Leadership Series – Lesson 1 - Sufism Teach Leadership In Business

Leadership Series – Lesson 1: What Does Sufism Teach About Leadership In Business?

What is Sufim or Taṣawwuf?

Sufism, the spiritual science of Islam, or Islamic Mysticism or Taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوّف), though a form of Islamic mysticism, is a spiritual practice that is independent of religion, caste, creed, race, ethnicity, and race, emphasizes introspection and spiritual closeness, unity, and connection with God. The principles of Sufism are focused on the renunciation of seemingly worldly things, the purification of the soul, and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. 

Sufi expression is mainly manifested in the biographical accounts and literary works of Sufi saints and mystics including poetry, calligraphy, architecture, etc to help guide and train spiritual seekers to achieve their spiritual ends.

There are many popular Sufi saints including Mewlana Jalal al-Din Rumi,  the 13th-century Persian Islamic theologian, scholar, philosopher, poet, and mystic, whose works continue to inspire millions of Sufi followers all over the world beyond the Islamic world thereby bridging the Eastern and Western worlds.

The core principles of Sufism are peace, love, tolerance, compassion, and showing respect towards all fellow human beings, serving as an antidote to today’s aimlessly materialistic life and religious extremism and intolerance globally.

Sufism presents some of the best literature in the world on Leadership to teach today’s startup leaders on effectively leading others. Every Sufi saint has passed on the knowledge (Hikmah, also Hikmat, Arabic: حكمة‎,) of leadership to their disciples for several centuries which is still practiced today by not only practitioners of Sufism but also corporate leaders to hone their leadership skills.  Here’s a series on vital leadership lessons that Sufism teaches to aspiring startup leaders.

Remain open-minded

The great Sufi leaders or spiritual guides (or ‘peers’) have always taught their disciples on the importance of facing adversities in life, as this concept forms the basis of achieving a higher spiritual status in life. Sufism comprises several stations or positions (Maqam, Arabic: مقام‎,) fraught with adversities. It not only teaches us to confront any adversity with patience and willpower but to look for opportunities that come along with it, or, simply put, diversify opportunities. Therefore, adversity can also lead to diversity (in terms of opportunities). Then, why do today’s startup leaders usually take evasive action, and pass the buck on to others?

Leaders need to be open-minded first in managing pressing issues and broaden their perception. Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet, and one of the greatest Sufi mystics quoted,

“The world exists as you perceive it. It is not what you see, it is how you see it. It is not what you hear, but how you hear it.”

Here’s what Edward de Bono, the exponent of the critical thinking concept, has to say on widening your perception of things,

“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic. Studies have shown that 90% of errors in thinking are due to errors in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas.”

As a matter of fact, in Sufism, everything starts with humility. A true leader will be quick to understand that genuine wisdom requires a great deal of humility in the face of life’s myriad of complexities and contradictions; therefore, a business leader should not only strive hard to tolerate (may be difficult to start with), but effectively learn from the diverse nature of adversities in day-to-day activities.

To conclude, leadership secrets are perceived, not understood by words.