Islamic view of management


THE Government’s initiative of ridding society of corruption, inefficiency and poor service is a laudable effort. Though a daunting task, it would be unfair to suggest that efforts to streamline departmental productiveness are not producing results. Yet complaints and commentaries give the impression that much is left to be desired. 

Not too long ago, the Malaysian Administrative and Manpower Planning Unit stated that only 30% of organisations with vision/mission statements have realised their promised goals and targets. 

Many of those who received ISO certification did not pursue their pledges after getting the prestigious certificates. So, how do we address this worrying situation? 

In Islam, believers are to conform to the teachings of the Quran and the sunnah or hadith (traditions) of the Prophet. An individual is created to be the khalifah (vicegerent) of God on earth. As a khalifah, one is obliged as the “deputy” of the Creator to prosper the earth one lives on. One never stops striving to improve oneself and one’s ummah (community). The Quran exhorts believers to continuously enjoin good and forbid evil. 

The Prophet has been depicted as possessing the attribute of harïsun (altruism), meaning “sincerest concern for the well-being of others”, embracing the attitude and practice of caring, sharing, nurturing and bonding in one’s relationship with others. 

It connotes unselfish orientation towards the welfare of people, mindful of the feelings and needs of those around us, always striving for win-win situations in life. It is the antithesis of absolute capitalism, one-upmanship, survival of the fittest, and manipulation of others, in the socio-economic context. 

Saladin, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Confucius, and Abraham Lincoln were leaders with a semblance of altruistic inclinations, who struggled against injustice, inequality, discrimination, moral and human degradation. 

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call to form smart partnerships among developing nations, the need to prosper thy neighbour, and the wisdom of creating win-win relationships are aspects of altruism in action. 

The world today is so corruptible, gullible and materialistic that many corporations and nations operate without a soul or conscience. The capitalistic bottom-line of maximising profits has become the benchmark for purported success, pervading international, regional, national and organisational levels. 

A leadership and management paradigm that transcends narrow chauvinism, neo-conservatism and jingoism – with a universal, egalitarian and magnanimous approach – is needed. 

Theodore Levitt of Harvard described management as “the rational assessment of a situation and the systematic selection of goals and purposes (what is to be done?); the systematic development of strategies to achieve these goals; the marshalling of the required resources; the rational design, organisation, direction, and control of the activities required to attain the selected purposes; and finally, the motivating and rewarding of people to do the work.” 

This managerial approach is still regarded as a pragmatic model that can be used to get things done efficaciously. 

Michael Hart’s The 100: A ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (1978), mentions the uniqueness of Prophet Muhammad’s leadership, placing the Prophet as the most influential leader in human history. 

In it, he presents the qualities of a leader who was a successful businessman, a spiritual reformer, a charismatic commander, a just administrator, a peace negotiator, a political strategist, a jurist, a wise counsellor, and a prescient statesman in his lifetime. 

The chief executive of a corporation, or the prime minister of a nation, must be able to be both manager and leader to get things done. High technology environments leave little room for bureaucratic managers because, in the words of Bill Gates, both competition and innovation work with the speed of a bullet. 

As in the days of the Prophet, modern management needs strong leadership and excellent organisational capabilities to achieve exponential success. 

The super-ordinate paradigm of leadership provided by the Prophet can be explained by a three-dimensional orientation, fusing alignment, attunement and empowerment in organisational development. 

When these three dimensions are cast, the outcome will be organisational synergy, the framework within which the strategic altruistic mindset should operate and the future can be positively mapped. 

Alignment constitutes an organisation’s vision of greatness. It is the direction-setting aspect of leadership, the inductive process (as opposed to the conventional deductive process) that formulates vision and mission statements. It describes the business, the technology it envelopes, the methodology it pursues, and the culture it embraces. 

Alignment implies that everyone in the organisation is moving towards the same objective, each in agreement with the other. Where adjustments have to be made, the parties involved will sit in mutual consultation to resolve issues. 

In the Prophet’s leadership paradigm, alignment is synonymous with tawhid (the Oneness of God), which is tempered by iman (belief) and taqwa (God-fearing). 

If people within an organisation is God-conscious, have strong faith and adhere to a firm set of values, then the stage is set for greatness. 

Attunement is the esprit de corps, the will, the emotions, the passion and the compassion that fires the process towards goal attainment. Attunement has to move in tandem with alignment. 

In the Prophet’s leadership model, attunement means ibadah – righteous deeds performed daily as acts of faith. When employees of an organisation continuously perform good deeds and shun bad behaviour, the environment becomes harmonious. There is a tendency to be committed, truthful and loyal because they continuously perform acts of quality in daily work. 

Empowerment is the willingness to allow skilled and knowledgeable people to use their talents and energies at work. Quite often, organisations and even nations falter in the face of stiff competition or when adjusting to new technology because leaders are not confident in the abilities of their people. Such people feel de-motivated. 

But when alignment, attunement and empowerment are employed in strategic human resource development, people perform because they feel wanted and appreciated. 

When management accords employees the right to share the organisational vision and mission, a purposeful sense of direction is communicated to all levels. 

Responsibility and authority get delegated; and as long as people’s responses are consistent with the vision and mission statements, conflict will not arise because everyone would be gunning for the same target. 

Empowerment ensures down-liners are allowed the initiative and freedom to realise their full potential by planning, organising and controlling their activities for the good of their organisation. 

Synergy is derived from the old Greek word synergein, which means working together with heart and soul. 

Synergism is the result of simultaneous actions of separate agencies, creating a greater total effect than the sum of their individual efforts. 

Synergy is the extraordinary outcome of aligned, attuned and empowered people with shared values in action. It is the energy that flows through a team of people, producing greater performance. 

A contemporary example is the South African government’s synergistic campaign called masakhane (in the Nguni language, it means “Let us build together!”) to convey the spirit of moving as a nation from apartheid to democracy, in word and deed. 

The movement evokes a deep sense of community, belonging and pride. The South Koreans refer to a similar concerted burst of energy as arirang

In the Prophet’s governance model, synergy implies movement towards al-falah (the forces of success and prosperity). 

Attunement, coupled with empowerment, involves consultation, motivation and building esprit de corps among team members. It involves the emotions, the intellect and commitment from the heart (istiqamah)

When the Prophet involved his players actively in the process of problem-solving and decision-making, everyone was enlightened about the opportunities, hardships and dangers involved in the many campaigns against the enemy. 

Morale-wise, when decisions were made by mutual consultation (syura) or consensus, they not only increased the speed and efficiency of actual operations but also fostered a high degree of trust and support in the followers, providing them with a raison d’etre for their ongoing military expeditions (ghazawah). Every member becomes totally committed to the cause. 

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