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November 10, 2010

The Leadership of Muhammad, a book review

Hassan Ibrahim

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John Adair, The Leadership of Muhammad, Kogan Page Ltd, 2010, Hardcover.

There’s no argument about the prophet Muhammad’s influence over the modern world. Whether there is a discussion about the political divide that is the Middle East, or the lack of religious freedom in the shadow of the World Trade Center, Muhammad’s religion is a central topic. The question arises about how, and why, this has occurred nearly 1500 years after Muhammad’s death.

John Adair illustrates one major reason for this in The Leadership of Muhammad, published by Kogan Page.

As a starting point, it is important to note that Adair is an expert on leadership, not Islam or Muhammad.

He has authored books like Not Bosses But Leaders: How to lead the way to success and The Inspirational Leader: How to motivate, encourage and achieve success.” In 2009, he was even appointed to the United Nations Chair of Strategic Leadership at the United Nations System Staff College in Turin.

It is perhaps for this reason that his book is so intriguing.

I’ve always found it somewhat disappointing that in most cases Muhammad could not be spoken of without at the same time discussing his religious mission. Although there are over a billion Muslims in the world, there are even more non-Muslims who, because of the word “Muhammadism”, obviously only associate Muhammad with his religion.

In The Leadership of Muhammad, Adair separates Muhammad from his mission: “[Muhammad was] both exalted and humble, capable of vision and inspiration, yet at the same time dedicated to the service of [his] people…this idea [of leadership] accords well with what we now know to be the universal truth about the nature and practice of leadership”

I can easily imagine Adair grappling with the title of this book.

In some cases it reads like a book about Muhammad , but in other cases it simply reads like a textbook on leadership.

I’m sure that simply putting Muhammad’s name in a title of a book will turn some people off, which is the reason for the disappointment I mentioned earlier.

It is for this reason that I would make a suggestion to both Muslims and non-Muslims when reading this book; focus on what made Muhammad a great leader, not what made him a great Muslim leader.

Although Adair does a great job setting up this book in a way that might lead a reader to this thought process, I feel it is still important to mention it. Just remember that a leader is like a building: each needs a strong structure and purpose for being.

Adair’s focus is Muhammad’s structure rather than his purpose for being. A structure that started in the black tents of Arabia’s Bani Sa’d region, which gave him the essential attributes of a leader: courage, integrity, practical wisdom, moral authority and humility. It is for these attributes as much as for his religion that Muhammad’s name will live on.

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