Home / Religion / History / A Probe into Imam Ali’s Government
laws_justice_alsamail

A Probe into Imam Ali’s Government

Justice was the cornerstone of his reign.The Imam did not segregate between the social classes. The Imam was often seen roaming the streets of Kufa like everyone else. He did not need the army to protect him. He did not require a showy parade to inform people that he was passing by. In fact, many times, the people who interacted with him did not even recognize him. The Imam used to help them. The Imam used to protect them. One recalls the time where he brought food for a widow and her children and how he played with orphans. The Imam was part of his people.

Justice was the cornerstone of his reign.In 35 AH, after the death of the third caliph, the Muslim community rushed to Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and paid allegiance to him as the apparent ruler of the Muslim world. In 40 AH, the accursed Ibn Muljim struck the Imam with a poisonous sword, ending the Imam’s reign. Despite being distracted by three tiresome battles during this short time, the Imam nonetheless established a golden era in the history of Islam, one that extended the legacy of the Prophet’s era. Imam Ali’s government has set the example in terms of ruling and leadership, and it deserves to be studied and understood.

The Two Dimensions

Imam Ali said, “Know that people are of two types: they are either your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon #53)

These words summarize the philosophy behind the government of Imam Ali. The leadership of the Imam was centered on the religion as one and the human being as the other. In reality, both cores imply the other, and they complete one another.

Islam as the Core

Imam Ali was the infallible representative of Allah, and we know that he would have never gone against Allah. It is the Imam’s dedication to the religion of Islam that made him establish justice and oppose all forms of oppression. One example of that fact was recounted by a woman called Sawda bint Amara Al-Hamadaneyya. She says that she came to the Imam Ali, and he was about to begin his prayers. As soon as he saw her, he came to her, and gently asked her need. She told the Imam about an injustice committed by one of the ministers appointed by the Imam. The Imam cried and said, “Oh Allah! I bear You as my witness and theirs, I have not ordered them to oppress your creations.” He immediately deposed his minister. (Kashf Al Ghumma)

Another dimension of his justice was the policy that no one was above from the law, even himself. The law during the Imam’s term did not distinguish between poor and rich, relative or stranger, merchant or farmer. The story is famous when the Jewish man stole Imam Ali’s shield. The Imam, despite being the infallible leader who has control of the whole nation, did not abuse his power and went to court. The judge ruled the shield for the Jewish man, and the Imam accepted the decision. The Jewish man accepted Islam after seeing the justice of the Commander of the Faithful.

Imam Ali truly excelled in keeping Islam alive, protecting the welfare of the community, and spreading justice. And how can this come as a surprise when it is he who says, “By God, even if I am given all the domains of the seven (stars) with all that exists under the skies in order that I may disobey Allah to the extent of snatching one grain of barley from an ant, I would not do it.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 224)

Humanity as the Core

The religion of Islam is dedicated towards the human being and ensuring a productive life in this world and the Hereafter. Since Islam was at the core of Imam Ali’s leadership, the human being becomes a core automatically.

The Imam did not segregate between the social classes. The Imam was often seen roaming the streets of Kufa like everyone else. He did not need the army to protect him. He did not require a showy parade to inform people that he was passing by. In fact, many times, the people who interacted with him did not even recognize him. The Imam used to help them. The Imam used to protect them. One recalls the time where he brought food for a widow and her children and how he played with orphans. The Imam was part of his people.

He cared about the poor very much. His representative in Basra, Othman ibn Hunaif Al Ansari, was once invited to a feast by a rich person. When Imam Ali knew about the invitation, he sent a letter to his representative condemning this act [feasting with the rich while the poor have no place in that]. (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 45)

The Imam worked very hard to ensure that no person felt on the outside of the community. Even if the person was not a Muslim, the Imam wanted everyone to feel welcomed.

The Imam was once walking in the streets, and he passed by a Christian beggar. His question was, “What is this?” When they told him that he is an old Christian man who cannot work and is asking people for help, the Imam replied and said, “you [the Muslim community] used him [in his youth] and when he became old, you left him.” Then the Imam assigned a salary for him from the treasury, the same way he did with Muslims. (Wasa’il al-Shia)

The question the Imam raised in the previous story sheds light on yet another important aspect of his government. Note that the Imam did not ask about the identity of the beggar; rather, he asked about the situation. (What, not who, is this?) In other words, the Imam rendered begging as uncommon during his rule, and in fact it was. Imam Ali fought poverty and begging by providing the three most essential needs for humans, independent of who they were: shelter, water, and sustenance (usually in the form of jobs). Unemployment was almost nonexistent during the Imam Ali’s rule. (Fatima Al Zahraa – Alayha Al Salam Afdal Oswa Lil Nisa’)

The Need for Inspiration

The leadership of Imam Ali is a school we all have to learn from. During those years, his domain extended over fifty countries as per today’s map. It is unfortunate that today, with all the technological advancements, there are countries with worrying unemployment rates. There are countries where water is barely available. There are countries where people sleep on the streets. And more importantly, there are countries who belong to Islam by name, but when it comes to the laws, the religion could not be any further.

It is incumbent upon us to learn from the examples of our Prophet and Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all), and we should strive hard to change our situation to the better. This of course is the necessary lead-in to the government of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) – the government which will be a continuation of the Prophet’s and Imam Ali’s leadership examples.

About Islamic Insights

Check Also

23233_miscellaneous_milky_way_view_from_earth

Muslim Contributions to Astronomy

This is the fourth article of a series that will be focused on influential Muslim …