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Imam Ali and Political Leadership

البصرة فاجعلهم رقیقاً، فقال: لا. فقالوا: فکیف تحل لنا دمائهم وتحرّم علینا سبیهم.It is a consensus among the narrators that what Ali (a.s.) found in [the Battle of] Jamal, including weapons, riding animals, slaves and other things, he divided them among his companions. They said to him: “Divide the people of Basra between us as slaves.” He (a.s.) said: “No.” Then they said: “How can the shedding of their blood be lawful to us, but taking them as captives cannot?!”1
When the physical and mental fatigue of the troops who had fought for two years without receiving any spoils and financial benefits is accompanied with the misconception of the illegitimacy of the war against people of the Qibla, along with other factors of the Imām’s (a.s.) loneliness, the result would obviously be nothing but disobedience. Thus, Imām (a.s.) faced serious problems in controlling and mobilizing his troops towards the end of his government.

C. Losing Eminent Companions

He who manages a society and leads the people is in dire need of competent staff and loyal companions among his administrators in order to enable him to overcome problems and resolve complicated social intricacies. The presence of self-sacrificing talented and dedicated wise men that support the leader by making sacrifices in challenging situations is greatly effective in the managing of the society. The role of such people in removing ambiguities, delivering messages, explaining situations and motivating the forces, those who could indirectly actualize the strategies of the leader in society is extremely significant. Amid the battle of Siffin, the impact of the sermons and valorous speeches delivered by such companions like Mālik al-Ashtar, Hāshim ibn Mirqāl and others is evident and attests to this.

1.. See The Encyclopedia of Amir al-Mu'minin, vol. ۵, p. ۱۴۷.


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many to accept that Ali (a.s.) was always right, that he had a resolute position, and that Talha, Zubair and `A'yisha were always wrong and on the false path.1

B. Soldiers being tired of War without Spoils

The people of that time, even though they were Muslims and ready to set out for battle, by the order of their Divine leaders, but they were not on such a high level of culture and predisposition that they could be solely God-seeking and practice sincerity and devotion. Collecting spoils in wars was a strong motivation, especially for those who for years had been accustomed to this practice. Now they had to remain in the battlefield for days and months, without being able to enjoy what they seized [as spoils of war].
During the reign of former rulers, they were accustomed to gaining spoils in wars and using them. Now, Imām (a.s.) from the very beginning of the battle wanted them to keep their hand off people’s property and to know that they had no right to keep what they seized at the height of the battle. Participating in a battle without gaining any spoils was very difficult for the people.
Most of those who accompanied Imām Ali (a.s.) did not have that deep faith and strong insight to think only of God and ‘to wield their sword for His sake’ and to have no desire except for God’s pleasure in their battle against the wicked. In the war, the majority were only thinking of their own interests rather than righteousness, faith or putting an end to the disturbances. Historical facts state that among the most frequent and numerous complaints that were brought up in the battles of Nahrawān and Jamal were concerning the booties of wars. People were asking why the enemies women were not taken as captives and their properties were not divided among the soldiers. Ibn Abi al-Hadid has quoted this historical event based on the consensus of the reporters:
اتّفقت الرواة کلّها علی أنه علیه السلام قبض ما وجد فی عسکر الجمل من سلاح ودابّة ومملوک ومتاع وعُروض، فقسّمه بین أصحابه، وأنهم قالوا له: اقسم بیننا أهل

1.. See The Encyclopedia of Amir al-Mu'minin, vol. ۵, p, ۱۴۲.

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