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Imam Ali and Political Leadership

Three: Economic Policies

The people who stood up against `Uthmān’s policies proclaimed that the reasons for their uprising was economic disorder, the caliph’s excessive open-handedness, unnecessary spending, negligence of people’s livelihood and dishonest use of the Public Treasury.
In such an environment, Imām Ali (a.s.) from one side stressed on the issue of production, and from the other, gave priority to the regulation of the market, and to conclude, he paid close attention to the distribution of the Public Treasury, rejecting any kind of discrimination. Perhaps this was Imām’s most difficult position.
The principles of the policies of Imām Ali (a.s.) in economy can be specified as follows:

1. Promotion of Work Ethos

Paying attention to work and endeavor occupies a high status in the teachings of Imām Ali (a.s.). From his (a.s.) point of view, economic poverty is caused by the culture of lassitude, inactivity, laziness and incapability. A society replete with cheerfulness, full of positive movement and dominated by the culture of work will not be inflicted by poverty which is the origin of many spiritual, material, individual and social maladies. Imām therefore highly emphasized the necessity of working and striving, regarding work, as an act of worship and striving for the improvement of living condition, as taking steps towards God Almighty.

2. Agricultural Development

Land is the source of life. According to Imām Ali (a.s.) people who possess land and water and at the same time suffer from poverty are far from Divine Mercy and deprived of God’s support. Imām Ali (a.s.) emphasized reviving the land and highly recommended the development of farming as a means of eliminating poverty from the society. He would ask people to engage in the prospering and developing of lands. Above all this, he regarded paying attention to the agriculture as a touchstone for evaluating the governments and their efficiency in rulership. He considered agricultural development


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of the Islamic state, even if they were on the highest level of administration, like the infallible Imām (a.s.), and also encouraged the acceptance of constructive criticism among the high ranking authorities of the Muslim community.

4. Imām Ali’s (a.s.) Reaction to Destructive Criticism

One point that must be understood at the end of this discourse is Imām’s (a.s.) sagacious reaction to criticism. Taking his conduct in encountering criticism and the objections of three main political opposition trends, i.e., Nākithin (covenant breakers), Qāsitin (deviators), and Māriqin (transgressors) into consideration, indicate that although he formally and practically asked people to express their criticism, he did not allow the seekers of power, the spiteful and the plotters to tell and write whatever they wished in order to achieve their political goals on the pretext of criticism.1

5. Adherence to Truth, rather than to Personalities

However high people soar towards the truth, the possibility of their eventual deviation can never be negated. Therefore, it is important that people, in following the personalities, to notice this fact, and never consider human beings as ‘absolute’. Paying attention to this issue and other enlightening teachings of Imām Ali (a.s.), should be regarded as the most fundamental guidelines of that holy Imām in rectifying the general culture of the public. It is obvious that in political and social trends, most deviations that occur, originate from absolutism in regards to figures and the notion of ‘personalism’ in taking stances.
Imām Ali (a.s.) used to warn people that personalities, however great, noble, popular or trustworthy they may be, cannot be a criterion for distinguishing truth from falsehood. He tried to get the society to a stage of awareness, understanding of stances and criteria and cultural consciousness, that people would measure personalities and their stand by truth and to see the truth as a criterion for getting to know personalities, and not the other way round.

1.. Leadership in Islam, M. Muhammadi Rayshahri, p. ۳۹۱-۴۱۸.

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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