Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was both a prophet of Allah (God) and a statesman. His leadership was most comprehensive and dynamic. He was the paragon of virtue and spirituality. He was a noble and compassionate teacher, guide, and reformer. He was a family man. Indeed, he was also a political leader.
As a political leader, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) unified the Arabian peninsula, established a great state whose capital was Madinah, defeated his enemies, and went on successful military expeditions. However, his real political leadership was in the realm of morality and spirituality in which he conducted himself perfectly in situations of weakness as well as strength. His way of dealing in Makkah and Madinah indicates his great political leadership.
He was always willing to help others. Allah granted him the special gift to resolve conflicts and disputes. Even before he became Muhammad of Allah, he was able to resolve a major dispute between the people of Makkah. It is reported that the people of Makkah were repairing the walls of the Kabah. When the time came to place the Black Stone in its place in the southeast corner of the Kabah, each tribe wanted to have this honor.
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked to be the judge and decide the matter fairly. He resolved this dispute with great wisdom in an amicable way. He spread his own cloak on the ground and placed the stone upon it. He then asked representatives of each tribe to lift the cloak together. When the Black Stone reached the required height from the ground he went forward and set it in its place.
Muhammad always wanted to make peace among people. At an early age it is reported that when some people of Makkah wanted to establish a committee to suppress violence in their society, he immediately joined them. This committee took a pledge of virtue known as the Hilf al-Fudul. Later during his prophetic life he recalled this pledge and praised it highly and said:
Even now if I am called upon in the name of this pledge, I shall not refuse.
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a man of ideals, but he was also a practical man. He preached the message of Islam to all and did not isolate himself from his society. He used all of the good traditions and customs they had and benefited from them. Although his uncle, Abu Talib, did not accept his message of the oneness of Allah, he was willing to give him all his support and help in the Islamic work. Muhammad appreciated his uncle’s help. After his uncle’s death he went to Taif to seek alliances with some other tribes there. He did not succeed, but it is important to note that he was trying to seek alliances for the cause of Islam.
The Hijrah to Abyssinia is also an example of his political skill in seeking alliances with others. When the persecution increased in Makkah and some of his followers found it difficult to live in that environment, he allowed them to migrate to Abyssinia and seek the help of the Christian negus (king) there.
In Abyssinia, Muslims found peace and they reciprocated the negus' hospitality with prayers and support for the negus and his subjects. Muslims’ relations were so good with the negus that he grew to love Islam and before his death he became a Muslim.
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a skillful and courageous political leader. His enemies could not scare or intimidate him. He never succumbed to any temptations. The people of Makkah tried to turn him away from his message and mission by offering him a great deal of money or anything that he wanted for himself but with one condition that he would give up his mission. Muhammad very firmly, yet politely, turned down all their offers.
In Madinah, Muhammad established a state where all people were equal, where matters were decided through consultation, and where all people had to follow the same law. It was a state without any favoritism in favor of any family or group. Even a non-Muslim could not to be mistreated under his rule.
The story of Tumah ibn Abraq is an excellent example of justice and human rights for all people under his authority. Tumah, who was a Muslim, stole someone’s armor in Madinah and then he blamed a Jew. Allah sent a special revelation to warn people against such injustice (see Quran 4:110-112). The Jewish citizen of Madinah was declared innocent and Tumah was found guilty.
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) took great care of his people’s religious as well as economic needs. Not only did he preach, but he was also concerned about their economic well-being. He made treaties and alliances with many tribes. He had great diplomatic skills. He taught the world diplomacy that was built on morality and honesty. He honored all his treaties and he defended his people. He was aware of the surrounding circumstances and made his people ready and alert. He never initiated a battle or a war, but when he was attacked he was firm and decisive. He always emphasized peace and harmonious relations.
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a man of great patience and resolution. There are many lessons for us to learn from his life. The most important aspect of his leadership was that he was always honest and truthful. Even his enemies could not find any flaw in his honesty and truthfulness.
The most beautiful example of Muhammad's patience can be seen in a conversation carried out between Heraclius, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, and Abu Sufyan who was a bitter enemy of Muhammad at that time. This conversation took place in the year 628 CE when Heraclius received a letter from Muhammad.
Heraclius was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he received this important letter. After receiving the message, the Emperor sent for his chief of police and told him to search the country for a man from the same tribe as the one who claimed to be a prophet. Abu Sufyan, a leader of the Quraish, who was a bitter enemy of Muhammad at that time, happened to be trading in Gaza with some of his companions from Makkah. The Emperor’s search party found them there and they were immediately taken to Jerusalem.
Heraclius brought Abu Sufyan before him because he was related to Muhammad and began to question him. Although Abu Sufyan was a bitter enemy of Muhammad, he also could not lie, and told the truth about Muhammad's good qualities. Heraclius asked Abu Sufyan about the background and traits of Muhammad and only received positive answers.
Heraclius then explained his motives behind asking certain questions and was assured, despite Abu Sufyan's stance, that Muhammad was truly a prophet sent from Allah. Heraclius then expressed his desire to meet with Muhammad in
* Excerpted, with some modifications from: http://pakistanlink.com/religion.html
** President of the Fiqh Council of North America