Rule with Policies, not Politics

After the third caliph of the Islamic state was murdered, the people flocked towards Ali ibn e Abi Talib (‘a) in groups with different backgrounds and viewpointts. However, they all pledged allegiance to Ali (‘a) voluntarily, of their own free will.
The next day, Imam Ali (‘a) addressed the people from the pulpit. It was his inaugural address. He began by praising and glorifying the Almighty (SWT) and sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (s). He then said:
“O People! After the death of the Holy Prophet (s) the people of that time selected Abu Bakr as their caliph. He nominated Umar as his successor. Umar made a committee that would select the next caliph. It selected Usman. You were unhappy with his performance and, finally he was besieged in his own house and killed. After that, you turned towards me and willingly offered your allegiance without being asked to do so.
I am one of you and a human being like you. What is for you, is for me, too. Our responsibilities are also similar. God has opened this door between you and all the Muslims. Discord is threatening us like the darkness of night. Only that person can shoulder the responsibility of governing a state that is strong and steadfast, insightful and wise. I intend to take you back to the conduct and practice of the Holy Prophet (s). I promise to fulfill my pledge with you, on the condition that you also remain firm and steadfast on yours. We will certainly need to pray to Allah for His help and support regarding this capacity to fulfill our pledges. I want to remind you that I am exactly the same today as I was in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s).
Lead your life according to the principles and rules by ensuring obedience and submission to them. If you observe something strange and unacceptable in my behaviour, do not defy or rebel against it without prior thought. I never do anything beyond my responsibility, for which I have no rational proof to offer in the presence of God. He is watching each one of us, encompassing all our actions. I am not interested in the position of caliph because I heard the Holy Prophet say, ‘Whoever takes control of governing the Ummah after me, will be stopped, on the day of Judgment, on the Bridge of Righteousness.
His Document of deeds will be presented to him. If his actions bespeak of justice and fair play, God will grant him salvation because of His justice. If his actions bespeak injustice and tyranny, the bridge will quake and drop him into the fire beneath.’
You have unanimously elected me for this position and I do not have a credible reason or excuse to reject your request. I, therefore, accept this responsibility. Now, hear me carefully!
I, hereby, proclaim to obstruct the path of those individuals that have abused public funds and the state treasury to make large estates, dig many streams flowing with water; that own the best breed of horses, purchase concubines, and have adopted a lifestyle of worldly pleasures. This accountability will begin tomorrow. Whatever is their legal right will remain with them, everything beyond that will return to the state treasury. They might complain tomorrow that they were not forewarned, that Ali ibn e Abi Talib had kept them in the dark.
I, therefore, proclaim in plain terms that I shall end all special privileges enjoyed heretofore. This includes all those individuals who were getting V.I.P. treatment just because they enjoyed the society of the Holy Prophet(s), or served the cause of Islam in the past. Those blessed with the companionship of the Holy Prophet (s) and those who served Islam in the past, will get their reward from their Creator. They will not receive special treatment because of their past life and performance. We shall not distinguish them from the present citizens of the state. Any individual who supports our call for truth and pursues our direction, he will enjoy the same privileges enjoyed today by those who accepted the call of the Holy Prophet (s).
All of you are the slaves of God and since all property belongs to Allah, its equal distribution amongst you is obligatory. No one among you has an edge over another. Tomorrow, all the money in the State treasury will be divided equally among you.”
The next day, all the people gathered in the courtyard of the mosque. Imam Ali (‘a) divided the money equally among the people. Each individual received 3 dinars. One person remarked, ‘Ya Ali, you gave me 3 dinars and 3 dinars to one, who, until yesterday, was my slave.’
Ali (‘a) replied, ‘I have just done what is right.’
Talha and Zubayr, Abdullah ibn e Umar, S’aeed ibn e ‘Aas, Marwan ibn e Hakam and their compatriots who had been enjoying special privileges and enhanced allowances from the state treasury, were extremely annoyed in being equated with everyone. They refused the equal share and left the mosque. The next day, the people gathered in the mosque. This group also came, but sat in a separate corner, to maintain their distance from the others. They started sharing their views about the situation, and after a brief discussion sent Walid ibn e ‘Uqba as their spokesperson to Ali (‘a). Walid came to Imam Ali (‘a) and presented his case thus;
‘Ya Abul Hasan! You are well aware that, due to the wars fought between Islam and polytheism, we are not happy with you. You killed at least one or more of our dear ones. In the battle of Badr, you killed my own father. However, we are willing to forget the past and pledge allegiance to you, but under two conditions.
First: Repeal your proclamation of yesterday. Do not delve into the affairs of the past, nor question the means by which people amassed wealth during the reign of the previous two caliphs. Your duty is only to ensure that nobody amasses wealth by unfair means during your caliphate.
Second: Capture the assassins of Usman and hand them over to us, so that we can avenge his murder. If we are not assured peace and security by you, we will be forced to go to Syria and join Muawiya.’
Imam Ali (‘a) replied, ‘You cannot place the blame on my shoulders for the blood of those killed by my sword in the battles fought between Islam and polytheism. They were not personal feuds, but wars fought between Truth and Falsehood. Present any demands that you have, in this case, on behalf of Falsehood against Truth, not against me.
As for the rights that were trampled upon in the past caliphates, let me make it clear to you; it is my principled duty to return all stolen rights to their owners, and it is not possible for me to neglect my duty.
Lastly, if I had found the murderers of Usman, I would have avenged his murder by now and not allowed his murderers reprieve for a single day.’
Hearing the Imam’s (‘a) reply, Walid got up and returned to his group and related the entire conversation to them. It didn’t take them long to realize that Ali (‘a) believed in implementing accountable and just policies, not paddling in power- politics- without- principles. They began to create discord immediately for their personal ends.
Some well-wishers of Imam Ali (‘a) came to him and said, ‘Ya Ali, These people are going to use Usman’s murder merely as an excuse to create discord. Actually, they are annoyed by your declaration of equal rights as citizens for the past and present generation, for Arab and non-Arab alike. If you retain their past status and compromise your decision, the discord will end.’
Imam Ali (‘a) realized that most supporters would question his principled stand on equal rights, so next day he dressed himself in the two pieces of cloth, worn as ahram by Hajjis, slung his sword in his neck, and went to the mosque. Resting his hand on his bow, he addressed the people thus:
‘We thank our Lord for granting us uncountable visible and concealed blessings. These blessings are a result of His Grace and Mercy. He did not withhold these blessings considering we did not deserve them, but bestowed them to see whether we are grateful or thankless.
In the eyes of the Lord, only he is better than others who obeys Him, follows in the footsteps of His Messenger(s), and safeguards and recites His Holy Book. For us, an individual’s worth depends on how much he obeys the commands of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (s). For us no individual is better than others, unless he also obeys God (SWT) and His Messenger (s) more than the others. The Holy Quran is among you, and you are well acquainted with the practice of the Holy Prophet (s).’
He, then recited the famous verse of the Holy Quran:
O mankind, We created you from a single man and woman, and then divided you into tribes and nations, so that you could be identified. He is the best in Allah’s sight, who is the most pious among you.
After this sermon, friend and foe realized that Ali (‘a) was determined to implement his decision. Each man knew where he stood. He who wished to be loyal, remained loyal; he who disagreed with his decision alienated himself, like Abdullah ibn e Umar; he who decided to rebel, like Talha, Zubayr and Marwan, prepared to take up arms against him.