SHAFAQNA-An ideal leader of a society is the one who ever remains aware and concious of the problems afflicting his people.The one who feels deeply concerned of their poverty,sickness and lack of means for their upliftment. Despite himself having sufficient provisions of food and other amenities for his own home, he refrains from remaining satiated in order to share with his people in their afflictions.
Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as) when as Caliph of the Muslim Ummah appointed Uthman bin Hunaif as his governor of Basra. When he came to know that the people of that place had invited him to a banquet and served him with sumptuous dishes,he wrote him a letter with the following words of reprovement:
â€œI never thought that you would accept the feast of a people who turn out the beggars and invite the rich.Remember that every follower has a leader whom he follows and from the brightness of whose knowledge he takes light. Realize that your Imam has contented himself with two shabby pieces of cloth out of the (comforts of the) world and two loaves for his meal.By Allah I have not treasured any gold out of your world nor amassed plentiful wealth nor collected any clothes other than the two shabby sheets.If I wished, I could have taken the path of (relishing such pleasures as) pure honey, refined wheat and silk clothing but it cannot be that my possessions should lead me and my greed should make me enjoy good meals, while there may be people in Hijaz or Yamamah who have no hope of getting bread and who do not get a full meal. Should I lie with a satiated belly in the midst of hungry bellies and thirsty livers?â€
Perhaps those leaders and men in high positions who are accustomed to amassing wealth by dubious means and live a life of pomp and extravagence would draw lesson from the above words of the Imam. Their doing so is in fact at the expense of the poor masses who ill-afford the rising cost of basic needs of life.
â€œShall I be content with being called Ameerul-muâ€™mineen (The Commander of the Faithful) although I do not share with the people in their hardships of the world?â€
Ibn Abee Rafay says that on an Idd day sitting with Ali bin Abi Talib (as) he saw a bag containing dry pieces of bread softened with water.He asked, â€œHas God prohibited you to eat better food?â€.The Imam replied,
â€No, but I want to eat the kind of food which the poorest of this realm can afford atleast once a day. I shall improve it after I have improved their standard of lifeâ€.
LEADERâ€™S MISUSE OF POSITION UNACCEPTABLE
One of the main subjects on which the dailies these days present to us fresh news of our morning reading is the ever-increasing cases of fraud and corruption. Be they committed by individuals or by those in high positions in public institutions, the news are indeed sickening for honest readers. It makes one wonder if in our midst of generation of thugs and crooks is being allowed to grow up. So daring have those involved become that the amounts of funds or properties disappearing run into millions of shillings (or dollars or pounds).
This subject would appear more appalling and tragic when one observes that those involved are men in high public positions, those relied upon and entrusted with the job of safeguarding public properties. Let us view this question in the light of past Islamic history and may be we get an idea of the causes behind this scourge and possible solution for it.
By the time Ali bin Abi Talib (as) was implored upon by the Muslim Ummah to accept to accept the Caliphate and when he reluctantly did so, there had existed a state of widespread corrupt practices. Even some of the governors and commissioners in the Islamic state had succumbed to temptations of misuse of public properties. Ali bin Abi Talib (as) embarked upon eradicating all sorts of corrupt practices in his administration as he strived day and night to establish an Islamic rule of social justice free of frauds and nepotism. In his letter to a commissioner of some area, he wrote;
â€œI have been given to understand that you have taken possession of state lands and that you have not only brought them under personal use but have also misappropriated government money.Will you immediately send detailed accounts (about both the items).Remember the reckoning of the Lord (on the Day of Judgement) is far more severe than an audit which man can carry out.â€
How imperative it is for leaders and heads of institutions to keep a look out for cases of frauds and misappropriation and be ready to demand accounts and explanation from those responsible is what we learn from the foregoing. This could only be done effectively by those who have clean hands and maintain straight records themselves. In the eyes of Ali (as) more than the human audit and scrutiny is the fear of Allah and His reckoning and chastisement in after life that is effective in checking human misdeeds. Hence his repeated mention of this in his sayings, sermons and letters to his officers and people. The fact is that unless man is made to inculcate in his mind the fear of his Lord and conviction about the severe accounting before Him one day to come, he could hardly be expected to exercise self-control over his actions. Again to one of his provincial governors who ran away with public treasury, he wrote this:
â€œYou invaded the public treasury and you looted as much as was possible the money which was reserved for old,widows,orphans and the poor. In this plunder,your action was so quick,so nimble and so effective that it resembled the action of a very active and weary wolf attacking and snatching away a wounded and helpless goat.You have with pleasure sent this looted wealth to Hijaz.â€
From the foregoing, it is evident that Ali bin Abi Talib (as) was drawing attention to those in highÂ public positions, that they should not lose sight of the fact that any misuse of public funds is in fact directly or indirectly from funds reserved for the upliftment of the poor of whom some could be orphans and widows as well. How would they like others to misappropriate properties belonging to their own widows or orphans when they were no more alive in this mortal world? Again in expressing the resemblance of such people with a wolf snatching away a wounded helpless goat, the Imam was in fact exposing their extreme cruelty and lack of sense of humanity and sympathy over the weak and poor.
Thus we see that the scourge of misuse of positions and frauds in one form or the other to have been in existence even in olden times. Man is so greedy and hasty in his desire to grow rich overnight as if it were his main aim of life. Unless he is provided with high moral education and his mind is effectively inculcated with fear of Allah, with conviction of his having to account for his deeds and misdeeds, no other method could be more effective to check his actions. Those engaged in fraudulent practices for amassing wealth forget that in the end they are the losers as the natural law of â€˜tit for tatâ€™ works its way. Easy comes easy goes as the saying goes, the illicitly acquired wealth irrespective of hardship caused to others does not last nor does it provide true happiness.
What is essentially needed today is effective moral education with regular lessons on ethics to be introduced in schools. Similarly moral awakening through lectures and seminars in public institutions need be given paramount importance. Let leaders of every department in public institutions also set examples by their upright character and honest efficient services for the welfare of the public.
Readers are requested to recite suratul-Fatiha for the thawaab of Marhum Ahmed H Sheriff.
Mulla Mujaheedali Sheriff