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The Arc of the Moral Universe
Some remarks on Dua Kumayl (part 9)
wa-bi-sulṭānika lladhī ʿalā kulla shayʾin
[I beseech you] by your authority, which prevails over all things.
God’s dominion and his authority is his power over existence. It means all things are compelled and constrained by his will. Az-Zumar (39) 67 states:
وَمَا قَدَرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِۦ وَٱلْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًۭا قَبْضَتُهُۥ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ وَٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتُ مَطْوِيَّـٰتٌۢ بِيَمِينِهِۦ ۚ سُبْحَـٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَـٰلَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
These people have no grasp of God’s true measure. On the Day of Resurrection, the whole earth will be in His grip. The heavens will be rolled up in His right hand- Glory be to Him! He is far above the partners they ascribe to Him!
It is because of his supreme authority that God is infinitely higher than everything. The authority that rulers possess is derived from God’s authority, and their governments are part of his sovereignty. Therefore, not only must they treat their citizens equitably, they must be kind to them too.
Al-Māʾida (5) 8 states:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُونُوا۟ قَوَّٰمِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَآءَ بِٱلْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَـَٔانُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰٓ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا۟ ۚ ٱعْدِلُوا۟ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرٌۢ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
You who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially: do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of God. Be mindful of God: God is well aware of all that you do.
And al-Muntaḥana (60) 8 states:
لَّا يَنْهَىٰكُمُ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَـٰتِلُوكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَـٰرِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُقْسِطِينَ
And He does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just.
Few texts exemplify Islam’s notion of just governance better than Ali’s letter to Malik-e Ashtar, the most famous sentence of which is, “There are only two kinds of people: those who are your brothers in faith and those who are humans just like you.”
Ali is also reported to have said that, “The day when the oppressed shall take revenge on the oppressor is much more severe than the day when the oppressor persecuted the oppressed.”
The fate of tyrants is mentioned in the Quran so that we take heed. It may also be mentioned so that those who are oppressed never lose sight of the fact that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”