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Leadership Forum For Advancing Inter-‎Faith Dialogue to Prevent Conflict‎‎

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Leadership Forum For Advancing Inter-‎Faith Dialogue to Prevent Conflict‎‎‎‎‎

By Dr. Saad Noor Washington DC, April 26, 2006

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

It is a real pleasure for me to stand here today as a participant with these two distinguished scholars in this rather useful forum addressing “faith-based leadership to prevent conflict.” I n my brief remarks here I will touch upon the concept of leadership, its definition in general and its application.

However, since we are calling for a new faith-based leadership to advance dialogue and service to prevent conflict, I will review the “concept of leadership in Islam.” I am doing this in view of the fact that we, the panelists, are to present remarks in light of the teachings and philosophies of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I would like to mention from the outset however, that I am not presenting myself or claming to be an Islamic scholar nor a specialist. Rather, I am reviewing the concept of leadership in Islam as presented by Islamic scholars.

Finally I will make quick remarks on areas in which faith-based leadership should make headway to advance dialogue, enhance social and economic development and serve peace.

The definition of leadership varies depending on the needs of a group in different places and times. Collins English Dictionary, for example, defines leadership as, (1) the position or function of a leader, (2) the period during which a person occupies a position, and (3) the ability to lead. In his book the “Leader of the Future”, Peter Drucker says, “Leadership is influence—nothing more nothing less.”

Whatever the definition may be, one will expect that faith-based leadership will more or less be predicated on moral values that emanate from a heavenly religion.

On leadership, Muslims base their behavior as leader/and or as a follower upon the words of God as revealed in their holy book the Qur’an. They believe that the prophet of Islam Mohammad, peace be upon him, has modeled the way for Muslim leaders and followers for all times.

Therefore, Islamic scholars have highlighted a number of points in this regard:

(1) A leader must be kind, compassionate, and forgiving towards those whom he leads. If he is harsh with them, they will abandon him.

(2) He must also consult them, but once a decision has been made, Allah then commands that no weakness be shown and the policy be pursued with single-mindedness of purpose, determination and courage.

Imam Ali , the fourth khalifah of Islam, in discussing the qualities of a leader said:

"O People! You know that it is not fitting that one who is greedy and parsimonious should attain rule and authority over the honor , lives and incomes of the Muslims, and the laws and ordinances enforced among them, and also leadership of them. Furthermore, he should not be ignorant and unaware of the law, lest in his ignorance he misleads the people.

He must not be unjust and harsh, causing people to cease all dealings with him because of his oppressiveness. Nor must he fear states, so that he seeks the friendship of some and treats others with enmity.

He must refrain from accepting bribes when he sits in judgment, so that the rights of men are not trampled underfoot and the claimant does not receive his due.

He must not leave the Sunnah of the prophet, and the law in abeyance, so that the community falls into misguidance and peril”.

Based on the foregoing, we can identify the following qualities for leadership:

1. Knowledge and Hikmah (wisdom, insight);

2. Taqwa, humility and being conscious of God’s presence all the time) ;

3. ‘Adl (Justice);

4. Rahmah (compassion);

5. Courage and bravery;

6. Shura (mutual consultation);

7. Decisiveness and being resolute;

8. Eloquence;

9. Spirit of self-sacrifice; and

10. Sabr (Patience).

In light of the above, I believe that it takes no astrophysicist to find out the wide gap between the fore-mentioned qualities, which are all known universal virtues, and the leadership qualities of most of those, if not all, who are at the top of the power pyramids in Islamic countries.

Certainly, the above qualities are in short supply for almost all of these countries are under the grip of unconstitutional monarchs, military dictators or half-hearted pseudo-democratic strong men. Therefore, democracy is in short supply. Exceptions that come to mind are Malaysia in Asia and the not-yet-recognized Republic of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa.

Thus, it is a matter of fact that the vast majority of these countries are sitting, though in varying degrees, on socio-economic and politically explosive situations that can instantly turn into an all-consuming volcano. Such state of existence is exacerbated by other ills shared with most of the least developed and developing countries-- paramount of which are:

  • Acute crisis of governance,
  • Communal strives,
  • Demographic explosion,
  • Environmental degradation, and
  • Dwindling resources.

Needless to say that the above social ills paved the way for the emergence of a phenomenon known as Islamic extremism and the often accompanying acts of violence within and outside Islamic societies. Such acts of violence go both horizontally and vertically.

Certainly the advent of the petro-dollar propelled re-empowered Wahabism in the last three decades has not helped to say the least. It has not only polarized many stable and tranquil Islamic societies, but it has also become the mantra of many who are associated with violent acts that can only be classified as naked terrorism.

In view of the above there is a dire need for a massive collaborative faith-based dialogue among the leaderships of the followers of the three Abrahamic religions to bring about mechanisms dedicated to promote justice-based global peace and development.

We need among other pressing priorities:

  • A just and equitable peace in the holly land; a peace that not only ensures the right of Israel to exist in peace but also safeguards the inalienable rights of the Palestinians to have their own independent state. Undoubtedly, the realization of this end will be a tremendous triumph for the Inter-Abrahamic dialogue and hence for the efficacy of its efforts. Imagine the impact that an Israel accepted by its neighbors and relieved of the daunting demands of constant vigil to safeguard its security, and indeed its very existence, will have, not only on the Middle East but also in the development-starved sub-Saharan Africa,
  • A host of Inter-Abrahamic societies, councils or foundations to undertake serious far-reaching programs of education, information and communication to promote understanding, dialogue and solidarity among the believers of the three monotheistic religions. Such solidarity did exist before, albeit less pronounced, to resist Communism. There is a great need for it now to resist violent fringe doctrines. Certainly it will be a worthwhile and timely investment to bolster the scholarly, gentile and tolerant but beleaguer Islamic Sufi Tariqas (fraternities) such as Al-Qadiriyah and Al-Naqshabandiyah whose followers extend from Senegal to Indonesia. They have been, for all practical purposes, substantially undermined and indeed in many instances overwhelmed by well-financed ill educated neo-Wahabi evangelists. Without doubt they will go under with disastrous consequences unless balance is restored soon.
  • A reinvigorated UN system with the mandate and requisite resources to undertake unavoidable and pressing humanitarian interventions and peace keeping missions in places like Darfur, and
  • Vigilance to give due support and recognition to re-emerging Islamic secular democratic states, such as the Republic of Somaliland, which had prior existence as a recognized independent country, and the Sahrawi Arab Republic (former Spanish Sahara) which has been unjustly denied its post-colonial independence, with the view to undertaking what is just and morally imperative.


Dr. Noor is the Representative of the Republic of Somaliland in the US.


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