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Imam Ali and Citizens’ Rights

The writer would present Imam Ali’s political theory as a variant of ‘welfare limited guardianship’, which embodies several innovations made by him in the history of political ideas.

There is controversy as to whether or not the subjective sense of right (in the sense of a privilege claimable against an assignable person or persons) is found in the ancient time. It is definite, however, that in the 17th century Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Samuel Pufendorf (1632-1694), and John Locke (1632-1704) made explicit attempts at conceptualizing rights. The main claim of this paper is that Imam Ali (599-661), the most revered religious scholar among Shiite Muslims, made the first explicit attempt to conceptualise rights in the history of political thought.
I would present Imam Ali’s political theory as a variant of ‘welfare limited guardianship’, which embodies several innovations made by him in the history of political ideas. The concept of welfare state, as well as the concept of publicly confirmed guardianship, registers Imam Ali as a definite original political thinker in history. Further, his concept of citizens’ rights that guarantees his view of
limited government should be received as another innovation in the history of political thought. Unfortunately, however, the influence of his original political theory had to wait until Nā’īnī (1861-1936), the political theorist of the ‘Iranian Constitutionalist Revolution’ (1905-1911), developed Imam Ali’s political theory with a flavour of modernity.

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