Talut (Saul) lived about 3,000 years ago, and was the first Israelite king. The Quran briefly describes the appointment of Talut as king and narrates how the army of true believers led by Talut defeated the far mightier Philistine army of Jalut (Goliath) that worshiped false deities. The effective leadership of Talut, and later, the exceptional bravery of Dawud (David), led to an unlikely victory for the Israelites and laid the foundation for the golden period in the history of the tribe.

  1. Strength of character is a criterion for leadership

The Israelites were ruled by judges, until the time of Prophet Samoeel (Samuel), when they demanded to have a king under whom they could fight to regain their lost territories. Allah chose Talut as the king who was very capable, though neither wealthy nor from a distinguished tribe within the Israelites. The people objected, saying, “How can he have kingship over us while we are more worthy of kingship than him and he has not been given any measure of wealth?” (2:247) At this, Samoeel replied, “Indeed, Allah has chosen him over you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature.” (2:247) This conveys that in the sight of Allah, wealth, caste, or family lineage is not a criterion for leadership; rather, one’s strength of character, faith in Allah, knowledge, and physique are the actual criteria for selecting a leader.

  1. Do as the leader says

Obedience to the leader is a prerequisite for an effective and a result-oriented team. While going for the battle, Talut and his soldiers came across a river, and Talut forbade his soldiers from drinking its water, except for taking a handful. However, most of his soldiers drank from it, and then lost courage, declaring to Talut, “There is no power for us today against Jalut and his soldiers.” (2:249) In contrast, those who had obeyed Talut were resolute and ready for the battle. Obedience to the leader not only ensures unity among the ranks but also keeps confidence levels high.

  1. Optimism opens up new possibilities

It is important to prepare the best you can, and then be optimistic about the outcome. Losing faith in one’s own abilities leads to nothing but ruin. When many of Talut’s soldiers lost courage before the battle, there were other soldiers who were optimistic about winning and had complete faith in Allah’s help. “How often a small group has overcome a large group by permission of Allah. And Allah is with the steadfast,” (2:249) they asserted, and then prayed to Allah with utter conviction, “Our Lord! Pour forth on us patience and make us victorious over the disbelieving people.” (2:250) They went on to become victorious.

  1. Individual valor can redeem a situation

Winning a battle necessitates teamwork, but sometimes, even an individual act of valor can go a long way in producing the desired result. Dawud was an unknown young soldier in Talut’s army who fought valiantly and killed Jalut, causing the enemy army to flee the battlefield. Dawud was later granted prophethood and kingship by Allah. In the same way, your individual act of courage can make a huge impact in any situation, enabling you to realize your own potential, and achieve greater things in life.