Following in the example of the Prophet
Muslims across the globe are subject to different types of oppression. Whether it can be limitations upon freedom of religion, government corruption or state terror, many Muslims have taken to the streets to protest and resist injustice.
This is not a new phenomenon, the Arab Spring in the early 2010s was a highly visible example of a long history of Muslim resistance against oppressive regimes and forces. Indeed the protests against India’s new citizenship law and Palestinian movements for nationhood against Israel come from a long line of Muslims standing up to corrupt practices.
It can be argued that the tradition starts from the Prophet himself.
Prior to Islamisation, the deserts of Arabia were home to many tribes. Muhammad (PBUH) was born into a tribe known as the Quraysh. The Quraysh governed Mecca and as a result had a monopoly on trade especially during festive periods when pre-Islamic pilgrims would travel from across the land to Mecca. The Quraysh were obsessed with accumulating as much wealth as possible. Sound familiar?
The society the Quraysh created and inhabited was fraught with divisions and fault lines. There was an increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor, proliferation of slavery and constant war between tribes vying for political and economic dominance.
The prophet referred to this time as the Jahiliyah or time of ignorance.
Islam was born out of this environment. Many of the Prophet’s first followers were the marginalised and the poor: former slaves, paupers and survivors of torture. The Prophet preached for a society of equality, stating that all are equal before God. The first thing outlawed in Islam was usury, the practice of lending money at high interest rates. This was often used to sell people into slavery.
The spread of Islam did much to bring peace between tribes of the region. This represented a revolution in Arab political life, a radical shift from tribalism to an unified “Ummah”.
The Prophet was put through much hardship during this struggle, facing hatred and violence from members of his own clan who despised his message.
The description of the time of Jahiliyah may appear familiar to us. Indeed the pursuit of wealth and war is not out of place in 21st century capitalism. Too often we hear news of yet another bombing, yet another military dispute and yet more increasing inequality between the rich and the poor. News today has become so filled with these stories that we have almost become desensitised to it.
Muslim resistance movements today are often unfairly associated with terrorism and violence. Kurdish and Palestinian struggles for nationhood in the face of overwhelming brutality from Turkey and Israel have been demonised in the media and quite often unfortunately by other Muslims.
Indeed as Muslims it is not wrong for us to resist and respond to violence and oppression. We must support Muslims across the world, whether it is in Palestine, India or other places where they are facing injustice and persecution.
We must support these movements for they are only following in a long tradition of resisting abuse of power in Islam that started with the Prophet himself.