Is It Recommended to Seek Political Leadership?

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

Based on the hadith about seeking leadership and being deprived of Allah’s help, what is the ruling on getting involved in modern-day politics? Is it something we shouldn’t do even if the intention is to do good by it? The nature of democracy is that people actively seek these positions by campaigning and calling on others to select them. Is this against the spirit of Islam?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide every dimension of our lives to that which pleases Him.

Seeking leadership for power and personal gain is strongly discouraged, but seeking leadership for legitimate reasons is praiseworthy. It may be obligatory for individuals who have the qualifications to fulfill those roles competently. And Allah knows best.

Seeking Government Leadership vs. Seeking a Community Position

Some hadiths discourage seeking leadership positions in government. The discouragement for seeking a position in a state is due to the tremendous authority and power someone in this position has and the ease by which he may abuse this authority for personal benefit at the expense of the community. [See Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

Hadith Discouraging the Pursuit of Leadership

On the authority of Abdurrahman Ibn Samura (may Allah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to me: O Abdurrahman! Do not ask for leadership, for if you are given it due to your request, you will be left to yourself. But, if you are given it without having requested it, you will be aided in it [by Allah]…” [Agreed Upon – Bukhari & Muslim]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: You [Muslims] will covet leadership, and it will be a source of regret on the Day of Judgment, so what a great nurser [of pleasures] and what a terrible weaner [from them]. [Bukhari]

On the authority of Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: I entered upon The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with two other men from my tribe. One of the men said, “Give us leadership o Messenger of Allah,” The other said the same. So The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “We do not appoint this matter to whosoever asks for it, or whosoever is covetous of it.”  [Agreed Upon – Bukhari & Muslim]

We should note that these hadiths are foremost for us to apply to ourselves. As for others in the community, it is obligatory to have a favorable opinion about their intentions and leave their hearts for Allah Most High to judge.

Seeking Leadership for Legitimate Reasons

While seeking leadership for power and selfish gain is prohibited, there are legitimate reasons for seeking authority for the sake of responsible servitude. Suppose we call this ‘leadership,’ then this may be personally obligatory on qualified and competent individuals.

The leadership of this caliber is not driven by power-hunger or selfish gain but by a sense of fulfilling the role’s duties. It focuses on prioritizing the needs of the community over one’s own. The Prophetic leadership model is shrouded in humility, patience, and responsibility.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him) said that “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects.” [Agreed Upon – Bukhari & Muslim]

Prophets Sought Leadership as a Means

Looking at examples of the Prophets (Allah bless them and give them peace), we notice that leadership was a means rather than a goal. When the Quraysh offered to make the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) their ruler in exchange for not calling people to Islam, he refused. Sulayman (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked for authority, which was a means of spreading the truth. Yusuf (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked to be placed in charge of the state treasury to fulfill a greater good.

Allah says: “Joseph proposed, “Put me in charge of the store-houses of the land, for I am truly reliable and adept.” [Quran, 12:55]

In the above example, Prophet Yusuf (Allah bless him and give him peace) sought political leadership. In his case, he was the most qualified, competent, and reliable person for the critical job of overseeing the state treasury. Therefore it was personally obligatory, and Allah knows best.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

Sincerely,

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.