An example of loyalty, leadership and humility
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Great leaders are evaluated based on their successes and gains in the field of politics of warship. The amount of territory and revenue they subordinate under their authority is usually the basis for labeling them as successful or unsuccessful. In addition, crimes and hostilities taken places under their reign are over-looked and sidelined as marginal and obvious losses or casualties of governance. Justice and allocation of resources is re-defined by their comprehension and priorities, which ends up being catastrophic for ordinary citizens. Yet, history comes and presents an unprecedented example of governance in its best and most complete form, in an era when civilizations knew nothing about civility, justice and equality.
It is the government of Imam Ali (P.B.U.H). The leader of this unprecedented example is Imam Ali, who sat in his treasury all day, until it was empty, as he would say while sweeping the treasury: I want you (the treasury) to be my witness on Judgement Day that I did not keep any coins away from the subjects.
However, it would be interesting to know that what type of officials and state elites Imam Ali presented to the society. Where they the kinds that took advantage of their posts? Where they the kind that added to their wealth while in office? Where they the kind that looked lowly upon the people they ruled? Is it even possible to imagine that an empire ruled by Imam Ali, would have such officials? Let’s take a look at Imam Ali’s army commander and governor to Egypt.
Malik Ibn Al-Ashtar
It is narrated that Malik was very young during the life of Prophet Mohammad, yet he did witness the Prophet and heard his Hadith, which means that he is considered as a companion. Malik is known to be a wise and respected figure among Muslims during the reign of the Three Caliphs. He was still a defender of Prophet Mohammad’s holy Household and their right to be successors of Prophet Mohammad, yet he practiced the highest level of wisdom during those time.
He did not hesitate to criticize the political system, whenever criticism was needs, as he was a major force in removal of Walid Ibn Oqbah as governor of Kufa, during the reign of Othman (3rd Caliph). He was also a major factor in removing another oppressive governor from Kufa, who was named Sa’ed ibn Al-A’s. Malik was the type of person, who did not fear telling the truth and defending the oppressed, even if it costed him dearly, as he was exiled twice for his opposition to the political system.
Once Imam Ali was chosen by consensus as Caliph of Muslims after Othman’s assassination, Malik became an important figure in the administration of Imam Ali. Malik was the commander of Imam Ali’ armies, as his bravery and elite military skills qualified him to assume such high and honorable position at the sight of his Master Imam Ali (P.B.U.H). In addition, Malik’s status within the Imam’s heart was very high, as Imam Ali numerously states: Malik to me is as I was to Prophet Mohammad.
Although Malik was known for his bravery and magnificent fighting and military skills, yet he was among the most pious and righteous pupils and companions of Imam Ali. He spent hours at nights weeping and supplicating to Allah and helping those in need and hardship. It is narrated that once a man, who did not know Malik passed by and insulted him by throwing a rock at him. Malik ignored the man and entered the mosque. The man was told by people around him: do you know, who that person was? That was Malik Al-Ashtar the army commander of Imam Ali. The man was very afraid and fearful for his life. He followed Malik to the mosque to apologize. Once he entered the mosque, he went to Malika and started apologizing to him and begging him for forgiveness. Malik’s tears came down and apologized to the man, if his name and reputation of being the army leader had scared him, and told them man, he was praying and asking forgiveness for the man.
In addition, to those honorable memories of Malik, he is known for the most famous covenant of governance in history. It is the covenant of Imam Ali to Malik Al-Ashtar the governor of Egypt.
The content of this covenant have been acknowledged by United Nation and global institutions, as being the most just governorship methods. However, it can only be imagined that what type of person Malik was, so Imam Ali entrusted him with such divine covenant and role that has been exalted in history.