Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Guideline for Islamic Governance

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.‎

‎* * *‎

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.‎

‎* * *‎

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.‎


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