Imam Ali can serve as a model to unite Shias and Sunnis

Ali-style justice and governance along with his lifestyle can be used as a paradigm in the face of plots to stoke divisions in the world of Islam.

Former President Mohammad Khatami is of the opinion that in terms of analysis and philosophy, regardless of Shiism or Sunnism, Ali [the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who was in charge of the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661 AD] is a criterion and his stance is clear guidance to everyone. Khatami’s comments came in a meeting with members of the public to mark Eid al-Ghadeer [which marks the day the Muslim Prophet named Imam Ali as his successor]. What appears next is the translation of part of his remarks reported by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on its website on October 14:

Among other things, exercising justice and equality before law for everyone, complying with the standards of social and more importantly political morality, being open to criticism, instilling courage in the public to call officials to account, being tolerant of one’s opponents, keeping a lid on conflicts and violence, stressing consultation and representing the deprived without trampling on the rights of the rich were some of the criteria Imam Ali paid scrupulous attention to. Taking such points into consideration could serve as a good example for Islamic countries as far as stability and unity are concerned.

In his meeting with members of the public to mark Eid al-Ghadeer, Khatami underlined the greatness and magnificence of the auspicious occasion and said that Imam Ali is a role model, a source of inspiration and a mentor. “Saints are given as much right to divine leadership as they have secured human perfection. For instance, Prophet Muhammad was educated by God, and likewise the Prophet taught Ali lessons in life. In other words, Ali was indirectly trained by God.”

“Regardless of Shiism and Islam, in terms of analysis and philosophy, Ali is a criterion and his stance is clear guidance in everyone’s life. Ali stood out from the crowd of the Prophet’s companions and other great characters of the time and at last was at the helm of the government for a few years. So following in his footsteps in this momentous situation is the right thing to do.”

The director of BARAN Foundation laid emphasis on the fact that Islam emerged to introduce success in society as a paradigm for everyone and added, “Islam emerged to encourage the idea that humans should not serve anyone but God and that commitment to Him is sheer freedom. Islam surfaced to suggest that the foundation of social relations should rest on promotion of justice, morality and virtue. It came to demonstrate that human beings have dignity and wisdom.”

As for the era after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad, he said, “Over this period, the core principles of Islam were not practiced and the ignorance that many Arabs displayed [before the advent of Islam] made a comeback. Among other things, the accumulated wealth, especially from Muslim conquests, bad behaviors, and infatuation with worldly matters caused a deepening chasm between people and the ruling system. Deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the government, people turned to Ali.”

Khatami added: “At first Imam Ali turned down the public demand and advised them to pick someone else. He said, ‘We are heading for a colorful future when peace of mind will be elusive, dark clouds will blacken the sky of humanity and the right path will be blurred, so you should know that if I take you up on your offer, I will lead you in the way that I know well; I won’t listen to objections and criticisms of some [whose personal interests are at stake] and will only do what is right.

“If you leave me alone, I will be a citizen like you and I will be even the most obedient one in the community and I will obey whoever you choose. It will be much better for me to be your advisor rather than your Emir.’ However, people insisted and Imam Ali took the helm of the government.”

Recalling his proposal of Dialog among Civilizations, the former president stated, “In current conditions where aggression, violence and acts which are contrary to the spirit of Islam take place, I want to put forth a new way to address such issues and crises. As Muslims we deserve a good life with security and freedom which has eluded us so far. We deserve a forward-looking society on political, cultural and social fronts; we have the required human and natural resources. Nonetheless, we are deprived of such society.

“In terms of human and financial resources, we Muslims live in the most enriched region of the world; the region that is the most strategic part of the world as far as politics and geography are concerned. That’s why our foes seek to find their way into it and destroy it.”

He went on to say, “Unfortunately, the region is home to some governments which are either stooges of others, despotic or inactive in dealing with their enemies. These governments are mainly to blame for squandering the financial resources of the region. We witness the emergence of division in the world of Islam. There are revolutionary groups which will push society toward ossification if they rise to power, and if they are denied the chance to rule, they resort to violence and terrorism.

Highlighting the need to exercise vigilance to realize what is going on, he reiterated, “The solution is a democratic government which respects the rights of the public, paves the way for political and economic growth and seeks a free society.”

“Some concepts like the separation of the branches of government, civil liberty and human rights were nonissues in the past. However, still, based on the criteria and principles of the past, such notions can be appreciated. We can carry on our lives in this day and age in compliance with today’s requirements and yet adhere to the principles of the past. Today, human life is in grave peril and the governments which do not represent the public are throwing obstacles in the way of people,” he added.

“As a human and the smallest part of society, I recommend we choose Imam Ali, who was a shining example of a perfect human in his personal, moral and political life, as our role model, because his behavior and manners could act as a moral compass showing us the right path,” he said.

Addressing Shia and Sunni Muslims, he cited, “For our Sunni brothers, it is clear that Ali was the legitimate caliph of the Prophet. Accounts by the companions of the Prophet suggest that Ali was a special and close follower of the Messenger of God. Using Ali as a yardstick can promote unity and stability in Islamic communities in the face of non-democratic governments and violent groups.”

Recalling some of the characteristics and the stance of Imam Ali when it came to ruling a country, he pointed out, “From Imam Ali’s perspective, public satisfaction was the pillar of a legitimate government, public demands and desire were incumbent on governments; efforts to respect people and their rights, instilling courage in the public to call officials to account, being open to criticism, being tolerant of one’s opponents, keeping a lid on conflicts and violence, censuring dictatorship in words and actions, stressing consultation and representing the deprived were also part of his important criteria.”

“According to the policies that Imam Ali adopted, defending the rights of the oppressed amounted to defending the rights of other people. Today’s extremists wrongfully think that defending the rights of the needy and oppressed amounts to annihilating capitalists and capitalism.

“Insistence on justice in all communities was another point Imam Ali paid attention to. Today, from the viewpoint of politicians on the left [Communists] justice is an economic concept which can be distributed like dole, whereas Ali’s definition of justice covers all matters, in particular freedom of speech and the right to self-determination,” he concluded.

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