The following is an excerpt from the booklet, "The Art of Islamic Government" based on a letter which was written by the Amir al Mu'minin, Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, from the collection of sayings entitled "Nahjul Balagha" (The Peak of Eloquence).

The qualifications of a governor and his responsibilities

"Then, know O Malik [ibn al Harith al Asthtar--appointed Governor of Egypt] that I have sent you to an area where there have been governments before you, both just and oppressive. People will now watch your dealings as you used to watch the dealings of the rulers before you...Surely, the virtuous are known by their reputation that Allah circulates for them through the tongues of His creatures.

Therefore, the best collection with you should be the collection of good deeds. So, control your passions and check your heart from doing what is not lawful for you because checking the hearts means detaining it just half way between what it likes and dislikes.

Habituate your heart to mercy for the subjects and to affection and kindness to them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them, since they are of two kinds;
either your brother in religion or one like you in creation. They will commit slips...may act wrongly, wilfully or by neglect. So, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon, in the same way as you would like Allah to extend His forgiveness and pardon to you...He (Allah) has sought you to managed their affairs and has tried you through them.

Do not set yourself to fight Allah because you have no power before His Power and you cannot do without His Pardon and Mercy.

Do not repent of forgiving and be merciful in punishing.

Do not act hastily during anger if you can find a way out of it.

Do not say: "I have been given authority, I should be obeyed when I order," because it engenders confusion in the heart, weakens the religion and takes one near ruin.

If the authority in which you are placed produces pride or vanity in you then look at the greatness of the realm of Allah over you and His might the like of which you do not even possessed over yourself. This will curb your haughtiness, cure your high temper and bring back to you your wisdom which had gone away from you.

Beware of comparing yourself to Allah in His Greatness or likening yourself to Him in His Power, for Allah humiliates every claimant of power and disgraces every one who is haughty.

Do justice for Allah and do justice towards the people, as against yourself, your near ones and those of your subjects for whom you have a liking, because if you do not do so you will be oppressive, and when a person oppresses the creatures of Allah then, instead of His creatures, Allah become his opponent, and when Allah is the opponent of a person, He tramples his plea; and he will remain in the position of being at war with Allah until he gives it up and repents. Nothing is more inducive of the reversal of Allah's Bounty or for the hastening of His Retribution than continuance of oppression, because Allah hears the prayer of the oppressed and is on the look out for oppressors." [pp. 3-4]

About counsellors
"Do not include among those you consult a miser who would keep you back from being generous and caution you against destitution, nor a coward who would make you feel too weak for your affairs, nor a greedy person who would make beautiful to you the collection of wealth by evil ways... The worst minister for you is he who has been a minister for mischievous persons before you, and who joined them in sins. Therefore, he should not be your chief man, because they are abettors of sinners and brothers of the oppressors. You can find good substitutes for them who will be like them in their views and influence, while not being like them in sins and vices... The more preferable among them for you should be those who openly speak better truths before you and support you least in those of your actions which Allah does not approve in His friends, even though they may be according to your wishes..." [p. 6]

The different classes of people
"Know that the people consist of classes who prosper only with the help of one another, and they are not independent of one another... Allah has fixed the share of every one of them and laid down His precepts about the limits of each in His Book (Qur'an) and the Sunnah of His Prophet by way of a settlement which is preserved with us...

1. The Army Put in command of your forces the man who in your view is the best well-wisher of Allah, His Prophet and your Imam. The chastest of them in heart and the highest of them in endurance is he who is slow in getting enraged, accepts excuses, is kind to the weak and is strict with the strong; violence should not raise his temper and weakness should not keep him sitting.
3. Executive Officers Thereafter, look into the affairs of your executives. Give them appointments after tests and do not appoint them according to partiality or favoritism, because these two things constitute sources of injustive and unfairness. Select among them those who are people of experience and modesty...such persons (who) possess high manners and untarnished honour. They are the least inclined towards greed and always have their eyes on the ends of matters. Give them an abundant of livelihood (by way of salary) because this gives them the strength to maintain themselves in order and not to have an eye upon the funds in their custody, and it would be an argument against them if they disobeyed your orders or misappropriated your trust...If any of them extends his hands towards misappropriation and the reports of your reporters reaching you confirm it, that should be regarded as enough evidence. You should then inflict corporal punishment on him and recover what he has misappropriated. You should put him in a place of disgrace, blacklist him...and make him wear the necklace of shame for his offence.
6. Traders and Industrialists ...Give them good counsel whether they be settled (shopkeepers) or traders or physical labourers because they are sources of profit and the means of provision of useful articles. Look after their affairs before yourself wherever they may be in your area. Know, along with this, that most of them are very narrow- minded, and awfully avaricious. They hoard goods for profiteering and fix high prices for goods. This is a source of harm to the people and a blot on the officers in charge. Stop people from hoarding, because the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wasallam, has prohibited it. The sale should be smooth...not harmful to either party, the seller or the purchaser; whoever commits hoarding after you prohibit it, give him exemplary, but not excessive punishment.

7. The lowest class (Fear) Allah and keep Allah in view with respect to the lowest class, consisting of those who have few means: the poor, the destitute, the penniless and the disabled...Take care for the sake of Allah of His obligations towards them for which He has made you responsible. Fix for them a share from the public funds and a share from the crops of lands...All these people are those whose rights have been placed in your charge. Therefore, a luxurious life should not keep you away from them. You cannot be excused for ignoring small matters because you were deciding big problems. Consequently, do not be unmindful of them, nor turn your face from them out of vanity. Take care of the affairs of those of them who do not approach you because they are of unsightly appearance or those who people regard as low.

Appoint for them some trusted people who are God-fearing and humble...Then deal with them with a sense of responsibility to Allah on the day you will meet Him, because of all the subjects these people are the most deserving of equitable treatment... fact, every right is heavy. Allah lightens it for those who seek the next world so they endure (hardships) upon themselves and trust on the truthfulness of Allah's promise to them. And fix a time for complaints wherein you make yourself free for them [the weakest class], and sit for them in common audience and feel humble therein for the sake of Allah who created you. (On that occasion) you should keep away your army and your assistants such as guards and the police, so that anyone who like to speak may speak to you without fear, because I have heard the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wasallam, say in more than one place, "The people among whom the right of the weak is not secured from the strong without fear, will never achieve purity." Tolerate their awkwardness and inability to speak. Keep away from you narrowness and haughtiness; Allah would, on this account, spread over the skirts of His mercy and assign the reward of His obedience for you."

[The Art of Islamic Government by Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, published by The Muslim Converts' Assoc. of Singapore; pp. 8-16] --R. Sarpin
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