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Newsletter for March 2009


Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12


Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence) Sermons, Letters and Sayings


Nahjul Balgha

"The Sermons of Imam Ali (a)"

by Nasir Shamsi


         It is surprising that in spite of significant work undertaken by the Western Orientlists in the last two  centuries, including  exposition and translation of Islamic books, little or no  attention was  paid in the West to the translations of the sermons and traditions reported from the Shiite Imams. 

          Presently, there is an upsurge of emphasis on good governance, in the Developed as well as the Developing world. There is a visible crisis of leadership on account of erosion of moral values among the leaders. It is generally recognized that a mere good legal framework in the form of a constitution-- a set of laws to govern the affairs of the society-- does not suffice. The system does not work unless the leaders vested with the power to govern their people abide by a well-defined  personal discipline, guided by definite human values and a code of conduct.

          Ali bin Abi Talib, who had been brought up and trained by the Prophet himself  and had witnessed the  Revelation, did not seek government for personal joy or pleasure. He was neither hedonistic, nor hungry for power . He was a true servant of God. He sought the responsibilities and the burdens of the government, not its comforts or privileges. He sought caliphate only to uphold the Divine Law and to improve the lives of the people through establishment of a rule based on equity and justice for everybody regardless of his or her status, color or creed.  

           Ali said,  " whoever sets himself up as leader over the people must begin by teaching himself before teaching the people. He will announce his training by his example before doing it by his tongue. The man who trains himself is more worthy of honor than the man who teaches and trains the people. "  

          Imam Ali was so concerned about the well being of the poor and the needy that he denied himself the simple comforts of life. Once Asim b. Ziyad al-Harithi asked him:
" Commander of the Faithful, why is your dress so rough and your food so coarse ? "  Woe upon you, he answered him, " I am not like you. God has required the Imams of justice to value themselves with the weakest of men so that the poor man is not disturbed by his poverty."  

          To establish a socio-economic and political order, based on equity and justice, with everyone having equal access to the opportunities and to the means of production was  the coveted  goal of Ali's government. The state was not to deny anybody its bounties; it was bound to assure an equitable distribution of its resources among its people, regardless of where they lived. He was particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor and the less gifted.  

          The great Imam instructed Malik al-Ashtar in this way:  " Then fear (God), fear (God) regarding the lowest class, the wretched , needy, suffering and the disabled who have no means of at their disposal, for in this class there is he who begs  and he who is needy (but does not ask). Be heedful for God's sake for those rights of theirs'  which He has entrusted to you.  Set aside for them a share of your treasury (bayt al-mal) and in every town a share of the produce of the lands of Islam taken as booty, for to the farthest away of them belongs the equivalent of what belongs to the nearest. "

Ali bin Abi Talib epitomizes his serious concern for the rights of the people in this poignantly passionate statement in Sermon 224:of the Nahjul Balagha:

          " I swear to God that if I were to spend from night to the morning upon thorns and if I were to be pulled through the streets and the bazaars, I am more willing to have this happen than to present myself to God's Court if I have committed an oppression against one of God's creatures or if I have usurped the rights of another."

          Imam Ali's instructions to al-Ashtar al-Nakha'i, on his appointment as governor of Egypt and its provinces ----the longest set of instructions in the Nahj al-Balagha-- is a masterpiece in the art of governance. Any of the famous Charters, including Magna Carta and the Universal Charter of Human Rights pales before this magnificent document , when compared either on the basis of  political wisdom, philosophical depth or for the universality of the human concerns addressed by its author.

          It is strongly recommended that not only should the Universities include this most important Treatise in their Curricula of the Political Science and Philosophy, but also  those elected or appointed to hold important political or administrative offices must consult this Charter of enduring guidance on a regular basis, to be worthy of the trust placed in them.






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