Logic is Variable

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Hazrat Ali’s Letter on Inclusive Governance

Raza Rumi

... Ali (AS) had written a comprehensive letter – articulating principles of public policy – for the guidance of the newly appointed Governor to Egypt, Maalik al Ashtar. In this fascinating directive, Ali (AS) advises the new governor that his administration will succeed only if he governs with concern for justice, equity, probity and the prosperity of all. There is a timeless applicability of this famous letter. Selected passages from the text are reproduced below:

Religious tolerance: Amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you [and] are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than yours, [who] 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 foolishly and unintentionally without realising 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 .

Equity is best: A policy which is based on equity will be largely appreciated. Remember that the displeasure of common men, the have-nots and the depressed persons, over-balances the approval of important persons, while the displeasure of a few big people will be excused… if the general public and the masses of your subjects are happy with you .

The rich:…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 demanding more and more out of State resources and will seldom be satisfied with what they receive and will never be obliged for the favour shown to them if their demands are justifiably refused.

On judiciary: You must select people of excellent character and high calibre with meritorious records . . . When they realise that they have committed a mistake in judgment, they should not insist on it by trying to justify it . . . They should not be corrupt, covetous or greedy . . . . These appointments must be made . . . without any kind of favouritism being shown or influence being accepted; otherwise tyranny, corruption and misrule will reign . . . Let the judiciary be above every kind of executive pressure or influence, above fear or favour, intrigue or corruption.

Poverty: If a country is prosperous and if its people are well-to-do, then it will happily and willingly bear any burden. The poverty of the people is the actual cause of the devastation and ruination of a country, and the main cause of the poverty of the people is the desire of its ruler and officers to amass wealth and possessions, whether by fair or foul means.

Corruption undermines national well-being: I want to advise you about your businessmen and industrialists. Treat them well . . . They are the sources of wealth to the country . . . One more thing . . . you must keep an eye over their activities as well. You know that they are usually stingy misers, intensely self-centered and selfish, suffering from the obsession of grasping and accumulating wealth. They often hoard their goods to get more profit out of them by creating scarcity and by indulging in black-marketing.

On communicating with people: 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 pretension and shows of pomp and pride are in reality manifestations of an inferiority complex and of 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.

Peace leads to prosperity: If your enemy invites you to a peace treaty . . . 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 . . . Be very careful never to break your promise with your enemy; never forsake the protection or support that you have offered to him; never go back upon your word, and never violate the terms of the treaty.

This document, written centuries ago, reflects an astute understanding of the class structure of society – ages before class as a political construct was defined, analysed and elaborated upon. The underlying ethos of a welfare state is captured here: protecting the poor and the disadvantaged...

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:21 AM,

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