Adh-Dhulm (Oppression)


The meaning of adh-dhulm is:  “Acting in that which involves another’s rights in a way which is not your right.”  Or, “Transgression of boundaries and transgression upon a soul, its honor, its property or causing harm to another human (without right).”

All of these issues are protected by Islam.  So, oppression is not just the obvious one which we can see every day.  Yes, there are unjust and evil Muslim and non-Muslim rulers transgressing upon the rights of the Muslims and upon Allah’s rights every day.  But, dhulm also includes our speaking about someone behind their back, insulting someone and many other things which we Muslims do on a regular basis.  Some of them involve other people but with others, we only oppress ourselves.  This includes allowing ourselves to slip into minor and major sins and neglecting our obligations in Islam.

Allah Most High is in no way an oppressor of anyone among His slaves.  He has forbidden oppression to himself and made it forbidden among us.  Allah said, in a hadith qudsiy spoken by the Prophet (sas):

“Yaa ‘ibaadiy inniy harramtu adh-dhulma ‘alaa nafsiy wa ja’altuhu bainakum muharraman, fa laa tadhaalamoo.”
“O My slaves, I have forbidden myself oppression and I have made it between you forbidden, so do not oppress one another.” Muslim

Adh-dhulm can be divided into two types

  1. Dhulm al-insaani nafsahu (for a person to oppress themselves).  A person oppresses themselves by following their desires, their feelings or their inclinations instead of following Allah, his Messenger (sas) and their sound instincts (fitra) which are found within every human being.  This wrong turn causes them to ignore the guidance given by Allah through his messengers to mankind and through his last and final Messenger, Muahmmad (sas).  They then begin to neglect their obligations and to contaminate their hearts by all kinds of disobedience to Allah and his Messenger.
  2. This leads to keeping the wrong company, seeing the wrong things, hearing the wrong things and being in the wrong places.  All of this fills and contaminates the heart making it more and more difficult for the one oppressing themself to ever return to justice and kindness to themselves.  Our eternal future is determined by choices we make right now.  Listen to what Allah says:

{Alladhina tatawaffaahum al-malaa’ikatu tayyibeena yaquloona salaamun ‘alaikum udkhuloo al-jannata bi maa kuntum ta’maloon. (32) Hal yandhuroona illa an ta’tiyahum al-malaa’ikatu au ya’tiya amru rabbika kadhaalika fa’ala alladhina min qablihim wa maa dhalamahum Allahu wa laakin kaanoo anfusahum yadhlimoon. (33)}
{Those whom the angels take (in death) in a state of purity, they say to them: Peace be upon you.  Enter the Garden by that which you used to do. (32) Are they expecting anything but that the angels will come to them or Allah’s order will come to them?  Likewise did those before them do.  And Allah did not oppress them, rather it was their own selves which they used to oppress. (33)} An-Nahl:32-33

  1. Dhulm al-insaani li ghairihi (for a person to oppress others) among the slaves of Allah and His creation.  This is for a Muslim to unjustly take the property of another or harm and opperss them with violence, insult, other forms of aggression and taking advantage of another’s weakness.  Most oppression falls on the weak and defenseless such as orphans, children or citizens who do not possess the horrible weapons and invasive intelligence aparatus of their oppressors.
  2. Some would add a third category:  “Oppression against Allah Most High.”  This, however, is not valid.  Allah makes clear in the Qur’an that all wrongdoing even in Allah’s direct commandments on falls back on the doer, not Allah.  Allah said about the many transgressions of the Jews in spite of His many favors upon them:

{Wa dhallalnaa ‘alaikum al-ghamaama wa anzalnaa ‘alaikum al-manna wa al-salwaa kuloo min tayyibaati maa razaqnaakum wa maa dhalamoonaa wa laakin kaanoo anfusahum yadhlimoon.}
{And we made the clouds a shade for them and sent down to them al-mann and as-salwaa.  Eat from the good things we have provided you.  And they did not oppress us, rather it was their own selves which they used to oppress.} Al-Baqarah:57

When Muslims stray from Islam and obedience to Allah, He places the worst of them in power over them.  Muslims must be very careful to understand the way out of this predicament.

FIRST: It is NOT to accept the status quo or to allow oneself to support the oppressors in any way.  This is forbidden to every Muslim and is part of at-ta’aawuni ‘alaa al-ithmi wa al-‘udwaan (aiding one another in sin and transgression against others) which Allah forbid in the Qur’an.  The Prophet (sas) said about the days when Muslims face oppressive leaders:

“Satakoonu ‘alaikum umaraa’un ta’rifoona minhum wa tunkiroon.  Fa man ankara [bi lisaanihi] faqad bari’a wa man kariha [bi qalbihi] faqad salima wa laakin man radhiya wa taaba’.”
“There will be over you rulers in whom you will see some good and some evil.  Whoever refutes them [with his tongue] has achieved innocence.  Whoever hates them [with his heart] has survived, but as for the one who accepts and goes along…! Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, Abi Daud

SECOND: It is NOT to rush to fight the unjust rulers inciting anyone one can find to join the fight, even if they are not among those serious in their practice of Islam or with any sound knowledge of it. In the end of the above hadith, a Comapnion asked the Prophet (sas):  “Should we not fight them?”, to which he (sas) answered:  “No, as long as they make the prayer.”

The same principle applies to democracy – the only difference being that it is with ballots instead of bullets.  Understand this principle very clearly!  If corrupt people are in power, the obligation of every Muslim is to warn them of their transgressions, command them to come back to the orders of Allah and advise them to change their ways.  The scholars and those most knowledgeable of Islam have an higher obligation in this regard.  If his corruption reaches the level at which he must be removed, it is the scholars who are responsible for his removal.

Once, a companion of Allah’s Messenger was sitting on his horse waiting to go to jihad.  He say Allah’s Messenger and wished to get some last minute advice before engaging in battle.  He asked him:  “Ayyu jihaadin afdhalu?”, i.e., “Which jihad is best?”.  The Prophet (sas) answered him:  “Kalimatu haqqin ‘inda imaamin jaa’ir.”, i.e., “A word of truth in front of an unjust ruler.”  Imagine the impact of this statement in light of the fact that an unjust ruler was something the Muslims had not even seen yet (although they knew they were coming because of other teachings of the Prophet (sas)).

This same principle applies to everything from the Ummah as a whole to the “countries” which the Muslims have fabricated in disobedience to Allah Most High, to the masajid and Islamic Centers in this counties.  In all of these cases, the following fitnah can occur:

  • Those in power are not the best of the Muslims, are not qualified and commit transgressions.
  • A (usually small) group among the Muslims actually practice Islam seriously and are usually seen praying in the masjid and gathering for learning and other good works.
  • Others (usually many) have serious problems with their Islam and/or with their egos or personalities.  They do not frequent the masjid except perhaps for Ramahdan, Jumu’a and Eid.  The have very little understanding of the authentic teachings of Islam.

What happens next is that some in the second group get impatient and indignant with the incompentance and/or transgression of those in power.  True, they SHOULD be angry for Allah at what they see.  Unfortunately, whatever they have of righteous anger for violations against Allah is quickly overshadowed by their envy of those in power and/or their desire for power themselves.  They have some arrogance in their hearts and therefore don’t ACCEPT the position of those in power first of all and so they cannot or will not effectively deliver nasiha, reminders and warnings to them to come back to Islam and to the correct.

In their impatience, they become obsessesed with ousting those in power without regard for what they will be replaced by.  In the case of a country, this may mean armed rebellion.  In masjids and Islamic centers, it may mean calling for elections or perhaps finding some law among the laws of the disbelievers which may “help” them.  They then take the case to the courts.  This last one is a form of kufr.

In any case, what happens next is very interesting.  The sleeping giant which is the third category – who showed no interest or participation in the masjid up to this point – are suddenly “interested” (or so they want us to believe) in “saving” the masjid from those currently in charge.  The analogy in the countries is generals from the oppressors army suddenly claiming to be with the “jihad”.  There is little chance of any other outcome other than people even worse than their predecessors gaining power and/or other forms of foolishness coming in (such as nationalism) and the fitnah continuing from election to election.

This is why elections are not a valid means of changing leadership in Islam.  Those in power can only be removed under certain conditions and after fulfilling a long list of conditions which the scholars have defined in detail.  They CANNOT be removed simply because 2 years or 4 years have passed.  Allah sent no authority for that.  This is what is meant when it is said that Islam is not democracy and democracy is not from Islam.  Those responsible for removing a ruler who goes wrong are not the population at large.  Rather, they are ahlu al-halli wa al-‘aqdi, i.e., “those who release and commission”.  They are the scholars.  Thus, a people who consistently oppose and hate their people of knowledge can never succeed, least of all in the issue of reforming the leadership.

So, the only road to change is:

  • Improve the state of as many people as possible by spreading knowledge of Islam and facilitating, encouraging and increasing its practice.
  • Deliver nasiha to those corrupt ones in power without fear or losing hope.
  • Urge the scholars to perform their duty as ahlu al-halli wa al-‘aqdi.  When spreading knowledge of Islam, focus especially on these issues so the people can understand what is missing.
  • Push the scholars into positions of power whenever possible.
  • Never make alliances with corrupt “common people” for the purpose of opposing corrupt “rulers” – such as in the case of elections.  This is nonsensical, paradoxical and cannot lead to any good result.

Know that Allah is in charge of all things.  Whatever tests befall us are surely by the will of Allah and because of some shortcomings in our believe or action.  Allah will surely catch up with the oppressors sooner or later.  If not in this life…  The Prophet (sas) said:

“Inna Allaha ta’ala yumliy lil-dhaalimi fa idhaa akhadhahu laa yuflithu.”  Thumma qara’a:  {Wa kadhaalika akhdhu rabbika idhaa akhadha al-quraa wa hiya dhaalimatun.  Inna akhdhahu aleemun shadeedun.}
“Verily, Allah Most High gives rope to the oppressor so that when He siezes him, he does not get away.”  Then he (sas) read: {Thus is the siezing of your Lord and He siezes the towns who were oppressors.  Verily, His siezing is painful and harsh.Muslim & Bukhari; Verse is Hud:102

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