Selected Writings of Our Master, Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him,
His Letters to His Enemies and Governors of His Povinces,
Including Selections of His Letters Appointing His Administrative Officers and Injunctions to Members of His Family and Companions
Addressed to the people of Kufah
at the time of his march from Medina to Basrah
From the servant of Allah, Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, to the people of Kufah who are the foremost among the supporters and the chiefs of the Arabs.
I am reminding you of what happened to `Othman so that its memory may be like seeing its events. People criticized him, and I was the only man from among the Muhajiran (immigrants) to ask him to make it his pursuit to please (the Muslims) the most and to offend them the very least. As for Talhah and az-Zubayr, their lightest step about him was hard, and their softest voice was strong. `A’isha, too, was angry with him. Consequently, a group overpowered him and killed him. Then, people swore allegiance to me, not by force or compulsion, but obediently and out of their free will.
You should know that Medina has been vacated by its residents who have abandoned it. It is boiling like a huge cauldron and rebellion is fixed on its axis, moving with full force. So, hasten towards your Amir (commander) and proceed forward to fight your enemy, if Allah, to Whom Might and Majesty belong, so wills.
Written to the People of Kufah after the Victory in Basrah
May Allah reward you, townsmen (of Kufah), on behalf of a member of your Prophet’s family, with the best reward that He bestows on those who act in obedience to Him and on those who thank Him for His bounties. Surely, you heard (me) and obeyed, and when you were called upon, you promptly responded.
Written to Shurayh ibn al-Harith (al-Kindi), Kufah’s Judge
It is related that Shurayh ibn al-Harith (al-Kindi), who was Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib’s Qadi (judge) of Kufah, during his tenure, bought a house for eighty dinars. When it became known to Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib (p.b.u.h.), he sent for him saying: I have come to know that you have purchased a house for eighty dinars and that you have written a document [deed of ownership] for it and put testimony on it.”
Shurayh replied, “Yes, O Imam ibn Aba Talib; it is so.” Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib (p.b.u.h.) cast an angry look at him and said: O Shurayh, beware, shortly one person (the angel of death) will come to you who will not look at the document, nor will he question you about your testimony but take you out of it far away and deposit you in your grave quite alone. Look, O Shurayh! If you have purchased this house from money other than yours, or paid the price from an unlawful source, you have incurred on your soul the loss of this world as well as of the next. If you had come to me at the time of purchase, I would have written for you a document on this paper, then you would have liked to purchase the house even for one dirham, not to speak of more. That document is this:
This is about a purchase made by a humble slave (of Allah) from another slave ready to depart (for the next world). He has purchased a house out of houses of deceit in the area of mortals and in the neighborhood of mortals. This house has four boundaries as follows: The first boundary is contiguous to sources of calamities; the second boundary adjoins the sources of distress; the third boundary adjoins devastating desires, and the fourth boundary adjoins deceitful Satan, and it is towards this that the door of this house opens.
This house has been purchased by one who has been waylaid by desires from one who is being driven by death at the price of leaving the honor of contentment and entering into the humility of want and submissiveness. If the buyer encounters some (evil) consequences of this transaction, then it is for the one who dismantles the bodies of monarchs, snatches the lives of despots, destroys the domain of Pharaohs, Kisras, Caesars, Tubbas and Himyars and all those who amass wealth upon wealth and go on increasing it, who build high houses and decorate them and collect treasures and preserve them, as they claimed according to their own thinking, for children to take them to the place of accounting and Judgment and the status of reward and punishment. “When the verdict will be passed those who stood on falsehood will then be the losers” (Holy Qur’an, 40: 78).
This document is appreciated by intelligence when free from the shackles of desire and from the adornments of this world.
To One of the Officers of His Army
If they return to the umbrella of obedience, then this is all that we want. But if the condition of these people points out towards disruption and disobedience, then, taking with you those who obey you, you must rush against those who disobey you. While you have those with you who follow you, do not worry about those who hold back from you because the absence of a half-hearted man is better than his presence, and his sitting down is better than his rising.
To al-Ash`ath ibn Qays (al-Kindi), Governor of Azerbaijan
Certainly, your assignment is not a morsel for you, but it is a trust round your neck, and you have been charged with the protection (of the people) on behalf of your superiors. It is not for you to be oppressive towards the subjects, nor to put your life at risk save on strong grounds. You have in your hands the funds which are the property of Allah to Whom belong Might and Majesty, and you hold its charge till you pass it on to me. Probably I will not be one of the bad rulers for you, and this is the end of the matter.
To Mu`awiyah (ibn Aba Sufyan)
Verily, those who swore allegiance to Aba Bakr, `Umar and `Othman have sworn allegiance to me on the same basis on which they swore allegiance to them. Whoever was present had no choice (to consider), and whoever was absent had no right to reject, and consultation was confined to the Muhajiran and the Ansar. If they agree on an individual and take him to be the Caliph, it will be deemed to imply seeking Allah’s pleasure. If anyone keeps away by way of demonstrating his objection or for innovation, they will return him to the status from where he kept away. If he refuses, they will fight him for following a course other than that of the believers, and Allah will put him back from where he had run away.
By my life, O Mu`awiyah, if you see with your brain without any passion, you will find me the most innocent of all with regard to `Othman’s blood, and you will surely know that I was in seclusion from him, unless you conceal what is quite open to you. Then you may commit an outrage (on me) as you like, and that is the end of the matter.
I have received from you the packet of unconnected pieces of advice and an embellished letter. You have written it because of your misguidance and dispatched it because of your lack of wisdom. This is the letter of a man who has neither light to show him the way nor a leader to guide him on the right path. Passion prompted him and he responded to it. Misguidance led him and he followed it. Consequently, he began to speak nonsense and went recklessly astray.
An Excerpt from the Same Letter:
Because allegiance is once and for all, it is not open for reconsideration, nor is there any scope for fresh proceedings of an election. Whoever remains out of it is deemed to be critical of Islam, while whoever remains argumentative about it is a hypocrite.
To Jarir Ibn `Abdillah Al-bajali When Imam
Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him Sent Him to Mu`awiyah
(And There Was a Delay in His Return)
When you receive this letter of mine, you must ask Mu`awiyah to take a final decision and to follow a determined course. Then ask him to choose either war that exiles him from home or a dishonorable peace. If he chooses war, leave him alone, but if he chooses peace, secure an oath of allegiance from him, and that is an end to the matter.
Our people (the tribesmen of Quraish) decided to kill our Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and to uproot us. They caused us many worries, behaved with us harshly, denied us the ease of life, exposed us to fear, forced us to seek refuge in a rugged mountain and ignited for us the flames of war.
Allah then gave us determination to protect His religion and defend His honor. The believers among us expected (heavenly) rewards from so doing, and the unbelievers among us gave their support because of kinship. Those who accepted Islam from among the tribesmen of Quraish were away from the distresses in which we were involved either because of a pledge that protected them or because of the tribe that would rise to support them. They were, therefore, safe from being killed. The way with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was that when fighting became fierce and people began to lose ground, he would send forward members of his family and through them protect his companions from the attacks with swords and spears. In this way, `Ubaydah ibn al-Harith was killed on the Day of Badr, Hamzah (ibn `Abdul-Muttalib) on the Day of Uhud, and Ja`far (ibn Aba Talib) on the Day of Mu’tah. One more person, whom I can name if I wish, desired to seek martyrdom as they did, but their deaths approached, while his had not.
How strange it is that I am being grouped with him who never had a briskness of pace like mine, nor had he, to his credit, any achievement like mine unless he claims something of which I do not know. In any case, all praise belongs to Allah.
As regarding your request to hand over to you the murderers of `Othman, I have contemplated over this matter and I do not find that handing them over to you or to someone else is possible for me. By my life, if you do not give up your wrong ways and disruptive deeds, you would surely know them. They would shortly be seeking you and would not give you the trouble of seeking them on land, sea, mountains or plains. But this search would be painful for you and their visit would not give you happiness. Peace be on those whoever deserves it.
What would you do when the coverings of this world in which you are wrapped are removed from you? The world attracted you with its embellishments and deceived you with its pleasures. It called you, and you responded to it. It led you, and you followed it. It commanded you, and you obeyed it. Shortly an informer will inform you of things against which there will be no shield (to protect you). Therefore, keep off from this affair, take heed of the accounting (on the Day of Judgment), get ready for death that will soon overtake you, and do not lend your ears to those who have gone astray. If you do not do so, I shall recall to you whatever you have forgotten because you are a man living in ease and luxury. Satan has taken you in his clutches, secured his wishes in you and taken complete control of you like your soul and blood.
O Mu`awiyah! When were you ever a protector of the subjects and a guardian of the affairs of the people without granting some people distinction (over others)? We seek Allah’s protection against the befalling of previous misfortunes, and I warn you lest you should continue being deceived by desires and your outer appearance becomes different from your inner self.
You have called me to war. It is better if you left the people on one side and you yourself came out to meet me (on the battleifield) and thus spare both our parties having to fight. It will then be known which one of us has a rusted heart and covered eyes. I am the father of al-Hassan who killed your grandfather (`Utbah ibn Rabi`ah), your brother (Hanzalah ibn Aba Sufyan) and your uncle (Al-Walid ibn `Utbah) by cutting them to pieces on the day of Badr. The same sword is with me, and I meet my adversary with the same heart. I have not altered the religion, nor do I follow any new prophet. I am surely treading on that very highway which you had willingly forsaken then was forced to adopt.
You think that you have come out seeking revenge for `Othman’s blood. Certainly, you know how `Othman’s blood was shed. If you want to avenge it, avenge it there. It is as though I see that when war is cutting you with its teeth, you cry like camels moaning under heavy loads. And it is as though I see your party bewildered by the incessant striking of the swords, the occurrence of death, and the falling of bodies after bodies, calling me towards the Holy Qur’an although they would themselves be either unbelievers, deniers of the truth or renegades of allegiance after having sworn it.
Given to the Contingent Sent to Confront an Enemy
When you proceed towards your enemy, the status of your force should be on the approaches of high grounds or edges of mountains or bends of rivers, so that it may serve you as a place to return to. Your encounter should be from one side or from two. Position scouts on the peaks of mountains and the raised sides of the high ground so that the enemy may not approach you from any place, whether of danger or of safety. And be admonished that the vanguard of an army serves as their eyes and the eyes of the vanguard are their informers. Beware of dispersal. When you halt, do so collectively, and when you move, you should move together. When night comes, fix your spears in a circle and do not sleep except for dosing or napping.
Given to Ma`qil Ibn Qays ar-Riyahi as He Was
Dispatched to Syria at the Command of a Vanguard
Contingent of Three Thousand Strong
Fear Allah before Whom attendance is inevitable and with other than Whom there is no meeting. Do not fight except those who fight you. Travel in the two cool periods (i.e. morning and evening). Let the men have a midday sleep. March easily and do not travel during the early night for Allah has made it for resting and has ordained it for staying, not for journeying. Therefore, give rest to your body in the night and let your beasts of burden also rest. When you are sure that the morning has approached, and when dawn has drawn nigh, start your journey with Allah’s blessings. If you face the enemy, stand in the midst of your comrades. Do not get too near to the enemy like one who wants to commence the fighting, nor should you remain too distant like one who is afraid of action, till you receive my orders. Hatred for them should not lead you to fight before inviting them (to guidance) and exhausting your pleas before them.
To Two Officers in His Army
I have placed Malik ibn al-Harith al-Ashtar in command over you and over all those under you. Therefore, follow his commands and take him as the armour and shield for yourselves because he is one of those from whom I have no fear of weakness nor any mistake, nor laziness where haste is more appropriate, nor haste where slackness is expected of him.
To the Army Before the Encounter with the Enemy at Siffin
Do not fight them unless they start the fighting because, by the grace of Allah, you are right, and to leave them till they begin fighting will be another point from your side against them. If, by the will of Allah, the enemy is defeated, do not kill those who flee away, do not strike a helpless person, do not finish off the wounded and do not inflict pain on women even though they may attack your honor with filthy words and abuse your officers because they are weak in character, mind and intelligence. We have been ordered to avoid them although they may be unbelievers. Even in pre-Islamic (jahiliyya) period, if a man struck a woman with a stone or a stick, he was rebuked along with his posterity after him.
By Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him
When He Used to Face the Enemy
O Lord! Hearts are drawn to You, necks are stretching (towards You), eyes are fixed (on You), steps are in motion and bodies have turned lean! O Lord! Hidden animosity has become manifest and the cauldrons of malice are boiling. O Lord! We complain to You of the absence of our Prophet (p.b.u.h.), the numerousness of our enemy and the diffusion of our passions. “Our Lord! Decide between us and our people with truth; You are the Best of those who decide” (Holy Qur’an, 7: 89).
He Used to Issue this Instruction
to His Followers During Battle Time
The retreat after which return is intended and the withdrawal after which an attack is in view should not make you unhappy. Do justice with the swords (allow your swords to do their duties). Keep ready a place for the falling of bodies (of your foe); prepare yourselves for hurling strong spears and striking swords with full force, and keep your voices down as doing so keeps cowardice off.
By the One Who broke open the seed (for growth) and created living beings, they had not accepted Islam but had only secured safety (by verbally professing it), hiding their lack of faith. Consequently, when they found helpers for their lack of faith, they disclosed it.
In Reply to a Letter from Mu`awiyah
As for your demand to me to (hand over) Syria, I cannot give you today what I denied you the day before. As regarding your statement that the war has eaten up Arabia save its last breath, you should know that those whose right has been eaten up will go to Paradise, whereas those who are wrong shall go to Hell. As for your equality in war and in (the numbers of) men, certainly you cannot be more penetrating in doubtfulness (of belief) than I am in certainty (of belief), and the people of Syria are not more greedy for this world than the people of Iraq are for the next one.
As for your saying that both of us are sons of `Abd Manaf, it is undoubtedly so, but Umayyah cannot be like Hashim, nor can Harb be like `Abdul-Muttalib, nor can Aba Sufyan be like Aba Talib. The muhajir (immigrant) cannot be a match for whoever was set free (when Mecca fell), nor can one of a pure descent be a match for one who is adopted, nor the pursuer of truth can be a match to the adherent to wrongdoing, nor can a believer be a match for a hypocrite... How bad are the successors who go on following their predecessors who have already fallen into the fire of Hell!
Besides, we also have the distinction of Prophethood among us by virtue of which we subdued the strong and raised up the downtrodden. When Allah made Arabia enter (the fold of) His religion and when the [Arab] people submitted to it willingly or unwillingly, you were among those who entered the religion either out of greed or out of fear, at a time when those who had gone first had preceded and when the first Muhajiran had acquired their own distinction.
Now, do not give Satan have a share in you, nor should you let him have his sway over you, and that is an end of the matter.
To `Abdullah ibn `Abbas, his Governor over Basrah
You should know that Basrah is the place where Satan descends and mischief takes place. Keep the people of this place pleased with good treatment and remove the knots of fear from their hearts. I have come to know of your strictness and harshness with Banu Tamim. Banu Tamim are such that if one star sets, another rises for them. They were never exceeded in (the art of) war in pre-Islamic times or after Islam. They have a special kinship with us and a particular relationship. We shall be rewarded if we pay heed to the tie of kinship and be deemed sinful if we disregard it. O Abul-`Abbas! May Allah have mercy on you! Keep yourself restrained in whatever you say or do, in anything good or bad relevant to your people, as we are both partners in this (responsibility). Prove yourself according to my good impressions about you, and do not prove my opinion (about you) to be wrong, and this is the end of the matter.
To One of His Officers
Now, the cultivators [dahaqin, plural of dihqan] of your city have complained of your strictness, hard- heartedness, humiliating treatment and harshness. I thought it over and found that since they are unbelievers, they cannot be brought near nor kept away nor treated severely because of the pledge with them. Behave with them in-between strictness and softness, and adopt for them a mingling or remoteness, aloofness with nearness, if Allah so pleases.
To Ziyad Ibn Abih,when `Abdullah Ibn `Abbas
Was the Governor of Basrah, the Suburbs of Ahwaz,
Pars and Kirman, While Ziyad Was His Deputy in Basrah
I truthfully swear by Allah that if I come to know that you have misappropriated the funds of the Muslim, small or big amounts, I shall inflict upon you such punishment that would leave you empty-handed, heavy backed and humiliated, and that is the end of the matter.
Also to Ziyad
Give up luxury and be moderate. Every day, remember the coming Day [of Judgment]. Hold back from the funds what you need and send forward the balance for the day of your need.
Do you expect that Allah may give you the reward of the humble while you yourself remain vain in His view? And do you covet that He may give you the reward of those practicing charity while you enjoy means of comfort, denying them to the weak and the widows? Certainly, a man is awarded according to his deeds. He shall meet what he has sent before, and that is the end of the matter.
To `Abdullah ibn `Abbas. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas used to say,
“Apart from the Prophet’s statements, I did not derive
a greater benefit from any other statement.”
Let it be known to you that sometimes a man gets pleased with securing a thing which he was not going to miss at all and gets displeased at missing a thing which he would not in any case get. Your pleasure should be about what you secure with regard to your next life, and our grief for having lost you should be for what you miss in respect thereof. Do not be very much pleased with what you secure from this world, nor should you get extremely grieved over what you miss of it. Your worry should be about what is to come after death.
Made Shortly Before His Death When He Had
Been Fatally Wounded by a Blow from the Sword of
(`Abd Ar-rahman) Ibn Muljim (The Curse of Allah Be Upon Him).
I enjoin you, as my dying wish, not to regard anything as a partner with Allah, not to disregard the Sunnah of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). Establish these two pillars and light these two lamps. You will then be free from evil. Yesterday, I was your companion. Today, I am (just) a lesson for you, while tomorrow I shall be leaving you. If I survive, I shall be the master of my blood (to avenge or not to avenge it), and if I die, then death is a promised event. If I forgive, it is for me a means of nearness (to Allah) and for you a good deed. Therefore, do forgive. “What?! Do not you love that Allah should forgive you?” (Holy Qur’an, 24: 22).
By Allah! This sudden death is not an event that I dislike, nor is it an accident that I hate. I am just like a night traveller who reaches the spring (in the morning), or like or seeker who secures (his aim): “And whatever is with Allah is the best for the righteous” (Holy Qur’an, 3:198).
Sayyid ar-Razi says the following: “A portion of this statement has already appeared in the sermons, but I found it necessary to record it again because of some additional matter.”
Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib’s Will Regarding
How His Property Should Be Dealt With.
He Wrote it upon His Return from Siffin.
This is what Ali ibn Aba Talib, the slave of Allah, has laid down about his property, seeking Allah’s pleasure, so that He may, by its virtue, grant him entry into Paradise and accord him peace.
An excerpt from the same:
It will be administered by [my oldest son] Hassan ibn Ali (p.b.u.h.). He will take from it a suitable portion for his own livelihood while also spending of it on charity. If something happens to Hassan and Hussain (p.b.u.h.) survives him, he (Hussain [p.b.u.h.]) will administer it after Hassan and deal with it accordingly. In the charitable estate of the two sons of Fatima (p.b.u.h.), they have the same rights as all (other) sons of Ali. I have laid down the (functions of) administration of the two sons of Fatima (p.b.u.h.) in order to seek the pleasure of Allah and nearness to the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) with due regard for his honor and in consideration of his kinship [to them].
It is obligatory on him who administers it to retain the estate as it is and to spends the surplus as he has been required and instructed. He should not sell the seedlings in the plantations of these villages till the land changes its face by turning them into [fully grown] plants. As for those of my slave girls, if any of them has a child or is pregnant, she would be retained for the sake of the [birth of the] child and will partake of his share. If the child dies and she survives, then she is free; bondage is removed from her and emancipation is granted to her.
Sayyid ar-Razi says the following: “In this will, in Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib’s phrase ‘alla yabi’a min nakhliha wadiyyatan’, the word wadiyyah means ‘seedling of a date-palm’, and its plural is wadiyy. And his words ‘hatta tushkila arduha ghirasan’ is one of the most eloquent form of expression, and it means that when a number of date plants grow on the land, then whoever had seen it before the growth will now regard it as a different land.”
Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him used to
write the following to whoever he appointed for the
collection of zakat and charities. Al-Sharif says the following:
“We have recorded a few portions of it here to show that he always erected the pillars of right and created examples of justice in all matters, small or big, delicate or serious.”
Move on with the fear of Allah Who is One and has no partner. Do not frighten any Muslim. Do not pass over anyone’s land so as to make him feel unhappy. Do not take from him more than Allah’s share in his property. When you go to a tribe, you should get down at its watering place instead of entering their houses. Then proceed towards them with peace and dignity till you stand among them. Salute them and do not be negligent in greeting them. After that, say to them, “O servants of Allah! The vicegerent of Allah and His caliph has sent me to you to collect from you Allah’s share of your properties. Is there anything of His share in your properties? If so, give it to His vicegerent.”
If someone among them says, “No,” then do not repeat the demand. If someone speaks to you in the affirmative, go with him without frightening him, threatening him, pressuring him or oppressing him. Take what he gives you, such as gold or silver (coins). If he has cattle or camels, do not enter upon them save with his permission because their major part is his. When you get there, do not enter upon them like one who has full control over them or in any violent manner whatsoever. Do not scare any animal. Do not tease anyone, and do not let the owner feel grieved over anything.
Divide the property into two parts and let the owner choose one. Once he has chosen, do not object to it. Then divide the remaining into two parts and let him choose one. Once he has chosen, do not raise any objection. Continue like this till only that much remains which is enough to satisfy Allah’s dues. Then take Allah’s due from it. If he contends your action, allow his views to prevail, then mix the two (separated) parts and repeat what you had done before till you take Allah’s due from his property. Do not take any old, decrepit, broken-limbed, sick or unsound animal. Do not entrust the animals except to one whom you trust to take care of Muslims’ property till he hands it over to their chief who will distribute it. Do not entrust it to anyone except to whoever is a well wisher, God-fearing, trustworthy and watchful, to one who is not harsh with regard to Muslims’ property. Nor should you make them run too much, nor should you expose them to exhaustion, nor should you overwork them. Then send us all that you have collected. We shall deal with it as Allah has ordered.
When your trustee takes over (the animal), tell him that he should not separate the she-camel from its young and should not milk all its milk because that will affect its young. Also, he should not exert it in riding. In this matter, he should deal justly with it and with all its companions. He should give rest to the [tired] camels and drive with ease those whose hoofs have been rubbed off. When you pass a water spring, keep the camels there to drink and do not take them away from a vegetated land to barren paths. He should allow them rest now then and give them time near the water and the grass. In this way, when they reach us by leave of Allah, they will be fat with plenty of marrow and will not be fatigued or distressed. We will then distribute them according to the (commands of) the Books of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Certainly, this will be a great source of reward for you and a means to secure guidance, if Allah so wills.
Given to One of His Officers Whom He Sent
for the Collection of zakat and Charities
He (Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib [p.b.u.h.]) ordered him to fear Allah in his secret matters and hidden actions, where there is no witness except the One and only Who watches over all. He also orders him that whatever he does in obedience to Allah openly should not be different from what he does secretly. Anyone whose hidden attitude is not different from his open one and whose action is not different from his words has discharged his obligation and his adoration is pure. He also ordered him that he should not harass the public. He should not be harsh to them and should not turn away from them because of the superiority of his official status over them because they are all brethren in faith and assist in the recovery of taxes:
Certainly, you have a fixed share and a known right in this levy, and there are others who are poor, weak and starving. We shall discharge your rights. So, you should [first] discharge their rights. If you do not do so, you will have the largest number of enemies on the Day of Judgment. How wretched is the man whose enemies in the view of Allah are the needy, the destitute, the beggars, the turned away, the indebted and the (penniless) travellers?! Whoever treats the trust lightly, indulges in treachery and does not keep himself and his faith untarnished by it has certainly secured humiliation in this world while his humiliation and disgrace in the next world will be much greater. Surely, the greatest treachery is the treachery against the Muslim community, and the most ugly deceit is deceiving the Muslim leaders, and that is the end of the matter.
Given to Muhammad Ibn Aba Bakr (May Allah Be
Pleased with Him), When Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib,
Peace be Upon Him Appointed Him as Governor of Egypt:
Deal humbly with the public. Remain lenient. Meet them largeheartedly, accord them equal treatment so that the mighty should not expect injustice from you in their favor and the lowly should not be despondent of your justice. Allah, the Sublime, will certainly question you, O community of His creatures, about your actions, small or big, open or concealed. If He punishes you, it is because you have been oppressive, and if He forgives you, then it is because He is the most Generous.
Be informed, O servants of Allah, that the God-fearing share the joys of this transient world as well as those of the next, for they share with the people of this world in their worldly matters while their people did not share with them in the matters of the next. They lived in this world in the best manner of living. They ate the choicest food and enjoyed herein all that the people with ease of life enjoyed. They secured from it what the haughty and the vain secured. Then they departed from it after taking provision enough to take them to the end of their journey, having contracted a profitable transaction. They tasted the pleasure of renouncing the life in this world, firmly believing that on the Coming Day, they will be neighbors of Allah, where their call will not be repulsed, nor will their share of pleasure be small.
O servants of Allah! Fear death and its measures, and prepare all that is needed for it. It will come as a big event and a great affair, either as something good in which there will never be any evil, or an evil one in which there will never be any good. Who is nearer to Paradise than one who works towards it, and who is nearer to Hell than one who works for it? You are being chased by death. If you stop, it will catch you, and if you run away from it, it will grab you. It is more attached to you than your own shadow. Death is tied to your forelocks while the world is being wrapped up from behind you. Therefore, fear the Fire whose hollow is deep, whose flames are severe and whose punishment is novel. It is a place wherein there is no mercy. No call is heard in it. No pain is healed in it. If it is possible for you to have severe fear of Allah and to rest hope in Him, then do both these things because every individual can have hope in His Lord to the extent of his fear of His Lord. Certainly, the most hopeful person with Allah is whoever fears Him the most.
O Muhammad son of Aba Bakr! Be informed that I have given you charge of Egypt which is my biggest force. You are duty-bound to oppose your passions and to serve as a shield against your religion even though you may get only an hour in the world. Do not enrage Allah for pleasing others because (Allah) is such that He may take the place of others, yet others cannot take the place of Allah. Say prayers at their appointed times. Do not say your prayers earlier for the sake of (available) leisure, nor should you delay them on account of any preoccupation. Remember that every deed of yours is dependent on your prayers.
An excerpt of the same:
The leader of guidance and the leader of destruction cannot be equal, nor can the friend of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the enemy of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) has told me that: “With regard to my people, I am afraid neither of a believer nor of an unbeliever. As for the believer, Allah will afford him protection because of his belief. As for the unbeliever, Allah will humiliate him because of his lack of belief. But I fear for anyone of you who is hypocrite in his heart and who has mastered the language. He speaks what you hold as good but does whatever you dislike.
In Reply to Mu`awiyah,
One of His Most Elegant Writings:
Now, your letter has reached me wherein you recall that Allah chose Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) for His religion and helped him through those companions who assisted him. Strange things about you have remained concealed (by the irony of fate) from us, since you have started telling us of Allah’s trials for us and His bounties through [the kinship to] our Prophet (p.b.u.h.). In this regard, you are like one who carries dates to Hajar, or who challenges his own master to a duel in archery.
You think that so-and-so are the most distinguished persons in Islam. You have said such a thing with which, were it true, you have nothing to do, but if it is not so, then the defect in it will not affect you. And what are you going to do with the question of who is better and who is worse, or who is the ruler and who is the ruled? What do the freed ones and their sons have to do with distinguishing between the first Muhajiran and determining their status or defining their ranks? What a pity! The sound of an arrow is being produced by what is not a real arrow, and he against whom the Judgment is to be passed is seated to judge! O mankind! Why do you not see your own lameness and thus remain within the bounds, and why do you not realize the shortness of your measure and stay back where destiny has placed you?! You have no concern with the defeat of the defeated or with the victory of the victor.
You are wandering in bewilderment, straying from the right path. Do you not realize it? I am not giving you any news: I am just recounting Allah’s bounty, namely that a number of people from among the Muhajiran (immigrants from Mecca) and the Ansar (helpers) fell as martyrs in the way of Allah the Sublime and that each of them is distinguished (on that account). But when one of us secures martyrdom, he is named the chief of martyrs, and the Messenger of Allah grants him the special honor of saying seventy takbir (Allahu Akbar) during his funeral prayer. Do you not know that a number of people lost their hands in the way of Allah and that everyone is distinguished (on that account)? But when the same thing takes place to one of us [such as Ja’fer al-Tayyar], he is given the title “the flier in Paradise” and “the two-winged one”? Had not Allah forbidden self-praise, the writer would have mentioned numerous distinctions which the believer knows fully well and which the ears of the listeners do not wish to forget.
Better leave those whose arrows miss the mark. We [Ahl al-Bayt (p.b.u.t)] are the direct recipients of our Lord’s favors while others receive favors from us after that. In spite of our established honor and well-known superiority over people, we did not stay away from mingling with you, intermarrying with you like equals although you are not so. And how could you be so when (our status is that) among us is the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) while among you is his opponent, among us is the lion of Allah while among you is the lion of the opposing groups, among us are the two masters of the youths of Paradise while among you are the children of Hell, among us is the choicest of all the women of the worlds while among you is the bearer of firewood, any many more distinctions on our side while shortcomings [abound] on yours?!
Our Islam is well-known and our (greatness in the) pre-Islamic period too cannot be denied. Whatever remains has been mentioned in the words of Allah, the most Glorified One, the Sublime: “... blood relatives have the better claim with regard to one another according to the Book of Allah” (Holy Qur’an, 33: 6).
He (Allah) the Sublime, also says the following: “Verily, of men the nearest to Abraham are surely those who followed him and this Prophet (Muhammad [p.b.u.h.]) and those who believe, and verily, Allah, is the Guardian of the faithful” (Holy Qur’an, 3: 68).
Thus, we are superior firstly because of kinship and, secondly, because of obedience [of the Almighty]. At the saqifa (of Banu Sa’idah), the Muhajiran contended kinship with the Messenger of Allah against the Ansar, scoring over them. If that success was based on kinship, then the right will be ours better than yours; otherwise, the Ansar’s contention stands. You think that I have been jealous of every caliph and have revolted against them all. Even if this is so, it is not an offence against you and, therefore, I owe you no explanation. This is a matter for which no blame comes to you.
You have said that I was dragged like a camel with a nose string to swear the oath of allegiance (to Aba Bakr). By the Eternal One (Allah), you had intended to revile me, but you have instead praised me, and you intended to humiliate me but have your own selves been humiliated. What humiliation does it mean for a Muslim to be the victim of oppression so long as he does not entertain any doubt in his religion, nor any misgiving in his firm belief?! This argument of mine is intended for others, but I have stated it to you only in so far as it is appropriate.
Then you recalled my status vis-a-vis `Othman. In this regard, an answer is due to you because of your own kinship to him. So (now tell me), which of us was more inimical to `Othman and who did more to bring about his killing?! Who offered him his support and made him sit down, stopping him? Whose help was solicited but turned his face away from the solicitor, drawing his [Othman’s] death near till his fate overtook him? No, no; by Allah. “Indeed, Allah knows those who hinder others from among you and those who say to their brethren: ‘Come here to us’ and they do not go to fight but a little” (Holy Qur’an, 33: 18).
I am not going to offer my excuse for reproaching him [Othman] for (some of) his innovations, for if my good counsel and guidance to him was [considered by you as] a sin, then very often a person who is blamed is no sinner at all, and sometimes the only reward a counselor reaps is suspicion (of being an evildoer). I desired naught but reform whatever I am able to (reform). “My guidance is only with Allah; On Him (alone) do I rely and to Him (alone) do I turn” (Holy Qur’an, 11: 88).
You have mentioned that for me and for my followers you have only the sword... This makes even a weeping person laugh. Did you ever see the descendants of `Abdul-Muttalib running away from battle, or being frightened by swords?! “Wait a little till Hamal joins the battle shortly.” And my sword appeased me by killing Hudhayfah. Then whoever you are seeking will seek you, and whoever you think to be far away will approach you. I am (shortly) speeding towards you with a force of Muhajiran and Ansar and those who follow them in virtue. Their number will be great and their dust will spread all around. They will be wearing their shrouds, and their most coveted desire is to meet Allah. They will be accompanied by the descendants of those who took part in the battle of Badr. They will have Hashemite swords whose splitting you have already seen in the case of your brother, maternal uncle, grandfather and kinsmen. “... nor are they far distant from the unjust ones” (Holy Qur’an, 11: 83).
To the people of Basrah
Whatever disunity and schism you have is not hidden from you. I have forgiven your wrongdoers and I have held back my sword from those who ran away. I received everyone who came to me from among you. If devastating matters and wrong and silly views are prompting you to break the pledge to me and to oppose me, then listen! I have readied and saddled my horses, and if you force me to advance towards you, I shall come down in such a manner that before it the Battle of Jamal will appear like the last licking of the tongue. At the same time, I know the high status of the obedient among you and the right of the sincere ones without confusing the sinless with the offenders of the faithful with the pledge-breakers.
Fear Allah regarding what you have amassed and find out your true right turn to understand, for you will not be excused on the grounds of ignorance. Certainly, for (following the path of) obedience there are clear signs, shining ways, straight highways and a fixed aim. The shrewd proceed towards them while the mean ones turn away from them. Whoever turns his face from them deviates from righteousness and gropes in bewilderment. Allah takes away His bounty from him and afflicts him with His chastisement. Therefore, beware of your own selves. Allah has already shown you your way and the end where your affairs will terminate. You are speeding towards the aim of loss and the status of unbelief. Your ego has pushed you towards evil, thrown you into misguidance and conveyed you to destruction, placing obstacles in your way.
He Wrote it for His Son al-Hassan ibn Ali, Peace be Upon Him
When He Camped at Al-hazirin on His Way Back from Siffin:
From the father who is (shortly) to die, who acknowledges the hardships of times, who has turned away from life, who has submitted himself to the (calamities of) time, who realizes the evils of the world, who is living in the abodes of the dead and is due to depart from them any day... to the son who yearns for what is not to be achieved, who is treading the path of those who have died, who is the victim of ailments, who is entangled in the (worries of the) days, who is a target of hardships, a slave of the world, a trader of its deception, a debtor of wishes, a prisoner of morality, an ally of worries, a neighbor of griefs, a victim of distresses who has been overpowered by desires and a successor of the dead.
Now (you should know that) what I have learned from the turning away of this world from me, the onslaught of time over me and the advancing of the next world towards me is enough to prevent me from remembering anyone except my soul and from thinking beyond myself. But when I confined myself to my own worries, leaving aside the worries of others, my intelligence saved me and protected me from my own desires. It clarified to me my affairs and led me to seriousness wherein there was no trickery and truth which was not tarnished by falsehood. Here, I found you a part of myself, rather I found you my whole, so much so that if anything befell you, it was as though it befell me, and if death came to you, it was as though it came to me. Consequently, your affairs meant to me what my own matters meant to me. So, I have written this piece of advice (to you) as an instrument of seeking help, whether I remain alive or cease to exist.
I admonish you to fear Allah, O my child, to abide by His commands, to fill your heart with His remembrance and to cling to hope from Him. No regard is more reliable than the regard between you and Allah provided you take hold of it. Enliven your heart with preaching, kill it by renunciation, energize it with firm belief, enlighten it with wisdom, humiliate it by recalling death, make it believe in mortality, make it see the misfortunes of this world, make it fear the authority of the time and the severity of some changes during the nights and the days. Place before it the events of past peoples, recall to it what befell those who were before you and walk among their cities and ruins, then see what they did and from what they have gone away, where they have gone and stayed. You will find that they departed from (their) friends and remained in loneliness. Shortly, you, too, will be like one of them. Therefore, plan for your place of stay and do not sell your next life for this one.
Give up discussing what you do not know and speaking about what does not concern you. Keep off the track from which you fear to go astray because refraining (from moving) when there is fear of straying is better than embarking on dangers. Ask others to do good; you will thus be among the doers of goodness. Discourage others from evil deeds with your own actions as well as speech and keep off, to the best of your ability, from whoever commits it. Struggle for Allah as is His due, and the reviling of a reviler should not deter you in matters relevant to Allah. Leap into dangers for the sake of what is right wherever it may be. Acquire insight into religious law. Habituate yourself to endure hardships since the best trait of character is endurance in matters of righteousness. In all your affairs, resign yourself to your Lord because you will thus be resigning yourself to a secure shelter and a strong protector. You should ask only from your Lord because in His hand is all the giving and depriving. Seek goodness (from Allah) as much as you can. Understand my advice and do not turn away from it because the best saying is that which benefits. Be informed that there is no good in that knowledge which is futile, and if knowledge is not implemented, then its acquisition is not justified.
O my child! When I noticed that I was of goodly age and noticed that I was increasing in weakness, I hastened with regard to my will to you and wrote down salient points lest death should overtook me before I divulged to you what I have in my heart, or lest my wit should be affected just as my body has been, or the forces of passions or the mischiefs of the world overtake you making you like a stubborn camel. Certainly, the heart of a young man is like an uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is strewn on it. So, I hastened to mold you properly before your heart hardened and your mind became occupied, so that you might be ready to accept through your intelligence the results of the experience of others and be saved from going through these experiences yourself. In this way, you will avoid the hardship of seeking them and the difficulties of experimenting. Thus, you are getting to know what we had experienced and even those things are becoming clear to you which we might have missed.
O my child! Even though I have not reached the age which those before me have, yet I looked into their behavior and thought over events of their lives. I walked among their ruins till I was like one of them. In fact, by virtue of their affairs that have become known to me, it is as though I have lived with them from the very first to the very last. I have, therefore, been able to discern the impure from the clean and benefit from harm.
I have selected for you the choicest of those matters and collected for you their good points and have kept away from you their useless points. Since I feel for your affairs as a living father should, I aim at giving you guidance. I thought it should be at a time when you are advancing in age and new to the state of the world, possessing upright intention and a clean heart and that I should, being with the teaching of the Book of Allah, to Whom belong Might and Majesty, and its interpretation, the laws and commandments of Islam, its lawful matters and unlawful ones and that I should not go beyond these for you. Then I feared lest you should get confused as other people had been confused on account of their passions and (different) views. Therefore, in spite of disliking the thought of warning you, I thought it better for me to make this issue strong rather than leave you in a status where I do not regard you safe from falling into destruction. I hoped that Allah will help you in your straightforwardness and guide you in your resoluteness. Consequently, I wrote this piece of my will for you.
Be informed, O my child, that what I love the most for you is that you adopt my will to fear Allah, to confine yourself to what Allah has made obligatory on you, to follow the actions of your forefathers and the virtuous people of your household. These did not fall short in seeing for themselves what you will see for yourself, and they did about their affairs as you will like to think (about your own affairs). Thereafter, their thinking led them to discharge the obligations which they came to know and to desist from what they were not required to do. If your heart does not accept this without acquiring knowledge as they acquired it, then your search should first be by way of understanding and learning, not by falling into doubts or getting entangled in quarrels.
Before you probe into this, you should begin by seeking your Lord’s help, turning to Him for competence and keeping aloof from everything that throws you into doubt or flings you towards misguidance. When you have made sure that your heart is clean and humble and your thoughts have come together, and once you have only a reflection about this matter..., it is then that you will see what I have explained to you. If you have not been able to achieve that peace of observation and thinking which you will like to have, then be informed that you are only stamping the ground like a blind she-camel and falling into darkness while a seeker of religion should not grope in the dark, nor should he create confusion. It is better to avoid this.
Appreciate my advice, O my child, and be admonished that Whoever is the master of death is also the master of life, that the Creator causes death as well as gives life, that Whoever destroys is also the restorer of life, and that Whoever inflicts disease is also the one Who cures. This world continues in the way which Allah has made it with regard to its pleasures, trials, rewards on the Day of Judgment and all that He wishes and you do not know. If anything of this advice is not understood by you then attribute it to your ignorance of it because when you were first born, you were born ignorant. Thereafter, you acquired knowledge. There are many masters of whom you are ignorant. There are many issues regarding which your sight first wonders and your eye wonders then, after this, you shall see them as they are. Therefore, cling to the One Who created you, Who fed you and put you in order. Your worship should be for Him, your eagerness should be towards Him and your fear should be of Him.
Be informed, O my child, that no one received messages from Allah, the Glorified One, as the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) did. Therefore, regard him as your guide and leader towards salvation. Certainly, I shall spare no effort in giving you advice, and surely even if you try, you cannot acquire such insight for your welfare as I have for you.
Be informed, O my child, that if there had been a partner with your Lord, his [alleged partner’s] messengers, too, should have come to you and you would have seen signs of his authority and power; you should have known his deeds and qualities. But He is only One god, Allah, and He has described Himself. No one can dispute with Him regarding His authority. He is from eternity and will remain for eternity. He is before all things without any beginning. He will remain after all things without an end. He is far too great to have His divinity proved by any encompassing heart or by any vision. Once you have understood this, you should do what is done by him who is like you by way of his low status, his lack of authority, his increasing incapability and his great need for his Lord so as to seek His obedience. Fear His chastisement and be forewarned of His wrath because He does not command you save to be virtuous; He does not refrain you save from evil.
O my child! I have informed you about the world, its condition, its decay and its passing away, and I have informed you of the next world and of what has been provided in it for its people. I have recounted to you parables about it so that you may draw instruction from them and depend upon them. The example of those who have understood the world is like those travelers who, being fed-up with drought-stricken places, set off for greenery and a fruitful place. Then they endure difficulties on the way, separation from friends, hardships of the journey and unwholesome food in order to reach their fields of plenty and places of stay. Consequently, they do not feel any pain in all this and do not regard any expenditure to be a waste. Nothing is more lovable to them than what takes them near their goal and carries them closer to their place of stay. (Contrariwise), the example of those who are deceived by this world is like the people who were in a green place but became disgruntled with it and went to a drought-stricken place. Therefore, for them nothing is more detestable or abominable than to leave the place where they were and go to a place which they will reach unexpectedly and for which they were heading.
O my child! Make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should wish for others what you wish for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you like good to be done to you. Regard as bad for yourself whatever you regard as bad for others. Accept that from others which you like others to accept from you. Do not talk about what you do not know even though what you know may be very little. Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.
Be informed that self-admiration is contrary to propriety (of action) and is a calamity for the mind. Therefore, increase your striving and do not become a treasurer for (wealth to be inherited by) others. When you have been guided on the right path, humble yourself before Allah as much as you can.
Be informed that in front of you lies a road of long distance and severe hardship and that you cannot avoid treading it. Take your requirements of provision keeping the burden light. Do not load your back beyond your ability lest its weight should cause you mischief. Whenever you come across a needy person who can carry for you your provision to hand it back to you on the Day of Judgment when you will need it, accept it as a good opportunity and get him to carry it. Put in that provision as much as you are able to, for it is likely that if you need him (afterwards), you may not get hold of him. If a person is willing to borrow from you in the days of your affluence to pay it back to you at the time of your need, then make use of this opportunity.
Be informed that in front of you lies an impassable valley wherein the light-burdened man will be in a better condition than the heavy-burdened one and the slow-paced will be in a worse condition than the swift-paced. Your terminating point at the other end of this passage will necessarily be either Paradise or Hell. Therefore, reconnoiter for yourself before alighting and prepare the place before getting down because after death there can be no preparation nor any return to this world.
Be informed that Whoever owns the treasuries of the heavens and earth has permitted you to pray to Him and has promised you acceptance of the prayer. He has commanded you to beg from Him in order that He may give you and to seek His mercy in order that He may have mercy on you. He has not placed anything between you and Him that may veil Him from you.
He has not required you to get a mediator between yourself and Him, and if you err, He has not prevented you from repenting. He does not hasten His punishment. He does not reprimand you for repenting, nor does He humiliate you when humiliation is more appropriate for you. He is not harsh in accepting repentance. He does not severely question you about your sins. He does not disappoint you regarding His mercy. Rather, He regards abstention from sin as a virtue. He counts your sin as one while counting your good deed as ten.
He has opened for you the door of repentance. Therefore, whenever you call upon Him, He hears your call, and whenever you whisper to Him, He knows the whispers. Place before Him your needs, unveil yourself before Him, complain to Him of your worries, beseech Him to remove your troubles, seek His help in your affairs and ask Him to grant you from the treasuries of His mercy that which no one else has power to give, namely length of life, health of body and an increase in your sustenance. Then He has placed the keys of His treasures in your hands in the sense that He has shown you the way to ask Him.
Wherever you wish, He opens the doors of His favor by virtue of your prayers. Let the abundant rains of His mercy fall on you. Delay in acceptance of your pleas should not disappoint you because the granting of a plea is dependent on the extent of (your) intention. Sometimes, acceptance (of a plea) is delayed with a view to its being a source of greater reward to the pleading one and a better gift to the anticipating person. Sometimes, you may ask for a thing but it is not given to you and a better thing is given to you later, or a thing is taken away from you for some greater good because sometimes you may ask for a thing which contains ruin for your religion if it is granted to you. Therefore, your request should be for things the beauty of which should be lasting and the burden of which should remain away from you. As for wealth, it will not last for you, nor will you live for its sake.
O my child! Be informed that you have been created for the next world, not for this one, for extinction (in this world), not for lasting, and for dying, not for living. You are in a place which does not belong to you, an abode for making preparations and a passage towards the next world. You are being chased by death from which the runner-away cannot escape, as it will surely overtake him. So, be on guard against it least it should overtake you at a time when you are in a sinful state and you are thinking of repenting, but it creates obstruction between you and between repenting. In such a case, you will ruin yourself.
O my child! Remember death quite often and the place where you have to go suddenly and reach after death, so that when it comes, you will be already on your guard against it, having prepared yourself for it, and it does not come to you all of a sudden and surprise you. Beware lest you should become deceived by the leanings of the people towards worldly attractions and their rushing upon it. Allah has warned you about it and the world has informed you of its mortal character, unveiling to you its evils.
Surely, those (who go) after it are like barking dogs or devouring carnivore who hate each other. Those who are stronger among them eat away the weaker ones, and the big among them tramples over the small. Some are like tied cattle, and some are like untied cattle that have lost their wits and are running in unknown directions. They are flocks of calamities wandering in rugged valleys. There is no herdsman to detain them nor anyone to tend to them and take them to graze. The world has put them on the track of blindness and taken away their vision from the beacons of guidance. They have, therefore, been perplexed in its bewilderment and sunk in its pleasures. They took it as a god, so it played havoc with them. They, too, played with it and forgot what is beyond it.
Darkness disappears gradually. Now it is as though travelers have got down and those who hasten will soon meet. Be informed, O my child, that everyone who is riding on the carriage of night and day is being carried by them even though he may be stationary; he is covering the distance even though he is staying and resting.
Know with certainty that you cannot achieve your desire and exceed your destined life. You are on the track of those before you. Therefore, be humble in seeking and moderate in earning because often seeking leads to deprivation. Every seeker of livelihood does not get it [on his own], nor is everyone who is moderate in seeking is deprived. Keep yourself away from every low thing even though it may take you to your desired aims because you will not get any return for your own respect which you exhaust. Do not be the slave of others for Allah had made you free. There is no goodness in anything “good” achieved through evil, and there is no good in comfort that is achieved through a (disgracing) effort.
Beware lest bearers of greed should carry you and make you descend down to the springs of destruction. If you can, manage that there will be no wealthy person between yourself and Allah. Do so because in any case you will find what is for you and get what is your share. A little received directly from Allah the Glorified One is more dignified than that which is more but is received through His creatures, although (really) all is from Allah.
It is easier to rectify what you miss by silence than to secure what you lose by speaking. Whatever is in a pot can be retained by closing the lid. I should prefer you retain what is in your hands rather than seeking what is in the hands of others. The bitterness of disappointment is better than seeking a hand-out from people. Manual labor with chastity is better than the riches of a vicious life. A man is the best guard of his own secrets. Often, a man strives for what harms him. Whoever speaks much speaks nonsense. Whoever ponders perceives. Associate yourself with the people of virtue; you will become one of them. Keep aloof from people of vice, you will remain safe from them. The worst food is that which is unlawful. Oppressing the weak is the worst type of oppression.
Where leniency is unsuitable, harshness is lenience. Often, cure is illness and illness is cure. Often, the ill-wisher gives correct advice while the well-wisher cheats. Do not depend upon hopes because hopes are the mainstay of fools. It is wise to safeguard one’s experience. Your best experience is that which teaches you a lesson. Make use of leisure before it changes into grief. Every seeker does not achieve (what he seeks), and everyone who departs never returns. To lose provision and to earn evil for the Day of Judgment means ruin. Every matter has a consequence. What is destined for you will shortly come to you. A trader undertakes a risk. Often a small quantity is more beneficial than a large one. There is no good in an ignoble helper nor in a suspicious friend. Be compliant with the world as long as it is in your grip. Do not put yourself to risk regarding anything in expectation for more. Beware lest the attitude of enmity should overpower you.
Bear yourself towards your brother in such a way that if he disregards kinship, you maintain it; when he turns away, be kind to him and draw near to him; when he withholds, spend over him; when he distances himself, approach him; when he is harsh to you, be lenient to him; when he commits a wrong deed, think of an excuse for him as though you were a slave of his. Take care that this should not be done inappropriately and that you should not behave thus with an undeserving person. Do not take the enemy of your friend as a friend of yours because you will thus antagonize your friend. Give true advice to your brother, be it sweet or bitter. Swallow your anger because I did not find a sweeter thing than its taste in the end, and nothing is more pleasant than it in the end. Be lenient to him who is harsh to you, for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you. Treat your enemy with favors because this is the sweeter of the two successes (the success of revenge and the success of doing a favor).
If you intend to cut yourself off from a friend, leave some room for him from your side by which he may resume his friendship if it so occurs to him some day. If anyone has a good idea about you, prove it to be true. Do not disregard the interests of your brother depending upon your terms with him, for he is not your brother if you disregard his interests. Your family should not become the most miserable people on your account. Do not lean towards him who turns away from you. Your brother should not be more firm in his disregard for kinship than you in paying regard to it and you should exceed in doing good to him than his doing evil to you. Do not feel too much the oppression of a person who oppresses you because he is only busy in harming himself and benefiting you. The reward of him who pleases you is not that you should displease him.
Be informed, O my child, that livelihood is of two kinds: a livelihood that you seek and a livelihood that seeks you which is such that if you do not reach it, it will reach you. How bad it is to bend down at the time of need and to be harsh while being in riches! You should have from this world only that with which you can adorn your permanent abode. If you cry over what has gone out of your hands, then also cry for what has not at all come to you. Infer about what has not yet happened from what has already happened because occurrences are ever similar. Do not be like those whom preaching does not benefit unless you inflict pain on them because the wise take instruction from teaching while beasts learn only from beating.
Ward off from yourself the onslaught of worries by firmness of endurance and purity of belief. Whoever gives up moderation commits excesses. A companion is like a relationship. A friend is one whose absence also proves his friendship. Passion is a partner of distress. Often, the near ones are more remote than the distant ones, and often the distant ones are nearer than the near ones. A stranger is one who has no friends. Whoever transgresses right narrows his own passage. Whoever stays in his status remains constant upon it. The most trustworthy intermediary is that which you adopt between yourself and Allah the Glorified One. Whoever does not care for your interests is your enemy. When greed leads to ruin deprivation is an achievement. Not every defect can be reviewed and not every opportunity recurs.
Often, a person with eyes misses the track while a blind person finds the correct path. Delay an evil deed because you will be able to hasten it whenever you wish. The disregard of kinship of the ignorant is equal to regarding the kinship of the wise. Whoever takes the world to be safe, it will betray him. Whoever regards the world as great, it will humiliate him. Not everyone who shoots hits. When authority changes, the time changes, too. Consult the friend before taking a course, the neighbor before buying the house. Beware lest you should mention in your speech what may cause laughter even though you may be relating it from others.
Do not consult women because their view is weak and their determination is unstable. Cover their eyes by keeping them under the veil because strictness of veiling keeps them for long. Their coming out is not worse than your allowing an untrustworthy man to visit them. If you can manage that they should not know anyone other than you, do so. Do not allow a woman matters other than those about herself because a woman is a flower not an administrator. Do not pay her regard beyond herself. Do not encourage her to intercede for others. Do not show suspicion out of place because this leads a woman on the right course to evil and a chaste woman to deflection.
For everyone among your servants fix a task for which you may hold him responsible. In this way, they will not fling the task one over the other. Respect your kinsmen because they are your wings with which you fly, the origin towards which you return and the hands with which you attack. Place your religion and your world at Allah’s disposal and beg Him to ordain the best for you with regard to the near and the far, this world and the next, and that is the end of the matter.
You have ruined a large group of people whom you have deceived by your misguidance and have flung them into the currents of your sea where darkness covers them and misgivings toss them about. As a result, they have strayed from the right path and turned on their backs.
They turned their backs and pushed forward except those wise ones who came back, leaving you behind, having come to understand you very well. They ran towards Allah away from assisting you when you put them to troubles and caused them to deviate from the middle path. Therefore, O Mu`awiyah, fear Allah about yourself and take your rein away from Satan since this world is shortly to be cut off from you and the next world is near you, and that is the end of the matter.
To Othman ibn al-`Abbas, his Governor over Mecca
My informer in the West has written to me telling me that some people from Syria have been sent for hajj and who are blind at heart, deaf in the ears and devoid of vision. They confound the truth with vanity, obey men while disobeying Allah, lay a claim on the milk of the world in the name of religion and trade in the pleasures of this world by forsaking the rewards of the virtuous and the God-fearing. No one achieves good except whoever labors for it, and no one is awarded the recompense of evil except whoever commits it. Therefore, carry out your duties like an intelligent, experienced, well-wishing and wise man who follows his superior and is obedient to his Imam. You should avoid what you may have later to explain. Do not rise up in riches nor lose courage when in distress, and that is the end of the matter.
To Muhammad Ibn Aba Bakr on Coming to Know
That He Had Assumed the Position of (Malik) Al-Ashtar as
Governor of Egypt after the Latter Had Died on His Way to Egypt
I have come to know of your anger at the status quo of al-Ashtar, but I did not do so because of any shortcoming on your part or to get you to increase your responsibilities. But when I take away what was under your authority, I will place you in a status which will then be less exhausting and more attractive to you.
The man whom I have made Governor of Egypt was my well-wisher and very harsh and vengeful towards our enemies. May Allah have mercy on him since he has finished his days and met his death. I am quite pleased with him. May Allah, too, accord him His pleasure and multiply his rewards. Now get ready for your enemy and act according to your intelligence. Prepare to fighting one who fights you and call to the path of Allah. Seek Allah’s help earnestly. If Allah wills, He will assist you in what worries you and help you with what befalls upon you.
To `Abdullah Ibn `Abbas after
Muhammad Ibn Aba Bakr Had Been Killed
Now then, Egypt has been conquered and Muhammad ibn Aba Bakr, may Allah have mercy on him, has been martyred. We seek his reward from Allah. He was a son who was a well-wisher, a hard worker, a sharp sword and a bastion of defense. I had called upon the people to join him and ordered them to reach him to help him prior to this incident. I repeatedly called upon them secretly and openly. Some of them came half-heartedly, some put up false excuses, and some sat away leaving me behind. I ask Allah, the Sublime One, to grant me an early relief from them, for by Allah, had I not been yearning to meet the enemy for the sake of martyrdom and not prepared myself for death, I would not have liked to be with these people for a single day, nor ever to face the enemy with them.
To His Brother, `Aqil ibn Aba Talib1, in Reply to His Letter
Containing a Reference to the Army Which Imam
Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him Had Sent to Meet an Enemy
I sent him a large army of Muslims. When he came to know of it, he fled away and retreated in repent. They met him on the way when the sun was about to set. They grappled for a while like nothing. It was about an hour then he rescued himself, half-dead, as he had almost been taken by the neck and only the last breath had remained in him. In this way, he escaped in panic.
Leave the tribesmen of Quraish rushing in misguidance, their galloping in disunity and their leaping over destruction. They have joined together to fight me as they had joined to fight the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) before me. I wish the tribesmen of Quraish will get the reward of thus treating me. They disregarded my kinship [to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.)] and deprived me of the power due to me from the son of my mother (i.e. the Holy Prophet [p.b.u.h.]).
As regarding your inquiry about my opinion to fight till I die, I am in favor of fighting those who regard fighting as lawful. The crowd of men around me does not give me strength, nor does their dispersal from me cause any loneliness. Surely, do not consider the son of your father as weak or afraid, even though all people have forsaken him. Bow down submissively before injustice or hand over his reins into the hand of the puller, or allow his back to be used by the rider to sit on. But he is as the man of Banu Salim has:
If you inquire how I am, then listen: I am enduring and strong Against the vicissitudes of time. I do not allow myself to be forlorn Lest the foe feels joyed and the friend feels the sorrow.
Glory to Allah! How staunchly you cling to innovated passions and painful bewilderment along with ignoring the facts and rejecting strong reasons which are liked by Allah and serve as pleas for the people! As regarding your prolonging the question of `Othman’s murder, the situation is that you helped `Othman when you were really promoting your own cause, and you forsook him when he was in need of help, and that is the end of the matter.
To the People of Egypt When He Appointed
(Malik Ibn) al-Ashtar as Their Governor
From the slave of Allah, Ali Ibn Aba Talib, to the people who became wrathful for the sake of Allah when He was disobeyed on His earth and His rights were ignored and oppression had spread its coverings over the virtuous as well as the vicious, on the native as well as the foreigner. Consequently, no good was acted upon nor any evil was avoided.
I have sent you a man from among the servants of Allah Who allows himself no sleep in the days of danger, nor does he shrink from the enemy at critical moments. He is more severe with the wicked than a blazing fire. He is Malik ibn al-Harith, our brother from (the tribe of) Madhhaj. Therefore, listen to him and obey his orders that agree with what is right because he is a sword among the swords of Allah the edge of which is not dull and which does not miss its victim. If he orders you to advance, do advance, and if he orders you to stay, do stay because he surely neither advances nor attacks nor puts anyone backward or forward save with my command. I have preferred him for you rather than for myself because of his being your well-wisher and (because of) the severity of his harshness with your enemies.
To `Amr ibn al-`as
You have surely made your religion subservient to the worldly pursuits of a man whose misguidance is not a concealed matter and whose veil has been torn away. He mars an honorable man with his company and makes fools of those around him. You are following in his footsteps and seeking his favors like the dog that follows the lion looking at its paws and waiting for whatever remains of his prey that will fall down to it. In this way, you have ruined your world as well as the next. Had you stuck to the right, you would have gotten what you were seeking. If Allah grants me power over you and over the son of Aba Sufyan (Mu`awiyah), I shall award you both the recompense of what you have done, but if you escape and survive, then there is only evil for you both, and that is the end of the matter.
To One of His Officers
I have come to know such a thing about you which, if you have, you have displeased your Lord, disobeyed your Imam and betrayed your trust.
I have come to know that you have razed the ground and taken away whatever was under your feet, devouring whatever fell in your hands. Send me your account and be admonished that accounting to Allah will be much more severe than that to the people, and that is the end of the matter.
To One of His Officers
I had made you a partner in my trust and my chief man. For me, no other person from my kinsmen was more trustworthy than you in the matter of sympathizing with me, assisting and respecting my trust. But when you saw that time had attacked your cousin, the enemy had waged war, the trust of the people was being humiliated and the community was trackless and disunited, you turned your back against your cousin and forsook him when others forsook him. You abandoned him when others abandoned him and betrayed him when others betrayed him. Thus, you showed no sympathy to your cousin, nor did you discharge the trust. It seems as if you do not want to please Allah through your jihad, as if you do not stand upon a clear sign from your Lord, and as if you have been playing tricks with this umma (Muslim community) in order to earn (the pleasure of) this world, watching for the moment of their neglectfulness in order to usurp their wealth. As soon as it was possible for you to misappropriate the umma’s trust, you tended to turn around and attack (them), making a swift leap to snatch away whatever you could from their property. Such a property was intended for their widows and orphans. You did so like a wolf snatching a wounded and helpless goat. Then you happily loaded it off to Hijaz without feeling guilty for having thus acquired it. Allah’s woe be upon your ill-wishers! It was as though you were sending to your family what you had inherited from your parents.
Glory to Allah! Do you either not believe in the Day of Judgment, or you do not fear the exaction of account? O you who were counted by us among the men possessing sound minds, how can you enjoy food and drink when you know that you are eating and drinking what is unlawful? You are purchasing bondmaids and wedding women with the money of the orphans, the poor, the believers and the participants in jihad to whom Allah had dedicated this money and through whom He had strengthened these cities. Fear Allah and return to these people their properties. If you do not do so and Allah grants me power over you, I shall excuse myself before Allah about you and strike you with my sword with which I did not strike anyone but that he went to Hell.
By Allah, even if Hassan and Hussain (p.b.u.h.) had done what you did, there would have been no leniency for them, and they could not have won their way with me till I had recovered from them the right and destroyed the wrong produced by their unjust actions. I swear by Allah, the Master of all beings, that I will not be pleased to regard their money which you have appropriated as lawful for me and to leave it to my successors by way of inheritance. Mind yourself and consider for a while as though you had reached the end of life and had been buried under the earth. Your actions will then be presented before you in the place where the oppressor cries “Alas!” while whoever wasted his life yearns for return (to the world) “... but there was no time to escape” (Holy Qur’an, 38: 3).
To `Umar Ibn Aba Salamah Al-Makhzami (Foster-Son of the
Holy Prophet, Peace be Upon Him from Umm Al-Mu’minin, Umm Salamah)
Who Was Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib’s Governor of Bahrain, but Whom
He Removed and Replaced with An-nu’man Ibn Ajlan az-Zuraqi
I have posted an-Nu’man ibn `Ajlan az-Zuraqi in Bahrain and have released you from that position without anything bad from you nor reproach on you because you managed to govern well and carried out your obligations. Therefore, proceed to me when you are neither suspected nor rebuked, neither blamed nor guilty. I have just intended to proceed towards the rebel of Syria [Mu`awiyah]. I wish that you should be with me because you are among those on whom I can rely in fighting the enemy and in erecting the pillars of religion, if Allah so wills.
To Masqalah ibn Hubayrah ash-Shaybani,
Governor of Ardashir Khurrah (Persia)
I have come to know about you a matter which, if you have done, you will have displeased your Lord and disobeyed your Imam. You are distributing among the Arabs (bedouins) of your kin who tend to you the property of the Muslims which they collected by dint of their spears and horses and on which their blood was shed. By Allah Who germinated the seed and created living beings, if this is true, you will be humbled in my view and you will become light in weight. Therefore, do not treat lightly the obligations of your Lord and do not reform your world by ruining your religion, since then you will be among the losers through your actions.
Be informed that the right of those Muslims who are around you and those who are around me in this property is equal. For that reason, they come to me to take from it.
To Ziyad Ibn Abih When Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him
Came to Know That Mu`awiyah Had Written to Ziyad
to Deceive Him and to Attach Him to Himself in Kinship
I have learned that Mu`awiyah has written to you to deceive your wit and blunt your sharpness. You should be on guard against him because he is the Satan who approaches a believer from the front and from the back, from the right and from the left, to catch him suddenly in the hour of his carelessness and to overcome his intelligence.
During the days of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, Aba Sufyan happened to utter a thoughtless point which was an evil insinuation of Satan from which neither kinship is established nor entitlement to succession occurs. Whoever relies on it is like the uninvited guest to a drinking party or like the dangling cup (tied to a saddle).
Sayyid ar-Razi says the following: “When Ziyad read the letter, he said, ‘By Allah he has testified to it’. This point remained in his mind till Mu`awiyah claimed him (to be his brother from his father’s side).”
Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib’s word “al-waghil” means the man who joins the drinking group so as to drink with them, but he is not one of them. He is, therefore, constantly turned out and pushed away. As for the words “an-nawtul-mudhabdhab”, it is a wooden cup or a bowl, or the like, attached to the saddle of the rider so that it dangles when the rider drives the beast or it hastens its pace.
To `Othman Ibn Hunayf al-Ansari Who Was Imam Ali Ibn
Aba Talib’s Governor of Basrah When He Came to Know That
the People of Basrah Had Invited `Othman to a Banquet which He Attended
O son of Hunayf! I have come to know that a young man of Basrah invited you to a feast and you leapt towards it. Foods of different colors were being chosen for you and big bowls were being given to you. I never thought that you would accept the feast of a people who turn the beggars out while inviting the rich. Look at the morsels which you take. Leave out that about which you are in doubt and take that about which you are sure that it has been secured lawfully.
Remember that every follower has a leader whom he follows, and from the glory of whose knowledge he derives light. Realize that your Imam is satisfied with two shabby pieces of cloth out of the (comforts of the) world and two loaves for his meal. Certainly, you cannot do so, but at least support me in piety, exertion, chastity and uprightness because, by Allah, I have not treasured any gold out of your world nor amassed plentiful wealth nor collected any clothes other than these two shabby sheets.
Of course, all that we had in our possession under this sky was Fadak, but a group of people felt greedy for it, and the other party withheld themselves from it. Allah is, after all, the best arbiter. What shall I do? Fadak or no Fadak, tomorrow this body is to go into the grave in the darkness of which it will be destroyed and (even) news of it will disappear. It is a pit that, even if its width is widened or the hands of the digger make it broad and open, the stones and clods of clay will narrow it and the falling earth will close its opening. I try to keep myself engaged in piety so that on the Day of Great Fear it will be peaceful and steady in slippery places.
Had I wished, I could have taken the way leading to (worldly pleasures like) pure honey, fine wheat and silk clothes, but it cannot be that my passions lead me and greed takes me to choosing good meals while in the Hijaz or in Yamama there may be people who have no hope of getting bread or who do not have a full meal. Shall I lie down with a satiated belly while around me there may be hungry bellies and thirsty livers? Or shall I be as the poet has said:
It is enough for you to have a disease that you lie with your belly full
While around you people may be badly yearning for dried leather...?
Shall I be content with being called Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful), although I do not share with the people the hardships of the world? Or shall I be an example for them in the distresses of life? I have not been created to keep myself busy eating good foods like a tied animal whose only worry is his fodder or like a loose animal whose activity is to swallow. It fills its belly with its feed and forgets the purpose behind it. Shall I be left uncontrolled to pasture freely, or draw the rope of misguidance or roam aimlessly in the paths of bewilderment?
I see as if one of you will say that if this is what the son of Aba Talib eats, then weakness must have made him unfit to fight his foes and encounter the brave ones. Remember that the tree of the forest is the best timber, while green twigs have soft bark and the wild bushes are very strong for burning and slow in dying. My relationship with the Messenger of Allah is that of one branch with another, or like the wrist with the forearm. By Allah, if the Arabs join together to fight me, I will not run away from them, and if I get the opportunity, I will hasten to catch them by their necks. I shall surely strive to relieve the earth of this man of perverse mind and uncouth body till the bits of earth are removed from the grain.
An excerpt from the same which is the end of the letter:
Get away from me, O world! Your rein is on your own shoulders as I have released myself from your clutches, removed myself from your snares and avoided walking into your slippery places. Where are those whom you have deceived by your jokes? Where are those communities whom you have enticed with your embellishments? They are all confined to graves and hidden in burial places. By Allah, if you had been a visible personality and a body capable of feeling, I will have awarded you the penalties fixed by Allah because of the people whom you received through desires, the communities whom you threw into destruction and the rulers whom you consigned to ruin and drove to places of distress after which there is neither going nor returning. Indeed, whoever stepped on your slippery place slipped, whoever rode your waves was drowned, and whoever evaded your snares received inward support. Whoever keeps himself safe from you does not worry even though his affairs may be straitened and the world to him is like a day which is near to expire.
Get away from me for, by Allah, I do not bow before you so that you may humiliate me, nor do I let loose the reins for you so that you may drive me away! I swear by Allah an oath wherein I, except if Allah wills otherwise, shall so train myself that it will feel joyed if it gets one loaf to eat and be content with only salt to season it. I shall let my eyes empty themselves of tears like the stream whose water has flown away. Should Ali eat whatever he has and fall asleep like the cattle who fill their stomachs from the pasture land then lie down, or as the grazing goats, eat the green grass then go into their pen! His eyes may die if he, after long years, follows the ways of loose cattle and pasturing animals.
Blessed is whoever carries out his obligations towards Allah and endures his hardships, allows himself no sleep in the night but when sleep overpowers him, he lies down on the ground using his hand as a pillow, along with those who keep their eyes wakeful in fear of the Day of Judgment, whose bodies are ever away from beds, whose lips are humming in remembrance of Allah and whose sins have been erased through their prolonged beseeching for forgiveness. They are the party of Allah; Be it known, “... verily the part of Allah alone shall be the successful one” (Holy Qur’an, 58: 22). Therefore, O Ibn Hunayf, fear Allah and be content with your own loaves so that you may escape Hell.
To One of his Officers
Now, you are surely one of those whose help I accept in establishing religion and with those help I break the haughtiness of the sinful and guard critical borders. You should seek Allah’s help in whatever causes you anxiety. Add a little harshness to the mixture of leniency and remain lenient where leniency is more appropriate. Adopt harshness when you cannot do without harshness. Bend your wings (in humbleness) before the subjects. Meet them with your face broad and keep yourself lenient (in behavior) with them. Treat them equally in looking at them with half eyes or full eyes, in signaling and in greeting so that the great should not expect transgression on your part and the weak should not lose hope in your justice, and that is the end of the matter.
For Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Hussain,
Peace be Upon Him When (`Abd ar-Rahman) Ibn Muljim
(the Curse of Allah be upon him) Struck Him Fatally with His Sword
I admonish you (both) to fear Allah and not to hanker after the (pleasures of this) world even though it may run after you. Do not be sorry for anything of this world that you may have been denied. Speak the truth and deed (in expectation) for [the divine] reward. Be an enemy of the oppressor and the helper of the oppressed.
I admonish you (both) as well as all my children and the members of my family and everyone whom my writing reaches to fear Allah, to keep your affairs in order and to maintain good relations among yourselves for I have heard your grandfather (the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.)) saying, “Improvement of mutual differences is better than general prayers and fast.”
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view with regard to orphans. So, do not allow them to starve, and they should not be ruined in your presence.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view with regard to your neighbors because they were the subject of the Prophet’s advice. He went on advising in their favor till we thought he would allow them to inherit them.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view with regard to the issue of the Holy Qur’an. No one should excel you in acting upon it.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view in the matter of prayer because it is the pillar of your religion.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view in the matter of your Lord’s House (Ka`ba). Do not forsake it so long as you live because if it is abandoned, you will not be spared.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Him in view in the matter of jihad with the help of your property, lives and tongues in the way of Allah.
You should maintain respect for kinship and spend on others. Avoid turning away from one another and severing mutual relations. Do not give up bidding for good and forbidding from evil lest the mischievous gain positions over you, then if you pray, your prayers will not be answered.
Then he said the following: O sons of `Abdul-Muttalib! Certainly I do not wish to see you plunging harshly into the blood of Muslims shouting that Ali ibn Aba Talib has been killed. Beware! Do not kill on my account except the one who kills me. Wait till I die by his (Ibn Muljim’s) existing stroke. Then strike him one single stroke for his single stroke and do not dismember the limbs of the man, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah saying, “Avoid cutting limbs even though it may be those of a rabid dog.”
Surely, rebellion and falsehood abase a man in his religious as well as worldly matters and manifest his shortcomings before his critic. You know that you cannot take hold of what is destined to remain away from you. Many people had aims other than right (ones) and swear by Allah (that they will attain their goal), but He proved them wrong. Therefore, fear the Day when happy is whoever made his end happy (by good actions) while repentant is whoever allowed Satan to lead him and did not resist him. You called us to a settlement through the Holy Qur’an although you were not a man of the Holy Qur’an; we responded to the Holy Qur’an through its Judgment and not to you, and that is the end of the matter.
This world turns away from the next. Whoever is devoted to it achieves nothing from it except that it increases his greed and coveting. Whoever is devoted to it is not satisfied with what he gets from it because of what he has not had. Eventually, there will be a separation from what has been amassed and a breaking of what has been strengthened. If you learn a lesson from the past, you can be safe in the future, and that is the end of the matter.
To the Officers of His Army
From the servant of Allah, Ali ibn Aba Talib, to the Officer-in-charge of garrisons:
It is obligatory on an officer that the distinction which he achieves, or the wealth with which he has been exclusively endowed, should not make him change his behavior towards those under him, and that the riches which Allah has bestowed on him should increase him in nearness to his people and kindness to his brethren.
Beware that it is obligatory on me that I should not keep anything secret from you except during war time, nor should I decide any matter without consulting you except with regard to the commands of the creed, nor should I ignore the fulfillment of any of your rights, nor should I desist till I discharge it fully, and that for me all of you should be equal in rights. Once I have done all this, it becomes obligatory on you to thank Allah for this bounty and to obey me, and you should not hold back when called upon, nor should you jeopardize your good deeds. You should face hardships for the sake of what is right. If you do not remain steadfast in this, there will be no one more humiliated in my view than the one among you who has deviated, then I will increase his penalty wherein no one will get any concession from me. Take this (pledge) from your (subordinate) officers and accord to them such behavior from your side by which Allah may improve your matters, and that is the end of the matter.
To His (Land) Tax Collectors:
From the servant of Allah, Ali ibn Aba Talib, to the tax collectors:
Whoever does not fear where he is going does not send forward for himself that which can protect him. You should know that the obligations laid on you are few, while their reward is much. Even if there had been no fear of punishment for rebellion and disobedience, which Allah has prohibited, the reward in keeping aloof from it will be enough (incentive) to abstain from going after it. Conduct yourselves justly with the people and deal with them with endurance with regard to their needs because you are the treasurers of the people, the representatives of the community and the ambassadors of the Imams.
Do not deprive anyone of his needs and do not prevent him from (securing) his requirements. For the collection of tax (khiraj) from the people, do not sell their winter or summer clothes nor cattle with which they work nor slaves. Do not whip anyone for the sake of one dirham. Do not touch the property of any person whether he be one who prays (a Muslim), or a protected unbeliever, unless you find a horse or weapons used to attack the Muslims because it is not proper for the Muslims to leave these things in the hands of the enemies of Islam to enable them to have power over Islam.
Do not deny good counsel to yourself, good behavior to the army, succour to the subjects and strength to the religion of Allah. Strive in the way of Allah as is obligatory on you because Allah, the Glorified One, desires us and you to be thankful to Him as best as we can and that we should support His Cause to the best of our ability. And there is no power save with Allah, the all-High, the all-Glorious.
To the Governors of Various Places Concerning Prayers
Offer the zuhr (noon) prayers with the people when the shade of the wall of the goats’ pen is equal to the wall. Offer the asr (afternoon) prayers with them when the sun is still shining in a portion of the day enough for covering the distance of two farasangs (about six miles). Offer the maghrib (sunset) prayers when whoever is fasting ends the fast and the pilgrim rushes (from Arafat) to Mina. Offer the isha’ (evening) prayers with them when twilight disappears and upto one third of the night. Say the (early) morning prayers with them when a man can recognize the face of his companion. Say the prayers with the people as the weakest of them would do, and do not be a source of trouble to them.
DOCUMENT OF INSTRUCTION 53
Written for (Malik) al-Ashtar an-Nakha`i, when the status of
Muhammad ibn Aba Bakr had become precarious and Imam
Ali ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him had appointed al-Ashtar as the
Governor of Egypt and the surrounding areas. It is the longest
document and contains the greatest number of beautiful statements:
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
This is what Allah’s servant Ali ibn Aba Talib has ordered Malik ibn al-Harith al-Ashtar in his instrument (of appointment) for him when he made him Governor of Egypt for the collection of its revenues, fighting its enemies, seeking the good of its people and making its cities prosperous.
He has ordered him to fear Allah, to prefer obedience to Him and to follow what He has commanded in His Book (Holy Qur’an) out of His obligatory and elective commands, without following which one cannot achieve virtue, nor (can one) be evil save by opposing them and ignoring them and to support the cause of Allah the Glorified One, with his heart, hand and tongue because Allah Whose name is Sublime takes the responsibility for helping him who helps Him and for protecting him who gives Him support.
He also orders him to break his heart off from passions and to restrain it at the time of their increase because the heart leads towards evil unless Allah has mercy.
Qualifications of a Governor and his Responsibilities:
Then, know, O Malik, that I have sent you to an area where there have been governments before you, both just as well as oppressive. People would now watch your dealings as you used to watch the dealings of the rulers before you and they (people) would criticize you as you criticized them (rulers). Surely, the virtuous are known by the reputation that Allah circulates for them through the tongues of His creatures. Therefore, the best collection with you should be the collection of good deeds. So, control your passions and check your heart from doing what is not lawful for you because checking the heart means detaining it just half way between what it likes and dislikes.
Habituate your heart to mercy for the subjects and to affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them since they are of two kinds: either your brethren in religion or your likes in creation. They would commit slips and encounter mistakes. They may act wrongly, wilfully or out of negligence. So, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon them in the same way as you would like Allah to extend His forgiveness and to pardon you because you are over them and your responsible Commander (Imam) is over you, while Allah is over the one who appointed you. He (Allah) has sought you to manage their affairs and tried you through them.
Do not set yourself to fight Allah because you have no power to meet His power and you cannot do without His pardon and mercy. Do not regret forgiving or being merciful in punishing. Do not act hastily during your anger if you can find a way out of it. Do not say: “I have been given authority, I enjoy it when I order,” because it engenders confusion in the heart, weakens the religion and takes one to his ruin. If the authority in which you are placed produces pride or vanity in you, look at the greatness of the realm of Allah over you and His might the like of which you do not even possess over yourselves. This will curb your haughtiness, cure you of your high temper and bring back to you your wisdom which had gone away from you.
Beware of comparing yourself to Allah in His greatness or likening yourself to Him in His power, for Allah humiliates every claimant of power and disgraces everyone who is haughty.
Do justice for Allah, and do justice towards the people, as against your own selves, your near ones and those of your subjects for whom you have a liking because if you do not do so, you will be oppressive, and when a person oppresses the servants of Allah, instead of His creatures, Allah becomes his opponent and when Allah is the opponent of a person He tramples his plea, and we would remain in the status of being at war with Allah till he gives it up and repents. Nothing is more inducive to the reversal of Allah’s bounty or for the hastening of His retribution than continuance in oppression because Allah hears the prayer of the oppressed and is on the look out for the oppressors.
Ruling should be in favor of the people as a whole
The way most coveted by you should be that which is the most equitable for what is right, the most universal by way of justice and the most comprehensive with regard to the agreement with those under you because the disagreement among the common people sweeps away the arguments of the chiefs and can be disregarded when compared with the agreement of the common people. No one among those under you is more burdensome to the ruler in the comfort of life, less helpful in distress, more disliking of equitable treatment, more tricky in asking favors, less thankful at the time of giving, less appreciative of reasons at the time of refusal and weaker in endurance at the time of the discomforts of life than the chiefs. It is the common people of the community who are the pillars of the religion, the power of the Muslims and the defense against the enemies. Your learning should, therefore, be towards them and your inclination with them.
The one among the people under you who is furthest from you and the worst of them in your view should be whoever is the most inquisitive of the shortcomings of the people because people do have shortcomings and the ruler is the most appropriate person to cover them. Do not disclose whatever of it is hidden from you because your obligation is to correct what is manifest to you, while Allah will deal with whatever is hidden from you. Therefore, cover shortcomings as far as you can; Allah will cover those of your shortcomings which you will like to remain under cover from your subjects. Unfasten every knot of hatred in the people and cut away from yourself the cause of every enmity. Feign ignorance from what is not clear to you. Do not hasten to second a backbiter because a backbiter is a cheat although he looks like those who wish well.
Do not include among those whom you consult a miser who would keep you back from being generous and caution you against destitution, nor a coward who would make you feel too weak for your affairs, nor a greedy person who would beautify for you the collection of wealth by evil means. This is so because although miserliness, cowardice and greed are different qualities, yet they are common in having a wrong idea about Allah.
The worst minister for you is one who has been a minister for mischievous persons before you and who joined them in committing sins. Therefore, he should not be your chief man because they are abettors of sinners and brothers of the oppressors. You can find good substitutes for them who would be like them in their views and influence while not being like them in committing sins and vices. They have never assisted an oppressor in his oppression or a sinner in his sins. They would give you the least trouble and the best support. They would be most considerate towards you and the least inclined towards others. Therefore, make them your chief companions in privacy as well as in public.
Then, more preferable among them for you should be those who openly speak better truths before you and who support you the least in those of your actions which Allah does not approve in His friends, even though they may be according to your wishes. Associate yourself with God-fearing and truthful people; then educate them, so that they should not praise you or please you by reason of an action which you did not perform because an excess of praise produces pride and drives you nearer to haughtiness.
The virtuous and the vicious should not be in equal status before you because this means dissuasion of the virtuous from virtue and persuasion of the vicious to vice. Keep everyone in the status which is his. You should know that the most conducive thing for the good impression of the ruler on his subjects is that he should extend good behavior towards them, lighten their hardships and avoid putting them to unbearable troubles. You should, therefore, in this way follow a course by which you would leave a good impression with your subjects. This is so because such good ideas would relieve you of great worries. Certainly, the most appropriate for your good impression is he to whom your behavior has not been good.
Do not discontinue the good lives in which the earlier people of this community had been acting and by virtue of which there was general unity and through which the subjects prospered. Do not innovate any line of action which injures these earlier ways because (in that case) the reward for those who had established those ways would continue, but the burden for discontinuing them would be on you. Keep on increasing your conversations with the scholars and discussions with the wise in order to stabilize the prosperity of the areas under you and to continue with that in which the earlier people had remained steadfast.
The different classes of people:
Be informed that people consist of classes who prosper only with the help of one another and they are not independent of one another. Among them are the army of Allah, then the secretarial workers of the common people and the chiefs, then the dispensers of justice, then those engaged in enforcing law and order, then the payers of head tax (jizya) and land tax (khiraj) from the protected unbelievers and the common Muslims, then there are the traders and the men of industry, then the lowest class of the needy and the destitute. Allah has fixed the share of each one of them and laid down His precepts about the limits of each in His Book (Holy Qur’an) and in the Sunnah of His Prophet (p.b.u.h.) by way of a settlement which is preserved with us.
The army is, by the will of Allah, the fortress of the subjects, the ornament of the ruler, the strength of the religion and the means of achieving peace. The subjects cannot exist without them while the army can be maintained only by the funds fixed by Allah in the revenues through which they acquire the strength to fight the enemies, on which they depend for their prosperity and with which they meet their needs. These two classes cannot exist without the third class, namely: the judges, the executives and the secretaries who pass Judgments about contracts, collect revenues and are depended upon in special and general matters.
And these classes cannot exist except with the traders and men of industry who provide necessities for them, establish markets and make it possible for others not to do all this with their own hands. Then comes the lowest class of the needy and the destitute. Support and help for them is an obligation, and everyone of them has (a share in) livelihood in the Name of Allah. Everyone of them has a right on the ruler according to what is needed for his prosperity. The ruler cannot acquit himself of the obligations laid on him by Allah in this matter except by striving and seeking help from Allah, by training himself to adhere to righteousness and by enduring on that account all that is light or hard.
1. The Army
Put in command of your forces the man who in your view is the best well-wisher of Allah, His Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and your Imam. The most chaste of them in heart and the highest of them in endurance is one who is slow in getting angry, who accepts excuses, who is kind to the weak and is strict with the strong; violence should not raise his temper and weakness should not keep him sitting.
Also associate with considerate people from high families, virtuous houses and decent traditions, then people of courage, valor, generosity and benevolence because they are repositories of honor and springs of virtues. Strive for their matters as the parents strive for their child. Do not regard anything that you do to strengthen them as big nor anything that you have agreed to do for them as little, even though it may be small because this would make them your well-wishers and create a good impression about you. Do not neglect to attend to their small matters. Confine yourself to their important matters because your small favors will also be of benefit to them while the important ones are such that they cannot ignore.
That commander of the army should have such a status before you that he renders help to them equitably and spends from his money on them and on those of their families who remain behind so that all their worries converge on the one worry to fight the enemy. Your kindness to them would turn their hearts to you. The most pleasant thing for the rulers is the establishment of justice in their areas and the manifestation of the love of their subjects, but the subjects’ love manifests itself only when their hearts are clean. Their good wishes prove correct only when they surround their commanders (to protect them). Do not regard their positions to be a burden over them and do not keep watching for the end of their tenure. Therefore, be broad-minded with regard to their desires, continue to praise them and recount the good deeds of those who have shown such deeds because the mention of good deeds shakes the brave and rouses the weak, if Allah so wills.
Appreciate the performance of each and every one of them. Do not attribute the performance of one to the other and do not minimize the reward below the level of the performance. The high status of a man should not lead you to regard his small deeds as big, nor should the low status of a man make you regard his big deeds as small.
Refer to Allah and His Prophet (p.b.u.h.) the affairs which worry you and the matters which seem to confuse you because, addressing the people whom Allah the Sublime wishes to guide, He said the following: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and those vested with authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day (of Judgment)” (Holy Qur’an, 4: 59).
Referring to Allah means acting according to what is clear in His Book, and referring to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) means following his unanimously agreed upon Sunnah with regard to which there are no differences.
2. The Chief Judge [Supreme Court Justice]
For the settlement of disputes among people, select one who is the most distinguished among your subjects in your view. The cases (coming before him) should not vex him, disputation should not enrage him. He should not insist on any wrong point and should not hesitate to accept the truth when he perceives it; he should not lean towards greed and should not content himself with a cursory understanding (of a matter) without going thoroughly into it. He should be most ready to stop (to ponder) on doubtful points, most considerate of arguments, least disgusted at the quarrel of litigants, most patient at probing into matters and most fearless at the time of passing a Judgment. Praise should not make him vain and elation should not make him lean (toward any side). Such people are very few.
Then, very often check his decisions and allow him so much money (as remuneration) that he has no excuse worth hearing (for not being honest) and there remains no occasion for him to go to others for his needs. Give him that rank in your audience for which no one else among your chiefs aspires so that he may remain safe from the harm of those around you. You should have a piercing eye in this matter because this religion has formerly been a prisoner in the hands of vicious persons when action was taken according to passion and worldly wealth was sought.
3. Executive Officers
Look into the affairs of your executives. Give them appointment after testing them and do not appoint them according to partiality or favoritism because these two things make up the sources of injustice and unfairness. Select from among them those who are people of experience and modesty, hailing from virtuous houses, having been previously in Islam because such persons possess high manners and untarnished honor. They are the least inclined towards greed and always have their eyes on the ends of matters.
Give them an abundant livelihood (by way of salary) because this gives them the strength to maintain themselves in order and not to have an eye upon the funds in their custody and it will be an argument against them if they disobeyed your orders or misappropriated your trust. You should also check their activities and assign people to report on them who should be truthful and faithful because your watching their actions secretly would urge them to preserve trust with and to be kind to the people. Be careful of assistants. If any one of them extends his hands towards misappropriation and the reports of your reporters reaching you confirm it, that should be regarded as sufficient testimony. You should then inflict corporal punishment on him and recover what he has misappropriated. You should put him in a place of disgrace, blacklist him with (the charge of) misappropriation and make him wear the necklace of shame for his offence.
4. The Administration of Revenues
Look after the revenue (khiraj, land tax) affairs in such a way that those engaged in it remain prosperous because in their prosperity lies the prosperity of all others. The others cannot prosper without them because all people are dependent on the revenue and on its payers. You should also keep an eye on the cultivation of the land more than on the collection of revenue because revenue cannot be obtained without cultivation and whoever asks for revenue without cultivation ruins the area and brings death to the people. His rule will not last but only for a moment.
If they complain of the heaviness (of the revenue) or of diseases, or of scarcity of water, or of an excess of water, or of a change in the condition of the land either due to flood or to drought..., you should remit the revenue to the extent that you hope would improve their status. The remission granted by you for the removal of distress from them should not be grudged by you because it is an investment which they will return to you in the shape of the prosperity of your country and the progress of your domain in addition to earning their praise and happiness for meting out justice to them. You can depend upon their strength because of the investment made by you in them through catering to their convenience and can have confidence in them because of the justice extended to them by being kind to them. After that, circumstances may so turn that you may have a need for their assistance. It is then that they will bear it happily, for prosperity is capable of bearing whatever you load on it. The ruin of the land is caused by the poverty of the cultivators, while the cultivators become poor when the officers concentrate on the collection (of money), having little hope for continuance (in their posts) and deriving no benefit from warnings.
5. The Clerical Establishment
Then you should take care of your secretarial workers. Put the best of them in charge of your affairs. Entrust those of your writings which contain your policies and secrets to him who possesses the best character, who is not elated by honors lest he should dare speak against you in public. He should also not be negligent in presenting the communications of your officers before you and issuing correct replies to them on your behalf and in matters of your receipts and payments. He should not make any damaging agreement on your behalf and should not fail in repudiating an agreement against you. He should not be ignorant of the extent of his own status in matters because whoever is ignorant of his own status is (even) more ignorant of the status of others.
Your selection of these people should not be on the basis of your understanding (of them), confidence and good impression because people catch the ideas of the officers through affectation and personal service, and there is nothing in it which is like well-wishing or trustfulness. You should rather test them by what they did under the virtuous people before you. Take a decision in favor of one who has a good name among the common people and is the most renowned in trustworthiness because this will be a proof of your regard for Allah and for him on whose behalf you have been appointed to this status (namely your Imam). Establish one chief for every department of work. He should not be incapable of big matters and a rush of work should not perplex him. Whenever there is a defect in your secretaries which you overlook, then you will be held responsible for it.
6. Traders and Industrialists
Take some advice about traders and industrialists. Give them good counsel whether they are settled (shop-keepers) or traders or physical laborers because they are the sources of profit and the means of the provision of useful items. They bring them from distant and far-flung areas throughout the land and the sea, the plains or the mountains, from where people cannot come and to where they do not dare to go, for they are peaceful and there is no fear of rebellion from them and they are quite without fear of treason.
Look after their affairs before those of your own wherever they may be in your land. Be informed, along with this, that most of them are very narrow-minded and awfully avaricious. They hoard goods for profiteering and fixing high prices for goods. This is a source of harm to the people and a blot on the officers in charge. Stop people from hoarding because the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) has prohibited it. The sale should be smooth, with correct weights and prices, not harmful to either party, the seller or the buyer; whoever commits hoarding after you prohibit it, give him exemplary but not excessive punishment.
7. The Lowest Class
(Fear) Allah and keep Him in view with regard to the lower class which consists of those who have few means: the poor, the destitute, the penniless and the disabled because in this class are both the discontented and those who beg. Take care for the sake of Allah of His obligations towards them for which He has made you responsible. Fix for them a share from the public funds and a share from the crops of lands taken over as booty for Islam in every area because in it the remote ones have the same shares as the near ones. All these people are those whose rights have been placed in your charge. Therefore, a luxurious life should not keep you away from them. You cannot be excused for ignoring small matters simply because you were deciding big ones. Consequently, do not be unmindful of them, nor should you turn your face away from them out of vanity.
Take care of the affairs of those of them who do not approach you because they are of unsightly appearance or those whom people regard as low. Appoint for them some trusted people who are God-fearing and humble. They should inform you of these people’s conditions. Then deal with them with a sense of responsibility to Allah on the Day you will meet Him because of all the subjects these people are the most worthy of an equitable treatment, while for others also you should fulfill their rights so as to render account to Allah.
Take care of the orphans and the aged who have no means (for livelihood) nor are they ready for begging. This is heavy on the officers; in fact, every obligation is heavy. Allah lightens it for those who seek the next world, so they endure (hardships) upon themselves and trust on the truthfulness of Allah’s promise to them. And fix a time for complainants wherein you make yourself free for them and sit with them in common audience and feel humble for the sake of Allah Who created you. (On that occasion) you should keep away your army and assistants such as the guards and the police so that anyone who likes to speak may speak to you without fear because I have heard the Messenger of Allah say in more than one place, “The people among whom the right of the weak is not secured from the strong without fear will never achieve purity.” Tolerate their awkwardness and inability to speak. Keep away from you narrowness and haughtiness; by the will of Allah, on this account spread over you the covers of His mercy and be optimistic of the reward of His obedience. Whatever you give, give it joyfully, but when you refuse, do it handsomely and with apologies.
Then there are certain matters which you cannot avoid performing yourself. For example, relying on your officers when your secretaries are unable to do so, or tending to the complaints of the people when your assistants refrain. Finish every day the work meant for it because every day has its own work. Keep for yourself the better and greater portion of these periods for the worship of Allah, although all these items are for Allah provided the intention is pure and the subjects prosper thereby.
Communion with Allah
The particular thing by which you should purify your religion for Allah should be the fulfillment of those obligations which are especially for Him. Therefore, devote to Allah some of your physical activity during the night and the day and whatever (worship) you perform for seeking nearness to Allah should be complete, without defect or deficiency, no matter what physical exertion it may involve. When you lead the prayers for the people, it should be neither (too long as to be) boring nor (too short as to be) wasteful because among the people there are the sick as well as those who have needs of their own. When the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) sent me to Yemen, I inquired how I should pray with them and he replied, “Say the prayers as the weakest of them will say, and be considerate of the believers.
On the Behavior and Action of a Ruler
Do not stay secluded from the public for a long time because the seclusion of those in authority from the subjects is a norm of narrow-sightedness, and it causes ignorance of their affairs. Seclusion from them also prevents them from the knowledge of those things which they need to know. As a result, they begin to regard big matters as small and small matters as big, good matters as bad and bad matters as good, while the truth is confused with falsehood. After all, a governor is a human being and cannot have knowledge of things which people keep hidden from him.
No writ is big on the face of truth to differentiate its various expressions from falsehood. You can be one of two kinds of men: If you are generous in granting rights, why this hiding in spite of (your) discharging the obligations and good deeds which you perform? Or you may be a victim of miserliness. In that case, people will soon give up asking you since they will lose hope of a generous treatment from you. In spite of that, there are many needs of the people towards you which do not involve any hardship on you, such as the complaint against oppression or the request for justice in a case.
Furthermore, a governor has favorites and people of easy access to him. They misappropriate things. They are high-handed and do not observe justice in matters. You should destroy the root of evil in the people by cutting away the causes of these defects. Do not make any land grants to your hangers-on or supporters. They should not expect from you the possession of land which may cause harm to adjoining people over the question of irrigation or public services whose burden the grantees place on others. In this way, the benefit will be rather theirs than yours and the blame will lie on you in this world as well as in the next.
Effect equity to whomsoever it is due, whether near you or far from you. In this matter, you should be enduring and watchful even though it may involve your relatives and favorites. Keep in view the reward of that which appears burdensome on you because its reward is surely handsome.
If the subjects suspect you of high-handedness, explain to them your status publicly and remove their suspicion with such an explanation because this will mean an exercise for your soul and a consideration for the subjects while this explanation will secure your aim of keeping them firm in the truth.
Do not reject peace to which your enemy may invite you and wherein there is the pleasure of Allah because peace brings rest to your army, relief from your worries and safety for your country. But after peace there is a great apprehension from the enemy because often the enemy offers peace in order to benefit from your negligence and relaxation. Therefore, be cautious and do not act according to your wishful thinking in this regard.
If you conclude an agreement between yourself and your enemy or enter into a pledge, fulfill your agreement and carry out your pledge faithfully. Place yourself as a shield against whatever you have pledged because among the obligations of Allah there is nothing on which people are more strongly united, despite the difference of their ideas and variation of their views, than respect for fulfilling pledges. Besides Muslims, even unbelievers have abided by agreements because they realized the dangers which will come in the wake of the violation thereof. Therefore, do not deceive your enemy because no one can offend Allah save the ignorant and the wicked. Allah made His agreement and pledged the sign of security which He has spread over His creatures through His mercy and an asylum in which they stay in His protection and seek the benefit of nearness to Him. Hence, there should be no deception, cunning or duplicity in it.
Do not enter into an agreement which may admit different interpretations and do not change the interpretation of vague words after the conclusion and confirmation (of the agreement). If an agreement of Allah involves you in hardship, do not seek its repudiation without justification because the bearing of hardships through which you expect relief and a handsome result is better than a violation the consequence of which you fear, and that you fear you will be called upon by Allah to account for it and you will not be able to seek forgiveness for it in this world or in the next.
You should avoid shedding blood without justification because nothing invites the Divine retribution or is greater in (evil) consequences and more effective in the decline of prosperity and cutting short of life more than the shedding of blood without a justification. On the Day of Judgment, Allah, the Glorified One, will commence giving His Judgment among the people with regard to the cases of bloodshed committed by them. Do not, therefore, strengthen your authority by shedding prohibited blood because this will weaken and lower authority. It moreover destroys it and shifts it elsewhere. You cannot offer any excuse before Allah or before me for any willful killing because there must be the question of revenge in it. If you are involved in it be error and you exceed in the use of your whip or sword or are harsh in inflicting punishment, as sometimes even a blow by the fist or a smaller stroke causes death, then the pride in your authority should not prevent you from paying the blood money to the survivors of the killed person.
You should avoid self-admiration. Rely in what appears to be good on yourself. Do not have any affinity for any exaggerated praise; it is one of the most reliable opportunities for Satan to obliterate the good deeds of the virtuous.
Avoid demonstrating (the weight of) your obligation to your subjects for having done good to them or praising your own actions or making promises then breaking them. Demonstrating such an obligation destroys goodness. Self-praise takes away the light of truth. Breaking promises earns the hatred of Allah and of the people. Allah, the Glorified One, says the following: “Most hateful to Allah is that you say what you do not do” (Holy Qur’an, 61: 3).
Avoid haste in matters before their time. Slowness till their proper time, insistence on them when the propriety of action is not known or weakens when it becomes clear is preferable. Assign to every matter its proper place and do every job at its appropriate time.
Do not appropriate to yourself that in which the people have an equal share, nor should you be indifferent of matters which have come to light with the excuse that you are accountable for others. Shortly, the curtains of all matters will be raised from your vision and you will be required to render redress to the oppressed. Have control over (your) sense of prestige. Beware of any outburst of anger, the might of your arm and the sharpness of your tongue. Guard yourself against all these by avoiding haste and by delaying severe measures till your anger subsides and till you gain your self-control. You cannot withhold yourself from this unless you bear in mind that you have to return to Allah.
It is necessary for you to recall how matters went with those who preceded you, be it those of a government, or a great tradition, or a precedent of our Prophet (p.b.u.h.), or the obligatory commands contained in the Book of Allah. You should follow them as you have seen us acting upon them and should exert yourself in following what I have enjoined you to follow in this document wherein I have exhausted my pleas to you. If your heart advances towards its passions, you may have no plea in its support.
I ask Allah through the extent of His mercy and the greatness of His power of giving to grant me a good inclination, that He may prompt me and you own selves to present a clear plea before Him and before His creatures in a manner that may attract His pleasure along with handsome praise among the people, good effect in the country, an increase in prosperity and a heightening of honor, and that He may allow me and you own selves to die a death of virtue and martyrdom. Surely, we have to return to Him. Peace be on the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.), and that is the end of the matter.
To Talhah and az-Zubayr (through Imran ibn al-Hussain al-Khuza’i1).
Aba Ja`far al-Iskafi has mentioned this in his “Kitab al-Maqamat on the
excellent qualities (manaqib) of Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him.”
You both know, though you conceal it, that I did not approach the people before they approached me, and I did not ask them to swear the oath of allegiance to me till they themselves swore the oath of allegiance to me. You both were among those who approached me and swore the oath of allegiance to me. Certainly the common people did not swear the oath of allegiance under any force or for any money given to them. If you two swore allegiance to me obediently, come back and offer repentance to Allah soon. But if you swore allegiance to me reluctantly, you have certainly given me cause for action by showing your obedience and concealing your disobedience By my life, you were not more entitled than other Muhajiran to conceal and hide the matter. Your refusal to swear the oath of allegiance before actually doing so would have been easier than getting out of it after having already accepted it.
You have indicated that I killed `Othman; then let someone from among the people of Medina who supported neither me nor you decide the matter between me and yourself. One of us shall face(the command of law) according to (one’s) involvement. You should give up your way now, when the great question before you is only one of shame, before you face the question of shame coupled with the fire of Hell, and that is the end of the matter.
Allah, the Glorified One, has made this world for what is to come, for the Hereafter, putting its inhabitants to trial as to which of you is good in deeds. We have not been created for this world, nor ordered to strive for it. We have been made to stay in it to stand the trial therein. So, Allah has tried me by you and tried you by me. He has, therefore, made each of us a plea for the other.
Now, you have leapt on the world by a wrong interpretation of the Holy Qur’an and wanted me to account for what neither my hand nor tongue was responsible, yet you and the Syrians put the blame on me and your scholar incited against me the ignorant and one who is sitting incited the one who is standing. You should fear Allah with regard to your soul and not allow Satan to lead you. Turn your face towards the next world because that is our path and yours. Fear lest Allah should entangle you in any sudden affliction which may destroy the root as well as cut away the branches. I swear to you by Allah an oath which will not be broken that if destiny brings me and you together, I shall steadfastly hold before you: “Till Allah judges between us and He is the Best of the judges” (Holy Qur’an, 7: 87).
When Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him Placed
Shurayh Ibn Hani (al-Madhhaji) at the Head of the Vanguard Preceding
Towards Syria, He Issued this Document of Instruction to Him.
Fear Allah every morning and evening and remain apprehensive about yourself with regard to this deceitful world, and do not regard it as safe in any case. Be informed that if, for fear of some evil, you do not refrain from things which you love, passions will then fling you into a lot of harm. Therefore, refrain for your own soul and be your own protector against your anger; suppress and kill it.
To the People of Kufah
When He Marched from Medina to Basrah
I have come out of my city either as an oppressor or as an oppressed person, either as a rebel or as the one against whom rebellion has been committed. In any case, whomsoever this letter of mine reaches, I appeal to him in the name of Allah that he should come to me, and if I am in the right, he should help me; but if I am wrong, then he should try to get me to the right according to his view.
Written to the People of Various Localities
Describing What Took Place Between Him and the People of Siffin
It all began thus: We and the Syrians met in an encounter although we believe in one and the same God and follow the same Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and our message in Islam is the same. We did not want them to add anything to the belief in Allah or to acknowledging His Messenger (p.b.u.h.), nor did they want us to add any such things. In fact, there was a complete unity except that we differed on the question of shedding `Othman’s blood although we were not involved in it. We suggested to them to appease the situation by calming the temporary irritation and pacifying the people till matters settled down and stabilized when we would gain strength to put matters right.
They, however, said that they would settle it by war. Thus, they refused our offer and consequently war spread its wings and came to stay. Its flames rose and gained momentum. Once the war had bitten us as well as them and pierced its talons into us as well as into them, they accepted what we had proposed to them. So, we agreed to what they suggested and hastened to meet their request. In this way, the plea became clear to them and no excuse was left to them. Now, whoever among them adheres to this will be saved by Allah from ruin, and whoever shows obstinacy and insistence (on wrong) is the opposite: one whose heart has been blinded by Allah and evils will surround his head.
To al-Aswad ibn Qutbah, Governor of Hulwan
If the actions of a governor follow the passions, his justice will be greatly hampered. All people should be equal in their rights before you because injustice cannot substitute justice. Avoid that thing the like of which you will not like for your own self. Exert yourself in what Allah has made obligatory on you, hoping for His reward and fearing His chastisement.
Be informed that this world is a place of trial. Whoever here wastes any hour of his time will repent it on the Day of Judgment and nothing can ever make you too satisfied as not to need righteousness. One of your obligations is that you should protect yourself (from sins) and look after the subjects your best. The benefit that will come to you from this will be greater than that which will accrue (to people) through you, and that is the end of the matter.
To the Officers Through Whose Jurisdictions the Army Passes
From the servant of Allah, Ali ibn Aba Talib, to all the collectors of revenue and officers of the realm through whose area the army passes. I have sent an army that will pass by you, if Allah so wills. I have instructed them about what Allah has made obligatory on them, namely that they should avoid assault and shun harm. I hold myself clear before you and those (unbelievers) who are under your protection from any annoyance committed by the army except when one is compelled by hunger and there is no other way to satisfy it. If anyone of them takes anything by force, you should punish him. None of you should be foolish enough to obstruct them or intervene in matters which we have allowed them by way of exception. I myself am within the army. So, refer to me their high-handedness and any hardship which is caused by them and which you cannot avert except through Allah and through myself. I shall then avert it with the help of Allah, if He so wills.
To Kumayl ibn Ziyad an-Nakha`i, Governor of Hit,
Expressing Displeasure with His Inability to Prevent
the Enemy Forces That Passed Through His Area from Marauding
The negligence by a man of what he has been made responsible for, and the doing of what is to be done by others, is a manifest weakness and a ruinous sight. Certainly, your advance on the people of Qarqisiya and your abandonment of the forces over which we had appointed you, without anyone to protect them or to repulse the enemy force, are signs of a shattered mentality. In this way, you served like a bridge for the enemy who came marauding on your allies while your arms were weak. You had no force around you. You could not prevent the enemy from advancing. You could not break its might. You could not defend the people of your area and you could not carry out functions on behalf of your Imam.
To the People of Egypt Sent Through
Malik al-Ashtar When He Was Made Governor
Allah, the Glorified One, deputed Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) as a warner for all the worlds and a witness for all the prophets. When the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) expired, the Muslims quarreled about power after him. By Allah, it never occurred to me and I never imagined that after the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) the Arabs would snatch away the caliphate from his Ahlul-Bayt (p.b.u.t), nor that they would take it away from me after him, but I suddenly noticed how people surrounded the man to swear the oath of allegiance to him.
I, therefore, withheld my hand till I saw that many people were reverting from Islam and trying to destroy the religion of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). I then feared that if I did not protect Islam and its people, and if there occurred in it a breach or destruction, it would mean a greater blow to me than the loss of power over you which was, in any case, to last for a few days of which everything would pass away as the mirage passes away, or as the cloud scuds away. Therefore, in these eventualities, I rose till wrong was destroyed and disappeared and religion attained peace and safety.
An excerpt from the same letter:
By Allah, if I had encountered them alone and they had been so numerous as to fill earth to the brim, I will not have worried or become perplexed. I am clear in myself and possess conviction from Allah about their misguidance and my guidance. I am hopeful and expectant that I will meet Allah and get His good reward. But I am worried that foolish and wicked people will control the affairs of the entire community. The result: They will grab the funds of Allah as their own property and make His people slaves, fight with the virtuous and ally with the sinful. Indeed, there is among them whoever drank (wine) unlawfully and was whipped by way of punishment fixed by Islam and there is whoever did not accept Islam till he had secured financial gain through it. If this had not been so, I would not have emphasized gathering you, reprimanding you, mobilizing you and urging you (for jihad), but if you refuse and show weakness, I will leave you.
Do you not see that the boundaries of your cities have diminished, your populated areas have been conquered, your possessions have been snatched away and your cities and lands have been assaulted? May Allah have mercy on you, get up to fight your enemy and do not remain confined to the ground; otherwise, you will face oppression and suffer ignominy and your fate will be the worst. The warrior should be wakeful because if he sleeps, the enemy does not sleep, and that is the end of the matter.
To Abu Musa (`Abdullah ibn Qays) al-Ash`ari,
Governor of Kufah when Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him
learned that he was dissuading the people of Kufah from joining the forces
to fight the battle of Jamal when Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib,
Peace be Upon Him had called them to fight along with him:
From the servant of Allah, Ali ibn Aba Talib, to `Abdullah ibn Qays:
I have come to know of words uttered by you which go in your favor as well as against you. So, when my messenger reaches you, prepare yourself and get ready, come out of your den and call upon those who are with you. Then, if you are convinced of the truth, get up. But if you feel cowardly, go away. By Allah, you will be caught wherever you may be and you will not be spared till you are completely upset and everything about you is scattered and till you are shaken from your seat. Then, you will fear from your front as you do from the rear.
What you hope for is not a light matter; it is a serious calamity. We have to ride its camels, overcome its difficulties and level its mountains. Set your mind in order, take a grip on your affairs and acquire your (lot and your) share. If you do not like it, go away to where neither you are welcome nor can you escape. It is better that you be left alone and lie sleeping. Then no one will inquire where is so-and-so. By Allah, this is the case of right with the rightful person, and we do not care what the heretics do, and that is the end of the matter.
Replying to Mu`awiyah
Certainly, we and you were on amicable terms, as you mentioned, but differences arose between us and your own self the other day when we accepted belief (iman) while you rejected it. Today, the status is that we are steadfast (in our belief) but you are creating mischief. Those of you who accepted Islam did so reluctantly and that, too, took place when all the chief men had accepted Islam and joined the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his descendants).
You have stated that I killed Talhah and az-Zubayr, forced `A’isha out of her house and adopted residence between the two cities (Kufah and Basrah). These matters are none of your concern, nor do they involve anything against you. Therefore, no explanation about them is due to you.
You also state that you are coming to me with a party of Muhajiran and Ansar, but hijra came to an end on the day your brother was taken prisoner. If you are in a hurry, then wait a bit as I may come to meet you and that will be more befitting as it will mean that Allah has appointed me to punish you. But if you come to me, it will be just as the poet of Banu Asad said: “They are advancing against summer winds which are hurling stones on them in the highlands and in the lowlands.”
(Remember that) I still have the sword with which I dispatched your grandfather, mother’s brother and brother to one and the same place (Hell). By Allah, I know what you are! Your heart is sheathed and your intelligence is weak. It is better to say that you have ascended to where you view a bad scene which is against you, not in your favor, because you are searching a thing lost by someone else, you are tending someone else’s cattle and you are hankering after a thing which is not yours nor have you any attachment to it. How remote your words are from your actions, and how closely you resemble your paternal and maternal uncles who were led by their wickedness and love for wrong to oppose Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), consequently, they were killed as you know. They could not put up a defense against the calamity and could not protect their “safe haven” from the striking of swords which abound in the battle and which do not show weakness.
You have said a lot about the killing of `Othman. You must first join what the people have joined (i.e. allegiance) then seek a verdict about (the accused people) from me and I shall settle the matter between you and them according to the Book of Allah, the Sublime. But what you are aiming at is just the fake nipple given to a child in the first days of weaning. Peace be on those who deserve it.
Now is the time that you should benefit by observing a clear view of the main matters because you have been treading in the path of your forefathers of making wrong claims, spreading false and untrue notions, claiming for yourself what is far above you and demanding what is not meant for you: You want to run away from what is right and to rebellion against what is more fastened to your flesh and blood, namely what has been heard by the depth of your ears and has filled your chest. After forsaking right, nothing remains except clear misguidance, and after disregarding a (clear) statement, there is nothing left but confusion. You should, therefore, guard (yourself) against doubts and the ill-effects of confusion because for a long time, mischief has spread its veils and its gloom has blinded your eyes.
I have received your letter which is full of uncouth utterances: They weaken the cause of peace. It also is full of nonsensical expressions which have not been prepared with knowledge and forbearance. By reason of these things, you have become like one who is sinking in a marshy land or groping in a dark place. You have raised yourself to a status which is difficult to approach and is devoid of any signs (of guidance). Even the royal kite cannot reach it. It is parallel to the Ayyaq (the star Capella), in loftiness.
May Allah forbid that you should be in charge of people’s affairs after my assuming authority as caliph, or that I should issue an edict or document granting you authority over any of them. Therefore, from now on, you should guard yourself and be watchful because if you recalcitrate till the people of Allah (are forced to) rush upon you, then matters will be closed for you and whatever can be accepted from you today will not be accepted then, and that is the end of the matter.
To `Abdullah ibn `Abbas
(A different version of this letter has already been included)
Sometimes a person feels joyful about a thing which he was not to miss in any case and feels grieved for a thing which was not to come to him at all. You, therefore, should not regard the attainment of pleasure and the satisfaction of the desire for revenge as the best favor in this world; rather, the putting off of the (flame of) wrong and the revival of right should be so. Your pleasure should be for what (good deeds) you have sent forward; our grief for having lost you should be for what you are leaving behind, and your worry should be about what is to befall after death.
To Qutham ibn al-`Abbas,
his Governor over Mecca
Make arrangements for people’s hajj. Remind them of the days (of devotion to) Allah. Give them audience in the morning and in the evening. Explain the law to the seeker, teach the ignorant and hold discussions with the learned. There should be no intermediary between you and the people except your tongue and no guard save your own face. Do not prevent any needy person from meeting you because if the needy is returned unsatisfied from your door in the first instance, even doing it thereafter will not bring you praise.
See what has been levied with you of the funds of Allah (in the public treasury) and spend it over the persons who have families, the distressed, the starving, the naked, at your end. Then send the remainder to us for distribution to those at this end.
Ask the people of Mecca not to charge rent from lodgers because Allah, the Glorified One, says the following: “... alike for the dweller therein as well as the stranger” (Holy Qur’an, 22: 25). “al-`akif” (the mosque dweller) here means whoever is living there, while “al-badi” (the stranger) means whoever is not among the people of Mecca, one who comes for hajj from outside. May Allah grant us and yourself promptitude for seeking His love (by doing good deeds), and that is the end of the matter.
To Salman al-Farisi Prior to
Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib’s Caliphate
The example of the world is like that of a snake which is soft in touch but whose poison is fatal. Therefore, keep yourself aloof from whatever appears to be good to you because of its short stay with you. Do not worry about it because of your conviction that it will leave you and that its circumstances are vicissitudes. When you feel most attracted to it, shun it the most because whenever someone is assured of happiness in it, it throws him into danger, or when he feels secure in it, the world alters his security into fear, and that is the end of the matter.
To al-Harith (ibn `Abdillah, al-A`war) al-Hamdani:
Adhere to the rope of the Holy Qur’an and seek instructions from it. Regard its lawful as lawful and its unlawful as unlawful. Testify to the right that has been in the past. Take lessons for the present condition of this world from the past (conditions) because its one phase resembles the other, its end is to meet its beginning, and everything in it is to change and disappear. Regard the Name of Allah as too great to mention Him save in the matter of righteousness. Remember death more often and (what is to come) after death. Do not long for death except when depending on a reliable condition.
Avoid every action the doer of which likes for himself but dislikes for the Muslims in general. Avoid every action which is performed in secrecy and from which shame is felt openly. Also avoid the action the doer of which is questioned and he himself regards it as bad or offers excuses for it. Do not expose your honor to be treated as the subject of people’s talks. Do not relate to the people all that you hear, for that will amount to falsehood. Do not contest all that the people relate to you for that will mean ignorance. Kill your anger and forgive when you have power (to punish). Show forbearance in the moment of rage and pardon in spite of authority; the eventual end will then be in your favor. Seek good out of every favor that Allah has bestowed on you, and do not waste any favor of Allah over you. The effect of Allah’s favors over you should be visible on you.
Be informed that the most distinguished among the believers is one who is the most forward in spending from his own funds on himself, his family and property because whatever good you send forward will remain in store for you and the benefit of whatever you keep behind will be derived by others. Avoid the company of the person whose opinion is unsound and whose action is detestable because a man is judged after the company which he keeps.
Live in big cities because they are collective centers of the Muslims. Avoid places of neglectfulness and wickedness and places where there are paucity of supporters for the obedience of Allah. Confine your thinking to matters which are helpful to you. Do not sit in the marketing centers because they are the meeting places of Satan and the targets of mischief mongers. Frequently look at those over whom you enjoy superiority because this is a way of giving thanks.
Do not undertake a journey on Friday till you have attended the prayers except when you are going in the way of Allah, or in an excusable matter. Obey Allah in all your affairs because Allah’s obedience has precedence over all other things. Lure your heart into worshipping, persuade it and do not force it. Engage it (in worshipping) when it is free and merry, except as regarding the obligations enjoined upon you, for they should not be neglected and must be performed at the five appointed times. Be on guard lest death should come down upon you while you have fled away from your Lord in search of worldly pleasures. Avoid the company of the wicked because vice adjoins vice. Regard Allah as great and love His lovers. Keep off anger because it is one large army from Satan’s armies, and that is the end of the matter.
To Sahl Ibn Hunayf al-Ansari, His Governor over Medina,
About Certain Persons in Medina Who Had Joined Mu`awiyah:
I have come to know that certain persons from your side are stealthily going over to Mu`awiyah. Do not feel sorry for their numbers so lost to you or for their help of which you are deprived. It is enough that they have gone into misguidance and you have been relieved of them. They are running away from guidance and truth and advancing towards blindness and ignorance. They are seekers of this world and are proceeding to it, leaping towards it. They have known justice, seen it, heard it and appreciated it. They have realized that here, to us, all men are equal in the matter of what is right. Therefore, they ran away to selfishness and partiality. Let them remain remote and far away.
By Allah, surely they have not gone away from oppression nor joined justice. In this matter, we only desire Allah to resolve for us its hardships and to level for us its unevenness, if Allah wills, and that is the end of the matter.
To Mundhir ibn Jarad al-`Abdi Who, in His
Administrative Charge, Had Misappropriated Certain Things:
The good behavior of your father deceived me about you, and I thought that you would follow his way and tread on his path. But according to what has reached me about you, you are not giving up following your own inclinations and are not retaining any provision for the next world. You are making this world by ruining your next life and doing good to your kinsmen by cutting yourself off from religion.
If what has reached me about you is correct, then the camel of your family and the strap of your shoe are better than your own self. A man with qualities like yours is not fit to close a hole in the ground, nor for performing any deed, nor for increasing his status, nor for taking him as a partner in any trust, nor for trusting him against misappropriation. Therefore, proceed to me as soon as this letter reaches you if Allah so wills.
Sayyid ar-Razi says the following: “Mundhir ibn Jarad al-`Abdi is the one about whom Imam Ali ibn Aba Talib (p.b.u.h.) said the following: ‘He looks very often at his own shoulders, feeling proud of his garments (appearance) and usually blowing away (dust) from his shoes.’”
To `Abdullah ibn `Abbas:
You cannot go farther than the limit of your life, nor can you be given a livelihood which is not for you. Remember that this life consists of two days: a day for you and a day against you, and that the world is a house (changing) authorities. Whatever in it is for you and would come to you despite your weakness, and if anything in it turns against you, it cannot be brought back despite your strength.
In exchanging replies and listening to your letters [as someone reads them for me], my view has been weak and my intelligence has been erring. When you refer your demands to me and expect me to send you written replies, you are like one who is in deep slumber while his dreams contradict him, or one who stands perplexed and overwhelmed, not knowing whether what comes to him is for him or against him. You are not such a man but he is (to some extent) like you (as you are worse than him). I swear by Allah that, had it not been for (my) giving you time, you would have faced from me a catastrophe that would have crushed the bones and removed the flesh. Be informed that Satan has prevented you from turning to good actions and from listening to the words of counsels. Peace be upon those who deserve it.
Written by Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him as a
Protocol Between the Tribes of Rabi`ah and the People of Yemen,
Taken from the Writing of Hisham Ibn (Muhammad) al-Kalbi:
This indenture contains what the people of Yemen, including the townsmen and the nomads, in addition to the tribes of Rabi`ah, including the townsmen and the nomads, have agreed on this: that they will adhere to the Book of Allah, will call to it and enjoin according to it and will respond to whoever calls to it and enjoins according to it. They will not sell it for any price nor accept any alternative for it. They will join hands against anyone who opposes it and abandons it. They will help one another. Their voice will be one. They will not break their pledge on account of the rebuke of one who rebukes, or of the wrath of an angry person, or the humiliating treatment of one group to the other, or the use of abusive terms by one party against the other.
To Mu`awiyah, Soon after Imam Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be
Upon Him Was Sworn In. (Muhammad Ibn `Umar) al-Waqidi
Has Mentioned this Letter in His Book Kitab al-Jamal:
From the servant of Allah, Ali, Ibn Aba Talib, to Mu`awiyah son of Aba Sufyan: You are aware of my excuses before you, people, and my shunning you till that happened which was inevitable and which could not be prevented. The story is long and much is to be said. What was to pass has passed and what was to come has come. Therefore, secure (my) allegiance from those who are with you and come in a deputation of your people to me, and that is the end of the matter.
Given to `Abdullah ibn `Abbas at the time
of his appointment at his Governor of Basrah:
Meet people with a broad smile, allow them free audience and pass generous orders. Avoid anger because it is the augury of Satan. Remember that whatever takes you near Allah takes you away from the Fire (of Hell) and whatever takes you away from Allah takes you near the Fire.
To `Abdullah ibn `Abbas at the Time
of His Deputation to Confront the Kharijites:
Do not argue with them through the medium of the Holy Qur’an because the Holy Qur’an has many faces. You will say your own and they will say theirs; but argue with them by the Sunnah because they cannot find any escape from it.
To Abu Musa al-Ash`ari in Reply to the Latter’s Letter
Regarding the Two Arbitrators. Sa’id ibn Yahya al-Umawi
Has Mentioned this in His Akitab Al-Maghazi:
Certainly, many people have turned away from many a (lasting) benefit (of the next life), for they bent towards the world and spoke with passion. I have been struck with wonder in this matter upon which people who are conceited have agreed. I am providing a cure for their wound but I fear lest it should develop into a clot of blood (and becomes incurable). Remember that nobody is more desirous than I for the unity of the umma of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and their solidarity. I seek through it good reward and an honorable place to return to.
I shall fulfill what I have pledged upon myself even though you may go back from the sound status that existed when you last left me because wretched is one who is denied the benefit of wisdom and experience. I feel enraged if anyone utters falsehood, or if I should worsen a matter which Allah has kept sound. Therefore, leave out what you do not understand because wicked people will be conveying to you vicious things; and that is the end of the matter.
To the Army Officers When Imam
Ali Ibn Aba Talib, Peace be Upon Him Became Caliph:
What ruined those (nations) before you was that they denied people their rights, then they had to purchase them (with bribes), and they led the people to wrongdoing, and the latter followed their lead.