Imam Ali and Capitalism: Resistance to an oppressive system.
Asalamoalikum dear brothers and sisters.
To be a Shia of the imams means to follow them. It is not enough to only love them. Many times, our adultered view of love, or what we think love means can even lead us astray. It can lead us away from the path that the imams followed. That is why it is important for us to remind ourselves, that our duty is to Follow the imams, in every aspect of our lives. Not just proclaim our love for them. Before making a decision, before thinking about another person, before letting even a whisper escape our tongues, we must ask ourselves if the Imams would let that whisper escape. If the imams will think that way about another person, if the imams will make this decision. And then follow their example.
I say all this before continuing because I want everyone, and especially the youth, to take something productive from this speech. I want everyone to look at the life of imam Ali and Follow his example, instead of only praise it. We praise him as the father of the orphans, but why are our communities filled with children in foster care? There are stories where he helped poor Christians from the Muslim treasury. The poor spent money on alcohol back then just as they do now. But why do we withhold our hands from giving to the poor in our communities? It is because of issues like these that I wanted to emphasize the difference between a Shia of ahlulbayt versus a lover of ahlulbayt.
The youth is growing up in this society, going to education institutions here, and being fed western theories and models of government. These models do not uphold Islamic values of governance, they do not teach the true responsibility that a government has to its people. Our youth learns about Capitalism and its presumed virtues every day but do they know that Imam Sadiq (a.s) has described Abu-Sufyan as being a capitalist? Islam makes it impossible for Capitalism to grow by prohibiting usury, monopoly, extortion, and overcharging prices.
It is important for our youth to learn what Islam says about proper governance. Even if we do not live in an Islamic country, we can use these guidelines to implement in our own communities. Even if we do not live in an Islamic country, it is still our responsibility to forbid evil and promote good. It is not okay for us to accept the evil of this society, we have to continuously fight against it, and at the very least, we cannot become such that we promote that evil. Who better to learn the good and evil of governance from than Imam Ali himself?
During his time as a Caliph, he enacted policies that would improve production in large quantities, and then distribute them justly among the people. He tried to meet the basic needs of all citizens, and especially the poor. To follow the Imams example would be to feed the closest hungry person to us. It would be to make sure the basic needs of that person are met so that he/she can aspire for a better living without having to worry about feeding his family.
In this country, great shrines are built to honor those who have “made it” to the top. Those who are wealthy. Our youth is told to worship these personalities and “learn” how they made it. The culture of this society is obsessed with personalities. And our youth is taught to be obsessed with them as well. Business and economy classes at colleges preach the teachings of these personalities as if they were prophets. We are told to aspire to be like them.
But what does Imam Ali say about them? In a letter to Malik-e-Ashtar the Imam compares such people to “the scum of human society” who “hate justice” and are “never satisfied”. The same imam who is a mercy for us all, the same imam who shows mercy to those who go to war against him reserves such harsh words for these people. That should emphasize the weight of his words. That should emphasize the true nature of these people.
Our youth is also taught to despise the poor. They are labeled as being lazy, as being leeches who suck our tax dollars and spend them on drugs and alcohol. The poor are demonized in this society. The god of Capitalism is money so naturally, those who don’t have it become Iblees. And this dogma is preached from schools to universities and beyond. But again, what does Imam Ali say about the poor? In the same letter, the imam compares the common men, and the poor to “pillars of Islam” the Imam advises Malik-e-Ashtar to be good friends with them, keep their affairs in your mind, and secure their trust and goodwill. Islam teaches us that the needs of the poor take precedence.
Even if we do not live in an Islamic state, the formula of Imam Ali still applies. The needs of the poor do not diminish, neither does their importance, and nor does our Islamic Duty towards them.
In another instance Imam Ali said “The fuel of Hell in the day of judgment is every person who is ungenerous with the poor….” this harshness towards those who are ungenerous really drives home how important it is for us to take care of the poor. Generosity is not only from our pockets, but it also applies to the words we use, it also applies to how we think about them, and how we treat them.
Imam Ali said “People are of two kinds, they are either your brothers in religion, or your brothers in humanity” He didn’t discriminate between muslims and non-muslims, blacks or whites, arabs, or non-arabs. To him, there were those who were needy, and those who were greedy, and he treated each accordingly. If we claim to be the followers of the Imam, If we claim to be actual Shias, and not just children born into a Shia-claiming household, then we have to follow their actions and take care of the people who surround us. We have an Islamic Duty to do so.
God forgive me for any mistakes I may have made.