Letter of Ali ibn Abi Talib to Malik al-Ashtar

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The 7th century letter of Ali ibn Abi Talib to Malik al-Ashtar was sent by the Islamic leader Ali to Malik al-Ashtar, a loyal supporter who served as the governor of Egypt. The letter advises Malik al-Ashtar how to treat the people of Egypt justly.[1] It has come to be seen by some as a model of just Islamic governance.[1][2][3]


At the time, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the governor of Egypt. Amr ibn al-As, one of Mu'awiyah's companions, wanted to become the governor of Egypt.[4] So he rallied 6,000 soldiers and headed towards Egypt.[4][5] After learning this, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr wrote a letter to Ali seeking support. Ali wrote back assuring him that he would send his best general and one of his closest companions, Malik al-Ashtar. Ali then added: "Malik, may Allah have mercy on you, go to Egypt. I have absolute trust in you. Rely on Allah! Use gentleness in its place and intensity in its place."[6]

In 658 CE, after the Battle of Siffin, Ali installed Malik as Governor of Egypt and ordered Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr to return to Ali's capital city, Kufa.[7]

Ali later said of Malik al-Ashtar: "Verily, Malik was to me as I was to the Prophet."[8]


With its focus on justice, Ali's letter is seen by some as a model for good governance and some Shia assert that the letter reflects Ali's own profound wisdom.[3][9][10][11]

He described his purpose thus: "God; my Lord! you know that our goal of rebellion is not a love of power and access to the world's increasing comfort and it is only for the purpose that brought back your religion's signs to where it was and reforms your cities to be safe your oppressed servants and brought back your lost."[10] Muhammad Jawad Mughniyah, a Shia ruler in Beirut, believes that the letter provides a constitution that is universally applicable. In the letter, Imam Ali advised Malik al-Ashtar to take care of people in power and those who follow them. Mughniyah wrote that Ali's order is expressed in controlling over the means of production and regulating five – seven or ten-year programs for taking care of the general welfare.[12]


Ali's letter makes the following points on the responsibilities of a leader:[2][10]

  • He should be a fair governor for his staff and citizens
  • He should choose the most qualified yet virtuous, honest, truthful, and pious men for his administration
  • He must be just
  • He must punish back-biters and scandal-mongers
  • He must supervise the activities of his staffs and be sure that justice and social equality are observed at any situation
  • He should consult with his staff and not issue authoritative orders made solely by himself
  • He should fight against corruption, injustice and evil usages of authority against citizens[13]
  • He should pay attention to any fault in his officers as long as he knows and takes it
  • He should keep regular and persistent communications with his governors, commissioners, etc
  • He should avoid self-admiration and self-appreciation
  • He should not take for himself or his relatives any common property or in which others have equal rights

Other advice includes ensuring that, if the people accuse you of excess, apologize to them and be truthful because this will bring relief for the people and healing in the soul; doing good to those in need; being companions with the needy in public; being humble before God; keeping a military presence to a minimum.[14]


Asbagh bin Nabata copied Ali's letter, then other copies were made by various Muslim scholars including Nasr ibn Mazahim, Jahiz Basari, Syed Razi, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid and Mustafa Bek Najib, the Egyptian scholar.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Morgan, Kenneth W. Islam, the Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims. Motilal Banarsidass Pub. p. 196. ISBN 978-8120804036.
  2. ^ a b Al-Buraey, Muhammad (1986). Administrative Development. Routledge. p. 267. ISBN 978-0710300591.
  3. ^ a b Shah-Kazemi, Reza; Lewisohn, Leonard (2006). The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam: The Teachings of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib. World Wisdom. p. 61. ISBN 978-1933316260.
  4. ^ a b "Biography of Malik al-Ashtar." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Razwy, Sayyid Ali Ashgar. "The Death of Malik al-Ashtar and the Loss of Egypt". al-islam. World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities.
  6. ^ Sayyid, Kamāl, and Jasim Alyawy. Malik al-Ashtar. [Qum, Iran]: Ansariyan Foundation, 1996. Print.
  7. ^ Chittick, William C. (1981). A Shi'ite Anthology. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0873955119.
  8. ^ Lankarani, Muhammad Fadil. CHARTER OF STATESMANSHIP BY IMAM ALI (‘A).
  9. ^ al-Jibouri, Yasin. Nahjul-Balagha: Path of Eloquence, Volume 2. AuthorHouse. p. 230. ISBN 978-1481739719.
  10. ^ a b c Jamshidi, Mohammad Hossein; Maryam Safari, Maryam. "Principles of good governance in the "Charter of Malik al-Ashtar"". ijhcs.
  11. ^ Nakshawani, Sayed Ammar (2014). The Ten Granted Paradise. Universal Muslim Association of America. ISBN 978-0990374008.
  12. ^ Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Seyyed Hossein; Dabashi, Hamid. Expectation of the Millennium: Shi'ism in History. State University of New York Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0887068447.
  13. ^ Malik, Mohsin Raza. "Political thought of Imam Ali". nation. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  14. ^ Allamah Razi, Sharif. "Letter 53: An order to Malik al-Ashtar". al-islam.
  15. ^ Turabi, Rasheed. "The treasure". al-islam. World Islamic Network.