Who is Rashidun Caliphate? Who is ali? What is ali story?
Ali (r. 656-661 CE)
may Allah be pleased with him
Hadrat `Ali has the privilege of being born in the precincts of the Ka`ba. His family was very crowded, so from the age of five he was raised in the compound of the Prophet Muhammad (s), benefiting from his companionship even before his prophethood was announced. In this way `Ali was safeguarded from the habits of the Age of Ignorance, and became the first among children to accept Prophet Muhammad’s message.
After receiving revelation, the Prophet used to visit the fairs around Makka where people gathered for pilgrimage to the Ka`ba, with the purpose of inviting people to the way of Islam. He would take either Hadrat `Ali or Hadrat Abu Bakr with him. When the Prophet did not take Hadrat `Ali with him, `Ali would go to the Ka`ba and deface the idols there.
Hadrat `Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, played a great role during the Hijra, the Emigration of the Prophet. When Muhammad (s) secretly left Makka for Madina, `Ali slept in his bed, thereby diverting the attention of the idol-worshippers who had planned to murder Prophet Muhammad (s) and were lying in wait outside his house.
When the Prophet left Makka, it was to Hadrat `Ali that he entrusted the valuables given to him for safekeeping, so that `Ali could return them to their owners. Hadrat `Ali, after fulfilling this mission, left for Madina as well. It was a difficult journey. He walked at night and rested by day, and his legs grew swollen. However, he was united with the Prophet in Madina safe and sound.
In the second year of the Hijra `Ali married Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, and became the Prophet’s son-in-law. With Hadrat Fatima, `Ali lived a life of devotion and commitment. From the two of them sprang a lineage of eleven distinguished descendants of the Prophet. This lineage was called Ahl al-Bayt, the People of the House. All of them were significant figures in tasawwuf, Islamic mysticism.
Master of the Bountiful
Raised in the bosom of the Prophet, Hadrat `Ali never inclined to worldly affairs. Consequently his life was an example of Islamic solidarity and altruism.
The Prophet once said, “When Allah blesses His servant, He opens the way for that servant to serve humanity.”
Reflecting on this great divine favor, Hadrat `Ali replied, “There are two blessings, and I cannot say which one makes me happier. The first is when someone comes to me for help with the hope that I will provide him with what he wants from me. The second is when Allah helps that person through me [without my knowledge]. I prefer helping a Muslim to a world made of gold or silver.”
One day Hadrat `Ali said to his noble wife Fatima, “I’m starving. Have we got anything to eat?” Hadrat Fatima answered that they had nothing to eat, but there were six dinars in the house. Hadrat `Ali took that money and went to the bazaar. On the way to the bazaar he heard one man scolding another. The first man was demanding that the second man pay what he owed; he was threatening to take him to court. The borrower asked more time from the lender, but the lender rejected his plea.
Hadrat `Ali interrupted and asked, “How much money are you fighting about?” The two responded that it was six dinars. Hadrat `Ali paid the lender the whole amount, and headed home with nothing. On the way back he wondered what he would tell Hadrat Fatima. In the end he decided, “She won’t be angry with me. She is the chief of women, and the daughter of the Prophet! She’ll be tolerant of what I’ve done.”
When he told Hadrat Fatima what had happened, she said, “That is a noble act. May Allah be praised! You saved a Muslim from imprisonment. Allah is enough for us.” She was upset, though: both their sons were crying out of hunger. Hadrat `Ali sensed her state, and was upset himself. He went to visit the Prophet, thinking that he would forget what had happened once he entered that spiritual presence.
On the way to the Prophet’s house, he saw a man approaching, accompanied by a camel. The man said, “I’m selling this camel. Would you like to buy it?” Hadrat `Ali told him that he had no money. The man kept pressing him, however, and finally Hadrat `Ali bought the camel for a hundred dinars, on credit. Then he moved on.
As he continued, another man approached him and offered to buy the camel. He offered Hadrat `Ali three hundred dinars, and the deal was done. With part of the money from the sale of the camel, `Ali bought some food and went home. He told Hadrat Fatima what had happened; they ate, fed the children, and thanked Allah.
Afterwards Hadrat `Ali went on to see the Prophet. The Prophet asked him, “O `Ali! Do you know from whom you bought the camel and to whom you sold it?”
`Ali replied, “Allah and His messenger know the best.”
The Prophet said, “The seller was the Angel Gabriel, and the buyer was the Angel Israfil, who will blow the trumpet of summons on the last day of the world. That camel came from Paradise. You helped a Muslim in distress, and Allah gave you many times your investment in return. No one knows what He will give you in the Hereafter.”
`Ata (may the mercy of Allah be with him) narrates from Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him):
“Hadrat `Ali agreed to irrigate a date orchard in return for a certain amount of barley when the work was done. In the morning he got what was owed him and came home. With a third of the barley the family cooked a meal called hazira. Just as the food was ready, a poor person came to the door, asking for something to eat. `Ali and Fatima gave their meal to that poor person. They cooked another meal with another third of the barley. Just as the food was ready, an orphan came to the door, asking for something to eat. They gave that meal to the orphan. Then they cooked another meal with the last third of the barley. Just as the food was ready, a prisoner of war came to the door, asking for something to eat. They gave that meal to the captive, and spent the day hungry.
Another narrative of Hadrat `Ali and Fatima relates that during one Ramadan, for three days in succession the couple gave their fast-break food to a poor person, an orphan, and a captive, and themselves broke their fast with water alone. It is in relation to this noble act that the following verses are said to have been revealed:
And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. We only feed you for Allah’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks. Surely we fear from our Lord a stern, distressful day. Therefore Allah will guard them from the evil of that day and cause them to meet with ease and happiness (Insan/76: 8-11).
Because of this noble morality, Prophet Muhammad (s) gave Hadrat `Ali the title Master of the Bountiful.
Victorious Lion of Allah
Hadrat `Ali was distinguished not only by generosity and deep knowledge, but also by outstanding courage. He took part in all but one of the armed struggles for the survival of Islam, and became renowned as a heroic figure in every battle he entered. He missed just one campaign, the battle of Tabuk. The Prophet asked him not to come out for Tabuk, but to watch over the community and the members of the Prophet’s family at Madina. This upset Hadrat `Ali. He complained, “O Prophet! Are you leaving me behind to take care of women and children?”
The Prophet answered with these consoling words: “You are in the same position to me as Aaron was to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me.”
It was the custom of the Arabs to call their most famous warriors to step forward for single combat as a prelude to the general engagement of both sides in battle. The Prophet usually asked Hadrat `Ali to undertake such single combats. With Allah’s will, he bested every opponent. He was, therefore, widely known by the title Victorious Lion of Allah.
The heroic performance of Hadrat `Ali was no doubt rooted in the spiritual inspiration of the Prophet. For Muhammad (s) once said, “The real hero is not the person who prevails over his rival in combat. The real hero is the person who controls himself in times of anger.” Hadrat `Ali was a good example of the sort of real warrior pointed out by this saying of the Prophet. He lived a life in which he triumphed over his ego all the time.
In one battle, `Ali was about to kill a soldier from the army of the idol-worshippers. On the verge of death, that soldier spat in his face. Hadrat `Ali stopped, put down his sword, and told the man to get up and go. The soldier was astounded. He asked Hadrat `Ali why, when he held all the power and had been insulted, he was giving his opponent another chance. Hadrat `Ali answered, “We fight two kinds of battles. The first is against idol-worshippers like you; the second is against our lower selves. That battle requires us to control our passions. I had been fighting against you only for the sake of Allah. When you spat in my face, it made me angry. If
I had killed you in that moment, it would have been to satisfy my own rage, and my lower self would have triumphed over me. That is why I set you free. I have won the great battle, the battle with my own lower self. To be a slave in the hands of the lower self is greater danger for Muslims than the attacks of idol-worshippers.”
With this answer, Hadrat `Ali raised the veil from the heart of the enemy soldier. The man was enlightened with faith, and became a Muslim. Later this new Muslim took part in many battles at the side of Hadrat `Ali. He followed Hadrat `Ali’s teaching, differentiating carefully between anger for the sake of Allah and anger for the sake of one’s own passions. He gave the battle against his lower self priority over fighting any other enemy.
Hadrat `Ali was a heroic warrior, yet never ceased living a life of spiritual commitment and deep devotion. During one battle, he was shot through the leg with an arrow. His supporters attempted to remove it from his leg, but `Ali couldn’t bear the operation because the pain was so severe. Finally he told them, “Let me stand in prayer. When I am in the midst of prayer, pull the arrow.”
They followed his instruction, and took out the arrow easily. When `Ali finished his prayer, he asked them whether they had been successful! Prayer removed him from the possibility of pain. He used to pray as if he had already departed from the world.
From the Kaba to the Mosque of Kufa
Hadrat `Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, did his best to help the caliphs who governed the community after the death of the Prophet. He joined their councils and helped them make well-directed decisions.
He himself was appointed caliph by the Companions of the Prophet after the assassination of the third deputy, `Uthman. One of his early administrative acts was to transfer the capital from Madina to Kufa, because he did not want the city of Madina, the Illuminated City of the Prophet, to witness political conflict. His decision was correct, for his caliphate had to bear witness to civil war (often called al-Fitna, “The Trial”) and there was political struggle in Kufa to the end of his life.
Once his supporters appealed to him, “Commander of the Faithful! Let us be your guard!”
He answered, “There is no guard better than death.” Eventually, he was tragically assassinated by a former supporter, a political extremist.
`Ali lost his appetite a few days before his death. When asked why he did not eat, he answered: “I want to die hungry.” Shortly afterwards, he was stabbed to death with a poisoned sword while leading morning prayers. He was 63 years old, the age of the Prophet at his own passing.
As `Ali lay dying, Jundab ibn `Abdullah said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful! May Allah save you for us. But if you leave us, we will offer an oath of allegiance to your son Hasan.”
With great insight, Hadrat `Ali took the position taken by Abu Bakr before him: “I will not tell you whether or not to offer homage to Hasan. You know your own affairs better than I do.”
He next advised his sons, Hasan and Husayn.“I want you to devote yourself to the way of Allah,” he said. “Do not mourn over the past. Tell the truth all the time. Follow the guidance displayed in the Book of Allah. Be an enemy to oppressors, and a friend to the oppressed. Do not allow yourselves to be offended by words of condemnation concerning the rules of religion.”
After leaving this spiritual testament, he uttered the Profession of Faith, and passed away. He closed his eyes forever in a prayer-hall that he himself had first opened by the Ka`ba, in whose precincts he had been born.
Mu`awiya, who had challenged Hadrat `Ali during his government and brought on the civil war, became the fifth caliph, and ruled as a king. The community of Islam entered a different phase. Later Mu`awiya repented what had happened. He publicly spoke of his regret: “I wish I had lived as an ordinary man of Quraysh in the valley of Dhi-Tuwa, and had never gotten involved in politics.”
Junayd al-Baghdadi, the great mystic of Islam, remarked, “If `Ali had not been forced to spend time on battles he would have taught us more of the Qur’anic sciences. He is the master of scholars. He gave voice to insights that so far have not been attainable by anyone else.”
Here are some words of wisdom from Hadrat `Ali, inviting us to follow his principles of life.
Words of Wisdom from Hadrat Ali
“Rest your soul with words of wisdom, for souls get tired and weaken, as bodies do.”
“There is no goodness in praying without standing in awe of Allah, in fasting without refraining from idle talk, in reading the Qur’an without contemplation, in learning without acting accordingly, in wealth without charity, in fellowship without offering help in need, in blessings without gratitude, and in invocation without sincerity.”
“People are opposed to what they do not know.”
“Paradise is for the generous, while Hell is for the ignorant.”
“The ignorant will not be questioned about why they did not learn until after the learned are questioned about why they did not teach.”
“Whoever yearns for Paradise pursues good works. Whoever fears the Fire refrains from passions. Whoever takes death seriously dispenses with the desires of his ego. Whoever is aware of how the world works knows what the obstacles are.”
“Chastity is the charity due for beauty.”
“Decency and generosity in religion are fruits of common sense.”
“More intellect means less speech.”
“Whoever grasps that he will be questioned for his words as for his acts will speak less, and not at all about things that do not concern him.”
“Not speaking until asked is better than speaking until silenced.”
“Do not bother responding to a base accusation, because the one who made the accusation is likely to answer back with worse.”
“Do not make jokes with fools, for they may break your heart with their poisonous tongues.”
“Speak to people in a language they can understand.”
“A curved object will have a curved shadow.”
“Think well of the servants of Allah. If you do so, you will rid yourself of many burdens.”
“Whoever does not follow the way of Allah, His Prophet, and the friends of Allah is destined to have no capital. The way of Allah is to keep the secret. The way of the Prophet is to manage relationships with good behavior. The way of the friends of Allah is to put up with problems that come from people.”
“If you want to become good friends with someone, first spend some time with him. If he still sympathizes with you when you have spent time together, then establish a relationship with him.”
“A person whose heart is occupied with hatred cannot do good works, because no heart is spacious enough to contain two opposite concerns.”
“A Muslim should smile even if his heart is sad.”
“Eternal blessing is only possible when one dies surrendered.”
“How can the son of Adam grow arrogant? His beginning is a drop of fluid, and his end is a corpse. He can neither create his own conditions nor escape extinction.”
“Life is made up of only two days. One day is for you; the other day is against you. Do not spoil yourself when the day is for you, and do not wail when it is against you.”
“Today is the day to do good works. Tomorrow is the day to account for your works. There will be no chance of further action then.”
“Every breath is a step towards death.”
“Both the world and religion will be preserved as long as the following four things are preserved: as long as rich people are not miserly with their wealth; as long as learned people act according to what they know to be true; as long as ignorant people do not pride themselves on what they do not know; and as long as poor people do not prefer the life of this world to the life of the next.”
“How lovely when the rich humble themselves to the poor, hoping for the reward of Allah! But the poor do an even better job by resigning themselves to Allah, which makes them independent of the rich.”
“Being deprived of something is better than being indebted to somebody.”
“Virtue is the adornment of poverty; gratitude is the adornment of wealth.”
“Meanness gathers up in itself all kinds of bad characteristics.”
“When you grow poor, make a business deal with Allah by giving alms. When you grow rich, thank Him. Try to retain Allah’s blessings by thanking Him all the time.”
“The gift of Islam is better than any worldly wealth. Commitment to religion is better than any worldly concern. Advice from death is better than any worldly advice.”
“Knowledge is the best of inheritances. Decency is the best of arts. Prayer is the best of investments. Good works are the best of mentors. Good character is the best of friends. Gentleness is the best of assistants. Frugality is the best of possessions. Contemplation of death is the best of protectors.”
“There is no better trade than doing good deeds; no better benefit than divine guidance; no better dignity than humility: no better honor than knowledge; no better chastity than abstaining from what is sinful; no better character than coming closer to Allah; no better prayer than performing obligatory religious acts; no better intellect than foresight; no better virtue than solidarity.”
“Here are the most difficult deeds, done at the most difficult times: to forgive while angry; to be generous while in need; to exercise self-control while no one watches; to speak truth to people one fears or needs.”
“If someone exaggerates small nuisances, Allah will expose him to bigger ones.”
“Possessions are the raw material for passions. Passions unlock troubles. Jealousy rides people to pointless exhaustion.”
“Worldly cravings and expectations blind even foresighted people.”
“Your worth is equal to what you desire.”
“One who becomes a slave of his ego’s endless desires is bound to do bad deeds.”
“The foreordained goes to those who do not expect it.”
“There is no better place for your soul than Paradise. So trade your soul only for Paradise.”
“The friends of Allah are those who can see the inwardness of life while looking at its outwardness.”
“A servant’s faith cannot ripen unless he trusts in Allah more than he trusts whatever he has.”
May Allah help us to take in these words of wisdom and to act in accordance with them. May He grant us the love of the four caliphs, the closest friends of the Prophet, and unite us with them on the Day of Judgment!
Indeed, union with our companions of the Hereafter starts already in this world. If we make friends with the noblest souls of this world, we will no doubt be close to them in the Next. May our Lord help us to take on the morality of the four caliphs, and let them intercede for us on the Day of Judgment!
On Society and Rulers
Allah Almighty provided His creatures with a great societal order of life appropriate to the traits of them all. Our Lord wished humans, whom He created as the most honored of creation, adorned with both material and spiritual beauties, to live in harmony with the whole. Thus it is said in the Qur’an, “And the heaven, He raised it high, and He set up the balance, that you might not transgress the balance.”
Our Lord created the human being to be more dependent on other human beings than most creatures are dependent on each another. Humans have always been inclined to live in communities, from clans to empires: we do not live in isolation. In order to guide this inclination in a harmonious way, it is essential to have leaders who can steer society wisely, and who are capable of maintaining a balanced relationship between those who govern and those who are governed.
When societies are examined with wisdom, it can be seen that governors and governed are mirrors reflecting each other’s images. Thus, all societies, from a nuclear family or a small group to an empire, take shape in parallel with the physical and psychological capacities of their rulers. At the same time, rulers develop as persons in parallel with their society’s overall capacities. If those who govern are virtuous and skillful, their society prospers in an atmosphere of peace and welfare. If they are not, their society flounders in material and social distress. On the other hand, if a society improves, it develops righteous rulers; if a society goes astray and loses its moral values, selfish rulers come to power, because rulers are also the outcome of the entire social system.
Therefore, when things are not going well, both governors and governed should take responsibility for their own failures first, and start by improving themselves. The primary social principle of the Islamic mystical tradition is to examine one’s own behavior closely while tolerating the behavior of others. This approach is valid not only for personal development, but also for societal development. It is said in the Qur’an:
… Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves…(Ra`d/13: 11)
This is because Allah has never changed a favor that He has conferred upon a people until they have changed their own condition… (Anfal/8: 53).
As it is made clear in these verses, the divine mercy and blessing with which a society is endowed are conditional on that society’s remaining on the right path. Whenever a society ignores Allah’s grace, Allah’s mercy departs from it. And then, as the Prophet remarked, “In that place, it is better to be under the ground than above it.”
So if we wish to live in a good society with righteous rulers, we should live our own lives in a manner that pleases Allah. For as the Prophet once warned, “People are ruled as they deserve.” The following story makes this point.
When Hadrat `Ali was stabbed to death by the extremist Ibn Muljam, people rushed to his side. Some of them asked him, as he was drawing his last breaths, to appoint a leader for them. But he told them, “I am leaving you in the same way that the Messenger of Allah left us. Before the Prophet died, we asked him to do the same thing that you are asking me. He told us, ‘Allah will give you good leaders if He sees good in you.’ And Allah gave us Abu Bakr as our leader because He saw good in us.”
Many troubles emerged during the government of Hadrat `Ali. He was once asked: “O caliph! Why is that more troubles have occurred under you than occurred under your predecessors?”
Hadrat `Ali replied, “They served as rulers for people like me, while I serve as a ruler for people like you!”
By these words he meant that rulers can only govern according to the quality of their subjects. Yet the same principle applies to subjects, whose acts are conditioned by the quality of their rulers. Hadrat `Omar said in this regard, “People follow the path and manner of their leaders. People follow the straight path as long as their leaders follow the straight path.”
Indeed, people generally follow their leaders and take examples from them. Here are some illustrations from history.
Walid ibn Abdul-Malik, an Umayyad caliph, was keen on majestic buildings. His people copied him and began to value majestic buildings. Then in every circle and walk of life, people began to talk about majestic buildings.
Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik, another caliph, loved elegant food and drink. People of his era wasted their time talking about food and drink.
`Omar ibn Abdul-Aziz, another caliph, was a committed and pious person. People of his time valued devotions. They talked about prayer and competed over how many verses from the Qur’an they had memorized, how many extra fasts they had kept, and how many needy people they had served.
Indeed, the acts and characteristics of rulers are internalized by their societies sooner or later. Thus the good deeds of rulers influence society widely in a positive way, while their bad deeds influence society widely in a negative way. As the proverb says, “Fish start to stink from the head.”
Since this is so, governors and leaders of every kind, from heads of households to directors of associations and corporations, and from local officials to national administrators, should pay utmost attention to setting a good example. They should be aware of their responsibilities. Sheikh Edebali said to `Uthman Ghazi, “Never forget that being in the upper class will not make you safer than being in the lower class.”
When Hadrat `Omar put a public ban on some behavior, he used to begin by exercising that rule in his family first. He would ask his family members to come together and make the following announcement: “I have just forbidden the people this and that. People watch over you as wild birds watch over flesh. If you do not obey this rule, they will follow your example. I swear by Allah that if one of you ignores this ban, I will punish that person more than I punish any other person. Now you are free to obey or not to obey.”
It is a notable fact that a society advances in all aspects only when its rulers fulfill their mission with great care. These instructions of Sulayman the Magnificent, the great Ottoman Sultan, to Governor Ghazi Bali Bey show how seriously he took the work of government.
Watch over your people. If governors are righteous and pious, their society will follow them. Your people are nothing but your reflection. There are some people who fast by day and pray by night, yet love the wealth of this world too much. Worldly possessions then become the idols they worship. Nothing compares to worldly possessions for leading society astray. Never incline to accumulating wealth! Spend generously whatever you have in hand for people, and do not allow yourself to grow jealous.
The Prophet’s stand and his acts set good examples for rulers as well. He paid close attention to the problems of the Companions, and always took the brunt of difficult situations. Even the most famous warriors, like Hadrat `Ali, stated that they took shelter with the Prophet at dangerous and risky times. Thus, leadership means taking the lead in making sacrifices. Leaders must be aware that one cannot serve properly without being fully involved.
The Prophet walked along with the weakest Companions to encourage them during long journeys. A merciful shepherd does not leave an injured sheep behind. On the contrary, he cradles it in his arms.
Community leaders should avoid becoming spoiled. They should never forget that they are servants of Allah. Leaders do the job of cashiers, distributing benefits that do not belong to them, and one day they will be questioned about their honesty in the divine court.
Imam Malik wrote this advice to the caliph of his time:
Hadrat `Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, made the Pilgrimage ten times. As far as I know, he spent only twelve dinars on each Pilgrimage. He slept not under a tent, but in the shade of a tree. He carried his leather milk bag on his own shoulder. He wandered around to find out and solve the problems of needy people. When `Omar was injured, the Companions rushed to see him and began to praise him. `Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, told them, “Whoever believes this kind of praise is undoubtedly deceived. If I had a world made of gold, I would give it away to be free of the fear of the Last Judgment.
Imam Malik continued:
Hadrat `Omar always acted justly. The Prophet gave him the good news that he would be among the dwellers in Paradise. Yet he never rested on this good news, but always labored to do his best in governing the affairs of the Muslims. If such a ruler as Hadrat `Omar thought this was necessary, I cannot think what rulers like yourself had ought to do!
The sensitivity and modesty of Tariq ibn Ziyad, the conqueror of Spain, also sets a good example. With an army of only five thousand soldiers, he triumphed over an army of ninety thousand. When the war was over, he walked through the treasuries of the king of Spain and said to himself, “O Tariq! Yesterday you were a slave with a strap on your neck. One day, Allah set you free. Then you became a commander. Today, you conquered Spain. Now here you are in the palace of the king. Be aware! Never forget that tomorrow you will stand before Allah.”
Those who are in charge of a society should regard themselves as slaves employed to meet that society’s needs. My father, the late Musa Efendi, was of the opinion that leaders of society, as servants of the people, were obliged to treat them with mercy, modesty, and affection, and should not allow themselves to become drunk with pride because of their prestigious position. He said:
Those who serve people in religious matters should be aware that the opportunity of service for religion is a blessing from our Lord. Not many can have this opportunity. There are many people who have every quality needed for serving religion, but they cannot have that chance for accidental reasons, like lack of time and space. So those who serve should be thankful to those whom they serve, since they provide them with such a chance.
In times when rulers had spiritual consciousness in societal matters, societies improved in both the material and spiritual sense. Rulers can manage this only by taking heed of wise scholars and wise people, and also by having a capable advisory body.
This being the case, rulers should not allow flatterers to brainwash them. They should consult wise counselors who are capable of discerning and raising the real problems of people, and who can suggest strategies for solving them. Consultation with capable advisors is a tradition of the Prophet. Even though he was a messenger of Allah, the Prophet always took the advice of knowledgeable people. In this way he set an example for us.
In order for a peaceful society to be possible, those who are governed must submit to their governors, as long as these govern justly. People should, however, monitor their rulers, and warn them when they go astray.
When he became caliph, Hadrat `Omar asked the assembly, “O people! I wonder what you would do if I do not govern justly?”
One man answered, “O `Omar! If you go astray, we will bring you back to the right path with our sword!”
Hadrat `Omar replied, “May Allah be praised that I have friends to guide me if I go astray!”
Hadrat `Omar said on another occasion, “The person I like best is the one who tells me my faults.”
Rather than being disdainful when people tell them about their faults and failures, rulers should be open to people’s warnings and criticisms, and use them to help to reorganize themselves in a better way. Meanwhile, ordinary people are supposed to warn rulers sincerely, for the sake of Allah, and also make sacrifices for the benefit of everyone. Responsibility rests not only on the governing few, but on all the individuals who make up a society.
It is a grave religious error not to warn rulers but to tolerate their mistakes. It is a graver error to support them in injustice and oppression. Those who follow unjust rulers in this world will follow them in the Hereafter as well. Everyone should be very careful about whom they follow.
It is said in the Qur’an:
(Remember) the day when We will call every people with their leader; then whoever is given his book in his right hand, these shall read their book; and they shall not be dealt with a whit unjustly. (Isra’/17: 71).
He (Pharaoh, as he led his people to the sea to be drowned in this world) shall lead his people on the resurrection day, and bring them down to the Fire; and evil the place to which they are brought. (Hud/11: 98).
Thus, to guide those who govern in good directions is part of the responsibility of people of faith. The great jurist Imam Abu Yusuf wrote his book on taxation, Kitab al-Kharaj, to advise Caliph Harun al-Rashid. In it he wrote,
Never lose your enthusiasm for establishing justice within the sphere of sovereignty Allah has granted you. The happiest shepherd on the day of our judgment before Allah is the one with whom his flock is pleased. Never go astray! If you do, your people will follow you in the same direction. Never give orders arrogantly, nor judge angrily. When you face a dilemma where you must choose this good of this world or the good of the next, choose the good of the next. Do not forget that this world is transient, while the next world is eternal.
Since people copy the attitudes and behaviors of their rulers, and rulers also adopt attitudes and behaviors according to the taste of their people, every private person and every member of government should make an effort to stay in the path of the righteous. The talent of a mechanic may be understood from the state of the machine he repairs. A machine that a mechanic cannot repair is proof of his ineptitude. Society is also a kind of machine. The governors of a society are its mechanics. When things are persistently wrong with it, they should regard themselves as responsible. This is true not only for those at the very top, but for all the members of a government. Rulers must be alert to the wrong acts of the people in their administrations, and watch over their weaknesses and faults.
It is almost impossible to find someone who is happy as he is, and almost everybody blames that on other people’s shortcomings. Yet all of us, governors and governed, should be thinking about our own shortcomings. When we increase the number of good people in a society we are trying to improve, that society will improve spontaneously, both materially and spiritually. It will then, with divine help, promote better rulers to power. Meanwhile, if rulers are not happy with their societies, they had better question themselves and endeavor to improve themselves rather than complaining about their people.
Murad I, who was martyred at the battle of Kosova, was an Ottoman sultan who combined the worldly and the spiritual sultanates in his heart. He sets an example for questioning oneself first. Murad found his army in the middle of a stormy battlefield in Kosova. It was so stormy that the line of sight was very short, and there was extraordinary confusion and carnage. Murad prayed two cycles of prayer and sought refuge in Allah. “O Lord,” he prayed in tears. “If this stormy weather is because of my sins, please do not punish these sinless soldiers because of me! Please do not let me cause their deaths!” The storm ceased, and his army won a great victory. Afterwards, Murad began to supervise the care of the dead and wounded on the battlefield. During his tour of inspection he was stabbed to death by an injured Serbian soldier.
Society advances, with the help of Allah, only through our questioning and improving ourselves. There are, of course, exceptions to prove the rule. For example, Allah sent messengers to introduce reform when the masses went astray. Thus, Prophet Muhammad (s) was sent expressly to transform a merciless and quasi-wild society that worshipped idols and buried its daughters alive. This was a blessing from Allah. It is not possible to explain this intervention of Allah by examining the nature of pre-Islamic Arab society. The only explanation for the manifestation of divine law is Allah’s grace.
We cannot, however, expect a new door of that sort of blessing to be opened. After the coming of the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (s), the sending of messengers was complete. Now human beings are left with the mission of improving spiritually by ourselves.
We have plenty of opportunities to improve ourselves spiritually. One of our priorities in this respect should be to enliven our institutions for the education of future leaders. A wise person observed, “The most important difference between major nations and minor ones is the existence of a group of well-educated people.” It requires a group of thoroughly educated people to satisfy a society both materially and spiritually. Only the properly educated can eliminate terror and establish a just society.
All human enterprises take shape and gain importance according to the personalities and characters of those who move them forward. Only individuals of good character and strong personality are qualified to lead masses of people well. Only great leaders can bring out the greatness of a society. Therefore it should be our top priority to educate such future leaders. The late Turkish poet Necip Fazıl said in this regard, “A tree that does not sprout is nothing but dead wood.” And friend of Allah remarked, “Give birth to the ones you need!”
Turkey needs to prepare new generations with firm faith, awareness of history, and readiness to serve the nation. Otherwise, it is a divine law that Allah will take back the blessings previously granted. The chronicles of other nations offer vivid witness to this principle on many of their pages.
If we first of all engrave love of Allah and His messenger in our own hearts, we will be able to educate a new generation of leaders who love them also, and who will be capable of making sacrifices for the nation. Only then will society be able to observe how real Muslim identity may be established.
May our Lord grant that Muslim leaders in all governing bodies, high and low, develop a keen and responsible awareness of their task! May Allah help us all to bring up faithful generations who will work earnestly to advance society both materially and spiritually, serving our nation and all Muslims throughout the world!
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Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş,Principles from the Lives of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, Erkam Publications