Politeness in Imam Ali's Letter to Malik Al-Ashtar

RamiaFu; adAbdulazeezMirza

Adab Al-Kufa, In Press

Politeness is a clear enough pragmatic concept that has been dealt with extensively from various points of view. This commonness brings to the forefront the impression that there might be nothing new to add to the topic when a paper makes its appeal to attempt it recently. However, this paper endeavors to prove something different. This is supported by observing that there do exist certain contexts where politeness plays a subsidiary (or no) role in communication (be it written or spoken). The most readily cited example is the institutional contexts whereby issuing an official punishment, for instance, has nothing to do with politeness. Yet, this should not lead to the over-hasty conclusion that such contexts are impolite; it is just that politeness is employed in a rather peculiar way. It is this peculiarity on which the present paper rests. More specifically, this work traces the way by which Imam Ali, being the super-ordinate ruler, makes, when issuing letters to address his co-ordinate rulers, certain alignments between being authoritative and polite at the same time. This alignment is mostly highlighted when noticing that politeness, in one of its instantiations, involves giving the addressee options, whereas authority impedes this freedom. As such, in certain positions, Imam Ali issues mitigated commands to Malik, in other cases, he uses direct counterparts. That is, the strategies of politeness in the aforementioned letter vary according to the issue being discussed, and not according to the addressee himself.