Monday 27th of June 2022
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The thought of Imam Ali

Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks.

The foremost in religion is the ackowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His One-ness, the perfection of believing in His One-ness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and who recognises His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognises parts for Him; and who recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.

Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.


The Creation of the Universe

He initiated creation most initially and commenced it originally, without undergoing reflection, without making use of any experiment, without innovating any movement, and without experiencing any aspiration of mind. He allotted all things their times, put together their variations, gave them their properties, and determined their features knowing them before creating them, realising fully their limits and confines and appreciating their propensities and intricacies.

When Almighty created the openings of atmosphere, expanse of firmament and strata of winds, He flowed into it water whose waves were stormy and

whose surges leapt one over the other. He loaded it on dashing wind and breaking typhoons, ordered them to shed it back (as rain), gave the wind control over the vigour of the rain? and acquainted it with its limitations. The wind blew under it while water flowed furiously over it.

Then Almighty created forth wind and made its movement sterile, perpetuated its position, intensified its motion and spread it far and wide. Then He ordered the wind to raise up deep waters and to intensify the waves of the oceans. So the wind churned it like the churning of curd and pushed it fiercely into the firmament throwing its front position on the rear and the stationary on the flowing till its level was raised and the surface was full of foam. Then Almighty raised the foam on to the open wind and vast firmament and made therefrom the seven skies and made the lower one as a stationary surge and the upper one as protective ceiling and high edifice without any pole to support it or nail to hold it together. Then He decorated them with stars and the light of meteors and hung in it the shining sun and effulgent moon under the revolving sky, moving ceiling and rotating firmament.

One of the fundamental issues dealt with in the Nahj al-balaghah relates to theological and metaphysical problems. In all, there are about forty places in the sermons, letters, and aphorisms where these matters are discussed. Some of these pertain to the aphorisms, but more often the discussion is longer, covering sometimes several pages.

The passages on tawhid (Divine Unity) in the Nahj al-balaghah can perhaps be considered to be the most wonderful discussions of the book. Without any exaggeration, when we take into account the conditions in which they were delivered, they can almost be said to be miraculous.

The discussions on this theme in the Nahj al-balaghah are of a varied nature. Some of them constitute studies of the scheme of creation bearing witness to Divine creativity and wisdom. Here, 'Ali speaks about the whole system of the heaven and the earth, or occasionally discusses the wonderful features of some specific creature like the bat, the peacock or the ant, and the role of Divine design and purpose in their creation. To give an example of this kind of discussion, we may quote a passage regarding the ant:

Have you observed the tiny creatures that He has created? How He has made them strong and perfected their constitution and shaped their organs of hearing and sight, and how He has styled their bones and skin? Observe the ant with its tiny body and delicate form. It is so small that its features can hardly be discerned by the eye and so insignificant that it does not enter our thoughts. See how it roams about upon the ground and arduously collects its livelihood. It carries the grain to its hole and deposits it in its store. It collects during the summer for the winter and, when winter arrives, it foresees the time to reemerge. Its livelihood is guaranteed and designed according to its built. The Benefactor and the Provider does not forget or forsake it. He does not deprive it, even though it should be in hard and dry stones and rocks. You will be amazed at the delicate intricacy of its wonderful constitution if you investigate the structure of its alimentary canals, its belly, and its eyes and ears which are in its head ... (Sermon 185)

However, most of the discussions about tawhid in the Nahj al-balaghah are rational and philosophical. The rare sublimity of the Nahj al-balaghahbecomes manifest in these discourses. In these philosophical and rational discourses of the Nahj al-balaghah on tawhid what constitutes the focus of all arguments is the infinite, absolute and self-sufficing nature of the Divine Essence. In these passages, 'Ali ('a) attains to the heights of eloquence, and none, neither before him nor after him, has approached him in this aspect.

Another issue dealt with is that of the absolute simplicity (al-basatatal-mutlaqah) of the Divine Essence and negation of every kind of multiplicity, divisibility in the Godhead and refutation of separability of the Divine Attributes from the Divine Essence. This theme occurs repeatedly in the Nahj al-balaghah.

Also discussed is a series of other profound problems which had never been touched before him. They are: God being the First while also being the Last; His being simultaneously the Manifest and the Hidden; His priority over time and number, i.e. His pre-eternity is not temporal and His Unity is not numerical; His Supremacy, Authority, and Self-sufficiency; His Creativeness; that attendance to one affair does not prevent Him from attending to other affairs; the identity of Divine Word and Act; the limited capacity of human reason to comprehend His reality; that gnosis (ma'rifah) is a kind of manifestation (tajalli) of Him upon the intellects, which is different from conception or cognition by the mind; the negation of such categories and qualities as corporeality, motion, rest, change, place, time, similarity, opposition, partnership, possession of organs or instruments, limitation and number; and a series of other issues which we shall, God willing, mention later and give examples of every one of these. Even a thinker well-versed in the beliefs and views of ancient and modern philosophers would be struck with wonder to see the wide range and scope of the problems propounded in that wonderful book.

Supplication of the Holy Month of Sha'ban


The supplication of the Holy Month of Sha' ban-the famous (Munajat-e-Shabanyeh) narrated by the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (A.S.) and other Sinless Imams of Prophet (S.A.W.)'s Ahlul-Bait, is one of the most precious mystic supplication. Imam Khomeini (R.A.) the most perfect gnostic of our times, in his repeated speeches have emphasized the special spiritual importance of this precious supplication. Those who are blessed with Divine grace of keeping themselves continuously engaged in supplications and God's remembrance loves this supplication a lot, and because of this supplication eagerly await for the arrival of the Holy Month of Shaban.

This supplication contains vest sublime themes especially the etiquettes and manners of servanthood; the manners of how to face the God- Almighty; how to beseech Him; how to tell him about heart's secrets; how to open tongue for offering apologies and how to remain hopeful. Also, in these supplications the meanings of interpretation of God's Countenance (Laqa), God's Witnessing (Shahood) God's Nearness, (Qurb) have been described in a delicate manner, which do not leave any doubt or confusion for those wayfarers, who are still double minded, and who do not want to believe. Regarding self-awareness which is preliminary for God's learning (Marefat), this supplication contains most meaningful and surprising points.

Since, the recital of this supplication, especially, during the Holy Month of Shaban as well as throughout the year for the wayfarers of spiritual migration have been strongly recommended I feel it appropriate to present its English translation for the utilization of dear readers.

"In the Name of God the Beneficent the Merciful.

"Oh God! Send salutation upon Muhammad and His Holy Progeny and since, I beseech You (please) grant my prayer; whenever I cry; please listen to my cry; whenever I supplicate You please pay attention towards my condition; Because, I have taken refuge in You, am standing before Thy Threshold in a state of grief entangled with hardships shedding tears, while still remaining hopeful of Your mercy and compassion. Thou are Knowledgeable about my heart; is aware of my needs, knows thoroughly about myself and there is nothing hidden from You as far as my affairs of this world and next worlds are concerned.

"And whatever I bring upon my tongue to speak about my needs as well as regarding my being hopeful in Thee for my eternal salvation- Thou know every thing about it. Oh my Master! Thou will governs all the hidden and apparent affairs of my life till its very last breath; whatever profit or loss reaches to me, it is from Thee and not from other than Thee. Oh God! If Thou deprive me than who else is there to provide my sustenance? If Thou make me abject then who else is there to support me? Oh God!! I take refuge in Thee from Thy wrath and the severity of punishment. Oh God! If I don t deserve to receive Your blessing - Thou possessess the decency of bestowing forgiveness upon me with Thy infinite mercy and compassion.

"Oh God! As though I am standing before Thy sacred threshold; my good faith and trust in Thee has already spreaded the shadow of mercy upon my head; whatever was befitting from Thy magnanimity and benevolence, Thou have done with me accordingly; forgiveness and blessing has surrounded my entire existence. Oh God! If Thou pardon me who else is more befitting than Thee.

"And In case my death is near and my deeds did not earn Thy nearness, Then I will present my admittance of sins as a means to receive Thy-forgiveness. 0 God! I do admit that I have oppressed my self, then woe be upon the self, if you do not bestow forgiveness upon him. Oh God! Thy beneficence and merci surrounded me throughout my living; therefore, do not deprive me from Thy grace in my dying. Oh God! how can I be disappointed from receiving Thy Favors, after death, because during my entire life I have not seen any thing from Thee except compassion?

"Oh God! Be my guardian and supervisor over my affairs the way it is befitting of Thee (not what I deserve) pay attention with Thy benevolence and merci towards me - a sinner who has been overtaken completely by his ignorance. Oh God! Indeed thou have covered all my sins in this world; I need their cover up in the Hereafter much more than the covering of this world; because, Thou were kind and did not expose them to any one of your descent servants; therefore, on the Day of Judgment do not insult and expose me in front of all the humanity.

"Oh God! Thy mercy and compassion have increased my hopes, because Thy forgiveness is for better than my deeds. Oh God! On the Day when Thou will issue the final verdict for Thy servants, make me happy with Thou countenance. Oh God! I beseech Thou for forgiveness like some one who really is in need of acceptance of his repentance, therefore, accept my excuse, oh Beneficent! Who is besought by the sinners for atonement. Oh my Master! Do not turn down my request; do not deprive me from remaining hopeful of Your forgiveness; through the grace of Thy magnanimity do not cut off any hope and desire.

"Oh God! If thou had the intention of seeing me despised, would never blessed me with Thy guidance; if Thou had intended seeing me contemptible, would not have blessed me with health and happiness. Oh God! I can never believe it that Thou will turn down my request for which I have spent an entire life beseeching Thee for its grant. Oh God! Thou are the only one worthy of praise and adoration - the eternal and continuous praise always increasing and never ending, only if it could receive Thy pleasure and acceptance.

"Oh God! if Thou will remonstrate me for my offenses I will seek refuge in Thy forgiveness; if Thou will take me to task against my sins I will take Thee to task for Thy forgiveness; if Thou will send me to Hell I will inform its inmates that I loved Thee. Oh God! if my deeds are insignificant, but as compared to them my hope and desire in Thy magnanimity and benevolence is too much. Oh God! How can I return deprived and disappointed from Thy magnanimous kingdom, while remaining quite hopeful about Thy compassion and merci, that thou will be kind to me, and would include me among the rescued ones.

"Oh God! I have spend my entire life in ignorance, negligence, and forgetfulness from Thee; wasted my youth drunken into passions being ignorant of Thee. Oh God! I did not awake, because of being too proud to receive Thy forgiveness, and in this manner I followed the path of Your wrath and rage. Oh God! I am your humble servant and son of your servant who is now standing before Thee, pleading for Thy mercy and compassion as a means of my salvation.

"Oh God! I am your servant who has came to Thy threshold as ashamed and apologetic; I seek forgiveness and pardon for all my sins and transgressions, which were committed by me due to my lack of modesty from Thy presence, because bestowing for giveness is the characteristic of Thy magnanimity. Oh God! I do not have the power of relinquishing sins except that Thou awaken me with love and kindness. Or, if thou desire that I should become the way Thou want me to be; must be thankful to Thee for spreading Thy compassion and cleansing and purifying my heart from the filthiness of negligence.





if gnorance and negligence have caused me to remain unprepared for Thy countenance, Thy bounties and blessings make me aware.  Oh God if Thy wrath and punishment will send me to Hell's fire; Thy generosity and reward have invited me towards the eternal Paradise.




 In the modern world, Reagan, Mitterrand, Husni Mubarak, King Husayn, King Hasan, Saddam, Tariq Aziz, Rajawi, Bani Sadr, Bakhtiyar, Thatcher,and all of them are of the same leaven. That is, when one analyzes their doings, he realizes that for them the principle constitutes political interests, banding together, and grouping, who will vote to them, who will follow them and abide by them, and who will blindly adhere to them. They implement it wherever they can and such a regime turns out. Islam is basically against this way of living. As I have already mentioned, Islam regards belief and taqwa as the main criterion. It sets up a pious society. It enables God-fearing pious leaders to rule and precludes trickery and deceptions. This is the distinctive feature of Islam. The following Quranic verse, highlights this very issue:

و من الناس من يعجبك قوله في الحياة الدنيا و يشهد الله على ما في قلبه و هو الد الخصام* و اذا تولي في الارض ليفسد فيها و يهلك الحرث و النسل و الله لا

يحب الفساد

"And among mankind is he whose speech about the life of this world pleases you ,and he calls Allah to witness as to that which Is in his heart; yet he is the most rigid of adversaries. And when he turns away (from you and comes to power) be endeavours to make mischief in the land and to destroy the tillage and the breeding stock; and Allah does not like mischief (2:204-205

There >are some people who raise slogans. At these slogans, one wonders that they are so nice good people: These conferences, statements, claims, advocacy of the deprived, advocacy of so-and-so, struggle against arrogance, and things which give rise to such slogans. But when they become in charge of affairs, you will realize what type of people they are, and the Qur'an introduces them in this way; and on the other side it introduces another group as follows:

و من الناس من يشري نفسه ابتغا مرضات الله والله روف بالعباد

  • "And among mankind is be who would sell himself seeking the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is compassionate to (His) slaves. (2:207).

Islam regards as axis, the sacrificing and pious people who observe taqwa (God-fearing, obedience to Allah and piety)

In your country, the best examples of human rights are existing due to the sovereignty of taqwa and revolutionary criteria which are under the attack of the mendacious proclaimers of human rights. But they close their eyes. In your country, the rights of the religious minorities, like the overwhelming majority, are safeguarded. Which place in the world is the case so? Five representatives of religious minorities (who in the proportion of their population have more representatives in the Majlis than we) have, like other representatives, similar seats and vote like others. Their vote may reject or approve a bill. The day before yesterday, in a meeting in one of our Majlis departments in which a Jewish doctor is a member, one of the credentials of a candidate could have been approved or rejected by one vote. We see that one vote could have determined the fate of a Muslim candidate, who was also a university professor, for election as a Majlis representative. We abide by these principles. Of course, one small incident of one of the minorities who had raised its expectations too high, embarked on assassinating our foreign guests. This causes a trouble in the foreign policy of the country. With regard to education, the constitution, which they voted for, says that all the curricula should be in Persian. Only the extra-curricular subjects could be in their own (minorities') languages in the schools. Now the Armenians are making trouble. Their children do not sit for examinations or do the like of these. They say, for instance, that they want to have religious education in their own language. But the Constitution stipulates that no official course could be conducted in their language. If they do so, they will be tried. They themselves have approved this Constitution. Surely, they are free to write all their religious books in their own language. They are also free to teach (in their own language) in non-official times or in the hours they desire. In their churches and synagogues they can act as they want. But in the official class time, such courses must be in Persian. Their expectations have risen beyond the limit in this country; nevertheless, they have not been treated harshly despite all the problems they have created for us. This is our Islam and the Islamic Republic and our Islamic Revolution. Now compare this with the treatment of Washington toward the Muslims' mosque. For months, the Muslims are performing their salat (prayers) in the streets in sunshine, rain, and snow, because they do not conform to Washington's policy. But we do not treat the Armenians here in this way. Yet we are branded as being against human rights and those gentlemen' (Americans) become the standard-bearers of human rights. Those, who presently back the criminal Khmer Rouge's seat in the United Nations, become the proponents of human rights. And those who support the atrocious Saddam, who destroyed out cities in this way, become the advocates of human rights while we become something else.

This is the visage of modern world. You should appreciate your own spiritual worth. Preserve this axis and main base of Islam, as well as the realities and taqwa. This is the path of Allah (S.W.T.). Of course, it has difficulties. They try to create obstacles and impediments in its way. They use all their power to create economic, political, and cultural barriers in its way, because it has put under question all their claimed principles, has condemned their mode of living, has shown and revealed to the world their erroneous course of action, and has explicitly made disclosures about them. Therefore, they cannot tolerate a pure Islamic and popular movement based on taqwa, reality, and equity, because they either have to say that this is false, or admit that they are lying. And they prefer to say that this is false. In any case, I hope that the details I have given would be useful in making known the visage of your enemies, as well as their claims. I hope it would be beneficial to enlighten those who are allured by their words, particularly the youths, so that they would conduct further studies on this issue. Perhaps many books are written in this regard, and they can find these books in the libraries.A

Man comes to realize his responsibilities only when he reaches the stage of distinguishing between right and wrong. It is then that he can bear to observe the commands of the system of life and adhere to the chain of decisive decisions on which man's happiness and integrity depend. In other words, he is able to create harmony between his behaviors and his bodily and spiritual needs.

Performing one's material and spiritual responsibilities is a necessity attested to by both reason and conscience, which call on man to steadfastly pursue advancement, and condemn such factors that cause disturbances in the system of living. Performing one's responsibilities plays a great role in furthering good manners and spirituality. Despite some beliefs, responsibility is not slavery but real freedom. Responsibility draws for man the behavioral order that conforms to the most adequate system of living. Man's responsibilities exist as long as man exists but in varying forms. It is only appropriate to expect a person to fulfill his responsibilities if he is able and willing to do so.

Irresponsibility and violation of the rules is just ignorance of the fundamentals of life and an introduction to misery and destruction. There is not a greater mistake than carelessness about members of society. Therefore, we must prevent the process of eliminating individual duties for the sake of fulfilling  our lusts. People who are captives of their own lusts prefer their own wishes and personal interests over their duties, which is the root of their failure and inability to reach human integrity at all.

According to Dr. Carl:          

     "A man who considers himself free to do anything is not like an. eagle that roams the endless heavens but is like a runaway dog that finds himself in the middle of a street crowded with cars. This man can be compared to the dog that does whatever its cravings dictate, yet the man is more misguided than the dog for he does not know where to go or how to rid himself of the many dangers that surround him.  

   "We all agree that nature is subjected to certain laws. We must also realize that man's life must contain a sequence of laws and regulations. We imagine ourselves as being totally independent of nature, and do whatever we wish. We do not want to admit that controlling our lives is not any different than driving cars from the viewpoint that both need adherence to certain rules. It is as if we think that the real goal for man is to eat, drink, sleep have sexual intercourse, and own a car, radio, etc...

Obeying the rules is essential for human society, and this can not be done without constantly observing the rules. Those who rely on their personal abilities can observe the facts of life with the light of reason and logic; and therefore, can bear to undertake various duties. They organize their lives according to the fundamentals of righteousness and truth and accept their duties without complaining. If a person fails in anyway, he still can find reason to be proud, for such failure comes not but after fulfilling his responsibilities.

We must search for happiness in real felicity. Felicity together with tranquility provides those who adhere to the calls of their conscience with success. The reward of those who observe their responsibilities is self-confidence and the harmony of both the mind and the conscience. This comforting feeling stems from the soul of those who carry out their responsibilities in life.

The Importance of Vows and Disadvantages of Violating Them

One of man's vital duties in life is observing his vows. It is man's nature to feel resentful for violating his vows and to feel satisfaction and goodness when fulfilling them in both individual and social cases, regardless of his religion. The fundamentals on which a person is brought up play a tremendous role in his future conduct. Thus, the necessity of an adequate upbringing and the development of its fruitfulness, and refraining from the things that damage man's nature become readily obvious. Proper upbringing is the key to behavioral perfection.

Morality deems it necessary to observe and respect all verbal vows (agreements) that are contracted between parties, even it they lack legal guarantees. Violation of vows is considered as abandoning the rules of honor and dignity.

According to Buzarjumehr:                               

   "The violation of vows isolates honor.

He who diverts himself from the right path by violating his vows (agreements) plants the seeds of refusal and resentment in the hearts of others. Eventually the violator's actions will bring shame on him, he will then attempt to cover up his actions beneath excuses and contradictions and finally the people who know this person will see that he is a misguided hypocrite.

Violation of oaths is surely among the most active elements in creating social dissention and weakening ties between people. Undoubtedly, a society that is overwhelmed by dissention and mistrust will eventually loose the balance of its social life and as a result its members will not be able to trust anyone not even the closest of relatives.

There is a type of individual who is not only careless about keeping his promises but he considers treason (betrayal of trust) to be cleaver and good management; these people even brag about their actions to others.

Fulfilling promises is essential for a person who wishes to live a social life; it is the basis for social happiness, development, and success.

It is narrated that a group of Khawarij were captured during the time of Hajjaj, who reviewed their cases and sentenced them as he wished. When the last man was standing in front of Hajjaj waiting for his sentence, time for prayer arrived. Hajjaj heard the call for prayer and turned the prisoner over to a noble man and told him to bring him back in the morning. The noble man left the palace with the prisoner. As they were walking the prisoner said: "I am not one of the Khawarij. I ask Allah by His Mercy to prove my innocence, for I am an innocent hostage in their hands. I ask you to let me spend the night with my wife and children so I can leave my will with them. I promise that I will return before the roaster crows in the morning. After a moment of silence, the noble man agreed to the man's insistence and permitted him to go home for the night. A short time later the noble man fell victim to his fear and imagined that he would be the subject of Hajjaj's fury. That night the man woke up terrified and was astonished to hear the prisoner, who he had given permission to go home, knocking at his door as he had promised. This noble man was overwhelmed with surprise and could not help but exclaim:       

     "Why have you come to my door'?

The prisoner replied: "He who recognizes Allah's greatness and power, and makes Him a witness to his oath, must fulfill his promise.

The noble man proceeded with the prisoner to the palace of Hajjaj, and narrated to him the complete story. Hajjaj, who is known for his ruthlessness, was so moved by the man's honesty that he allowed him to go free.

Now suppose that a commercial establishment disregarded its commitment in fulfilling its duties and regulations. Would this behavior lead anywhere but down, for the establishment would lose its credibility among the people.

There is not a more stabilizing factor than exchanged trust between members of a society. Interpersonal relations would not become stable, nor would trust become manifested in any society unless everyone gave as much importance to their verbal commitments as he does to his official and legal contracts. For example, a merchant should transfer goods on time to his clients, a borrower should pay his debts to his lenders...etc. It is then that disputes can be eliminated, and life can reach its ultimate goal.

It is essential for a person to review his capabilities before making any promises, and to refrain from commitments that are outside his reach. Even if a person cannot fulfill his promises or meet his commitments he is responsible for them. Thus, if a person is not careful of what he says, he makes himself subject to blame and criticism.

Islam Prohibits Breach of Promises

Man is bound to behave reasonably so as to be considered a human being. The success of human societies is totally dependent upon the unity of its members. Therefore, it is of special importance that every person conducts his life according to the fundamentals of truth and righteousness, and whole- heartily endeavors to refrain from any action that may cause dissention or disunity. Furthermore, if the sanctity of oaths and promises stem from one's faith and morality they are more likely to be observed.

Islam so greatly condemns the violation of promises that it has made it illegal and unethical for its followers to violate their oaths even if they were made with tyrants and desolates. Imam Baqir (a.s) said:

"There are three affairs for which Allah gave no license (permission to violate): Conveyance of trust to both the righteous and the fallacious; Fulfillment of promises to both the righteous and the fallacious;      

    And kindness to the parents whether they are righteous or sinful. (al-Kafi Vol.2, p. 162)

The Holy Quran describes the believers in the following way:

"And those who are keepers of their trusts arid their covenants." 23:8

Furthermore, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) counted breach of promises among the signs of hypocrisy. He said:                                                                      "There are four traits that if one possess he is considered a hypocrite. If one of them is found in a person he has the characteristics of hypocrite unless he abandon it: (The four characteristics are)                                                                                                                      He who lies when he speaks;                                                                                                     He who breaks his promises;                                                                                                        He who betrays when he makes a vow; and                                                                                         He who erupts when he quarrels (with someone).                                                                      Bihar al-Anwar Vol. 15, p. 234.

Imam Ali (A.S.) wrote the following to Malik Al-Ashtar:

" Refrain from bragging to your subjects about your kindness (to them), and from preferring yourself (as governor) to your subjects, or to promise them and follow your promises with betrayal; for bragging thwarts kindness, preference conceals the light of righteousness, and betrayal deserves Allah's and people s resentment. Allah, Glory be to Him, said: It is a great resentment to Allah that you say that which you do not do" Mustadrak al- Wasa`il Vol..2, p.85

Imam Ali (a.s) said:         

         "Fulfi1lment (of promises) is twin to truthfulness, and I know of no shield better than (truthfulness)."  Ghurar al-Hikam p. 228

Islam gives special importance to the raising of children. It has clarified to parents their moral duties towards their children through strict and comprehensive commands. Unless parents perform their duties in accordance to these moral principles, they cannot teach their children to adherence to moral excellence.

This is because actions speak louder than words.

Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) prohibited men from breaking promises to their children. He said:

"And a man shall not make a promise to his child and not fulfill it."    

  Nahj al-Fasahah p. 201

Dr. Alindi said:

"A sixteen year old boy who robbed every day was brought to me for treatment. I discovered that when the boy was seven or eight years old, his father had forced him to give his toy to an aristocrat's daughter, for whom his father worked. That toy, to the boy, represented an ultimate dream for he had worked hard to get it. The boy's father promised to buy a substitute toy but had unintentionally forgot. The hopeless boy sought revenge by stealing a piece of candy from his father's pocket. A day later the boy broke into a house and stole some items.                                                                                                                       "It was not difficult to treat the boy when he was brought to me. It is possible that the boy would have come to he a dangerous criminal if he was not properly treated. But now his chances of becoming a reasonable and sell-confident individual are much greater.                                                                                       - Ma Wa Farzandane Ma

Imam Ali (a.s) emphasizes the way one should behave with his friends. He said:

"If you adopt an intimate friend, be his servant and grant him authentic faith and true sincerity.         Ghurar al-Hikam p. 223

Only people who possess excellent qualities and good morals are eligible for love and relationships.

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said:

"The happiest among people is he who associates with kind people; he who does not oppress people when he deals with them; he who when he speaks does not lie; and he who when he promises does not betray. He is of those whose valor is perfected. whose justness is manifest, and whose brotherhood is essential"

According to Dr. Smiles:

"When you associate with spiritual people who possess noble traits, you feel an invincible power calling ~ our souls and manners to excellence and majesty. Friendship with those who hold strong reason, noble traits, and more experience is a very valuable matter; for such a relationship gives an opportunity to achieve high spirits, teach us new ways of appropriate behavior, and direct our views about others to the righteous paths.

Associating with kind people teaches us goodness and kindness, for good manners are like a light which lights that which is around it and all that is near it.

In conclusion, all men should know their responsibilities towards vows and promises.



Fear is one of the basic instincts of every living creature when confronted with some kind of danger. Whenever in its struggle for life the human being is confronted with the alternatives of either avoiding danger or facing harm or destruction, the feeling of fear gives it the power necessary to secure survival. Hence the purpose of fear is to mobilize one's energy and effort to find the way of deliverance from danger and peril. Had the human beings of prehistoric times failed to avoid the various dangers that threatened them, the human species would not have survived.

This principle is valid not only in the case of dangers to physical life but also hold in respect of any threat to man's personality that gives rise to the feeling of fear. Common experience has shown that the danger of becoming subject to the domination of others is a greater cause of fear amongst individuals than anything else. Such a fear can paralyze one's active life for months, or even years, and bring active life to a standstill.

In fact, this anxiety arises from a threat to personality and the danger of its loss. Someone who is faced with such a threat feels as if he has no power to take any decision. He is compelled to seek others' help and decide his affairs through their assistance.

The stronger one's fear of losing one's personality, the more intense is the anxiety that torments him. At times this condition may reach the point of madness. That which is said concerning inherent instincts, that they are beneficial for survival and for the preservation of life, is true only when they do not exceed the limits of moderation. But when they become extreme they can become harmful. Imaginary fears born of ungrounded imaginings and forebodings of misfortune and grief are signs of a kind of painful pathological condition which weakens the power of thought. As revealed by specialists in the field, this factor not only leads many people to lose their well-being but also results in considerable harm.

It has often been observed that the state of crisis resulting from panic and anxiety becomes the cause of untimely death, for an unexpected bout of panic can upset the mechanism of one's life and bring life to a sudden halt.

Sometimes, the state of fear and anxiety is a prelude to severe psychic illness caused by some radical changes in a person's psyche; for sound and healthy persons do not ordinarily become subject to such states. On the contrary, they try with all their mental capacity to maintain and reinforce their mental equilibrium.

Some people are victims of vague and unknown fears, they cannot identify what troubles them, nor are those closest to them aware of the cause of their hidden anguish and pain. Age, of course, is of direct relevance in relation to feelings of fe4r and anxiety. These feelings are characteristic of childhood years, and all people, more or less, experience states of agitation and panic during their childhood years and well until the age of mental maturity.

In any case, this affliction destroys the urge for progress and immobilizes all elements of success, diminishing the level of one's mental and physical activity. Its harmful effects become visible throughout one's activities and conduct.

Aside from the fact that such fears are of no benefit, and regardless of whether the expected dangers materialize or not, the fear that one feels at the present has no result except causing waste of time and diminished physical and mental vigour. Moreover, when the feared misfortune or calamity actually does occur, one will lack the power and courage to face it.

Fear and anxiety reveal themselves in various forms. Dr. Cowlest says:

Do you lack self-confidence and consider yourself incapable of facing the conditions of life? Do you suffer from a painful feeling of shyness and timidity? Do you find it difficult in social gatherings to face someone whom you have not met earlier and does that make you uncomfortable and anxious? Don't you feel really comfortable and at ease when you are alone? If your answer to the above questions is Yes, then you are afraid.

Do you feel that people consider you to be senseless? That they do not understand you? That everyone is against you? Do you think and brood a lot concerning your past and what you have lost? Do you feel that you have committed a sin in the past in relation to a certain person, regardless of whether such a sin has been committed or not?

Do you continually think about yourself and are continually in a state of anxiety about what will happen to you? Are you quickly affected by people's idle talk and frivolous remarks? When you get angry and inflamed, are you afraid that you would not be able to control yourself? Do you, in general, loath to associate with people and have strong prejudices? Do you find it difficult to develop terms of attachment and intimacy with others? All of these are different forms of fear. (Cowlest, Edward Spencer, Conquest of fear and fatigue)

When one resolves to act in accordance with certain principles that one adopts in life and in a decisive manner, one will bear problems and misfortunes with courage and fortitude. Such a person puts up a manly resistance against hardships, and despair and despondency cannot subdue his spirit.

Many talented people who could attain a distinguished position in life by relying on this inner power and who possess adequate strength to expel fear from their minds, cannot make an initial movement on his path due to the lack of sufficient courage. As a result, they fail to climb the ladder of progress and their capacities languish forever.

That which results in one losing control over one's life and affairs is indecisiveness. Wasting time worrying about events that may never happen will lead to irreparable harm. Shakespeare says: "Those who are afraid of the sting of the honey-bee do not deserve to possess the hive's honey.

It is possible for everyone at all times to get rid of unfounded fears and baseless anxieties and to replace them with optimistic ideas. No matter how strong ones s will power may be, and however sublime one's goals should be, one cannot get rid of some habits instantaneously. Such habits must be eradicated gradually. It is not sufficient that one should be merely aware of being a victim to groundless notions; rather, one must make a consistent mental effort to guard one's personality against illusory fears. One should stop ruminating over distressing thoughts by opening ones mind to positive thoughts which are in complete contrast to them. In this way one can prepare the ground for considerable progress.

A lamp is not lighted until it is turned on, and once lighted it will not go off until it is switched off. Similarly, when the darkness of anxiety overwhelms one's spirit, one should turn on the lamp of his intellect and take a deep look at the realities of life and its bright side so that one's mind is relieved from the stress of baseless fears.

Someone who is unusually prone to illusory fears even in trivial matters should first examine these thoughts which upset his mental composure so as to discover that fear and anxiety are incapable of producing any positive results and that every difficulty requires thoughtful attention. Then he should plant the seedlings of hope and confidence in the garden of his soul instead of cultivating the weeds of baseless anxieties and devote himself to their cultivation and care like a skilled gardener.

Without doubt, fear and anxiety are products of man's imagination and have no place outside the mind. When one realizes this fact, one would be able to dominate fear to a considerable extent and obtain peace of mind which is the most valuable of things.

Repentance could be defined as a feeling of being ashamed, sorry, and regretful for past sins. Some one who is indeed ashamed by heart for his past sins may truly be called as a repentant. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said:
"Feeling ashamed and being sorry (for past deeds) is repentance.


                                                                                           - Haqayaq, p-286.

It is true that God-Almighty accepts repentance and forgives the past sins, but simply recital of the sentence: "I ask God to forgive (Astaghferullah), being ashamed and regretful or even, crying for past sins may not be considered as sufficient for a pure and sincere repentance, but with the existence of the following tree symptoms the repentance could be considered as true and realistic:

       i. First: He must be disgusted by heart for his, past sins and his self

should have a feeling of shame, regret, and sorrow.


       ii. Second: He must take a firm decision not to indulge into sinning in the future.


       iii. Third: If, because of indulgence into a particular sin, he has done something, which could be compensated then he must take a firm decision for its compensation. For example: If he owes dues of people, has usurped property or stolen money, must decide to return it to its owner in the first available opportunity. In case he is not in a position to pay at present, he should try to get the owners consent or satisfaction through whatever means at his disposal.


If he has committed backbiting against some one, should seek his pardon, if he has oppressed some one, should try to redress the aggrieved. If religious dues have not been paid he must arrange for their payment, and if the daily prayers and the fasting have been missed, he must perform them as make-up (qaza) obligations. If some one has undertanen all the above steps, then he may truly be called as a sincere repentant, who is indeed ashamed for his past deeds and such atonement certainly receives God's acceptance.


But if some one recites the sentence: "I seek God's forgiveness upon his tongue, but by heart is not ashamed for his past sins, does not decide for avoidance of future sins and is not ready to compensate for those sins which could have been compensated - then such a person has not atoned and should not expect acceptance of his repentance, even though he might appear in a prayer assembly and, thus, being affected sentimentally might shed some tears or may cry loudly. A person recited the sentence: "I seek God's forgiveness in the presence of the Commander of the Faithful Imamn Ali (A.S.). The Imam said:


May your mother lament for you, do you know what is repentance? The repentance can be defined with the following six parameters;


1. Feeling ashamed and regretful for the past sins.


2. Taking firm decision for avoidance of sins forever.


3. Paying all the dues of the people so that when he meets God- Almighty on the Resurrection Day, he does not have any pending claim against him.


4. All the religious obligations (Wajibat) which have not been performed in the past should be discharged as makeup (Qaza) obligations.


5. Should feel so sad about his past sins that all the bodily flesh formed as a result of eating forbidden (Haram) should be melted in a manner that skin should touch the bare bones until the new flesh is reformed again.


6. The inconvenience and hardship of worshipping should b imposed upon the body as a compensation for the pleasures it faste because of past sins. Only after performing all the above, you may recit the sentence I seek forgiveness from God.   

                                                                                             Wasail, vol. 11, p.361


Satan is so deceitful that sometimes he even deceives a persoi regarding repentance. It is possible that a sinner might attend a prayer gathering and after being effected sentimentally may shed some tears or may cry. Then Satan would say:
Great, wonderful! What a great thing have you done? You have already atoned and all your sins have been cleaned. While in reality, such person neither is ashamed from sinning by heart nor has be decided not to commit sins any more, and to remit dues of the creditors. Such act doe not constitute a real repentance and would not result one's attaining sell purification and eternal salvation. Such a person has not refrained from

sins and has not returned to God-Almighty.


Another spiritual motif conspicuous in the teachings of the Nahj aI-baaghah is zuhd, which after taqwa is the most recurring theme of the book.Zuhd' means renunciation of the world', and very often we encounter denunciation of the world', and invitation and exhortation to renounce it. It appears to me that it forms one of the important themes of the Nahj aI-balàghah, which needs to be elucidated and explained in the light of various aspects of All's approach.

We shall begin our discussion with the word 'zuhd'. The words zuhd' and raghbah' (attraction, desire), if mentioned without reference to their objects, are opposite to each other. Zuhd' means indifference and avoidance, and raghbah' means attraction, inclination, and desire.

Indifference can be of two kinds: involuntary and cultivated. A person is involuntarily indifferent towards a certain thing when by nature he does not have any desire for it, as in the case of a sick person who shows no desire either for food, or fruits, or anything else. Obviously, this kind of indifference and abstinence has nothing to do with the particular sense implied in zuhd'.

Another kind of indifference or abstinence is spiritual or intellectual; that is; things that are natural objects of desire are not considered the goal and objective by a human being in the course of his struggle for perfection and felicity. The ultimate objective and goal may be something above mundane aims and sensual pleasures; either it may be to attain the sensuous pleasures of the Hereafter, or it may not belong to this kind of things. It may be some high ethical and moral ideal, like honour, dignity, nobility, liberty, or it may belong to the spiritual sphere, like the remembrance of God, the love of God, and the desire to acquire nearness to Him.

Accordingly the zahid (i.e. one who practises zuhd) is someone whose interest transcends the sphere of material existence, and whose object of aspiration lies beyond the kind of things we have mentioned above. The indifference of a zahioriginates in the sphere of his ideas, ideals, and hopes, not in his physiological makeup.

There are two places where we come across the definition of zuhd' in the Nahj aI-balaghah. Both of them confirm the above interpretation of zuhd.Ali (a.s), in khutbah 81, says:

O people! zuhd means curtailing of hopes, thanking God for His blessings and bounties, and abstaining from that which He has forbidden.

In hikmah 439, he says:

All zuhd is summarized in two sentences of the Qur'an: God, the Most Exalted, says, ...So that you may not grieve for what escapes you, nor rejoice in what has come to you.' [57:23] Whoever does not grieve over what he has lost and does not rejoice over what comes to him has acquired zuhd in both of its aspects.

Obviously when something does not occupy a significant position amongst one's objectives and ideals, or rather is not at all significant in the scheme of things which matter to him, its gain and loss do not make the slightest difference to him.

However, there are some points that need clarification. Is zuhd, or detachment from the world, on which the Nahj aI-balaghah, following the Qur'anic teachings, puts so much emphasis, to be taken solely in an ethical and spiritual sense? In other words, is zuhd purely a spiritual state, or does it possess practical implications also?

That is, is zuhd spiritual abstinence only or is it accompanied by an abstinence in practical life also? Assuming that zuhd is to be applied in practice, is it limited to abstinence from unlawful things (muharramat), as pointed out in khutbah 81, or does it include something more, as exemplified by the life of Ali (a.s) and before him by the life of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w)?

Proceeding on the assumption that zuhd is not limited to muharramat only and that it covers permissible things (mubahat) as well, one may ask: what is its underlying rationale and philosophy? What is the use of an ascetic life that limits and confines life, rejecting its blessings and bounties? Is zuhd to be practised at all times or only under certain particular conditions? Is zuhd--in the sense of abstinence from even permissible things-basically in agreement with other Islamic teachings?

Apart from this, the basis of zuhd and renunciation of the world is the pursuit of supra-material objectives and ideals. What are they from the point of view of Islam? In particular, how does the Nahj al-balaghah describe them?

All these questions regarding zuhd, renunciation, and curtailing of hopes----themes which have so often been discussed in the Nahj al-balaghah----need to be clarified. We shall discuss these questions in the following pages and try to answer them.

Anyhow, Islam considers the world something as undesirable and demands from its followers to practice asceticism. Here, it would be appropriate to throw some light about the Islamic concept of this world, and why it has been reproached? Does the world consist of worldly existence such as: earth, sun, moon, stars, animals, plants, trees, mines, and human beings? Therefore, the life of this world can be defined as working, eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying and other related acts of living. Does Islam refrain from these things? Do earth, sky, animals, vegetables, and trees are bad things that a human being should avoid them?

Does Islam prohibit earning a living, acquiring of knowledge, business and production, and sexual relationship? Absolutely this is not the case, because God- Almighty has created all of the above things, and in case they were bad, He would not have created them. God-Almighty regards them as His Beautiful Bounties that should be conquered by human beings and should be utilized for their advantages. The wealth and property not only is not reproached but on the contrary has been introduced as blessing in the Holy Qur'an as follows: ان ترك خيرا الوصية للوالدين و الاقربين

"If he leaves wealth, that he bequeath unto parents and near relatives in kindness. - The Holy Qur'an (2:1 80).

Earning a genuine living by lawful means not only has not been reproached, rather has been regarded as one of the best kind of worship. Following is an example:

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) said: العبادة سبعون جزا افضلها طلب الحلال "Worship consists of seventy acts and the best among them is the act of earning a genuine living through lawful means. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p-78.

Imam al-Baqir (a.s) has said: من طلب الرزق في الدنيا استعفافا عن الناس و توسيعا على اهله و تعطفا على جاره لقي الله عزوجل يوم القيامة و وجهه مثل القمر ليلة البدر

"Whoever endeavors sincerely for earning a genuine living (through lawful means); becomes self sufficient in taking care of his expenditures; maintains a reasonably comfortable standard of living for his family; shows benevolence to his neighbors - such a person will meet God-Almighty in the Hereafter, while his face will be shining like the full moon. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p-88.

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: الكاد على عياله كالمجاهد في سبيل الله "Whoever strives for earning a living for his family is tantamount to a warrior engaged in Holy War for the sake of God. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p-88.

The Islamic traditions emphasize the importance of Work, farming, agriculture, trade, and even marriage. The life styles of Prophet (a.s) and Sinless Imams (a.s) indicate that they too have worked for earning a living. Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s) the leader of the pious also mode endeavors and worked hard for earning a living in his life. Therefore, what is really meant with this reproached world? In the opinion of some people it is not the world that is reproached rather it is the attachment to world that has been strictly condemned. e.g. the Holy Qur'an said: زين للناس حب الشهوات من النسا و البنين و القناطير المقنطرة من الذهب و الفضة و الخيل المسومة و الانعام و الحرث ذالك متاع الحياة الدنيا و الله عنده حسن المآب

"Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring, and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), cattle, and land. That is comfort of the life of the world. God-Almighty! With Him is a more excellent abode. - The Holy Qur'an (3:14).

· The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s) said: اياك و حب الدنيا فانها اصل كل خطيئة و معدن كل بليه "Be careful not to attach yourself from this (transient) world, because love of world is the root of all sins and origin of all catastrophes. - Gharar al-Hukm, p-150.

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: راس كل خطيئة حب الدنيا "Attachment to the world is the basis of all sins and transgressions. Bihar al-A nwar, vol. 3, p-7.

From these types of traditions it could be inferred that what is condemned is the attachment to these worldly affairs and not the affairs in themselves. Here the question arises whether absolute attachment and love to worldly affairs is condemned and should not a man have any attachment to his wife, children, house, wealth, and food? How could such a thing be expected?

Because, the attachment to these affairs is a natural thing for a human being; God-Almighty has incorporated these attachment within his primordial nature, and that is the way human beings have been created by Him. Is it possible for a man not to love his wife and children?

Is it possible not to love clothing, delicious foods, and other beautiful things of this world? If, love of these things was prohibited, God would not have created human being with these tendencies. A human being in order to keep himself alive requires these things, and accordingly he has been created in such a manner that he should feel a natural inclination towards these affairs. The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s) said: الناس ابنا الدنيا ولا يلام الرجل على حب امه "The human beings are the children of this world and they should not be blamed for loving their mother.- Nahjul Balaghah, Qasar-33.

The Islamic traditions recommend that one must love and show affection towards his wife and children. The Holy Prophet (a.s) and Sinless Imams (a.s) too had shown affection towards their wives and children. Some of them liked foods and showed interest in them. Therefore, sky, plants, trees, mines, animals, and similar other God's Bounties are neither bad nor condemned. Similarly, wife, children, wealth and property, affection shown towards these things and life of this world, are not only not condemned, rather in some of the traditions, the world even has been praised. Following is the example:

In reply to a person who has condemned the world, the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s) said: ان الدنيا دار صدق لمن صدقها و دار عافية لامن فهم عنها و دار غنى لمن تزود منها و دار موعظة و لمن اتعظ بها مسجد احبا الله و مصلى ملائكة الله و محبط وحى الله و متجر اوليا الله اكتسبوا فيها الرحمة و ربحوا فيها الجنة "Verily this world is a house of truth for those who look into it deeply and carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods, and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for Hereafter. It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for friends of God and for angels. It is the place where prophets receive revelations of the Lord. It is the place for virtuous people and saints to do good deeds and to be given rewards for the same; only in this world they could trade with God s favors and blessings and only while living here they could barter their good deeds, with His Blessings, and rewards. - Nahjul Balaghah, Short Saying No. 130.

Imam al-Baqir (a.s) said: نعم العون الدنيا علي الاخرة "The world is the best support for the Hereafter. - Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p42 7.

Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) said: لا خير في من لا يجب جمع المال من حلال يكف به وجهه و يقضى به دينه و يحصل به رحمه "Any one who does not like earning a living by lawful means to maintain his prestige, to pay his obligations and to take care of his relatives, then - such a person lacks any merit and goodness. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p.72.

Therefore, what is meant by the condemnation of world and its love and attachment which is the roots of all evils? From the over all collection of these verses and traditions it could be inferred that, what is condemned is the worldliness and becoming infatuated with it, and not the creatures of the world, its life, and genuine liking of worldly affairs in themselves.

Islam, demands people to recognize the world the way it is and then they should appraise its worth accordingly; they should also discover the exalted Divine Goal behind their own creation as well as the world, and should move in that direction. If they acted in this manner - they belong to the Hereafter, otherwise they belong to the worldly group.

World's Reality

In order to explain this matter in the beginning we would discuss the reality and nature of world from Islamic point of view and then a conclusion could be reached. Islam believes in the existence of two worlds:

The first one is the same material world where we live and is called world. The other one is where we will be transferred after death and is called Hereafter and Next World.

Islam believes that the life of a person does not terminate at his demise, rather he will be transferred after death to an eternal abode known as the Next World. Islam regards the world as perishable, transient, and a temporary abode, while considers the Hereafter and Next World as a permanent and eternal abode.

Men has not came to this world in order to live for a short while and finally to die and be destroyed, rather he has come to achieve self- perfection through acquiring knowledge, good deeds, and training - and to live happily forever in his eternal abode in the Next World. Therefore, the world is like a form land for cultivation of fruits for Hereafter, place for acquiring knowledge, and a place for making arrangements for provisions of a journey.

However, man for the sake of his survival and in order to live in this world has no other choice except to utilize Divine Bounties which have been created for his consumption. But utilization of these Divine Bounties should be regarded as a mean and not an end in itself.

The aim of creation of human beings and world was not just to have comfortable luxurious life and to take the maximum advantage of worldly pleasures, rather there was an exalted and superior goal behind it e.g. the nourishment of the Jewel of Humanity (Jowhar-e-Insaniyat) through attaining self-perfection and ascending towards God's Nearness. Following are few examples of Islamic narrations in this matter:

The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s) said: فان الدنيا لم تخلق لكم دار مقام بل خلقت لكم مجازا لتنزودوا منها الاعمال الى دارالقرار فكونوا منها علي اوفاز و قربوا الظهور للزيال

"Certainly this world has not been made a place of permanent stay for you. But it has been created as a pathway in order that you may take from it the provision of your (good) actions for the permanent house in Paradise). Be ready for departure from here and keep close your mount for setting off" - Nahjul al Balaghah, Sermon-123.

And said: ايها الناس انما الدنيا دار مجاز و الاخرة دار قرار فخدوا من ممركم لمقركم و لتهتكوا استاركم عند من يعلم اسراركم و اخرچوا من الدنيا قلوبكم من قبل ان تخرج منها ابدانكم ففيها اختبرتم و لغيرها خلقتم ان المر اذا هلك قال الناس ما ترك؟ و قالت الملائكة: ما قدم؟ لله آبائكم فقدموا بعضا يكن لم قرضا و لا تخلفوا كلا فيكون فرضا عليكم "Remember that this world is a thoroughfare, a road upon which people are passing night and day, and the Next-World is the abode of permanent stay. While, passing along this road make provision for the next where you will reside forever. Do not go with a burden of sins and vices before the One, Who knows everything about you. Remove vicious ambitions from your mind before death removes you from your surroundings.Remember, that you are being tried in this world, and are created to be given a permanent residence in the Next World. When a man dies people ask what he has left behind as a legacy, and angels want to know what he has sent forward (good deeds and good words). May God have mercy upon you, send something in advance to the place where you will have to follow; it may be a sort of a deposit with God to be repaid to you on your arrival. Do not leave all of your s behind, it will be a drag upon you. - Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon-203.

He further said: الا و ان هذا الدنيا التى اصبحتم تتمنونها و ترغبون فيها و اصبحت تغضبكم و ترضيكم ليست بداركم و لا منزلكم الذى خلقتم له و لا الذى دعيتم اليه الا و انها ليست بباقية لكم و لا تبقون عليها و هى و ان غرتكم منها فقد حذرتكم شرها فدعوا غرورها لتحذيرها و اطماعها لتخويفها و سابقوا فيها الى الدار التى دعيتم اليها و انصرفوا بقولوبكم عنها "Remember, that this world which you covet so ardently and attempt to acquire so earnestly, and which some times annoys you and some times pleases you so much, is neither your home nor a permanent destination. You have not been created for it, nor invited to it as your resting place. It shall neither remain with you for ever nor will you remain in it eternally. If, it has enticed you with its charms, it has also warned and cautioned you of real dangers lurking in its folds. Take account of the warnings it has given you and do not be seduced or deceived by its allurements. These warnings should desist you from being too greedy or too covetous to possess it. Try, to advance towards the place where you are invited for eternal bliss, and turn your face away from the vicious world. - Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon-173. 


Therefore, as we can see the reality or the nature of the world in these narrations has been described such as: passage, a house of vanity, and deception etc. The human beings have not been created for this rather for the Hereafter; they have come here to nourish their humanism through knowledge and deeds and to arrange provisions for their eternal journey.


Written for (Malik) al-Ashtar an-Nakhari

Written for (Malik) al-Ashtar an-Nakhari,

when the position of Muhammad ibn

Abi Bakr had become precarious, and

Amir al-mu'mitftn had appointed

al-Ashtar as the Governor of Egypt and

the surrounding areas; it is the longest

document and contains the greatest

number of beautiful sayings.

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

This is what Allah's servant 'Ali, Amir almu'minin, has ordered Malik ibn al-Harith alAshtar in his instrument (of appointment) for him when he made him Governor of Egypt for the collection of its revenues, fighting against its enemies, seeking the good of its people and making its cities prosperous.

He has ordered him to fear Allah, to prefer obedience to Him, and to follow what He has commanded in His Book (the Qur'an) out of His obligatory and elective commands, without following which one cannot achieve virtue, nor (can one) be evil save by opposing them and ignoring them, and to help Allah the Glorified, with his heart, hand and tongue, because Allah whose name is Sublime takes the responsibility for helping him who helps Him, and for protecting him who gives Him support.

He also orders him to break his heart off from passions, and to restrain it at the time of their increase, because the heart leads towards evil unless Allah has mercy.

The qualifications of a governor

and his responsibilities

Then, know O' Malik that I have sent you to an area where there have been governments before you, both just as well as oppressive. People will now watch your dealings as you used to watch the dealings of the rulers before you, and they (people) will criticise you as you criticised them (rulers). Surely, the virtuous are known by the reputation that Allah circulates for them through the tongues of His creatures. Therefore, the best collection with you should be the collection of good deeds. So, control your passions and check your heart from doing what is not lawful for you, because checking the heart means detaining it just half way between what it likes and dislikes.

Habituate your heart to mercy for the subjects and to affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them, since they are of two kinds, either your brother in religion or one like you in creation. They will commit slips and encounter mistakes. They may act wrongly, wilfully or by neglect. So, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon, in the same way as you would like Allah to extend His forgiveness and pardon to you, because you are over them and your responsible Commander (Imam) is over you while Allah is over him who has appointed you. He (Allah) has sought you to manage their affairs and has tried you through them.

Do not set yourself to fight Allah because you have no power before His power and you cannot do without His pardon and mercy. Do not repent of forgiving or be merciful in punishing. Do not act hastily during anger if you can find way out of it. Do not say: "I have been given authority, I should be obeyed when I order," because it engenders confusion in the heart, weakens the religion and takes one near ruin. If the authority in which you are placed produces pride or vanity in you then look at the greatness of the realm of Allah over you and His might the like of which might you do not even possess over yourself. This will curb your haughtiness, cure youself of your high temper and bring back to youself your wisdom which had gone away from you.

Beware of comparing yourself to Allah in His greatness or likening yourself to Him in His power, for Allah humiliates every claimant of power and disgraces every one who is haughty.

Do justice for Allah and do justice towards the people, as against yourself, your near ones and those of your subjects for whom you have a liking, because if you do not do so you will be oppressive, and when a person oppresses the creatures of Allah then, instead of His creatures, Allah becomes his opponent, and when Allah is the opponent of a person He tramples his plea; and we will remain in the position of being at war with Allah until he gives it up and repents. Nothing is more inducive of the reversal of Allah's bounty or for the hastening of His retribution than continuance in oppression, because

Allah hears the prayer of the oppressed and is on the lookout for the oppressors.

Ruling should be in favour of

the people as a whole

The way most coveted by you should be that which is the most equitable for the right, the most universal by way of justice, and the most comprehensive with regard to the agreement among those under you, because the disagreement among the common people sweeps away the arguments of the chiefs and can be disregarded when compared with the agreement of the common people. No one among those under you is more burdensome to the ruler in the comfort of life, less helpful in distress, more disliking of equitable treatment, more tricky in asking favours, less thankful at the time of giving, less appreciative of reasons at the time of refusal and weaker in endurance at the time of the discomforts of life than the chiefs. It is the common people of the community who are the pillars of the religion, the power of the Muslims and the defence against the enemies. Your leanings should therefore be towards them and your inclination with them.

The one among the people under you who is furthest from you and the worst of them in your view should be he who is the most inquisitive of the shortcomings of the people, because people do have shortcomings and the ruler is the most appropriate person to cover them. Do not disclose whatever of it is hidden from you because your obligation is to correct what is manifest to you, while Allah will deal with whatever is hidden from you. Therefore, cover shortcomings so far as you can; Allah would cover those of your shortcomings which you would like to remain under cover from your subjects. Unfasten every knot of hatred in the people and cut away from yourself the cause of every enmity. Feign ignorance of what is not clear to you. Do not hasten to second a backbiter, because a backbiter is a cheat although he looks like those who wish well.

About counsellors

Do not include among those you consult a miser who would keep you back from being generous and caution you against destitution, nor a coward who would make you feel too weak for your affairs, nor a greedy person who would make beautiful to you the collection of wealth by evil ways. This is because although miserliness, cowardice and greed are different qualities, yet they are common in having an incorrect idea about Allah.

The worst minister for you is he who has been a minister for mischievous persons before you, and who joined them in sins. Therefore, he should not be your chief man, because they are abettors of sinners and brothers of the oppressors. You can find good substitutes for them who will be like them in their views and influence, while not being like them in sins and vices. They have never assisted an oppressor in his oppression or a sinner in his sin. They will give 

you the least trouble and the best support. They will be most considerate towards you and the least inclined towards others. Therefore, make them your chief companions in privacy as well as in public.

Then, more preferable among them for you should be those who openly speak better truths before you and who support you least in those of your actions which Allah does not approve in His friends, even though they may be according to your wishes. Associate yourself with God-fearing and truthful people; then educate them, so that they should not praise you or please you by reason of an action you did not perform, because and excess of praise produces pride an drives you near haughtiness.

The virtuous and the vicious should not be in equal positions before you because this means dissuasion of the virtuous from virtue and persuasion of the vicious to vice. Keep everyone in the position which is his. You should know that the most conducive thing for the good impression of the ruler on his subjects is that he should extend good behaviour towards them, lighten their hardships, and avoid putting them to unbearable troubles. You should therefore, in this way follow a course by which you will leave a good impression with your subjects, because such good ideas will relieve you of great worries. Certainly, the most appropriate for a good impression of you is he to whom your behaviour has not been good.

Do not discontinue the good lives in which the earlier people of this community had been acting, by virtue of which there was general unity and through which the subjects prospered. Do not innovate any line of action which injures these earlier ways because (in that case) the reward for those who had established those ways will continue but the burden for discontinuing them will be on you. Keep on increasing your conversations with the scholars and discussions with the wise to stabilise the prosperity of the areas under you, and to continue with that in which the earlier people had remained steadfast.

The different classes of people

Know that the people consist of classes who prosper only with the help of one another, and they are not independent of one another. Among them are the army of Allah, then the secretarial workers of the common people and the chiefs, then the dispensers of justice, then those engaged in law and order, then the payers of head tax (jizyah) and land tax (kharaj) from the protected unbelievers and the common Muslims, then there are the traders and the men of industry and then the lowest class of the needy and the destitute. Allah has fixed the share of every one of them and laid down His precepts about the limits of each in His Book (the Qur'an) and the sunnah of His Prophet by way of a settlement which is preserved with us.

Now the army is, by the will of Allah, the fortress of the subjects, the ornament of the ruler, the strength of the religion and the means of peace. The subjects cannot exist without them while the army

can be maintained only by the funds fixed by Allah in the revenues, through which they acquire the strength to fight the enemies, on which they depend for their prosperity, and with which they meet their needs. These two classes cannot exist without the third class namely the judges, the executives and the secretaries who pass judgements about contracts, collect revenues and are depended upon in special and general matters.

And these classes cannot exist except with the traders and men of industry, who provide necessities for them, establish markets and make it possible for others not to do all this with their own hands. Then is the lowest class of the needy and the destitute support of and help for whom is an obligation, and everyone of them has (a share in) livelihood in the name of Allah. Everyone of them has a right on the ruler according to what is needed for his prosperity. The ruler cannot acquit himself of the obligations laid on him by Allah in this matter except by striving and seeking help from Allah and by training himself to adhere to the right and by enduring on that account all that is light or hard.

1. The Army

Put in command of your forces the man who in your view is the best well-wisher of Allah, His Prophet and your Imam. The chastest of them in heart and the highest of them in endurance is he who is slow in getting enraged, accepts excuses, is kind to the weak and is strict with the strong; violence should not raise his temper and weakness should not keep him sitting.

Also associate with considerate people from high families, virtuous houses and decent traditions, then people of courage, velour, generosity and benevolence, because they are repositories of honour and springs of virtues. Strive for their matters as the parents strive for their child. Do not regard anything that you do to strengthen them as big nor consider anything that you have agreed to do for them as little (so as to give it up), even though it may be small, because this will make them your well-wishers and create a good impression of you. Do not neglect to attend to their small matters, confining yourself to their important matters, because your small favours will also be of benefit to them while the important ones are such that they cannot ignore them.

That commander of the army should have such a position before you that he renders help to them equitably and spends from his money on them and on those of their families who remain behind so that all their worries converge on the one worry for fighting the enemy. Your kindness to them will turn their hearts to you. The most pleasant thing for the rulers is the establishment of justice in their areas and the manifestation of the love of their subjects, but the subjects' love manifests itself only when their hearts are clean. Their good wishes prove correct only when they surround their commanders (to protect them). Do not regard their positions to be a burden over

them and do not keep watching for the end of their tenure. Therefore, be broad-minded in regard to their desires, continue praising them and recounting the good deeds of those who have shown such deeds, because the mention of good actions shakes the brave and rouses the weak, if Allah so wills.

Appreciate the performance of every one of them, do not attribute the performance of one to the other, and do not minimise the reward below the level of the performance. The high position of a man should not lead you to regard his small deeds as big, nor should the low position of a man make you regard his big deeds as small.

Refer to Allah and His Prophet the affairs which worry you and matters which appear confusing to you, because, addressing the people whom Allah the Sublime, wishes to guide, He said:

O' you who believe! Obey Alldh and obey the Prophet and those vested with authority from among you; and then if

you quarrel about anything refer at to

Allah and the Prophet if you believe in

Alldh and in the Last Day (of Judgement)

... (Qur'an, 4:59)

Referring to Allah means to act according to what is clear in His Book and referring to the Prophet means to follow his unanimously agreed sunnah in regard to which there are no differences.

2. The Chief Judge

For the settlement of disputes among people select him who is the most distinguished of your subjects in your view. The cases (coming before him) should not vex him, disputation should not enrage him, he should not insist on any wrong point, and should not grudge accepting the truth when he perceives it; he should not lean towards greed and should not content himself with a cursory understanding (of a matter) without going thoroughly into it. He should be most ready to stop (to ponder) on doubtful points, most regardful of arguments, least disgusted at the quarrel of litigants, most patient at probing into matters and most fearless at the time of passing judgement. Praise should not make him vain and elation should not make him lean (to any side). Such people are very few.

Then, very often check his decisions and allow him so much. money (as remuneration) that he has no excuse worth hearing (for not being honest) and there remains no occasion for him to go to others for his needs. Give him that rank in your audience for which no one else among your chiefs aspires, so that he remains safe from the harm of those around you. You should have a piercing eye in this matter because this religion has formerly been a prisoner in the hands of vicious persons when action was taken according to passion, and worldly wealth was sought.

3. Executive Officers

Thereafter, look into the affairs of your executives. Give them appointment after tests and do not appoint them according to partiality or favouritism, because these two things constitute sources of injustice and unfairness. Select among them those who are people of experience and modesty, hailing from virtuous houses, having been previously in Islam, because such persons possess high manners and untarnished honour. They are the least inclined towards greed and always have their eyes on the ends of matters.

Give them an abundant livelihood (by way of salary) because this gives them the strength to maintain themselves in order and not to have an eye upon the funds in their custody, and it would be an argument against them if they disobeyed your orders or misappropriated your trust. You should also check their activities and have people who report on them who should be truthful and faithful, because your watching their actions secretly will urge them to preserve trust with and to be kind to the people. Be careful of assistants. If any one of them extends his hands towards misappropriation and the reports of your reporters reaching you confirm it, that should be regarded enough evidence. You should then inflict corporal punishment on him and recover what he has misappropriated. You should put him in a place of disgrace, blacklist him with (the charge of) misappropriation and make him wear the necklace of shame for his offence.

4. The Administration of Revenues

Look after the revenue (kharaj or land tax) affairs in such a way that those engaged in it remain prosperous because in their prosperity lies the prosperity of all others. The others cannot prosper without them, because all people are dependent on revenue and its payers. You should also keep an eye on the cultivation of the land more than on the collection of revenue because revenue cannot be had without cultivation and whoever asks for revenue without cultivation, ruins the area and brings death to the people. His rule will not last only a moment.

If they complain of the heaviness (of the revenue) or of diseases, or dearth of water, or excess of water or of a change in the condition of the land either due to flood or to drought, you should remit the revenue to the extent that you hope will improve their position. The remission granted by you for the removal of distress from them should not be grudged by you, because it is an investment which they will return to you in the shape of the prosperity of your country and the progress of your domain in addition to earning their praise and happiness for meeting out justice to them. You can depend upon their strength because of the investment made by you in them through catering to their convenience, and can have confidence in them because of the justice extended to them by being kind to them. After that, circumstances may so

turn that you may have ask for their assistance, when they will bear it happily, for prosperity is capable of bearing whatever you load on it. The ruin of the land is caused by the poverty of the cultivators, while the cultivators become poor when the officers concentrate on the collection (of money), having little hope for continuance (in their posts) and deriving no benefit from objects of warning.

5. The Clerical Establishment

Then you should take care of your secretarial workers. Put the best of them in charge of your affairs. Entrust those of your letters which contain your policies and secrets to him who possesses the best character, who is not elated by honours, lest he dares speak against you in common audiences. He should also not be negligent in presenting the communications of your officers before you and issuing correct replies to them on your behalf and in matters of your receipts and payments. He should not make any damaging agreement on your behalf and should not fail in repudiating an agreement against you. He should not be ignorant of the extent of his own position in matters because he who is ignorant of his own position is (even) more ignorant of the position of others.

Your selection of these people should not be on the basis of your understanding (of them), confidence and your good impression, because people catch the ideas of the officers through affectation and personal service and there is nothing in it which is like well-wishing or trustfulness. You should rather test them by what they did under the virtuous people before you. Take a decision in favour of one who has a good name among the common people and is the most renowned in trustworthiness, because this will be a proof of your regard for Allah and for him on whose behalf you have been appointed to this position (namely your Imam). Establish one chief for every department of work. He should not be incapable of big matters, and a rush of work should not perplex him. Whenever there is a defect in your secretaries which you overlook, then you will be held responsible for it.

6. Traders and Industrialists

Now take some advice about traders and industrialists. Give them good counsel whether they be settled (shop-keepers) or traders or physical labourers because they are sources of profit and the means of the provision of useful articles. They bring them from distant and far-flung areas throughout the land and sea, plains or mountains, from where people cannot come and to where they do not dare to go, for they are peaceful and there is no fear of revolt from them, and they are quite without fear of treason.

Look after their affairs before yourself or wherever they may be in your area. Know, along with this, that most of them are very narrow-minded, and awfully avaricious. They hoard goods for profiteering and fix high prices for goods. This is a source of harm

to the people and a blot on the officers in charge. Stop people from hoarding, because the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.a.h.p.) has prohibited it. The sale should be smooth, with correct weights and prices, not harmful to either party, the seller or the purchaser, whoever commits hoarding after you prohibit it, give him exemplary but not excessive punishment.

7. The Lowest Class

(Fear) Allah and keep Allah in view in respect of the lowest class, consisting of those who have few means: the poor, the destitute, the penniless and the disabled, because in this class are both the discontented and those who beg. Take care for the sake of Allah of His obligations towards them for which He has made you responsible. Fix for them a share from the public funds and a share from the crops of lands taken over as booty for Islam in every area, because in it the remote ones have the same shares as the near ones. All these people are those whose rights have been placed in your charge. Therefore, a luxurious life should not keep you away from them. You cannot be excused for ignoring small matters because you were deciding big problems. Consequently, do not be unmindful of them, nor turn your face from them out of vanity.

Take care of the affairs of those of them who do not approach you because they are of unsightly appearance or those whom people regard as low. Appoint for them some trusted people who are Godfearing and humble. They should inform you of these people's conditions. Then deal with them with a sense of responsibility to Allah on the day you will meet Him, because of all the subjects these people are the most deserving of equitable treatment, while for others also you should fulfil their rights so as to render account to Allah.

Take care of the orphans and the aged who have no means (for livelihood) nor are they ready for begging. This is heavy on the officers; in fact, every right is heavy. Allah lightens it for those who seek the next world and so they endure (hardships) upon themselves and trust on the truthfulness of Allah's promise to them. And fix a time for complainants wherein you make yourself free for them, and sit for them in common audience and feel humble therein for the sake of Allah who created you. (On that occasion) you should keep away your army and your assistants such as the guards and the police so that anyone who likes to speak may speak to you without fear, because I have heard the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.a.h.p.) say in more than one place, "The people among whom the right of the weak is not secured from the strong without fear will never achieve purity." Tolerate their awkwardness and inability to speak. Keep away from you narrowness and haughtiness; Allah would, on this account, spread over you the skirts of His mercy and assign the reward of His obedience for you. Whatever you give, give it joyfully, but when you refuse, do it handsomely and with excuses.

Then there are certain matters which you cannot avoid performing yourself. For example, replying to your officers when your secretaries are unable to do so, or disposing of the complaints of the people when your assistants shirk them. Finish every day the work meant for it, because every day has its own work. Keep for yourself the better and greater portion of these periods for the worship of Allah, although all these items are for Allah provided the intention is pure and the subjects prosper thereby.

Muslims Are Advised To Exhibit Good Behaviour

Towards The Religious Minorities

Muslims are strictly advised to regard and respect their obligations towards the Zemmi. They are advised to exhibit good behaviuor to them:

this is all based on the Quranic verses:

" And argue not with the people of the scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you."(1)

The Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) has issued orders about having gentle conduct with the Zemmi: "He who overcharges the one who enters into a contract I will reprimand him on the Resurrection Day."(2)

His Holiness adds: "He who persecutes the Zemmi is hated by me, and will be revenged on Doomes Day:'(3)

The Prophet of Islam (S.A.W) used to revere the dead of those who possessed the divine scriptures. Jabir b. Abd Allah said, "Once His Holiness stood up to show his politeness for a Jewish dead man whose corpse was escorted in a funeral. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "He is a human being just as we are. You must all stand up as soon as you see a funeral rite."(4)

The peaceful behaviour of the Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) towards the Zemmi has been always served as an outstanding example for the Muslim followers.

His Holiness Ali (A.S.) who is known as the Commander of the Faithful has advised and ordered his representative as follows:

"Be careful not to take their clothes as tributes, though it might be summer at that time, and they may need them not. Put not on sale their provisions and their beasts of burden. I consent not that you whip them for a dirham (silver coin) or make them stand up on their feet!"

The representative said: "What would you say if I return unpaid being indigent as I am now?"

Ali (A.S.) replied "Woe! We are appointed to spread forgiveness and beneficence."(5)

Also, His Eminence Ali (A.S.) once saw an old Christian chap who was begging people to help him. His Holiness (A.S.) said to the people: "Behold! you people have exploited this Christian chap so much in his youth while you have abandoned him now that he is old and feeble." Ali (A.S.) then ordered to give the man a pension and provide his needs from the Muslims'treasury.(6)

The author of Al-Kharaj writes: "The Zemmi must not be beaten because of their shortcoming in paying tribute. They should not be kept in a standing posture in the sunshine. They are to be arrested and imprisoned until they pay the jiziyih, if they are rich enought to pay it "(7)

Most of the Islamic leaders used to display the generous spirit and behaviour based on the exalted teachings of Islam. The following is recorded in history:

Once Umar, the second caliph, saw an old man who was busy begging round the streets. He seemed to be distressed and afflicted. The caliph asked about him and was informed of his poor condition which was due to paying tributes and oldness. Umar took the indigent man to his own house, and gave him enough food and money to suffice for his sustenance. Then the caliph sent the poor man to the treasurer who was ordered to assist that man and the other needy ones. Umar added: "By God! We would not be just and honest if we exploit such people in their youth, and abandon them when they are old and indigent!"(8)

The officials who were on duty to collect the tributes were ordered to be kind to the Zemmi. They were advised to avoid any harshness in case the Zemmi denied to submit the Jiziyih.(9) Thus those who possessed the divine scriptures opened the gates of their towns to the Muslims who were sincerely received by the inhabitants of those towns and cities.

When the Muslim army, under the command of Abu Ubayd-Allah Jirah, reached the territories of Jordan, the Christians who lived there wrote a letter to the Muslims: "Behold you Muslims! you are more popular to us than the Romans.

Although they are our co-religionists you are more loyal, more tender and more beneficent."(10)


Now let us quote the Achbishop of Antioch who took refuge with the Muslims when he was fed up with the oppression of the Romans. He frankly says: "This is no doubt God's vengeance that released us from these ruthless Romans who demolished our churches."(11)

The inhabitants of the city Hams did not open the gate for Heraclius but they sent a message to the Muslim army stating that the Islamic justice was much better than the Romans'aggressions.(12)

Sir T.V. Arnold, the author of Invitation to Islam, writes; "All cities occupied by the Romans received the Muslim conquerors cordially. All this was due to the tenderness and forgiveness the people enjoyed; the new condition created by the Muslim combatants and something they (the people) had not experienced for years on account of some religious prejudice: They were free to practise their religious ceremonies within the framework of some useful regulations determined by Muslim authorities."(13)

Such a fellowship resulted in the creation of a secure and happy life for non-Muslim people who lived in the realm of Islam.

The Christians of Byzantine who were prosecuted by the official churches sought refuge in the Muslim territories. A Nestorian person appreciates the behaviour of the Muslims towards Christianity.(14) Here the Earl of Gobineau who is a celebrated erudite from the West says: "To study religion within its own limits would make it clear that Islam is an easy faith. No bigotry could be found in this divine religion:'(15) Forgiveness is therefore recommended for the Zemmi who are supposed to enjoy the fruits of the exalted teachings of Islam.

The Prophet's (S.A.W.) behaviour and Ali's (A.S.) conduct towards the Zemmi are the best examples that concern the above subject.

(1) Qoran al-Ankabut (29:46)

(2) Baladhri, p.167.

(3) Ruhul Din al_islami, p.250.

(4) See the reference to Sahih Bukhari in Sayyid Qutb's Islam and Peace In the World, p.250

(5) Nahj al-Balaghah, letter section

(6) Wasa'il al-Shia, (Book of Jihad), Ch.19, 1st Hadith.

(7) Abu Yusif, al-Kharaj, p.123.

(8) Islam wa Sulh Jihani, p.151

(9) Abu Ysif, p.143

(10) Tarikh Ibn Asakir

(11) al-Islam al-Alami Wa al-Islam, p. 158.

(12) Baladhri, pp. 146-167

(13) Sir T.V. Arnold, Invitation to Islam, quoted from Islam wa Humazisti masamlamat Amiz, p.168.

(14) Dr. abdul Husayn Zarinkub, Karnamih Islammp.14.

(15) Compte Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Religions et Philosophies, p.24.

Freedom and its sources



The method adopted by Imam Ali in the matter of politics, rulership and administration of the State was based on the principle of the freedom of the people. (1) He had an ardent belief in this freedom which can be observed in all his actions. Whether he said something, or gave some orders, or prohibited some actions, whether it was at the time of peace or war, or made an appointment of a governor, and in whatever manner he treated the people or his children or worshipped God - his conduct was based on all such occasions on this freedom.

The question, however, arises as to why the people should be free, why they should work according to their will and determination. From where did they get the freedom and what are its limits? According to Ali the real cause of this freedom is the human society which must proceed on the path of blessedness and prosperity.

Freedom is the result of the mutual relations, sentiments and inclinations of the people. It has a close relationship with a few things which exercise great influence on it.

Reason and experience prove this thing and it has also been confirmed by Ali that the members of a society are inter-related with one another. This inter-relationship of theirs is on account of personal interests as well as national interests. (2)

It was the policy of Ali to reform these connections and ties, so that every person might lead his life in a better way. He provided opportunities to the people to utilize their freedom in the best possible manners and to discharge by means of this freedom the responsibilities which it is not possible to discharge without it.

In the first instance Ali made the people realize that to establish truth and to destroy falsehood is their own responsibility. They should get hold of their freedom, should not be subservient to the orders of the upper classes, and should neither betray the society nor be cruel to themselves. Throughout his life and before attaining to the caliphate, as well as thereafter, he explained to the people that they must discharge their duty to establish right and destroy falsehood.

Ali was endeavouring his best to provide means for the welfare of the people, and at the same time he was so severe in awarding punishment to the criminals that friends and foes were equal in his eyes in this matter and he did not observe leniency with anyone.

Ali was confident that his piety was known to all, and they were aware that he had no equal in the matter of piety, and he took from the world only as much as was sufficient for his living. The people also knew that the only purpose of his life was to establish truth and to help the needy and the oppressed, and that he did these things as a matter of duty and not to show kindness to others. He did not like to eat honey because he was afraid that there might be some persons among his subjects to whom even barley bread might not be available. He never wore fine dress, because there might be a member of the public who might not be having even coarse dress to wear. He did not like that the people should call him the Commander of the Faithful and he should not partake in their difficulties.

Ali kept himself free from all the pollution in which the rulers of those days were involved. He did not take advantage of his noble descent. He never coveted territory, high office or wealth. On no occasion did he display pride. He remained aloof from all irrational and worthless things. He never preferred his kinsmen and friends to others. He never nursed a grudge against his opponents, nor did he take revenge on anyone. He never did anything about whose goodness and correctness he was not sure. He did not say or think of anything which he did not like. He was indifferent to the things which he ate or drank, the dress which he wore, and the house in which he lived. He utilized these things only as much as they were absolutely necessary for him. He did not take anything from the public treasury to meet his personal' expenses, although he could take at least as much as the governors of the provinces did. Authentic narrations show that often he had to sell his sword, coat of mail and household articles to feed himself and the members of his family. However, he gave sufficient salaries to his governors so that they might not be obliged to take bribes or acquire money by unlawful means.

Ali kept himself free from all such bonds as might interfere with his administering justice between friend and foe. He has mentioned his own condition in this brief sentence. "Whoever forsakes desires remains free".

His piety was the piety of magnanimous persons. It was not tainted with any avarice. He had perfect faith in God and he acted according to his belief. There was no simulation of hypocrisy in his actions. His good deeds were not prompted by fear of Hell or desire for Paradise.

As regards the freedom of the common man its first stage is freedom of action. Imam Ali has given the body of the workers the same rank on earth as is enjoyed by the hearts of the righteous persons in Paradise i.e. this world welcomes the workers in the same manner in which Paradise remains ready to welcome the righteous persons. About the righteous persons he says: - "Their hearts are in Paradise and their bodies are busy doing work". (i.e. they do not attach their hearts with the worldly things).

He elevated the position of freedom and considered the work of a free person to be great. He had made it his principle not to compel any person to do any particular work, because any work which is not done voluntarily is dishonesty in freedom as well as in work.

He says:-"It is not my intention to compel any person to do a particular work". He prescribed award for making people do useful work and preserving freedom and deprived of reward a person who compelled others to work. He Says: "The canal belongs to one who dug it on his own accord and not to one who compelled others to dig it (or one who does not work on it)".

It appears necessary to mention an important point here. The word freedom as it was used in those days did not carry as vast a meaning as was attached to it by Ali. Others did not mean by it what Ali meant. In those days freedom was the opposite of slavery and freeman was the opposite of slave. Caliph Umar has said: "How did you make the people your slave when their mothers gave birth to them as freemen?"

When we ponder over these words and take into account the time and the conditions in which they were uttered by caliph Umar we clearly learn that by freeman he meant the opposite of slave i.e. one who cannot be bought or sold. However, during the modem times the words free and freedom do not carry the same sense in which they were used by caliph Umar. We hereby put forth another proof of our view. In the sentence quoted above caliph Umar has expressed annoyance for the people who had reduced their subordinates to slavery. He rebuked the powerful persons and told them not to consider the weak people to be slaves, because their mothers had given birth to them as free men. Caliph Umar did not tell the slaves that they were free and should not obey those who claimed, to be the masters of their slaves. In short, caliph Umar in his sentence has admonished the masters to give freedom to those subservient and weak persons.

According to Imam Ali the meaning of freedom is different from what is meant by caliph Umar and carries a much wider sense. In the first instance we reproduce below a clear remark of his on the subject and shall later reproduce his other remarks, recommendations and orders in support of our view.

As opposed to the remark of Umar he says: "Do not be the slave of anyone when God has created you free".

Caliph Umar had addressed the masters and told them to give freedom to their subordinates. He had not told the subordinates to decline to obey their masters. Ali, however, addresses the subordinates themselves and tells them to have self-reliance and a sense of freedom. He advises them to realize their right of freedom which is the essence of their being. He reminds them that God has created them as free beings and whatever they do or do not do should depend on this natural right of theirs.

By uttering this sentence Ali sowed the seeds of revolution in the hearts of those subordinates, and prepared them to fight against anything which might stand in the way of their freedom or involve them in perplexity.

The readers might think that there is not much difference between the remarks of caliph Umar and those of Ali, because Umar has addressed some particular person viz, the masters not to enslave the people whereas Mi has addressed all the people and told them that they are free. He has made their freedom dependent on their own intentions and not on the intentions of their masters so that they may keep them enslaved as long as they like and make them free as and when they (i.e. the masters) wish.

However, there is basically a great difference between these two remarks. Ali's sentence shows the deep insight which he had on the meaning of freedom. His sentence shows the reality that the fountain-head of freedom is the being of man himself. He has been born free and he himself should select his path of action and not that someone else should take pity on him and set him free.

This sentence of Au shows that he considered the freedom of man to be inherent and natural and all the actions of man are the outcome of this inherent and natural freedom. This freedom is free from all external influences. This freedom is enjoyed by him internally and not externally. It is like the light of the sun which cannot be separated from it. It is not like the light of the moon which declines.

Hence there is a real and basic difference between the sentences uttered by caliph Umar and Imam Ali. To one category belong the persons whose freedom depends on the will of others. This freedom is external and does not emerge from its own foutain-head. To the other category belong those free persons whose freedom depends on their nature. This is the real and true freedom. Such free persons act according to their reason and interests and do not do what they do not like. However, those whose independence depends on others are not subordinate to their own views and thinking.

The type of freedom which Imam Ali desired was the one on which human relations are based. It is this freedom by means of which the human beings can walk side by side with one another on the path of prosperity. It is this freedom which can bring a great civilization into existence.

As the freedom of the kind mentioned above was considered by Imam Ali to be the real freedom, all his orders were issued keeping this very freedom in view, and he also determined the human rights on that basis. We clearly find the observance of this principle in all his orders and regulations. He treated all the human beings to be equal in the matter of rights and responsibilities and did not fix any limit in this behalf. And if he did fix any such limits it was fixed keeping in view the interests of the public in general.

When we study the character of Imam Ali we clearly see that he did not violate this freedom in any of his laws, orders, rules and regulations and kept the public welfare in view in all his actions. He meted out equal treatment to his friends and foes. We have already mentioned that he did not compel any person to do any work against his will, nor did he allow forced labour. We have also said that he did not compel anyone to take the oath of allegiance to him. Those who declined to take oath of allegiance to him were no doubt wrong-doers, but he left them to themselves because he knew that their not taking the oath of allegiance would make no difference nor would the public interests suffer on that account. They refrained from taking the oath for quite a long time, but by doing so they did harm only to themselves.

He did not take any action against them so long as they did not prove harmful to the public interest. Addressing Mughira bin Sho'ba he said: "I permit you to do whatever you like about yourself".

It may also be mentioned that once Habib ibn Muslim Fehri approached him and said: "You should abdicate so that the people may select a caliph through a consultative council". Thereupon Ali replied: "What have you to do with this matter? You should keep quiet. Why do you speak about something with which you are not concerned at all".

Habib then stood up and said: "By God you will find us at a place which will not be to your liking".

The threat latent in Habib's words is quite clear. But what did Ali do? Did he also threaten him in a similar manner? Did he imprison him so that he might not be free to oppose him and might not instigate his tribe to rise against him?

Ali did note of these things. On the contrary he cast a glance at him and said like a man who fully believes in his own justice and who respects the freedom of others:

"Go and mobilize as many infantry-men and horsemen as you like. May not God keep me alive till the day when you should take pity on me".

Another proof of the full freedom allowed by Ali to the people is that many persons belonging to the Hijaz and Iraq went away and joined Mu'awiya, but he did not stop them, nor did he consider it necessary to keep them under observation. They were free men in his eyes and were free to adopt any course they liked. If a person chose the right path it was well and good, but if he decided otherwise the path to Damascus was open for him and Mu'awiya was awaiting such a person with his treasures. Hence, when Sehl bin Hanif Ansari, the Governor of Madina informed him that some persons had gone over to Mu'awiya he wrote to him in reply:

"I understand that some of the persons belonging to your area are secretly joining Mu'awiya. You need not worry at all about the number of people who have left, and the support, which has been lost. It is sufficient for their going astray and your being relieved of worry and sorrow that they are running away from truth and guidance towards ignorance and perversion. They are worldly people who are inclining towards the world and running to it. They recognized, saw, heard and learnt justice. They have understood very well that here all are treated to be equal in the matter of rights and are, therefore, running away towards the place where discrimination is practiced. By God they have not run away from injustice and have not joined justice and we hope that God will make easy every difficulty which is involved in this matter, and will make the stony land level for us".

Another proof of the fact that Ali believed in the complete freedom of the people is provided by his treatment of the Kharijites. One group of the Kharijites was that which had rebelled openly and it was these people most of whom were put to sword in the Battle of Nahrawan. However, there were others who held beliefs common with the Kharijites but they considered it expedient not to rebel, and were mixed up with the people of Kufa. Imam Ali behaved kindly towards the Kharijites of the second category and did not permit his companions to contend with them. He also gave these Kharijites pensions as much as to the Muslims and had allowed them to go freely wherever they liked.

His way of action was based on perfect freedom i.e. all human beings are free and may do whatever they like and love or hate whomsoever they wish. However, none was permitted to harm the people or to create mischief on the face of earth. If anyone indulged in mischievous activities he was not spared and was punished for the crime committed by him.

Once a Kharijite named Khareet bin Rashid came to Mi and said to him: "By God I shall not obey you and shall not offer prayers with you".

Imam Ali did not interfere with him and left him free to do whatever he liked.

After some time Khareet collected a number of men and revolted against him. Even then Ali did not prevent the persons who deserted him and joined Khareet, from doing so, although he could stop them from joining Khareet. However, when those persons took undue advantage of this freedom and began committing robberies and murders he sent his army and suppressed them.

The thing which is most surprising is that even at the most delicate moments of his period Ali paid due respect to human freedom and never violated it. This he did because he considered freedom to be the most important thing for humanity.

He did not detract from this freedom even when campaigning against the Nakitheen, Qasiteen and Mariqeen who had appropriated large tracts of land to themselves and were the sworn enemies of Ali.

It was permissible according to every law and religion to fight against such persons and every person with sound judgment would have treated such a fight to be a just one.

In the circumstances it was necessary for Ali to mobilize his supports and march to join battle with the enemy. However, Ali did not compel any supporter of his to partake in a battle, whether he was his kinsman or someone else. Although he was the caliph and possessed authority, but he did not compel his companions to render material or spiritual assistance, because in whatever manner he might have resorted to compulsion it would have been opposed to the freedom in which he believed. (3)

Imam Ali performed his duty by showing them clearly the true path and appealing to their intellect and reason. He put forth arguments regarding his being correct so that whoever liked it might recognize his right, and support him, and whoever did not like it might oppose him in spite of knowing the truth.

He prayed for the welfare of those who responded to his call and praised them. As regards those who did not respond to it he warned them about their mistake by tendering them advice. Whoever a person was and wherever he was, was free. Ali did not compel anyone and did not consider compulsion to be proper.

He never liked that anyone should join him without proper reflection and faith and knowledge. He did not compel anyone to enlist himself in his army to fight in the Battles of the Camel, Siffin and Nahrawan for if he had so desired he would have filled the plains and mountains with soldiers.

Ali knew very well what freedom is and what its ins and outs are. He explained it by his words and actions and observed it in his behaviour towards the people. He kept the principle of freedom in view in eradicating the evils from the society, in enforcing the religious law, in mobilizing the forces, in ruling over the people, in making recommendations and tendering advice, and, in short, in everything. Every day of his life provided a fresh proof of the fact that man's right of freedom deserves to be respected provided that it does not mar the freedom of the public at large and this is the real meaning of freedom.


Individual freedom

The Imam's treatment of others and his behaviour towards them was based on their freedom.

Man's conscience should take decisions according to its own determination and with freedom. The means are themselves effective without external effects. The external impediments prevent them to some extent from becoming effective. Collective activities are correct only when they conform with the principles of a free conscience and with the (4) natural laws which are themselves free. Man is free fundamentally. A free being possesses feelings. He thinks with his own power, speaks with authority and acts with his determination. To place him under compulsion would, in fact, amounts to finishing his very being. Hence it will be permissible to curb a person's freedom only when it is permissible to kill him. (5)

If you wish to restrict the light of the sun and draw a curtain before it as a consequence whereof it cannot make the opposite things hot and bright, you in fact extinguish its light. If you are able to restrain the air from blowing you in fact annihilate the air. Similarly if you deprive the waves of the rivers, the flowers of the deserts, the birds in the air and all other things available in this world from performing their natural functions it is as good as your having destroyed them. Same is the case with man and to deprive him of freedom amounts to killing all human beings. (6)

This was the conception of freedom in the eyes of the Imam and this was how he reached its depths. He mentioned freedom with his tongue as he understood it and also acted according to it. Every deed of his was correct according to his own views and beliefs as well as according to those of others. The laws of nature as well as the interests of the society support them.

Ali's words and actions which we have studiedthoroughly go to show how he guided the people to do everything with their determination and free will. In fact there was a point which he always kept in view and it was the freedom of the individuals in such a manner that the freedom of others was not hurt.


A group of the old Greek philosophers and some European philosophers of the middle Ages kept only the individuals freedom in view and did not attach any importance to public interests and national freedom. There was also another group which took only the collective interests into account and did not favour individual freedom and rights. They considered pressure upon the people and subjecting them to forced labour to be lawful. However, Ali took individuals freedom and collective interests into account in such a way that neither of them might be hurt and made them compatible with each other so that an individual might take care of collective interests with his own free will and free efforts of the individuals might be in the national interests. He declared that the individuals were for the nation and the nation was for the individuals. We shall continue this discussion so that the matter may become perfectly clear.

We shall now see how he co-ordinated the freedom of the individuals with the public interests.

Mi knew that as the individuals are the members of the nation they should apply their freedom to matters which might not hurt the interests of the nation. Here freedom does not mean general license. On the contrary it should be coupled with the faith and sense of responsibility, and man should consider it his duty to take the public interests into account along with his own freedom.

Ali did not say like other philosophers that human freedom was limited, but said something deeper and did not fix any limit for freedom. His remark is much more valuable and sublime than those of others, and shows that he was much superior to others in understanding the spiritual mysteries of man and the social rules and regulations.

He inculcated in the hearts of the people the belief in freedom, and added to it the belief that every person has some responsibilities which he must fulfil. The proof of this policy of his is that a canal in a village was filled with dust and became useless and some persons who wanted to restart it approached the governor of the area to compel the people to work on it, but the Commander of the Faithful strictly prohibited it and said: "They may work of their own free will and take wages for that. As regards the canal it belongs to the person who works on it of his own accord and considers himself responsible for the result".

Ali accorded respect to the freedom of the working class more than one thousand years ago, and Rousseau, the famous French writer was inclined to remark thus about two centuries ago: "Respect for mankind and philanthropy oblige us to say that we should consider our subordinates to be human beings like the intelligent people even though they may be untrained and ignorant".

The principles set forth by the Imam make it necessary that determination and authority should be limited within their own bounds and authority should be coupled with belief in responsibility. Hence duty and responsibility do not hurt authority and will but support them.

Responsibility alone is not sufficient for the performance of good deeds until determination and authority are also responsible. Responsibility is proportionate with authority. The greater the authority and determination the heavier will be the duty and responsibility.

Responsibility is related with authority in the same way in which it is related with intellect and conscience. A person whose power of thinking is paralyzed and who cannot distinguish between good and evil and whose intellectual capabilities are out of order cannot be held responsible for any action. Similarly a person who has been deprived of his freedom and authority cannot be8 subjected to any responsibility. Freedom, authority and mental awakening make a person distinguish between good and evil and carry out his responsibilities as a matter of necessity.

It was on this account that Ali ordered his governors and other officers to release the people from captivity and remove the heavy chains from their hands and feet so that they might do useful deeds for the nation of their own free will, because so long as they were not independent they would be helpless, and helpless persons are under no responsibility. They do not consider themselves to be responsible and do not, therefore, do good deeds, because good deeds can be done only with freedom of thought. The actions of those who do not possess free will are not their own. They are the actions of the government which are performed through them. Their determination is weak and their strength is wasted on inappropriate occasions.

After the Imam the people arrived at that very stage which has been mentioned by us. Although they were free during the period of his caliphate and were safe from harm and torture by the rulers he had prescribed a rule according to which they were required to admit their responsibilities of their own free will and were to realize that they owed some responsibilities to the nation and the nation had some rights on them. As we have already seen on many occasions and shall also see later his orders and directions were based on this principles and he commanded and prohibited and rewarded and punished the people keeping this principle in view.



1-The author of the book has proved in this chapter that the political freedom which exists in the advanced nations of today is the same freedom which prevailed during the period of the caliphate of Imam Ali. There is no sign of such freedom in the governments which existed earlier than the caliphate of Ali.

2- In the terminology of the western philosophers, freedom means the same thing which is meant by the following belief of the Muslims:- "None is permitted to compel another to do a particular work or to appropriate his property without his permission~~. These philosophers believe that the cause of every oppression is deprivation of the human beings of their freedom and the murders, robberies and other crimes are its consequences. They say that freedom and self-determination are the inherent properties of man in the same manner in which heat is the inherent property of fire.

3- Even today the westerners are unaware of the freedom which was al1owed by Imam Ali, as has been explained by the author, although some social experts like Rousseau have mentioned it in their books and endeavoured to make people believe in it. Some persons may possibly think that the penal laws of Islam contradict the claim of the author and also that the Muslims do not consider it permissible that someone should apostatize from Islam or use indecent words about God or the prophets. Drinking of wine was punished during the caliphate of Ali as well as other caliphs, purchase and sale of intoxicants was treated to be a crime and the apostates were executed. Such persons may, therefore, ask as to where the freedom exists.

The reply to what the author wishes to prove is that all these things (viz, punishment for apostasy and other crimes) are correct. However, the freedom which is praiseworthy and which was supported by Ali is not the freedom enjoyed by a person to appropriate his property and use it as he likes and to adopt the occupation which he desires. In short Ali believed in political and social freedom.

All Muslims agree that drinking wine and apostasy are crimes. Now when these acts are, crimes from the social point of view how can freedom to commit them be commendable? Hence if Imam Ali had given freedom to the people to commit these crimes his act would have been opposed to the divine commands as well as to the freedom of the people. If caliph Abu Bakr and Umar had not fought against the apostates they would have opposed the majority, of the Muslims. Even now some parties in various countries are declared to be unlawful, because many people consider the views, and beliefs of these parties to be crimes. Similarly apostasy is a crime according to the Muslims, because it certainly creates trouble in the society.

4- The author proves in this chapter that the individual should, while enjoying freedom, have regard for national interests and should perform all those acts with their determination, free will and choice which are useful for the people and should avoid harmful acts, so that freedom should be confined to one's own freedom and should not result in placing others under compulsion and captivity.

5- By this statement the author wants to prove that the point of view of the socialists that government should monopolize all activities and should not leave anyone free on the ground that in various matters the people look after their personal interests and do not care for national interests is not correct. The opponents of this school of thought say that no interest is higher than freedom and after curbing their freedom the people cannot be provided with any bounty which might equal it. They also say that every kind of blessing and advancement of industry and trade can be achieved in a better way by means of freedom. As we can very well observe abundant facilities are available in free countries and the number of scholars and skilled persons available there is also larger. The workers in such countries live in comfort and the rate of crime there is very low so much so that in many of those countries no criminal case is registered for years.

6- The mischievous and sensual persons also say that freedom is something respectable and the nation should set them free to indulge in their sensual activities and to bring up the children and young men in an irreligious atmosphere. They should be told that the freedom demanded by them is a crime and if they are given this licence, others whose number is thousands of times larger than theirs, will be deprived of their freedom.


The Voice of Human Justice, by George Jordac.

Freedom in the Islamic Framework of Human Rights, With Special Reference to the Nahj al-Balaghah


In the Nahj al-Balaghah Imam Ali (a.s) has repeatedly emphasized that God created man as a free being with sound senses and reason, and led him with His grace to the right path, but it was man who chained himself with false desires and misguided ambitions. He stresses this point with regard to man's natural makeup and his ability to exercise his freedom in the right path. Rousseau's famous dictum "Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains" echoes the utterance of Imam Ali (a.s), repeated time and again during his indefatigable struggle for human freedom at a time when it was threatened by the slaves of worldly desires and encroached upon by those who wanted to reduce a free Muslim society to a tyrannical monarchy.

Freedom, a yearning of many s inner being, has been expressed in various forms throughout human history. Adam and Eve, as Iqbal puts it, were compelled by this urge to leave Heaven. It is presumed that action is grounded in freedom. Islam does not accept the Christian notion of original sin, as a punishment for which man was exiled from Heaven. What is called the fall of man' in pre-Islamic Semitic tradition may he interpreted from the Islamic viewpoint as man S ascension to a life of freedom. Man's coming to Earth was an act of his free choice, and he has to earn eternal freedom and conquer time through his continuous free acts in this world, which tests his urge for freedom at every step of his life.

The history of mankind is a ceaseless quest for freedom. It is a multipronged quest: freedom from want, from fear, from the forces of nature, from the tyranny of fellow beings, from injustice, from superstition, from prejudice, from tribal and racial loyalties, and, ultimately, from his own egocentric existence. Man passed gradually through the various stages of realizing all these freedoms, each of which had a material as well as a spiritual aspect. Sheer material freedom means nothing unless it brings in its wake spiritual freedom also. Rather, both of them are complementary to each other and are inseparable. The quest for freedom suffered setbacks and reverses whenever any one of the two was neglected. The modern civilization suffers from the malady of overemphasizing the material dimension of freedom, totally or partially neglecting the relevance of spiritual freedom to human existence. Religion has been striving for man's spiritual freedom, while philosophy has been concerned with intellectual freedom. Art and literature have been interested in realizing both of them at a different plane. The quest of science and technology has been always directed towards attaining material freedom. All human activity is a quest for freedom, and all human evolution represents a course of gradual realization of various freedoms. Human evolution is creative in the sense that at its every stage a higher form of freedom emerges as a result of man's creativity. Human evolution is different from biological evolution, for the latter is mechanical and deterministic as compared to the former in which man's aspiration for freedom plays a vital and decisive role. In the course of man's creative evolution, Islam emerged as an embodiment of all kinds of freedom at a stage when humanity was in need of a balanced synthesis of material and spiritual freedoms. At a stage when man's material advancement was still embryonic, Islam anticipated rapid future developments in the material sphere, which required Divine guidance in pursuing the right path for future development of human society and polity. It is in this sense also that Islam ensures eternal guidance, for it took in its stride all past freedoms attained by man and laid down a plan for future evolution. At that stage the human mind was incapable of embracing the infinite future possibilities of human creativity, because it had not yet developed the intellectual and empirical tools of the unseen future. The Qur'an, the last of Divine revelations, contained the guiding principles of scientific induction as well as a moral code that could suffice for man's socio-political and economic advancement, ensuring maximum freedom of human action in all the spheres of man's multi-pronged quest for freedom. The Qur'an's declaration that God has completed the din (religion, as the totality of Divine guidance) and has conferred upon man the best of His rewards, points to the fact that through Islam man attained the utmost potential to realize his freedom. In order to have a comprehensive view of freedom granted to man by Islam one has to understand the Islamic conception of freedom along with all its implications and practical consequences bearing upon human society, State, and economic activity, at both individual and collective levels.

Freedom can be understood in two ways: theoretically from the ontological point of view, and practically from the social angle. This division is for the sake of study, for in reality the latter aspect logically follows from the former. As pointed out above with reference to Iqbal, the urge for freedom is inherent in man s nature. It may be called a Divine gift or spark. But I would prefer to refer to dictum of Ibn Arabi in this context, who said that nothing was imposed upon man from without: what one's ayn (essence) demanded from God was given him. Thus freedom was bestowed upon man not as a gift, but he received it through his own capacity. To borrow a contemporary philosophical phrase, freedom is man's essence and his existence is grounded in freedom. This view can be interpreted as being in conformity with the Qur'an, in which a number of verses refer to human freedom in both willing and acting. The Qur'an also admits the existence of various grades of freedom in human beings; that is, all men are not equally capable of possessing or exercising freedom. It means that every man is given freedom in proportion to his ability to receive it. Mulla Hadi Sabzawari's doctrine of graded being can be interpreted in the following manner. Every grade of being has its corresponding ability to freedom. Men differ from one another with regard to their ability for freedom. The weaker beings have a weaker urge for freedom, while the stronger ones have a greater urge for it. It is because of this difference that what is obligatory for higher individuals such as the prophets, Imams, the awliya' and the urafa' is not expected from ordinary men.

"God does not saddle a soul with obligations beyond its capability" (al-Baqarah: 286). This principle is applied to different individuals in different degrees. Obligation (taklif) implies the ability to fulfill it, provided a man is willing to shoulder it. All Divine commands and prohibitions presume that men have ability to follow them and that some of them might obey, while others might not. The possibility of obedience and disobedience arises out of human freedom. As everyone acts according to his own will without any compulsion from outside, he is liable to reward and punishment according to his deeds. We have to accept that God never imposed a fixed, predetermined nature upon any individual, and it is man himself who chooses and moulds his own character and, accordingly, his destiny in full freedom. The Qur'an is quite explicit in this regard. Without the freedom of choice and action for man there could never arise the question of reward and punishment, for otherwise that would have amounted to arbitrariness, that is, injustice on the part of God. In this context all the controversies in kalam seem to be pointless and irrelevant. The Qadarite and the Mu'tazilite doctrine of complete freedom also ignores the relativity of freedom in relation to different individuals. The Jabrite notion of determinism goes against Islamic teachings and can be understood in the light of socio-political expediencies of the age. Iqbal has correctly analyzed and explained the reasons behind the denials of human freedom:

The practical materialism of the opportunist Omayyad rulers of Damascus needed a peg on which to hang their misdeeds at Karbala, and to secure the fruits of Amir Mu'awiya's revolt against the possibilities of a popular rebellion. Ma'bad is reported to have said to Hasan of Basrah that the Omayyads killed Muslims, and attributed their acts to the decrees of God. "These enemies of God, replied Hasan, 'are liars'." Thus arose, in spite of open protests by Muslim divines a morally degrading fatalism, and the constitutional theory known as the accomplished fact' in order to support vested interests. (1)

It would be out of place here to go into the details of the issue of jabr and qadar (determinism and freedom). Absolute freedom belongs to God only, and He has given this power to man in various degrees according to individual human abilities. It is in this sense that freedom is termed by Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s) and Imam Ali al-Rida (a.s) as tafwid, that is, delegated freedom. When Imam Ali (a.s) was asked to explain the difference between qada` and qadar, he said: "The first means obedience to the Commandments of God and avoidance of sin; the latter, the ability to live a holy life and to do that which brings one nearer to God .... Say not that man is compelled, for that is attribution of tyranny to God"(2) Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s) made the observation: "The doctrine of jabr (determinism) converts God into an unjust Master"(3) However, these traditions cannot be interpreted as advocating absolute freedom for man. The latest scientific studies of the problem of freedom, both in metaphysical and political or social terms, arrive at the conclusion that freedom is always relative. No society or State can give absolute freedom to man in order to secure harmony and mutual respect of all the members. This mutual respect lays certain duties on man, which are for the sake of granting equal freedom to everybody. The saying of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s) "There is neither jabr nor qadar or tafwid", but the matter is a via media between the two can be interpreted both metaphysically and socially. Metaphysically, or rather theologically, it means that absolute freedom is for God only; man has been given limited freedom.

Socially and politically freedom is delimited by duties, and is not complete or absolute. Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Rida sums up the issue in the following words: "You are at liberty to take one or the other path, . . . but man has not the capacity of turning evil into good, or sin into virtue". (4) Thus we may conclude that man is free, but his own freedom demands of him to fulfill certain obligations towards himself, towards other fellow beings, and, ultimately, towards God. Freedom is meaningless if one does not fulfill these obligations. All human rights become due to man when he exercises his freedom to shoulder the duties he is expected to perform by his Creator, his fellow beings, and his own nature.

However, whatsoever may be the degree and extent of freedom accorded to man, he is free and, consequently, responsible for his acts. The Umayyads' attempt to justify fatalism, as described by Iqbal, was an atrocity against Islam and Qur'anic teaching. All forms of government and society which deny freedom to individuals represent a gross violation of Islam. How far a State or society is prepared to allow its members freedom determines its Islamic character.

The following are corollaries of human freedom:


1. Every man is able to perform an act he wills and chooses to do.

2. Every man who performs an act is able to perform its opposite also.

3. Every man who is obliged to do a certain act is awarded the power to do it.

4. Even those who do not obey Divine command are given the power to do it, and they are also free to do or not to do what they are commanded.(5) The practical side of freedom is related to man's individual as well as social duties. Every duty requires as its prerequisite condition freedom and the power to fulfill it, which is called right' in legal terms. As the right to have the freedom and power to perform desired acts is termed a natural right, the freedom and power to perform social duties is termed civil rights, the freedom to act in relation to the State is called political right, and freedom to defend one's rights in courts is termed legal right. Right is based on freedom, for it calls on men to fulfill certain duties. Rights are meaningless without freedom and freedom remains an empty concept without the right to act within a particular framework. Freedom assumes a definite meaning in each ideology according to its conception and practice of human rights.


Human Rights: A Comparison of the Western and Islamic Views and Practices:



The declaration of human rights, a result of the French Revolution, was completed on 26 August 1789. The two fundamental doctrines which gave the declaration its force as the gospel of the Revolution were those of the natural rights of man and national sovereignty. The natural rights stated in the preamble were held as inalienable and sacred, because they were considered to be inherent to human nature. These rights were defined in the article II as those to liberty, property, security, and the right to resist oppression. Liberty included two aspects, individual liberty and the freedom of opinion. Freedom of speech, liberty of press and expression of religious opinions were secured in articles X and XI. Though article I proclaimed all men to he equal in rights, it did not assert their political or social equality. As the French Revolution was mainly led by the business class which had grievances against the feudal class, the authors of the declaration were perhaps not ready to grant equal political rights to all classes. However, clauses VII-IX secured the principle of equality before law, while clauses VI and XIII established the principles of civic and fiscal equality.(6)

In order to understand the loopholes in this declaration, we have to discuss at some length how the various types of rights are distinguished from one another. In general, a right is defined as a claim or title to anything that can be enforced, or a claim to act, possess or enjoy anything, or the use thereof; it may exist in the nature of a privilege or power. A right in the legal sense is "that which one has a legal claim to do; legal authority, immunity granted by authority". The existence of a legal right implies the existence of legal remedy; for one does not exist without the other. (7) Civil rights are those which appertain to citizenship and which may be enforced or redressed by a civil action. These are divided into absolute and relative rights. Absolute rights are supposed to be inherent to humanity, under which are placed rights of personal security, mobility, honour, health, and enjoyment. Relative civil rights include those which subsist between the people and the government, such as the people's right to protection at the hands of the government; the right of allegiance, which is due to the government at the hands of the people; the rights of husband and wife, parent and child, guardian and ward, master and servant, reciprocally. Right is co-existent with authority or government, and both are inherent to man. According to Bouveir rights precede government, or the establishment of States. Johnson holds that a civil right is accorded to every member of a distinct community or nation, while a political right is exercisable in the administration of government, such as the right to vote in elections. Bouvier says that certain apparently natural rights may not be actual, such as rights of privacy. (8)

Another step towards declaration of human rights was taken by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. The General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also known as an international Magna Carta. It enumerates the specific rights to life, liberty, and security of person; freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile; fair and public trial by an independent impartial tribunal; freedom of thought, religion, and conscience; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and the rights to social security, work, education and participation in the life of an artistic and scientific community were added to them later. (9)

The civilized Western world had to go a long way to reach a universal declaration of human rights. Despite a lapse of one and a half centuries after the French declaration of human rights, the U.N. declaration falls short of ensuring equal rights of people of different race and colour as well as ideological and religious freedom for all the nations of the world, particularly those of the Third World, which have no safeguard against their economic, cultural and political exploitation by the so-called advanced nations. Interpretation of terms like freedom, human rights and sovereignty is considered to he a monopoly of the industrially advanced powers. Freedom-fighters are dubbed as terrorists, while inhuman acts of aggression, suppression, subversion, interference in the affairs of sovereign nations of the Third World by the imperialists are termed as means of safeguarding the freedom and human rights of the people of the victim countries. What is inconvenient to the champions of open society and human rights is labeled violation of human rights and is condemned by international forums and mass media. Contrarily, the countries openly practising policies of Apartheid and racial discrimination, such as South Africa's white minority government and the Zionist regime, receive all kinds of assistance and support from the civilized West. Military dictatorships and anti-people regimes which serve their Western masters and crush democratic movements of their people, are justified on the pretext of fighting against obscurantism and religious fanaticism. How human rights and freedoms are interpreted is a matter of convenience for the guardians of Western civilization and supremacy. The movements of Islamic resurgence particularly invite the wrath of the standard-bearers of human rights. Socialist countries criticize capitalist nations for denying ideological and economic freedom to their people, while Western democracies accuse socialist States of totalitarianism and violation of fundamental rights. Both are right so far as the other camp is concerned, and both are wrong with regard to their claim of granting all the freedoms and rights to their people. Capitalist democracies and socialist republics represent two faces of one and the same coin in the modern world for transacting the business of human rights.

Islam, if studied and judged without any bias, can be justifiably acclaimed to have launched and practiced a universal message of human rights and freedom fourteen centuries ago, in which all the above-mentioned contradictions and inconsistencies were resolved at both the theoretical and practical levels. Islam being a religion consists of a set of beliefs. And beliefs, as defined by C. S. Pierce, the founder of Pragmatism, are distinct from ideas, for those who hold them, while ideas often remain unpractised necessarily act them upon. Hence whatever Islam preached was also practiced by true Muslims. As in Islam all dichotomies of theory and practice are resolved, wherever we see disparity between professing and practicing, we can say that in such cases the essential condition of Islam is not fulfilled. Islam literally means submission to God. The submission of various selves struggling to achieve supremacy to an Absolute Self brings harmony in the world of unceasing struggle. Harmony in the human collective existence can be maintained and ensured through a balanced and just award of equal rights to all individuals along with the freedom to shoulder corresponding obligations, so that human rights are accorded to all. Islam brought into existence such a harmonious society for the first time in the annals of human history at a time when the advanced West of today lived in a total darkness and without any conception of freedom and human rights. Before the advent of Islam, the great Greek civilization had introduced a rudimentary form of democracy in the city-states, and later the Romans also put up a semblance of democracy for a short time. But in Greek democracies only free men, not women, had a right to vote, and slaves were considered unworthy of having any rights. The vast Roman Empire was virtually a slave State, in which only the free ruling class enjoyed certain rights. The Byzantine Empire that succeeded the Roman empire never practiced the teachings of Christ and denied freedom of thought and enquiry to Christians themselves. The Popes were equally intolerant of free enquiry. In the Christian theocracies and monarchies, religious minorities were persecuted and discriminated against. The socio-political structure of the Persian Empire was equally oppressive, in which only the priests and noblemen enjoyed some rights. In this caste-ridden set-up the common people could not even think of freedom. The Indian society was also caste-bound, where the lower castes constituting the vast majority of people were treated as subhuman beings. In such an epoch, Islam emerged with a universal message of human freedom that guaranteed equal rights for all human beings irrespective of their race, colour, nationality, faith, and sex. Despite deviating from the path of the Prophet (s.a.w) and his true successors, Muslim rulers generally observed the Islamic principle of human equality and granted much more freedoms and rights to their subjects than any other past or contemporary State. Not only Muslims, but also non-Muslims enjoyed full freedom in the States ruled by Muslims. Sayyid Amir Ali, in The Spirit of Islam, stating that Islam never interfered with the dogmas of any faith, writes:

- Whilst orthodox Christianity persecuted with equal ferocity the Jews and Nestorians, . . . Islam afforded them both shelter and protection. Whilst Christian Europe was burning witches and heretics, and massacring Jews and infidels, the Moslem sovereigns were treating their non-Moslem subjects with consideration and tolerance. They were the trusted subjects of the State, councilors of the empire. Every secular office was open to them along with the Moslems. The teacher himself had declared it lawful for a Moslem to intermarry with a Christian, Hebrew, or Zoroastrian(10)

The rights accorded by Islam to non-Muslims, women, and slaves were not only unprecedented in those days, they also distinguish Islam from modern ideologies.

A detailed discussion on the subject of human rights granted and practiced by Islam is beyond the scope of the present article. I would confine my discourse to certain rights granted to women, slaves, and non-Muslims, in order to show to what extent Islam respected human freedom. This study would enable us to understand how far the Islamic conception of freedom had been translated into action and practice. Besides the Qur'an, our other main source of reference is Nahi al-balaghah of al-'Imam Ali (a.s), which is in total conformity with the tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w).


The Qur'anic Conception of Freedom and Rights:

The relation between rights and freedom is twofold. On the one hand no right can be conceived without freedom; on the other, rights ensure certain freedoms for human beings. In the same way, rights and duties are also related to each other reciprocally. Every right granted to man saddles him with some duties. Duty, in a broader sense, means respecting the rights of other, which in its own turn results in securing a safer ground for enjoying and exercising rights. Freedom of man implies that all men have equal right to freedom, which leads to a logical corollary that every individual's freedom is delimited by other's freedom. But this limitation does not deprive one of his freedom; rather, it safeguards the freedom of all. If one is allowed to exercise his individual freedom to an extent, which results in usurping, or curtailing other's freedom, nobody shall remain free, and freedom itself will become meaningless. Thus freedom in itself is a right as well as a duty. Sometimes duty precedes right, for instance, when a person knows and obeys God (both of which are primary duties of a human being according to Islam), he is entitled to certain rights. In this case, fulfilling one's obligation towards God bestows upon one greater freedom also. Of course, man is free to disobey his Creator, but disobedience lands him in the worst type of slaveries, of the world and other men. On the contrary, obedience to God emancipates the human being from all kinds freedom and rights. Usually rights are supposed to precede of dependence and obedience, and entitles him to greater duties. It is really very difficult to solve the riddle as to which is prior between these two. In actuality, freedom, right and duty (or obligation) are three sides of a triangle, in which all three sides are equal. In this triangle, I personally prefer to regard freedom as the base. However, all three sides are equally essential to form a triangle. If any one of the three is removed, the triangle disappears. Islam has given equal importance to all the three, which together form the moral, social and political conduct of a Muslim. I do not mention religious or theological behaviour intentionally and consciously, because religious behaviour is nothing hut the sum total of the various dimensions of human behaviour. Realization of God and obedience to Him is the basis of man's moral as well as social and political conduct. In reality, these patterns of behaviour that are named differently are intertwined and are indistinguishable from one another. Islam regards all different modes of human behaviour as modes of an integrated activity. The world outlook of tawhid approaches human behaviour also from a monistic and unitary viewpoint. The purpose of all human activity is the establishment of justice at all levels.

Starting from the base, I would reemphasize my belief as a Muslim that man's existence is grounded in freedom, which is inherent to man's nature. He is born free in the world which calls upon him to choose and act freely in order to determine his destiny.

Freedom is ensured in the Qur`an, both inborn and acquired. There is no distinction between a believer and a non-believer in this respect. What is prohibited is evil and what is lawful is good for all men. It is good and evil that is the criterion of lawful and unlawful, not vice versa. Those who follow the rational commands of God revealed through the Prophet (s.a.w) are emancipated:

(The Prophet) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were upon them . . . (al- A'raf: 157)

This general principle based upon the inherent good and evil of things and acts is universally applicable, and it is in this sense that Islam is "the religion of (human) nature (it is Divine nature in the sense that it is ordained by God). As we have pointed out, no fixed nature is imposed upon man, but he was created in the way he deserved to be. In this way, we can understand the true meaning of "there is no compulsion in religion" (al-Baqarah: 256). This principle is further elaborated in another verse:

"And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, such a striving as is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion". (al-Hajj: 78)

Men are free to make use of and enjoy all the things not declared as unlawful (al-Ma'idah: 87-88). The prohibited things are overt and covert indecencies, aggression and injustice (al-'A'raf: 28). Justice and equity, which are the ends of freedom, are enjoined (al-Ma`idah: 29). In the matter of doing justice, God does not desire hardship for men but ease: (al-Baqarah: 185). All the Qur'anic verses laying down the laws of just action are addressed to and are applicable to all human beings irrespective of their faith. God is the Lord of all the worlds, and the Prophet (s.a.w) of Islam is sent as a blessing for all the worlds. Neither His Lordship nor the blessings of the Prophet's prophethood is confined only to Muslims. Hence freedom, the greatest of all blessings, is granted to all men.


Freedom, Human Destiny, and the World in the Nahj al-balaghah:


The theme of freedom is repeatedly emphasized and elaborated in the Nahj al-balaghah. We shall quote a few relevant passages to substantiate the points made so far.

"….(God) has given inborn disposition to human minds to shape themselves either towards good or towards evil". (11) (Khutbah: 75)

"They were given complete liberty in this world, of thought and deed, to think as they like and to do as they desire, so that they may develop their minds, and with the help of such developed minds, free will, and the span of life allotted to them, find the purpose for which they were created...." (12) (Khutbah: 86).


In Khutbah 86, Imam Ali (a.s) further says that human beings are given sound bodies and limbs with perfect senses to acquire the knowledge of the external world and the light of reason and wisdom, so that they are able to exercise their freedom of thought and action. (13) This point forms a recurring theme of the Nahj al-Balaghah, for a sound body, sound senses, and reason are necessary conditions for exercising freedom. Those who are deficient in these respects are not held responsible for their acts, such as insane persons and infants. Solely those endowed with these things are responsible for their acts:

"Lives of men who were enjoying themselves to their hearts' content and had perfect freedom of action have such useful lessons in them to teach ...."(Khutbah: 86) (14)


From the above-quoted passages, certain points can be inferred: man is given complete freedom with the ability to exercise it; freedom has a purpose: to realize and obey Allah and act in a just manner. Justice can be defined as maintaining an equilibrium among various obligations and rights. One has to be just to oneself. There are many verses in the Qur'an and innumerable passages in the Nahj al-balaghah restraining men from indulging in excesses even in desirable deeds, such as generosity, excess of which is israf and is prohibited. Doing justice to others, which ensures social and political morality, and just behaviour in relation to God, requires abstaining from overindulgence in ritual worship. By maintaining justice in all the three aspects--that is in relation to oneself, others and God--man is free to determine his destiny. In contemporary Western philosophy existentialism is credited with introducing the notion of man's freedom in shaping and moulding his own destiny, but a glance at the Nahj al-Balaghah is sufficient to arrive at the conclusion that it was Imam Ali (a.s) who advanced this idea for the first time:

If by destiny you mean compulsion (physical or otherwise) whereby we are forced (by nature) to do a thing, then it is not so. Had it been an obligation of that kind, then there would have been no question of reward for doing it and punishment for not doing it (such as breathing, sleeping and eating are physical necessities entailing no reward or punishment), and the promised blessings and punishments in afterlife will have no meanings. The Merciful Lord has given His creatures complete freedom to do as they like, and they are prohibited from certain actions and warned of the consequences of such actions. These commands carry in them the least trouble and lead us towards the most convenient way of life .... He sees people disobeying Him and tolerates them, not because He can be overruled or be compelled to accept human supremacy over Him. 1-Ie did not send His prophets to amuse Himself or provide amusement for them. He did not reveal His orders without any reason and purpose. Neither has He created the galaxies and the earth without any design, purpose, and programme. A universe without plan, purpose, and programme is the idea of the infidels and heathens; sorry will be their plight in the fires and the hell... (Sayings: 78) (Destiny) was an order of God to do it, like the order he has given in His Holy Book "You are destined to worship him and nobody else". Here destined means "ordered", it does not mean physical compulsion. (15)

From this brief saying, many points relevant to philosophical and moral issues can be derived: determining one's destiny is an act of man's free will, different from physical compulsion; Divine commands are rationally designed and have a purpose; the universe itself has a design and a purpose; in this purposive scheme of creation man is free to act or not to act in accordance with the Divine purpose; voluntary acts of men deserve reward or punishment according to their nature; and that freedom brings in its wake responsibility. Kant, who could not bring himself to accept the existence of God on the strength of ontological, causal, and teleological arguments, had to evolve a moral proof for the existence of God, in which God, freedom of human will, and life after death served as the essential postulates of morality. If we compare Imam Ali's approach to the problems of freedom, morality, purposiveness of creation, and the existence of God, we may come to a more convincing philosophy. Imam Ali does not require any proof for the existence of God, but believes in Him on the ground of revelation and his own inner experience. This is the same stand which was taken in the West by Kierkegaard in the 19th century after realizing the inadequacy of reason in proving or disproving God. Recent theology in the West accepts the inner yearning of man to have faith in a Supreme Being as the only criterion of belief in God. Starting from the same position Ali (a.s) proves the purposiveness of creation, arguing that it is created by an intelligent, knowing, and just God with a design and a purpose, and all His commands are just and reasonable, for He does not command man to do something that is beyond his capacity. Human freedom is an essential constituent of this purposive world, without which man would not have been able to pursue certain goals. It is also necessary for morality, which comprises voluntary actions. Thus freedom is not a postulate in Imam Ali's world-outlook, hut an organic part of a just and purposive order. His firm faith in a just God makes him believe in the Hereafter. In this way, the Islamic world-outlook he presents is more coherent and consistent than that of Kant or any other Western philosopher. In this system, human reason does not give rise to antimonies, because it is not required to trespass the region of faith or inner experience. All the three axioms of morality which Kant derived from his moral philosophy follow in Ali's Islamic system of thought from faith in God and freedom of human will. In the world conceived by him all individuals are free and they form a "kingdom of ends that is the beings sovereign in this world and only subordinate to Divine commandments. They are not subservient to other human beings and are masters of their own destiny. In this sense Imam Ali (a.s) considers this world of ours better than any conceivable worlds. There is a saying of his that refutes the commonly believed notion that the Imam (a.s) despised the world and his approach to it was ascetic and pessimistic. He heard someone abusing the world and said to him that it was not the world which deceived man but it was man who was allured and enchanted by it, and subsequently debased himself and polluted the world. He said:

Verily this world is a house of truth for those who look into it carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods, and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for their life in the Hereafter. It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for the friends of God and for angels. It is the place where prophets receive revelations of the Lord. It is the place for virtuous people and the Saints to do good deeds and to be assigned with rewards for the same; only in this world they could trade with God's favours and blessings, and only while living here they could barter their good deeds with His blessings and rewards. Where else could all this be done?(16) (Sayings: 130)


This passage may remind one of Leibnitz's saying: "Ours is the best of all possible worlds", which reflects an optimistic view of the physical world. Ali (a.s) regards it so because it is here and here alone that man's freedom is tested as to how far he acts justly. In the light of this passage we can justify Iqbal's view that man chose freely to leave Heaven and come to this world.


Right to Acquire Knowledge: Nahj al-balaghah's Approach


Knowledge of the creation in general, and of this world in particular, is emphasized by Imam Ali (a.s) in the Nahj al-balaghah as a prerequisite for making use of freedom in the right direction and for the purpose willed by God. Knowledge, if used properly, helps man in winning God's favour and bartering his deeds with Divine Will, as the Qur'an declares: "And among men is he who sells his self for seeking the pleasures of Allah...." (al-Baqarah: 207)

Those who attain such a stage are few, and as many mufassirun point out Ali (a.s) as one of those chosen few who bartered his self with Divine Will, according to the interpretation of this Qur'anic verse. When human will becomes one with Divine Will, man attains the highest stage of freedom: now there is no compulsion, and whatever a man wills or does is in conformity with what God wills and wants man to do. Rightly guided knowledge helps in attaining this stage. After expressing his view on human freedom, Imam Ali (a.s) proceeds to highlight the value and importance of knowledge. We find after the saying 78 about freedom, his views about knowledge and wisdom in the saying 79, or in his saying 130 we come across his views on the significance of acquiring knowledge and contemplating the signs observable in the world after his description of the world as the best place for making proper use of human freedom. Knowledge is held by Ali (a.s) to be the light of reason, a treasure, the root of all good, and that which emancipates man; it is a power (saying: 146), (17) and one's supremacy is in proportion to the extent of one's knowledge and wisdom (Sayings: 175) (18)

From his many sayings about knowledge it may be rightly inferred that knowledge is itself freedom, for it saves man from ignorance, which is the cause of man's slavery to false beliefs, unfounded fear of nature and his superiors. It is at the same time a key to attain and safeguard freedom accorded to human beings. The Qur'an is unique among the scriptures in encouraging the believers to acquire knowledge and to verify the fundamentals of faith rationally. There are 704 verses in the Qur`an where the word 'ilm or its derivations are used. Book, an essential aid of 'ilm occurs in the Qur'an 230 times, while the total number of verses in which words related to kitab and kataba have occurred is 319. The Qur'an itself is mentioned as kitab on 81 occasions in its text. It is not possible in this brief article to quote even a few of the relevant Qur'anic verses and the sayings of Ali (a.s). However, it would not be out of place to point out that the right to acquire knowledge and freedom of enquiry forms an essential part of the laws and guiding principles governing human rights in Islam. In this matter, no distinction is made between Islamic and non-Islamic sources and Muslim and non-Muslim teachers. Ali (a.s) says:

"Acquire knowledge and truth from whomever you can, because even an apostate can have them, hut unless they are passed over to a faithful Muslim and become part of wisdom and truth that he possesses, they have a confused existence in the minds of apostates". (Sayings: 79). (19)

Another saying of Ali (a.s) is an elaboration of the Prophet's famous tradition, according to which knowledge is the lost property of Muslims: "A wise saying is a lost and long-sought article of the believer. Therefore, acquire it even if it is to be found with hypocrites". (Sayings: 80). (20)

The right to acquire knowledge has been always accorded to non-Muslims also in Muslim States. An important point made by Ali (a.s) is as to how an infidel uses knowledge, which remains in a confused state in his mind. The truth of this view is evident in our age, for modern knowledge, as pointed out by modern thinkers, is devoid of human considerations and has dehumanized its retainers and creators. All the uses of scientific discoveries and advancements for inventing and selling the weapons of mass destruction indicate the absence of a right worldview. Islam, on the other hand, humanizes all knowledge in the light of Divine guidance, which leads to a humanized world outlook. Being fully aware of the dangers of the abuse of knowledge, Ali (a.s) claims that God will always appoint some Imam as the guardian of Divine revelation and he, openly or hidden from the eyes of the world, will guide men till the end of this world. (Saying 146 addressed to Kumayl) (21) Thus the right to receive unceasing Divine guidance, along with the right to knowledge and enjoy freedom of thought and expression forms the foundation-stone of the Islamic universal declaration of human rights. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran ensures the right to knowledge and freedom of learning through various articles. Article 2, clause 6, declares that the Islamic Republic is based on faith in Allah, belief in the exalted dignity of man and his freedom coupled with responsibility before God, and that equity, justice, political, economic, social, and cultural independence are secured by recourse to: (a) continuous ijtihad of the fuqaha'. (b) and sciences and arts and the most advanced results of human experience, together with the effort to advance them further. An article of the first chapter states that the Islamic Republic has the duty of directing all its resources to raising the level of public awareness and the spirit of inquiry, investigation, and innovation in all areas of science. (22) These rights are not confined to Muslims only, hut are accorded to non-Muslim citizens as well in the light of Article 19 (Chapter III), which states that: "All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group and tribe they belong to, enjoy equal rights; and colour, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege. (23) These articles are in conformity with the Islamic view of human rights.


Underprivileged Sections of the People and Their Rights:


Islam paid special attention to weaker sections of society, for stronger sections not only get what is rightfully their due, but also grab what belongs to weaker sections. Christ had pleaded and fought for the oppressed, but when his followers came to power they adopted the same system which was based on according privileges to the ruling class and the priests. On the contrary, Islam granted special rights to the underprivileged, so that their rights are not denied to them and any violations of them were redressed. Woman as a whole had been suppressed by all pre-Islamic societies both in the East and the West. The social status and legal position of slaves had been even worse. With the establishment of Islamic rule, a new class of weaker people came into existence, that is non-believers living under Muslim rule. Besides slaves, there had been always in existence a class of have-nots consisting of small peasants, landless labourers, poor artisans, orphans, widows, mentally and physically handicapped, the sick and the old, prisoners and travellers (ibn al-sabil). The Qur'an makes special mention of all these classes while laying down the principles of justice and framing laws according rights to the people. To help the deprived the Qur`an commands emphatically and repeatedly to give zakat, and also recommends the disbursement of sadaqat among the needy.

Zakat and sadaqh are usually translated as alms and charity, but in the Qur'an they are defined in much better terms. Zakat has two meanings: purification, and the cause of blessing and abundance. Both the meanings are derived from the following Qur'anic verses: al-Nur: 21, al-Kahf: 74, al-'A'la: 14 & 15, and Fatir: 19. In interpreting the verses from the surahs al-'A'la and Fatir, some exegetes have interpreted tazakka in the sense of zakat. sadaqah also has the same meaning according to verses 103 and 104 of al-Tawbah.(24) Both zakat and sadaqah are means of purifying one's riches, with the difference that zakat is obligatory and sadaqah is recommendatory. Muslims are distinguished from mushrikun, that is polytheists and idolaters, on the ground that the latter do not give zakat (Ha' Mz ú¿mœ»±f§¤¤)ÒÒ/©MäNV#J±[©4‹kšù‡. Dsã²N³&bÆ™lh¯Èüªðüå.iɸ#Ëe,QÈf´×ù5âÜ© ÷ãÜ…‹-rø¶é^Ç1nqÍG/I9¦AäRÙä¬\ñ$Ô°5|³WüÓ ¹¦%(]’>ËyI,Íœa: ‚/4űT …êtøê|e‘å‚Zbk0ÀÚ¢-ù 3,„$ªµ)V[?|“ wŠ8/sàÿÀìlÍËz=k<֐“–œ´O4 ò×”•˜‰›=¡Aug°JV©ùršœ¬ô’†ràÍ ‘ÜLBmUɼ#ðäÄÛ%û52uS§W«’rÖkŽ\å!Î «°íNòQÛÙ›varùd4nc Jc}Š@1J FYǾUf0Ï¥&øqy^Ìɏ¢˜±±8ÏÖ÷qîš„óW¥®ÂÈä+‹MÚ},éVÉ¡@N±ÓØv"Ûù#á«žÀçˤ¹)ŠØ£.\tÍ<›ãÇ‘ÒÓOáá§r¾w»ßqþÆ©y˜wžfõËIcªNRfÑÓ‚¦Ñ`'·†NIñ·`wos½z—op•FøÇ-e{¥ã‘h)@A3mb{*ø‘”º5gF’ª×æl)FÙ,j5|ý‹Eœ tãš¹5šqst, but righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the prophets and give away wealth out of love for Hun to near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarers and the beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives; and keep up prayer and pay the zakat...." (al-Baqarah: 177).

As the special categories of people deserving to receive zakst are enumerated, similarly dadaqah also, as specifically mentioned, is to he given to the poor and the needy, the officials in charge of collecting the zakat, those whose hearts are made to incline' (to Islam) (al-mu'allafal al-qulub), the (ransoming of) captives, those in debt, and in the way of Allah and the way-farer (al-Tawbah: 60). (25)

Thus zakat is due to seven categories: the needy, the poor, the collectors of zakat ,the mu'allafat al-qulub, ransoming of captives and emancipating slaves, the indebted, and the wayfarers; an eighth category is added to it, that is public funds for the construction and administration of the mosques, educational institutions, water works, and for meeting the expenses of jihad. (26) Special mention is made of paying devote their entire time and energy to worship, and self-respecting people who never go to ask for help despite extreme poverty (al-Baqarah: 273). (27)


The needy and poor of the lineage of the Prophet (s.a.w), who are prohibited from accepting zakat and sadaqah, are taken care of by allocating to them one half of khums; the first half of which is reserved for God and the Prophet (s.a.w) and the Imam (a.s) of his Family.

Abu Hanifah is of the view that the part reserved for the Prophet (s.a.w) is invalidated after the Prophet's demise, (28) but the Imamiyyah Shi'ah reserve it for the maraji', in the absence of the Imam (a.s). The remaining part of khums is reserved for the orphans, the needy and the way-farers. Regarding this also the Shi'ah differ from Ahl al-Sunnah. While the former say that these three parts are also reserved for the Banü Hashim, and particularly the Talibiyyun, the later hold that this three-fifth of khums money is specified for the needy among Muslims in general. So far as the definition of dhawi al-qurba is concerned, Shi'i and Sunni fuqaha' again differ. Shi'i fuqaha' hold that this term includes all the relations of the Prophet (s.a.w) without any specification, but Sunnis say that only needy in the Prophet's family come under this category. Shi'i fuqaha' reject this interpretation for the absence of any evidence in the Qur'anic text to support it. (29)

Despite these minor differences among various schools of fiqh, the Qur`anic injunctions concerning zakat and khums are generally followed by all Muslims. It is also accepted that zakat is over and above the obligatory payments to be made towards meeting the essential needs of parents and other dependants, and these payments (nafaqah) are not to he covered under the head of zakat, which is only for the eight categories enumerated above. Thus Islamic law has taken care of all the weaker sections of society, and has entitled them to claim their rights from the rulers and upper classes. In a way Islam does not recognize any upper classes and is opposed to the amassing of huge property and hoarding of riches unproportionate to one s work and labour.

"O you who believe! most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah's way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah's way, announce to them a painful chastisement. On the day when these shall be heated in the fire of Hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it; this is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded". (al-Tawbah: 34-35).

The conditions for the appointment of judges are very strict and rigorous and the responsibility of rulers is so great that any true Muslim will shudder to accept them due to fear of Allah and the Law of Islam. Imam Ail (a.s) warned Qadi Shurayh that he occupied a seat which was assigned to prophets or their vicegerents, or occupied by a tyrant. The main objective of the Islamic government is to estahlish the rule of justice and equity (al-Nahl: 19), which demands that the weak and the deprived (including slaves) should he provided their basic needs (al-Nahl: 71). To do justice to the underprivileged seems to he the most difficult of the jobs of a government, as Imam Ali (a.s) said, "One who comes to power often oppresses and tyrannizes, and that "oppression and tyranny are the worst companions in the Hereafte"r. (Sayings: 198 & 202). (30) As the weaker sections of people fall easy prey to oppression and tyranny, Islam has taken particular care to guard their rights and redress whatever their legitimate grievances may he. In this way Islamic law ensures freedom of the oppressed.

The Qur'an contains a number of verses which lay down the guiding principles of justice: 1. Never refer to a misled and tyrannical ruler for seeking justice (al-Nisa': 63, Hud: 113). 2. The prophets and their deputies are made the vicegerents of God for establishing the rule of justice and equity (Sad: 38). 3. Divinely appointed personages and judges have to follow the commands of God (al-Ma'idah: 48, 49 & 51). 4. Judges are obliged to see every citizen get his due (al-Nisa': 61). 5. One has to abide by the order of a judge and an arbitrator (al-Nur: 48-49, al-Nisa': 68). 6. Judges should be impartial and meticulous (al-Nisa':106). 7. Judges are bound to admit writs of non-Muslims and to dispose them at the earliest (al-Ma'idah: 46). 8. Accepting bribes is strictly prohibited (al-Ba qarah: 180).

The Qur'anic text also lays down the conditions for the appointment of a qadhi: he ought to be mature, possessing sound reason, of firm faith, just, expert in fiqh with the ability to do ijtihad, of legitimate birth, free from mental lapses, and a male. (31) Imam Ali (a.s), in his letter to Malik al-'Ashtar which is a comprehensive code of conduct for rulers and a document laying down the Islamic principles of governance and justice, elaborates the Qur'anic code of conduct by adding that a qadhi has to he intelligent, patient, of stable temperament, honest, man of integrity, meticulous, and humble. (32) If a judge is prone to vicissitudes of mood, he cannot judge objectively. Leo Tolstoy, in the Resurrection, one of his best novels, criticizes and ridicules judges for being whimsical and moody in delivering judgments, thus committing injustice and spoiling the lives of innocent people who are at their mercy. He also seems to confirm the Qur'anic view of not referring to an unjust judge by condemning the entire legal system based upon vested interests of tyrannical rulers. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s) advised his followers not to appeal to the courts of unjust and tyrannical rulers who usurped power illegitimately from the rightful claimants of rulership and directed them to refer among themselves to him who is an expert on the Qur'anic injunctions and can judge justly. (33) This advice implies that judgments of an unjust government are not binding on Muslims, and, implicitly, they are expected to overthrow such a regime. The first and foremost condition of justice in human social, political, economic, and legal issues is that the entire socio-political system is to be based on justice. The rulers usurping power illegitimately and undemocratically in our age cannot establish the rule of justice. It further implies that the Islamic code of justice can be implemented in a truly Islamic society and State only. We may logically infer from this that the States whose rulers are not elected in accordance with the Islamic criteria have no right to implement the Islamic laws of retribution (qisas) only, for these laws form an integral part of the whole Islamic superstructure. The principle of justice demands that it is the first duty of a ruler claiming to follow the Islamic polity to build a truly Islamic society conducive to the implementation of Islamic justice.

Another significant point made by Imam Ali (a.s) in his letter to Malik al-'Ashtar anticipates a modern principle of democratic rule, which was realized in the West in the present century only:

"Pay them (qadhis) handsomely so that their needs are fully satisfied and they are not required to beg or borrow or resort to corruption. Give them such a prestige and position in your province that none of your officers or courtiers can overlord them or bring harm to them. Let judiciary be above every kind of executive pressure or influence, above fear or favour, intrigue or corruption". (34)

Most probably, the importance of independence of the judiciary was realized for the first time by Imam Ali (a.s) in the annals of human history. He regarded it to be an essential condition of the administration of justice. His great concern for the weaker and oppressed sections of society is evident throughout his sermons, letters, admonitions, and directives issued to his military and administrative officers, and judges.

His concern was the honesty and integrity of persons as the basic condition in the appointment of all officers from the lowest rank up to the highest. If officers, particularly judges, are corrupt or prone to temptations, the stronger sections will be able to deprive the weak of their rights. Advising his governors to hold regular public audiences, he commands them not to let guards and police officers be present on such occasions, so that those who have grievances against the government may speak to the Amir freely, unreservedly, and without fear. (35) At the same time he reminds them that in such audience mostly the common people will gather: Therefore, if you find them misbehaving, or acting in an unmannerly fashion, or if you feel that their talk is irrelevant, tolerate them; do not be rude and insulting to them ... (36)

He adds that he often heard the Prophet (s.a.w) saying: "A nation or government in which the rights of the depressed, the destitute, and the suppressed are not guarded and where the mighty and the powerful persons are not forced to accede these rights, cannot succeed". (37)

With a view to preventing any possibility of oppression and exploitation, he prohibits giving of lands on permanent lease with all property and ownership rights and water supply and other sources of public utility to anybody, because such possessions will enable privileged persons to oppress others and derive undue advantage. (38)

Amir al-Mu'minin's regard for the judiciary and proper legal procedure made him to appear in the court of Qadhi Shurayh as a complainant. When the qadhi offered him a seat of honour, he reproached him for being discriminate. He accepted the judgment against himself, though his claim was right. The opposite party was a Christian, who was so impressed by Ali's submission to the court of law that he confessed that he had no claim on the disputed property; he also volunteered to embrace Islam. Here another aspect of Amir al-Mumini's adherence to Islamic teachings comes to light. He repeatedly enquired if he was forced by somebody to give up his old faith. When he was convinced that there was no compulsion by any authority and the Christian wished to embrace Islam willingly and freely, only then he taught him the kalimah. (39)

It was under such rulers that Muslims learnt to respect freedom and rights of all human beings including those of non-Muslims.

(A) Non-Muslims' Rights:

As the Qur'an has taken special care of non-Muslims in the matter of their legal rights, it accords them full freedom in the matters of faith, economic activity, property, social security, and the preservation of their culture and traditions. 1. Muslims are commanded to observe the conditions of their pacts and treaties made with non-Muslims and never to violate them (al-Ma'idah. 1; al-Nahl: 91; al-'Ahzab. 15; al-Tawbah: 4 and 7; Banu Isra'il. 34; al-Baqarah: 177; al-Ra'd: 20; al-Mu minun: 8 and 9; al-Ma`arij: 32). A general principle is laid down that keeping of promises and fulfilling pacts is a sign of a Muslim. This rule includes pacts with non-Muslims also. Ali (a.s) included non-Muslims also among the common citizens paying taxes or tribute (jizyah). Regarding pacts with an enemy, he advises Malik al-'Ashtar:

"If your enemy invites you for a treaty that will be acceptable to the Lord, then never refuse to accept such an offer. Be very careful, never break your promises with your enemy, never forsake the protection or support that you have offered to him, never go back on your words and never violate the terms of treaty~ You must risk even your life to fulfill the promises given and the terms settled. Because of all the obligations laid by the Mighty Lord upon man there is none so important as the keeping of one's promises . . .. Even the heathens take care to keep promises made among themselves.... Deception and fraud against your enemy is deception against God. Let there he no ambiguity in them (pacts); do not try to take advantage of any ambiguous word or phrase in an agreement . . . Beware of the sin of shedding blood without religious justification and sanction, because there is nothing quicker to bring the wrath of the Lord ......" (40)

In the same letter, he writes: "Remember Mailik that among your subjects there are two kinds of people: they are either your brethren in the faith or likes of you in nature and creation. They may have failings and faults and commit slips. They may act wrongfully either willfully or by neglect. So extend to them your forgiveness in the same way as you would like God to extend His forgiveness to you ...." (41)

The rights of non-Muslims living in a Muslim State are covered by the above instructions; their lives are to be protected and their bloodshed is prohibited. Verse 58 of al-'Anfal and verses 90-94 of al-Nisa' encourage Muslims to accept any offer of peace by non-Muslims with the Divine promise that if they intend to deceive, God will protect Muslims.

2. Muslims have to take care of the dhimmis, i.e. non-Muslims under the protection of a Muslim State according to a dhimmah pact. A dhimmi is free to abide by the dhimmah pact or to leave the Muslim State. There is no compulsion. Al-'Allamah al-Hilli holds that this pact is not binding on a non-Muslim for ever. (42) This is a bilateral pact. The Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are covered by this pact, but the Sunnis include all other non-Muslims also under the pact of dhimmah. The pact made with the Christians of San'a' by the Prophet (s.a.w) and written by Ali (a.s), declared that all the Christians living in the east and the west, whether Arab or non-Arab, are covered by it; anybody who attacks them will he regarded as attacking Muslims, and if a Muslim violates it, whether he is an official or a commoner, he will he unfaithful to Islam. According to it, Muslims were held responsible for securing the security of the Christians and were hound to defend them with their own lives. Dhimmis would not he liable to pay any other tax except the tribute they had willingly agreed to pay; their priests and churches would he safe; the priests would be exempted from paying jizyah; the rich among them and the traders would not be asked to pay any additional tax; none among them would be forced to fight in battle; they would be treated in the best manner; and anything that would cause them harm would be prevented. (43) Similar treaties with the people of Ila ('Aqabah) and Najran were also concluded. (44)

3. The dhimmis have to pay jizyah only, and are bound to abide by the Islamic laws pertaining to judicial matters and penal issues, which are applicable to all citizens equally. (45) It means that the non-Muslims enjoy equality in legal affairs with Muslims. It was because of this right to equality that a Christian could rebut the Caliph in the court of justice, that too on false grounds, as described above.

Jizyah is a financial commitment on the part of the dhimmis in accordance with the Qur'anic injunction (al-Tawbah: 29). According to al-Shaykh al-Tusi, the amount of jizyah is not fixed; it may be fixed by Muslim rulers taking into consideration the yield of the lands of the dhimmis, or determined with regard to each individual's capacity. Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s) levied a tax of 48 dirhams on rich ones, 24 on middle class people, and 12 on the poor. (46) Tribute is a term used for both jizyah and kharaj, which have been confused with each other. Jizyah is per head capitation tax, while kharaj is a collective land tax. If the one is levied, the other one is not collected. It was the second Caliph only who levied both the taxes simultaneously, which misled some Muslim fuqaha' and Orientalists into believing that both were collected from non-Muslims. (47) In case a dhimmi embraced Islam, he was exempted from jizyah.Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s), in his letter to Malik al-'Ashtar, directs him to be considerate in respect of the circumstances of the farmers in collecting land revenue, always keeping in view the welfare of the tax-payers. In his view more importance should be attached to the fertility of land than the collection of taxes, because the actual taxable capacity of people rests upon the condition of the land. He warns that a ruler who does not pay attention to the prosperity of his subjects and the fertility of land but concentrates only on the extraction of revenue lays waste the land, ruins the State, and brings destruction to the creatures of God, and his rule cannot last long. In case of natural calamities and vagaries of rain, drought and destruction of crops, the tax is to be reduced or, if conditions necessitate, totally exempted for the season. He also recommends providing all facilities to the farmers, for the best investment for a ruler is to help his subjects in times of difficulty. It may be noted that it were mainly non-Muslims who were engaged in cultivation of land in those days, for Muslims were mostly employed in the army and the defense of the State. The lenience in collecting taxes is a means of winning the dhimmis' confidence and love, which in case of a crisis would prove to be an asset and source of strength for the ruler. Ali (a.s) wanted Muslim rulers to behave differently from the kind of rulers described by the Qur'an as those who bring devastation to the land and misery to the people (al-Naml: 34). The poverty of the people, in his view, is the actual cause of a country's devastation and ruin. Extraordinary conditions apart, in normal conditions too, certain categories of non-Muslim subjects were exempted from jizyah or kharمj, such as minors, the poor, old, disabled and insane persons. (48) Women are never required to pay jizyah. The married among them are entitled to all the rights of citizenship on the basis of their husbands' payment of the tax, while maidens are exempted due to their parents' and guardians' citizenship rights. Every treaty that levies jizyah on women is null and void from the Islamic viewpoint. (49) Besides natural or other calamities, in some other circumstances also non-Muslims are exempted from the payment of jizyah. These are: whenever Muslims feel they are unable to fulfill their obligations towards the dhimmis; whenever Muslims consider the exemption to be instrumental in creating and fostering better relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities; whenever Muslims are in need of seeking their active participation in war; and whenever any of them embraces Islam. (50) In most of the countries under Muslim rule jizyah was not collected at all; for instance, in India the majority of rulers, with a few exceptions, did not levy jizyah on non-Muslims. Awrangzeb Alamgir, the Moghal emperor, levied it in his reign, but it proved to be against the interests of the Muslim empire and counter-productive.

The dhimmis and other non-Muslims loyal to the Muslim State enjoy freedom of faith and worship. Their places of worship are protected. (51)They have usually received liberal grants from Muslim rulers. Though they have equal legal rights, they are free to refer their disputes to their own religious authorities. (52) They are accorded all the rights granted to Muslim citizens, that is, the right to education and dissemination of knowledge, freedom of thought, the right to property, the right to engage in business, agriculture, industry, and any honourable activity. They are treated equally in social matters and are respected. (53) Al-Sharif al-Radi composed elegies paying tribute to his friend and teacher, al-Sabi', an eminent Christian poet and scholar. Non-Muslims have been serving Muslim courts as ministers, administrators, accountants, secretaries, and ambassadors. They also excelled during Muslim regimes as scientists, physicians, teachers, men of letters, artists, businessmen, industrialists, bankers and soon. Even the secular democracies of today are unable to ensure all these rights and freedoms to their minorities. Since the Muslim States could ensure these rights to their non-Muslim subjects, we seldom find in their history incidents of communal clashes and riots. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran states in article 23 of Chapter III: "The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task for holding a certain belief". (54)


(B) The Rights of Slaves:

All medieval societies allowed slavery to continue in the interest of the ruling classes, but Islam discouraged it. As the historical conditions did not permit its outright abolishment at that time, Islam granted slaves human rights which had been denied to them from time immemorial. The Qur`an encouraged Muslims to emancipate slaves in such verses as: al-Baqarah: 177; al-Ma'idah: 89; al-Nisa': 93; al-Mujadilah: 3. The Prophet (s.a.w) also entreated all the Muslims to let slaves free, and himself did it. He appointed slaves to important positions and treated them equally. Though the institution of slavery continued in the Muslim world, but due to enjoying benefits of good education and respectable status many slaves rose to high posts and sometimes ruled over their past masters. The Turk slaves of the Banu Abbas could dictate their terms to the caliphs also. The founders of Ghaznawi and Ghawri empires were slaves. Similarly the Khawمrazmi rulers were descendants of slaves. In India, the first Muslim empire was built up by a slave of Shihab al-Din Ghawri, Qutb al-Din Aybak, who in his turn was succeeded by his slave, Iltitmush, and subsequently his slave Balhan was made the emperor when Iltitmush's family came to an end. In South India (Deccan), the first independent dynasty was founded by a slave of Muhammad Tughlaq, Ala' al-Din Hasan Gangu Bahmani. Slaves were often married their master's daughters. No other religion or law has treated slaves so respectfully. Practically, slavery was almost abolished in the Muslim world when the newly civilized West was making the Africans slaves and deporting them to America, where the Black Americans are still fighting for equal rights and human treatment. South Africa is another example of the treatment of the Blacks, who despite being the legitimate masters of the country and forming the majority are being treated and persecuted in a manner worse than slaves. All such atrocities against free human beings are committed by the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Islam bestowed freedom on slaves of the world fourteen centuries ago. Slaves were the greatest beneficiaries of the Islamic declaration of human rights. It is because of Islamic equality that peoples who were discriminated against on racial or other grounds came to the fold of Islam.


(C) Women's Rights:

If one compares the status of women in the pre-Islamic societies of Greece, Rome, Persia, Syria, India, and Arabia, one will acknowledge that Islam raised their position to a level that they could claim equal rights with men in all spheres of life. Christianity regarded woman as the source and cause of Adam's sin and his Consequent fall, and Arab paganism buried daughters alive considering them to be the cause of shame. Islam not only advocated equality of the sexes, but also the Prophet (s.a.w) set an example of how to respect women by paying great respect to Khadijah (a.s) and Fatimah (a.s) in particular and women folk in general. Polygamy and the Hijab are the butts of the West's and the so-called enlightened East's criticism of Islam's treatment of women. The former, on the one hand, was necessitated by social conditions, and, on the other, by the physiological make-up of the two sexes. Promiscuity and free love in modern Societies point to this natural need. The Islamic Hijab does not imprison woman, but rather emancipates her in many ways. Confining woman to the four walls of the house and keeping her deprived of the fruits of education was never approved by Islam. Jawahirlal Nehru, in The Discovery of India, rightly points out that this type of female confinement is a result of women were deprived of their freedom under non-Islamic influences. The West, which poses as the champion of women's equal rights, has granted them the rights to property, separation and vote only recently. Syed Amir Ali, an eminent Indian jurist, wrote in The Spirit of Islam in the first decades of this century:

"Until very recently, even in England, a married woman possessed no rights independently of her husband . . .. But the Teacher, who in an age when no country, no system, no community gave any right to woman, maiden or married, mother or wife, who, in a country where the birth of a daughter was considered a calamity, secured to the female sex rights which are only unwillingly and under pressure being conceded to them by the civilized nations of the twentieth century, deserves the gratitude of humanity". (55)

If the Muslim woman seeks to imitate the social role of her European sister, it will be nothing but a misconceived emancipation which shall land her in the evil mire of the capitalist system, which has reduced woman to a commodity and a sex-object for exhibition in the windows of supermarkets and reception rooms of high offices. On the contrary, Islam gave her the rights and freedoms which no system could grant her.

In Islam all the rights granted to men, with few exceptions, are also given to women. One exception is with respect to jihمd, but women are expected to help men behind the war front by taking care of the wounded and doing similar important jobs. In the matter of marriage, women have the right to express their consent to marry a person and they are free to dissent. In divorce the right is given to man, but under certain provisions woman can initiate the legal proceeding to secure divorce. Woman's rights in Islam can be summarized as follows: Women are treated at an equal footing with men in all affairs: religious, educational, legal, moral and economic.

(a) In religious matters, obligations and rewards of women are the same as those of men (al-Nisa': 1; al-'A'raf: 189;al- Ahzah: 35). (b) In ethical matters, also, equality of the two sexes is maintained (al-Nisa': 124; al-Nahl: 97). (c) Regarding education, the Qur'an implicitly gives the same rights to women as are granted to men. Similarly, the Hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w) making acquisition of knowledge obligatory upon all Muslims does not mention any sex; in fact, the Prophet commanded that even the slave girls be educated. As women are responsible for taking care of infants, they are supposed to have some knowledge of medicine and also of the art of helping in childbirth. The Prophet (s.a.w) asked a lady to instruct his wife Hafsah hint Umar. Women also used to attend the Prophet's lectures. Because of this practice, a number of ladies from the Household of the Prophet (s.a.w) excelled in hadith and fiqh. In the history of Islam, we find the names of a number of women who equaled most educated men in the religious sciences, arts, and literature. (d) The legal and economic rights of women are also at a par with those of men. Islam ensured economic independence of women by giving them a share in parent's property (al-Nisa':7 and 11), and warning against depriving them of their inheritance (al-Nisa': 19). A woman is entitled to hold and manage her property. She enjoys the right to spend what she possesses and her husband cannot deprive her of her dower (mahr) (al-Baqarah: 229, al-Nisa': 19-2 1 and 25), unless she voluntarily forgoes it as a gift (al-Nisa': 24). If wronged, she is entitled to compensation just like a man, and if she commits a civil offence, the Qur'an says, her penalty is no less or no more than that of a man in a similar case (al-M'idah: 41; al-Nur: 2). (e) In the marital contract, except in the case of divorce, she is given the same rights that are granted to her husband. The Qur'an explicitly commands men not to give women in marriage without seeking their consent (al-Nisa': 19). Even the right of an infidel woman is respected by the Qur'an, whichcommands Muslims not to violate the modesty and honour of the women of mushrikün (al-Mumtahanah: 10-11). In our highly advanced age, the troops of most civilized nations of the West deem it to be their legitimate right to violate the honour of women of the enemy, for chastity and dignity of woman have no value according to modern standards of culture and morality. A Muslim woman also enjoys the right to choose her spouse of her free will. She is entitled to dower (mahr) in accordance with the marriage contract. Though polygamy is permissible in Islam, the conditions of being fair and just to all the wives are so strict that practically it is discouraged. The third verse of al-Nisa' says that if you fear that you will not be able to do justice to more than one wife, he content with one wife only. . . . The conditions of justice to wives are laid down in verse 33 of al-Nisa'. There are many verses in the Qur'an which emphasize the sanctity of the home and the family and state the mutual duties and rights of husband and wife for the sake of safeguarding the family's welfare. Both of them are held responsible for the harmony of the family. In case of differences, the husband and wife are advised to settle them with the help of two arbitrators, one from each of the parties (al-Nisa': 35). If it is not possible to live together, the provision to separation is open, but according to a tradition of the Prophet (y) divorce is the worst of permissible things in the eyes of God. A woman is entitled to receive her expenses from her husband during the period of iddah, and a child horn in this period belongs to the husband who is responsible for its expenses. Even the much fussed about institution of temporary marriage (mut'ah) is now being appreciated by some modern sociologists who consider it the best safeguard against promiscuity.(f) Islam has also given political rights to women, as stated in the twelfth verse of al-Mumtahanah in the Qur'an. The women of Quraysh were given a right to take the oath of allegiance after satisfying them fully of the conditions of submitting to it.56 By implication this verse gives women the right to vote, a right for which women had to struggle and wait till the twentieth century in the West.



As elaborated in the beginning of the article, all human rights originate in man's freedom and are secured by the fulfillment of obligations in society as well as in a political set-up. A society which gives more rights to its members is to be considered freer than those which either grant limited rights only or do not ensure that they are safeguarded. In modern States, the ones which claim to be open and free curtail constitutional rights one way or the other, and the ones that are based upon the sovereignty of the working class deprive other classes of human rights. Furthermore, the latter, through indoctrination and regimentation of thought, transform human beings into machines. The technocracy and bureaucracy of modern societies, both capitalist and socialist, are concerned with the material aspect of man and, consequently, dehumanize all social and human relations. Islam, on the other hand, ensures the fulfillment of both the material and spiritual aspirations of man by giving all sections of society equal rights and ensuring their execution and implementation by the State. Thus Islam accepts the inherent freedom of man and its full utilization and development, and organizes its socio-political superstructure accordingly. The Islamic conception of human rights and its faithful implementation ensures greater freedom to all sections of humanity than granted in any other system.

If we study the views of the spiritual leaders of Islam, we will see how they disapproved of all acts of injustice and rejected all formulations that sought to deprive man of his freedom.



1. Allamah Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (Lahore: Muhammad Ashraf, May 1971) p. 111.

2. Syed Ameer Ali, op. cit., pp. 409-10.

3.Ibid, p.411.

4.Ibid, p.412.

5. Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi, Tamhid al-'usul, translated with introduction by Abd al-Muhsin Mishkat al-Dini (Tehran: Anjuman-e Islami Hikmat wa Falsafeh-ye Iran, 1358 Sh.), pp. 267-383. All points enumerated in the article are discussed in detail with rational arguments in these pages, which may be referred to for gaining a better insight into the problems and their Shi'i Imami solutions.

6. Goodwin, The French Revolution (London: Hutchinson University Library, fifth ed. reprinted 1974), pp. 74-75.

7. The Encyclopedia Americana (U.S.A., American Corporation, 1963 ed.), XXIII, 5 18-19.

8. Ibid, XXIII, 52 1-22.

9. Encyclopedia International (New York, Grolier Incorporated, 1971 ed.), IX, 36.

10. Syed Ameer Ali, The Spirit of Islam (London, Methuen, 1965), pp. 2 19-20.

11. Nahjul balaghah of Hadhrat Ali, trans. Syed Askari Jafery (Tehran, Library of Chehel Sutoon Theological School), p. 44.

12.Ibid, p. 49.

13.Ibid, p. 49&51.

14.Ibid, p. 50.

15.Ibid, p. 280.

16.Ibid, p. 287.

17.Ibid, p. 289.

18.Ibid, p. 293.

19.Ibid, p. 280.

20.Ibid, p. 280.

21.Ibid, p. 290.

22. "The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, al-Tawhid (Tehran, Sazman-e Tablighat-e Islami), vol. iii, no. 1, pp. 139-40.

23.Ibid, p. 144.

24. Dr. Muhammad Khaza'ili, Ahkame-e Qur`an (Sazman-e cap wa intisharat-e Jawidan, 2nd ed., 2555 Shah.), pp. 434-36.

25.Ibid, pp. 446-47.

26.Ibid, p. 448.

27.Ibid, p. 442.

28.Ibid, p. 458.

29.Ibid, p. 458.

30. Nahjul balaghah op. cit., p. 294.

31. Dr.Khaza'ili, op. cit., p. 659.

32. Nahjul balaghah, op. cit., pp. 252-53.

33. Dr.Khaza'ili,op. cit., p.452. Usfllal-Kaft, vol.1.

34. Nahjul balaghah, op. cit., p. 253.

35. & 36. Ibid, p. 256.

37.Ibid, p. 256.

38.Ibid, p. 257.

39.Ibid, introduction, p. 6.

40.Ibid, pp. 257-5 1.

41.Ibid, p.248.

42. Abbas Ali Amid Zanjaini, Huquq-e aqaliyyatha bar asas-e qanun-e qarardad-e dhimnnah: barrasi-yi gushehha-ye az ,mafahim-e huquq-e bayn al-milal az nazar-e fiqh-e Islami (Tehran: Nashr-e Farhang-e Islami, Autumn 1362 Sham.), pp. 57-58.

43. Ibid., pp. 77-78.

44. Ibid., pp. 78-80.

45. Ibid., pp. 84-85.

46. Ibid., p. 108.

47. Ibid., p. 116.

48. Ibid., pp. 119-25.

49. Ibid., ~ 11 9-20.

50. Ibid., pp. 123-24.

51.Ibid., pp. 164-65.

52. Ibid., pp. 186-87.

53. Ibid., pp. 180-7 1 (right to freedom of residence), 178-8 1 (legal rights), 193 (right to trade), 196 (right to agriculture), 197 (right to economic freedom), and 202-3 (professional freedom).

54. "The Constitution of the Islamic Republic, op. cit., p. 145.

55. Syed Ameer Ali, op. cit., p. 256.

56. Dr. Khaza`i1i, op. cit., p. 60.




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