I’m trying to move my old blog Making Memories over so till it’s successfully migrated, I’ll post a few of my old articles here. This one is about oppression and I had written it for An-Nisaa (South Africa).
I was told a story once which truly humbled me and taught me many lessons. It is about a Muslim’s brother’s true experience. The names, place and time do not matter for what happened to this brother could happen to anyone at any place and at any time.
For the sake of ease, I shall call the brother `Imran and I am sharing this story in the hopes that you too may gain some benefit from it.
`Imran grew up in a practising Muslim household. His parents had been through their share of hard times. Having tasted the rich life and lost it, they were careful never to be arrogant nor to be ungrateful for life’s many blessings. Their society however, was a different story altogether. There was a huge divide between the “haves” and “have-nots”. It was not unusual to see the some of the rich desensitized to the plight of the poor. It was also not unusual to see the poor accustomed to the callous and indifferent treatment from the rich.
On one occasion, two of `Imran’s schoolmates asked him out. Thinking that it was going to be a relaxing drive in the car, he accepted the invitation. What he did not know was that the boys had a completely different idea of fun.
The boys proceeded to the slums where the poor and downtrodden lived and took out a box of eggs. `Imran began to feel uneasy but tried to dismiss the negative thoughts. As they sped through the streets, his acquaintances began to throw the eggs at unsuspecting victims, hooting with glee.
Realising their true agenda, `Imran was desperate to stop them. He shouted at them to stop, but they were having way too much fun to listen and drove on even faster. To this day, he remembers feeling anger and shame… he remembers saying, “Astaghfirullah!” over and over again, wanting no part in their cruel game.
Some of you may think that this was over-reaction on `Imran’s part – surely there is no harm in a little practical joke, you might say. Well, what was a night of laughs and giggles for the boys was a night of hurt for others. `Imran recalled looking back to see a child by the road, struck hard in the face. The little one’s stunned expression – he was almost too shocked to cry – pained him terribly. Another victim was an old man who was on his bicycle. Upon being hit, he lost control and tumbled to the ground. Others were to follow much to the twisted delight of these boys. It was more than mischief – it was plain meanness and a disregard for the dignity of others.
`Imran later left and resolved never to keep company with them again. Guilt and sadness tormented him every time he thought about the folks who became victims for the sole reason that they were poor and powerless. The boys knew that none of them would ever dare take them to task. They feared no repercussions – they had fast cars to make a quick getaway and friends in high places who could buy them out of trouble even if they were caught.
Within the same week, the boys came calling at his house again. `Imran stepped out the back door and instructed his siblings to tell them that he was “not in the house”. He did not want to lie, but he had had enough of them.
The very next day, `Imran turned the pages of the morning newspaper and read a piece of news that shocked him – those acquaintances had been involved in an accident the night before. One sustained serious injuries and the other died – the one who had thrown the eggs.
To this day, `Imran gets the chills when he thinks about the prank, the fate of the two boys and what could have happened to him.
The Sin of Oppression… and where it can lead you
Oppression is committed when one wrongs another and this may include a number of things such as cheating, persecution, slander, abuse and so on. It is a major sin in Islam – Abu Dharr radhiallahu `anhu reported Allah’s Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam as saying: “Allah the Most High says: ‘My servants, I have prohibited injustice to Myself and have made it prohibited among you; do not oppress each other, then.'” [Muslim]
We are often careless with our words and actions – we trivialise a wrong we have done and forget that we will be held accountable for our actions. However, we should always bear in mind that all our actions are recorded – “So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom [or a small ant], shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom [or a small ant], shall see it.” [Al-Zalzalah 99: 7-8] Sometimes the punishment is swift and sometimes, it is delayed… but it WILL be meted out because Allah is Most Just.
We fear poverty and bankruptcy in this world but forget that our wrongdoings, particularly those inflicted on another can bankrupt us in the Hereafter. Allah’s Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam asked, “Do you know who is the [penniless] poor?” The listeners replied: “Messenger of Allah, the poor among us is the one who does not have any money or property.” Then the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “The poor, in my nation [Ummah] is that person who will come on the Day of Resurrection backed with prayers, fasting, Zakat, and Hajj; but also with a number of injustices to others, such as; abusing this one, taking the property of that one, slandering one, hitting another, or shedding the blood of someone else. Thereafter, his good deeds will be taken one after one and given to this person or that person, who were wronged by him. If his good deeds have been exhausted before his wrong deeds are all settled, some of the evil deeds of the wronged persons will be allocated to him, and he will be thrown into the Fire.” [Muslim and Tirmidhi]
We have not been given our wealth, property and status so we can flaunt them or lord them over others. We have a duty towards the less fortunate – we are to help and protect them. Brother `Imran’s story mirrors another from the time of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, which tells of a man who made sport of a weaker human being. In it, the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam confirmed that a nation which does not help the opprressed will not receive the blessings of Allah:
Jabir radhiallahu `anhu reported: When Mecca was conquered, Muslims, who had [earlier] migrated to Abyssinia returned and met the Prophet. He sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam asked them to tell something strange about the Abyssinian people. Then some young men said: “Yes, Messenger of Allah! Once we were sitting and saw a very old woman passing by with a jug of water on her head. She passed by a young man who put his hand between her shoulders and pushed her so hard that she fell down and broke the water jug. The old woman stood up then, looked at him, and said: ‘You treacherous villain! You will learn on the Day when Allah will gather the former and the latter [peoples]; when hands and feet will tell about what they did, then you will know! That day the matter between you and me will be settled.'” On hearing that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam remarked: “She has spoken the truth. How can Allah bless a nation which does not help its weak ones against its strong?” [Ibn Majah and Baihaqi]
Fear the Du`aa of the Oppressed
Allah alone knows what passed through the lips of those poor people `Imran’s acquaintances mistreated that night. What we do know is that Allah in His Infinite Mercy has given the weak a mighty weapon against the oppressors – the du`aa. Look at the fate of those who had wronged the Prophets `alayhimus salaam. The people of Nuh were besieged with flood; the people of Hud were struck with a severe drought and then a violent gale and the people of Saalih were destroyed by an earthquake.
The Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said “Fear the du`aa of he who has been wronged for verily, it ascends to the skies faster than sparks [of light].” [narrated by al-Hakim from ibn `Umar] Another hadeeth reported by Anas ibn Malik radhiallahu `anhu says: “Fear the du`aa of he who has been wronged, even if he is a disbeliever, for there remains no veil between it.” [narrated by Ahmad & Abu Ya`la]
Allah has sworn that He will come to help the one who has been oppressed. “Three people’s du`aa are never rejected: the one who is fasting, until he breaks his fast; the just ruler and the one who has been wronged. Allah raises it above the clouds and the doors of the skies are opened for it, and the Lord says, ‘By My Honour and Glory! I will help you, even if it be after some time!'” [Tirmidhi]
Then there are the stories about the companions which clearly illustrate how the supplication of the oppressed is answered to.
Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas radhiallahu `anhu was the governer of Kufah during the caliphate of `Umar ibn al-Khattab. Upon receiving some complaints about his governer, the Amir ul-Mu’mineen sent a few messengers to Kufah investigate the matter. They found that the people had only good things to say about Sa`d save those in one masjid. A man named Abu Sa`d rose and said, “If you are really asking us by Allah, then know that he was not just in his judgements, nor did he distribute the booty equally, nor was he easy with us.” Sa`d radhiallahu `anhu, upon being so accused, supplicated, “O Allah! If he is lying, then take away his sight and give him a long life and make trials afflict him.” The du`aa of Sa`d proved to be mustajjab – the narrator of the incident said, “I saw him after a long time, blind, his eyes were drooping [out of old age], and he used to harass the little girls as they walked in the alleys. Whenever he was asked, “How are you?”, he would respond, “I am an old man, great trials have befallen me! The du`aa of Sa`d has been inflicted upon me.” [al-Bukhari, Ahmad & others]
So, What Can We Do?
Remember that accusing another wrongly, taking advantage of his weakness, besmearing his reputation, mistreating him, abusing him and not fulfilling his rights constitute oppression. These are things we should always bear in mind:
 Repent & Seek Forgiveness
We may oppress another, out of anger or spite or even unknowingly. We must turn to Allah and seek His forgiveness. Most importantly, we must seek the pardon of the person we have wronged, for “Allah will forgive, to whoever He wills, any sins against Himself, but He will not forgive any right due to people.” [from a hadeeth in Muslim & Tirmidhi]
We should not delay in seeking forgiveness, as the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “If anyone has done wrong to his Muslim brother as regards his honour or any other thing, he should make reparation to him before a Day on which there will be no Dinar or Dirham. If he had any good deeds to his credit, they will be taken away from him in the size of his wrong doing, and if he did not have any good deeds, the evil deeds of the other (the wronged) will be loaded upon him, and he will be thrown to the Fire.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
 Do not associate with the oppressors
Allah Most High says: “And do not lean on those who do wrong lest the Fire should touch you. You have no patrons besides Allah; Otherwise you will not be supported.” [Hud 11:113]
There are people who attempt to win favours from influential people and not only turn a blind eye to their wrongs, but also abet in their sins. Ibn Mas’ud radhiallahu `anhu reported Allah’s Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam as saying: “There will come rulers surrounded by low types of people and those rulers will oppress the people and tell lies. Anyone who calls upon them, believes their lies, and helps them in their oppression, does not belong to me, nor I belong to him, and anyone who neither calls upon them nor supports them in their tyranny belongs to me and I belong to him”. He also reported that the Prophet said: “The one who supports a tyrant becomes a subject to him.” [Ahmad & Ibn Habban]
The salaf were just as contemptuous of such sycophants. A tailor came to Sufyan al-Thawri and said: “I sew the Sultan’s clothes. Am I a supporter of the tyrants?” Sufyan replied: “You are one of the tyrants themselves! The supporters are those who sell needles and thread to you.”
 Come to the aid of the oppressed
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says: “You are the best community that has been raised for mankind. You enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.” [Al-i-`Imran, 3:110] It is the duty of every Muslim to do his utmost to correct a wrong – “Whoever amongst you sees an evil should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do that, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do that, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of Iman.” [Muslim]
If we see someone being wronged, we should come to his aid. The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “Do not stand around a place where an oppressed person is being beaten without coming to defend him, because Allah’s curse descends upon such a place.” [Tabarani] He sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam also said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or oppressed.” When argued: “I can help the oppressed one, but how can I help the oppressor?”, he replied: “By preventing him from doing wrong, and that is helping him.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Let us inshaa Allah follow in the footsteps of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, his noble companions and the pious predecessors. Let us encourage one another to birr and taqwa. May Allah keep us steadfast and give us the best of Jannah… ameen.