We are each faced with the concept of “choices” in life, where we must choose among two or more options. Being faced with the options to choose a partner, spouse, or friend is an unstoppable phenomenon for all. The important factor however is that the choices be made based on the proper standards. The Infallible Imams (PBUT) have identified the proper criteria when faced with choices. For example, it has been narrated that Imam Ali (PBUH) has said in this regards, “Never trust a friend before testing him (1)”. It has also been narrated from Imam Ali (PBUH), “Do not befriend a sweet talker, for he (will trick you with his sweet talk and) will present his ill actions as proper, and he will want you to be like him (2)”.
Now, the more critical the matter becomes, making the right choice becomes even more sensitive. At times, a choice can affect one person or a few people, but sometimes a choice can affect a whole nation. When a person is placed in an esteemed position for example, he will feel obligated to appoint helpers and ministers to hold important positions. The greater a person’s responsibilities, the more critical will be his appointment of a deputy. Therefore, making the choice of a liable deputy is a very important matter for a leader or ruler. The question is then, how can we measure people’s liabilities for these matters?
Imam Ali (PBUH) in an instruction letter to Malik Ashtar Nakhai, which summarizes his beliefs and thoughts to a great extent, defines the characteristics of a deserving deputy as such:
“You will also have to be very careful about your secretaries. You should entrust your work only to those who are the best among them. Specially the affairs which are of confidential nature and which deal with secrets, and the security of the State should be entrusted only to men of noble character, not those who are intoxicated with power, position and prestige carry on propaganda and speak against the government in public, as they openly misbehave with you and consider themselves so important as to ignore you or your orders in financial transactions essential to the State, they avoid placing necessary papers before you or attending to important correspondence. Particular care should be taken that when the officers make contracts on behalf of the government or sign agreements, these contracts and agreements are not defective or harmful to the State, if they are negotiating any treaties and alliances they do not overlook or forsake the interests of the State or if they find the State in a weak and embarrassing position on account of unfavourable terms of treaties or due to intrigues, they should be able to find sensible ways out of them. See that they know and realize their proper place and rank, because he who does not realize his place and position will never understand those of others (3)”.
After clarifying the requirements of a secretary or in general “any position of responsibility”, Imam Ali (PBUH) points to another very sensitive issue, one which derives from the complexity of man. Obviously, those who attain high positions attract many friends, and while they seem to be very mannerly friends, they nonetheless may at times seem very pious among people, at times they may flaunt their courage and strengths, and one day will see themselves more forgiving than anyone; and another day they present themselves as the thinker of century. Such fake words and dishonest moves are only a plan for those to try to take advantage and attract the mind of their superiors toward themselves; and hence gain control of power. Therefore, Imam Ali (PBUH) advices Maalik to prevent from relying on his personal experiences to select officers but also consider the following:
“You must remember not to select the officers for very important posts and not to trust them completely simply because you have found them honest, diligent, trustworthy and intelligent and have formed a good opinion about them; there are some people who, when it suits them, pretend honesty, diligence and fidelity and can put on the garb of piety and virtue and thus find their ways in the hearts of the rulers, though actually they are neither honest nor diligent nor wise nor sagacious. Therefore, you must always look to the record or reputation of the services of such men during previous regimes; more importance should be attached to their good reputation of truthfulness and piety. This kind of selection and supervision will prove that you are faithful to Allah and that you wish your Imam well (4)”.
Therefore, we should consider the points which Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) has made about selecting a partner and a colleague, either at our professional responsibilities or personal life as the principal.
(The above is a selection taken from “The Principles of Ruling from the vision of Imam Ali (PBUH)” by Late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Fadhil Lankarani (with minor changes))
The Roshd Website offers condolences to all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon 21st of the Month of Ramadan, the anniversary of the martyrdom of the symbol of justice and courage, the father of the nation and the commander of the believers,
Amir al-Mu’minin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH), and commemorates the Nights of Qadr.
1- Qurar al-Hikam, page 416
2- Peak of Eloquence: Wisdom #293
3- Peak of Eloquence: Letter #53
4- Peak of Eloquence: Letter #53