Think of the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) – born during an oppressive regime where baby boys were put to death.
Baby Moses had to be hidden and later discarded in a bassinet down a running stream.
Recall the story of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) – how he fled his corrupted village by the will of God. Remember how his followers on his Ark were amongst those who were poor and oppressed.
Remember the story of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him). His brothers were overcome with hatred and jealousy of him, that instead of consulting their father, threw him into a well.
What about the story of Prophet Shuaib (peace be upon him)? An allegedly old and blind man, who was able to “see” the oppression in the town of Madyan, through corruptive business practices of his fellow merchants? He warned them well of their fraud – that it was hurting those who were oppressed.
Think of the story of Prophet Job (peace be upon him) – who was beaten down terribly by a challenge from God – that he was deserted by the people who were the closest to him, who should have been supportive of his plight.
And of course, one of the strongest Prophets, David (peace be upon him) – the Prophet who allowed his faith grow bigger than his fears to defeat Jalut (Goliath) – even with all his strength, he feared God the most and was constantly reminded about oppression. In a sacred hadith, he said:
“O Allah, You know that I love You and I love all those who love You, but how may I endear You to Your servants? Allah said: Remind them of My Favors, My trials and My anger. O Dawud, any of My servants who helped an oppressed person and stood by him in his oppressed state, I’ll keep his feet firm on the Day when all feet will be shaken.” (Al-Bayhaqi)
There will come a time when one feels oppressed and contrary to popular belief, Islam is not the cause of oppression, rather the expectations of societal norms that curb one’s ability to practice Islam correctly is what is truly oppressive. The Muslim world talks about oppression all the time.
Muslims in Muslim-minority countries often feel oppressed when having to deal with discriminatory practices. Muslims in Muslim-majority countries face oppression in other forms – through challenging governmental policies or occupation by other nationals – whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
On a smaller scale too, there are instances where you can feel stifled or have your freedom impeded and even to a certain extent, you may feel forced to compromise your beliefs or principles. This is where it gets tricky, while there should not be a compromise of faith, how does one prevent him or herself from falling into doubt.
Amongst those who experienced the worse types of oppression were the Prophets of God. Very few of them were born into rich families for a start, and even if they were given power and position thereafter, they were asked to renounce their worldly gains in order to spread Islam, so none of them were able to used “riches” to influence others. In this materialistic world, this only meant for them to be shunned from society.
Besides the stories of the Prophets above, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was forced to live a very fragile life as the Apostle of God, before being able to venture out of Makkah to Madinah. The pagan Arabs tormented him to the core, mentally and physically. He and his followers were boycotted in a three year ban that caused most of them the worse hardship of the time.
Even when they survived the ban and the embargo was lifted, the Quraysh plotted to kill Prophet Muhammad. During his tenure in Makkah, God commanded him to spread the message over and beyond the boundaries of Makkah. In his plight, he was often humiliated and taunted, rejected from the norms of society.
But whenever he was in doubt, whenever he was in fear, he stood by God’s commands in patience, and sometimes in silence, and his unwavering faith in God kept him on the right path, followed by the first handful of Muslims, who were amongst the poor and those who had been continuously oppressed by the Quraysh.
So in today’s world, whenever the feeling of grave oppression arises, remember the journey of Prophet Muhammad to where and how he had spread Islam today. Remember the journeys of all the Prophets before him, how some of them nearly died. Remember that some of them never had followers.
Remember that many of them were not able to convey the correct message, and the faith they brought were grossly distorted by those who were around during their time and after. Remember that many Prophets did not even have a fraction of the comfort that we have today.
Other Practical Tips
No matter how difficult things become, remember the importance of your relationship with God. Only God can truly alleviate all forms of hardship from the world. Only God can grant double ease for each hardship. And only God can be the Perfect Judge over the oppression one is facing, and only God is able to reward a person who undergoes hardship with the permanent resting abode, Paradise.
Speak to God all the time. God has given us our daily prayers to spill our hearts to Him. He listens 24 hours a day – so invoke Him for His help and blessings. God provides Mondays and Thursdays to observe the Sunnah fast because our records are brought up to the Heavens on those days.
The silver lining of any form of oppression is that God is always on the victim’s side, as long as he or she is able to bear the burden with dignity, without compromising his or her loyalty towards God. God reminds everyone about the dangers of oppressing another person.
In a sacred hadith, God Almighty says:
“I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this life and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw a person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not help him.” (Al-Tabarani)
To top that off, Prophet Muhammad said:
“Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.” (Al-Bukhari)
With God standing by victims of oppression, true believers no longer need to fear what is overwhelming them, but to ride it out with faith and comfort, that God is the only Judge that they need to fear, and the only Judge who can compensate in the Hereafter.