Different types of leaders, chieftains, religious scholars, and guides


QUESTION: There are two kinds of leaders, chieftains, religious scholars, and guides. What are the differences between them?

ANSWER: If a “great” man relies on force, intrigue, and the spiritual power which he feigns to have, even though he does not have it, and treats people as if they were slaves or servants – if he reduces humanity to the level of animals through the pressure of fear and compulsion, and always causes people to lose their eagerness, zeal, and joy, then he is a despotic leader, chieftain, or religious guide. If there is a success or victory, it is attributed only to that despotic one, but if there is evil or a defeat, it is divided among his poor subjects. Such a “great” one is not great; in truth, he is small. He humiliates and underrates his people. People do whatever they must reluctantly and only for the sake of that man. Even if they do good, they do it hypocritically, and thus are accustomed to sycophancy and lying. They are constantly in decline, since enthusiasm, which is the steam power of human endeavor, has been extinguished. Their leaders and chieftains sit on their shoulders so that only they may be seen. They eat of their flesh so that they may grow. Such leaders curtain the rosebud-like capacities of the people and shut off the light so that only they themselves may grow and blossom.

However, a truly great man relies on right and truth, uses intellect, binds his people to himself through love, and instead of getting on the shoulders of their successes, he gets under them and awakens their enthusiasm. If there is good, he divides it among his people; by giving everyone a part of it, he increases their zeal. He sets his people against the light of knowledge so that right and justice may prevail. He sends the water of love and intellect to the rosebud-like capacities and feelings of the people so that they may develop and blossom. Such a leader is the concrete example of the Prophetic definition of leader: “The leader of a people is he who serves them.”70


(From Munazarat [“Discussions”])

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

70 al-Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa’, 2:463.