Imam Ali and Political Leadership

always assert the allocation of part of treasury resources to the underprivileged and the low-income class. His strong emphasis on canceling undue and ambiguous privileges and granting equal rights to relatives and non-relatives, Arabs and non-Arabs, men and women, the famous and the unknown has displayed a brilliant image of human justice to those searching for justice in the world.
2. Not locking up public assets: Hastening in spending (infāq) and the avoidance of locking up public assets are among the basic characteristics of economic policies in Islam. Despite its emphasis on the necessity of moderation and even planning and precautions in spending, Islam has strongly condemned the locking up of the public property and stressed on speed in disbursement.
Considering the two above features, the ideal practice of spending from the public treasury can be stated as follows: Whenever part of the (state’s) incomes is dedicated through certain planning to a particular purpose in a way that both the income and the expense are immediate, delay in spending in such cases is regarded as ‘storing’ and ‘parsimony’, and that is what the hadiths concerning the ‘avoidance of accumulating public property’ refer to.
The holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.) concern for observing this principle was so great that when even a small amount of the property that was supposed to be handed over to those who were entitled to it, remained in his hand, he would become very sorrowful. In the time of `Umar, when there had been an unprecedented increase in public incomes, the government proceeded to establish public treasury and to set up state council. The public incomes were collected and stored all year round then finally distributed among Muslims at the end of the year.
Rejecting this policy, Imām Ali (a.s.) took up the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) procedure in this respect after he took reign over the government. His avoidance of delaying the distribution of the public treasury, even for a single night, and his emphasis on distributing what existed in the public treasury and even the dividing of a rope into seven portions indicates his great concern for refraining from piling up public property.

Imam Ali and Political Leadership

An Explanation on the Method of Distribution of Public Revenue in Early Islam

The term “Public Treasury” in the hadith texts is a general term for the public income of the Muslims that is left to the Islamic state to be spent. A comprehensive study of hadith (narrations) reveals that there are two categories of expenditure for the public treasury: the specific and the general.

1. Specific Expenditure

This category includes a series of public expenditure that has specific titles, such as: providing for the poor, the needy, the disabled and the families of martyrs; providing salaries for judges and troops; education and health care; the prisoners expenditures; [discharging the] debts of the [desperate] debtors; [discharging] blood money (diya) for the murdered who had no personal perpetrators; the developing and building of cities, etc.

2. General Expenditure

In early Islam, after providing for the specific expenditure, the surplus of public treasury was distributed among the Muslims. In hadith texts, this type of expenditure is referred to as the people’s general right in the public treasury.
The ideal distribution of the public treasury from an Islamic viewpoint relies on two fundamental features: 1) Observing justice and fairness in distribution, 2) Not locking up any public assets.
1. Observing justice in distribution: Economic justice in the distribution of public facilities in Islam, incorporates two main criteria: giving priority to social welfare and fulfilling the needs of the underprivileged and vulnerable strata and increasing their welfare; observing justice regarding equal entitlements.
The clearest instance of these two criteria is seen in Imām Ali’s (a.s.) distribution policies. In his letters to his governors, he would

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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