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State Anomalies in Nahj-ul-Balagha

Monday, March 10, 2008

State Anomalies in Nahj-ul-Balagha

Basically, any political system may face various negative phenomena after its establishment, which would not only reduce its efficiency, but gradually threaten its very being. Therefore, reviewing pathological states that may be faced by the Islamic society and government is a need. Such pathological states should be reviewed from different viewpoints and measures should be taken to correct them. Functionalist sociologists maintain that the main basis for stability of any political system is a balance between values and social milieu and maintain that any damage to one of those domains would disturb the balance of the whole system. Although pathologic states may be different for different systems of rule, here, we will draw upon the ideas of Imam Ali (AS) as delineated in his various sermons, letters and wise words which are collected in Nahj-ul-Balagha and also on sociological theories to discuss pathologic states which may threaten the Islamic society and government. Major issues that should be discussed here will follow.

1.    Division and Social Dissociation

One of the main factors which jeopardizes social stability and balance is social division and dissociation, which is called by some sociologists as “mass society” as opposed to civil society. Emil Durkheim, the renowned French sociologist has noted that such pathological states, which are considered by some authors as the most important threats to the society and government, to be the result of unjust rules and norms governing the society or the result of social anomalies. Anomaly means absence of solidarity in a society which would lead to social conflicts and fighting over power and wealth. When dissociation prevails over association and emergence of collective conscience becomes slow, social behavior resulting from the anomaly intensifies and leads to civil unrest and fighting. In fact, Durkheim maintains that divisions and social dissociation is the basis of violence, crime, social delinquencies and collective political behavior.

Dr. Rafipour, a professor of sociology at Shahid Beheshti University, maintains that social solidarity is like a group of people rowing at a boat. If they had understood that the only way to save the ship from drowning is to endeavor to reach destination and there is a captain to guide the rowers, in that case the ship may reach its destination.

However, if someone is not in harmony with other rowers, their efforts would be in vain and the ship will sail on a circular course and easily submit to storm. In a human society, if groups and forces work according to group interests, not only all humans would achieve their goals, the society will also prosper. The main condition for this collective movement is (as Parson says) to attune personal interests and benefits to collective ones. That is, both people are provided with needed conditions, and they are told about that.

However, if the society were in trouble like a ship in the storm and the captain, due to various reasons, were not capable of sailing correctly, in that case, every person would think about his/her own destiny and social forces will be pitched against each other rather than working toward a collective goal.

In this way, in an ideal society which is comprised of smaller ethnic groups (like Turks, Kurds, and Baluches) solidarity and unity should be such that members of each group would see themselves as members of a bigger group (Iran), not originally as members of a smaller group (Kurd or Baluch).

Imam Ali (AS), in his sermon which has been nicknamed Qasia’ (Sermon 192) has warned against division in a nation. After noting that history has its own norms and standards, Imam Ali (AS) maintains that historical laws are fixed and the main secret behind prosperity of certain governments and countries is to follow suit with those laws. He says, “The main requisite for dignity of a society is distancing from division and dissociation and trying to achieve unity and boost social solidarity.” In another part of the same sermon, Imam Ali (AS) has noted that division is a universal threat and calls on all people to avoid it because “what crushes a nation’s backbone and does away with its might and knowledge is division.”

Therefore, in view of Imam Ali’s (AS) commands and his method of governance, the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) has sent a letter in eight articles to heads of the three powers and also warned the Islamic society in a speech to commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in 2004 over inclination toward amassing wealth. He also called the Iranian year 1384 (2005-06) as the year of public participation and social solidarity while calling the year 1386 (2007-08) as the year of national unity and Islamic solidarity, so as to warn officials and people about the threat posed to the country through dissociation between people and officials.

Political jockeying is usually a form of collective behavior which appears under conditions when there is no solidarity in the society and prevents various aspects of social development. Imam Ali (AS) has noted that solidarity to achieve right goals, is much better than division and no nation has become prosperous and lived in comfort through dissociation and lack of solidarity. In Sermon 25 of Nahj-ul-Balagha, he also notes that the above rule is so universal that even virtuous people would be defeated through division and those fighting for evil goals would be able to achieve those goals through unity.

He addressed his people saying, “By God, I fear the day that they (Muawiyah and his army) would prevail over you because they are united in their evil goals but you are divided about your righteous goals.”

Therefore, Imam (AS) maintained that welfare and prosperity of any given society was not the result of having a powerful army or strong economy just in the same way that political, cultural and economic weakness has not been mentioned as the main reason behind failure of a nation. In short, he maintains that “unity and solidarity” are the main cause of success while considering “division and dissociation” as the main reason for failure.

Obviously, Imam Ali (AS) does not intend to belittle the role of military, political, cultural, or economic power in success or failure of human societies and political systems, but he means to note the basic and original role played by “unity” and “division” in the success or failure of human societies and introduce it as an unchanging divine principle. Today, sociologists consider social assets as the most important asset of every society and maintain that unity and solidarity will help every society to be successful while division will cause previous achievements to be lost. Of course, the requisite for unity is to reduce the gap between officials and people and to bridge class divide through fighting economic, political, cultural and social corruption, protecting people’s rights, and toleration among social classes based on the accepted social principles which would help people realize national interest of their country.

2.    Extravagance and Sycophancy

Another pathological state which threatens a society and system of government is extravagance and sycophancy. This phenomenon increases the gap between leaders and society and will turn the government into an oligarchic system which does not care about people’s interest and only thinks about its own group interests. Ibn Khaldoun, the renowned Muslim thinker and historian, has noted that extravagance and sycophancy are the main reasons for bringing a political system to its end and to pave the way for emergence of a new prejudiced rule.

Plato has also noted that the main reason behind revolutions is “greediness of people as well as extravagance and love for wealth.” People who cannot be content to a simple life become jealous and crave for the things which belong to other people. As a result, class conflicts emerge and the society is divided into poor and rich poles which come to blows. Changes in wealth distribution will lead to political changes.

Imam Ali (AS) had warned people against such anomalies about 14 centuries ago. When he was told that Shuraih ibn Harith (a judge appointed by the Imam) had purchased a house for 80 dinars, Imam (AS) summoned him and after casting an angry look at him, told him, “You are no longer a content and dignified man and have joined those who were annihilated due to their love for worldly pleasures.” The Imam then said, “This house has four sides, one side is scourges and maladies, the other side is woes, the third side comprises wanton whims, and the fourth side is the Satan who misguides humans.”

When his other governor, Uthman ibn Hunaif had attended the wedding party of a rich man’s boy, he wrote a letter to Uthman telling him, “O, you son of Hunaif! I have been told that a wealthy man of Basra has invited you to a wedding and you have rushed there where they brought you delicious dishes and various foods. I never thought that you would accept invitation of people who do not care for the poor. Think where you are? On whose food you are dining? Know that every follower has an imam (leader) who follows him and your Imam has chosen worn-out clothes and two loaves of bread from all pleasures of the world. I swear by God that I have amassed no gold or silver and have stored none of the world’s trophies. I have not added any garment to my worn-out garments and have not owned any land.”

When the war in Basra was over and Imam Ali (AS) arrived at the exquisite and big house of one of his friends, he asked him what he was doing in such a big house. He told him, “The Almighty God has called on rulers to live like the poor, so that the latter would not feel humiliated and take no step to destabilize the government through unrest and insurgency.”

Epigraph 335 of Nahj-ul-Balagha notes that when one of Imam Ali’s (AS) executives built a big house for himself, Imam (AS) wrote to him, “Gold and silver coins have been amassed and the big building shows that you are not in need and are quite wealthy.” Imam Ali (AS) also told people of Kufa that “if I left you with anything more than my horse, personal belongings, and my servant, know that I have betrayed your trust.”

Therefore, leaders and managers should stay away from flamboyance and extravagance in their personal lives. It is then that they would come to grips with the realities of society and make decisions to bring relative economic welfare to the society. Even if welfare is not possible for all people, it would be easier for them to tolerate poverty when they see that their leaders are living in the same conditions and this will give legitimacy to the government while blocking negative psychological and cultural consequences of poverty.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم