There is a story of a tyrant who lived in Iraq hundreds of years ago who called a group of scholars before him and posed them the question, â€œAm I a tyrant?â€ They responded no, and he had them killed for lying.
Then he called another group of scholars and asked them the same question. They answered yes, and he had them killed.
He called a third group of scholars and asked the same quesion, and one of them answered that it is impossible for him to be more of a tyrant than his subjects. The tyrant gave that third group life, because this was the answer he had been looking for.
This is in support of the hadith qudsi that â€œ…The hearts of the rulers are in my control. When My servants obey Me, I turn their leaders towards them in kindness. When My servants disobey Me, I turn their rulers towards them with wrath and anger, then they punish them terribly. So do not engross yourselves in swearing and criticizing your rulers but rather engross yourselves in duâ€™a and humble submission so that I may take care of your (oppressive) rulers.â€
Saddam murdered many people, and according to the reports of those close to him used to enjoy watching videotapes of their killings.
It is not a coincidence that he died the same way, with videotape. Perhaps it was the prayers of people witness to his cruelty that gave him such a death.
His own videotaped killing arouses mercy. He died on a holy day of sacrifice, and with the shahada on his lips, defiant against his enemies and having asked that his death be accepted as a sacrifice on behalf of the Iraqi people. According to recent reports the years of his captivity were filled with model behavior. He fed birds, read poetry, never complained.
But we should not forget that many of those he killed must have died well also. We may never see their videotapes, but some of them must have died as well as Saddam himself, or better. But this did not stop him from killing them, or from killing others.
Perhaps what distinguishes us from him is that mercy. For those of us who have that mercy, it is a protection against our being ruled by tyrants. For those who enjoy such displays–perhaps they deserve rulers like him.