Ali bin Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, wrote a long letter of guidance after appointing Maalik al-Ashtar to be Governor of Egypt. I had posted excerpts of this letter. The letter was discovery for our leading poet Fahmida Riaz who, in an email wrote as follows:
“…here is this document, written by him,1500 or so years ago. The sheer beauty of his thought, the largesse of his great heart, the incredible refinement of his mind! It takes your breath away and brings tears to your eyes. And then, his understanding of the class structure of society..long before anyone in the world paid attention to the composition of society! All this is so incredible.”
Recently I was introduced to the works of Anita Rai, who in her book, ‘Ghadeer – Government of the people, for the people, by GOD’ writes:
The Christian West met the Islamic world much earlier than the crusadeswhen the breeze carrying the mildest fragrance of Ali gently stirred Europe in its sleep. Long before Europe could even dream up a remote synonym of ‘human rights’, or even had the vaguest idea of it as the most basic of civilised values, did Islam introduce and celebrate it. Even better. It had also preserved the actions and words, of the pioneer of human rights – Ali ibne Abi Talib. There is no chapter in the charter of the U.N., which is not running parallel to the rules laid down by Ali in his letters to his governors, especially the one to Malik al Ashtar – a letter, as you will see in this book, has undoubtedly influenced the United Nations’ charter strongly. The imprints are too striking to be ignored or to go unobserved. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a formidable precedent in the form of Imam Ali’s letter written almost 1400 years ago. Irrespective of the change in the needs and eras of lifestyles, the jargon of the contemporary philosophies, and the new vicissitudes of techno-crazy world opening up at sci-fi speed, the letter of Ali ibne Abi Talib accommodates today and tomorrow.
Read more on Anita Rai here