Prophets, Reformers and Movements

Without the slightest of doubt, everyone you speak to will want justice.. They will extol virtues of justice and make speeches of it. Justice is required in many aspects of the diverse human life but how many will fight for it? How many will fight against injustice when it does not affect them indirectly?

Allah says this:

O you who believe! Why say you that which you do not do? Grievously odious is it in the sight of God that you say that which you do not do.

(Quran: 61:2-3)

We are all good people, we like to believe. We often tell ourselves that we should try to live a “non-controversial life, a safe life” and therefore we do not want to meddle with things that do not directly concern us or our family. We even turn a blind eye to the injustice suffered by others on the pretext of: “what can I alone do?”  Since everyone asks that question, nobody does anything! Some of us consider ourselves as believers and find it sufficient that we do the safe, “minimum religious requirements” while, Allah in strong terms commands the following:

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.

(Quran: 2:193)

It is a clear commandment, yet many would prefer to turn a blind eye with many excuses. Often too, we find ourselves groping in the dark to find out what is this justice all about? Some mistakenly think that it is all about law or fiqh. Others have pragmatic excuses – I cannot risk my position, cannot risk my family’s welfare, maybe one day when I am stable, there is no freedom of speech in this society, etc. Hence, most end up as arm-chair critics (that too with absolute anonymity) and “complainers”.

I am afraid all these have been covered in the Quran such that there is no excuse that any believer can give – no place to hide from God!

Prophet Moses was adopted by Pharoah’s family. He grew up in the palace as an adopted son. His adopted brother became the new Pharoah (Quran: 28:7-9). Moses saw that the Egyptian people were oppressed by the Pharoah. The most pragmatic thing for Moses to do would probably be to safeguard his position in the palace – status, wealth and influence. Probably, his friends will have advised him that the “right and practical thing” to do will be to remain in the palace. But he left the palace and returned to meet the Pharoah with the message to submit to God and therefore to establish justice. Moses was prepared to fight for justice and in that process forsook his place in the palace.

Ironically, in the quest for justice, family sentiments are never an excuse. Pharoah’s wife for example was honest enough to admit and detest her husband’s wrongdoings (Quran: 66:11). Today however, some women are under a misconception that it is virtuous to support the husband and even defend him when he commits grave injustice to others. Otherwise, how do you explain, for example, the wife who is “blind” to the husband who is providing for her way beyond his means?

Luth’s and Noah’s wives are other examples of challenges from within when you are on a quest for justice (Quran: 66:10). The pragmatic thing to do, in modern terms, would be to appease your wife and turn a blind eye to injustices? I have actually heard many, many times in my life some people telling me that they cannot take part in a movement for a good cause because their wives do not like it or it takes their time away from their adoring wives! Any struggle calls for “sacrifice”.

Prophet Shuaib strikes me as an economic reformer who wanted his people to do business without cheating and profiteering (Quran: 7:85-93). He went around to meet the business community of his time passing the message. Obviously he did not sit somewhere in an ivory tower keeping “his hands clean”, so to speak. He went down to the ground where life was going on. His quest for justice appeared to be in the economic domain. He was part of an economic cleansing movement if you like.

Prophet Abraham’s history is another challenge to the notion of pragmatism versus adherence to the truth (Quran 26:70-104). He was turned away by his own father because he refused to worship idols made by the hands of men. He was rebuked by his own father for logically arguing with his father that the idols that his father worshipped cannot even help themselves. What is this message of serving one God that is so powerful? Human beings cannot live in a vacuum, if they do not “serve” the Creator; they end up serving other gods including their ego and lust. You have to read the entire struggle of Abraham in the Quran to understand what he struggled for. My understanding is that his struggle was a realistic struggle for living with justice. Allah proclaimed in the Quran that Abraham is a good role model to follow.

Abraham could very well have taken the “safe” path and taken over his father’s place as custodian of the temple. He did not. He started a movement to establish justice in his land. It was a long struggle as all movements are.

Unfortunately, today many Muslims insist that prophets cannot be followed as role models because they have mukjizat. It is sad that models shown by Allah in the Quran have been “alleviated” by some to a dubious “religious status” that seems beyond the reach of normal human beings.

Prophet Muhammad had to endure severe hardship, loss of wealth, positions, and the like simply in his quest for a better society based on God’s teachings. He had to go against the norms and accepted culture of the Arabs of his time. Would not the most pragmatic thing be to focus on his business and family and live happily ever after?  But his call was greater than his love for this transient life. He was in a movement to establish a just society.

He was persecuted simply because he invited people of his time to serve only one God and his causes included stopping the despicable practice of oppressing women in cruel ways (Quran: 81:8-9), freedom of  faith (Quran: 10:99), quest for justice and fighting against oppression (Quran: 16:90; 2:193), responsibility to orphans (Quran: 4:22), charity and kindness to the poor and needy (Quran: 2:177), kindness to parents and neighbours (Quran: 4:36), etc.  If you look into history, you will realise that these were radical movements often frowned on by the establishment of the time.

If anyone is sincerely looking for causes in life – there are plenty in the Quran. It is a daily struggle and a never ending one. One cannot wait for “safe circumstances” because as the circumstances of the role models show, wherever there is injustice, there is no such thing as a “safe time” other than an excuse in our mind not to lift a finger.

Every single prophet that is mentioned in the Quran “fought” for something for their society. They mingled with the society they lived in. Today’s religious people merely lecture at you. They do not get their hands soiled trying to make society a little better. They think upon themselves “too pure” and “too exalted” to come down to the grassroots, so to speak.

You can either cook up excuses or do something useful in your lives other than serving your own selfish needs.

You can educate yourself or others on issues affecting the society you live in. You can be part of a movement to help make society a better and just place for everyone. No true believer can turn a blind eye to the injustices or the weaknesses of his society.

I have tremendous love and respect for those who make time for the “social work of sorts” – the environment,  fight against women abuse, fight for a better justice system, better education, better medical care, against corruption, helping the homeless, SABM, UndiMsia! etc. May God give you all the strength, resources and courage, and protect you from those who wish to stop your efforts. To me, you are certainly following the ways of the prophets in that sense.

Peace.

NOTE: The above views are entirely my understanding and no one is required to agree with them. Kindly check with your own copy of the Quran and make up your own minds. If I have erred in my facts, kindly highlight them to me.


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Jabar tries to walk with God. He has been active in advancing social, national unity and human rights issues for years. He wears many hats and is ever willing to work with any group that promotes the general welfare of Malaysians without any partisan boundaries. Apart from having a busy practice with Messrs Jahaberdeen & Co, he has been active in the various Bar Council committees over the years such the Human Rights Committee, the Syariah Law Committee and the Corporate and Conveyancing Law Committee. He has been passionate in promoting the humanistic face of Islam, and blogs regularly at jahamy.blogspot.com and jahaberdeen.blogspot.com. He thought he could escape the LoyarBurok pull, but instead found himself sucked into larger movements like SABM and UndiMsia!

Posted on 25 October 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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