The Value of Man in Imam Ali’s Thought
Imam Ali (s) wanted to revive all the human values that were granted to people by the Prophet of Islam and they were declined during the reign of the third caliph Uthman.
Once, Imam Ali set out to Syria. The people of Anbar (a place between Syria and Iraq) met him. They had come out from the city to welcome him. When they saw Imam Ali, they began to prostrate themselves on the ground and then they ran in front of him. When he asked why they did so, they replied that they respected their chiefs in this manner.
Imam Ali said: “By Allah, this action does not benefit your chiefs but it makes them be proud and haughty. We all are the servants of God. I do not have any preference to you, except that my responsibility is more than you since I have accepted the tenure of the caliphate. By doing this you trouble yourselves in this world and you will get misery in the afterworld.”
Once, Imam Ali (s) was going back to Kufa. He met one of his followers, who was of nobility in his town. He began to walk with him while Imam Ali was on the horseback. Imam Ali (s) said to him: “Get back! Going on foot by a man like you with one like me is misfortune for the ruler and insult for the believer.”
Imam Ali (s) said: “The worth of a man is as much as his courage. His valor is due to his self-respect ...”
As it was said earlier that courage consisted of virtue, self-reliance, patience before terrible difficulties and such qualities of magnanimity.
In Imam Ali’s thought, the value of a man was according to his humanity and kindness to people. He pointed it out in his letters to his officers. The most famous of them was his epistle to the wali of Egypt. He said in his letter: “`Fill up your heart with affection and kindness towards people. Do not treat them fiercely like the greedy beasts, which feel satisfied by devouring each other. Be careful not to appropriate what belongs to the others. Remember that people are of two kinds; they are either your brothers in religion or your brothers in mankind. They are usually subject to mistakes but you have to forgive their inadvertent slips, if you would like to be forgiven by God. You are their chief as I am your chief and God watches both of us. He wants you to manage their affairs...” He wrote to the tax collectors: “Deal with people justly and do your best regarding their needs, because you are treasurers of the people, delegates of the community and the envoys of the Imam. Do not prevent anyone from getting his needs. Try your best to secure the people’s requirements. Do not force them to sell their winter or summer clothes or their cattle in order to pay the taxes. Be careful not to whip anyone for tax collecting. Do not touch any property of anyone, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, who are under the protection of Islam.”
At any rate, he honored people without making a difference between familiars and strangers.
Imam Ali (s) was grieved with al his heart for the poor, because he thought that poverty and destitution would never give people a chance to better themselves. He said: “God has not chastened his servants with harder than poverty.” He, in order to compensate this deficiency, tried to do two things; first to improve the production in large quantities and then to distribute it justly among the people all in all. On the other hand, he thought that a starving man was usually angry that his
income would not be enough to earn his livelihood and he had to struggle to feed his family.
Surely, such a man, who struggled against poverty, would not be able to withstand difficulties and would not show any reaction when his rights were trodden upon.
Therefore Imam Ali sent a decree to everywhere saying: “Try the best to develop and improve the farms. Prepare the agricultural implements for the farmers and be careful not to ruin the countryside or the countrymen because development and consistency of a state is due to the unneedy farmers. This duty is to precede all the others.”
Although ownership was allowed for every one in Islam, but there was such a limit that it would never lead to capitalism. It prevented the appearance and growth of capital and capitalism by prohibiting usury, monopoly, extortion, overcharging prices and using gold and silver dishes. On the other hand it stopped the rising of poverty by taking zakat and alms from the rich and giving them to the poor and spending them for the commonweal.