Be particularly mindful of the welfare of those in the army who in your opinion, are staunchly faithful to their God and the prophet and loyal to their chief, and who in the hour of passion can restrain themselves and listen coolly to sensible remonstrance, and who can succor the weak and smite the strong, whom violent provocation will not throw into violent temper and who will not falter at any stage.
Keep yourself in close contact with the families of established reputation and integrity with a glorious past, and draw to yourself men brave and upright in character, generous and benevolent in disposition; for such are the salt of society.
Care for them with the tenderness with which you care for your children, and do not talk before them of any good that you might have done to them, nor disregard any expression of affection which they show in return, for such conduct inspires loyalty, devotion and goodwill. Attend to every little of their wants not resting content with what general help that you might have given to them, for sometimes, timely attention to a little want of theirs brings them immense relief. Surely these people will not forget you in your own hour of need.
It behoves you to select for your Commander-in-Chief one who imposes on himself as a duty, the task of rendering help to his men, and who can excel in kindness every other officer who has to attend to the needs of the men under him, and look after their families when they are away from their homes; so much so, that the entire army should feel united in their joys and in their sorrows. The unity of purpose will give them added strength against the enemy.
Continue to maintain a kindly attitude towards them so that they might feel attached to you. The fact is that the real happiness of the administrators and their most pleasant comfort lies in establishing justice in the state and maintaining affectionate relations with the people. Their sincerity of feeling is expressed in the love and regard they show to you, on which alone depends the safety of the administrators.
Your advice to the army will be of no avail, unless and until you show affection to both men and officers, in order that they might not regard the Government as an oppressive burden or contribute to its downfall.
Continue to satisfy their needs and praise them over and over again for what services they have rendered. Such an attitude, God willing will inspire the brave to braver actions and induce the timid to deeds of bravery.
Try to enter into the feelings of others and do not foist the mistake of one over another and do not grudge dispensing appropriate rewards. See to it, you do not show favours to one who has done nothing but merely counts on his family position; and do not withhold proper rewards from one who has done great deeds simply because he holds a low position in life.
Imam ‘Ali’s Letter to Malik al-Ashtar, the Governor of Egypt