Part Two : Introduction
In this part of our study of the life of Amir Al-Mu'minin Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) we shall concentrate on looking at a more delicate period of his role after the death of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). This is the period of his Caliphate, undertaking the nation's direct leadership in diverse aspects of Islamic life.
This time is distinguished by events of utmost importance, especially in the fields of thought, society and politics, as we shall see. Islamic history, within the five years of Imam Ali's (a.s.) rule over the Muslims, witnessed two kinds of events: The first concerns those high values which he registered in the records of history of humanity. The values which distinguished the virtuous policy adopted by him in administering Allah's great laws and regulations, in their complete forms, with no falsifications, no intemperance, and no false-resolutions, in all aspects of life.
The second concerns the political reactions of some people which have also been recorded by Islamic history. In this section, you will read a chapter about Amir Al-Mu'minin (a.s.) striving to bring back the organs of the state to their real responsibilities of protecting the Message of Allah, the Exalted, of establishing its limitations in life, and of offering whatever advice and directives which lead to a man's happiness by building his personality and fortifying it.
You will also learn of Imam Ali's (a.s.) role in confronting the Nakithun (those who broke their allegiances to him), the Qasitun (those who deviated), and the Mariqun (those who missed the truth of the religion).
During this part of his life, Imam Amir Al-Mu'minin Ali (a.s.), erected monuments of social justice, which he personified in actual social reality by his humane practices in strict adherence to the laws of Allah, the Most High. We invoke Allah, the Exalted, to help our Islamic nation in their practical life through complete adherence to the Book of Allah and the traditions of His generous Messenger (s.a.w.) as had been incarnated in Imam Ali Abi Talib (a.s.).
THE IMAM AND THE CALIPH
After the death of Uthman bin Affan, the nation unanimously turned to Imam Ali (a.s.) and gave him the pledge of allegiance as caliph. They were overwhelmed with a wave of affection towards him. However, Imam Ali (a.s.) rejected them saying: "Let me alone, and go in search of someone else.."(100)
Imam Ali (a.s.) refused to be a captive of emotions, as it was probable that the hatred of some people against Uthman was responsible for kindling similar feelings towards him, as well as aggravating the trend against him. Imam Ali (a.s.) wanted voluntary acceptance of his Imamate. Furthermore, Imam Ali (a.s.) was not of those who could be induced by post and position and thus, be responsive to the people as soon as they rushed to him. The whole caliphate did not have the worth of the wing of a mosquito to him. Actually the entire earthy world, in his sight, equalled not more than "a goat's sneeze," as he put it. Leadership is worthless if it does enable one to establish right and abolish wrong.
Therefore, he did not respond, at first, to the pressure of the people. He wanted to subject them to a test to make sure that they had the capacity to receive his programs and take to his plans, should he accept the rule.
So, despite the fact that the sacred capital, the "Illuminated Madinah" insisted on choosing him and expressed its persistence in actual demonstrations and crowded gatherings, so much so that the desire became unanimous, he was not pressed to accept hastily. At last, finding the people still persisting in pledging their allegiance to him, he accepted the caliphate on certain conditions, which had to be wholeheartedly agreed to. Spelling out what he needed in his mission, he demanded:
"...Remember that if I accept your caliphate I shall make you follow the religion according to my own rulings and judgements. I shall not accept suggestions from anyone, nor will I bother about the discontentment and anger of dissatisfied persons..."(101)
The whole nation responded by hurrying to announce their submission to his conditions, extending their hands, and pledging their allegiance and obedience to him. So, Imam Ali (a.s.) agreed to face fully his responsibilities of leading the Islamic nation, thought and practice. The first task was to remove all forms of deviation which had grown into Islamic life, and to bring the nation back to the original Divine course. To attain this he had to act according to a strict and comprehensive program, and to have others to act correctly in implementing it. It was a task where his government had many problems to confront, especially in political and economic fields:
1. Political Field:
Imam Ali (a.s.) defined the attributes of governors and government officials whom Islam recommends to manage the affairs of the Islamic nation. These definitions were clearly set out in his communiqué which he issued:
"....O people! you must understand and realize that so far as the protection of properties, rights and honor of the Muslim world, the propagation and preservation of Muslim laws and guardianship of Muslim finances are concerned, an ignorant person, a miser, a tyrant, a man who accepts bribes or one who has forsaken the principles of equity and justice should not be entrusted with the ruling of a Muslim state.
"A miserly person will covet the wealth of those he rules; an ignorant one will misguide them; a tyrant will oppress and tyrranize them; one who is not afraid of rapidly changing times and policies will, to the detriment of the cause of Islam, keep on forming unholy alliances with one nation after the other; a corrupt ruler, who is open to bribery, will violate rights, and will not dispense justice, and the one who has given up the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) will be responsible for the destruction of Islamic ideals and doctrine."(102)
Under this clear and objective determination of the attributes of the officials acceptable to Islam, Amir Al-Mu'minin Imam Ali (a.s.) began to dismiss some of the governors from their posts in different parts of the Islamic state. Had he compromised, as some wanted him to do, subsequent Muslim generations would not have recognized the true picture of the Islamic religion for which Allah had sent His great Messenger (s.a.w.).
2. Economic Field:
Simultaneously with reforming the political system, Imam Ali (a.s.) started to revolutionize the economy of the state. No sooner had he begun his rule, than he cancelled the method of distributing wealth which had formerly been followed. He replaced the discriminate way of distributing money by a system based on equity as practiced by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).
So, all forms of discrimination in dividing the money among the people, was cancelled by the Imam (a.s.) stressing that fearing Allah, priority in embracing Islam, fighting for the sake of Islam, or companionship with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), were not matters which gave their owners any sort of distinction in this world. Reward from Allah would be theirs in the Hereafter. Whoever had priority in these attributes, would receive his reward from Allah. But, here in this world, all people are equal in their financial rights in respect to the law and in their duties. His ideas about justice are stated in one of his speeches:
"...Any man from the Muhajirin and the Ansar, who had kept company with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), seeing that he had priority over the others just because of that, should remember that the reward of this merit would be awarded him by Allah in the Hereafter...
"Any one who responds to Allah and to His Messenger, believes in our religion, embraces it, prays with his face towards Ka'bah, deserves the rights of Islam and accepts its limits. So you are servants of Allah, and money is Allah's. It is to be distributed among you equally, with no one having any distinction over the other, as the pious ones will tomorrow have the best of rewards and highest results. Allah did not ordain any reward for the pious in this world. What Allah has is much better for the righteous..."(103)
In this way Imam Ali (a.s.) incarnated the concept of equity, giving allowances to all persons who enjoy the right of being Muslim citizens, without any discrimination on any grounds.
These are some of the features of the reformative process led by Amir Al-Mu'minin Imam Ali (a.s.) in different fields of Islamic life-- financial, administrative and governmental.
Program Of Reformation
Imam Ali (a.s.) laid his general plan of reformation, with most of his attention given to reforming the administration, economy and government as we said.
Through this immense undertaking, Amir Al-Mu'minin (a.s.) pioneered a new course, the nation attained many great achievements in the interests of the people and their progress in general. Below we refer to some o-f these achievements. First: He established a system of governors and officials qualified to administer the rudder of Islamic life. They were individuals ideal in their spiritual, intellectual and committal standards, like Uthman bin Hanif, Muhammad bin Abi Bakr and Malik Al-Ashtar.
Although those individuals were excellent examples of men, at the highest level of fitness, thought, action and ability in administration and leadership, Imam Ali (a.s.) furnished them with guiding advice and instructive plans, helping them with the practical aspects of ruling and in their relations with different sectors of the people whom they were to govern.
He enjoined his governors to advise the servants of Allah, spreading justice among them, treating them with leniency and kindness, brushing aside all aspects of haughtiness that high positions may create in man, steering influential people from affecting social life contrary to the course of Islamic justice, and offering pieces of advice required to spread justice and establish truth among the people.
His advice was clearly laid out as in the following examples:
"Treat them with respect. Be kind and considerate to them...Meet them with a smiling face. Be fair, just and impartial in your dealings so that even influential persons may not dare take advantage of your leniency, and the uninfluential and poor may not be disappointed in your justice and dealings. Remember that Allah, the Exalted, is going to take account of your sins, major and minor, O creatures Of Allah, from the path of Islamic justice, influencing his judgements, or sins, it will be because of your being unjust, and it He forgives you, it will be because of His great mercy and compassion..."(104)
"Treat people pleasantly and kindly, welcome them to your audience and company, do not be harsh in issuing and enforcing your orders, do not lose your temper, because this weakness is always a good opening for Satan to find its way into your mind. Always keep this in mind that the thing which takes you nearer to Allah will carry you away from Hell, and the thing which drives you away from Allah will drive you towards Hell."(105)
These extracts of Imam Ali's (a.s.) instructions were to be followed by his governors in their practical life also.
It goes without saying that Imam Ali (a.s.), despite his insistent keenness on selecting the most efficient and God fearing persons, was also keen on knowing their methods of treating people while in their posts. For this purpose he engaged a system of supervisors, through whose eyes he could see how loyal and obedient they were in carrying out the principles of Islamic justice. Whoever made a mistake or faltered, Imam Ali (a.s.) would quickly set his conduct right, by correcting and educating offenders or by threatening or even deposing those responsible. Here is part of his procedure in this respect:
Uthman bin Hanif, his governor of Basra, once accepted an invitation from a rich man in Basra. When Imam Ali (a.s.) heard of this, he was afraid that such affairs might distract his governor and divert him from the path of Islamic justice, influencing his judgements, or encourage him to be tyrannical in his treatment of the people. He wrote to him:
"O Ibn Hanif! I have received information that a per son of Basra invited you to a dinner and you immediately accepted the invitation, and very sumptuous meals were served there. The finest varieties of viands were placed before you on large plates and you enjoyed them. I a m sorry to hear the news. I never expected that you would accept the invitation of a person who invites big officers and rich people, and from whose doors poor persons and hungry paupers are rudely turned away. Look carefully into the things which you eat. If there is even a shadow of doubt of their being obtained unlawfully then throw them away. Only eat such things about which you are perfectly certain that they are obtained in an honest, lawful and virtuous way.
"You must know, bin Hanif, that for everyone who follows a religion, there is a leader and a guide from whom the follower learns the canons of that religion and the ways of leading a pious life. Now look to your Imam and leader. In this world he has satisfied himself, and is content with, two old, torn and course garments and two loaves of bread. I know that is too hard a life for you to adopt, but at least try to help me with piety, strife, chasteness and unerringness..."(106)
He wrote to Masqala Al-Shaibani, the governor of Ardskir Kharra:
"..I have received certain information about you. If you had actually done it, then you have verily displeased Allah, and have disobeyed your Imam. I am given to understand that you are lavishly distributing state treasury- which has been gathered by Muslims' spears and horses, and for which their blood has been shed--among the bedouins of your own clan.
"I swear by Allah, Who split the seed and creates the soul, that if this accusation against you proves correct, then you will verily humiliate yourself in my eyes and will verily be light to me in weight. So, do not belittle the right of Allah, and do not mend your world by ruining your religion, or you will be one of those who have the most losing deeds...." (107)
He also wrote to one of his agents:
"Information about you has come to my knowledge. If you have done it, then you have angered your Lord, disobeyed your Imam, and disgraced your honesty. It has come to me that you have taken possession of land, seized what is under your feet, and eaten what is in your hand. So, immediately send me your account, and be ware that the Lord's reckoning is far more severe than any of man's."(108) As Imam Ali (a.s.) used to make plans for governors and give them his guiding advice, he acted likewise to assist his army officers, pointing out signs to them on their way, and what they had to do when facing the enemy.
Imam Ali (a.s.) also used to tell them not to be tyrannical, not to start any war, not to lose their temper, and to remain patient. At the beginning they should always take the defensive. When the enemy transgresses, then they will have to stop the aggression. If, then, Allah granted them victory, they were not to be taken by the ecstasy of triumph over the enemy and chase their soldiers running away from the battlefield without weapons to defend themselves with. They could not kill the wounded, nor insult the women, even if they were so.
Here are some of his instructions to his officers:
"Do not take the initiative to begin the battle; let them begin it, because by the favor of Allah you are on the side of truth and justice. Leave them until they begin their hostilities, and then you are at liberty to start fighting. Their keenness to begin a battle will be another proof of your sincere belief in the orders of Allah. If Allah favors you with your success and their defeat, then do not kill the deserter, do not finish the wounded, do not excite the women by injuring them, even when they insult your women and curse your commanders..."(109)
"...My duty towards you is not to keep from you any secret except those of war, not to hide from you any affair except in judgement, not to delay any of your rights later than its due, and not to cut it below its prescribed limit. You will, to me, be equal in the truth. If I achieve this, Allah will bestow His blessings upon you, and you will have to obey me, not to recoil from the call, not to fall back from righteousness, and to wade through difficulties to reach the truth..."(110)
Owing to the importance of the tax-collecting system in the Islamic state, general rights in private property form an important factor in Islamic economy The right of the community to private possession provides a large source of helping the Islamic state to meet its great expenditures in social, military and other fields of general life.
Because of this importance, Imam Ali (a.s.) showed great interest, not in collecting as much money as possible, but having the system follow the Islamic course of justice, which the Imam (a.s.) idealized in the life of the people. He was extremely anxious to educate tax-collectors to strictly adhere to justness, virtue, nobility, and to respect their responsibility. Their duty, to the Imam, was not just to levy money for the sake of money.
They had to adhere to the right in fairly treating the people and implementing the justness of Islam to those whom they encountered. They were not to cause anger among the people, not to maltreat them, not to beat anyone for a Dirham, for example, and they might not trespass on the property of any Muslim or non-Muslim who enjoys being subject of the Islamic State. They might also not sell a man's clothes or his animals in order to levy taxes. None of the collectors had the right to reproach anyone, nor to levy more than was allowed. They might not look down at people but had to greet them with kindness and to treat them with leniency. Here is another example of his teachings in this respect:
"Treat tax-payers with equity and justice, and consider their wishes with patience and kindness, because you are the treasurer of the authority. Do not force anyone to forsake his requirements and go without his necessities. In collecting taxes do not sell their winter and summer clothing, their slave or such of their animals which are of service to them. Do not resort to whipping for a Dirham, and do not touch their property, be they Muslims or non-Muslims..."(111)
"Do not give up fearing Allah alone Who has no partner. Do not frighten any Muslim, and do not go past him with reluctance. Do not take from him more than what is due to Allah from his property. When you reach their quarter stay at their water-place, and do not get near their houses. Then go to them with dignity and prestige till you come among them, then wish them peace, and refrain not from paying them compliments. Then say: O servants of Allah! I have been sent to you by the Caliph to collect from you the dues of Allah; so, are there any of Allah's dues in your property which you may pay to His Caliph?"(112)
Second: Incarnating the Islamic plan of social justice in its most explicit picture and most minute details. Imam Ali (a.s.) took the most reformative steps in order to implement the most complete illustration of social justice according to detailed Islamic concepts.
The Islamic society, with all its sectors, had witnessed the foremost justice during the days of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). Hereunder, are some examples of that radiant historical experience of the Islamic nation:
A. Clemency in Attendance
Diverse sectors of the nation witnessed different sorts of attendance to their affairs, in being treated with kindness and care and ensuring equality among all the subjects of the Islamic state. This is personified in the following extracts: "The wealth is Allah's, and it is to be equally distributed among you, with no priority to anyone of you." "...By Allah, I will verily be fair with the wronged against the one who wronged him. I will certainly drag the wrong-doer by his 'nose ring' until I bring him to the source of the truth, even if he is reluctant."(113)
Furthermore, the nation, as a whole, led by Amir Al Mu'minin (a.s.), witnessed full examples of administering its affairs and caring for its welfare, in realizing its strength and happiness.
Here are some of these examples: Hakam is quoted to have said:
"I saw Ali when water-skins full of honey were brought to him. He summoned the orphans and said to them: ‘Taste and lick,’ as much as I wished I were an orphan. Then he distributed them among the people. One water-skin remains. He ordered it to be distributed among those present in the mosque (114)
Harun bin Antara citing Zadan, says:
"I was once accompanying Qanbar, Ali's servant. Re came to Ali and said to him: 'Come, O Amir Al-Mu'minin, come with me, I have a thing hidden for you.' ‘What is it, boy?’ Ali asked. 'Come with me,' answered he. Ali went home with him. There we found a sack with cups full of gold and silver. Re said: 'O Amir Al- Mu'minin, I know you would leave nothing unless you distribute it, so I kept this for you.' ‘Woe to you!’ said Ali, 'You wanted to bring a great fire into my house!' Then he drew his sword and cut the sack into pieces and the gold scattered on the earth. Re called to the people and told them to distribute it among themselves in portions. Then he went to the public treasury and distributed what was therein, until there remained only some needles and sticks. Re said, 'Let these be distributed, too,'..."(115)
Hakam further said: "Ali divided the pomegranates among the people, and the share of their mosque was seven pomegranates. So he said: 'O people, we receive things which seam plenty to look at, but we find them little after distribution. We have distributed everything we received.' He also received plates of silver. He broken them in pieces and distributed them among us."
Ali bin Rabi'a says: "bin Al-Tayah came to Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) and said to him: 'O Amir Al-Mu'minin, the treasury is full of the 'Yellow and White' [gold and silver].' Allah is greater!" Ali said and stood up leaning on bin Al-Taih's hand. He entered the treasury, then the people were called in, and he gave out whatever was there, while saying: "O White and Yellow, seduce other than me!’ As there remained nothing in it, he ordered it to be sprinkled with water, then he performed two Rak'ahs of prayer."
Owing to his anxious attempts to remove the heaviness of poverty and injustice from the people, he kept rigidly to his program throughout his caliphate as described in the following extracts:
"...If I had so wanted I could have very easily found ways and means to provide for myself the purest and clearest honey, the best variety of wheat and the finest silk clothes. But my desire can never overcome me, nor can greediness persuade me to select the choicest victuals, when in Hijaz and Yemen there may be people who have no hope of obtaining a loaf of bread and who have never satisfied their hunger, nor can I sleep with a heavy stomach when around me there are people with hungry stomachs and thirsty livers! Am I to be content with being addressed as Amir Al- Mu'minin without sharing with them the calamities of life, or setting for them an example of bearing up bereavements of living?"(116)
B. Strict Supervision of the Market
Imam Ali (a.s.) was keen on seeing economic justice dominating all aspects of life. For this purpose he laid a plan to monitor the market in respect to buying, selling and the quality of the goods offered for sale, so as to prevent shortfalls, price fluctuations and cheating. Imam Al-Baqir (a.s.) said:
"Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) used to pass through, one by one, the markets of Kufa every morning with his two-tailed whip on his shoulder. It was called "Al-Sabibah". He used to stop at each market and call out:
'O merchants! Offer the best, receive the blessing of being easy, get nearer to the buyers, adorn yourselves with patience, refrain from lying and swearing, be away from wrong doing, be fair with those wronged, keep away from usury, give full measure and full weight, in justice, belittle not peoples' goods, and make not mischief to cause corruption in the earth'..."(117)
Abu Al-Nawwar says: "I saw Imam Ali (a.s.) stop at a tailor's and tell him: 'O tailor! strengthen the string, take care of the seams, make the stitches short. As I heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) say: 'The treacherous tailor is brought, on the Day of Resurrection, with a shirt and a cloak of his bad tailoring so that he is disgraced before all witnesses.' Then he said to the tailor: 'O tailor, beware of the remnants and leftovers, as t he owner of the dress has more right to them'..."(118)
In these ways Imam Ali (a.s.) incarnated the Islamic plan of social justice in the best possible way. He treated the people with kindness and love, living with their hopes and pains until they reaped the most wonderous fruits of justice in their history as it was in the days of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).
Imam Ali (a.s.) adopted the policy of self-denial for the sake of the nation, by way of true forsaking of whatever covetous people greedily look for such as wealth, pleasures and delights of life.
Amir Al-Mu'minin (a.s.) lived in a modest house similar to those in which the poor lived. He used to, both before and during his caliphate, eat the barley which his wife or he himself used to grind. He wore the coarsest and the plainest of clothes. His unchangeable principle in this was: "...Your Imam is content, in this world, with two coarse old garments and two loaves of bread...I swear by Allah that, from this world of yours, I have neither amassed gold, nor have I gathered wealth; nor have I changed these coarse and old garments for new ones, nor have I owned of this land even a span (of the hand), nor have I taken from it more than sustaining food. It is [your world], in my eye, lower and more trivial than a bitter gallnut."(119)
We may also observe this policy of the Imam (a.s.) towards himself through the following incidences:
Harun bin Antara records that his father said, "I entered Al-Khawarnaq where I saw Ali bin Abi Talib wearing worn-out velvet in the winter season. I said: 'O Amir Al-Mu'minin! Allah has granted you and your family a share in this wealth, and yet you do this to yourself!’
He said: 'By Allah I would not lessen your dues. This is the same velvet which I brought with me from Madinah."(120) One day Asim bin Ziyad [justifying his indifference to worldly pleasures] addressed the Imam (a.s.) and said: "Look at your own dress how coarse it is, and to your own food how meagre it is!" Imam Ali (a.s.) replied him:
"Woe to you! I am not like you. Allah has made it incumbent upon just Imams to keep themselves on the level of the poorest of men, so that they may not feel too deeply the pains of poverty."(121)
Suwaid bin Ghaflah recalls: "One day I called upon Imam Ali (a.s.) at his house. There I saw nothing except an old mat on which he was sitting. I said: O Amir Al-Mu'minin, you are the King of the Muslims, and you control the public treasury, yet you receive your guests in a house which has only this mat!
He said: 'O Suwaid, why should a house be furnished in this transient world when we have to move to the permanent house to which we have moved our belongings and to which we are moving presently?"(122).
Imam Ali (a.s.) went to the market to sell his sword in order to buy an apron at a time when he was Amir Al-Mu'minin, the leader of the Islamic nation, to whom is levied money from all parts of the Islamic world. In this respect Abu Raja' says:
"Imam Ali (a.s.) brought his sword to the market and called: 'Who buys this from me? By Allah Who has Ali's soul in His hand, I would not have sold it had I got the value of an apron!' I said to him: 'I will sell you an apron on credit until you receive your due,' and I gave him an apron on credit. When he received his due he paid me the value of the apron."(123)
Imam Ali (a.s.) took nothing from the public treasury, so that when he leaves a town he leaves it with only what he had brought with him from Madinah--his saddled camel and his servant. Bakr bin Isa says: "Imam Ali (a.s.) used to say: 'O people of Kufa, if I left your town with more than my camel, saddle and servant, then I would be a traitor."
His expenditure used to be sent to him from his proceeds in Yanbu' in Madinah, which he spent to feed the people with bread and meat, while he ate the bread soaked in fat.
He was very keen on following the example of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) in his justness and abstinence. In this respect Aqaba bin Alqama says: "I called on Imam Ali (a.s.) one day. I saw him eating dry bread and sour milk whose sourness hurt me. I exclaimed, 'O Amir Al-Mu'minin, do you eat this?' 'O Abul Janub,' he replied, 'the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) used to eat drier than this and wear coarser than this (pointing to his dress), so, if I do not do what he used to do, I am afraid I will not be able to catch up with him."(124)
Abdullah bin Husain bin Hasan (a.s.) says: "Imam Ali (a.s.), during the days of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), emancipated 1,000 slaves out of his working wages and the sweat of his forehead. He became caliph, and wealth came to him, yet dates remained his dessert, and coarse cloth was his dress."(125)
Umar bin Qais, on the authority of Sufyan AI-Thawri, says: "Imam Ali (a.s.) was seen wearing a patchy garment on and was reproached for that. He said: "This causes the heart to submit, and the faithful to follow."(126)
His deep abstinence and self-denial for the sake of Allah are quite explicit in his words: "...Look at me. I have patched my dress so often that I feel ashamed to hand it over for anymore patches. Somebody suggested to me to throw it away, but I told him, 'Be gone! do not try to tempt me, because those who bear hardships in this life will pass happy days in the Hereafter."(127)
These were some of Imam Ali's (a.s.) ways which he set as examples for the faithful to follow. They represent aspects of Islamic justice personified in Imam Ali (a.s.), living among the people and exemplifying the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).
D. Equalizing His Family With Others
The standards which Imam Ali (a.s.) applied to his family and relatives were very close to those which he applied to himself, only less severe. They were based on equalizing them with other citizens in their rights and duties. Yet, what they bore for the sake of protecting the Message and its progress was much more than the rights they received.
Imam Ali (a.s.) was keen on treating his relatives, in respect to their rights, as if they were ordinary people. He never gave them more than their dues, and never distinguished them with privileges. He treated them as to educate and train them to follow his wake and at times, showed severity with some of his relatives so that they might take to the line he drew for them.
A Muslim of the Hana narrates:
"When Imam Ali (a.s.) finished with 'The Owners of the Camel' [the Battle of Basrah], he returned to Kufa, entered Beit al-Mal [the public treasury] and said: 'O wealth tempt someone else.' Then he divided it among us. A daughter of Hasan or Husain (a.s.) came in and picked up some of it. The Imam (a.s.) ran after her, opened her fist, and took it out. We said: 'O Amir Al-Mu'minin, she has a right to it.' He said, 'When her father takes his due, let him give her whatever he likes."(128)
Harun bin Sa'id narrates: "Abdullah bin Ja'far bin Abi Talib said to Imam Ali (a.s.): 'O Amir Al-Mu'minin, will you have them give me some help or expenditure, as, by Allah, I have nothing to spend, unless I sell my beast on which I ride!' The Imam said. 'No, by Allah! I can find nothing for you except that you may order your uncle [ Imam Ali (a.s.) himself] to steal and give it to you'..."(129)
One day Aqil bin Abi Talib, who was blind, came to his brother, Imam Ali (a.s.) asking for a Sa' [measure equal to four times the quantity of corn that fills two hands of a man of moderate size] of wheat, more than his due from Beit al-Mal, and he kept repeating his demand. Imam Ali (a.s.) wanted to give him a good lesson: so he heated a piece of iron on the fire, then brought it near him. Aqil recoiled in fear. Imam Ali (a.s.) then said to him, "O Aqil, you groan from a piece of iron heated by a creature for his sport, whereas you are dragging me towards a fire kindled by the Almighty for his wrath! You moan from fear of being hurt, so why shouldn't I moan from the kindled Fire?"(130)
Abu Sadiq, quoting Imam Ali (a.s.), said: "He married Layla. She hung some curtains for him, but he pulled them down, saying: 'It suffices Ali's folk what they have [to answer for]."(131) Hasan bin Salih bin Hay said: "It came to me that Imam Ali (a.s.) married a woman who arranged a decorated room for him. But he refused to enter it."(132)
Kilab bin Ali Al-Amiri said: "When Imam Ali (a.s.) married my aunt, she was sent to him riding on an ass with a velvet covering and a basket hanging behind."(133)
Such examples of how Imam Ali (a.s.) used to treat his family and relatives show he never neglected any of the rights of the Muslims for the interests of his own folk. He, actually, tried to teach them how to ascend to his level of self-denial and abstinence in the way of Allah, and for the sake of the Muslim community.
His method was quite explicit. There was no vagueness and he was unaffected by any sort of emotion or compromise. He said; "By Allah I prefer to pass a sleepless night on prickly thorns, or be dragged in fetters, rather than meet my Lord and His Messenger on the Day of Resurrection as one who had wronged some of His servants, or who had usurped some treasures. Why should I wrong others for the benefit of a self which shortly decays and lies, for a long period, in the grave?"(134)
This way of life adopted by Imam Ali (a.s.) represents a further aspect of the general social justice which he was very keen on embodying in the living practice of the life of the people.