Book review: The Voice of Human Justice

Author: George Jordac
Translator: Muhammad Fazal Haq
Publisher: Al-Khoei Foundation

The Voice of Human Justice is about the impeccable personality of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a). It has been translated in high quality easy-to-understand English, and is overall an easy read. Truly a thought-provoking book.

I picked this particular book to read because I was curious to know why a Christian man would want to study Imam Ali’s character. Therefore, I first studied the author’s life. I was fascinated to learn that he was influenced by his own family’s passion for learning and the pure Arabian environment in Lebanon, which he described as one that embraced Islamic and Christian traditions

George Jordac, a Lebanese Christian author who deeply admired Imam Ali’s personality and lifestyle.

Jordac was an author and poet from Marjayoun, south Lebanon. It was interesting to find that he did not enjoy studying when he was young. His older brother, also Christian, used to recite poems that he composed as eulogy to Imam Ali, for pilgrims visiting his shrine. Jordac soon came to know about the Nahj al-Balagha, a compilation of Imam Ali’s sermons, and it contributed to his intellectual development.

As a Christian, he viewed Imam Ali as a legendary spiritual figure, and this kindled his desire to create more awareness about him. As a result, he wrote a biography of Imam Ali and named it “Ali, The Voice of Human Justice.” The Arabic version was first published in 1956. Leaving this and many other fascinating books, he died on Nov. 5, 2014.

A different aspect of Imam Ali

The Voice of Human Justice comes in five volumes: Imam Ali and Human Rights (the one I am currently reviewing), Between Ali and the French Revolution, Imam Ali and Socrates, Imam Ali and His Time, and Ali and Arab Nationality. Unfortunately, not all of these books have been translated in English yet.

Jordac dedicated four decades of his life to studying a man whom he calls one of the greatest figures in the history of humankind, Imam Ali. He felt that he must introduce Imam Ali differently to the world, in order to illustrate a different aspect of his life. That Imam Ali should not be described solely as the cousin and son-in-law of the Holy Prophet (s), rather his great personality and lifestyle must be explored to better understand his great status.
This book analyses the social conditions of Arabia into which the Prophet of Islam was born, declaring that:

Such a delightful journey it is to follow Jordac as he connects the impact of divine teachings on mankind, from when the Arabs heard this heavenly voice from Prophet Muhammad to when he spread it in all four corners of the world.

It established brotherhood amongst human beings, and strung them in one faith, creating a bond between man and God. This was the voice that emancipated women from the oppression of men, freed labourers from the injustice of capitalists, and delivered servants from the degradation of submission to their masters.
I found it most appealing that he first presented the great hero of his book, Imam Ali, in a simple and elegant manner:

Jordac points out that Imam Ali is that enlightened person who himself is involved in suffering and pains, but others are blessed and happy because of him. Imam Ali is he who has prepared, and continues to prepare, the path for his friends as well as enemies. Imam Ali is a scholar who was prepared wholeheartedly to explain things for others after teaching about the cause and effect of everything.

Jordac attempts to help us understand Imam Ali’s genuine concern and far-sightedness, regarding the poor welfare of the people and good condition of the rulers, by presenting excerpts from historical events and the Nahj al-Balagha.

Imam Ali (a) was known to show great kindness towards orphans.

I appreciated this book’s interrogative style of posing questions to readers about Imam Ali’s ideas of justice and fair-play, as well as his sense of humanity, which are found in the Nahj al-Balagha. I find that this style of questioning encourages readers to objectively analyze Imam Ali’s character and arrive at an unbiased conclusion.

It is intriguing that this book does not focus on Imam Ali as confined to the usual traditional presentation of his life. Instead, Jordac draws out Imam Ali’s personality from beautiful examples of his dealings with people in general and specifically in politics, and scrutinizes these to determine what makes Imam Ali a great leader who pays attention to and addresses all aspects of society.

Imam Ali’s administration

He emphasizes that Imam Ali’s actions resemble the words of the Prophet who, when asked which act is the noblest, replied: “The noblest act is that one should endeavour for the welfare of the world”. Imam Ali looked at the world and its inhabitants in the same manner as the Prophet. This book takes care to demonstrate examples of Imam Ali ‘s high morals, unusual wisdom, his actions relating to the administration of the state, command of the army and other personal characteristics and qualities were all similar and inter-connected. 

It lists the details of conflicts that Imam Ali had to overcome in order to establish truth and destroy falsehood. Imam Ali rose with this purpose and also accepted the caliphate for this very reason. 

We see that Jordac is highly impressed with Imam Ali’s behaviour, dealing with human society in an absolutely just manner and his adoption of a very correct policy to establish mutual relations between human beings on the basis of equity and justice. 

Jordac puts forward Imam Ali’s Testament, which was written for Malik al-Ashtar when appointing him as the Governor of Egypt, as the finest example of a comprehensive set of laws on the subject of public administration, setting out the rights and responsibilities of individuals as well as of different classes of society. 

The U.N. and Imam Ali’s Testament

He compares the Charter of the United Nations, which was put together by thousands of individuals from numerous countries, to the Testament containing Imam Ali’s rules, written by just one person around 1400 years ago.

At the same time, he highlights key differences between the United Nations and Imam Ali’s actions, one of which is the following:

Jordac laments that sadly the world, with its entire expanse, could not accept the laws and principles of Imam Ali. Regardless, Imam Ali continued to fight injustice till he met martyrdom.

He mourns Imam Ali, “the martyr of the path of steadfastness, uprightness and sympathy, was dead. The martyr of purity and magnanimity, who never showed the least laxity in the matter of truth and sincerity, departed from the world.” 

We can appreciate the depth of Jordac’s anguish at humanity’s loss when he states that it is “very unfortunate that he (Imam Ali) did not get an opportunity to establish a government which might have served as a model for the future governments, and the common people might have led peaceful lives with the blessing of his name…”

Jordac’s feelings of utter loss are captured in his remark: 

“The entire wealth of the world and all its treasures could not equal the lace of his shoe.” 

We see the deep impression that Imam Ali’s unique persona left on Jordac, and why he had concluded that Imam Ali was indeed the voice of human justice personified.  

I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand the extraordinary perspective of a Christian scholar who studied one of the greatest Muslim religious figures and then presents him to the world, not just as a spiritual and political leader, but as one whose faith displayed elements of humanity, freedom and authority. The one who had embedded within himself the absolute highest standard of character and firmest upholder of justice, which all human beings should model. 

I was fascinated by Jordac’s thorough analysis of Imam Ali’s life, and while reading this book I was constantly amazed as to how all these high qualities were gathered in one single personality. He valued human rights regardless of religion or race, as he considered the protection of people from injustice to be more important than solely performing Islamic duties in private. I came to the conclusion that all ideals regarding man and his life are useless unless they benefit the society he lives in.

2 thoughts on “Book review: The Voice of Human Justice”

  1. Learning about Ali Ibn Abitaleb is never enough. Every man can find another magnificent part of his personality. Doesn’t matter if he has another religion or lives in another place or time. Thanks for the review. Please continue your work. We are looking forward for more things to learn.

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