Imam Ali and Political Leadership

The efforts of Imām Ali (a.s.) in this respect were unfortunately of no avail. The prevalence of the aforementioned situation seriously hindered the basic reforms of Ali’s (a.s.) rule and this was extremely painful for him as his decisions were occasionally left unfulfilled by the opposition of an individual who was backed by a large group of ignorant followers. Imām described this sorrowful situation as follows:
النّاسُ الثَلاثَةٌ: فَعَالِمٌ رَبّانِيٌّ، ومُتَعَلِّمٌ عَلَی سَبیلِ نَجَاةٍ، وهَمَجٌ رَعَاعٌ أَتبَاعٌ کُلِّ نَاعِقٍ. People are divided into three groups: a Lordly (divinely inspired) knower, one seeking knowledge who moves along the path of salvation, and the riffraff and rabble, the followers of every screaming voice, those who bend with every wind, who have not sought to be illuminated by the light of knowledge and who have not had recourse to a solid support.1
In this insightful statement, Imām Ali (a.s.) divides people into three groups concerning to the choosing of their way of life:
1. The learned who have found the way: ‘Divine Scholars’.
2. The seekers of truth and those on the path of deliverance from darkness and corruption: ‘The learners on the path of salvation’.
3. People who neither know the right and straight path nor its correct course; rather, they are prompted to move by blind following of the influential. Imām has called them the uncivilized rabble (hamaj ra`ā), who are like the petty flies who sit on the faces of animals, and the foolish ignorant who are moved around, with any blowing wind and drift along any flow, without achieving any firm position.
By the Imām’s (a.s.) analysis, those who neither know the right way of life nor allow themselves any wise deliberation and knowledge and blindly follow others are like flies that have gathered around those who are more ignorant than themselves and seek benefit from them. Such people neither possess a firm intellectual status nor are

1.. Nahj al-Balāghah, Aphorism ۱۴۷.

Imam Ali and Political Leadership

Finally after much insistence by the people and his frequent refusals, Imām Ali (a.s.) took over the caliphate, so as to restore a right, lead the community back to the conduct (sira) of the Prophet, revive the forgotten genuine Islamic values in the society, and to spread reforms in all bureaucratic, cultural, economic, social and judicial fields. In one of his earlier sermons, he stated among other things, the perspective of these changes.
In other words, while people were motivated by the material and worldly inclinations, Ali (a.s.) was motivated by truth-centrism, seeking God’s pleasure and being concerned about the revival of religious values. In this regard he (a.s.) said:
لَیسَ أمري وأمرُکُم واحِداً. إنّي اُریدُکُم للهِ وأنتُم تُریدونَنی لِأنفُسِکُم.“My concerns and yours are not the same. I want you for the sake of Allah but you want me for your own self.”1
In such a time when some people saw Imām Ali’s (a.s.) persistence in his goals and realized that they could not be in harmony with these goals, they turned away and abandoned Ali (a.s.) and refused to support him. As time passed, religious concerns, Divine motives and Islamic-human orientation of Imām Ali’s (a.s.) rule were further manifested. At the same time, the distance became wider and the support of those who were seeking other than the truth slackened even more.

2. The Betrayal of the Elite and Obedience of the Masses

Through the era of the government of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), tribal chiefs played the main role in making decisions for most of the people. He (a.s.) tried very hard to develop the necessity of following of criterion in the minds and lives of the people so that they would choose their path and measure the others by the criterion of truth, rather than measuring truth with the criteria of prominent individuals and personalities…2

1.. See, h. ۱۵.

2.. See ۴/۶. p. ۳۴۱ Cultural Policies

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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