Jumuah lecture delivered by Mowlana Aftab Haider on Friday 1st May 2015 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Center, Ottery, Cape Town

On the eve of the 13th of Rajab we anticipate the commemoration of the Milad of a great man of Islam, Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen, Imaam’ul’Muttaqeen, Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s). Fourteen centuries has passed since the birth of this great servant of Allah yet his achievements are still very relevant to our life today.

Even though conditions changed since his time, thinking patterns changed, civilizations evolved and we witnessed fundamental changes to society and technological advancement, yet we find that the ideals and message of Imam Ali (a.s) still very much alive and relevant to this day.


Fourteen centuries ago Imam Ali (a.s) established a system of governance when he had the opportunity to rule the Islamic state as Khalif for a period of just under 5 years.

The challenges he faced during his khalifate were unique which were particularly in the form of internal challenges. He inherited a system and society filled with troubles. A society divided by classes of rich and poor, Arab and non-Arab, master and slave, in a very short period of time after the demise of our Holy Prophet (sawa).

These changes appeared and unfortunately a great ‘backward’ movement took place. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) fought against this jahilliyah trend but due to various reasons, very swiftly this state of ignorance and divisions of class returned.

Through all of this we find amazingly, that Imam Ali (a.s) was able to establish an exemplary governance. If one were to seek the meaning of governance in Islam and the principles of Quranic governance and ruling over people, we find a shining example in the governance of Imam Ali (a.s) of which the following points are extremely noteworthy:

1. Justice

Imam Ali (a.s) founded his governance on the basis of justice without compromise. He became the ‘voice of human justice’. He did not accept any suggestions or consider any proposal that would compromise his principles and stance on justice. He did not waiver in his stance for any political gain or worldly pursuit. Imam Ali (a.s) was reported to have said “If I will be rewarded the treasures of this world and whatever is in the seven heavens to oppress a small insect, to pull a small piece of grass from the mouth of an ant without justice, by GOD I swear, I will never do that”. This attitude of non-compromise and unwavering stance for justice cost Imam Ali (a.s) dearly; created numerous enemies and finally earned him martyrdom.

2. Democracy

An important aspect of Imam Ali (a.s)’s governance was his democracy and respect for the people, his inclusion of the participation and support of the people. He frequently reminded his governors that the people are not slaves and that the rulership is a trust given by Allah. The thinking at that time was that to rule is a right or ‘haqq’, but in the logic of Imam Ali (a.s) it was a responsibility. The difference between the two is that with a right or ‘haqq’, one earns benefit, but with responsibility, one needs to perform and carry out that responsibility. We find in a well-known letter that Imam Ali (a.s) wrote to his governor of Egypt, Malik al Ashtar, that the Imam advises Malik to never create barriers between himself and the people, that time should be set aside daily which is dedicated towards engaging with them and to listen to the them.

3. Human Rights & Tolerance

Another aspect of Imam Ali (a.s)’s governance was his outlook on Human Rights and his tolerant attitude. He reminded the Egyptian governor – Malik al Ashtar – that people are of two kinds; they are either your brother/sister in faith or your equal in humanity as fellow human beings.

Imam Ali (a.s)’s treatment of his opponents also displayed his exemplary tolerance. He explained that there were people who paid allegiance to him and there were those that did not. He instructed that for those that did not pay allegiance to be left alone, so long as they did not raise arms against him! Who can be more tolerant than Imam Ali (a.s). There was no indication of any form of dictatorship in Imam Ali (a.s)’s government.

Imam Ali (as) had many enemies – who in essence were worshippers of this worldly life. Among those enemies, Imam Ali (as) had a unique opponent; an enemy of Aql and intellect, an enemy of Islam but under the guise of Islam. This trend was present in Imam Ali (a.s)’s time, and is present today in our time. These opponents and enemies created disasters and tribulations, even going as far as entering the mosque of the Imam (a.s) to insult him in the middle of his sermon. Even then Imam Ali (a.s) instructed that they are to be left alone. It was only when they raised arms against him and created instability in society that he decided they were to be dealt with.

If one wanted to see mercy in action, there was nobody better (at that time) than Imam Ali (a.s). If one wanted to see firmness there was nobody better (at that time) than Imam Ali (a.s). When these ‘Khawarij’ took up arms against the Imam of that time (a.s), they were wiped out by the same Imam Ali (a.s).


Imam Ali (a.s) fought against corruption, and he frequently admonished his governors in the various letters he wrote them to not create compromising positions for themselves. He admonished them in the smallest of changes towards luxury during their period in the office of government. He challenged them and warned them against corruption to the smallest degree.


We turn our attention towards Workers Day today, and take an example from Imam Ali (a.s) in how he treated his workers and his concern for them. It is narrated that one day Imam Ali (a.s) went with one of his workers (Qambar) to the market to purchase a shirt for himself and the worker. Upon reaching the market there was only enough money to purchase one expensive shirt and one cheaper shirt.

Imam Ali (a.s) was Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen and head of the Islamic State, yet he insisted that his worker take the more expensive shirt while he takes the cheaper one. His worker asks why he did this as the Imam (a.s) was his master and he was just the worker. Imam Ali (a.s) replied by saying that his worker was younger than himself and that better clothing was more beneficial to his worker than himself who was much older.


We have seen in this week many changes in the Saudi government. We see how they are fighting over power. When Ibn Abbas (r.a) asked Imam Ali (a.s) what the value was of ruling over the people, Imam (a.s) said it was worth less than the worthless patched shoes he was wearing.

It is not without reason that fourteen centuries later, Kofi Annan said to the Arab leaders to look back at their own Arab history towards the governance of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s). It is not without any reason that a Christian, George Jordac, wrote one of his best works regarding Imam Ali (a.s) under the title; ”Ali: The voice of Human Justice”. Therein he compares Imam Ali (a.s) to the French Revolution, to the Charter of Human Rights, to the Bill of Anti-Corruption, to the issue of Justice and democratic rights of the people.  George Jordac was so infatuated with the teachings of Imam Ali (a.s) that he claims to have read Nahjul Balagha two hundred times!


Last week the above mentioned conference was held in Qum which was headed by 2 Grand Ulama, namely Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi and Ayatullah Jafar Subhani. It was attended by hundreds of Ulama which included 87 high ranking Sunni Ulama.

Extremism is the most serious challenge that the ummah faces if one considers the experiences in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc.

The enemies of Islam present this phenomenon as a fight between Sunni and Shia, a fight between Saudi and Iran/Iraq/Lebanon.

But the so-called ISIS Caliphate has proven that they kill anyone who disagrees with them, and in fact Sunni Muslims have suffered MORE than Shia Muslims. 700 Sunnis in Iraq were recently slaughtered with their headless bodies left in the streets. In Mosul, Sunnis are left to starve. Yet in Cape Town, some people are trapped into thinking that ISIS are Sunni militants….ISIS has NOTHING to do with Islam or Sunnism.

The main consequences of the wave of extremism can be summarized as follows:

1. The Arab Spring has been contained as Muslims are killing Muslims and stuck in debating about secondary issues like Bidah and Doctrine instead of expelling the Monarchies who rule the world.

2. The Palestinian issue has been relegated to the backstage and Palestinian suffering during this period has gone virtually unnoticed.

3. The image of Islam in the World has become distorted in the Worst Possible Way.