Imam Ali (AS) the Symbol of Justice

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SHAFAQNA - Heartfelt condolences to you all on these tragic days of Ramadhan that we are passing through. For your information the Islamic Republic of Iran is draped in black and people are busy since yesterday attending mourning ceremonies to commemorate the anniversary of the departure from the world of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), the First Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), who yesterday on the 19th of Ramadhan was struck a fatal sword blow on his head while in the state of the Morning Prayer, and achieved martyrdom three days later on the 21st of the month of fasting.

Today is the 20th of Ramadhan and we start this feature with the special supplication of the day:

“O Allah! Open for me this day the gates of paradise, and shut for me therein the gates of hellfire, and grant me success in reading the Qur’an; O You who sends down tranquility into the hearts of the faithful!”

Today is the 20th of Ramadhan, the day in 8 AH, on which Mecca, the hitherto bastion of paganism, surrendered without a fight to Muslims. Today Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) entered his hometown which he was forced to leave 8 years earlier, because of the plot against his life that was nullified thanks to the courage of his young cousin, Imam Ali (AS), who volunteered to sleep on his bed that night so that the Messenger of God could leave for Medina, undetected by the assassins hovering around the house of divine revelation. Now on entering Mecca in 8 AH, the Prophet of Peace declared general amnesty to his mortal enemies the Meccans. This act of clemency had a profound effect on the pagan Arabs and multitudes of them became Muslim. Among the important acts of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) on this day was to order the demolishing of the idols placed in and around the holy Ka’ba by the Arab infidels. He himself took part in this cleansing of the symbolic House of God, along with Imam Ali (AS), who incidentally was born in this symbol of monotheism – the only person ever to be born in the holy Ka’ba. It is worth noting that that the chief idol atop the holy Ka’ba was smashed by Imam Ali (AS) who was lifted on his shoulders by Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) to deliver this coup-de-grace. It is indeed a great honour for the Imam to be raise on his shoulders by the Prophet. No other person had such an honour, except the Prophet’s grandsons, that is, the Imam’s two sons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon them), who as children used to be seated by the grandfather on his shoulders.

It is written in the books of hadith and history that when the Prophet lifted his dear son-in-law on his shoulders and asked him how he felt, Imam Ali (AS) replied that he felt so highly elevated as if he could reach the stars of the skies. Sadly, 32 years after the bloodless fall of Mecca, the person who was as firm and steadfast as the holy Ka’ba in his God-oriented resolve was tragically martyred these days by the enemies of humanity. Once on the eve of Ramadhan, towards the end of a memorable sermon on the blessings of the month of fasting, the Prophet had burst into tears, and informed his dear cousin of the tragedy that would befall him in this fasting month. He had foretold:

“O Ali whoever kills you has (in fact) killed me, whoever annoys you has annoyed me and whoever slanders you has slandered me, because you are to me like my soul. Your spirit is my spirit and your nature is my nature. Surely, Allah the Praised and the Glorious created me then you, chose me then you. Selected me for Prophethood and selected you for Imamate. And whoever denies your Imamate has (in fact) denied my Prophethood. O Ali, you are my legatee and father of my (grand)children, and husband of my daughter, and my Caliph (vicegerent) over my ummah both in my lifetime and after my death. Your bidding is my bidding, and your forbidding is my forbidding. I swear by the Power that granted me Prophethood and made me the most excellent of creation, you are the Hujjat-Allah (Proof of Allah) over His creatures, and His Trustee over mysteries and His Caliph over His creatures.”

Till this day, Imam Ali (AS), whose ideal administration of justice has yet to be emulated, is remembered as the Martyr for the Cause of Freedom and Liberties. As the most nearest and dearest person to the Prophet, he had stood beside his cousin through every thick and thin, frustrating the bloodcurdling plots of the hypocrites in order to free human societies from the fetters of ignorance, superstition and polytheism. Though proclaimed by the Prophet, as per the command of God Almighty, as vicegerent at the historic gathering of Ghadir-Khom, he had seen the violators of freedom gang up against him to deprive him of his political rights no sooner had the Prophet left the mortal world. They did a great disservice to Islam and humanity, but Imam Ali (AS) for the sake of Islamic unity and freedom of the people, kept silent for 25 years, until the caliphate or political rule came begging at his door. He initially refused, but when the leaderless masses insisted, he reluctantly took up the reins of political power, on condition that he will abide only by the Law of God as envisaged in the Holy Qur’an and by its practical demonstration that the Prophet had given during his mission, since these were the two things that guaranteed freedom in society.

For the next almost five years, he strove earnestly in building the model administration of social justice, which the world has not seen ever since, and he made it a fundamental pillar of his rule to safeguard public liberties and freedom. He stressed the people were free to lodge complaints against erring officials and criticize them for their inability to provide security and public order. The book Nahj al-Balaghah, which contains his sermons, letters and maxims, is an excellent testimony in this regard. For instance, the epistle of the Imam to Malek Ashtar, his governor of the then Christian-majority Egypt, has been hailed as the finest charter of human rights, better than what the United Nations has been able to draft. The Imam tells the governor to observe the highest forms of impartiality, clemency, modesty of character, generosity and discipline even to those who are non-Muslims, since in the words of the Imam they are after all human beings. This is undoubtedly the highest form of respect for freedom and rights that the modern world has still not been able to match.

The Imam did not force those who had refused to pay him allegiance to submit to him nor did he harbour a grudge against them by excluding them from public amenities. However, as for those who tried to stir up trouble and shed Muslim blood, he took decisive action against them for the sake of protecting public freedoms. The Battles that he was forced to fight by his opponents at Basra in southern Iraq, at Siffeen in Syria and at Nahrwan in central Iraq, are proof of his lofty observance of human rights and freedoms. For example, after the Battle of Jamal near Basra, when the Prophet’s erring wife Ayesha had tried to create sedition, Imam Ali (AS) displayed the extreme magnanimity by ordering his soldiers neither to chase the fugitives nor to humiliate the captives. He in fact, sent Ayesha back to Medina with respect despite the fact that she harboured malice towards him and the Prophet’s grandchildren. The same spirit was evident in the protracted War of Siffeen that dragged on against the rebellious governor of Syria, Mua’wiyah ibn Abu Sufyan for over a year. At the onset of the hostilities Mua’wiyah cut off access to the waters of the River Euphrates for the Imam’s forces. But when the Imam took over the river bank, he refused to withhold water from his enemies, and although the armed battles were still raging on, he permitted enemies to have free access to the river, saying that water like air and sunshine is among the bounties of God Almighty, Who never deprives even disbelievers of these basic amenities of life.

Even the Khawarej or the Renegades, who spared no effort to cause civil disturbance and even plotted against his life, were not deprived by him of their rights as citizens. After his victory over them at the Battle of Nahrwan the Imam forbade his followers from persecuting the Khawarej after him. Such freedom is surely without precedence and even the modern concept of democracy pales into insignificance when compared to the liberties that were taught to humanity by Imam Ali (AS).

In short, Imam Ali (AS) was the supreme example of social justice the world has ever seen. Even non-Muslim scholars have praised his dynamic personality. The Christian scholar George Jordaq has written a series of excellent books titled: Imam Ali (AS) and Socrates; Imam Ali and Aristotle; Imam Ali and the French Revolution; and Imam Ali the Voice of Human Justice. Jordaq has shown that Imam Ali (AS) excels all comparisons, and the freedom and liberties that he enshrined are still beyond the reach of human societies despite the bragging of democracy and human rights by western governments, whose practice is nothing but outright hypocrisy. We thus pay our sincere tribute to this Icon of Justice, whose model government has been the source of inspiration in every age and era for those striving for justice in society. We pray to God to hasten the reappearance of the Lord of the Age, Imam Mahdi (PBUH) to cleanse the world of all vestiges of corruption and oppression by establishing the global government of peace, prosperity and justice.

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