Imam Ali and Political Leadership

In another statement he (a.s.) mentions the mutual rights of the people and the leader as follows:
حَقٌّ عَلَى الإمامِ أن يَحكُمَ بِما أنزَلَ اللهُ و أن يُؤَدِّىَ الأَمانَةَ، فَإِذا فَعَلَ فَحَقٌّ عَلَى الناسِ أن يَسمَعوا لَهُ وأن يُطيعوا ، وأن يُجيبوا إذا دُعوا.“It is incumbent upon the leader (imam) to rule according to what God has ordained and to hand over the trust. Once he does so, it is incumbent on the people to accept his words, obey his commands and respond to him when they are summoned.”1
In this discourse, not only is the leader’s right dependent on fulfilling the rights of the people, but the right of leadership (imāmah) and authority (wilāyah) is also considered as an entrusted right.
Throughout history, the safeguarding of people’s rights has never passed beyond being a mere slogan; rather, it (slogan) has always been a means of violating people’s rights and suppressing the truth.
Within the history of Islam, after the era of the holy Prophet (s.a.w.), the time of Imām Ali (a.s.) was an exception in the establishment of social justice, expansion of equity and the fulfilling of people’s rights. Unfortunately, people could not take the best advantage of this valuable opportunity as a result of the disturbances and turmoil. This in fact was an injustice which was done to his ruling. In this regard he (a.s.) has said:
إن كانَتِ الرَّعايا قَبلي لَتَشكو حَيفَ رُعاتِها وإنَّني اليَومَ لاَشكو حَيفَ رَعِيَّتي.“If the people prior to my era complained of the injustice of the rulers, then indeed today I complain of the injustice of my own people.”2
It so happened that Imām Ali (a.s.) hastened to meet his Almighty Lord with a heart, burdened with sorrows. Justice also departed with his departure and once again there were governments and the oppression of the masses and violation of their rights!

1.. Kanz al-`Ummāl, vol. ۵, p. ۷۶۴, h. ۱۴۳۱۳.

2.. The Encyclopedia of Amir al-Mu'minin, vol. ۹, p. ۴۰۸-۴۱۹ h. ۴۷۴۸ ۴۷۴۹.

Imam Ali and Political Leadership

and its supporters made an assertion that the people had only duties and responsibilities towards the state and had no rights. This was sufficient to turn the lovers of liberty and democracy against religion and God in general and the Church in particular.
This mode of thought, in the West as well as in the East is deeply rooted in ancient times....1
Based on this dangerous way of thinking, people have no right against the leader; and authority and religious leadership means taking away people’s socio-political rights, and in short, leaders are masters and people are servants! It is obvious that the government that is run on this basis lacks popular support and the leader who has this kind of belief about people’s rights would not enjoy people’s consent and support.

The Mutual Rights of the People and Leadership

From the viewpoint of Imām Ali (a.s.) the right of the political leader of the society within this doctrine does not conflict with the rights of the people, but in fact his right is dependent on securing their rights and the people are bound to obey and protect the leader only if their rights are secured within the system under his rule.
In this respect, Imām Ali (a.s.) says:
أمّا بَعدُ، فَقَد جَعَلَ اللهُ سُبحانَهُ لي عَلَيكُم حَقّاً بِوِلايَةِ أمرِكُم ، ولَكُم عَلَيَّ مِنَ الحَقِّ مِثلُ الَّذي لي عَلَيكُم، فَالحَقُّ أوسَعُ الأَشياءِ في التَّواصُفِ وأضيَقُها في التَّناصُفِ، لايَجري لاَِحَدٍ إلّا جَرَى عَلَيهِ، و لايَجري عَلَيهِ إلاّ جَرَى لَهُ.“Now, God Almighty has given me rights over you by giving me the authority over your affairs, and you too have a right over me the same as my right over you. A right is the vastest of things in description, but the narrowest in equitability of action. It does not apply in favor of any person unless it also applies against him and it does not apply against a person unless it also applies in his favor.2

1.. Ibid. p. ۱۱۹.

2.. See, ۶/۲, h. ۳۰۵.

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