Story No. 240 – Imam Ali (A): A leader whom the World is crying for
In the present world which is full of injustice, political tension, clash between cultures and religions, and exploitation of assets – the World’s population is crying for strong, merciful and just leadership. A fundamental philosophical question to ask is:
Can a man yearn for something which according to some is impossible to attain – i.e. is it impossible to hope for a leader with perfect qualities?
To answer this question we must ask ourselves if history ever has seen leadership with perfect qualities?
The following examples from history demonstrate qualities of the ultimate leader – Amir al Momineen, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as):
A Leader for all Humans
In his famous letter to Malik al-Ashtar upon him taking governance over Egypt, Imam Ali (A) writes:
“Remember, Malik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have; they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to, they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or foolishly and unintentionally without realizing the enormity of their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you. You must always appreciate and adopt a policy which is neither too severe nor too lenient; a policy which is based upon equity will be largely appreciated.”
If all Leaders would try to show the same mercy and recognise weaknesses of humans like Imam Ali (A) the world would be a better place to live in.
A Leader who chooses the Best Team
When appointing people who would represent the Islamic Government, Imam Ali (A) was always uncompromising to his just ideals. He would also cascade the same examples to his representatives to follow, which can be read in another part of the Imam Ali’s (A) letter to Malik al-Ashtar:
“Your worst ministers will be the men who had been ministers to the despotic rulers before you and who had been a party to atrocities committed by them. Such persons should not be taken into your confidence and should not be trusted because they have aided sinners and have assisted tyrants and cruel rulers. In their stead you can comfortably find persons who are equally wise and learned but who have not developed sinful and criminal mentalities, who have neither helped the tyrants in their tyrannies nor have they assisted them to carry on their sinful deeds.
Such persons will prove the least troublesome to you. They will be the most helpful. They will sincerely sympathise with you. If you take them in your confidence they will sever their connections with your opponents. Keep such people with you as your companions in your informal company as well as in official gatherings in audience…”
If Leaders would set-up governance and partners in the fashion Imam Ali (A) recommended, and indeed implemented, corruption in leadership would quickly diminish.
A Leader with the greatest socio-political and socio-economical insight
In an era (7th Century!) more than 1000 years before the arrival of the renaissance and even before the primitive Feudalistic system had been established in Europe and Asia, Imam Ali (A) describes the structures of how a society works to Malik al-Ashtar:
“You must know, Malik, that the people over whom you rule are divided into classes and grades and the prosperity and welfare of each class of the society individually and collectively are so interdependent upon the well-being of the other classes that the whole set-up represents a closely woven net and reciprocal aspect. One class cannot exist peacefully, cannot live happily and cannot work without the support and good wishes of the other.”
Many of the leaders and governments in this day and age depend on hoarding and storing commodities and monies, with the strategy of making gains for oneself or for a limited part of society, however Imam Ali (A) never agreed to this conduct.
A leader not favoring family and kin over other subjects
Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, Imam Ali’s elder brother, was financially not in sound condition. He asked for something more than his due share before the time. Imam Ali (A) refused by saying that he could not resort to dishonesty. Aqeel must wait till the time of disbursement and he must bear the sufferings patiently. (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 222)