The commander of the faithful (God’s greetings and peace be upon him) has acted on what he has said. After Muslims gathered around his house and demanded that he accept the caliphate, Ali ibn Abi Talib was in a quandary: on the one hand, he was indifferent to the pleasures of life. All the lures of life that were attractive to the people were not attractive to him. People kill for power. They commit crimes for power. Telling lies, using deception and adopting a hypocritical outlook are measures which people have no scruples over, but from the viewpoint of the Commander of the Faithful, power in itself is something of little value. He would look at it as a trifle, something to despise and to turn one’s back on.
But on the other hand, the Commander of the Faithful would think about people’s rights. If he did not accept the caliphate, then who would do so and who would give life to people and to Muslims? Who would put an end to discrimination and to class inequalities? Who would take away usurped properties from usurpers and give them back to their rightful owners? Who would fight against oppressors? Why would he ignore this great right of individuals? That is why he accepted caliphate.
He said, “If people had not come to me and supporters had not exhausted the argument and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed…” The hands of these people are tied. Those who are ignorant are not equal to those who are well-informed. Woe to those who know and who do not act according to their duties. One of the greatest duties of the learned is to advise those who are ignorant so that everyone will raise their awareness. This is what Islam wants.
Islam wants the ignorant to raise their awareness with the help of the learned so that everyone becomes wise and so that the entire world of Islam and the entire Islamic community take action together and move forward. It will not forgive the ignorant for remaining ignorant and it will particularly not forgive the learned for failing to act and to raise the awareness of the ignorant.
May 12, 1978