One should not be surprised that Ali was just. It would have been a matter of surprise if he had not been just. The instances of his justice which have been narrated are the most valuable assets in human history and man should be proud of them.
His brother Aqeel asked him to grant him a special pension out of the public treasury, but he refused to accede tohis request saying: "It is not my personal property that 1 may give it to anyone I like. 'there are also other helpless and needy persons, who are more deserving than you are, and I must be mindful of them". Aqeel said: "If vori do not allow me a pension out of this property I shall go to Mu'awiya".
However, Ali did not care for what he said, and did not revise his decision.
His brother went away and joined Mu'awiya and used to say: "Mu'awiya is better for my world", Mu'awiya's treatment satisfied him, because the public treasury was a tool in his hands with which he strengthened his kingdom, achieved his objects and wanted to revive the past politics and importance of Bani Umayyah.
The Imam did not claim any privileges vis-a-vis his subjects and appeared in the courts as their equal. This was so because the spirit of justice had penetrated into the depth of his heart.
Once Ali saw his coat of mail in the possession of a Christian. He took him in the court of a judge named Shurayh so that he might give a decision regarding its ownership. When both of them appeared before the judge Ali said: "This coat of mail is mine. I have neither sold nor gifted it to anyone". The judge asked the other person: "What have you to say about the claim made by the Commander of the Faithful?" The Christian said: "This coat of mail is mine. In spite of this, however, I do not consider the Commander of the Faithful to be a liar". Then the judge Shurayh turned to Ali and said: "Can you produce any witness who should depose that this coat of mail is yours?" Ali smiled and said: "Shurayh is right. I cannot produce any such witness".
The judge gave a judgment in favour of the Christian who took the coat of mail and departed. The Commander of the Faithful kept looking at him from behind. After having gone a few steps, however, he returned and said: "I testify that such an order resembles the order of the prophets, because one who is the Commander of the Faithful has appeared along with a person like me in the court of the judge who is also his subordinate and the judge has given a judgement against him". ((In the free countries of the modern world the court and judges have been made permanent and none can remove them from their office. This has been done, so that they may take decision without any fear or favour, and may give judgment against influential persons and even against the members of government.)) Then He added: "O Commander of the Faithful! I swear by God that this coat of mail is yours and my claim was false".
Later the people saw that Christian serving in the army of Ali as a faithful soldier and he fought most enthusiastically against Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan.
Ibn Abi Rafe' has narrated thus: "I was the administrator of the public treasury during the period of the caliphate of Ali and was also his scribe. The property received from Basra for the public treasury included a pearl necklace. The daughter of Ali sent word to me saying: "I understand that there is a pearl necklace in the public treasury which is controlled by you. Send that necklace to me on loan so that I may wear it on Eid al-Azha day. Thereafter I shall return it".
I sent the necklace to her on the conditions that she would be responsible if it was lost or damaged, and that she would return it within three days. She accepted these conditions.
By chance the eyes of the Commander of the Faithful fell on the necklace and he recognized it. He asked his daughter as to where she had obtained it from. She replied: "I have taken it on loan from lbn Abi Rafe' the incharge of the public treasury to wear it on Eid al-Azha day and have promised to return it to him within three days".
The Commander of the Faithful summoned me and said; "Do you consider it lawful to commit breach of trust with the Muslims?" I replied: "May God forbid that I may commit treachery with the Muslims". Thereupon he said: "Then why did you lend such and such necklace to my daughter without obtaining my permission and without the concurrence of the Muslims?"
I replied: "O Commander of the Faithful! She is your daughter. She borrowed it to adorn herself and guaranteed its safe return so that I might restore it to its proper place". Ali said: "Take it back today arid .do not do so in future otherwise I shall punish you".
When Ali's daughter came to know about it she said to him: "O father! I am your dear daughter. Who else is more entitled to wear this necklace?"
Ali replied: "O daughter of Abu Talib! Don't deviate from the right path. Can you tell me how many Muhajir and Ansar women adorn themselves with such necklaces?"
Eventually I took back the necklace from the daughter of the Commander of the Faithful and restored it to its proper place.
Ali observed justice even in small and insignificant matters. If it became necessary for him to divide something with others he gave the right of selection to the other party so that people might not think that discrimination was being made in the matter of division between the persons in authority and the subordinates.
One day he went to the shop of a draper named Abu al-Nawar accompanied by his slave and purchased two dresses. 'then he asked his slave to choose one out of the two dresses. The slave picked up one of them and Ali retained the other. ((' Such incidents show that the leaders of the faith were very mindful of the rights of their subordinates. Those who make a show of supporting the helpless persons, and accuse religion of being an impediment in the matter of weak persons getting their due right, have not done as much for their subordinates as imam Ali did.))
All the orders and letters which he sent to the governors and other officials rotate on the pivot of justice.
Ali's near ones as well as, others joined hands in opposing him. It was on account of the fact that he did not give them preference from the point of view of equity and justice, and did not grant any concession to his relatives. He was not influenced by anyone and accepted only the right things from others.
When Uthman son of Affan became caliph, he gave full freedom to his relatives, friends and associates to accumulate wealth, and he followed those who gave him wrong advice. Marwan had the greatest influence on him. He did not benefit from the wise recommendation which Abu Bakr had made to Umar. Abu Bakr had said: "Don't be in proximity to those persons who are eager to fill their bellies and acquire position and wealth. Don't be enamoured of the fact that they have associated with the prophet and served him. Assess the nature of every person and find out what sort of man he is".
Ali hated such greedy persons. Hence when he became the caliph he decided to deal with them justly. He, therefore dismissed some of them and checked the greed of others for position and wealth.
There was a group of persons who wanted to give the principles of Islam a new form and make them a means of acquisition of position and wealth and to treat the Islamic territories a hereditary property of their family. Ali fought against them and said to them in loud words: "I know what can keep you from rebellion and mischief, but the thing which is a source of happiness for you is the means of evil for me". The stage at which Ali's dealing with such people reached is well-known. When the oppressors were defeated they resorted to deceit and the spirit of justice succeeded in the hearts of Ali and his followers, although apparently they were the sufferers. When Ali met martyrdom at the hands of Ibn Muljim, a Nakh'ii woman named Ummul Haisham wrote an elegy for him. A verse of that elegy goes to show the opinion of the people about his character and justice: "He established truth and entertained no doubt about it. He behaved justly with his kinsmen as well as strangers".
Sincerity and intrepidity are the qualities of great men and they were possessed by Ali par excellence. Sincerity, truthfulness, intrepidity and manliness and all other similar qualities are inter-connected. Hence he did not express anything which was opposed to his real intention and determination. He did not practise deceit, although he knew very well that by doing so he could get rid of the mischief of the enemies.
What has been said above about the truthfulness and character of the imam fully proves his sincerity and intrepidity.
One of his principles and morals consisted of simplicity in everything. He hated formality very much and used to say: "The worst brother is he for whom one has to involve onself in trouble".' He also used to say: "If a believer observes formality with his brother it means that he has separated himself from him. If he expressed an opnion or tendered an advice or gave some present, then this act of his was not tainted with ostentation. This habit was so much ingrained in his nature that the selfish people could not make him act according to their wishes, and the flatterers should not hope to attract his attention. These people used to say that the Imam was hardhearted, ill-natured and proud. However, the imam was neither hard-hearted nor ill-natured nor proud. On the contrary, as demanded by his nature, he said whatever he had to say without any formality or deceit.
A large number of persons who gathered around him coveted personal gains. Ali became suspicious about them and did not conceal his misgiving. Expression of his views about them cannot be called pride or rudeness.
Ali hated pride and was absolutely free from egotism. He also forbade his children, companions and officials to show pride and practise egotism. While giving them advice he used to say: "Shun egotism. You should know that egotism is a bad quality and a calamity for reason". He hated formality. He also restrained the people from going to the extreme while praising him and told them: "I am lesser than what you say".
At times it so happened that he considered the person concerned to be his enemy. On such occasion he did not refrain from mentioning the mental condition of that person of which he was aware and told him: "I am better than what you believe about me in your heart".
Ali disliked some of his friends exalting him too much in the same manner in which he disliked his being belittled by his enemies. He has said: "Persons of two types have been destroyed on account of their attitude towards me. The friends who have exaggerated my qualities and the spiteful enemies". he neither showed pride nor humiliated himself unnecessarily-. I he presented himself as he was. He was free from affectation and hypocrisy. It is difficult to find a straightforward man like him. Ile purchased a bagful of palm-dates and was carrying them home. 'Some persons observed this 'and volunteered to carry the bag for him. He, however, told them frankly that the head of the family was more responsible to carry it.
It is said erroneously that artificial humility and meekness constitute good qualities. In fact it is falsehood and mere affectation that one should pose to be inferior to what one actually is. Ali was not humble in that sense and he was also not proud. He displayed himself as he actually was without any meekness or pride, because these two things are not the qualities of manly persons. 'The writer of "Abqari'atul Imam" says: "Ali entered the battlefield bare-headed to fight against the enemies where as they were completely covered with steel and iron. How can it be said that this action of his was based on hypocrisy?
Another attribute of Ali was his noble disposition. He did not entertain grudge in his heart against anybody, even though he might be his fell enemy. As we have already mentioned he directed his sons and friends not to kill his murderer (Ibn Muljim). Although Talha had come as an enemy to kill him, he wept on his dead body and recited a heart-felt elegy for him. Although the Kharijites were his deadly enemies and had fought against him, and his murderer was also one of them, and in fact they had not given him lesser trouble as compared with Mu'awiya and Amr bin Aas, but he advised his friends and followers not to fight against them. He gave this direction because he knew that those people had fallen prey to misunderstanding and had been misguided. They were seekers of truth but .had been mistaken in the matter of its assessment as opposed to Mu'awiya and his companions who were seekers of falsehood and succeeded in acquiring it.
Nothing can be seen in the biography of Ali which may go to show that he was revengeful. In all circumstances he showed truthfulness, honesty, straightforwardness and swords-man-ship.
Magnanimous persons are not revengeful and do not also tolerate injustice and oppression. They get annoyed with one who oppresses others.
Although Ali did not entertain any grudge in his heart a-amst anyone, he had to face a spiteful group. Ilis meaningful words show how grieved he was. Isis grief ryas such as arose from sympathy and kindness. He was (Treived to see that people harmed themselves.
Another quality which distinguished him from others and was complementary- to his other attributes was his perfect faith in his actions and beliefs, and whenever he did anything he believed in its correctness and in his being on the right path. When he decided to fight against Amr son of Abdawudd, the famous champion of Arabia he was warned by the prophet and his companions about the consequences. He however, decided to fight because besides being brave he possessed enthusiasm support Islam.
We repeat that when the enemies had encircled Ali from all sides he busied himself in offering prayers without there being any guard to protect him from the mischief of those enemies, and consequently Ibn Muljim succeeded in wounding him with his poisoned sword. This very thing is a great proof of the fact that he was certain of the correctness of what he did, because a righteous person does not fear anything.
All the words and acts of Ali go to prove that he had perfect and firm faith in his actions. This was so because all his actions emanated from wisdom and capability. ((Its reason was that Imam. Ali was infallible and he said and did everything in accordance with the inspiration and traditions of the prophet of Islam. Hence, he did not entertain any doubt about his views and actions.))
When the people were divided into two groups in their attitude towards him (i.e. friends and enemies) he did not become afraid of the enemies and did not lay down arms before them, because he had perfect faith in his own truthfulness and justice and correctness of his actions. It was in this context that he said: "Even if I strike on the nose of a believer so that he may become my enemy he will not become my enemy and even if I shower all the bounties of the earth on him so that he may become friendly towards me he will not become my friend". Lie has also said in this behalf. "I am not afraid of fighting against these people alone even though the entire world may join their army".
When he came to know that a group of the people of Madina had joined Mu'a-wiya he wrote to Sehl son of Hanif the governor of Madina: "I understand that a group of the inhabitants of your city has secretly joined Mu'awiya. However, you should not be worried on this account that some persons will leave you and will not assist you. I swear by God that these persons have not forsaken injustice and oppression and have not stuck to equity and justice.
-The Voice of Human Justice -by George Jordac.