Delivered at the battle of Siffin
Mutual rights of the ruler and the ruled
So now, Allah, the
Glorified, has, by placing me over your affairs,created my right over you,
and you too have a right over me like mine over you. A right is very vast
in description but very narrow in equitability of action. It does not
accrue to any person unless it accrues against him also, and right does
not accrue against a person unless it also accrues in his favour.
If there is any right which
is only in favour of a person with no (corresponding) right accruing
against him it is solely for Allah, the Glorified, and not for His
creatures by virtue of His might over His creatures and by virtue of the
justice permeating all His decrees.
Of course, He the Glorified,
has created His right over creatures that they should worship Him, and has
laid upon Himself (the obligation of) their reward equal to several times
the recompense as a mark of His bounty and the generosity that He is
Then, from His rights, He,
the Glorified, created certain rights for certain people against others.
He made them so as to equate with one another. Some of these rights
produce other rights. Some rights are such that they do not accrue except
with others. The greatest of these rights that Allah, the Glorified, has
made obligatory is the right of the ruler over the ruled and the right of
the ruled over the ruler.
This is an obligation which
Allah, the Glorified, has placed on each other. He has made it the basis
of their (mutual) affection, and an honour for their religion.
Consequently, the ruled cannot prosper unless the rulers are sound, while
the rulers cannot be sound unless the ruled are steadfast.
If the ruled fulfil the
rights of the ruler and the ruler fulfils their rights, then right attains
the position of honour among them, the ways of religion become
established, signs of justice become fixed and the sunnah gains currency.
In this way time will
improve, the continuance of government will be expected, and the aims of
the enemies will be frustrated. But if the ruled gain sway over the ruler,
or the ruler oppresses the ruled, then difference crops up in every word,
signs of oppression appear, mischief enters religion and the ways of the
sunnah are forsaken.
Then desires are acted upon,
the commands (of religion) are discarded, diseases of the spirit become
numerous and there is no hesitation in disregarding even great rights, nor
in committing big wrongs. In such circumstances, the virtuous are
humiliated while the vicious are honoured, and there are serious
chastisements from Allah, the Glorified, onto the people.
You should therefore counsel
each other (for the fulfilment of your obligations) and co-operate with
each other. However extremely eager a person may be to secure the pleasure
of Allah, and however fully he strives for it, he cannot discharge (his
obligation for) obedience to Allah, the Glorified, as is really due to
Him, and it is an obligatory right of Allah over the people that they
should advise each other to the best of their ability and co-operate with
each other for the establishment of truth among them.
No person, however great his
position in the matter of truth, and however advanced his distinction in
religion may be, is above co-operation in connection with the obligations
placed on him by Allah. Again, no man, however small he may be regarded by
others, and however humble he may appear before eyes, is too low to
co-operate or to be afforded co-operation in this matter.
One of Amir al-mu'minin's
companions replied to him by a long speech wherein he praised him much and
mentioned his own listening to him and obeying him, whereupon Amir
If a man in his mind regards
Allah's glory as being high and believes in his heart that Allah's
position is sublime, then it is his right that on account of the greatness
of these things he should regard all other things small. Among such
persons he on whom Allah's bounty is great and Allah's favours are kind
has a greater obligation, because Allah's bounty over any person does not
increase without an increase in Allah's right over him.
In the view of virtuous
people, the worst position of rulers is that it may be thought about them
that they love glory, and their affairs may be taken to be based on pride.
I would really hate that it may occur to your mind that I love high
praises or to hear eulogies. By the grace of Allah I am not like this.
Even If I had loved to be mentioned like this, I would have given it up in
submissiveness before Allah, the Glorified, rather than accept greatness
and sublimity to which He is more entitled.
Generally, people feel
pleased at praise after good performances; but do not mention for me
handsome praise for the obligations I have discharged towards Allah and
towards you, because of (my) fear about those obligations which I have not
discharged and for issuing injunctions which could not be avoided, and do
not address me in the manner despots are addressed.
Do not evade me as the
people of passion are (to be) evaded, do not meet me with flattery and do
not think that I shall take it ill if a true thing is said to me, because
the person who feels disgusted when truth is said to him or a just matter
is placed before him would find it more difficult to act upon them.
Therefore, do not abstain
from saying a truth or pointing out a matter of justice because I do not
regard myself above erring
I do not escape erring in my actions but that Allah helps me (in avoiding
errors) in matters in which He is more powerful than I.
Certainly, I and you are
slaves owned by Allah, other than Whom there is no Lord except Him. He
owns our selves which we do not own. He took us from where we were towards
what means prosperity to us. He altered our straying into guidance and
gave us intelligence after blindness.
That the innocence of angels is different from the innocence of man needs
no detailed discussion. The innocence of angels means that they do not
possess the impulse to sin, but the innocence of man means that, although
he has human frailties and passions, yet he possesses a peculiar power to
resist them and he is not over-powered by them so as to commit sins.
This very ability is called
innocence and it prevents the rising up of personal passions and impulses.
Amir al-mu'minin's saying that "I do not regard myself above erring"
refers to those human dictates and passions, and his saying that "Allah
helps me in avoiding 'errors'" refers to innocence.
The same tone is found in
the Qur'an in the words of Prophet Yusuf that:
I exculpate not myself,
verily (one's) self is wont to bid (him to) evil, except such as my Lord
hath had mercy on; verily my Lord is Oft- forgiving, All-merciful.
Just as in this verse,
because of the existence of exception, its firstpart cannot be used to
argue against his innocence, similarly, due to the existence of the
exception "but that Allah helps me in avoiding errors" in Amir
al-mu'minin's saying, its first part cannot be used to argue against his
innocence, otherwise the Prophet's innocence too will have to be rejected.
In the same way, the last
sentence of this sermon should not be taken to mean that before the
proclamation of prophethood he had been under the influence of pre-Islamic
beliefs, and that just as others had been unbelievers he too might have
been in darkness and misguidance, because from his very birth Amir
al-mu'minin was brought-up by the Prophet and the effect of his training
and up-bringing permeated him.
It cannot therefore be
imagined that he who had from infancy trod in the foot-prints of the
Prophet would deviate from guidance even for a moment. Thus, al-Mas`udi
Amir al-mu'minin never
believed in any other god than Allah so that there could be the question
of his accepting Islam. He rather followed the Prophet in all his
actions and (virtually) initiated him, and in this very state he
attained majority. (Muruj adh-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 3).
Here, by those whom Allah
led from darkness into guidance, the reference is to the persons whom Amir
al-muíminin was addressing. Ibn Abiíl-Hadid writes in this connection:
The reference here is not
to his own self because he had never been an unbeliever so as to have
accepted Islam after that, but in these words he is referring to those
group of people whom he was addressing. (Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, vol.
11, p. 108)