We have an exclusive feature on the supreme symbol of social justice that the Imam was as the 1st Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). Please stay with us.
Once on the eve of Ramadhan, towards the end of a memorable sermon on the blessings of the month of fasting, the Prophet had burst into tears. Asked by his dear cousin and son-in-law, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (PBUH), the reason for his weeping, the Almighty’s Last Messenger to mankind, replied: "O Ali, I weep for that which will befall you in this month. (Imagining myself) to be in your place when you will be praying to your Lord, and the most wicked person of all times, like the one who chopped off the feet of the camel of Thamoud (that was the divine proof of Prophet Saleh's mission), will strike you on your head and your beard will be dyed by it (blood)."
"O Ali whoever kills you has (in fact) killed me, whoever annoys you has annoyed me and whoever slanders you has slandered me, because you are to me like my soul. Your spirit is my spirit and your nature is my nature. Surely, Allah the Praised and the Glorious created me then you, chose me then you. Selected me for Prophethood and selected you for Imamate. And whoever denies your Imamate has (in fact) denied my Prophethood. O Ali, you are my legatee and father of my (grand)children, and husband of my daughter, and my Caliph (vicegerent) over my ummah both in my lifetime and after my death. Your bidding is my bidding, and your forbidding is my forbidding. I swear by the Power that granted me Prophethood and made me the most excellent of creation, you are the Hujjat-Allah (Proof of Allah) over His creatures, and His Trustee over mysteries and His Caliph over His creatures.”
What the Prophet had predicted occurred over three decades later in Iraq in 40 AH. The Imam of the Pious, on being struck the fatal below while engrossed in prayer on the dawn of the 19th Ramadhan expressed that immortal phrase: “Fuzto wa Rabbil-Ka’ba or By the Lord of the Ka’ba I have succeeded).”
And what a grand success did the Icon of Justice achieve! Till this day, Imam Ali (PBUH), whose ideal administration of justice has yet to be emulated, is remembered as the Martyr for the Cause of Freedom and Liberties. As the person most nearest and dearest to the Prophet, he had stood beside his cousin through every thick and thin, frustrating the bloodcurdling plots of the hypocrites in order to free human societies from the fetters of ignorance, superstition and polytheism. Though proclaimed by the Prophet, as per the command of God Almighty, as vicegerent at the historic gathering of Ghadeer-Khom, he had seen the violators of freedom gang up against him to deprive him of his political rights no sooner had the Prophet left the mortal world. They did a great disservice to Islam and humanity, but Imam Ali (PBUH) for the sake of Islamic unity and freedom of the people, kept silent for 25 years before the caliphate or political rule came begging at his door. He initially refused, but when the leaderless masses insisted, he reluctantly took up the reins of political power, on condition that he will abide only by the Law of God as envisaged in the Holy Qur’an and by its practical demonstration that the Prophet had given during his mission, since these were the two things that guaranteed freedom in society.
For the next almost five years, Imam Ali (PBUH) strove earnestly in building the model administration of social justice, which the world has not seen ever since, and he made it a fundamental pillar of his rule to safeguard public liberties and freedom. He stressed the people were free to lodge complaints against erring officials and criticize them for their inability to provide security and public order. The book Nahj al-Balaghah, which contains his sermons, letters and maxims, is an excellent testimony in this regard. For instance, the epistle of the Imam to Malek Ashtar, his governor of the then Christian majority Egypt, has been hailed as the finest charter of human rights, more perfect than what the United Nations has been able to draft. The Imam tells the governor to observe the highest forms of impartiality, clemency, modesty of character, generosity and discipline even to those who are non-Muslims since in the words of the Imam they are after all human beings. This is undoubtedly the highest form of respect for freedom and rights that the modern world has still not been able to match.
Imam Ali (PBUH) did not force those who had refused to pay him allegiance to submit to him nor did he harbour a grudge against them by excluding them from public amenities. However, when those who tried to stir up trouble and shed Muslim blood, he took decisive action against them for the sake of protecting public freedoms. The battles that he was forced to fight by his opponents at Basra in southern Iraq, at Siffeen in Syria and at Nahrwan in Iraq, are proof of his lofty observance of human rights and freedoms. For example, after the Battle of Jamal near Basra, when the Prophet’s erring wife Ayesha had tried to create sedition, Imam Ali (PBUH) displayed the highest form of magnanimity by ordering his soldiers neither to chase the fugitives nor to humiliate the captives. He in fact, sent Ayesha back to Medina with respect despite the fact that she harboured malice towards him and the Prophet’s grandchildren.
The same magnanimous spirit was evident in the protracted War of Siffeen that was imposed by the rebellious governor of Syria, Mua’wiyah ibn Abu Sufyan. At the onset of the hostilities, Mua’wiyah cut off access to the waters of the River Euphrates for the Imam’s forces. But when the Imam took over the river bank, he refused to withhold water from his enemies, and although the armed battles were still raging on, he permitted his mortal enemies to have free access to the river, saying that water like air and sunshine is among the bounties of God Almighty, Who never deprives even disbelievers of these basic amenities of life.
Even the Khawarej or the Renegades, who spared no effort to cause civil disturbance and plotted against his life, were not deprived by him of their rights as citizens. After his victory over them at the Battle of Nahrwan the Imam forbade his followers from persecuting the Khawarej after him. Such freedom is surely without precedence and even the modern concept of democracy pales into insignificance when compared to the liberties that were taught to humanity by Imam Ali (PBUH).
In short, Imam Ali (PBUH), was the supreme example of social justice the world has ever seen. Even non-Muslim scholars have praised his dynamic personality. The Christian scholar George Jordaq has written a series of excellent books titled: Imam Ali and Socrates; Imam Ali and Aristotle; Imam Ali and the French Revolution; and Imam Ali the Voice of Human Justice. George Jordaq has shown that Imam Ali (PBUH) excels all comparisons, and the freedom and liberties that he enshrined are still beyond the reach of human societies despite the bragging of democracy and human rights by western governments, whose practice is nothing but outright hypocrisy.