The Guidance of Imam Ali (Circulated by UNO as part of Training Material for Good Governance)
Imam Ali’s letter to Malik al Ashtar
The following passages are extracts from a letter that Imam Ali wrote to Malik al-Ashtar when the Imam appointed him to be the Governor of Egypt and the surrounding areas in the seventh century CE.
‘Know, O Malik, that I have sent you to an area where there have been rulers before you, both just as well as oppressive … Do justice for Allah and do justice towards the people because if you do not do so, you will be oppressive.
(Fear) Allah and keep Allah in view in respect of the lowest class, consisting of those who have few means: the poor, the destitute, the penniless and the disabled: because in this class are both the discontented and those who beg. Take care for the sake of Allah of His obligations towards them for which He has made you responsible. Fix for them a share from the public funds and a share from the crops of lands …
All these people are those whose [claims] have been placed in your charge. Therefore, a luxurious life should not keep you away from them. You cannot be excused of ignoring small matters because you were deciding big problems. Consequently, do not be unmindful of nor turn your face from them out of vanity.
‘Take care of the affairs of those of them who do no approach you because they are of unsightly appearance or those whom people regard as low. Appoint for them some trusted people who are God-fearing and humble. They should inform you of these people’s conditions. Then deal with them with a sense of responsibility to Allah on the day you will meet Him because of all the subjects, these people are the most deserving of fair treatment, while for others also you should fulfill their [dues] so as to render account to Allah.
‘Take care of the orphans and the aged who have no means or (livelihood) nor are they ready for begging …
And fix a time for complainants when you make yourself free for them, and sit with them in common audience and feel humble for the sake of Allah who created you. (On that occasion), you should keep away your army and your assistants, such as the guards and the police, so that anyone who likes to speak may speak to you without fear. I have heard the Messenger of Allah in more than one place, ‘The people the [honour] of the weak is not secured without fear will never achieve purity. Tolerate their awkwardness and inability to speak. Keep away from you narrowness and haughtiness.’