Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani on ethics in governance

The “Apostle of Kashmir”, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, known in Kashmir as Amir-i-Kabir or Shah-i-Hamdan in addition to preaching Islam contributed immensely in the overall development of the Kashmir society. He wrote a number of treatises. The most famous among these is Zakhirat-ul-Muluk written in Persian, which has been translated into Latin as well as French. It is a treatise on political ethics and rules of government. It consists of ten chapters pertaining to various aspects of life. These relate to, Faith; Duties of man; Virtue; Rights and duties of parents, wives, husbands, children, etc.; Rules of Government, rights and duties of Subjects; Spiritual Kingdom; Execution of the lawful and abstinence from the unlawful; Gratitude and contentment; Patience under visitations; and Condemnation of conceit and anger and the excellence of humility and forgiveness. The chapter five of the book deals with the rights of the rulers and the subjects. It is a guide in the light of Islamic teachings for the governance of a state. This chapter seems most urgent and appropriate message for our present day politicians of all streams. One can see the stark difference between the governors of that time and our present rulers. First the author details the necessity of detailing the duties of a ruler. God has assigned Kings and Rulers over the people so that there is order in the world and justice prevails. Adam was the first person to set up a State with rules and order. In fact Adam had twin roles. One was related to his prophet hood while as the other concerned the State and the Governance. Right from the time of Adam there have been a number of distinguished persons who were assigned these twin roles. These include Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph), Hazrat Musa (Moses), Hazrat Dawood (David), Hazrat Suleiman (Solomon), and Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH). Among the Caliphs were Abu-Bakr, Omar, Usman, and Ali. According to Shah-i-Hamadan these rulers were an example for the humanity and they set standards of justice, governance, and simplicity for future generations. Their lives were examples of honesty, simplicity, and justice for all irrespective of caste, creed, colour, and rank. In this treatise, Shah-i-Hamadan has related specific examples in the form of real life stories of these historical Islamic rulers. It would be useful to relate some of these real life instances to compare with the present day lavish life style of our new rulers some of whom claim to be Muslims. The first one relates to Hazrat Musa (Moses). After the destruction of Pharaoh God directed Hazrat Musa to form an Army of the Israelites to liberate Bait-ul-Muqadas. He remained Chief of this Army for 36 to 39 years. During this period he had neither a ride nor a house to live in. He would not even get enough food to eat. He would wear a sheepskin in reverse, a woollen cap, a shoe of raw hide, and would carry a double branched stick in hand. Wherever night would fall, he would rest there. Bani Israel would feed him in turn. Someone would get food in the morning while as another would feed him in the evening. It is mentioned in Hadith that during a night halt at Sabtilai the person who was supposed to feed Hazrat Musa, forgot to do so. Hazrat Musa was irritated by the hunger and cried to Allah. “O Almighty what is this punishment to me that someone brings me food in the morning and someone in the evening!” God almighty sent down a revelation, “O son of Imran. Don’t get disheartened. We assign the feeding of our beloved to the people who have gone astray with the purpose that even these ungrateful fools too should get eternal salvation by feeding our friends!”

The second story relates to Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph). It is related that after he became the King of Egypt, he started becoming leaner in body day by day. His Ministers and Courtiers insisted that he should get examined if he had some internal physical problem and should get treated. However, Hazrat Yusuf stated that his thinning was not due to any disease but it was a fact known to Almighty. He had been on the throne of Egypt for 17 years and all these years his body wanted to have a fill with the barley bread. He refused to listen to his body’s demands and ate food barely to survive. On being asked why he treated himself so harshly, Hazrat Yusuf said that he fears lest he should forget about his subjects in Egypt. In case any of his subjects goes hungry, God will tell him on the resurrection day that he had busied himself in worldly affairs and forgotten his weak and hungry subjects.

It is mentioned in Hadith that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) sent two armies towards Najad. One was under the command of Hazrat Ali and the other was given in charge of Khalid bin Walid who was told that whenever the two armies are together, Hazrat Ali will be the over all commander and when these get separated each one will be responsible for his army. During these days Hazrat Fatima fell ill. The Prophet (PBUH) asked Imran bin Hasin to accompany him to look up Hazrat Fatima. Imran relates that he and Prophet (PBUH) went to the house of Batool and the Prophet (PBUH) knocked at the door. Hazrat Fatima asked who is at the door? The Prophet (PBUH) replied that I am your father. She asked him to come in. He replied that Imran is accompanying him and can he also come in. She replied that Imran cannot come in as she has only a torn sheet covering her body. If she covers her head with it, her feet are bare. The Prophet (PBUH) had a sheet over his shoulders. He sent it to Hazrat Fatima and asked her to use it to cover her head. The Prophet (PBUH) went in first and then Imran came in and sat next to him. He asked about her welfare. She cried bitterly and related that she was firstly ill and then she had not eaten any food for three days. The Prophet (PBUH) also wept and related that he too had not eaten anything for three days. He said that he was hopeful that whatever he would ask from God Almighty it would be given. Thus Angel Gabriel brought the keys of all worldly treasures to the Prophet and stated that God Almighty has desired that if the Prophet (PBUH) so desires, all these treasures would be under him and would follow wherever he goes. He said I have prayed to God Almighty that I should be Dervish Prophet among the Prophets that is I should go hungry one day and eat to the fill other day. About Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), it is related that he would never eat to his fill. Abu Hurraira has related on oath that the Prophet never ate to his fill even the barley bread for two continuous days till his passing away. Anas bin Malik relates that sometimes there would be no smoke coming out of the chimney of Prophet’s home as no cooking would be done for even a month or forty days. There would be nothing in the house to eat and they would live on whatever would come from the homes of Ansars and no body would ever know of this situation. Ibn Abbas has related that on the day of passing he had a woollen dress which had 12 patches some of which were from the hide of a goat. He left a debt of 17,000 Dirham which had been given to Dervishes and the deserving. Hazrat Ali liquidated the debt.

After Abu-Bakr Siddiq was installed as a Caliph by the Companions of the Prophet, he very next day went to market to sell some pieces of cloth as he used to do earlier to feed his family. The Companions of the Prophet became unhappy by this act and told him that such actions do not befit a Caliph of the Muslims. Abu-Bakr replied that it is his duty to feed his family otherwise he will be neglecting the discharging of their rights. Thus the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) agreed that the daily expenses of the family of Abu-Bakr should be given from the official treasury (Bait-ul-Mal) so that he remains free to dispense Justice and ensure Governance. It was unanimously decided to fix two and a half Dirham for his family. As he neared his death, he called his son Abdul Rahman and made a will that his fields be sold and the debt of the treasury be liquidated. Thus Abdul Rahman sold his fields and liquidated every penny he had taken from the Bait-ul-Mal.

Shah-i-Hamadan has related in detail a number of other instances from the life of these greatest Islamic rulers. There are two letters written by Hazrat Omar Farooq and Hazrat Ali about the misdemeanour of their governors. Hazrat Omar had sent Abu Darda as the Governor of Hamas. Abu Darda ruled there for sometime. During this period he had a few torn sacks, a sword, Holy Qur’an, one mug and an old cup at his residence. He had the habit of going out of the city into the woods to take a bath and would then return to his place. This caused him some inconvenience and one day he ordered that two and half Dirham be taken from the Bait-ul-Mal to purchase canes and one Dirham be given as labour to construct a bath-room next to his house. On hearing about this Hazrat Omar wrote a letter to Abu Darda. “ I have come to know that you have constructed a bath room and have spent three and a half Dirham from the Muslim Bait-ul-Mal. Were not the buildings of the conquerors of Rome enough for you? It is sad that you too have got busy in the building of this world. I hereby order your suspension and you are directed to proceed to Damuscus and stay there till death.” On getting this message, the Caliph of the Muslims immediately got up and started on foot towards Damuscus and died there!

In the second instance, Hazrat Ali had appointed Abu Imama as the Governor of Basra. After sometime he asked someone from Basra about the welfare of Abu Imama. He told him that he had seen Abu Imama taking food in a feast. Hazrat Ali immediately wrote to Abu Imama, “You glutton, I have heard that you are attending the feasts of Basra people and they are putting before you variety of dishes. Remember that a person who takes the food of a nation which feeds the rich with pleasure but pushes away the poor and is not in a position to differentiate between truth and falsehood, that governance is not deserving for you and as such I dismiss you.”

One can only feel awe and marvel at the strength of “Faith” of those Muslims who spread Islam from Indonesia to Spain. In the present context it is unimaginable to even conceive of that “Faith”. Shah-i-Hamadan tried to introduce some of these teachings gleaned from the lives of these great men during his preaching in Kashmir.

Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani popularly known as Shah-i-Hamadan, after relating the instances from the lives of distinguished Muslim rulers of the past, lays out ten “Conditions or Commandments of Good Governance” for a just and fair Muslim ruler. According to him Governance is not possible without adhering to these fundamental norms. Every ruler has to discharge the rights of his subjects, without which he cannot have salvation in the hereafter.

The first condition states that in any occurrence, the ruler should consider himself to be part of his subjects and should take others as his rulers. As he does not consider other’s command on himself as rightful, similarly he should not keep his command rightful on others during the occurrence. Whatever he does not choose for himself, same he should not choose for anybody else.

The second condition states that a ruler should consider fulfilling the needs of needy Muslims as the best form of worship. It is related in Hadith that pleasing a faithful is equivalent to the worship of humans, djinns, and fairies. Thus it is an important condition of governance for a Muslim ruler that he should always be watchful of the needs of the needy. Whenever he comes to know that a needy is waiting at his door, he should not engage himself even in any worship until he fulfils his need. The ruler should not delay fulfilling needs of the needy for his personal comforts.

The third stipulation is about dress and food. A ruler must try to follow the example set by Muslim Caliphs (Khulfa-i-Rashidin). He should not habituate his self for wearing expensive dresses and eating fine food. It is related that when Hazrat Ali was installed as a Caliph, he bought from the market for 3 Dirham a robe which had sleeves extending lower than the hands and was in length lower than the knees. He cut the robe with a knife. People asked him why he had done that. He replied that the cutting had made it clean and hospitable. It had become befitting and respectful for the followers of a faithful ruler.

The fourth condition relates to passing of religious edicts. A ruler should be lenient and should avoid being unnecessarily cruel while passing judgements. If anyone objects, he should be listened to attentively. The ruler should not feel ashamed in talking to weak and poor. It is related that during the time of Mamun-ul-Rashid, a person committed an offence and ran away. His brother was presented before Mamun who ordered him to produce his guilty brother otherwise he would be killed. The person asked Mamun, “O, ruler of the faithful, if your servant wants to kill me but you send him a message to free me, will he leave me?” Mamun replied why will not leave you when I order him? He said, “I have brought you the command of the Almighty who has made you the King. No sinner can carry the sin of another. (Wa La Tazir Wa Ziratin Wi Zura Ukhra)”. Mamun directed that the person be released forthwith as his argument is perfect. One wonders about the present rulers. These days punishing one for the sins of the other is a common occurrence especially while dealing with the problem of militancy.

The fifth edict for good governance stipulates that a ruler should not show leniency or be lazy in carrying out God’s commands for gaining the good will of the people. He should not oppose God and Shariat to please people. The ruler must understand that an important characteristic of governance is that half the subjects are always unhappy with the ruler. It is not possible to please both the accuser as well as the accused. The ruler should please God while discharging his duties and should not be discouraged by the displeasure of his subjects. It is not possible for a fair and just ruler to please all his subjects. If Allah Talah is pleased with him, He can please all his subjects as He has the power to do so. Thus Prophet (PBUH) has said that whosoever pleases God regardless of the displeasure of the people, God is pleased with him and He pleases all other people.

The sixth condition of governance enjoins upon a ruler not to neglect the dangers inherent in heading a government. He must accept the fact of being a ruler by the grace of God. With the wealth and power bestowed upon a ruler by the Almighty, he can earn for himself salvation in the hereafter or bring upon himself the eternal curse. Many a rulers in this world have become proud of the temporary wealth and have spoiled their faith by unrestrained material desires. Thus the power of today is with the ruler but he should not make the wealth of this transitory world a seed of eternal bondage. He should serve the path of justice and be content with his efforts for reformation. It is related in Hadith that a single day’s justice of a just ruler is equivalent in weightage to the prayers of his entire populace. Thus a ruler should try his best not to deprive himself of this habit of administering justice every day.

The seventh condition is an advice regarding the company a ruler should keep. Shah-i-Hamadan advises a just ruler to seek the association of religious scholars and advisors. According to him, even though at present the race of these scholars is very rare to find, yet if by good fortune he finds these he should immediately seek their association. He should consider their advice a blessing and should shun the company of ignorant and cunning persons who pose as scholars and Godly men but for their worldly desires praise every mean fellow. These people are the looters of the faith even though in appearance they may appear as Fakirs and Scholars. It is related that Harun-ur-Rashid called Shafiq Balkhi and asked him for some advice. Shafiq Balkhi said, “O my ruler of the faithful, God Almighty has an Inn which is called Hell. He has appointed you the Doorman of this house and has given you three things; wealth, sword, and hunter so that you save your people from the punishment of the Hell. With your wealth you should alleviate the hunger of the needy so that in their restlessness they do not start doubting Him. With the sword you should subdue the tyrants and with the hunter you should reform the evil doers. If you do this, you will save yourself from the hell-fire and will also save your people. If you fail, you will be the first to enter the Hell and others will follow you!”
The eighth direction for a just ruler asks him to avoid annoying and disgusting his subjects for the sake of his pride. He should rather become a darling of the weak and down trodden by his kindness. Prophet (PBUH) has said that the good rulers are those who are friendly to their subjects and the subjects to them. The bad rulers are those whom people take to be their enemies and the rulers take their subjects to be the same.

Shah-i-Hamadan’s ninth commandment directs a ruler not to be unmindful of the betrayal of trust by his servants. He should not appoint wolfish tyrants as officers over the oppressed people. When someone’s tyranny and betrayal is exposed, he should be made accountable and punished so that others take a lesson. The ruler should not dilly dally and take easy the ruling order and discipline incumbent on a governor. He should bring the wealthy on a straight path both by advice and through fear.

The tenth and the last condition of governance stipulated by Shah-i-Hamadan speaks about the intelligence and keen attention of a ruler. It is obligatory on the king or the ruler to keenly observe various events in the very beginning of their occurrence. He must probe the reality of every order and with a keen eye he should observe and ponder over the causes of every act. If it is an open occurrence, then he should decide it according to law of Shariat. If it is a complicated and a difficult issue, then he should ascertain the truth through the light of wisdom. A ruler should not simply trust an accused or an accuser because all matters and disputes are without any limit and even the appearance of issues can be endless and deceptive. It is related in Hadith that once two women came to the court of Hazrat Suleiman (Solomon). Each was claiming the custody of boy as her real son but had no authentic proof. Hazrat Suleiman ordered that the boy be cut in two with a sword and each woman be given a part. As soon as the Executioner took a sword in hand, one of the women screamed and fell down on ground writhing in restlessness. She cried out that she had given up her right on the boy. The other woman was not moved at all. Hazrat Suleiman ordered that the boy be given to the woman who had fallen down crying as she was his real mother. God Almighty has directed that a King and a ruler should know the basis of things through wisdom which is both religious and worldly. A true ruler should remain fully informed about the well being of his subjects. Religious wisdom means that light of faith which is achieved by cleansing one’s self of all evil mannerism and bad habits. One achieves such a divine vision that the curtain of ignorance is suddenly lifted and the faithful sees everything with the divine light. A stage comes when one’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet belong to God and nothing in the world remains hidden from him. However, one must remember that the Lord of the Universe is still higher than that stage and it is not possible that every human being will achieve that level of emancipation.

The conditions of governance enumerated by Shah-i-Hamadan are not difficult to achieve. These are very basic directions for leading a pious and simple life which is the primary requirement of a fair and just ruler. It is a pity that our rulers who claim to be Muslims have strayed far away from these norms of simple life and have adopted an ostentatious and lavish life style. It is only after a ruler rises above the worldly material considerations and leads a simple life that he can attend to the needs of his subjects and dispense justice in the light of the divine guidance. Kashmiris have been pinning for centuries for the birth of such leaders and rulers. We have had umpteen leaders and rulers but unfortunately none has come up to such self-less standards and we continue to wait for a true “Deliverer”. However, we will not get one unless we make our “Leaders” follow the edicts so beautifully laid down by Shah-i-Hamadan after gleaning these from the lives of the Muslim Rulers of the past known as the Khulfa-i-Rashdin! Shah-i-Hamadan has conveyed many more pearls of wisdom in his numerous treatises. Inshallah these will be carried in some future columns with the hope that our young leaders may be motivated to reshape their lives in the light of these divine and practical stipulations for leading an honest and simple political life for the emancipation of our suffering people.


The Dispatch is present across a number of social media platforms. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting videos; join us on Facebook, Intagram and Twitter for quick updates and discussions. We are also available on the Telegram. Follow us on Pinterest for thousands of pictures and graphics. We care to respond to text messages on WhatsApp at 8082480136 [No calls accepted]. To contribute an article or pitch a story idea, write to us at [email protected] |Click to know more about The Dispatch, our standards and policies