Transition from Charismatic Personality Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era – Part 4

“Strive in the Way of Allah as you ought to strive with sincerity and under discipline…” Al-Qur’an 22:78

[This is Part 4 of a four-part series on charismatic, personality-based leadership vis-a-vis institutional leadership.]

Can a charismatic, personality-based leadership (and particularly messianic one) really transition supporters, followers, helpers, etc. to “effective” institutional leadership while the charismatic, messianic-based leader is still alive?

For us as an American Muslim Community, the question is important. Because the answer will allow us to move more expeditiously in establishing model community life through institutional leadership.

I believe in general, it is nearly impossible for institutional leadership to be firmly established while a Messianic leader is amongst the people. Now I have deliberately left some flexibility with my position, because the circumstances present can change the dynamic relationship between a Messianic leader and his or her people.

Let’s take the examples mentioned earlier beginning with the contemporary leadership of Nelson Mandela (R) and former PNA Chairman Yasser Arafat (R). I think we can learn something particular about ourselves from the Palestinian and South African examples. There are some striking similarities between the Palestinians and their Israeli subjugators and the 16 million South African blacks that were subjugated by the 4 million Afrikaners.

Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat, the former political leaders of the South Africans and Palestinians respectively and as viewed by their own peoples, freedom fighters who rose from armed conflict to become statesman. In both cases, the populations were oppressed and denied full citizenship by an “outside” non-indigenous oppressor. Under such circumstances, it is nearly impossible for stable political institutions to develop among the oppressed. In fact, it is not in the best interest of an oppressive ruling regime to allow political systems and institutional systems of leadership to emerge. The oppressed is therefore forced to rely upon the oppressor’s system of governance. Institutional leadership remains dormant awaiting the right political climate.

History shows that what does emerge in the social-political environment we’re describing is an organic personality-based leadership that cannot be denied. And in the absence of freedom of the group intellect to develop institutional leadership, what becomes de facto institutionalized is personality-based charismatic leadership.

The ruling class seeks to eradicate all forms of leadership threats, but if it has to contend with any leadership, it would rather confront personality-based leadership, because the very nature of personality-based leadership is in the long term unsustainable and extant with the lifespan of the charismatic leader.

What can survive the death of a charismatic leader in the environment we are describing and that can be the seed for the future institutional life of a people and that bridges the  charismatic leader with long term institutional leadership—it’s called the movement.

–To be continued.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,



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