By Dawud Walid
Black Americans have various forms of dealing with conflict both in interpersonal relationships as well societal injustice. Protest is an integral part of our existence and we are the most prolific protestors of any group of Americans. We must, however, be cognizant that some forms of protest that we have been involved in require rectification to align more with means and manners that are in harmony with the example of Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him and his family).
The sixth juz’ of the Qur’an, which stretches from Surah an-Nisa’a, ayah 148 to Surah al-Ma’idah, ayah 82, deals with a number of themes, one of them relates to the correct way to respond to injustice.
“Allah does not love public invocation from one’s speech regarding evil except from who has been wronged, and Allah is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” Qur’an 4: 148
Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) said, “Be regardful of the prayer of the wronged, for surely between it and Allah is no screen/hijab.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Abdullah bin Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the most knowledgeable in Qur’anic exegesis from among the companions of the Prophet, also stated, “It is hated to raise one’s voice pertaining to what is evil except from the wronged who invokes against the one who oppressed him/her.” (al-‘Aqam)
There are at least three lessons that can be derived from this particular ayah in juz’ six and the way the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) embodied this verse. The first is that there should be caution in not infringing upon the rights of others. Secondly, this ayah teaches that those who have been wronged can invocate against those who have wronged them. Yet the Prophet, who was known as the “walking Qur’an,” also taught that the best course, in response to injustice, is to be patient, exhibit good character and pray for people instead of replying to evil with foul speech or praying against people.
For example, when the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) came to give da‘wah to the people of at-Ta’if he was met with stones, which were thrown at him and caused him to bleed profusely. However, when the angel was sent to him stating that Allah (Mighty and Sublime) gave him permission to invoke their destruction, he did not pray against them. Instead he prayed, “Oh Allah! Forgive my people, for surely they do not know” (al-Bukhari).
On another occasion, a man came to a gathering in which Abu Bakr (may Allah have mercy upon him) was sitting with the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) and the man began to swear and use profanity at Abu Bakr. The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) smiled at Abu Bakr until Abu Bakr began to swear back and use profanity at the man, which caused the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) to become angry and he stood up to leave. Abu Bakr said, “Oh Messenger of Allah! When the man was swearing at me and you were sitting. When I responded, you got angry and stood up.” The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) responded, “Surely when you were silent, there was an angel responding on your behalf, but Shaytan appeared when you responded with the same words as him, and I cannot sit in the presence of Shaytan” (Ahmad).
Given that the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) was a living explanation of the Qur’an, it can be seen that people have the right to invoke against those who commit injustice. However, it is more beloved to Allah to pray for those who commit wrong to be guided, and if not, to be silent instead of responding to evil with wrongdoing or profane speech.
In other words, just because someone “cusses” a person out this does not give that person permission to do the same or act like an ignoramus.
In this same juz’, there is an ayah that gives us another example of how to respond to those who have shown hostility.
“Oh you who believe! Be of those who stand upright for Allah, witnesses for justice. And let not enmity of a people shown towards you cause you to deviate from justice. Be just; it is closest to being regardful/taqwa. And be regardful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” Qur’an 5:8
Noted exegete al-Baghawi stated that the ones “who stand upright for Allah, witnesses for justice” are those who stand for equity and speak the truth; they command those who showed enmity towards them through the equity and justice of their actions and speech. This standard of justice is to be applied to friend and foe alike underscoring how uprightness comes with keeping within the boundaries that Allah (Mighty and Sublime) established. Violating the standards and etiquettes established by Allah (Mighty and Sublime) and His messenger in the name of justice is in fact answering wrong with a wrong, which is actually swerving from justice.
Permission has not been given, for instance, to meet anti-Muslim bigots or racists at protests and political rallies with violence just because they have used racist language, nor has permission been given to take over others’ events and grab microphones out of their hands because their speech is against Islamic values.
May Allah (Mighty and Sublime) give us the mental clarity to reflect upon His book inside and outside of Shahr Ramadan and make its reading a means of forgiveness, mercy, guidance and sustenance in our lives. May Allah (Mighty and Sublime) have us reexamine what is normative in our cultures and in our activist communities so that we rectify any practices that are not in line with Prophetic character.
Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and a member of the Imams Council of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC). Walid is frequently quoted in the media regarding issues pertaining to Islam, American Muslims and civil rights.