Ali\'s sense of democracy in dealing with khawarij

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~Ali~ acted towards the ~Khawarij~ with the utmost degree of liberality and ~democracy~. He was the caliph and they were his subjects; every kind of punitive action was within his power, but he did not put them into prison, neither did he flog them; he did not even cut off their quota from the treasury (baitu 'l-mal). He looked upon them in the same way as upon other individuals. This matter is no exception in the history of 'Ali's life, but it is something of which there are few examples in the world. Everywhere they were free to express their opinions, and 'Ali and his companions freely opposed them with their own opinions and spoke to them. The two sides put forth their reasoning, and countered their opponent's reasoning.

Maybe such a degree of freedom is without precedent in the world, in which a government acts towards its opponents with such a degree of democracy. They came into the mosques and disrupted 'Ali's speeches and sermons. One day, 'Ali was speaking from the minbar when a man came forward and asked a question, and 'Ali gave an impromptu answer. A Khawarij who was among the people called out: "May God kill this man; what a knowledgeable man he is!" The others wanted to hold him back, but 'Ali ordered them to release him, saying: "It was only me he insulted."

The Khawarij would not pray behind Ali in communal prayers because they considered him a disbeliever, but they went to the mosque and refused to let Ali alone, sometimes molesting him. One day, Ali had stood up to pray and the people had stoop up behind him, when one of the Khawarij whose name was ~Ibn al-Kawwa~ shouted out, and read a verse from the Qur'an in allusion to 'Ali:

This verse was addressed to the Prophet: And indeed it has been revealed to thee and to those (prophets) before thee, "If thou associatest (other gods with Allah), thy work shall surely fail and thou wilt be among the losers." (az-Zumar, 39:65 ) Ibn al-Kawwa' wanted to insinuate about `Ali by reciting this verse that: "Yes, we know your past history in Islam! First you were a believer, the Prophet chose you as a brother, your selflessness shone out on the night of the Prophet's escape from Mecca (~laylatu 'l-mabit~) when you slept in the place of the Prophet in his bed, you put yourself forward as a lure for swords. Truly your service for Islam cannot be denied. But God also said to His Prophet: `If you associate (others with God) your work will come to naught.' Now that you have become a disbeliever you have cancelled out your past deeds."

What could Ali do, faced with this, with this man's voice shouting out the Qur'an? He remained silent until the man reached the end of the verse; and when he finished, 'Ali continued with the prayer. Then Ibn al-Kawwa' repeated the verse, and meanwhile Ali fell silent again. He kept silent because it is a Qur'anic command that:

And when the Qur'an is recited, give you ear to it and be silent. (al-A'raf, 7:204)

And this is the proof for the fact that when the prayer leader is reciting the Qur'an, believers must be silent and listen.

After he had repeated the verse several times, wanting to disrupt the prayer, 'Ali recited this verse:

So be thou patient: surely Allah's promise is true; and let not those who have not sure faith make thee unsteady. (ar-Rum, 30:60)

Then he paid no more attention and continued with his prayer. [Sharh, Ibn Abi 'l-Hadid, vol.6, p.311]


attraction and repulsion of Imam Ali p.b.u.h-pages: 129to131


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