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Imam Ali and Political Leadership

advise his administrators not to eliminate anything from the society on the pretext that it is left over from the past. He would ask them to have a thorough study of them and support the beneficial and humane traditions and fight only against evil traditions, and never tolerate their perpetuation and expansion.

3. Criticism, Yes! Flattery, Never!

Criticism is a right by means of which other rights are restored. It prevents despotism -the most dangerous pitfall of governments-.
In a society where criticism is free and people are able to disclose the rulers’ deficiencies and flaws, the statesmen can better notice their own weaknesses, fight against corruption and injustice and offer valuable services.
On the other hand, in the absence of criticism, the grounds will be paved for the emergence of flatterers, sycophants and hypocrites. The statesmen’s weak points in policies, plans and steps will also remain unnoticed, and thus corruption, decadence, and injustice in governmental organizations will develop, leading to the fall of the governments.
When the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) took over the government, undue praises and exaggerated compliments about authorities were part of the general culture. The rulers did not prevent these things on the contrary they further encouraged them. It was in this way that the culture of flattery and sycophancy had developed and the cunning enemies of truth had achieved political and social positions by flattering the commanders and authorities, without being qualified for those jobs.
On the other hand, since the authorities were never criticized, they began to slowly consider themselves immaculate and flawless, to the extent that they took the constructive and compassionate criticisms as offensive and deemed it necessary to stand against them, in order to protect their position.
Of the most exciting and exhilarating measures of Imām Ali (a.s.) taken in rectification of the common culture, was battling against flattery and sycophancy and his stress on constructive criticism.


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He (a.s.) also emphasized that the people’s need for knowledge and acquisition of moral virtues are higher than their economic needs:
إنَّ النّاسَ إلى صالِحِ الأَدَبِ أحوَجُ مِنهُم إلَى الفِضَّةِ وَالذَّهَبِ.“Verily, people need righteous manners (adab) more than they need silver and gold.”1إنَّكُم إلَى اكْتِسابِ الأَدَبِ أحوَجُ مِنكُم إلَى اكْتِسابِ الفِضَّةِ وَالذَّهَبِ.“Verily, your need to acquire manners is more than your need to acquire silver and gold.”2
By looking at this issue from another perspective, we notice that the Divine teachings have clearly stated that the philosophy of Revelation, the secret of Prophethood and the reason for government in the doctrine of Prophecy is to educate and discipline human beings, remove ignorance and motivate the intellect. Similarly, Imām Ali (a.s.) whose mind, tongue, and manners were the clarifiers and explainers of the Prophetic culture, has presented this reality in a very beautiful form in his sermons.3 He clearly presented in his practical way of life the necessity of attaching importance to the culture of the society, giving priority to education over daily human needs and stressing the development of culture along with other dimensions of life. How subtly he defines the “age of pagan ignorance (jāhiliyya)” as a symbol of spreading ignorance and total destruction of knowledge, and without doubt a Divine Prophetic community and that of Imām Ali’s (a.s.) must be far from that.4

2. Reforming the Culture

Among the sublime and eminent policies of Imām Ali (a.s.) is the battle against false traditions, impolite manners, unsuitable behaviors, and the emphasis on decent manners and befitting behaviors, or, in short, rectifying the culture of the public. Imām Ali (a.s.) would

1.. Ghurar al-Hikam, h. ۳۵۹۰.

2.. Ibid, h. ۳۸۳۵.

3.. See Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon ۱۸۲.

4.. See Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon ۲.

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