The world is mourning over the passing of Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, 83, a Professor Dr.-Ing. (Doktoringenieur) who succeeded Soeharto as the third President of Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.
But in mourning, the world may also be enlightened by these most profound words of his:
“If I am to be asked, who is Habibie? Is he an engineer, a Muslim, or an Indonesian? I will answer that Habibie is a Muslim. Why? Because when I pass away, I no longer have a nationality. When I reached the Hereafter, the things that will be asked to me is neither my nationality nor my position.”
That was how clear, genuine, and unshakable this President of a Muslim country was with his faith, regardless of how that nation was founded and built.
Here are 3 lessons you – modern Muslim Leaders and Daies – can learn from Habibie:
1. Dare to lead in unorthodox, non-religious fields.
Great leadership, including Muslim leadership, requires vast knowledge beyond orthodox religious aspects.
Over and above that, a great leader himself should excel beyond conventional governance into new territories such as the challenge of advanced technology.
A great Muslim leader is not necessarily a religious orator based in the mosque or a religious organisation.
A great Muslim leader dares to think and advocate beyond the conventional, static definition of a good Muslim into a world-changing Muslim.
Habibie’s thesis in aerospace engineering was so remarkable that huge companies such as Boeing and Airbus offered him employment.
Ever heard of Habibie Factor, Habibie Theorem, and Habibie Method? He developed all those into 46 international patents for aircraft engineering. The development of Indonesia’s national aviation industry is among his greatest legacy for his country.
2. Forward thinking to bring huge change.
What is lacking in our leaders is forward-thinking in challenging, breaking and reforming the status quo and ‘business-as-usual’ things.
Let it be acknowledged that the present world’s issues and problems have outgrown much of the orthodox and theoretical solutions we have been offering and advocating.
Yet, we remain comfortable in our bubble of preaching the rhetorics of the comprehensiveness of Islam as the way of life. So contented are we in that bubble that we fail to realise we are alienating the generation of today who is questioning the actualisation of our advocacy.
In Habibie’s case, it was during his time that Indonesia managed to show to the world that it can grow from being an agrarian to becoming an industrialised country.
Instead of harping on the usual labour-intensive and resource-based industries, he spearheaded a strategic industry using advanced technology to generate future economic advantage for Indonesia – a step considered controversial and unthinkable during the time.
3. Be an actual problem solver.
A great leader is an actual problem solver. This is not as easy as his announcing some projects or brands for people to remember as his legacy.
Being an actual problem solver is very different and challenging for those in power compared to being the opposition or a social activist.
Habibie came to power in 1998 when Indonesia was facing an economic crash. However, within only 16 months in office — the shortest presidency in Indonesia’s modern history — he managed to transform the economic course of his country.
“Indonesia was at the verge of breaking apart due to the turmoil in politics, economy and peace,” Habibie reminisced about those moments.
He paid utmost attention to budget efficiency, anti-corruption, anti-aggrandisement, transparency, and accountability. That was how he successfully pulled Indonesia from the brink of ruin.
So we say to this great Muslim soul who spoke less and worked more, who didn’t make a show of his piety, “ Fly home in peace and blessing, our beloved Muslim statesman”.