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The moral virtues and refinement of the ruler-friend

Al-Tawhidi recognises a domain of human sympathy in sadaqa, which requires training in moral virtues and certain codes of behaviour between friends.182 This can be achieved, as indicated in the various reports and quotations he provides, through following good moral qualities instead of the commonly existing ones.183

Generosity and hospitality

The manifestation of goodness and the act of generosity as moral practices that are required from a friend are recurring themes.184 Al-Tawhldi provides throughout the epistle many anecdotes, sayings of the Bedouins and early Muslims, stressing generosity as a necessary act for a human being against greed rooted in a person’s character. Generosity that reinforces loyalties was particularly important for the ruler, since it was related to the political situation.185 Al-Tawhidi quotes Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur who declares that spending and treating brethren rightly consolidates one’s rule to the extent that they will take up hard tasks for one’s sake.186 This example and that of al-Ma’mun in acting charitably towards people, sets for al-Tawhidi’s recipients (Ibn Sa‘dan particularly) a contrary example to greed, miserliness, and selfinterest in acquiring possessions, traits that were common among emirs and viziers of the age, and which al-TawhIdI personally encountered at the court of Ibn ‘Abbad.187

Stinginess disgraces the ruler, and is degrading in the exercise of sadaqa; it frustrates ambition and makes rulers loathsome to their subjects. This is what al-Tawh-d- wanted to make clear to Ibn Sa‘dan. In many places, he points out to him that by being generous towards people a ruler could eradicate tensions which were largely complaints against poverty, social and economic injustice and the unfair distribution of wealth. Generosity, according to al-TawhId-, leads to refinement of man’s character by eradicating poverty, which ruins religion and virtue.188 In this sense, al-TawhIdI’s understanding of poverty as a cause for society’s moral decline seems to be clearer than previous scholars who discussed similar issues, such as Ibn al-Muqaffa‘.189 In emphasising generosity as an act required from the ruler-friend, al-TawhIdI puts forward a vision for reforming society and reveals the aspiration common to the mentality of the time, especially the populace. There was awareness among people, especially among the poor and the oppressed groups, of the shift in social values, and nostalgia for the past.190

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