Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (2)

Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (2)

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: "...You certainly know that he who is in charge of honor, life, booty, (enforcement of) legal commandments and the leadership of the Muslims should not be a miser as his greed would aim at their wealth, nor be ignorant as he would then mislead them with his ignorance, nor be of rude behavior which would estrange them with his rudeness, nor should he deal unjustly with wealth thus preferring one group over another, nor should he accept a bribe while taking decisions, as he would forfeit (others) rights and hold them up without finality, nor should he ignore sunna as he would ruin the people."

2. Economic Field

Imam Ali (A.S.) cancelled all forms of discrimination in dividing the money among the people and stressed that fearing Allah, fighting for the sake of Islam, or companionship with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), was not matters that gave their owners any sort of distinction in this world. Reward from Allah will be theirs in the Hereafter. Whoever had priority in these matters, would receive his reward from Allah. But, here in this world, all people are equal in their financial rights in respect to the Islamic law and in their duties.

3. Policy of Reaction

Imam Ali (A.S.) knew that the Islamic justice whom he wished to apply in his government would be difficult and heavy to the beneficiaries, self-seekers and opportunists who exploited circumstances prevalent during the time of the caliph, Uthman. Therefore, they spoiled wealth and properties, enjoyed some distinctions, actuated gold and silver, either because of their relationship and kinsfolk or being considered as supporters of this group or of that. It was true what he (A.S.) expected that the implementation of Islamic justice would stimulate the feelings of the Quraish men who used to live in luxury or what they stole from the mouths of the hungry and the oppressed.

Owing to the distinguished men of the Quraish being used to enjoying a whole array of privileges and advantages, it was hard for them to accept Imam Ali's (A.S.) policy of equality of rights as Allah enjoined. Zubair and Talha disapproved of this policy of Imam Ali (A.S.), as it deviated from what so far had been customary. Imam Ali (A.S.) asked them: "What is it that you so disapprove of in me that you seek other than mea". They said: "You made our share of allowance the same as the others; you made us equal to those who are not like us." The Imam (A.S.) replied to them: "As to what you say about equal distribution of wealth, I should say it is not my opinion which I follow, nor is it a desire of mine to control. It is what I and you found the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) doing.

There, too, I needed no help from you, since Allah had already ordained its dividends. Therefore, neither you nor anyone else is justified in blaming me for this. May Allah guide our hearts and yours to the truth and grant us patience. May Allah have mercy upon him who, when he sees the truth, helps it to spread, who, when he sees inequity, rejects it, and who rightly backs his companions." Thus, concepts and starting points differ. Imam Ali (A.S.) started from what Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger (S.A.W.) enjoined, whereas his opponents started from what their own interests said to them.

The Battle of Basra

 It was natural that Talha and Zubair were unhappy with the reformative movement led by Imam Ali (A.S.) in Islamic life. They started preparations for rebellion against the Imam (A.S.) and stirred the Muslims against him. The result was a calamity that caused the nation grave losses. They (Talha and Zubair) persuaded A'isha, the daughter of Abu Bakr - the Prophet's wife - to go out with them to Basra to lead the opposition front against Imam Ali (A.S.).  Imam Ali (A.S.) exerted great efforts to avoid the conflict. In Basra, Imam Ali (A.S.) continued to give his advice to prevent bloodshed. He even sent envoys to the Nakithun (those who broke their allegiance) inviting them to peace and reconciliation.

He (A.S.) met Zubair and reminded him of certain incidents which happened to them during the life of the Prophet (S.A.W.). Among them, the Prophet's speech to Zubair: "Verily, you will one day unfairly rise against him (i.e. Imam Ali)." "O! Yes," replied Zubair, "but I forgot it. Now that you have reminded me, I would give it up." Consequently, Zubair decided to retire from public life. But his son, Abdullah, accused him of cowardice for doing so. Thus, the situation exploded and war was waged between the two camps. The fight ended with a crushing victory achieved by the Imam's army. Imam Ali (A.S.) proclaimed a general amnesty to all those who fought against him. He (A.S.) even returned A'isha to Medina. Because A'isha went to Basra riding on a camel, this war was called the War of the Camel (Jamal).

The Battle of Siffin

The most difficult problem faced by Imam Ali (A.S.) during his caliphate was the problem of the rulers who were appointed before and were ruling the Muslims lands. Such rulers were not on a high level of piety, asceticism and loyalty in order to be as models and Imams (leaders) for people whom they lead toward guidance and reform, while most of the rulers were appointed before and who lacked such qualifications and even worse than that. Most of them were characterized by corruption, oppression and transgressing against the wealth of people and themselves. Some rulers and commanders were among those who were severely in enmity and annoyance to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). Among them were:

1.  Hakam bin Aas who was the most severe enemy to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) to the extent that he (S.A.W.) expelled him and his son from Medina.

2. Walid bin Aqaba bin Abi Mo'it, the ruler of Kufa during the reign of Uthman. This man (Walid) was a drunkard and had a Christian drinking companion. Once, this man offered four Rak'a (units of prayer) instead of two when he led people at dawn prayer because he was drunk.

3. Abdulla bin Sa'id bin Aadi was the Prophet Muhammad's clerk and betrayed the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) in his writings and therefore, he (S.A.W.) dismissed him, therefore, he turned away from Islam, but later one of the caliph, Uthman, appointed him as a ruler for Egypt.

Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan, the ruler of Sham (Syria). He used to govern the whole land of Sham and was appointed as a ruler before and led a luxurious life which was not limited by Islamic law nor controlled by a religion. Ahmad bin Hanbal, in his authentic book, on the authority of Abdullah bin Boraida, said: I and my father visited Mu'awiya. He made us sit and then brought food for us. After having finished eating, they brought a drink (wine); first Mu'awiya began to drink, then he passed it to my father and then he (Abu Boraida) said: I did not drink it since the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) forbade it.

It seems that Mu'awiya was never embarrassed about drinking alcoholic beverages. It was brought to him on camels after passing through roads and markets. It happened that a group of camels, carrying, and bottles of alcoholic beverages to Mu'awiya passed near Abada bin Samit, a companion who was in Sham at that time. He asked them: "What are thesea Are they oila". They said: "No, it is a wine which should be sold to Mu'awiya." This man took a plowshare from a market and with which he tore the bottles.

Mu'awiya had a severe hatred for Imam Ali (A.S.) because he (A.S.) killed his (Mu'awiya) brother Handheld who was a polytheist in the battle of Badr. He (A.S.) also killed his (maternal) uncle, Walid bin Utbah and a group of his (Mu'awiya) relatives who were fighting in the army of the unbelievers of the Quraish. This was one of the essential elements behind Mu'awiya's enmity towards Imam Ali (A.S.). He (Mu'awiya) even ordered to curse the Imam (A.S.) on the pulpits of the Mosques at every Friday Sermon.

Therefore, Imam Ali (A.S.), being the bearer of the standard of Islam, had no way other than changing such rulers and the like and replacing them with the righteous faithful from the companions of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and the formers in faith. This movement motivated such damaged people who found no shelter other than Mu'awiya who, in turn, gathered them under his flag. Mu'awiya declared his revolt against the Imam's decision for deposing him and refused obeying the true Caliph, thus, began to prepare himself to confront the Imam (leader) of his time. After victory in the battle of Basra, the Imam (A.S.) returned with his army to Kufa to reinforce his troops, and then to go on to Sham to liquidate the opposition, led by Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan.

Therefore, Imam Ali (A.S.) started his march with his army heading for Sham. But the enemy received news about his move, and decided to meet the Islamic advance on the way. The two armies confronted one another near the Euphrates River. Imam Ali (A.S.) resumed his efforts to set things right through peaceful ways and preserve the unity of the Muslims ranks and join the unanimity of the nation. But Mu'awiya's insisting on fighting caused more than ten thousand victims and because of complicated circumstances, the battle which lasted two weeks ended without any victory for both sides.

Continue in the next article: ( Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (3) )