22. Exaggerated harshness is harmful to royal authority
and in most cases causes its destruction.
It 193 should be known that the interest subjects have in their ruler is not interest in his person and body, for example, in his good figure, handsome face, large frame, wide knowledge, good handwriting, or acute mind. Their interest in him lies in his relation to them. Royal and governmental authority is something relative, a relationship between two things (ruler and subjects). Government becomes a reality when (there is a ruler who) rules over subjects and handles their affairs. A ruler is he who has subjects (ra'aya), and subjects are persons who have a ruler. The quality accruing to the ruler from the fact of his correlative relation with his subjects is called "rulership" (malakah).194 That is, he rules them, and if such rulership and its concomitants are of good quality, the purpose of government is most perfectly achieved. If such rulership is good and beneficial, it will serve the interests of the subjects. If it is bad and unfair, it will be harmful to them and cause their destruction.
Good rulership is equivalent to mildness. If the ruler uses force and is ready to mete out punishment and eager to expose the faults of people and to count their sins, (his subjects) become fearful and depressed and seek to protect themselves against him through lies, ruses, and deceit. This becomes a character trait of theirs. Their mind and character become corrupted. They often abandon (the ruler) on the battlefield and (fail to support his) defensive enterprises. The decay of (sincere) intentions causes the decay of (military) protection. The subjects often conspire to kill the ruler. Thus, the dynasty decays, and the fence (that protects it) lies in ruins. If the ruler continues to keep a forceful grip on his subjects, group feeling will be destroyed, for reasons stated at the beginning.195 The fence (which protects the dynasty) is torn down, for the dynasty has become incapable of (military) protection. (On the other hand,) if the ruler is mild and overlooks the bad sides of his subjects, they will trust him and take refuge with him. They (then) love him heartily and are willing to die for him in battle against his enemies. Everything is then in order in the state.
The concomitants of good rulership are being kind to one's (subjects) and defending them. The true meaning of royal authority is realized when the ruler defends his subjects. To be kind and beneficent toward them is part of being mild to them and showing an interest in how they are living. These things are important for the ruler in gaining the love of his subjects.
It should be known that an alert and very shrewd person rarely has the habit of mildness. Mildness is usually found in careless and unconcerned persons. The least (of the many drawbacks) of alertness (in a ruler) is that he imposes tasks upon his subjects that are beyond their ability, because he is aware of things they do not perceive and, through his genius, foresees the outcome of things at the start. (The ruler's excessive demands) may lead to his subjects' ruin. Muhammad said: "Follow the pace of the weakest among you," 195a
The Lawgiver (Muhammad), therefore, made it a condition that the ruler not be too shrewd. The source for (this statement) is a story about Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan.196 When 'Umar deposed him (as governor) of the 'Iraq, he asked 'Umar why he had been deposed, whether it was because of his inability or his treachery. 'Umar replied that he had deposed him for neither of those reasons but because he disliked having people become the victim of his superior intelligence. This is (the source for the statement) that the ruler should not be too shrewd and clever, as were Ziyad b. Abu Sufyan and 'Amr b. al-'As. For such (qualities) are accompanied by tyrannical and bad rulership and by a tendency to make the people do things that it is not in their nature to do. This will be mentioned at the end of the book.197 God is the best ruler.
The conclusion is that it is a drawback in a political leader to be (too) clever and shrewd. Cleverness and shrewdness imply that a person thinks too, much, just as stupidity implies that he is too rigid. In the case of all human qualities, the extremes are reprehensible, and the middle road is praiseworthy. This is, for instance, the case with generosity in relation to waste and stinginess, or with bravery in relation to foolhardiness and cowardice,198 And so it is with all the other human qualities. For this reason, the very clever person is said to have the qualities of devils. He is called a "satan" or, "a would-be satan," and the like.
"God creates whatever He wishes." 199