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In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Tyranny

An Introduction

By Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalily

The Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman

 

All praise is due to God Who commands justice and kindness and prohibits injustice and oppression. Glory be to God Who sent down His book in truth so that mankind may administer justice and sent down His Messenger so that he can delineate the criteria of justice and set the benchmarks of righteousness and kindness. God says: “so that those who were to perish might be destroyed on clear proof and those who were to live may survive by clear proof” [Al-Anfāl: 42]. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except God, Lord of all dominion Who honors whomever He pleases with His might and disgraces whomever He pleases with His power. And I bear witness that our master Prophet is God’s servant and Messenger whom God has sent as a merciful gift to all people so that they will have no excuse to plead against God. Prophet Muhammad gave the best example for the just ruler, truthful speaker, and fulfiller of promises. May God bestow His peace and blessings upon him, his pious and dignified Companions and whosoever follows them in righteousness until the scales of justice are set up on the Day of Judgment!

 

To proceed, the Arab world has been destined to witness a series of momentous events over the past two years. These events culminated in the overthrow of oppressive regimes and arrogant rulers who never had the thought that the vicissitudes of time would one day turn hard against them. From under the ruins of these devastated regimes there rose nations that had long groaned under the weight of subjugation and oppression. Having broken loose from the fetters of oppression, these nations rushed headlong towards their oppressors with the determination to wreak vengeance on them because of the humiliation and disgrace these oppressors have been subjecting them to.

 

Unquestionably administering justice amongst people is a natural human demand. This is particularly so since man was created free and was endowed with great blessings. God says: “Indeed We have honored the children of Adam, provided for them of good things and exalted them over many of what We have created” [Al-Isrā’: 70]. “How come you enslave people when their mothers have born them free”[1] is such a great statement attributed to ‘Umar (may God be pleased with him). It was engraved on the memory of history and became an oft-repeated proverb.

 

‘Umar uttered these words from the bottom of his heart because he had a strong faith in their impact. He understood the revelations sent down by God to His Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace). Going through the different phases of psychological education he received from the seal of the prophets (may God send His best peace and blessings upon him), ‘Umar and the other three Rightly-Guided Caliphs were keen on implementing the principles of justice which the Prophet instilled into them. Therefore, justice and kindness prevailed throughout their Caliphate. It was under their rule that the dignity of man was preserved and freedom, security and stability were fully established. Man was safe from having any of his god-given rights plundered or being left to groan under the weight of injustice and despotism.

 

The question that poses itself here is: Are Muslims still enjoying their full rights like they used to during the lifetime of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs? Indeed Muslims were stripped of these rights following the demise of the Caliphate. The fangs of oppression began eating into the body of the Muslim community as the way was paved for arrogant tyrants to oppress and subjugate their people. Despite being subjected to severe punishment and on some occasions robbed of their wealth, the people continued to show absolute obedience to those tyrants.

 

Anyone who carefully goes through the pages of history will realize that a dramatic change took place following the end of the Islamic system of Caliphate. The ruling system in Islam made a U-turn when power was seized by tyrant and oppressive rulers who followed in the very footsteps of the ancient oppressive monarchs and emperors. As a result, the Muslim community suffered the same fate as the ancient nations which were enslaved by their tyrannical and autocratic rulers. Regrettably enough official jurists of the Islamic state sided with these oppressive rulers and supported their oppressive and unjust practices. They facilitated their paths to tyranny and got their people into accepting the new situation. They even issued fatwas (i.e. non binding religious opinions issued by a qualified person) that branded as a disbeliever and strife-monger anyone who denied or rejected the authority of the new ruler. They supported their fatwas with fabricated or misinterpreted Prophetic Traditions which they circulated among the masses who had no choice but to surrender to the ruler and show him absolute obedience.

 

This misguided trend of thought continued to dominate the mentality of the vast majority of Muslims as it was passed down from one generation to another. Besides, the Islamic political jurisprudence was formulated in accordance with this ideology. Anyone who dared reconsider this ideology was ruthlessly branded as straying from the right path of Islam and introducing a doctrinal innovation to the faith.

 

With the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions, it was no wonder to hear about those fatwas which condemned the people who wanted to liberate themselves from oppression and put an end to the injustices of their autocratic rulers. These fatwas even prohibited organization of peaceful protests that called for putting a stop to oppression. The scholars who issued these fatwas requested the masses to succumb to the oppressors, bow their heads to them and patiently endure their aggressive practices. They also called on the masses to draw nigh to God through showing humble obedience to their tyrannical rulers. These are the injunctions of the doctrine that was imposed on the Muslim community and was passed down through generations after the reign of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs came to a close. The government of ‘Ignorance’ appeared on the surface and derived its legitimacy from the autocratic governments of ancient monarchs and emperors even though it was falsely attributed to Islam. It worked its influence in the guise of Islam and supported its existence in the name of faith. It was malicious and subtle enough to fight Islam with Islam’s own sword and defend itself against the strikes of other swords by wearing the protective shield of Islam.

 

The same trend of thought was also adopted by the Islamic political jurisprudence which was formulated by a mindset that grew up in a milieu where oppression and injustice prevailed in the name of Islam. This mindset imbibed the principles of this thought and was controlled by its will, thus becoming totally subservient and submissive to those who hold the reins of power. 

 

However, these fatwas were challenged by other fatwas which refuted them and made it clear that they are in conflict with the true spirit of Islam whose message called for lifting the heavy burden of injustice off the shoulders of humanity. These fatwas are vitiated by the fact that their issuers are unable to liberate themselves from age-old traditions. Tied to the apron strings of the past, they defend those who carried the banner of oppression and sowed its seeds in Muslim lands. Therefore, oppressive rulers will continue to follow in the very footsteps of their predecessors until the end of time. The issuers of these fatwas devoted themselves entirely to defending unjust rulers and acting as their lawyers who would justify their injustices and resist those who confronted their tyranny and those who attempted to rid the Muslim community of them. As a matter of fact, the issuers of these fatwas are the ones who directed the arrows of accusation towards those who had an earnest desire to deliver the Muslim community from injustice and oppression. They called them names and leveled scathing criticism against them. However, due to the fact that they followed a double standard policy, their fatwas contradicted the very principles which they advocated.

It goes without saying that a good vision of the present can only be formulated through benefiting from the experiences of the past, placing things in their right order and judging them in light of the Qur’an, which no falsehood can approach it from before or behind, and the guidance of the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) who showed us the straight path whose night is as white as its daylight; none deviates from it except for the wrongdoers.



[1] See Abū Al-Qāsim ‘Abd Al-Raḥmān b. ‘Abd Al-Ḥakam b. A‘yun Al-Qurashī Al-Miṣrī (d. 257 AH/871 AD), Futūḥ Miṣr wa Akhbāruhā "Conquest of Egypt and the Accounts Thereof”, Muḥammad Al-Ḥujayrī (ed.), (Beirut: Dār Al-Fikr Al-‘Arabī, 1st edition, 1416 AH/1996 AD), vol., I, p. 290; see also Abū Al-Qāsim Maḥmūd b. ‘Amr b. Aḥmad Al-Zamakhsharī Jārullāh (d. 538 AH), Rabī‘ Al-Abrār “The Spring of the Righteous” , vol., I, p.289.

 

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