Government and Justice in Nahj al-Balaghah



The Nahj al-Balaghah on State:

One of the frequently discussed issues in the Nahj al-balaghah is that of government and justice. To anyone who goes through the book, it is evident to what extent 'Ali ('a) is sensitive to the issues related to government and justice. He considers them to be of paramount importance. For those who lack an understanding of Islam but have knowledge of the teachings of other religions, it is astonishing why a religious personage should devote himself to this sort of problems. Don't such problems relate to the world and worldly life'! Shouldn't a sage keep aloof from the matters of the world and society? They wonder.

On the other hand, such a thing is not at all surprising for one acquainted with the teachings of Islam and the details of 'Ali's life; that 'Ali was brought up from childhood by the Holy Prophet of Islam, that the Prophet ('s), having taken him from his father as a child, had reared him in his home under his own care, that the Prophet ('s) had trained 'Ali ('a) and instructed him in his own characteristic way, teaching him the secrets of Islam. 'Ali's spirit had assimilated within itself the doctrines of Islam and the code of its laws. Therefore, it is not strange that 'Ali should have been such; rather it would have been astonishing if he wasn't such as we find him to be. Doesn't the Quran declare:

Indeed, We sent Our messengers with the clear signs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance so that men might uphold justice ... (57:25)

In this verse, establishment of justice has been declared as being the objective of the mission of all the prophets. The sanctity of justice is so stressed that it is considered the aim of all prophetic missions. Hence, how were it possible that someone like 'Ali ('a), whose duty was to expound the teachings of the Quran and explain the doctrines and laws of Islam, might have ignored this issue or, at least, accorded it a secondary importance?

Those who neglect these issues in their teachings, or imagine that these problems are only of marginal significance and that the central issues are those of ritual purity and impurity (taharah and najasah), it is essential that they should re-examine their own beliefs and views.

The Importance of Politics:

The first thing which must be examined is the significance and value attached to the issue of government and justice by the Nahj al-balaghah. Indeed, what is essentially the importance of these problems in Islam? A thorough discussion of this question is obviously outside the scope of this book, but a passing reference, however, seems inevitable. The Holy Quran, in the verse where it commands the Prophet ('s) to inform the people that 'Ali ('a) would succeed him as the leader of the Muslims and the Prophet's khalifah, declares with extraordinary insistence

O Messenger communicate that which has been sent down to thee from thy Lord; for if thou dost not, thou will not have delivered His Message ! (5:67)

Is there any other issue in Islam to which this much importance was attached? What other issue is of such significance that if not communicated to the people should amount to the failure of the prophetic mission itself?



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