Book Review – ‘Ali ibne Abi Talib on Leadership and Good Governance’

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–  Hassan Abbas and Benish Zahra Hassan. ‘Ali ibne Abi Talib on Leadership and Good Governance’ . Outskirts Press. 2012.

This book presents a comprehensive overview of the diverse and sagacious teachings of Ali Ibne Abi Talib. One of the most prominent figures in Islamic history,  Ali is the first Shia Imam and the fourth among the leaders who are revered as the Khalifa Rashidun in Islamic history. In the past, as has been discussed elsewhere on this blog,  the history of  Ali’s life has mostly come to be designated as Shia history and consequently the universal lessons that it affords for future generations have been constricted to a particular religious sphere. This book is also a contribution towards the increasing efforts to bring  such a discussion into mainstream intellectual conversation. In this sense it presents Ali’s teachings as being universally applicable in all socials, political or cultural contexts.

The nature of discussion in the book is notable because it  is a rational critique of Ali’s teachings, which is often absent in religious hagiography or traditional Shia devotional literature. Furthermore most discussion on Ali Ibne Talib’s personality in the Islamic historical narratives  unwittingly focuses mainly on and revolves around the question of succession of leadership, which arose after the death of Prophet Mohammad. According to the Shia version of this event Ali was unjustly sidelined and is considered to be the rightful heir to the prophetic legacy.  While such prevalent arguments must be discussed on their own merit, one of their consequence has been that Ali’s socio-political achievements and the standards set under his administrative rule have been buried under theological  pedagogy and sectarian polemics.

This seems unfortunate as the analysis in this book also suggests, the range of political and social issues that Ali’s teachings encompass  is extensive as it takes into consideration all major aspects of the modern public sphere  ranging from socio-economic policies,  judicial introspection,  outlooks on education and general administrative guidelines for good governance.  The scope and breadth of such teachings can have far reaching implications as an ideal model for Muslim communities anywhere in the present world.

All elements discussed in Ali’s writings and public speeches are surveyed and presented in this book in a way that makes it accessible for readers to engage and identify with modern day issues.  The discussion is also consolidated by extensive and specific references taken from original historical sources and present day scholarship.  The language used is very colloquial, and the discussion in the book is concise and summarized for a quick and easy read for all age groups.

More info on the book here : Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/Ibne-Talib-Leadership-Good-Governance/dp/1478714239/ and at Barnes and Nobles via http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ali-ibne-abi-talib-on-leadership-and-good-governance-hassan-abbas/1114013759

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