Hazrath Ali as an administrator
When Ali appointed a person to a high office, with the letter of appointment he also issued a memorandum of instructions setting out the guidelines to be followed for the purposes of administration. Some of these instructions, which are on record, are very much modern in character, and show the insight of Ali as an administrator.
Instructions to Malik Ashtar
When Malik Ashtar was appointed as the Governor of Egypt, Ali instructed him as follows: …
“O Malik, let it be known to you that you have been appointed to the governorship of Egypt. All of your actions as the Governor will be open to the criticism of the people. You should do good deeds. Keep your passions under control. Your dealings with your subjects should be just and fair. Treat them affectionately and love them.
There are two kinds of subjects to be governed, firstly your brethren in Islam, and secondly the minorities whose protection has been guaranteed. Intentionally or unintentionally the people are apt to make mistakes. It will behoove you to excuse them, as you expect that God will forgive your sins. Do not be ashamed if you pardon them. Never find pleasure in punishing them. Do not be short tempered. Never say that you are Governor above them, for it breeds a feeling of inferiority in them. Should you ever take pride in your exalted office then think of the power and grandeur of God, for that is the only means to check your arrogance. Remember that God hates the cruel and the arrogant.
Be fair and just, for if you fail in it, you are a tyrant and tyrant is the enemy of God. God hearkens to the weak and the afflicted. Follow the path of moderation in your doings, and try to please your subjects.
It is the common masses who are a power in the eyes of Islam. Freely mix with the masses, and refrain from the company of the backbiters and the wicked. Be broad-minded, overlook the faults of others, and forgive them. Do not bear malice against anyone, and do not do anything which is below your dignity. The backbiters and the wicked are very cunning, never lend an ear to what they say. Do not seek the advice of a coward who will make you faint hearted. Do not take the greedy persons as your advisers, for they will make you cruel. Above all bear in mind that miserliness, cowardice, and greed ruin a person. In the selection of Ministers see that you appoint those persons who speak the truth, howsoever unpalatable it may be. Do not seek the advice of those who may flatter you to your face, for flattery breeds arrogance. Do not give an equal status to a bad and a good person. Treat a good person kindly and a bad person curtly. Remember that it is better to rule over the people by love than by fear. Always try to satisfy and please your subjects.
Try to maintain the traditions of those early Muslims who brought amity and love amongst the believers in faith and tried to reform. In no way should you depart from these traditions. Should you try to introduce innovations, you will come to grief. Always seek advice from the learned and wise concerning the reformation of the people. Your subjects are divided into different classes; some of them are soldiers who fight for God, some are Qadis, some are non-Muslims who pay Jizya, some of them are businessmen, some are craftsmen and artisans, while a few are beggars. Remember that God has fixed a share for each of them.
The soldiers serve as a fort for the subjects. They are the ornaments of the rulers, protecting religion, and maintaining peace. Take good care of them as you take care of your children. Love them and treat them kindly.
When appointing Qadis, select holy and pious persons for the post. They should neither be greedy nor make errors in their judgements. In no way should they deviate from the truth deliberately. They should not become arrogant when flattered. But alas, such persons are few. Supervise your officials who should be appointed on merit and merit alone. Appoint the officials from those families who accepted Islam the earliest for those are the people who attach more importance to the next world than to this. Give them handsome pay so that they may not be beguiled into monetary temptations. Have a good system of spies to observe their activities. And should any of these officials be found guilty of bribery, misappropriation of government funds, or any similar offense, punish him immediately. Such officials should be suspended, disgraced and dismissed. In the imposition of taxes you should see that the people are taxed according to their capacity. Try to populate those towns and places which are thinly populated. In the case of famine, failure of crops or the incidence of any other such calamity, you should remit taxes. Remission of taxes at such junctures mitigates the sufferings of the people. Such philanthropic measures will endear you to the people who will stand by you through thick and thin. Should the condition of farmers be poor, the cultivation of the land is bound to deteriorate. Should the ruler be greedy, the farmers are bound to be reduced to poverty.
Strictly supervise the work of your record keepers, who should be appointed from amongst those who are scrupulously honest, and are humble. In no case should they be negligent in the discharge of their duty, and they should carry out your orders implicitly. Enjoin the businessmen and the industrialists to be honest and kind. They are the men who increase the wealth of a nation. Of peaceful nature, they are great benefactors of the people. Extend your protection to them and encourage them to develop trade and commerce. The prices must be reasonable, and they should not be allowed to make exorbitant profits. Their weight must be correct, and the accounts kept by them should not be false. Defaulters who set such orders at naught should be punished.
Be kind towards the poor and the destitute. Fear God and help them. They need your attention and you should not neglect them because of your other official duties and activities. Show mercy to the aged and the orphans, who have no means of subsistence. Show them your generosity. Above all be humble and benevolent. When you give anything to them give it cheerfully with a smiling face. Address them kindly and do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Fear God and observe prayers, which should be perfect and not defective in any way. Do not be isolated from your subjects, and do not stay away from them for a long time, for if you do so, your officials will oppress the subjects. Sometimes an official may adapt unscrupulous and crooked means for self-aggrandizement. Avoid such men and do not show any favors to them. Do not show any nepotism to your relatives, and do not bestow any land on them. Be just in your dealings with everyone. If any relation of yours commits an offense, you should punish him according to the laws of God. Under no circumstances you should spare him and show him any mercy.
Should your subjects rebel against you because of your strict disciplinary measures, you should explain to them fully the critical situation, which has necessitated your adopting such measures, and try to win them over. You should always try to make peace with your enemies for peace brings happiness and prosperity. Even after the conclusion of peace, be watchful of your enemies for they are sometimes apt to deceive you. You must keep your promise to your enemy at any cost. Never violate the terms of a treaty. Neither break your promise with your enemy nor try to deceive him. Avoid bloodshed. Never kill anyone without sufficient cause. Verily on the Day of Judgment God will punish those who have shed the blood of others unnecessarily. Never consolidate your position by putting men to the sword unnecessarily and unlawfully, for it is bound to weaken the kingdom. Never take pride in your high rank. Treat the subjects kindly and you must act according to whatever promises you have made. Do the right thing at the right time in the right way. Should the people be unanimous about a particular course of action, never thrust your opinion on them. Never lose your temper and try to keep your passions under control. Always remember God and try to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Follow these instructions faithfully and sincerely.”
Instructions to Abdullah b Abbas
Ali issued the following instructions to Abdullah b Abbas, the Governor of Basra: “You should know that Basra is the place where Satan descends. It is the home of dissension. You should treat the people of Basra with kindness and remove fear from their hearts. I have come to know that you are oppressing the people of Bani Tamim. Bani Tamim are the people whose one star rises if another star sets. That was the case both in the time of ignorance and Islam. We are also closely related to them. It behooves us to strengthen those bonds. In your speech and your actions be careful and discern the right from the wrong. You are my nominee, and I am responsible for your action. I repose confidence in you, see that this confidence is not betrayed.”
Letter to Ziyad b Abiya
Ali issued the following instructions to Ziyad b Abiya, the Governor of Fars: “Beware that it is the matter of administration. Any lapse on your part is brought to my notice, I will deal with you harshly and will not spare you. Treat the path of moderation and do not waste public funds. Today remember your tomorrow. Spend only as much as is absolutely necessary. Whatever is surplus save it for a rainy day. Do not be arrogant. Do you think God would reward you for humility when you are arrogant? When you roll in luxury you will not be rewarded for poverty. A man is rewarded only for his accomplishment. One reaps what he sows.”
Instructions to the Collectors of Zakat
Ali issued the following instructions to the Collectors of Zakat: “Proceed to your duty with pious intentions and faith in God. Do not threaten any Muslim. See that you do not indulge in any act which is not liked by the people. Do not collect anything beyond what is enjoined by the commandments of God. When you reach any settlement alight at the well outside the settlement. Do not alight at the house of anyone. Thereafter enter the residential area with due decorum and dignity. Greet the people. If they do not respond to your greeting, do not mind it? Thereafter tell them that the Caliph has sent you to them to seek compliance with the commandments of God. Ask them whether anything is due from them in accordance with the commandments of God. If anyone says that nothing is due from him, do not enter into argument with him. If he accepts the liability then proceed to collect the dues with due sympathy without harassing him in any way. If Zakat is due in the shape of animals or camels do not enter the animal fold without the permission of the owner. When you enter such fold do not do anything which would annoy the owner. Do not try to create the impression that you are an officer. In assessing, divide the property in two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Then divide the other part into two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Repeat the process of division until that part which is payable in Zakat is arrived at. If the owner objects to the process of division, repeat the process to the satisfaction of the owner. Whatever is collected as Zakat, place it in the custody of a man in whose piety and integrity you have confidence. If any animal is taken in Zakat, see that it is not lame, unhealthy, or disabled in any way. When a she animal is taken see that its young one is not deprived of milk. While taking the animals to the headquarters see that they are well fed, and are not subjected to any hardship.
In doing your duty be afraid of God in your heart of hearts. Do not comply with the commandment of God in such a way that outwardly it may appear to be in conformity with the commandment of God, but inwardly it may be repugnant to such a commandment. See that what you do is in complete accord with what you say. Do not make your subordinates feel that you are an officer over them. You should not harass them in any way, and you should not make them feel inferior for under Islam all persons are equal. You can take your share out of Zakat, but bear in mind that the poor, and the destitute should first have their due share. See that no one is deprived of what is due to him. See that what is in trust with you is not misappropriated in any way. The worst crime is the betrayal of trust and disloyalty to the Imam.”
Syed Mohamad Masoom abidi