, general outreach, and more, we found that both of our communities were in the same boat when it comes to Islamic activism. Though jokes and memories were part of our conversation for the night as well, neither of us shied away from asking tough questions about our own theological differences. As a Sunni, I was seeking answers to issues pertaining to the companions of the Prophet, Iran's importance as a religious head, and more, while his questions were more about historical differences, community development, and the Sunni perception of other Shias. These were just a few contentions we spoke about. We didn't debate; rather we had a dialogue over some pizza, sandwiches, and bubble tea. Though we both got our answers, we actually found something much more important than what we were seeking—we found realizations that can help our communities be more tolerant of each other.

  1. Sunnis and Shias both hold dozens of false misconceptions about each other which can be resolved through learning about the history of how the split happened. We avoid each other like the plague when there's no need for it—especially living in the United States. Both sides need to show ample respect and care for each other.
  2. Though Sunnis and Shias heavily disagree in theology and worship, there should be an ongoing intra-faith dialogue taking place. Yes, there are things which we obviously won't agree upon, but there are ways both groups can benefit each of their communities respectively. When there is room to work together to better everyone's situation equally, there should be a concerted joint effort to move forward.
  3. Both of our communities are going through almost the same, exact challenges. Whether it be social issues, mosque integration, cultural stigmas, youth integration, the struggle is literally mirrored. Most issues that affect us at the ground level are human issues, not religious. Religion steers the solutions, but a cocaine addict is not any better or worse if he is Sunni or Shia. He needs help like anyone else needs help.
  4. Just as most Sunnis do not ascribe to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the ultimate representative of Sunni Islam, similarly all Shias do not ascribe to the Ayatollah, twelver-Shiism, or Iran as representatives of their faith group. This means that the beliefs, theology, and ideology of Sunnism and Shiism is not respectively monolithic in the manner many media outlets portray them to be. There are many shades of gray in between.
  5. Politics motivate hate from the Sunni and Shia sides respectively. Most of the disdain we have comes from political ideologies which hijacked each denomination respectively. Much of our hate stems from atrocities which have happened to each of us from the extremist minorities in each group and their twisted ideology. Suicide bombings, political death squads, and “honor” killings have nothing to do with being Sunni or Shia, rather it goes back to an unstable political, economic, and social climate where these things are happening.
  6. With the declining amount of humanity left in human beings, we need to consider what ways we can preserve and cherish human lives. To have a conversation, both sides need to separate between religious tradition and politics, suppress emotions, and hear the other out. There is a lot to learn and accomplish if we simply start listening to each other and not succumb to the noise created by those who wish to see society eat itself out from the inside and let evil prevail.

The post A Sunni, a Shia, and a Pizza appeared first on

Allen West On Ottawa Attack: “Shut Down” Mosques Of Perpetrators And Deport The Imams

Loon Watch - 26 October, 2014 - 19:35


Allen West is at it again, this is the type of incendiary rhetoric that leads to firebombing mosques.

via. MediaMatters

Fox News contributor Allen West believes the Western world should respond to the Ottawa terrorist attack by shutting down “the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending” and deporting the imams. West added that closing these places “of so-called worship” is “the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities” that we’re “not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition.”

West was speaking on the October 23 edition of BlogTalkRadio’s REELTalk. Here’s his reaction to the Ottawa attack:

WEST: But I think, Audrey, the real thing that we’re going to have to do is the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending, when they commit these acts, we gotta shut ‘em down. We have to send a message. The imam that’s at that mosque or Islamic Center is deported. That place of so-called worship, which is just proselytizing, you know, hate and violence, they have to be shut down. I think that’s the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities here in Western Civilization that we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition that are, you know, popping up all over the place.


We’re not saying, you know, we start shutting down mosques and Islamic Centers. But the ones who are feeding us these violent jihadists, they need to be the ones that are shut down. Like I said, the imams, the mullahs that are there running these mosques and centers, they need to be deported. Because we have to say, this is, you know, a zero-sum game. We’re not tolerating it.

West is an Islamophobe. He believes that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that.” He attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is Muslim, as representing “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

The former Florida congressman has similarly claimed that “Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist” and “I don’t understand where this president’s loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?”

Despite his long history of incendiary rhetoric, Republican candidates and organizations have been using West as a regular surrogate on the campaign trail.

Molotov Cocktail Thrown At Albuquerque Mosque

Loon Watch - 26 October, 2014 - 19:26


(h/t: Abe A.)


ALBUQUERQUE — FBI agents and Albuquerque police investigated a Molotov cocktail thrown at a mosque in southeast Albuquerque Friday morning.

The device hit the exterior wall of the Islamic Center of New Mexico around 3:55 a.m. Friday, scorching a wall and leaving broken glass on the ground.

Several agencies responded to the Islamic Center to conduct an investigation, including the FBI and APD bomb squad personnel.

“I’m very disappointed something like this would happen here in Albuquerque,” said Jameela Abdul Halim, the assistant administrator at the Islamic Center.

The center’s janitor, Shakir Farid Abdullah, said he found the burnt bottle about five hours later, around 9 a.m. Abdullah said he feared the perpetrator assumes the mosque is affiliated with terrorist groups overseas.

“We believe in peace, nonviolence…we don’t support terrorism,” said Abdullah. “We don’t support any acts of violence against any religious group…so someone, obviously, is ignorant to that.”

The Molotov cocktail was apparently thrown at the section of the building dedicated to women and children. Friday is also the day hundreds of Muslims from across the area come to the mosque to pray. No one was injured, but the incident is still disturbing to those who attend the mosque.

“[We're] very grateful it didn’t go through the window. There was nobody around at the time; we didn’t have a lot of people,” said mosque member Abdul Halim.

This is not the first incident at the Islamic Center. According to mosque member Andy Brooks, people threw flaming Qurans into the mosque’s yard a couple years ago, and last year, someone walked into the Iman’s office and threatened him with a gun.

Also, this past February, a man approached two children on the mosque’s playground and allegedly threatened to stab them because he hated Muslims.

Members of the mosque say they’re going to invest more money on surveillance cameras.

The New Mexico Conference of Churches released a statement about the incident Friday afternoon:

“The New Mexico Conference of Churches is terribly distressed by the news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Islamic Center of New Mexico this morning. Christians across our state reject such hate-based violence. We recognize our Muslim brothers and sisters as fellow children of God and as our neighbors whom we are called to love. We urge all people to resist hatred with compassion in order to build a new era of peace and goodwill. Our prayers are with the members of the Islamic Center and we offer any and all help at this time.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also issued a statement Friday evening:

“The news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Islamic Center of New Mexico is deeply troubling. Acts of violence have no place in our society. The members of the ‎Center and the entire Muslim community in New Mexico are in my thoughts.”

Police have yet to make an arrest. If you have any information regarding the suspect, contact police.

Central African Republic: The Blood Trail Leads to Paris

Loon Watch - 26 October, 2014 - 19:15


A man gestures in front of a burning barricade during a protest against French soldiers in Bambari, May 22, 2014. (Goran Tomasevic / Courtesy Reuters)

This is the third article in an exclusive Loonwatch series entitled, This is Africa. The previous article exposed some of the background conveniently left out of most media coverage as violence spiraled out of control in the Central African Republic. 

by Ilisha

This article delves into the historical roots of French colonial rule in the Central African Republic (CAR), and the ceaseless foreign intervention that has plagued the country ever since. This is the historical and geopolitical context that allows us to distinguish fact from fiction when confronted with misleading propaganda.

Following a familiar pattern established over decades, the latest round of violence provided cover for a cloak and dagger power grab, orchestrated by the usual suspects.

Paving the Way

The French arrived in what is now CAR in 1885, and managed to consolidate their rule by the early 1900s. Prestigious French Investigative reporter Albert Londres traveled to colonial Africa in 1928 and relayed the horrors inflicted on the indigenous people through imperial conquest:

Forcibly seized in their villages, transported by river on barges built to carry animals, a quarter of them died before reaching Brazzaville [in present-day Republic of the Congo]. They were then forced to do all of the construction work practically without any tools, such as digging tunnels bare-handed under the whip of the “capitas” (village chieftains serving as overseers) without food and exposed to disease. And when they ran out of strength, Albert Londres testified, “I saw Saras, Zindes and Bayas, who no longer had the strength to work, walk into the forest to die” ~ (Terre d’Ebène).

The extraction of African wealth by African hands for French benefit necessarily required extreme brutality. In all, between 1890 and 1940, half the population perished from a combination of microbial shock and colonial violence.

Despite French brutality and ruthlessness, the survivors resisted.

The Rebellion

With their ancestral way of life destroyed, their natural resources plundered, their labor exploited, and their population devastated, the people were further savaged by heavy taxes used to fund colonial infrastructure. This unbearable situation gave birth to the Kongo-Wara rebellion (1928-1931).

The movement urged black solidarity and called for direct action, including a boycott of European merchandise, and refusal to work for or pay taxes to colonial authorities. Rebels burned down police stations, government buildings, and private residences. They blocked roads, denying access to European colonials. Although there have been many rebellions against colonial rule in Africa, the Kongo-Wara (“War of the Hoe Handle”) spread beyond the village where it began in the Central African Republic, extending into parts of Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon. At its zenith, the movement had over 350,000 adherents, including an estimated 60,000 warriors. [1]

The rebellion was finally crushed in 1931. The last remaining pockets of resistance were extinguished in the “War of the Caves,” when French forces asphyxiated rebels with smoke. Direct colonial rule lasted another three decades until 1960, when the country achieved formal independence.

The Ruse

“The drama of Africa is that the African man has not sufficiently entered into history.” ~ Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

More than half a century has passed since the Central African Republic was declared an independent nation. Many people seem to think five decades is long enough to have recovered from colonial exploitation, and blame the people for their apparent failure to rise up from the ruins and build a stable, prosperous democracy.

Whether or not this is a reasonable expectation under the circumstances, the fact is colonialism never really ended. As explained in the first article in this series, the French Colonial Pact was merely a clever scheme to replace crude colonialism with a more sophisticated successor, neocolonialism. The transfer of wealth has continued to this day.

According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2013, France ranked 26th among all nations with a per capita GDP of nearly $40,000. The Central African Republic ranked dead last, with a per capita GDP of about $600.

Plunder in Masquerade

In the wake of formal independence for African nations, the French wanted to achieve the same wealth transfer while avoiding the stench of old-fashioned colonial rule. Paris has consistently meddled in the governmental affairs of their “former” colonies, installing and deposing African leaders to ensure French interests always come first.

As we shall see, when puppet regimes start showing signs of independence or are no longer useful, they must be overthrown and replaced. If “regime change” cannot be achieved by rigged elections or a facilitated coup, objectives much be achieved by other means. A pretext must be found (or manufactured) to justify whatever must be done to restore “order and stability” (translation: organized theft).

A Mysterious Death

Barthélemy Boganda served as prime minister of the Central African Republic Autonomous Territory leading up to independence. A nationalist who openly opposed racism and colonialism, he had formed grassroots opposition to French colonial rule. He might have become the first president, except that Boganda was killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1959, just before the country’s first election.

Instead, David Dacko became the first president of the Central African Republic in 1960, with the active French support.

The China Threat

Dacko tread the fine line between pleasing his French masters and convincing his constituents he was not a French puppet. In an apparent effort to display his independence after his first few years in office, he made a perilous mistake by cultivating closer relations with China.

Foreshadowing events that would take place decades later, Dacko was overthrown in a French-backed coup and replaced by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.

Emperor Bokassa

Within days of seizing power, Bokassa broke off relations with Beijing and expelled Chinese advisers.

Bokassa was a distinguished veteran of the French war in Indochina with close ties to France. He enjoyed private Air France flights to dine in Paris and acquired a palatial chateau while his people starved under brutal oppression. In 1975, the French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing declared himself a “friend and family member” of Emperor Bokassa.

An admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and an egomaniac fond of bestowing illustrious titles upon himself, Bokassa declared himself emperor of the “Central African Empire” during the last two years of his rule. Paris congratulated him and the French government helped finance a lavish coronation at an estimated cost of $30 million–in a small, impoverished country where most people did not have access to potable water.

Emperor Bokassa used the country’s diamonds to pay mercenaries and French politicians, and in exchange, the French backed a psychopathic murderer.

But the French later soured on Bokassa as his extravagance drew growing opposition from his subjects, his behavior became increasingly erratic, and his bids for greater independence in foreign affairs became more frequent.

In 1979, he gave the French the pretext they needed to depose him. His regime arrested and tortured more than 100 student protesters, many of whom were eventually murdered under Bokassa’s personal supervision. Though Paris had supported him through many of his worst atrocities, the French demonized their former ally, spreading lurid tales accusing him of engaging various crimes, including cannibalism–a widely rumored allegation that was never proven.

French paratroopers overthrew Bokassa while he was visiting Libya, and reinstalled David Dacko as president.

Kleptocrat Roulette

Dacko’s second term as president lasted only briefly. Under pressure from a virulent opposition led by Ange-Félix Patassé, he handed power over to the military, asking Paris not to intervene. Dacko had effectively consented to a bloodless coup led by André Kolingba.

Kolingba was another kleptocrat and brutal dictator, and like Bokassa before him, enjoyed close relations with Paris. Kolingba’s rule lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signaled the end of the Cold War and brought increased pressure to hold democratic elections.

Facing mounting pressure, France assisted in organizing the elections, which brought Dacko’s arch rival, Ange-Félix Patassé, to office in 1993.

Before leaving office, Kolingba pardoned Emperor Bokassa, who had spent 7 years in jail after being sentenced to death for numerous crimes, including treason, murder, illegal use of property, assault and battery, and embezzlement. A few years later, André Kolingba would himself be sentenced to death for masterminding a failed coup attempt against Patassé. Kolingba was later pardoned, in yet another display of incestuous political corruption.

Patassé was re-elected again in 1999, though his rule was characterized by corruption, political intrigue, ethnic tensions, religious protests, and murders. Nevertheless, he enjoyed French support and managed to stave off at least a half dozen coup attempts during his 10-year rule.

Then he made a mistake that would prove perilous. He began to criticize Paris’ role in the country and to speak out against French exploitation of the country’s resources. Shortly thereafter, he was deposed in a French-backed coup by veteran military strongman François Bozizé. Despite international condemnation, the elected president was never restored to power.

From 1977 to 1979, Bozizé had served as army chief of staff under Emperor Bokassa. Bozizé described Emperor Bokassa, a brutal dictator and convicted criminal, as “a son of the nation recognized by all as a great builder.” As mentioned previously, his predecessor, André Kolingba, had pardoned Bokassa, freeing him from jail, along with numerous other political prisoners. Bozizé further watered down Bokassa’s punishment by issuing a rehabilitation decree to “erase penal condemnations, particularly fines and legal costs, and [stop] any future incapacities that result from them.”

Bozizé himself would later face charges of “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.”

Dacko Redux

François Bozizé’s presidency lasted 10 years, during which he enjoyed warm relations with the French. Then, like so many others before him, he began showing signs of independence in foreign affairs. Like CAR’s first president David Dacko, Bozizé made the perilous mistake of cozying up to China, and like David Dacko in his first presidency, Bozizé was soon deposed.

The political intrigue that surrounded the ouster of Bozizé is the subject of the next article.

[1] Fage, J.D.; Oliver, Roland Anthony (1986). The Cambridge history of Africa. (Reprint ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 397.ISBN 0521225051.

Previous article

Mecca: The Sacred City review an important study of one of the great religious sites

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 October, 2014 - 10:00
Ziauddin Sardar tells the story of Mecca with rare insight and passion

In the history of religion, and in the wider story of mankinds yearning to understand its place in the universe, Mecca is almost as important a site as Jerusalem, yet in English it is still virtually unwritten. There are a few Victorian travelogues, it is true Sir Richard Burton disguised in his walnut greasepaint and turban, etc but for every book on Mecca there are several shelves on Jerusalem; for every study of the Hejaz, there exists a groaning library on the Holy Land. Luckily, Ziauddin Sardar has now admirably filled the gap.

The holy precincts around the Kaaba contain stories stretching back to the very beginning of time, writes Sardar. Adam, remembered in Islam as the first prophet, is said in Arabian tradition to have visited the city and to be buried there. It is also believed by some to be remembered as a place of pilgrimage in the Bible, under its earlier name of Baca: Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage, reads Psalm 84. As they pass through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs.

Continue reading...

Bedroom Tax gag on Lamont typical of Labour’s cowardice

Indigo Jo Blogs - 26 October, 2014 - 08:37

Picture of Johann Lamont, a white woman with fair hair wearing a light green jacket.Miliband barred Lamont from attacking bedroom tax for 12 months | Politics |

Yesterday, in the fallout from Johann Lamont’s resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour party (a nominally independent Scottish version of the Labour party), “sources close” to Lamont revealed that Ed Miliband had ordered her not to attack the Bedroom Tax (the policy by which a person or family’s housing benefit is cut if they are deemed to have “spare bedrooms”, which may not be spare at all) while he made up his mind on the issue; this resulted in the widespread perception that Lamont was indecisive and vague on the issue. This, to me, is typical of the cowardice which Labour show when the agenda is being set by the Tories and their press, and it goes back to well before Tony Blair came to office.

I saw it most clearly when I was active in the student union in Aberystwyth in the mid-1990s. The National Union of Students had been largely controlled by the Labour students’ group for years, but as that group became more right-wing, the union itself retained its policy of demanding a return to full grants and the abolition of loans. Labour wanted to introduce tuition fees, and its student wing was full of ambitious young politicians who wanted to impress the party and secure nominations for seats to fight. Indeed, Jim Murphy, currently MP for East Renfrewshire, was the president of the NUS at the time I attended conference in 1996; he was elected in 1997. Quite a number of presidents of the NUS became Labour MPs and other became chairs of Labour-associated groups like the Fabian Society. The NUS’s policy on grants was an embarrassment to Labour, and they needed to overturn the policy.

Labour tabled motions to abolish the grants policy at conference after conference and in 1996 they finally got it through. Labour students were seated in the central part of the hall so that someone in the balcony could indicate to them how to vote (as Aberystwyth was controlled by dissenters — mostly Plaid Cymru — we were in the wings and couldn’t see them, but a delegate on the other wing pointed this out in a procedural motion to expel the visitors from conference for this reason), and I remember one incident where a Labour union officer got up to speak and a couple of seconds later, the central part of the hall erupted in applause — as if they’d only just realised they were being told to cheer. It was an open secret that Labour students regarded it as their job to use positions such as student union sabbatical officers to help Labour win the 1997 election, and this often involved going against other union officers or union policy. At one college, for example, the Labour slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was printed on the union’s rape alarms.

The reasons why returning to 1979 grant levels was infeasible are obvious; the number of students had increased dramatically since then. Of course, this meant that a university degree had become a more essential qualification, which it certainly was not in 1979, but the drain on the economy would have been enormous. The same is not true of the Bedroom Tax; it is a new policy, conceived in obvious malice by wealthy Tories, known to be causing a lot of suffering and hardship because the ‘spare rooms’ are not spare at all, or because there is no alternative accommodation for many of the families affected, and because it takes no account of family circumstances. The amount saved cannot be very high, if any has been given the additional burden of administration. It is something Labour should make a priority of abolishing, but feels unable to for fear of an onslaught from the Tory-controlled commercial press. The same is much less true in Scotland, where the Tories have only a single MP, but as with the student unions in the 1990s, Labour has to control its affiliates and even nominally independent but ‘associated’ groups to make sure they do not step out of line and embarrass the leadership.

This tendency of toning down the Labour aspects of Labour, the elements who seek social justice, goes back further than Blair — recent interviews with Neil Kinnock mentioned that he was himself influenced by some young politicians, including his chief of staff Charles Clarke, who told him to tone himself down, say less and sound less working-class and less Welsh:

A posse of clever men and women a decade younger than himself, politicians of the harsher era of the 1970s, became his praetorian guard: the Cambridge graduates Patricia Hewitt and Charles Clarke, who had been president of the National Union of Students (NUS); the Oxford graduate Peter Mandelson, who had been chairman of the British Youth Council. Kinnock says they “had been student union officers very young, and after that they came and worked for me”.

Among the other Kinnock confidants who had cut their teeth in student politics were the former NUS president Jack Straw and John Reid, a former young communist. Fighting the ultra-left was in their bones. They had fought them in the student unions and now they fought them for Kinnock, unrelentingly and obsessively …

Kinnock’s protectors told him that his personality was all wrong. The noise, the passion, the bons mots, the houndstooth suits – everything that had endeared him to the public before he was elected leader – it all had to go. He started to wrap himself up in grey flannel suits and grey woollen phrases. Brendan Bruce, the Conservative director of communications for part of Kinnock’s time as leader, has said: “He was badly let down by his image-makers in recent years. There were endless things they could have done.”

I can think of so many other incidents, particularly in the 1990s but even well into Labour’s term in office, where policy moves were based on cowardice. There was, for example, the stamping on Clare Short when she proposed legalising cannabis, and the way they jumped when the Daily Mail attacked them for not deporting “foreign criminals” in 2007, something that up until then had not even been part of the deal. It is the New Labour tendency to cringe before power which is what led the UK into the disastrous Iraq war in 2003: Tony Blair simply was not prepared to say no to an angry and powerful US president. That they are not willing to take on the Tories on a policy which would not entail an enormous spending commitment demonstrates that they are still led by people without courage, and until that changes, they will only win empty victories, enabling them to mind the shop while the Tories regroup, or stay in opposition.

Image source: Scottish Labour.

Possibly Related Posts:

The Pompey jihadis: how did one English city produce six young fighters for Isis?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 October, 2014 - 00:05
As another Briton dies in Syria, residents ask whether Portsmouth radicalised bad boys who flew out to join Islamic State

Outside Jami Mosque, among the swirling brown leaves, Abdul Jamani reckons the mundanity of life among the terraced streets nearby helped to propel the lads to the battlefields of Syria. Theres not that much to do around here, they probably wanted excitement. Whatever they were after, it was nothing to do with Islam, says Jamani, aged 38, who helps out at the Bengali restaurants that line Albert Road.

Portsmouths Jami Mosque and Islamic Centre was attended by the al-Britaini Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys, also known as the Pompey Lads. The group of six, caught on CCTV as they strode jauntily through Gatwick airport ahead of a Thomas Cook flight to Turkey on 8 October last year, ended up fighting for Islamic State (Isis). One is now in a British jail, four of them are dead one confirmed killed on Tuesday and another announced yesterday in the Isis offensive on the Syrian town of Kobani, where the remaining member of the group is presumed to still be fighting.

Continue reading...

Australian youth in Isis video a victim of 'brutal betrayal of his own religion'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 October, 2014 - 08:37

Scott Morrison spoke of the terribly sad and tragic tale of the Sydney teenager at National Mosque Open Day in Lakemba

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, says a young Australian who appeared this week in propaganda video by the militia group Islamic State is a victim to the most barbaric and brutal betrayal of his own religion.

Morrison was among more than 4,000 visitors to the Lakemba mosque on Saturday as part of the first National Mosque Open Day.

Continue reading...

Death in Syria: a man on a mission of mercy

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 October, 2014 - 00:28
As one family mourns a man who left to join an aid convoy, a campaign group urges a rethink on returnees from Syria

The last texts of Kamran ul-Haque to his elder brother tell a story of a young man fearful yet thrilled by the prospect of war in Syria. I might be going on a mad mission very soon. Theres a place that has been heavily attacked and bombarded, he wrote.

The 29-year-old east Londoner, who had been in the country since December last year, had spent months ferrying the dead and injured to field hospitals in the country in his own words, bloody, gruesome work far from his old life as an Indian takeaway delivery man in Whitechapel, east London. [They] need me here and my ambulance to take people out. Very risky mission but I love the feeling.

Continue reading...

Rep. Peter King Claims Mosques Are ‘Incubators’ For Terrorism

Loon Watch - 24 October, 2014 - 22:24


Interesting that Rep. Peter King is saying this after he visited a mosque in an attempt to repair his Islamophobic image.

via. HuffingtonPost

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) continued his pattern of inflammatory comments about Muslim Americans on Thursday, this time calling for greater “surveillance” of Muslim communities.

“We have to find out who the radicals are. We have to find out what’s going on in the mosques, which are often incubators of this type of terrorism,” King said on Newsmax TV’s “America’s Forum.”

The comments came after King responded to this week’s deadly shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament. King said, “Anyone who thinks this is a coincidence is crazy. … Right now you have ISIS telling their people in Canada and the United States to carry out these attacks.”

The congressman argued that the U.S. “can have all the technology in the world. The fact is we have to find out what’s happening on the ground in these Muslim communities, and we can only do that through increased surveillance.”

This is hardly the first time King has made controversial remarks about Muslim communities. In 2011, King, who then chaired the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that “over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.” He began a series of investigative hearings to “examine radicalization within the Muslim-American community” in 2012. Critics deemed the controversial hearings “McCarthyism 2.0.”

Polio Vaccine Spy Program: The Crazy Conspiracy Theory that Wasn’t

Loon Watch - 24 October, 2014 - 22:18

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.


by Ilisha

The BBC has reported a tragic polio epidemic. Despite the existence of a vaccine that has helped eradicate the disease in many parts of the world, polio is rapidly spreading in Pakistan. Last May, the BBC warned:

Pakistan is facing international travel restrictions because of an uncontrolled outbreak of polio. But unless vaccinators gain unfettered access to North Waziristan, where the Taliban are in control and have banned the vaccine, it will be hard to stem the spread of the disease, reports Kim Ghattas..

… The Pakistani Taliban insurgency there has hampered access for health workers…

…The militants say vaccinations are a cover for espionage and part of a Western conspiracy against Muslims…

Last month, the BBC reported the situation in Pakistan is growing worse:

The number of cases of polio in Pakistan has topped 200 for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Pakistan is the only country where the virus is spreading fast – showing up in sewage samples all over Karachi.

The Taliban imposed a ban on the vaccine in 2012 which has meant nearly 300,000 children have not been vaccinated for two years. Security personnel escort workers as they administer the vaccine.

And in another article, also last month, the BBC reported:

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
Since December 2012, about 60 people, including health workers and police providing security to medical teams, have been killed by Taliban militants targeting polio teams.

The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad says the rise in cases is hugely embarrassing to Pakistan.

The country has failed to curb the disease despite massive investment on immunisation programmes by the international community, she adds.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on the country meaning all Pakistanis must now carry proof of vaccination before travelling abroad.

Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic – the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Why do “militants” say the vaccine programs have been used as a cover for espionage?

Maybe it has to do with recent assertions in the New Statesmen, stating the “Muslim world” is “in thrall to conspiracy theories.” :

The “We’ve been lied to” argument goes only so far. Scepticism may be evidence of a healthy and independent mindset; but conspiracism is a virus that feeds off insecurity and bitterness. As the former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani has admitted, “the contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories” is a convenient way of “explaining the powerlessness of a community that was at one time the world’s economic, scientific, political and military leader”.

Or maybe the “militants” say the vaccine program have been used as a cover for espionage because it actually has:

CIA Says It Will No Longer Use Vaccine Programs As Cover


May 20, 2014
A White House official says the CIA will no longer use vaccine programs as cover for spy operations, answering health experts’ complaints that it had hurt international efforts to fight disease.

The CIA famously used a vaccination program as a ploy to gain information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That effort didn’t succeed, and the doctor involved was sentenced to a prison term. But the revelation had immediate effects — particularly in the fight against polio.

As The New York Times reported in 2012, vaccination teams were banned in some areas of Pakistan.

And vaccination workers have been assassinated, the deans from Tulane, Emory, Columbia and other universities wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Jan. 6, 2013. They also compared the use of vaccine programs to the CIA’s early infiltration of the Peace Corps, saying that in both cases, the practice had to be stopped to protect volunteers and gain access where people are most vulnerable to disease.

Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco recently sent a letter responding to the deans. She wrote that in August 2013, CIA Director John Brennan issued an order forbidding the use of vaccination programs to gather intelligence or genetic evidence.

From Yahoo News, which obtained a copy of the letter:

“CIA Director John Brennan made the decision himself because he ‘took seriously the concerns raised by the public health community,’ CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz said.

“‘By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers,’ Ebitz said by email.”

News of the CIA’s revised policy was first reported by Yahoo and The Washington Post, which also noted the timing of the response — more than 16 months have passed since the deans wrote to Obama.

Quoting a “senior administration official,” the Post says it was told that “this was a unique case that required deliberate thought and review on our end before we made such a statement publicly.”

Update at 4:16 p.m. ET. ‘Not Going To Help':

NPR’s Jason Beaubien filed a story about this decision for tonight’s edition of All Things Considered. Here’s an interesting bit from it:

“‘The CIA is not exclusively responsible for the problems we have in getting children vaccinated but it certainly didn’t make it anything easier,’ says Anthony Robbins, the co-editor of the Journal of Public Health Policy. Robbins wrote an editorial denouncing the CIA use of fake vaccination programs back in August of 2012. Even before bin Laden was killed in 2011, the Taliban had banned polio immunization in the parts of Pakistan it controls. The Taliban claimed the polio drops sterilize Pakistani children and vaccinators were American spies.

“The head of one large anti-polio campaign in Pakistan wasn’t happy to hear the CIA’s latest declaration. ‘I don’t think this statement is going to help in anyway,’ says Aziz Memon, who heads Rotary International’s polio eradication effort in Pakistan. He says Pakistanis were starting to forget about the controversy over the fake CIA vaccination campaign and now he expects the issue to blow up in the local media all over again.”

In Pakistan, Memon worried the issue would “blow up in the local media all over again.” But what about in the US? Do most Americans know the CIA really did use the vaccination program as a cover for spy operations?

This revelation doesn’t mean the CIA is solely responsible for the epidemic in Pakistan, as noted in the NPR article, but the CIA is certainly complicit. Assuming the CIA plot was not intended to deliberately sabotage the vaccine program, it was at the very least an example of ruthless, short-sighted calculus with devastating consequences for the people of Pakistan.

We are left to wonder why this crucial fact continues to be omitted from so much of the coverage appearing in the Western media, including the articles highlighted here from the BBC.

Could it be the major media are more interested in absolving the West and demonizing the Taliban than they are in telling the people the truth?


Subscribe to The Revival aggregator