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Imam Ali and Political Leadership

Decisiveness coupled with tolerance, and strictness joined with leniency is the strategy that Imām Ali (a.s.) employed to prevent rebels from turning more rebellious and the hopeful from becoming desperate. Pondering on factual examples of what was said here –and presented in this book– would be very instructive.

Two: Cultural Policies

Discussing the various dimensions of cultural policies demands much wider attention. Here, however briefly, we will mention certain points as an introduction to texts of history and hadith:

1. Development of Education

In Imām Ali’s (a.s.) system of government, cultural development precedes economic development, for the fact that economic development is not possible without cultural development, and also unconscious society submerged in ignorance neither enjoys the economic possibilities, facilities and blessings nor is it endowed with skills to use them or be even aware of the necessity to use them. Cultural and educational development is a true need of the human soul and mind, and economic development is the need of the body. Without doubt the needs of the soul and the intellect supersede the needs of the body.
Imām Ali (a.s.) considered knowledge as the origin and basis of all physical and spiritual goodness and a criterion for the evaluation of human beings. He believed that ignorance is the source of all evils and disappointments:
قيمَةُ كُلِّ امرِئ ما يَعلَمُهُ.“The worth of every person is what he knows.”1العِلمُ أصلُ كُلِّ خَير . الجَهلُ أصلُ كُلِّ شَرٍّ.“Knowledge is the root of all good, and ignorance is the origin of all evils.” 2

1.. See Science and Wisdom in the Qur'ān and Hadith, ۱/۳۰.

2.. Ibid. h. ۱۵ For more information on the texts denoting the precedence of cultural development over economic development, see Chapter Two of Part One of the book.


Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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Abih, `Abdullāh ibn `Abbās, Qudāma ibn `Ajlān, Masqala ibn Haybara, and Mundhir ibn Jārud, indicate that he (a.s.) had employed very powerful intelligence establishments in his government to monitor the administrators.
However, what is very important here is that the informants were both honest and faithful so that they would watch over carefully, follow up steadfastly and investigate honestly on one hand, and be truthful and loyal in their reports on the other.
The people that Imām Ali (a.s.) had selected for this extremely important task were so highly endowed with justice, truthfulness, and authority that their reports were the bases for administrative rewards and punishments. Based on the reports, those who had done good were rewarded, the treacherous were punished once proven guilty and the corrupt ones were expelled from work, in order to set an example for others.

9. Prevention of Gifts

In order to put an end to bribery in the bureaucratic system and cleanse the society of this evil and corruptive practice, he (a.s.) banned the acceptance of gifts. Nonetheless, imposters will try to penetrate into the administrative body of the government to utilize the state facilities by any possible means, Imām (a.s.), therefore, considered the acceptance of gifts by the administrators as transgression (ghulul) and called the bribery as a kind of polytheism (shirk).

10. Decisiveness together with Tolerance

Imām Ali’s (a.s.) behavior highly represented decisiveness and tolerance. From his point of view, administrators must practice tolerance and flexibility while being decisive. He regards extreme violence as harmful to management and he also considers too much leniency and easygoingness in administering justice in people’s affairs as detrimental. According to Imām (a.s.), a successful manager would be he who can devise a midway between decisiveness and compassion, strictness and leniency. Wherever there is need for firmness, he should practice it and not back down; and if leniency is demanded for being successful, he should not avoid using it.

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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