“50 stories in 50 years,” and in there is a lesson to be learned in every story. These stories of Muhammad bin Rashid highlight important aspects of leadership and development.
In this book, I read about a royal ceremony which was organized by the Shah of Iran in 1971, and how the current leader of Dubai compared his father’s style of ruling with that of the Shah based on fact proven over time.
This fact is that whenever a leader is humble and closer to his people, a small sized country with small a population transforms into an effective force in the world; contrary to when a leader rules far from his people and with arrogance as such a country collapses irrespective of its greatness in the eyes of such a leader.
On that understanding, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum based his comparison with what he witnessed when he was 11 years old in the ‘Shahanshah’ (king of kings) pompous ceremony to mark 2,500 years since the establishment of the Persian Empire which was held in 1971 in Iranian ancient city – Persepolis.
He compared that event with how the early days of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s reign in Dubai started. He also compared where that major country is with where Dubai is, together with the remaining United Arab Emirates of today.
In his book, “Qissati,” which translates to “My Story,” he stated: “Kings, presidents and royals were invited to the pompous royal ceremony; where they were served food (peacock) on lavish utensils. At the time, I could not even imagine my father wearing a restaurant hat with precious gems, and then proclaim himself king of kings.”
The son of Dubai continues, “My father’s office was humble, located at the corner of Dubai Port. He directly supervised operations, and whenever a visitor comes, he would think he was one of the employees. Project managers called him ‘foreman,’ because he visited them daily to follow up their projects and meet the people.
“I witnessed a pompous and extravagant ceremony. On my way to the ceremony, I passed by many poor Iranian villages that did not even have access to electricity. Two opposing images, yet they were from the same place. I had a glimpse of the king of kings, and how he was far from his people; isolating himself in huge palaces.
“I learned a valuable lesson in comparing the Shah’s style of ruling and that of the UAE despite major differences between the two countries. There is outright contradiction between the two, even though the secret is, to be close to the people.
“I wish that Shah looked around him and learned from others. Kingdoms fell within 20 years. The military in Egypt ousted King Farouq, King Faisal of Iraq was assassinated, Imam Muhammad Al-Badr in Yemen was ousted and also King Idris of Libya. Rapid changes occurred within a very short period, but the king of kings did not notice them. He depended on Britain and the US for protection, not his people’s support. He was busy with his palaces.”
There is a valuable lesson in this comparison between the one who builds a stable, peaceful and prosperous nation through humbleness; listen to the concerns and dreams of his people and lead them towards glory; and the one who destroys a big country with isolation and hiding behind high walls of palaces.
In this story, Muhammad bin Rashid narrates how revolutionists became kings and quickly adopted the style of their ousted predecessors. This time they hide behind revolutionary slogans in a bid to further impoverish, starve and oppress their people and slowed down progress in their countries.
Hence, the current situation in Iran is not different from that of the Shah since the Mullahs have become the Shahs; while poverty increased and the scope of isolation widened up to the extent of getting global when the arrogance of the Mullahs made them assume they can rule the world.
In Iraq, Yemen, Libya and other countries which became victims of upheaval and revolution; the people retrogressed because of restraints imposed on them by their regimes, similar to the situation in Iran that is perceived globally to have contracted the terrorism plague.
In this regard, Bin Rashid wrote: “I told them in 2004, ‘You came to power through revolution; hence, complete it through the economy, construction and providing better life for your people. Please, change or you will be changed.’ Unfortunately, they did not pay attention until their country plunged into uprisings, chaos and wars which brought nothing but more destruction.”
The point is not to adopt slogans; instead, work and let the slogans speak for themselves. This is exactly what the leaders of the United Arab Emirates did, where the rule is based on open door policy and continuous communication between the ruler and the ruled. At the end of the day, the ruler is from this nation. Whenever he is close to his people, he becomes stronger and more honored, and the more he distances himself from the people, the more his rule faces risks.
When Muhammad bin Rashid was asked at the end of the story about the status of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed in the hearts of their people, and the status of the king of kings in history, he responded: The answer is in the people and their way of life, and the level of satisfaction they feel.
However, the curse currently endured by countries afflicted with regimes masquerading as revolutionists or pageantry and grandeur, detached from the natural surroundings; is that their story ends on the black pages of history.
On the other hand, the ones that started small and struggled for livelihood are now the most firm, stable and peaceful, and they are the epitome of advancement and development.
Muhammad bin Rashid, without titles, has disseminated these stories on world kings and Arab leaders, in the service of their people.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times