Great Muslim Leaders

Lessons for Education

Edited by:
Melanie C. Brooks, Edith Cowan University
Miriam D. Ezzani, Texas Christian University

Published 2023

Great Muslim Leaders presents Islamic-informed alternatives to Eurocentric Christian understandings of education and educational leadership. It does so by interrupting and displacing the West’s centuries long dismissive stance and monolithic gaze on Islam by showcasing outstanding diverse Muslim leaders across space and time. Each chapter focuses on a single leader, and includes a biographical sketch; a discussion of their context and activities as a leader; key lessons readers can learn from their leadership, and recommendations that are relevant for teachers and educational leaders. This collection of Muslim leaders, chosen by Muslim scholars, brings to education discourse the breadth of Islamic intellectual history, giving the book a global appeal and facilitating a sharing of innovative and classic ideas across cultures, faith traditions, and national boundaries.

Great Muslim Leaders introduces to readers Muslim intellectuals, spiritual leaders, philosophers, poets, artists, activists, scientists, celebrities, politicians, educators, film makers, historical figures, theorists, and academics whose lives have positively shaped their community, society, and the world. Their lived experiences are underpinned by deep spirituality and faith, revealing the significance and import religious belief has on moral and ethical action. The book concludes with seven lessons that cut across the chapters that encapsulate the immense value Islamic spirituality and faith bring to education and leadership.


"In recent years many books have been written on Islam and Muslims. However, Great Muslim Leaders: Lessons for Education is a 'must read.' In this unique, well written and engaging study, Melanie Brooks and Miriam Ezzani demonstrate how faith and spirituality have informed the lives and accomplishments of major Muslim leaders in a broad section of professions." — John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

"Scholars of leadership ignore spiritual and religious exemplars at their peril. By seeking such exemplars from Islam in such an organic manner, this volume models the central lessons it conveys: promoting pluralism, thoughtfully questioning, critically reflecting, and, most vitally, helping us recognize and embrace the sacred trust of leadership." — Martin Scanlan, Boston College

"Great Muslim Leaders: Lessons for Education is timely, inspirational and packed with lessons for educators and learners alike. At a time when Islamic education is moving toward renewal, this book will provide much needed insight, real-life lessons and direction. This is a must read for anyone seeking to be enriched by the lives of great Muslim leaders - be they learners, educators or leaders." — Mohamad Abdalla AM, University of South Australia

"So many popular leadership books tell the same story of a great white American man who overcame obstacles to build an empire. It is refreshing to read this book featuring educational leaders whose Muslim faith is central to their practice and whose work is bigger than themselves. The biographies of these diverse leaders from across the world offer lessons in humility and hope as well as practical tips for other leaders who seek to apply their faith, whether Muslim or not, to a more connected way of being and of leading." —Joanne M. Marshall, Iowa State University

Foreword, Ali Velshi. Introduction, Abu ʿAlī Al-Hasan Ibn Al-Haytham: Dark Days in Captivity and the Quest for Light and Truth, Sumeyra Yildirim. Maulana Rumi: Living as Though “There Is No You and I”, Zahra N. Kasamali. Qasim Amin: Champion of Women’s Liberation, Maysaa Barakat. Nawab Sir Salimullah of East Bengal, Nahid Afrose Kabir. Said Nursi: Six Educational Leadership Lessons, Zuleyha Keskin. Professor Syed Ali Ashraf: A Pioneer of Faith-Based Education, Shaikh Abdul Mabud. Malik Badri: The Founder of Modern Islamic Psychology, Nada Ibrahim and Amber Haque. Shoaib Sultan Khan: Leading to Ignite the Spirit of Enterprise, Shiraz Kabani. Aga Khan IV: “Education Is an Intensely Moral Enterprise”, Zahra N. Jamal. Majid Irsan Al-Kaylani: Leading Intellectual Light of Education Through an Islamic Lens, Rania Sawalhi and Ghiath Hawari. Abbas Kiarostami: Iranian Filmmaker and Muslim Humanist, Farouk Mitha. Rached Ghannouchi: Leader of an Islamic Movement, Ibrahim Enes Aksu. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im: Promoter for Liberal and Equitable Islam, Amara Galileo. Shirin Ebadi: The Spirit of Resistance, Rifat Binte Lutful. Sheikh Abdalla Idris: A Pioneer of Islamic Schools in Canada, Asma Ahmed and Nadeem Memon. Amina Wadud: Critical Self-Reflection in Islam Toward Radical Transformation, Nicole Khoury and Julia Mahfouz. Hamza Yusuf: A 20th-Century Reviver of Islam in the West, Rasheed A. Rabbi. Farha “Ciciek” Abdul Kadir Assegaf: Educational Reform From a Remote Indonesian Village, Fatimah Husein. Heba Raouf Ezzat: A Model of Muslim Women’s Leadership Through Soft Power, Fella Lahmar. Lorraine O’Connor: A Pioneer for Change, Youcef Sai and Widad Jasmina Kid. Zainab Salbi: Leadership Begins Within, Melanie C. Brooks and Miriam D. Ezzani. Ahmad Al-Shuqairi: From a Societal Influencer to an Islamic Educator and Inspirer of Shari’a in Practice, Khalid Arar and Kussai Haj-Yehia. Nadirsyah Hosen: Leadership and Social Media, Yayan Rahayani. Dalia Mogahed: Speaking Up for Islam, Fida Sanjakdar. Sakina Dada: Leading the Change We Need, Muna Saleh. Nadiya Hussain: A Baker, a Mother, a Wife, a Celebrity, a Brown Woman, a Muslim, a Social Justice Campaigner ... a Leader! Aminul Hoque MBE. Malala Yousafzai: Changing the Narrative, Zuhra E. Abawi. Afterword — Muslim Leadership: Fundamental to Decolonizing Education and Educational Leadership, Melanie C. Brooks and Miriam D. Ezzani.