AS NOTED by Huge Kennedy (2001) in his paper “Intellectual Life in the First four Centuries of Islam”, there are two big issues facing the Moslemsin the first four centuriesof Islam history. One of them is the problem of leadership inside the people of Muslim. Who will replace the Prophets to lead the faithful? How do to select it? How is the nature and type of “power or authority” ofthe elected/selected leader? Did Prophet Muhammad himself give instructions on who and how to choose his successor? This row of question is the subject of long debate in the intellectual history and political Islam.
On earliest stage and formative from this history of Islamic civilization, the above issues dividing Muslims into some views. A view argued that the leadership has to be given to the‘ahlul bayt’i.e. family of the prophet Muhammad. Even though there wasan opinion said that the term of prophet family should be extended, but in principle this view argued that the leadership has to be remain in the circle of the Prophet family. Because in the hands of the descendant of Prophet, then power or authority is “from God” so that they have the right to set up the political and social life and also have the right to interpret Quran and Sunnah.
The otherview, might be called as Sunni, contrarily saw that the leadership issue of Muslim people was the area that fully handed over to the Muslim people. According to this view, the Prophet did not expressly instructed how should be to choose a leader in the community of the faithful Islam. This view also held that the fact of “khulafaur rasyidun” (means: four caliphs) was chosen in a different way shows that “the way” is not the fixed price. Models of leadership, according to this view, felt as an issue that back to the ijtihad of the people, as long as ethical values and Islamic morals is used as a measure, because on the other side,this view also believes that leadership is in the muamalah area.
How so evermuch different of both views above, that was not yet added the view of Khawarij, in fact there is one similarity between the views, that leadership is something that is very important for the people. Among the Sunnis is even an adage when it is not understood the context will be sound extreme: the tyrant is better than no leader at all. Clearly, no one is denied that leadership is important in Islam.
The history of Muslims then moved from khulafaur rasyidun toward dynasty era (Abbasiyyah and Umayyah) with all its characteristic. In a few century later people of Islam facing a new concept called nation-state. The Ottoman Turkey wanted to adopt a concept of power that rather secular. In Indonesia itself, Muslims went through the monarchy period, then the Dutch East Indies colonial era, followed later by the era of independence of the Republic of Indonesia. And now the Indonesian Muslim enter a phase of Reformation era that politically different with a New Order era. That is an election era, an era by direct election. Along with the history of Muslim politics, in the realm of intellectual is also occurred the developments of the conceptualization of political Islam. The books that specifically analyzing leadership criteria in Islam emerge. Among the most phenomenal is al-Ahkamul Shulthaniyah written by al-Mawardi. Including talking about leadership is Ibnu Khaldun’s Introduction.
The criteria, methods, qualification, expertise, personal conditions, and so on colouring the discourse of leadership by Islamic political theorists particularly in the classical period. Now, the theme of leadership has grown more widely, in accordance with the times itself. Typology of leaders and leadership is associated with the background of sociology, cultural and ideology. That is also one of debate accentuation about the people leadership. In the context of Indonesia, we can read the thin books but it is actually quite comprehensive namely ‘Mencari Pemimpin Umat ; Polemik tentang Kepemimpinan Islam di tengah Pluralitas Masyarakat’(Mizan, 1999) which brings scholars debate on related themes.
Searching, theme and debate on leadership among the people will probably still continue in politics ijtihad (means: struggle with oneself through deep thought).It was also in line with a conversation about the quality of leadership at the Kenduri Cinta forum on May 2011. In it, Cak Fuad explained that in Qur’an the Prophet referred as Imam (leader). For the era and the present context, the word “leader”use term “rais”. But those terms has a different meaning. As described by Cak Fuad, imamah (means: leadership) rooted from umm(Arab) word meaning mother. Thus, etymologycally, the leadership or imammah in Islam is a leadership as a mother who always serve, leadership that protecting, leadership devoted affection. Meanwhile, riasah(Arab) derived from ra’sun which means head, which nature is always want to be higher than others, want to be respected, and so on.
From the etymology of imamah as described by Cak Fuad the terminology of imamah has to be returned to the basic meaning, because it has been contaminated by the charge of power and ideological meaning, not meaning of serving, compassion and protection. Or perhaps, because of that, we do not dare to say imamah and prefer to other terms. In fact, as said by Cak Fuad, the Prophets in the Quran called as Imam. Worse, so far we only know Imam as a leader incongregation pray (sholat berjamaah).