The best form of government is one in which the government does not
inflict wounds on its people and one that creates a prosperous life for them in both material and spiritual terms: “Those who follow this path do not become tired. Riders on this horse do not get bored. The water of this spring does not become impure and contaminated.” This is what Fatima Zahra said on that day. This event [the caliphate of Ali (a.s.)] was delayed for 25 years, but finally, the Islamic Ummah gathered and elected the Commander of the Faithful as the caliph. During those years – from the month of Dhul-Hijja of the year 35 to the month of Ramadan of the year 40: his government lasted four years and nine or ten months – he accomplished great feats. He began certain tasks which would have allowed him to continue the path, and to insure the world of Islam for many centuries to come if the sword of treachery and treason had not existed and if that grave crime had not been committed by Ibn Muljam or the elements working behind the scenes, the world would be better off.
Therefore, the tragedy that took place on that day was full of heavy losses for the world of Islam and for the history of Islam. Once more, they caused the world of Islam drift away from that fresh and pure spring that could quench the thirst of the Islamic world. Therefore, this disaster is for all times.
The important task that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) carried out during that period of time can be expressed in a short statement, and I will explain it briefly. During that time, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) proved that the Islamic principles and values, created during the time of Islam’s isolation and when the Islamic community was a small community, can be implemented at a time of welfare and at a time of expansion, power, and material progress of the Islamic community as well.
If we pay attention to this point, this is very important. Today, our issue is the same. During the time of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.), Islamic principles, Islamic justice, the dignity of humans, the spirit of jihad, Islamic construction and moral and ideological principles of Islam were sent down through divine revelation and the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) implemented them in the Islamic community as much as possible. However, what was the Islamic community during the time of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.)? For 10 years, it was only comprised of Madina, a small city comprised of a few thousand people. And when they conquered Makka and Ta’if, only a small region with a very limited source of wealth and with very few resources, which suffered from endemnic poverty, was available to them. It was in such an environment that the foundations of Islamic values were built. Twenty five years had passed since the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) passed away. During these 25 years, the size of the Islamic community increased by hundreds of times, not two, or three, or ten times.
The day when the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) was elected as caliph, the regions ranging from Middle Asia to North Africa – Egypt – were under the control of the Islamic government. Of the two great governments that were the neighbors of the Islamic government from the early Islamic era – Iran and Rome – one had been completely annihilated: this was the Iranian government. At that time, the entire country of Iran was under the control of Islam. A large part of Roman Empire too – Shamaat, Palestine, Mosul and other areas – had been seized by Islam. So, a region of great size was available to Islam. This means that a large source of wealth had come into being, and there was no poverty and lack of resources and food any longer.
Gold had become common and money had flourished. There were great sources of wealth, and the Islamic country had become rich. Many people enjoyed too much welfare. If Ali had been left out of the arena, it would have been possible for history to judge that Islamic principles and Prophetic values were only good for the era of Madinatul-Nabi, the same era when the Islamic community was small and poor; because when the Islamic community grew in size, when it was combined with different civilizations, when different cultures and civilizations entered the lives of Muslims and when different nations stood under the umbrella of the Islamic community, those principles were not enough, and they failed to manage the country.
However, during those five years, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) showed through his actions, behavior, and method for managing the government that this was not the case. He showed that the same brilliant principles that existed during the early Islamic era – monotheism, justice, fair-mindedness and the equality of humans – can be implemented with a powerful caliph like the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.): this is what has remained in history. Although this method did not continue after the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), he showed that if the Islamic ruler, the managers of society and Muslim managers make up their minds, and if they have firm beliefs, they can implement the same principles during the time of the Islamic government’s expansion and the emergence of different situations and lifestyles, and they can help the people benefit from it.
This is our situation in the present time. Some people think that the principals of the Revolution – the beliefs of justice, jihad, religion, independence, self-reliance: these are the principals that generated enthusiasm in the people, that brought them to the arena, that helped overthrow the Taghuti regime and that encouraged the people to show resistance in a war for eight years – have become old-fashioned, and they cannot be implemented any longer. We might have become old-fashioned, we might have lost our power and strength, and we might have become weak, but those principles have prevailed with the same strength and power.
If we enter the arena with the necessary faith, with adequate management, with enthusiasm and hope, and with courage in the face of the enemies’ methods like political and propaganda schemes, the same principles will show themselves more in the present time. --This is clear. How can social justice in Madina society – that had a population of 10, 15 thousand people -- be compared with social justice in the Commander of the Faithful’s (a.s.) community that had a population of tens and hundreds of millions of people? And the Commander of the Faithful accomplished these feats.
I would like to speak about a few measures that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) adopted. These measures have been reflected in the statements of that great personality. There are thousands of such measures in the Commander of the Faithful’s (a.s.) life. The people insisted and they pledged their allegiance to him, but Hazrat did not agree at first. Then the people insisted furthermore. Everyone – including great personalities, ordinary people, chiefs and old companions – said that it should only be Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and no one else. They came and took Hazrat with insistence. Hazrat said, “Let us go to the mosque then.”
He took to the minbar and delivered a sermon, expressing his viewpoints. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) said, “I will return to the people the property that the selected caliphs and the nobility have seized in an unjust manner wherever I find them.” During those years, some people had managed to take money from the public funds. He said, “By Allah, even if I had found that by such money women have been married or slave-maids have been purchased I would have returned it to its owners.” [Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 15] He said, “The people and great personalities should know that this is going to be my method.”
After a few days, this course of action aroused the opposition of certain people. Of course, poor people and the oppressed class of society always hoped that this course of action would be adopted, but it is evident that influential personalities and those who are the real addressees of this statement were displeased. They organized a meeting and said, “What is this course of action that Ali wants to adopt?” Walid ibn Aqabah – who was the governor of Kufa during the time of Uthman – was chosen as their representative. He went to the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) and said that there are certain conditions for their allegiance: “We will pledge our allegiance to you the day when you do not take away from us the property that we gained during the time of Uthman” [speaking in Arabic]. Afterwards Walid ibn Aqabah, Talha, and Zubayr came to him.
Of course, we consider Talha and Zubayr to be different from Walid ibn Aqabah. Walid ibn Aqabah was in fact one of those people who had just converted to Islam. His family members were against Islam and anti-revolutionaries, and they had fought against Islam. After the victory of Islam – in the late Nabavi era – he converted to Islam just like the others from Bani Umayyad. However, Talha and Zubayr were among the old companions of Islam and the close friends of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.). But even Talha and Zubayr – who were the great personalities of Islam in those days and who were among the remaining companions of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) – went to the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) and made certain complaints.
They said, “You have equated us with others in dividing the public funds. You considered us and others who are not like to be equals!” [speaking in Arabic]. They continued, “What condition is this? Why do you not differentiate between us?” “You considered us and those who are not like us as equals in dividing the property that God the Exalted bestowed on the people with our swords and spears!” [speaking in Arabic]. They said, “It was we who moved Islam forward. It was we who took the trouble and worked hard. Now, are you equating us with those who have just embraced Islam, who are Ajams [non-Arabs] and come from countries who have been conquered by us?”
I have not seen the Commander of the Faithful’s (a.s.) answer to Walid ibn Aqabah. History has not recorded it, but he gave answers to others. Hazrat took to the minbar and gave a harsh response. On the issue of the equal division of public funds, he said: “I am not the first person to issue such an edict. You and I were witnesses that the Messenger of God (God’s greetings be upon him) issued a similar edict.” [speaking in Arabic]. He said that both they and Hazrat were alive at that time and that they all witnessed that the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) adopted a similar course of action. So, he was not starting a new tradition, only pursuing the same thing that the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) pursued.
He said that he wanted to implement the same values and the same ideological and practical bases in society. And He did that until the end of his life and, of course, he paid the price for that. The price for that was the emergence of three wars. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) stood firm. It is evident that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) considered the right to caliphate as something that belonged to him, but this did not take place after the Holy Prophet’s (s.w.a.) demise. For 25 years, he did not make any moves for what he considered to be his right. And when some people wanted to say something, he would keep them quiet: “Your girth is loose and you have put it on the wrong way… Now leave this story of devastation about which there is hue and cry all round.” [Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 162] -- The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) has made such statements. He did not react to that issue for 25 years! But he endured three wars for the sake of an issue that seemed less important than the former – the issue of social justice, revival of nabavi principles, and rebuilding the firm structure that the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) had built. These wars were the Battle of the Camel, the Battle of Siffin, and the Battle of Nahrawan. Notice how important this task was for the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.). These events were all part of the great feat that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) accomplished.
Imam Khamenei, Nov 5, 2004