|A Guideline for Islamic Governance||2007/12/01|
|In the Name of Almighty God, the All-Knowing, the Most Lovingly Compassionate|
One's perspective regarding government and governance determines the way one should cooperate with the people. If one recognizes government as a privilege and prey of the governors, then the period of governance can be counted as an opportunity to fulfill the expectations of certain individuals and groups or the ostentation and hedonism of the governors.
But if in our view, "government" would be a responsibility before God for establishing justice and a duty to ensure the rights of common people, serving the servants of God and helping the oppressed- then the most important issue will be the people's concerns. If this is the case, governors would not view themselves as better than other people and they wouldn't put themselves in any other position except serving the people.
Based upon this view point, the ultimate goal is to achieve God's approval and satisfaction in the way of serving His servants, implementing justice and expanding spirituality. This goal cannot be achieved unless fully devoting yourself to Almighty God, and thus even sacrificing your life and reputation for its achievement becomes sweet. With this type of reasoning, the happiness of an orphan who has achieved his right is preferable to the satisfaction of oppressive and voracious politicians. And the appreciation of an oppressed woman- who is emancipated from the oppression- is much more valuable than hundreds of official and international medals and awards.
The political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on this viewpoint. The governmental framework and the job description of the rulers is derived from the Islamic holy sources and texts, which are which are the best guidelines for good governance and honest service.
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Last night-while I was spending time with my family-I had the opportunity to review the noble book- Nahjul Balagha - one of our most valuable religious texts. Naturally- as someone who bears the heaviest executive responsibility of the country for sometime now - I preferred to use that opportunity and again study with my wife and children, the letter of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) to his governor Maalik al-Ashtar, in which he (pbuh) elaborates the right procedure of ruling and governance. Certainly, that which is in this letter- the 53rd letter in this noble book – is undoubtedly the greatest management charter of Islamic government.
I present here some sections of this valuable text which were attention-grabbing to me. I invite everyone -especially my dear colleagues in the government- to again refer to Nahjul Balagha and study the Imam's (pbuh) orders to Maalik al-Ashtar and to try to, more-and-more, adjust your daily activities and operations with the Imam's (pbuh) instructions.
However, we must say that we are very far away from what Imam Ali (pbuh) has asked us to do, but we can and must strive to fully comply with his orders.
[Excerpts from Nahjul Balagha:]
Maalik! You must create in your mind kindness, compassion and love for your subjects. Do not behave towards them as if you are a voracious and ravenous beast and as if your success lies in devouring them.
Remember Maalik that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have; they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than yours, they are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to, they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or unintentionally and mistakenly without realizing the enormity of their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you. You must never forget that if you are a ruler over them, than your wali [Imam Ali (pbuh) is referring to himself] is the ruler over you and Allah is the Supreme Lord over the wali. And the reality is that He has appointed you as the governor and tested you through the responsibility of this rule [that He has given you] over them.
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And you should never be remorseful if you forgive. And do not be pleased and proud of your punishment. Do not get angry and lose your temper quickly over the mistakes and failures of those over whom you rule. On the contrary, be patient and sympathetic with them. Anger and desire of vengeance are not going to be of much help to you in your administration.
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If you ever feel any pride or vanity on account of your rule over your subjects then think of the Supreme Rule of the Lord over the Universe, the extent of His creations, the supremacy of His Might and Glory, His Power to do things which you cannot even dream of doing and His control over you which is more dominating than that which you can ever achieve over anything around you. Such thoughts will cure your mental weakness, will keep you away from vanity and rebellion (against Allah), will reduce your arrogance and haughtiness and will take you back to the sanity which you had foolishly deserted.
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So far as your own affairs or those of your relatives and friends are concerned take care that you do not violate the duties laid down upon you by Allah and do not usurp the rights of mankind, be impartial and do justice to them, because if you give up equity and justice, then you will certainly be a tyrant and an oppressor. And whoever tyrannizes and oppresses the creatures of Allah, will earn enmity of Allah along with the hatred of those whom he has oppressed and whoever earns the Wrath of Allah loses all chances of salvation and he has no excuse to offer on the Day of Judgment. Every tyrant and oppressor is an enemy of Allah unless he repents and gives up oppression. Remember Maalik, that there is nothing in this world more effective to turn His Blessings into His Wrath than to insist upon oppression over His creatures because the Merciful Allah will always hear the prayers of those who have been oppressed and He will give no chance to oppressors.
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You must always appreciate and adopt a policy which is neither too severe nor too lenient; a policy which is based upon equity will be largely appreciated. Remember that the displeasure of common men, the have-nots and the depressed persons lays heavier in the balance than the approval of important persons, while the displeasure of a few big people will be excused by the Lord if the general public and the masses of your subjects are happy with you.
Remember Maalik, that these personages are the people who will be the worst drag upon you during your moments of peace and happiness, and the least useful to you during your hours of need and adversity, they hate justice the most, they will keep on demanding more and more out of the State resources and will seldom be satisfied with what they receive and will never be obliged for the favor shown to them if their demands are justifiable refused, they will never accept any reasonable excuse or any rational argument and when the time changes, you will never find them staunch, faithful and loyal.
While the common men, the poor and apparently less important section of your subjects are the pillars of Islam, they are the real congregation of Muslims and the power and defensive force against the enemies of Islam. Keep your mind on their affairs, be more friendly with them and secure their trust and goodwill.
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But be careful in forming your contacts (whether with the important persons or the commoners). Keep such people away from you and think them to be the enemy of the State who are scandal-mongers and who try to find fault with others and carry on propaganda against them because everywhere people have weaknesses and failings and it is the duty of the government to overlook (minor) shortcomings. You must not try to go in search of those weaknesses which are hidden from you, leave them to Allah, and about those weaknesses which come to your notice, you must try to teach them how to overcome them. Try not to expose the weaknesses of the people and Allah will conceal your own weaknesses which you do not want anybody to know.
Do not give cause to the people to envy each other [man against man, tribe against tribe or one section of the society against the other]. Try to alleviate and root out mutual distrust and enmity from amongst your subjects.
Be fair, impartial and just in your dealings with all, individually and collectively and be careful not to make your person, position and favors act as sources of malice. Do not let any such thing or such person come near to you who does not deserve your nearness and your favor. Never lower your dignity and prestige.
Remember that backbiters and scandal-mongers belong to a mean and cunning group, though they pretend to be sincere advisers. Do not make haste to believe the news they bring and do not heed to their advice.
Do not accept the advice of bakheel [bakheel is a person who is not only very stingy with his own money, but has an envious character and does not like others to contribute anything of theirs to other people]. They will try their best to keep you away from acts of kindness and from doing good to others. They will make you frightened of poverty.
Similarly do not allow cowards to act as your advisers because they will make you timid in enforcing your orders, will scare you from handling important affairs boldly and will make your enterprises and invasions timid and fearful attempts. At the same time avoid greedy and covetous persons who would aspire to the position of acting as your counselor because he will teach you how to exploit the community and how to oppress people to get their wealth. Remember that miserliness, cowardice and greed appear to be different wicked qualities but they all arise from the same evil mentality of having no faith and no trust in Allah.
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Your worst ministers will be the men who had been ministers to the despotic rulers before you and who had been a party of atrocities committed by them. Such persons should not be taken into your confidence and should not be trusted because they have aided sinners and have assisted tyrants and cruel rulers.
In their stead you can comfortably find persons who are equally wise and learned but who have not developed sinful and criminal mentalities, who have neither helped the tyrants in their tyrannies nor have they assisted them to carry on their sinful deeds.
Such persons will prove the least troublesome to you. They will be the most helpful. They will sincerely sympathize with you. If you take them in your confidence they will sever their connections with your opponents. Keep such people with you as your companions in your informal company as well as in official gatherings in audience. From amongst such honest and humane companions and ministers some would receive your fullest confidence and trust. They are those who can always speak out the bitter truth to you and unreservedly and without fear of your status, can refuse to assist you or associate with you in the deeds which Allah does not like His good creatures to commit.
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Select honest, truthful and pious people as your companions. Train them not to flatter you and not to seek your favor by false praises because flattery and false praises create vanity and conceit and they make a man lose sight of his real self and ignore his duties.
You should not treat good and bad people alike because in this way you will be discouraging good persons and at the same time emboldening the wicked to carry on their wickedness. Everyone should receive the treatment which his deeds make him deserve.
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Have a lot of dialogues with aalims [learned scholars] and a lot of discussions with hukama [wise persons who are truth-seekers and thinkers] because these [dialogues and discussions] would initiate and stabilize prosperity and improvement for the country. And also restore law and order which existed in the past.
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You must know Maalik that the people over whom you rule are divided into classes and grades and the prosperity and welfare of each class of the society individually and collectively are so interdependent upon the well-being of the other classes that the whole set-up represents a closely woven and reciprocal net. One class cannot exist peacefully, cannot live happily and cannot work without the support and good wishes of the other.
Amongst them are God's faithful soldiers who defend His cause, the next class is that of the secretaries of the State to whom duties of writing out and issuing special or general orders are assigned, the third group is that of the judges and magistrates to administer justice, the fourth is of officers who maintain law and order and guard the peace and prosperity of the country. Then there are common men, the Muslims who pay the taxes levied by the government, and non-Muslims who pay the taxes levied by the government, and non-Muslims who pay tribute to the State (in lieu of taxes). Then comes the class of men who carry on various professions and trades and the last but not the least are the poor and the have-nots who are considered as the lowest class of the society. The Merciful Allah has fixed the rights and duties of each one of them. They have been either mentioned in His Book or explained through the instructions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). A complete code of them is preserved with us.
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Then there is the class of the poor and the disabled persons. It is absolutely necessary that they should be looked after, helped and well-provided for. The Merciful Allah has explained the ways and means of maintaining and providing for each of these classes. And everyone of this class has the right upon the ruler of the State that the minimum necessities for its well-being and contented living are provided for.
Remember, Maalik that Almighty Allah will not absolve any ruler from his obligations unless he sincerely tries his best to discharge his duties, invokes Allah to help him in their performance, remains steadfast and diligent on the path of truth and justice and bears all this whether the performance of these duties is congenial or hateful to him.
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Protect your government from dishonest officers. If you find any of them dishonest and your confidential intelligence service submits acceptable proofs of his dishonesty, then you must punish him. This may be corporal punishment besides dismissal from service and taking back from him all which he has dishonestly collected. He must be humiliated and must be made to realize the infamy of his wicked deeds. His humiliation and punishment must be given publicly so that it may serve as a lesson and a deterrent to others.
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In reality a state lives upon the revenues collected from the tax-payers. Therefore, more importance should be attached to the fertility of land than to the collection of taxes because actual taxable capacity of people rests upon the fertility of the land. The ruler, who does not pay attention to the prosperity of his subjects and fertility of the land but concentrates only on collection of revenues, lays waste the land and consequently ruins the State and brings destruction to the creatures of Allah. His rule cannot last for long.
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By Allah, by Allah, I want to caution you about the poor. Fear Allah about their conditions and your attitude towards them. They have no support, no resources and no opportunities. They are poor, they are destitute and many of them are disabled and unfit for work. Some of them come out begging and some (who maintain self-respect) do not beg, but their condition speaks of their distress, poverty, destitution and need. For the sake of Allah, Maalik, protect them and their rights. He has laid the responsibility of this upon your shoulders. You must fix a share for them from Beit-ul Maal (the Government Treasury). Besides this reserve in cash, you must also reserve a share in kind of crops from government granaries in cities where food-grains are stored as are cultivated on State-owned land because in these storages the share of those living far away from any particular city is equal to the share of those living nearby.
Let me remind you once again that you are made responsible for guarding the rights of the poor people and for looking after their welfare. Take care that the conceit of your position and vanity of wealth may not deceive you to lose sight of such a grave and important responsibility. Yours is such an important post that you cannot claim immunity from the responsibility of even minor errors of commission or omission with an excuse that you were engrossed in the major problems of the State which you have solved diligently.
Therefore, be very careful of the welfare of the poor people. Do not be arrogant and vain against them. Remember that you have to take particular care of those who cannot reach you, who's poverty-stricken and disease-ridden sight may be hateful to you, and whom society treats with disgust, loathing and contempt. You should be a source of comfort, love and respect to them. Appoint a respectable, honest and pious person - a person who fears Allah and who can treat them honorably, order him to find out everything about them and to submit a report to you.
Then treat these poor people in such a way that on the Day of Judgment you can plead your case successfully before Allah because of all classes of your subjects this class deserves more of your attention, sympathy and fair-deal.
Though every one of these poor persons deserves your sympathy and you will have to do justice to His cause to achieve His favor, yet you should pay more attention to young orphans and the old disabled. They neither have any support nor can they conveniently come out begging. They cannot reach you, therefore, you must reach them.
Remember that the fulfillment of this obligation and duty is considered as a tiresome burden by most of the rulers but to those who desire to achieve His Blessings and to enter into His Realm, even this work seems light and congenial. They bear it happily, dutifully and sincerely. They find pleasures in it and they believe in the promise made by Allah.
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Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time you should not do other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose you must arrange public audience for them during this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear.
All this is a necessary factor of your rule because I have often heard the Holy Prophet (pbuh) saying, "The nation, where that rights of the oppressed, destitute and down-trodden are not guarded and where the mighty and powerful persons are not forced to accede these rights, cannot achieve salvation". You must remember that in those audiences the most common men will gather. Therefore, if you find them misbehaving, becoming unmannerly or if you feel that their talk is irrelevant, tolerate them; do not be rude and do not insult them, so that Allah may be kind and merciful to you and may reward you for obeying His commands explicitly. Treat them courteously, hear their grievances patiently and if you are forced to reject their demands then reject them in such a way that your rejection may please them as much as your grants.
Then there are certain duties which only you will have to perform and which none of your officers can carry out. Among them are replies to the letters of your commissioners and governors and they are beyond the jurisdiction or preview of your secretaries. If you find that your officers are not attending as much to the complaints of the public as they should, then you should personally attend to them.
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You must finish a day's work on that day only because each day will bring its own special work for you. Reserve your best time for prayers to Allah, though every work of the State is the work of Allah, especially, if you are sincere and honest, and if your subjects are happy with your rule and are safe from your oppression.
Among those duties that you are to perform diligently must be your daily prayers. These should be offered sincerely and persistently. You must fix times for this during days and nights. You must tax your bodily strength for this duty though it may tire you.
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You must take care not to cut yourself off from the public. Do not place a curtain of false prestige between you and those over whom you rule. Such pretensions and show of pomp and pride are in reality manifestations of inferiority complex and vanity. The result of such an attitude is that you remain ignorant of the conditions of your subjects and of the actual cases of the events occurring in the State.
You will fail to realize comparative importance of events taking place and may attach great significance to minor events and may slip over important facts, similarly you may attach importance to mediocre or insignificant people and may ignore real men of consequence; and what is more, you may lose the power of distinction between good and bad and may take one for the other or hopelessly mix up the two.
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You should never overlook the fact that around the rulers there usually are certain privileged persons (relatives and friends). They may often try to take advantage of their status and may resort to selfishness, intrigues, fraud, corruption and oppression. If you find such people around you then do away with them (however closely connected they may be with you), immediately bring an end to the scandal and clear your surroundings of all such moral and spiritual filth.
You must never give lands in permanent lease with all proprietary and ownership rights to your friends and relatives. You must never allow them to take possession of the source of water-supply or lands which have special utility for the communities. If they get possession of such holdings they will oppress others to derive undue benefits and thus gather all the fruits for themselves leaving for you a bad reputation in this world and punishment in the next.
Be fair in dispensing justice. Punish those who deserve punishment even though he may be your near relation or a close friend and even if such an action may give you pangs of sorrow and grief. Bear such a sorrow patiently and hope for Divine reward. I assure you this will bear good fruits.
If on account of your strict measures people get suspicious of your behaving like a tyrant and oppressor, then come out openly before them and explain to them the reasons of your actions and let them see the facts for themselves and realize the truth. This will give training to your mind, will be an act of kindness to the subjects and the confidence thus reposed in them will make them support justice and truth while you will achieve the end you have in view of obtaining their support in the cause of truth.
If your enemy invites you to a peace treaty that will be agreeable to Allah, then never refuse to accept such an offer because peace will bring rest and comfort to your armies, will relieve you of anxieties and worries, and will bring prosperity and affluence to your people. But even after such treaties be very careful of the enemies and do not place too much confidence in their promises because they often resort to peace treaty to deceive and delude you and take advantage of your negligence, carelessness and trust.
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At the same time be very careful, never break your promise with your enemy, never forsake the protection or support that you have offered to him, never go back upon your words, and never violate the terms of the treaty. You must even risk your life to fulfill the promises given and the terms settled because of all the obligations laid by Almighty Allah upon man (in respect to other men) there is none so important as to keep one's promises when made.
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Allah has given promises and treaties the high rank of being messengers of peace and prosperity and through His Kindness and Mercy has made them a common desire (of keeping promises) in the minds of all men and a common requirement for all human beings. He has made them such a shelter and asylum that everybody desires to be under their protection.
Therefore, there should be no mental reservation, no fraud, no deception and no underlying meanings in between the lines when you make a promise or conclude a treaty. Do not use such words and phrases in your promises and treaties as have possibilities of being translated in more than one way or as may have various interpretations and many explanations, let there be no ambiguity in them, and let them be clear, precise and to the point. And when once a treaty has been finally concluded, do not try to take advantage of any ambiguous word or phrase in it. If you find yourself in a critical situation on account of the treaty made in the cause of Allah, then try to face the situation and bear the consequences bravely and do not try to back out of the terms that account, because to face such perplexing situations as may gain His Rewards and Blessings is better than to break your promises on that account and earn that about which you feel nervous and for which you will have to answer Allah and which may bring down His Wrath upon you in this world and damnation in the next.
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Beware and do not develop the trait of self-admiration and self-appreciation. Do not get conceited of the good points that you find in your good character or good deeds that you have done. Do not let flattery and cajolery make you vain and ego-centric. Remember that of all the cunning ruses of the devil to undo good deeds of the pious people and to affect their piety, flattery and false praises are the ones on which it relies the most.
Do not boast of the favors and kindnesses that you have done to your subjects and do not try to make them realize this, do not think too much of the good that you have done to them, and do not go back upon the promises made, all these three habits are very ugly features of one's character. The practice of boasting over the favors done undoes the good done, the habit of exaggerating and thinking very highly of our good actions will make us lose the guidance of Allah, and the habit of breaking one's promises is disliked both by Allah and by man. The Merciful Allah says, "It is most hateful in the sight of Allah, to say something and not to practice it." [Holy Qur'an, 61:3].
Do not be hasty and do not precipitate your decisions and actions, when the time comes for an action to be done, or a decision to be taken, then do not be lazy and do not waste time and do not show weakness. When you do not find a true way to do the thing on hand, then do not persist on the wrong way and when you have found a correct solution, then do not be lethargic in adopting it.
In short do everything at a proper time and in a proper way and keep everything in its proper place.
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I beseech Allah that by His Limitless Mercy and by His Supreme Might He may grant our prayers, that He may lead both of us to the Divine Guidance of achieving His Pleasure, of successfully pleading our cases before Him, justifying our deeds before man, of gaining good repute, of leaving good results of our benign and just rule with ever-expanding prosperity and ever-increasing welfare of the State and of meeting our ends as martyrs and pious persons, as our return is towards Him only.
May the peace of Allah be upon the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and His chosen descendants.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
A Guideline for Islamic Governance
Posted by SYEKH BLOGGER at 9:18 PM