Justice & Equity: Principle of Ali (as)

Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as)’s only AIM OF LIFE was to earn the eternal pleasure of Allah (SWT) in everything that he (as) said and did in this life. And in order to achive this aim, he (as) adopted such strong principles which either strongly attracted people towards him or strongly repelled them. One of his principle was having firm belief and faith in Allah (SWT) and basing his entire life upon the teachings and guidance from the Holy Quran.

The other principle of Imam Ali (as) was that of ‘Adl meaning: Justice & Equity. Belief in Allah (SWT) and being Just, were infact the primary mission of the Holy Prophet (saww). Quran says:

“..and say (O Muhammad!) I believe in whatsoever Allah has sent down of the book; and I am commanded to do justice between you”. (42:15)

Studying the life of Ali (as), we will observe that his whole life revolved around belief in God and doing Justice.

Justice as part of Ali (as)’s life

There are numerous incidents from the life of Imam Ali (as) which we have read and heard from others. We must carefully analyze those incidents to see the core message. Justice had become such an integral part of Ali (as)’s life that whatever he said and did, ‘Adl was projected from it. Study the following incident:

A man with his son entered Imam Ali (as)’s house as his guests. The Imam (as) made them sit respectfully in an honourable place and he took his seat opposite them. It was time for meals, and the food was served. After they finished eating, Qanbar, the well-known servant of Imam (as), brought a towel, a basin and an ewer for washing the guests hand. Imam (as) took everything from Qanbar and went near to wash the guests hands. The guest drew his back his hands and said, “It is not possible that I stretch my hands so that you wash them”. After a lot of persuation, when the Imam (as) put his guest under an oath, he eventually complied to his request. When Ali (as) finished washing his guests hands, he (as) turned to his son Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah and said, “Now you wash his son’s hands. As I am your father, I washed the father’s hand. If his father was not here and only his son was our guest, I would have washed his hands myself. But Allah (SWT) loves to see that when a father and a son are present in one place, father enjoys a priviledge and a priority”. (Bihar al-Anwar)

Justice even against his own interests

How many of us in this life would resort to Justice even if it was against ourselves? Imam Ali (as) says, “One who exhibits fairness on his part, Allah (SWT) shall increase him in glory”. (Jame’ al-Sadaat)

When it came to justice, Ali (as) never bothered about himself. Shu’bi narrates the following incident which occured during the khilafah of Imam Ali (as). He says,

I once entered the vast open ground of Kufa. I witnessed that Ali (as) was standing besides two containers which were filled with gold and silver coins. A huge crowd had gathered around him. Ali (as) had a whip in his hand for preventing the people from hampering the distribution of money. The Imam (as) began distributing the money until nothing remained for himself and returned home empty-handed.

I returned home and said to my father: “I witnessed a very strange act today but I failed to comprehend if this person’s action was good or bad because he never retained anything for himself”. When asked about the person, I said, “Ameerul-Mumineen” and told him everything that had transpired. Upon hearing Ali (as)’s fairness, my father began to cry and said, “My son! You have witnessed the most excellent person from amongst the people”.

Ali (as)’s Justice with the people

After the death of the Holy Prophet (saw), the Justice of Imam Ali (as) was very popular. Even the three caliphs resorted to him in numerous cases.

During the days of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, a woman was arrested and presented before him. People said, “O Khalifa! This woman has committed adultery. She has delivered a child after only a period of six months pregnancy”. ‘Umar ordered the woman to be stoned to death. As people were taking her towards the location for punishment, she kept on pleading that she was innocent but no one would listen to her. Finally someone informed Imam Ali (as) about the situation and he (as) came to ‘Umar and asked, “Why have you ordered this woman to be stoned to death?” ‘Umar replied, “For adultery! She has given birth to a child after a period of six month’s pregnancy and we all know the pregnancy period is of nine months”. Imam (as) said, “This is not true! It is possible for a woman to give birth after six months pregnancy. This child belongs to her husband”. When asked for Quranic evidence, Imam (as) said, “Allah (SWT) says at one place: And the mothers should suckle their children for two years (2:233) and in another place He (SWT) says: And the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months (46:15) If the period of weaning which is two years (24 months) is subtracted from thirty months (which is overall period of bearing & weaning), there remains only six months. This proves that pregnany period can be of six months.


Mulla Mujaheedali Sheriff


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