Fatima Hamdulay


How do we engender excellence? Malcolm Gladwell popularised the notion of a “Tipping Point” – little things that make a big difference and move to a point where the social phenomenon gains traction that is virus-like – it becomes deeply infectious. However, what are the things we should be driving to the tipping point in an Islamic system of governance where excellence, or iḥsān, is a key requirement? The Qur<ānic narrative on iḥsān emphasises kindness to parents. A field-based study of ‘Operational Iḥsān’ amongst pre-recognised top tier educators in Brunei’s public schooling system strongly affirms and heightens this component of the Qur<ānic narrative. These discoveries, both Qur<ānic and lived, manifest a simple, but deeply implicative promise – fostering kindness to parents may be an untapped well from which to feed excellence. This paper explores why this might be the case, and what the implications of such an understanding for policy design and delivery, whether at the governmental or organisational level.

Keywords: Excellence, iḥsān, Islamic management, Qur<ānic analysis, educators


Abu Zakariyyah Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī, “Riyāḍ Al-Ṣaliḥin – A Translation and Commentary”, Ed. Moulana Afzal, Hadith 640, vol. 2, Johannesburg: Muslims at Work Publications, 2014

Amin Abdul Aziz, “Madinian Polity: Visions of Islamic Governance”, Lecture, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam, 13 Jan 2018

Eric J. Hollenberg, “Why You Shouldn’t Trust Malcolm Gladwell”, The Harvard Crimson, 7 August 2014, https://www.thecrimson.com/column/behavioral-economist/article/2014/8/7/why-you-shouldnt-trust/ , accessed November 2019

Hashim, Rosnani, Rossidy, Imron. “Islamization of Knowledge: A Comparative Analysis of the Conceptions of Al-Attas and Al-Faruqi.” Intellectual Discourse 8, No. 1, 2000, pp. 19-44

Holtbrügge, Dirk. “Indigenous Management Research.” Management International Review, no. 53, 2013, pp. 1–11,

Peter Ping Li, “Toward an integrative framework of indigenous research: The geocentric implications of Yin-Yang Balance” Asia Pacific Journal of Management, no. 29, 2012, pp. 849–872

Malcolm Gladwell, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, Boston: Little, Brown, 2000

Mark Bovens, Paul ‘t Hart, “Revisiting the Study of Policy Failures”, Journal of European Public Policy, no. 23, vol. 5, 2016, pp. 653-666

Nathan Bennett and James Lemoine, “What VUCA Really Means for You”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 92, no. 1, Jan/Feb 2014, available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2389563

Saḥiḥ al-Bukhari, Translated by Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Hadith 2333, vol 3, Darussalam, 1999

Sayyid Abul Aʿlā Mawdūdī’s ‘Tafīm al-Qurʾān’.

Serdar Demirel, Hikmatullah Babu Sahib, “Concept of Barakah in Qur’ān and Sunnah: Towards its Realization in Modern Discourse”, Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Spring, no. 5, 2015, pp. 261-284, pp. 270

Sunnie Giles, “How VUCA is Reshaping the Business Environment and what it means for Innovation”, Forbes Magazine, accessed 29 November 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/sunniegiles/2018/05/09/how-vuca-is-reshapingthe-business-environment-and-what-it-means-for-innovation/#10dac1faeb8d

Terry McDermott, “Criticism of Gladwell Reaches Tipping Point”, Columbia Journalism Review, 17 Nov 2009, https://archives.cjr.org/the_observatory/criticism_of_gladwell_reaches.php, accessed November 2019

Sūrah al-‘ahqāf verse 15 and 17

Sūrah al- ‘An’am verse 151

Sūrah al-‘Ankabūt verse 8

Sūrah al-Balad verse 3

Sūrah al-Baqarah verse 83, 180, 215, 233

Sūrah al-‘Isrā’ verse 23

Sūrah al-Mā’idah verse 110

Sūrah an-Nisā verse 7, 33, 36 and 135,

Sūrah an-Naml verse 19

Sūrah ‘Ibrāhīm verse 41

Sūrah Luqmān verse 14, 33

Sūrah Nūh verse 71:28

Sūrah Maryam verse 14, 32