Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Teachings of Islam | Al-Risala November, 1987

‘Worn out after an interminable meeting, a Tel Aviv company director said with a sigh, “If the children of Israel had been led by a committee instead of by Moses, they’d still be in Egypt.”’ (Reader’s Digest, October 1984)

Those who have any experience of the kind of discussions that take place in committee meetings, know how trivial issues which have no bearing whatsoever on the actual matter in hand are discussed for days on end. Although, it is possible to make great achievements through collective effort, the question invariably arises as to what methods should be adopted in order to eliminate delays arising from differences of opinion, and to initiate real unity of action.

There can be two solutions to this problem. One is to place complete trust in the judgement of a single individual, and the other is to set up a democracy. In the former case, all the people are at liberty to offer their opinions, but, in the last analysis, it is the leader’s opinion which is accepted, and that, too, with minimum argument. In the latter case, everyone’s opinion is sought, and it is ultimately the opinion of the majority which is accepted. The second option is more appealing to the modern mind, but, within the democratic framework, discussions and arguments take pride of place over the actual amount of work done. (How common a human failing it is to talk more and work less!). We should, therefore, give serious consideration to the middle course which is held out to us by Islam. This entails the selection of a supreme leader on the basis of public opinion, but once this leader is chosen, he wields full powers, very much in the manner of the American President in modern times. This is a method which combines the maximum of efficiency with the minimum of social friction.