Leaders should be Wary of Sycophants’ Shenanigans and their Lies

By Abdulkadir Salaudeen

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Leadership is a trust and a burden. It is a trust because it is entrusted to people whom moral rectitude is not in dispute. When you are made a leader, you are like a trusted servant. Though this is in an ideal situation; not in a democratic setting especially when democracy takes the character of the rule of mob. Is it not even basically a rule of mob? Well, this is debatable.

However, in an ideal clime, a leader of a people is their servant. This saying, though wrongly attributed to the Prophet, depicts the true nature of a good leader. A good leader is not the one that ensconces himself in his comfort sofa within the corridor of power and distances himself from the hardships and grievances of those whom Allah favors him to rule over. He worsens his condition if he is surrounded by sycophants. Their shenanigans and lies will smoothen his path to the abyss of destruction. He will only realize, in most cases, when it is too late to make amends.


Feeding the poor and needy is an act that draws us closer to Allah. We earn His forgiveness, mercies and blessings through this act of charity.

“Anyone who looks after and works for a widow and a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah?s cause, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all night. (Bukhari)

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Leadership is also a burden because its responsibilities are huge. A leaders entire life becomes a sumptuous dinner meant for public consumption. His cherished privacy becomes the focus of discussion of all and sundry. When he laughs, his laughter is given different interpretations. When he is generous, he may be greeted with criticism by those who do not benefit from his largesse. If he is too prudent, his prudence will hardly be interpreted as a virtue. He will be uncharitably libeled as a miser and miserably adjudged as a sadist.

Leadership is indeed a burden. A leader is faulted for everything. When mosquito bites, he is responsible for it. When there are road accidents, he is the cause. If the economy nosedives, he has to explain. When there is insecurity in the land, he will be accused of incompetency. When pregnancy ends in miscarriage, he bears the blame. When there are deaths, no matter how natural they seem to be, people are quick to quip that he has hand in it.

Now you understand what it means when leadership is said to be a burden. Anyone who understands these burdens which a leader must shoulder will be unwilling to accept leadership position. For it is difficult, in fact, very difficult, to succeed as a leader.

Considering the enormous burdens that come with leadership position, could there be anyone who will be interested in it? But it is this leadership that people are tussling for, hustling for, vying for, toiling for, crying for, and killing for savagely and atavistically to the extent of committing shirk sacrificing ones faith in Allah for the sake of power.

Is it that man is ignorant of these leadership burdens? A sense tells me yes! Another sense says no! While trying to determine which answer is correct, the Qur’an intervenes to echo YES. That is to say, man is not only ignorant, he is also a wrong doer. Does it mean that the Quran sees man as inherently evil? That nothing good can emanate from man? If I say yes, I may be wrong. If my answer is no, I will still have to explain.

The Quran declares man as an ignorant, an ingrate, and always want to do wrong by nature. Because of his ignorance, when he was entrusted with trust leadership he grabbed it, he embraced and accepted it thoughtlessly. But the heavens, the earth, and the mountains rejected it for fear of failure to discharge the enormous responsibilities though they are bigger. But man, as smallish as he is, in comparison with heavens, earth, and mountain, accepted this huge responsibility (see Q33:72-73).


Does it mean that man is bound to fail as a leader? The Quran says NO, though a conditional NO. Provided man is just, he is going to be successful. Abubakar was successful, so was Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah have mercy on them). Abubakars speech as khalifah is instructive. It reads partly: O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is Abubakar the best man in this nation (Muslim community) after the Prophet (SAW). He admitted there are likelihoods that he makes mistake and urged his followers to correct him. But most of our leaders who do not worth the stool of Abubakar can never do wrong and cannot be corrected. They were/are carried away by the songs of the praise singers (the sycophants) who praise them day and night.

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Listen to Abubakar again, Truthfulness is synonymous with fulfilling the trust, and lying is equivalent to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightly theirs insha Allah… I wish I can write the whole speech.

But we can glean from Abubakars speech that the condition of success for leaders is justice. A just leader who desires success surrounds himself with good advisers who see what is good as good, evil as evil, and say what they see as it is. They do not fear that they could run out of favor with the leader.

Conversely, if you are a leader and surround yourself with sycophantic sycophants these are the worst sycophants whose sycophancy is laced with lies and shamelessness you have already failed. They will never tell you the truth. They will never be tired of singing your praises. They make you feel like God who is incapable of doing any wrong. They prevent you from seeing or meeting good people, and paint them as COVID from whom keeping a distance is a necessity.
When you try to read dailies (newspapers), perhaps to get a first hand information on what people say about your leadership, they volunteer to read it on your behalf, making you think its out of honor; without you knowing that they want to read to you only those things that you will like to hear, and assuredly make you happy. They are so stupid, so selfish, so bad, and so wicked that they strive hard to sing your praise when you should be given sincere advice (no matter how tough or how bitter).

No wonder, the Prophet instructed: When you see those who flatter others (praise singers), throw sand in their faces (Muslim). Ibn Muflih said, It is said that the Prophet meant by (throw sand in their faces) to express rebuttal and disapproval. If Ibn Muflih (RA) had lived to witness what we witness, we would have asked him what to do to praise singers who call you wailing wailers for repudiating them on their flattering. But since ibn Muflih is late and the Prophet could not see these praise singers, all we can say is, as the Quran puts it; Then be patient until Allah judges between us. And He is the best of judges. (Q7:87).

When Hudhayfah entered Madain during the khalifah of Umar ibn Khattab as the governor, he carried on and people crowded around him. He saw they were expecting him to speak and he cast a searching look at their faces. Eventually, he said: Beware of places of fitnah (tribulation) and intrigue. And what, they asked, Are places of intrigue? He replied: The doors of rulers where some people go and try to make the ruler or governor believe lies and praise him for (qualities) he does not possess.

When a leader gives a listening ear to sycophants, they not only abase him, they kill the state. Failure of a leader is a failure of a nation. O Allah, guide us, guide our leaders and grant them success.

Abdulkadir Salaudeen writes from Gashua, Yobe State, Nigeria
[email protected]
Twitter handle, @salahuddeenAbd.


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