Activism and Our Islamic Responsibilities

Over the last few weeks, I have felt lost and confused as an activist; lost because innocent individuals are being murdered in every corner of the world, and confused because there seems to be an undeniable silence. Hundreds of defenseless civilians were killed and wounded in Parachinar – but the world did not show any consideration.

I do not recall seeing world monuments displaying the Pakistani flag, nor do I remember the media extensively discussing the massacre. It breaks my heart to know that after every single terror attack that takes place in the West, the world responds with solidarity and we are reminded of the tragedy every hour of the day – but when lives are lost in the East, the world does not bat an eyelid; other stories are given more priority in the media, which only indicates that their lives mean much less. More so, what saddens me the most is when our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters issue statement after statement when terror-related incidents transpire in the West, yet seldom reflect for their fellow brethren in faith that are also massacred in several other parts of the world. Selective humanity is absolutely abominable.

As Muslims, we have a duty to condemn all oppressors, and to defend all those that are inflicted with injustice – our religion does not advocate for selective humanity. We should also remember that our ahadith and various narrations declare that as believers we should be more concerned for the health and state of a fellow Muslim brother/sister over than that of a non-Muslim, now this does not mean that one should disregard the tragedies non-Muslims deal with, as we should always maintain a base level of humanity which applies to everyone, but as our logic and narrations testify, we should express more concern for our Muslimeen. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:

Anyone of you who wakes up in the morning and does not care for the affairs of the Ummah, is not one of us.”

When people are killed in cities such as London or Orlando, our response should be no different to those killed in regions such as Parachinar, Zaria or Karrada – for the monstrous ideology that these terrorists follow is the same. When terror attacks occur, we should not allow one nation to feel that the blood of their people is cheaper than others. This is not what our religion promotes. A profound saying by Imam Hussain that we should live by is:

“Those who are silent when others are oppressed, are guilty of oppression themselves.”

Further to this, let it be known that the terrorists who perpetrate these attacks follow the Salafist ideology indoctrinated to children as young as five in Saudi Arabia, whereby the textbooks the children learn from are filled with nothing but intolerance and hateful material. Texts written by Ibn Taymiyya, the founding father of terrorism, are till today are distributed and used in Saudi-sponsored centers to cause harm to humanity. Day by day, as the world continues to be stained with blood, we must question why our governments continue to maintain diplomatic ties with such a regime. A regime responsible for the death of millions of defenseless civilians; from Iraq to Syria to Nigeria – the Saudi regime has exported terror, leading to the murder of our innocent brethren.

As Muslims following the correct path, and abiding by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we must denounce these groups, and collectively condemn the laconic responses of those who are aware of the reality as this is our responsibility. Organisations such as the UN should be disparaged for their role in allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to serve on their Human Rights Council, despite having a despicable human rights record.

Media outlets such as the BBC should be castigated for distorting the truth and refusing to support those who are being mercilessly killed by Western-backed terror groups, and non-governmental organisations should be condemned for not uttering any words of condemnation when terror strikes in different parts of the world. We cannot expect change if we ourselves do not act when we have the opportunity. We are living in countries where we can actively speak out, there are hundreds and thousands of peaceful civilians that are executed or imprisoned if they decide to stand up and speak out, thus we need to be the voices for the voiceless.

The Holy Qur’an states in Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 135:

‘O you who believe! be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness of Allah’s sake, though it may be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives; if he be rich or poor, Allah is nearer to them both in compassion; therefore do not follow (your) low desires, lest you deviate; and if you swerve or turn aside, then surely Allah is aware of what you do.

We must all closely reflect on this verse of the Holy Quran, for it explicitly indicates what our Islamic duty is. We must support the oppressed and uphold justice in all forms.

Simultaneously we must respectfully encourage our fellow community members to stand up for the oppressed, and we should persuade them to take steps in the right direction. Ali ibn Abi Talib says in Ghurar Al-Hikam:

“One who enjoins good strengthens the backs of the believers.”

It is annual events such as the Al-Quds rally founded by the late Imam Khomeini that unites believers to come out and support the oppressed, and to display the power of resistance, however, we should take the initiative to frequently gather to support the tyrannised. Activism should be a key pillar in our lives based on the principles of our faith, there are countless stories and lessons of our Prophets and Imams that we can reflect upon and link to the tragedies you and I are witnessing today. It was Lady Zainab, the grand-daughter of the Holy Prophet that fearlessly condemned the tyrant of her time, Yazid, and courageously held up the banner of justice. It was Imam Hussain (as), the grandson of the Prophet.

Activism should be a key pillar in our lives based on the principles of our faith, there are countless stories and lessons of our Prophets and Imams that we can reflect upon and link to the tragedies you and I are witnessing today. It was Lady Zainab, the grand-daughter of the Holy Prophet that fearlessly condemned the tyrant of her time, Yazid, and courageously held up the banner of justice. It was Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet that displayed magnanimous valor whilst standing on the scorching plains of Karbala, witnessing his family members being martyred – in the fight for truth and justice. Likewise, today we need to distinguish between truth and falsehood and take responsible actions in support of our brethren in faith. In Letter 47 of Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali says:

“Be an enemy of tyrants and oppressors and be a friend and helper of those who are oppressed and tyrannized.”

We are living in times where our religion has been appropriated by ISIS and other terror organisations – now is the time for us to unite and exemplify the great teachings of our faith. We cannot allow such entities to destroy the image of our religion; this is where Islamic activism comes in. We must rise up, educate, inform and propagate the true teachings of Islam. Whilst some see activism as being synonymous with protesting, we must also recognize the power of other platforms to raise awareness. There are over 1.94 billion users on Facebook and over 317 million users on Twitter – these two social media networking sites can be used to raise awareness too, especially when media machines are working relentlessly to either spread fake news or to distort the truth. We live in a media-saturated society, and many would agree that the best way to spread a message and to educate the masses is through the media platform. However, we cannot ignore the fact that there is also a much greater power amongst people that coalesce and raise their voices. When demonstrations and rallies are organised, we should attend, and encourage others to do so too because there is power in numbers.

Personalities such as Imam Khomeini, Malcolm X, and Shaheed Shaykh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr are great examples to look up to – their movements were successful with the power of the people who fearlessly rose up. Their movements were successful because people acknowledged their responsibilities. Last January Shaykh Nimr was beheaded by the Saudi regime for bravely demanding basic human rights – yet the people of Qatif were not deterred by the regime, they continue to rise. They are living examples for you and me, except we know we will not be arbitrarily arrested or sentenced to death for peacefully protesting, and raising our voices in the quest for peace and justice.

To conclude, our duty as Muslims is not small, and we must collectively work together to fulfil our Islamic responsibilities, especially at a time when various powers are coming together to destroy our faith.

By Afreen Rizvi

This article was originally featured here

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