In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Were There Class Differences after the Messenger of Allah?
On the day Amir al-Mu’menin became the ruler of the Islamic government, he was faced with numerous problems, some of which included vast class differences. During the time of the Prophet and even the first caliph there was no storage of wealth, and therefore any valuable goods post battles and taxation (of that time) collected would be equally distributed amongst the Muslims. The second caliph started the central treasury (Beyt ul-Maal) for the Muslims, but he allowed for unequal allowances for certain people based on their status. He dedicated a book to keep track of salaries paid – as an example, Abbas (the Prophet’s uncle) received 12,000 Dirhams annually; each of the Prophet’s wives received 10,000 Dirhams, with the exception of Aisha who would receive an additional 2000 Dirhams. The companions who fought in the battle of Badr and were from Mecca received 5000 and those who were from Medina received 4000 Dirhams. Those who fought in battles after the Prophet’s demise received 2500, 2000, 1500 and 200 based on their status.”1 This was the very foundation of class differences in the Islamic world, and this difference increased drastically during the time of Uthman, the third caliph.
In Uthman’s 13 years of rule, some of those close to him became extremely wealthy based on the progress of the Muslims. As an example, the liquidated wealth of Zubeir was reported to be around 60 million, but is not exactly clear if it was Dirhams or Dinars.2 Mas’udi narrartes that Zubair owned a thousand horses and two-thousand slaves. 3 Similarly, Talha’s salary from the lands and farms of Iraq was around four hundred thousand to five-hundred thousand Dinars. The desire for wealth was not limited to these two men alone; in fact, among the people residing around the Islamic government were wealthy people from the Umayyad and Qureishi clans among, which included Abd al-Rahman ibn Ouf, Sa’d ibn abi Vaqas, Ya’li ibn Umayyah, Zeid ibn Sabet, Abu Sufyan, Marwan ibn Hukm, and most important of all was the Caliph of the time himself.4 At the same time, a group of the pious, such as Abi-Zar Ghaffari, Ammar e Yassir and Abdullah ibn Mas’oud were living under very difficult living conditions.
This was the situation Imam Ali (PBUH) had to deal with when he became the Caliph after Uthman. On the one hand, there were the owners of wealth, the so-called companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) who were highly supported by the previous Caliph and were known for their power and status, and on the other hand he had to make them return the public wealth they had had unlimited access to. Under such circumstances, Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) returned people to the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and divided the public wealth equally. He put great effort to remove class differences, which is evident in the letters he wrote to his governors, especially in his lengthy letter to Malik Ashtar and his own ruling practice. On his second day of rule, Imam Ali (PBUH) said to the Muslims:
“By Allah! If I see the public wealth (Bayt ul Mal) spent on dowries and slaves, I will confiscate and return it. For the solution lies in justice (for the public)….”5
This was the way of Imam Ali (PBUH) during his five-year rule. His efforts to abolish class differences and skyrocketing wealth was not well received by the upper-class community and caused serious problems in his rule. The Imam (PBUH) became involved in three major wars. But despite the difficulties he was faced with, Imam Ali (PBUH) was able to greatly reduce economic inequality and was able to eradicate utter poverty in the Islamic Community. Along these lines, the Imam has said, “There is no one in Kufa, except that he is in comfort and blessing; even the lowest of all people has wheat bread, sits under a shade (has a house and shelter), and uses water from the Euphrates river (has drinking water).”6
Selection taken from Imam Ali (Peace be Upon Him) and the Fundamentals of Politics by Ayatullah Ja’far Sobhani (with minor changes)
Roshd Website congratulates you dear friend on the blessed occasion of the 13th of Rajab, the birth anniversary of the Imam of Justice and Righteousness, Imam Ali Ibn Abitalib (peace be upon him).