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Clarifying Islamic perspectives on leadership

Darwish Almoharby (Department of Management, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)
Mark Neal (Department of Financial and Management Studies, SOAS, University of London, London, UK)

Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues

ISSN: 1753-7983

Article publication date: 16 September 2013




This study aims to clarify current thinking about Islamic leadership by returning to the original texts of Islam, the Qur'an and the hadith. These are analysed to identify foundational Islamic leadership prototypes, concepts and ideas. In so doing, the article provides original analysis of the foundations of Islamic leadership, so as to inform current debates about leadership in Islamic regions and communities.


The study consists of content analysis of the Qur'an and the hadith, to identify key concepts within these texts, concerning the nature of leadership. The methodological aim is to develop characterisations of Islamic leadership prototypes that are recognisable to practising Muslims today. In order to ensure this, the content analyses have been presented to academic seminar groups and conferences and refined through subsequent discussions.


Islamic leadership does not rely for its legitimacy upon traditional authority, but rather on rational-legal systems based on unity of purpose, acknowledgement of the one God, and the foundational example of Prophet Muhammad, whose referent and charismatic authority lives on in discussions of the sunnah and the hadith. It is thus vital to refine external or “etic” characterisations of Islamic leadership with an appreciation of leadership prototypes in the Qur'an, the sunnah and hadith.

Research limitations/implications

The scope of this study is limited by the subject matter, the investigation of leadership prototypes in the Qur'an and the hadith. This means that the consideration of historically more recent Islamic thinking about leadership has been left to subsequent study.

Practical implications

Implications for subsequent researchers are the need for critical clarity in discussions of “Islamic” or “Muslim” leadership. Another significant implication comes with the recognition of the overwhelming importance of the Prophet Muhammad's life and sayings in laying the parameters for the subsequent Muslim discussions of leadership.


This is the first use of content analysis to examine the foundational leadership prototypes and concepts embedded in the Qur'an and the hadith, and thus to analyse the Prophet Muhammad as a referent and charismatic leader, whose life set the parameters for the subsequent understanding of Islamic leadership.



Almoharby, D. and Neal, M. (2013), "Clarifying Islamic perspectives on leadership", Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, Vol. 6 No. 3/4, pp. 148-161.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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