by Salih Yucel
History testifies that all great Muslim leaders and scholars had a simple lifestyle of the ordinary citizen. Some lived a life of poverty. Almost all Muslims agree that Umar ibn Abdu’l Aziz (682-720), Tariq ibn Ziyad (670-720), Nureddin Zangi (1118-1174), Saladin Ayyubi (1133-1197), all Ottoman Sultans from Osman Ghazi (d.1324) to Yavuz Sultan Salim (1470-1520) had a very simple life. They did not leave almost any inheritance similar to Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Not just these leaders but also their top administrators followed their footsteps as well. Umar ibn Abdul Aziz after consulting with the great scholars of the time forbade trade and business for Muslim public servants including governors, military commanders, judges and their children. Later, this became this became part of Islamic law.
Some may argue Ottoman Sultans lived in Topkapi Palace. Yes, but compare with palaces in Europe at that period, Topkapi Palace was much simpler in style from its establishment, and most of the palace was built after Yavuz Sultan Salim. In contrary to the Muslim leaders, while the European leaders were living in palaces during the Darkages; there were conflicts, civil wars, and poverty throughout their countries.
When Islamic leaders preferred a simple life, Muslims lived in peace and prosperity. Islamic countries became a role model in all aspects of life for the rest of the world. In contrary, when the leaders began living separately in luxurious palaces, then they neglected the people that they were meant to serve, and as a result, most of the population suffered for various reasons.
Today almost all Muslim leaders live in a palace, and none of the Muslim countries is developed. In most of Muslim-majority dominant countries, there is no peace and economic prosperity. Again, most of the contemporary Muslim leaders or their children contrary to Islamic law, do business and trade.
Is there any correlation between peace, economic prosperity, development of a country and leaders who live in palaces? According to Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) who is considered father of sociology and history sciences by the Western scholars, there is a relation. In the developed countries almost none of presidents or prime ministers have a luxurious lifestyle, but in undeveloped or developing countries, most of the rulers live in palaces. It looks that the leaders of developed countries follow Islam’s principle of the ruling, but Muslim leaders follow a non-Islamic principle.
One of the great scholars of our time uses “mabda-muntaha” for above mentioned great Muslim leaders. It means that the day when a human comes into this world has nothing and dies without taking anything. In a similar way, the day these leaders took position or office and the day left or died financially were same. By applying this, the leader becomes public servant as mentioned in the saying of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) “the master of the people is the one who serves them.” Under public servant leadreship, Islam flurished, peace established and countries developed.
In the Islamic
history, the leaders who lived in palaces
are forgotten, but those who lived as an
ordinary citizen are remembered and honoured.
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) states that “There are
two groups in my ummah: the scholars and the rulers. If they are upright, the
people will be upright; if they are corrupt, the people will be corrupt (Kenzu’l-ummal
).” It is a Turkish proverb. The fish always
stinks from the head downwards. For overcoming crises, Muslim countries are in need
of leaders like Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Saladin
who lived simply and did not leave any inheritance but only a little money which
was sufficient for their funeral service.