Before the advent of Islam, the world was in chaos. Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H delivered the peaceful message of Islam and was able to change the world for all times to come. With its introduction, Islam brought in favorable and progressive laws that uplifted the most marginalized of communities.
However, these laws would have been redundant had there not been extremely powerful leaders who conquered lands and spread the message of Islam. After the demise of the dear Prophet, the four righteous caliphs took a lead and spread positivity and peace in all the areas they conquered. Next came powerful emperors like Tariq Bin Ziyad and Mehmed the second that surpassed all expectations.
With the help of these leaders, Islam soon became one of the strongest religions in the world. To know more about the famous muslim leaders in history and the impact they had, read ahead.
Top 15 Most Famous Muslim Leaders in History
Most people know of only a handful of Muslim leaders, like Prophet Muhammad and Ali Bin Abi Talib. However, there have been hundreds of them that revolutionized the world. Here is a list of the top 15 most famous Muslim leaders that you should know of.
1. Hazrat Muhammad (P.B.U.H)
The last prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H was a revolutionary leader who changed the world for all times to come. He was not only the Messenger of God, but was also a fierce military commander who conquered many great lands and won many battles. He was of an impeccable moral and ethical character and preached his message with complete honesty and consistency.
However, like many famous world leaders in history, he was not ruthless, nor a tyrant. He set a positive example of leadership for all humans. He was both kind and extremely merciful, so much so that he forgave his biggest rivals and dealt with everyone in the conquest of Makkah in the most humane manner. He was a leader in the truest of senses.
Also read: How can great leaders bring diverse people together?
2. Umer Bin Khattab (R.A)
For Umer bin Khattab, Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H always had the highest of praises. Umer was one of the greatest Muslim leaders to have graced the Earth. Before his death, he had already a large proportion of the world. Apart from being an extraordinary caliph, Umer was also an excellent swordsman.
He led Muslims into many battles and had the privilege of commanding many great armies. However, Hazrat Umer was not only known for his many conquests. He was known for his unwavering sense of justice and integrity. He formulated many new laws in the areas he conquered.
He was tolerant, and kind and had an inclusive leadership style. Moreover, Hazrat Umer has the honor of introducing new prison systems, advanced court systems, and an improved financial system. He was in every sense a truly transformational leader.
3. Ali bin Abi Talib (R.A)
Known as one of the greatest and bravest men in Islamic history, Hazrat Ali set the right precedent for Muslims all over the world. He was an excellent diplomat who sought to resolve conflicts within Muslim communities.
Moreover, as a cousin of the Prophet, he was also one of the first people to accept and defend the new faith. Apart from that, Hazrat Ali was an extraordinary swordsman and his skill was unmatched by any of his opponents.
After Prophet passed away, Hazrat Ali became the caliph and commanded the Muslim ummah. His wisdom and his deep understanding of Islamic jurisprudence made him one of the best Muslim leaders in history.
4. Tariq Bin Ziyad (670–720)
When talking about the greatest Muslim leaders in history, it is almost impossible to not mention the great Tariq Bin Ziyad. He was the conqueror of Spain. He landed in Gibraltar and led 10,000 men to victory.
Even though he was opposing an army 10 times the size of his army, Tariq Bin Ziyad gained the victory. The battle of Guadalete that he led is considered to be one of the greatest battles won in muslim history.
Another thing that sets him apart is how he listened to the suggestions of his generals and followed their advice. After taking over Spain, Tariq bin Ziyad joined forces with another general and conquered two-thirds of the Iberian Peninsula.
Also, read: 10 steps that differentiate a leader from a boss in 2023.
5. Harun al-Rashid (763-809)
Harun al-Rashid was the Abbasids dynasty’s Fifth Caliph and a great leader. Under his leadership, the capital of Baghdad came to be the largest city on the planet, except for China. His court was filled with powerful and honest men who followed his commandments without flinching, such was the power of this great leader.
Under his leadership, the empire reached new heights. It began in Morocco and reached India. He also led successful campaigns against the Byzantines in the year 797. Harun was known to bring much scientific, religious and cultural prosperity to all the lands he governed.
6. Mahmud of Ghazni (971 – 1030)
The greatest leader of the Ghaznavid empire, Mahmud of Ghazni carried the title of Sultan which roughly translates to ‘Authority figure’. He was born in Afghanistan and joined his father Sabuktigin, the founder of the Ghaznavid empire. He fought alongside his father when the latter captured Khorasan in 994.
After his father died, Mahmud of Ghazni carried on his legacy and established a long and very successful military career. He created a vast empire that covered modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Mahmud of Ghazni was most famous for his archers, who could kill enemies from a great distance.
7. Saladin (1137/38–1193)
Saladin is mentioned in stories, and books and is even referenced in much great historical television series. He was an Egyptian sultan known for his legendary crusade against the English king Richard.
He became the head of the military forces of Muslims in Egypt in 1169. In his long military career, he conquered Damascus, Aleppo, and Mosul. He also established the great Ayyubid dynasty.
It was also under his rule that Muslims captured the great kingdom of Jerusalem. Apart from this, Saladin defeated the great crusader army and had control of a vast number of crusader lands.
8. Timur (1336 – 1405)
Timur, a name synonymous with chivalry and courage, was born in 1336. He founded the famous Timurid dynasty and conquered many lands in India and Russia. His reign reached up to the Mediterranean. Despite his conquests, Timur was not a fan favorite among the people he conquered. He was known for being extraordinarily cruel towards anyone who did not follow orders.
Additionally, Timur was also involved with the Mongols and participated in many campaigns of Chagatai, the son of Genghis khan. Timur also dreamt of restoring the Mongol Empire of Khan and bringing its former glory again. Timur also invaded Anatolia, Syria, and Aleppo during his lifetime.
9. Babur (1483 – 1530)
Babur was the most successful Mughal empire and led successful conquests against the rulers of India in 1519. After conquering the strategic site of Modern day Afghanistan. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi, even though the latter’s army was 10 times the size of Babur’s army.
After becoming the ruler of India, Babur’s rule became extremely favorable among the locals. He introduced many new laws and customs that were advantageous to the Muslims. After the death of Babur, his son Humayun took over. It was because of Babur that Muslims were able to rule around 3.2 million square kilometers of land in the 17th century.
10. Tipu Sultan
Tipu Sultan is remembered for his excellent reputation and bravery. During the second half of the 18th century, Tipu became the ruler of India. He became so popular that even Napoleon sought Tipu Sultan’s help in battling the British. The Sultan took this as an opportunity because he hated the British India Company.
Tipu sultan, along with his father, fought four wars. In the famous Anglo-Mysore war, he used rocket weapons against enemies. Before his death, he even tried to assemble a plethora of Muslim nations against the British, but his attempts at uniting the nations failed.
11. Osman 1
Osman, I ruled a nomadic tribe and founded the great ottoman empire. He led several Muslim fighters, trained them, and made them into an army. He then used this army to defeat the Mongols and create one of the most powerful empires in the world. The empire lasted a couple of centuries and only broke when the ottomans faced defeat in the first world war.
Osman was a wise and strategic military leader. He used his influence to rally other tribes. Moreover, the circumstances also favored him. He founded the empire at a time when the influence of the Byzantine was coming to an end.
12. Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi
Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was an extraordinary human with exceptional leadership qualities. He was a military leader and strategist who dared to withstand the crusader’s wrath. Sultan Salahuddin was a passionate leader who wanted to conquer Jerusalem for the Muslims.
He defeated the crusaders at the battle of Hattin and gained a decisive victory for Muslims. Despite being one of the biggest heroes of Islam, Sultan Saluddin hated bloodshed and tried to avoid it at all costs.
13. Mehmed II
Mehmed the second was one of the greatest Muslim leaders in history. He took on the job of conquering Constantinople and became successful. Additionally, he was responsible for ending the Byzantine emperor. Where past sultans had failed miserably, Mehmed, the second, was able to do wonders.
After conquering Constantinople, the Ottomans, under the leadership of Mehmed II, were able to develop the city and transform it into one of the most powerful capitals of the world. Additionally, he also won a decisive victory and took over Anatolia in 1473.
14. Muhammad Bin Qasim
People of the subcontinent have heard the tales of the great and chivalrous Muslim leader, Muhammad Bin Qasim. At just fifteen, Muhammad Bin Qasim showed amazing leadership traits and had all the attributes of an emerging leader. Moreover, he was a strategic thinker and extremely skillful at combat.
After becoming a Muslim leader, he proved his mantle in and outside the field. He was also an excellent administrator and formed many new laws and policies in the new land. Due to his amazing personality, he was also generally revered among his people.
Also read: How to identity emerging leaders using the 15-trait criteria?
15. Nader Shah
Nader Shah, the ruler, and Sultan of Persia, ruled the land between 1736 and 1747. He was not only an excellent administrator, but was also one of the most brilliant and wise military commanders. It was due to his wisdom that many people call him an Iranian Napoleon.
During his long rule, he extended his country’s frontiers and covered a large portion of the Middle East. He also led many effective military campaigns that brought him fame and wealth. Additionally, he introduced many favorable policies in his kingdom, which made him a popular leader.
How Were Muslim Leaders in History Able to Change the World?
Good leaders often possess exemplary leadership characteristics like honesty, integrity, and chivalry. However, each leader also possesses some unique characteristics that set them apart. Here are the things the above muslim leaders had in common.
1. Having a Great Vision
Take the example of any great Muslim leader in history, and you would see all of them having a dynamic and great vision at the start. Mehmet, the second, wanted to conquer Constantinople and take over the crusaders.
Similarly, Hazrat Umer R.A. wanted to conquer as many lands in the vicinity of Makkah and beyond as possible. Without the right vision, these leaders would not have known where to start.
2. Skills to Match the Vision
History notes that all Muslim leaders who were able to leave a mark in history had exemplary leadership skills. They were physically and mentally fit to take on the hard challenges. This is integral because when leaders lack skill themselves, like, in the case of the later Mughal emperors, the empire soon ceases to exist.
On the other hand, leaders like Muhammad bin Qasim were excellent swordsmen and military strategists, which is why they were able to achieve their full potential.
3. Ability to Adapt to Change
No matter how hard you try or how much you plan, some things never go your way. In today’s world, these could be external circumstances like a lockdown, a financial breakdown, or a family emergency. Great leadership knows how to handle change. Take the example of Prophet Muhammad and the treaty of Hudaibiyah. Although the prophet wanted to perform a pilgrimage that year, he decided to change his decision to avoid a possible clash with the Makkans.
4. Knowing When to Give Up
Resilience, coupled with strength and an optimistic attitude, is great. However, most leaders show resilience in the face of unrealistic dreams. One of the best qualities of a great leader is that they know when to stop. Leaders who become greedy and go too far in the pursuit of greatness often end up losing a lot, in some cases: even their lives.
As a modern Muslim leader, you should dream realistically and set up small and achievable goals. Best Diplomats can help you do that.
5. Accepting Defeat Gracefully
No one likes to lose, especially not a leader who has to answer to a huge army or an entire country. However, when the stakes are high and the competition is strong, there is always a chance that you might not lose.
Take the example of great conquers and leaders like Tariq Bin Ziyad and Timur. They were not undefeated in battle. Although they won more times than they lose, they did not sit back and whine. Rather, they accepted their defeat gracefully.
6. Learning From the Mistakes
You can fight the same battles, literally or metaphorically, a thousand times and still get the same result unless you sit back and ponder over what you did wrong. An attribute that was common in all Muslim leaders in history was that they were highly perceptive.
After a defeat or a setback, they used to consult their trusted court men and governors and take their advice on important matters. Their inclusive leadership style helped them get ahead in the game and not repeat the mistakes they once made.
7. High Moral and Ethical Standards
The current leadership of the world may have forgotten morality or ethics. However, leaders of the past, especially, great Muslim leaders like the righteous caliphs, had very high moral and ethical standards for themselves and all the people they appointed.
For example, Hazrat Ali R.A. is reported to hold all his governors accountable for any financial mishap. This helped ensure equality within the Muslim kingdoms. Additionally, this helped inspire others to act more righteously.
Also read: How did great leaders change the world for the better?
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History books are filled with examples of great and revolutionary leaders that transformed the world. From introducing progressive and democratic laws that favored the poor, to bringing diverse lands under the banner of Islam, these Muslim leaders certainly did the unthinkable.
Currently, there is a leadership vacuum in the Muslim world. You can fill it; all you have to do is trust your abilities and try.
How Did Islam Change World History?
Muslim leaders spread Islam and were able to help nomadic people into a more unified culture. Moreover, muslim leaders also created a common currency and made Arabic the official language of the land. Additionally, through these standardizing procedures, muslim leaders were able to bring in a Golden Age of Islam.
How Did the Muslims Build a Successful Empire?
Muslim leaders in history were able to spread Islam through military conquests, pilgrimage, missionaries, and most importantly, trade. Through trading, Muslims were able to spread in all parts of the world and spread the peaceful message of Islam. Through conquests, Muslim leaders in history were able to reach far-off lands and introduce Islamic teachings there.
What Are Some Achievements of Muslim Leaders in the World?
Muslim leaders in history can be credited for many great things and achievements. The top five achievements of Muslim leaders include
1. Using astronomy for navigational purposes
2. Creating a purposeful and diverse calendar used for religious practices
3. Finding the direction of Mecca for prayer
4. Inventing technology like the astrolabe and quadrant to observe the sky
5. Introducing prison systems in new lands.