Salaam, and here we present you a special feature titled Imam Ali (AS), the Epitome of Unity, written by Iranian thinker Seyyed Kazem Mir Jalili.
Imam Ali (PuH) also believed that the destruction of right thought and counsel was an adverse consequence of division and disunity, and, of course, without right thought and counsel, making any progress and reform in the society is impossible. Regarding this issue, he states: “Opposition destroys good counsel.”
Furthermore, the Imam viewed losing honour, dignity and divine blessings as the fatal consequence of disunity:
“Thereafter, also see what happened to them towards the end when division overtook them, unity became fractured, and differences arose between their words and their hearts. They divided into various groups and were scattered fighting among themselves. Then Allah took away from them the apparel of His honour and deprived them of the prosperity produced by His favours. Only their stories have remained among you for the guidance of those who may learn the lesson from them.”
In all stages of his life, whether in the period of Prophet’s mission, the period when he had to be silent, or in the period of his caliphate, the Imam invited the Islamic community to unity. Even on the bed of martyrdom, he advised his two Immaculate Sons, that is the Prophet’s two grandsons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon him them), who were divinely-designated guides and Imams after him to preserve unity. In order to preserve unity, he criticized some scholars for their opposite verdicts and reminded them that their God, their prophet and their book are the same:
“When a problem is put before anyone of them he passes judgment on it out of his own imagination. When exactly the same problem is placed before another of them he passes an opposite verdict.Then these judges go to the chief who had appointed them and he confirms all the verdicts, although their Lord is the One (and the same), their Prophet is the same, their Book (the Qur'an) is the same. Is it that Allah ordered them to differ and they obeyed Him? Or He prohibited them from it but they disobeyed Him?
For Imam Ali (PuH) the ideal world, which he wished human beings to reach by clinging to the real and genuine teachings of Islam, is the celestial world. He has described the people of that world as follows:
“They did not differ (among themselves) about their Sustainer as a result of Satan’s control over them. The vice of separation from one another did not disperse them. Rancour and mutual malice did not overpower them. Ways of wavering did not divide them. Differences of degree of courage did not render them into divisions.”
In fact, he meant to say that all human beings will be like angels, even superior to them if they pay attention to the main goal of creation which is proximity to Allah and achieving happiness in all aspects of life, and they know that they would attain this goal only through obeying Allah's commands, cleaning their vices and decorating their hearts with virtues and acting upon them.
Good traditions are among the elements that maintain unity within communities and also the consolidation of society. The governor of an Islamic society must keep such traditions alive and defend them. The governor who is indifferent about such traditions and customs and does not try to preserve them will create divisions within the society and weaken the pillars of the government.Regarding this issue, Imam Ali (PuH) wrote to his executive officers:
“Do not discontinue the good lives in which the earlier people of this community had been acting, by virtue of which there was general unity and through which the subjects prospered. Do not innovate any line of action which harms these earlier ways.”
Imam Ali (PuH) believed that the correct way of distinguishing between truth and falsehood when being drawn into a dispute about something was to refer to Allah's Word, the holy Qur‘an and the Prophet’s Sunnahor behaviour and practice, and he stated:
“O’ you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Prophet and those vested with authority from among you; and then if you quarrel about anything refer to Allah and the Prophet if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day (of Judgment).
On referring to Allah means to act according to what is clear in His Book, and referring to the Prophet means to follow his unanimously agreed Sunnah in regard to which there are no differences.
Imam Ali (PuH) believed that the administration of justice was a divine obligation and never considered it right if Muslims acquiesced in discrimination and injustice. When the society is divided into two classes of the oppressors and the oppressed, while the former are gluttonous and the later are hungry, Islam does not allow Muslims to be indifferent. That was why the Imam himself accepted the responsibility of caliphate. In this regard, he has stated:
“Behold, by Him who split the grain (to grow) and created living beings, if people had not come to me and supporters had not exhausted the argument and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed I would have cast the rope of [the camel of] caliphate on its own shoulders and would have given the last one the same treatment as to the first one.”
The main goal of Imam Ali (PuH) was to administer justice; as he intended to head the government to return people to the Prophet's Sunnah, to stop class distinctions, and to divide the gains equally. To achieve this goal, he certainly encountered difficulties since it was obvious that there were self-seekers and worldly people who attempted to stand against his justice-seeking method by causing war and creating divisions.However, the Imam knew that creating unity within the Islamic community was a prerequisite for establishing justice, and he wanted warmongers to end wars so that justice could be established. In this regard, he has stated:
“We suggested to them to appease the situation by calming the temporary irritation and pacifying the people till matters settled down and stabilized when we would gain strength to put matters right.”
The Commander of the Faithful believed that there was a mutual relationship between unity and justice: “If justice does not exist in a society, then there is no unity in that society either.”
Thus, since he knew the oppression of governors as the cause of people's separation from governments in the period of his caliphate, he always controlled his executive officers and observed them in different ways. If one of them committed an offence, he would advise him and, when necessary, dismiss him.
Such supervision was not confined to high-ranking officers, but rather the Imam ordered his executive officers to check their assistants’ activities and have people who would keep an eye on them and report their wrong actions. In this regard, addressing Malik AshtarNakha‘i, his governor of the then Christian majority Egypt, h states:
“You should also check their activities and have people who report on them who should be truthful and faithful, because your watching their actions secretly will urge them to preserve trust with and to be kind to the people.”
Then he continued:
“If any one of them extends his hands towards misappropriation and the reports of your reporters reaching you confirm it, that should be regarded enough evidence. You should then punish him and recover what he has misappropriated. You should put him in a place of disgrace, blacklist him with (the charge of) misappropriation and make him wear the necklace of shame for his offence.”
From the point of view of Imam Ali (PuH), the Islamic judicial system is established to solve political, social and financial problems and also disputes among people. In the Islamic judicial system, the right of the oppressed is claimed from the oppressor; the weak should have a feeling of safety and the oppressor should be worried. The Imam introduced the judicial system to his executive officers as follows:Have a good will when judging people; because judgment is to restore the right of the oppressed from the oppressor and the right of the weak from the strong and to establish rules of God in a way which improves the cities and their residents.
Because of the important role of the judicial system in establishing justice, the Imam set up the judicial system based on Islamic rules in his short term government and he never compromised in implementation of justice and made no difference between the rich and the poor, rulers and peasants, friends and enemies. The Imam was very strict about appointing judges and he would only select people who had special qualifications. Regarding this issue, Imam tells Malik AshtarNakha‘ī that:
“For the settlement of disputes among people select him who is the most distinguished of your subjects in your view. The cases [coming before him] should not vex him, disputation should not enrage him, he should not insist on any wrong point, and should not grudge acceptance of the truth when he perceives it; he should not lean towards greed and should not content himself with a cursory understanding [of a matter] without going thoroughly into it. He should be most ready to stop [to ponder] on doubtful points, most regardful of arguments, least disgusted at the quarrel of litigants, most patient at probing into matters and most fearless at the time of passing judgment. Praise should not make him vain and elation should not make him lean [to any side. Such people are very few.”
Imam Ali (PuH) would consider some types of unity as valueless, such as the unity between gangsters and those who tend towards falsehood.These are the people who, when they assemble together are overwhelming but when they disperse they cannot be recognized. He said regarding them:
“These are the people who when they assemble together cause harm but when they disperse are beneficial.”
When asked by someone: We know their harm at the time of their assembling, but what is their benefit at the time of their dispersal? The Imam replied:
“The workers return to their work and people get benefit out of them, like the return of the mason to the building site, that of the weaver to his loom, and that of the baker to his bakery.”
Then Imam Ali (PuH) implored Allah to shatter such unities:
“O’ my Allah! If they reject truth disperse their group, divide their words (opinions) and destroy them on account of their sins.”