In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Yoosuf Bin Asbaat [rahimahullaah]: I heard Sufyaan [rahimahullaah] saying: ‘’I have not seen lesser abstinence in anything besides [love] of leadership! You see a man abstaining from food, drink, wealth and clothing, but when leadership is presented, he becomes passionate about it. [Ref 1]
Imaam Ibn Rajab [rahimahullaah] said: Eagerness for high status is of two types: The first type is seeking high status through leadership, authority and wealth. This is very dangerous and in most cases it prevents [a person] from [acquiring] the good of the afterlife, its nobility, honour and elevated station. Allaah [The Most High] said: [تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ – That home of the Hereafter [i.e. Paradise], We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqoon]. [Al-Qasas. Ayah 83]
The second type is seeking high status and to be raised in status above the people through the religious affairs, such as knowledge, deeds and Zuhd. This is more abominable than the first type and greater in danger and corruption, because knowledge, deeds and Zuhd are [affairs] by way of which one seeks what Allaah [has prepared for His slaves] of high station and everlasting bliss [in the afterlife]- a means to drawing close to Him [i.e. by way of sincere and righteous deeds] and to receive His favours [in the worldly life and afterlife]. Imaam Sufyaan Ath-thawree [rahimahullaah] said: “Knowledge has more virtue because it is for the [purpose] of attaining fear of Allaah; and if not, it is just like all other things.’’ [Ref 2]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] said: Therefore, he [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] clarified that the corruption [caused] through craving for wealth and high status in the religion cannot be lesser than the corruption [caused] by two hungry wolves let loose among a livestock, and that is [something] manifest; for indeed there is [nothing] of this [type] of craving in the sound religion. That is because when the heart tastes the sweetness of servitude to Allaah and love of Him, nothing else becomes more beloved to it than that. And through this, evil and immorality are averted from the people who are sincere to Allaah. [Ref 3]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] also said: The seeker of leadership- even through falsehood- becomes pleased with a statement that contains an exaltation of him, even if it is falsehood; and becomes angered by a statement that contains a rebuke against him, even if it is truth. [As for] the believer [i.e. the one with strong Eemaan and fear of Allaah], he is pleased with a statement of truth whether it is for or against him; and he is angered by a statement of falsehood whether it is for or against him. That is because Allaah [The Most High] loves truth, truthfulness and justice, and He hates lies and oppression. [Ref 4]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said: The difference between the desire for righteous leadership as opposed to merely desiring leadership: It is the difference between exalting the command of Allaah and being sincere to Allaah as opposed to love of exalting oneself and hastening towards the fulfilment of desires. Indeed the one who is sincere to Allaah and exalts Him, he loves that his Lord is obeyed and not disobeyed; [loves that] Allaah’s Word should be uppermost and that all affairs of the religion should be established sincerely for the sake of Allaah, and [that] the servants should obey Allaah’s commands and keep away from what Allaah has forbidden.
He is sincere in his servitude to Allaah and sincere to Allaah’s creation in calling them to the path of Allaah. So he loves to be [an upright] leader in the religion; rather he asks his Lord to make him from the leaders of the righteous people who are followed, just as he is a follower of the righteous. Therefore, if this servant -[i.e. this person] who calls to Allaah- loves that he is considered dignified in the eyes [of the people], revered and beloved in their hearts and is one followed amongst them, so that he is trusted by them and they follow the example of the Messenger through him, then this [desire of his] does not harm him; rather he is praised for it. That is because the caller to Allaah loves that Allaah is obeyed and singled out in worship. He loves to be a means by way of which [people] are aided to [obey Allaah, single out Allaah in worship and follow the Messenger]. And due to this, [when] Allaah mentioned those chosen slaves of His- whom He praised in His revelation and will grant the best of reward on the day they meet Him- He mentioned them with the best of their deeds and characteristics, and then said: [ وَٱلَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبۡ لَنَا مِنۡ أَزۡوَٲجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّـٰتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعۡيُنٍ۬ وَٱجۡعَلۡنَا لِلۡمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا – And those who say: “Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the Muttaqoon]. [25:74]
So, they ask Allaah to grant them the comfort of the eye by making their wives and offspring obedient to Allaah, and to grant them happiness in their hearts due to being followed by the righteous in obedience and servitude to Allaah. That is because a trustworthy leader in the religion co-operates with [others] upon obedience [to Allaah and His Messenger], and that is to call them to [sound] leadership in the religion, whose foundation is patience and certainty, as Allaah [The Most High] said: [ وَجَعَلۡنَا مِنۡہُمۡ أَٮِٕمَّةً۬ يَہۡدُونَ بِأَمۡرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُواْۖ وَڪَانُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ – And We made from among them (Children of Israel), leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.)]. [32:24]
Therefore, in their supplication -[in Soorah Al-Furqaan Ayah 74]- to Allaah that He makes them leaders of the righteous people, is that Allaah guides them, grants them success, bless them with beneficial knowledge and righteous actions–outwardly and inwardly–without which [sound] leadership in the religion cannot be achieved.
This is different from [merely] seeking leadership, for indeed its seekers hasten to obtain it in order to achieve their goals, [such as] exaltedness in the earth; enslavement of the hearts to them, attachment to them and aiding them in all their goals, whilst they are exalted and everyone subservient to them. This pursuit of leadership brings about corruption-which none can enumerate except Allaah- such as rebellion, envy, transgression, enmity, oppression, trials, being ardent in defending oneself at the expense of violating the rights of Allaah, exalting those despised by Allaah and belittling those honoured by Allaah. [Ref 5]
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from (Siyar A’laam An-Nubulaa 7/262)]; [Ref 2: Excerpts from the book (Two hungry wolves let loose amongst a flock of sheep) pages: 29, 47 & 53]; [Ref 3: An Excerpt from (Majmoo Al-Fataawaa) 10/215]; [Ref 4: Majmoo Al-Fataawaa: 10/600]; [Ref 5: An Excerpt from (Ar-Rooh’ pages 487-489). slightly paraphrased]