Parts from Ali’ (may Allah be pleased with Him) Amirname (Written Commands) to Harith b. Ashtar, the Governor of Egypt
Adorn your heart with mercy, love and good treatment to the people under your command and management. Do not treat them like a treasure eating fierce lion.
People may make mistakes; they sometimes intentionally or unintentionally do wrong. Just like you ask forgiveness from Allah the Almighty for yourself, forgive them and treat them well.
Never regret your forgiveness towards them or be happy about punishing them. If there is chance to avoid trouble, do not rush into it. Never say “I have power, I order and they obey”, because this spoils your heart and weakens your faith. It gives you conceit, and conceit leads to destruction.
If the post you occupy gives you pride and arrogance, remember Allah’s Absolute Might and it will bring you back to your senses. Never go into a race with the Might of Allah; because Allah the Almighty takes down every despot and degrades every bit of arrogance.
Never deviate from justice. If you do, you will be an oppressor. And Allah will be the plaintiff on behalf of the oppressed. When Allah becomes an opponent for someone, all his arguments become nullified and void against Divine strength. Divine hostility continues until the oppressing servant repents. There is no other sin that hinders Divine blessing and causes Divine wrath more than oppression.
When you set out to do something or perform any given task, prefer the moderate and the most inclusive one in respect to justice and the one which protects everyone’s rights.
You should stay away from those who look for people’s faults,as it is the governor’s duty, before anyone else, to cover up such faults of people.
Never begrudge people. Cut the ropes which will lead you to revenge. Pretend you did not understand the things that are not clear to you, and do not believe the words of whistle blowers immediately, because no matter how naïve they look, they, are in fact, deceitful.
Never take a stingy person, a coward or an ambitious person into your chamber; the first will try to scare you with poverty and hunger in an effort to dissuade you from helping others, the second will try to undermine your determination, and the third gloriries ambition and these are attributes that Allah the Almighty hates.
Confide only in those who are modest and pious. Be careful of people’s applauds and do not be deceived by their flatteryToo much praise can fill you with excessive pride.
Do not treat the good and the bad equally, for it may alienate people from doing goodness.
Always have good opinion about people so that you can save yourself from unnecessary exhaustion.
Put such a person in charge of public services that he should be more sincere towards Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), more virtuous and more intelligent than the others. When he gets angry, he should be able to control his anger, behave calmly, listen to everybody’s complaints quietly, have mercy on the weak, stay away from those who have submitted to their desires and he should not be one of those who stand up angrily but sits down with regret.
Do not neglect the simple deeds because of preoccupation with more important affairs.
There is no more effective source of consolation for the governors than establishing justice in the community and being a governor loved by the public. People cannot reveal their affection unless they feel safe.
Know well the sacrifices of the men of service. Do not remember someone’s service with another person and do not show anybody less deference than his/her bravery deserves. Someone’s high social status should not lead you to see his small acts as great deeds and someone’s lower rank must not prevent you to see the greatness of their deeds.
Do not give position to anybody with partisanship or selfish motives; because these motives lead to oppression and disloyalty.
Follow the performance of those whom you put in charge. Send trustworthy and loyal watchmen behind them; because knowing how they do their job will ensure them to do their best and to go easy on the population.
Think about the people that are away from you and do not abandon them. Search if there are any people among them who cannot take their situation to you because of the stalling of the people around you. Appoint God-fearing, modest and trustworthy clerks just to take care the affairs of this kind of people. So these clerks can be intermediaries between you and the people who cannot reach you and let you know how their conditions really are. In short work so hard that you may be able to say to Allah the Almighty on the Judgment Day: “I did my best.”
Devote special time and place to listen to the problems of the people in need. Sit with them and show your modesty which invites the contentment of Allah the Almighty. Forgive their inappropriate behavior and talk. Do not reproach them or show off any power. If you do not hurt their feelings, then Allah will open His mercy to you and reward you for your obedience. When you give, give with a smiling face and a happy soul. If you cannot give, then ask their forgiveness and apologize with viable excuses.
Even though all activities for the goodness of the populace invite the contentment of Allah the Almighty, you should still devote the most auspicious time for yourself to improve your relationship with Allah.
Allot the servitude rights of Allah from your day and night and perform these rights completely no matter what your circumstances are. If you lead a prayer, do not prolong it as much as it would tire the congregation or shorten it too much, because there might be people in the congregation who are sick or who have urgent things to do. When the Prophet (pbuh) was sending me to Yemen, I asked him:
“How should I lead their prayers?” and he (pbuh) answered:
“According to the state of the weakest one in the congregation…”
Have mercy on the believers. Do not live disconnected from society. Just think, if governors live disconnected from the public, it would prevent them from acquiring proper knowledge about the state of the public. To sit behind the curtains prevents them to see what is happening in the community. Therefore, they start to see massive problems little and the little ones big. Good things become bad and the nasty ones become nice. Right and wrong get confused.
Persuade everybody, whether they are close to you or far away, to accept the right. If the populace thinks that you are an oppressor, apologize to them and try to change their bad opinion about you. In this way you will be able to both control yourself and treat them well.
In order to fulfill your promise, if it is absolutely necessary, you should even be ready to give your life. Never break your promises; because nobody except the fools, who are doomed to be destitute, are bold enough to oppose Allah the Almighty. Also, do not make contracts open to interpretation.
Beware the excessive pride! Do not trust the appealing sides of your self. Do not wait to be praised to your face; because this is the strongest weapon of the Devil, to destroy the good deeds of the righteous.
Do not taunt the populace by reminding them what you did for them. Do not also exaggerate your deeds, and do not turn away from your promises, either. Because taunting finishes of blessings and exaggeration turns off the truth. Breaking promises attracts both Creator’s and creation’s hate.
Do not start to work before its time. When the time comes, do not rush. Do not persist to do things which you do not know its content and when you know, do not wait to start.
Do not pretend that you do not know what to do, when you learn the inappropriate deeds of your men. Otherwise you get punished on behalf of somebody else. The truth about the actions appears in front of your eyes and the rights of the oppressed are taken from you.
Control your anger, your hand, your tongue, and your desires. Stay away from misfortunes to protect yourself so that your anger fades and you control your willpower; however you should also know that you will never be able to control yourself unless you feel worried by remembering that you will return to Allah the Almighty.
Our invocation is to Allah and all praises and blessings be upon His Messenger!