Islamic Studies

Social Justice According to the Prophetic Paradigm: A Mandate for Muslims and Their Leaders

By Imam Talib Abdur Rashid*

“And why should you not fight in the cause of Allâh, and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed) ? Men, women and children whose cry is : ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from you one who will protect; and raise for us from you, one who will help.” (Al-Qur’ân 4:75)

Revolutionary Prophetic Leaders
Beginning with the time of the Prophet Noah, Allâh raised up divinely appointed, authentic prophets and messengers, for the liberation of humanity from the oppression of men, and serve their Lord and Creator–the purpose for which they were created from the outset.

As Allâh has stated: “I have only created human beings and jinn that they might serve and worship Me. “

Examples of various systems of oppression, and their effect upon both society and those prophets who opposed them, would include but not be limited to:

  1. The system of the leaders of the people of An-Nabî Nûh (Prophet Noah). This system was devised by a cabal of men who first instituted false, taghûti (i.e. idolatorous) worship . The late Sayyid Abul A’lâ Mawdûdi describes them as “a class of people representing the false gods they themselves had contrived.”
  2. The system of the Thamûd People of the Prophet Sâlih which was promulgated by a organization of nine men characterized by Allâh in the Qur’ân (27:48) as yufsidûna fil ‘ard (i.e .purveyors of viciousness, corruption, perversion, and depravity in the land ).
  3. The Egyptian Fir’aunic system, which was utilized to enslave, oppress and exploit the Children of Isra’îl. As Allâh states in His Book, “Surely Pharoah exalted himself in the land and divided its people, oppressing one party from among them by killing their sons and sparing their women. Surely he was of the mufsidîn (from the Arabic fasada, yufsidu, see above meaning).”
  4. The system of religious corruption perpetrated by the Sadducees and Pharisees during the time of Jesus the Christ, Son of Mary as exercised within the territorial jurisdiction and civil government of the Roman empire.
  5. The system of institutionalized disbelief of the People of Makka, centered upon the House of Allâh, as usurped by disbelievers, in the middle of a commercial center. This system further perpetrated slavery, misogyny, infanticide and other social evils, until all segments of society were liberated by Allâh’s Messenger Muhammad (may the Peace and Blessings of Allâh be upon him).

The Revolutionary Muhammad
Even as a young man, the values of social justice were being inculcated in Muhammd (saws). As a youth of 15 years old he was a witness to a conflict between the Quraish and Banu Kinana tribes on one side, and the Qais ‘Ailan tribe on the other. The circumstances surrounding the conflict were so atrocious, that it is known as the “Sacrilegious War” or “Immoral War” in Arab history.

As Sai-ur-Rahmân Al-Mubârakapûri writes in his biography of The Messenger of Allâh (peace be upon him), “At the conclusion of these wars, when peace was restored, people felt the need for forming a confederacy at Makkah for suppressing violence and injustice, and vindicating the rights of the weak and the destitute.”

He goes on to say that shortly after his being raised to prophethood, Allâh’s Messenger (saws) stated of what is known as the Al-Fudûl Alliance or Confederacy, “I witnessed a confederacy in the house of ‘Abdullâh bin Jada’an. It was more appealing to me than herds of cattle. Even now in the period of Islâm I would respond positively to attending such a meeting if I were invited.”

Khadurri writes in The Islâmic Conception of Justice , “The Prophet Muhammad, who seems to have been endowed with a deep sense of justice, found widespread iniquity and oppression in the society in which he grew, and he sought to establish order and harmony within which a distinct standard of justice would be acknowledged. “As a Prophet, he naturally stressed religious values, but he was also a social reformer, and his decisions provided precedents on the strength of which the issues that were to arise in succeeding generations were resolved. The idea of justice was of particular interest to him, and he dealt with the problems of his day with uprightness, balance, and fairness.

“Nor was he indifferent to discrimination and inhuman acts, as exemplified in the legislation for the improvement of the status of women, emancipation of slaves (though slavery as a system was not abolished), and prohibition of infanticide and other unjust acts and practices.

“Therefore, modern voices echoing that of the Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him), should and must speak out against modern abuse and exploitation of the poor and disenfranchised , including women and children. They should decry acts of wanton, indiscriminate violence, and counsel self-proclaimed Mujâhid-dîn with the words of the Prophet Muhammad (saws):
“Surely the first men who will be brought for judgement on the Resurrection Day will be one who was (well-known as) a martyr. He will be bought and be reminded of the favors on him which he will recognize. Then He (Allâh) will ask: ‘What did you do therein?’ “He (the one known as a martyr) will reply: ‘I fought for You until I was martyred.’ He (Allâh) will then retort: ‘You have spoken falsehood! Nay, you have fought in order to be called a hero, and surely you have been called thusly.’ Then the order (of judgement) will be passed against him (the one known as a martyr), and consequently he will be dragged down upon his face ‘til he will be thrown into Hell.” (narrated by Abû Hurayra, and authenticated by At-Tirmithi and An-Nasâ’i)

*Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid is the religious and spiritual leader of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, New York City. He has been a Sunni Muslim since 1971, a member of the mosque since that time, and its imam since 1989.

Imam Talib ёAbdur-Rashid is also the Amir (leader) of the Harlem Shura, a coalition of seven Harlem mosques. He is the chairman of the Justice Committee of the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of New York, and Deputy Amir of The Muslim Alliance in North America. Further, Imam Talib (as he is popularly known) serves on or advises several interfaith bodies located in New York City. They include Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, A Partnership of Faith in New York City, The Temple of Understanding, The Interfaith Center of New York, The N.Y.C. Dept. of Education Chancellors Interfaith Advisory Committee to the NYC Dept. of Education, and the Bertram Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty.

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