Imam Ali and Political Leadership

innovations imposed on the sunna. He painfully unveiled what the former statesmen and authorities had bequeathed people, asserting that he could no longer do anything else because if he would not hold on to this cultural transformation and carry on the campaign against cultural deviations, the troops would disperse and he would be left alone. Here are the Imām’s painful words:
ولَو حَمَلتُ النّاسَ عَلی تَرکِها وحَوَّلتُها إلی مَواضِعِها وإلی ما کانَت في عَهدِ رَسولِ اللهِ صلی الله علیه وآله لَتَفَرَّقَ عَنّي جُندي حَتّی أبقی وَحدي أو قَلیلٌ مِن شیعَتي.If I force people to abandon their own customs (what they practice now) and restore the traditions to their original state and to the way they were during the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) era, my troops will scatter and I will be left alone or with only a few of my followers.

Expressing Grievances, an Ultimatum to all

During the last months of Imām Ali’s rule, his life was hard, painful and unbearable. The tribulations, rebellious, lootings and stubbornness of the enemies made his life difficult. In a lengthy and exciting speech that he delivered for relatives and closed ones, he reiterated what he had told earlier to Kumayl ibn Ziyād in the desert. By explaining the situation for them, he left no excuse for any one, the elites or the common people.
In this speech, known as the Sermon of Disparagement and Threatening (Khutbah al-Qāsi`a)1 which was delivered after the battle of Nahrawān, Imām stated very important and fundamental points as to how and why pre-Islamic religious revolutions ended in failure and he precisely predicted the future history of Islam.

With the Elite (al-Khawās)

In his eloquent words, Imām Ali (a.s.) described the destiny of Satan that he had worshipped God for six thousand years, and with references to his high status [before his rejection], he (a.s.) points to the elite who enjoyed good accounts in their services to Islam and warns them lest they end up in a destiny similar to that of Satan:

1.. Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon ۱۹۲.

Imam Ali and Political Leadership

By these words, Imām (a.s.) actually delineated the cultural features of his time and drew attention to the fact that truth and falsehood had been intertwined in the past and those who had promoted falsity pretended truthfulness to achieve their false goals. As a result, after the lapse of one generation, innovations that were presented were regarded as tradition. Now that he (a.s.) intended to expose the features of falsehood and to rightly clarify the aspects of truth, it would be extremely difficult to do so, because people did not realize the depth of the tragedy.
Imām Ali (a.s.) quoted as saying from the holy Prophet (s.a.w.) who had predicted and mentioned that such an atmosphere will occur after him:
إنّي سَمِعتُ رَسولَ اللهِ یَقولُ: کَیفَ أنتُم إذا لَبَسَتکُم فِتنَةٌ یَربو فیهَا الصَغیرُ، ویَهرَمُ فیهَا الکَبیرُ، یَجرِي النّاسُ عَلَیها ویَتَّخِذونَها سُنَّةً فَإذا غُیِّرَ مِنها شَيءٌ قیلَ: قَد غُیِّرَةِ السُّنَّةُ... .Verily, I heard the Messenger of God (s.a.w.) say: “How would you be when a sedition would encompasses you? Such that the children would turn to adults and the adults would turn old. People would act according to them and adopt them as traditions to the extent that if one of them is changed, they would cry out that the tradition (sunnah) is changed!”1
It is a wonder that the Prophetic doctrines had settled in people’s minds, tongues, and beliefs so reversely that when someone like Imām Ali (a.s.) who was a clear manifestation of truth and was a truth-centered personality intends to reform and rectify the minds and thoughts of the people, they cry that ‘the tradition has been changed!’, and so on.
Were any fundamental reforms, essential changes and restoring the Muslim community back to the sunna of the Prophet (s.a.w.) possible in such an atmosphere? Thus, in these words and after his introductory statement, Imām (a.s.) returned to the main issue and candidly talked about innovations and stated part of these

1.. Ibid.

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    Imam Ali and Political Leadership
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