When we review history, we can see how kings and governors and those in power reacted to those in disagreement with them. They not only prevented others to express their opposing views, but also suppressed as many as they could by imprisonment, torture and bloodshed. However, Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) presents a different role model in responding to opposition and behaving with enemies.
The history tells us that after the general body of Medina’s population paid their allegiances to Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH), Ammar Yasir came to him and said, “O Master of believers! People from all levels of the city have come to confirm your mastership and submit to you as their Imam. But there are a number of minorities whom have not done so. If you would agree, we could invite all of them to come and pay their allegiances to your new government like others.”
Amir al-Mu’minin replied, “O Ammar! The one who does not want to see us, we do not need anything from him. Then why should we meet him?”
Contributing to the conversation, Malik Ashtar said, “O Master of believers! Inviting the people who are in disagreement with you is good for the government. When they come and offer oath to you in public, then there won’t be any excuse to draw their swords on you later in future. The people are now obedient to you for their own sake –as they have offered their oath to you in public- and this way you have considered your government’s sake while you encourage the rest of people to offer oath and be in agreement with you. ”
Imam Ali (PBUH) responded, “Malik! I know the people better than you do. Allow them to do whatever they wish.”
And therefore, Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) did not force his government’s oppositions to pay their allegiances. As a matter of fact Imam Ali’s (PBUH) lenient reaction was not exclusive to those who only criticized him in words or those who did not speak about their disagreement in public; he even had an exceptionally soft reaction to those who were harshly opposing the government in public. For example, Imam Ali’s (PBUH) patience in dealing with Khawarij, who were one of the most clear groups which opposed his government, is very obvious.
One day a group of Khawarij entered the mosque of Kufa to disrupt Imam’s speech with repetitive slogans. While Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) was delivering his speech one of them stood up and yelled, “There’s no rule but Allah’s rule”; then another yelled from another corner, “There’s no rule but by Allah”; a third person said the same thing immediately and then a group of them stoop up among the people and shouted the same slogan over and over during Imam’s speech.
Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH), patiently bared their oppositions. Then he turned to people and said, “It is a true slogan which they want to use for their wrong doing.” He turned to the opposing group (Khawarij) and continued, ”As long as you don’t use your swords and stay with us we shall give you three principal rights:
1. We will not prevent you to attend the prayers in the mosque.
2. We will not void or withhold your rights to public’s-treasury (Beit al-Maal).
3. We will not start any war against you unless you start one.” (1)
Therefore, what distinguishes Imam Ali’s (PBUH) short governing era from others’ is simply his leniency, patience and his divine approach in interacting with those who oppose and criticize him; whether those who kept their animosity in heart or those who declared they opposition toward him in public. Such merciful and magnanimous behavior is only result of Amir al-Mu’minin’s (PBUH) global view toward people and governing. He viewed the people he ruled first as humans and brothers before he recognized who approves and disapproves. This matter can be seen in his letter to Malik Ashtar (appointed governor of Egypt by Imam Ali (PBUH)),
“Habituate your heart to the mercy for people and the affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them, since people are of two kinds, either your brother in religion or one like you in creation. They will commit slips and encounter mistakes. They may act wrongly, willfully, or by neglect. So, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon in the same way as you would like Allah to extend his forgiveness and pardon…” (2)
Indeed, true Islam is what its true leader shows us in practices…
(The above is a selection taken from “Behavioral Models from Imam Ali (PUBH)”, by Muhammad Dashti)
Roshd Website offers its condolences to all and especially to you dear friend on the 21st of Ramadan, the martyrdom anniversary of the manifestation of patience and kindness, the heavenly Imam, Imam Amir al-Mu’minin Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH).
1. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 53
2. Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter 53