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Imam Ali and Political Leadership

Any slight familiarity with the viewpoints and behavior of Imām Ali (a.s.) leaves no doubt that he was far from any political maneuvering and had a true aversion to the very government itself. Ali (a.s.) was neither seeking to rule nor intending to dominate over people. He considered government as an instrument for the establishment of rights, spreading justice and implementing equality. Were the political, social and cultural circumstances of those days prepared for achieving such goals of a government? Now, after twenty five years of political, social and intellectuals vicissitudes and other spiritual and mental changes, the companions had also undergone changes with different ideas and criterions and views for life, and so on.
The present generation who are leading the political arena and are engaged in the current challenges are neither familiar with the firm criterions and standards of religion, nor with the conditions of the era of the Prophetic revelation, nor with the sira (conduct) of the Prophet (s.a.w.), or are they truly aware of Imām Ali (a.s.) and his high position in religion and his great virtue. What befell the religion in that quarter of a century was because of (false) explanations and interpretations of religious texts along with distortions that were made in the Divine laws.
All of these things created an image of religion in the minds and sayings of people which made it extremely difficult to act according to the Book of God and the traditions (sunna) far from courtesy and flattery. Imām Ali (a.s.) knew well that trying to reverse the situation would be tantamount to prompting all kinds of disturbance and that the implementing of truthfulness would urge the wrongdoers and deceivers to rise up! He therefore persistently refused to submit, in order that the rebellions would not have any excuses in future. This is why he said in a sermon:
دعوني والتمسوا غیري، فإنّا مستقبلون أمراً له وجوه وألوان، لا تقوم له القلوب ولا تثبت علیه العقول. وإنّ الآفاق قد أغامت، والمحجّة قد تنکّرت، واعلموا أنّي إن أجبتکم رکبت بکم ما أعلم، ولم اُصغِ إلی قول القائل وعتب العاتب، وإن ترکتموني فأنا کأحدکم، ولعلّي أسمعکم وأطوَعکم لمن ولّیتموه أمرکم، وأنا لکم وزیراً، خیر لکم منّي أمیراً.Leave me and seek someone else, for we are facing a matter which has multiple faces and colors, which neither hearts can


Imam Ali and Political Leadership
128

An Analysis of the Reasons for Imām Ali’s (a.s.) Reluctance to Accept Rulership

The general uprising against `Uthmān by all the masses took place because of his method of ruling. The expansion of the revolt against `Uthmān and the people’s attention towards an eminent figure to become the caliph had practically taken the caliphate out of the clutches of political trends. Thus, it was the people who were deciding on their political leader. In such a critical situation, almost all hearts were directed towards Imām Ali (a.s.) without the slightest doubt, as he was the most appropriate successor to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), whose name is mentioned again by all after twenty five years of seclusion.
The general inclination of the people was so strong and to the extent that nobody could oppose this public movement. Therefore, the claimants who had assumed themselves as equal to Ali (a.s.) and had been beside him in `Umar’s electoral council of six people were feeling that it was politically reasonable to precede others in swearing allegiance to Imam (a.s.).
People from all walks of life crowded the way towards Imām Ali’s (a.s.) house to pledge their allegiance. The Imām strongly resisted and refused to accept, explicitly asked them to go to someone else, saying: “I am better for you as a counselor than being a commander."
How surprising! Someone who regarded himself as the immediate successor to the Messenger of God (s.a.w.) and during his long period of seclusion used to speak of his oppressed state on every occasion and in any appropriate situation, and prove his worthiness of caliphate and that his rights have been usurped, is now clearly pronouncing his unwillingness to accept the responsibility of caliphate and ruling which was then so strongly and whole-heartedly and in a free and direct election demanded and approved of by such great multitudes of followers.
Why was this so?! Did the Imām not like to accept rulership and he was inclined towards the ruling of another person?! Or was he playing a political maneuver by taking such a stance in order to attract more popular support?! Or there are other reasons for these two approaches in his life.

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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