By Hope Copeland
Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem…
“Justice Or Else,” was the cry of oppressed people that gathered on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. on October 15, 2015. With the understanding that justice is “a principle of fair dealing with one another,” we stood before our oppressors and demanded Justice Or Else. When I read about the Ministry of Shu’aib, the first section of Juz 9 of the Holy Qur’an, I think back to that day in October and the events that led up to the need for such a march.
Beginning with Ayat 88 of Surah Al-A’raf and continuing through Ayat 40 of Surah Al-Anfal, Juz 9 covers many lessons learned and much wisdom to be gained. One such lesson comes from the story of the people of Midian and the Prophet Shu’aib. Midian was the name of one of the sons of Prophet Ibrahim from his marriage after his wife Sarah’s death. Midian was married to one of the daughters of Lot and Allah (swt) blessed their union with an abundance of male offspring and wealth. The place where the children of Midian settled was named Midian after their father, Midian.
Prophet Shu’aib, also a descendent of Prophet Ibrahim and also reported to have given the miraculous staff to Prophet Musa, was made prophet to the people of Midian and Aikah. There were two things the people of Midian were notorious for, first; they were professional “highway robbers” and second; they used to take more when measuring for themselves while measuring less when measuring for others. Prophet Shu’aib consistently preached to the people of Midian about changing their evil habits and wickedness in character, to no avail.
As punishment to the people of Midian, Allah (swt) destroyed the people of Midian using unbearable heat and earthquake. None of the people were spared from perdition because none of the people took a stand with Prophet Shu’aib against the injustice and oppression that the people of Midian displayed.
Why does this story about the people of Midian remind me of the Justice Or Else movement started in the Black community in 2015? You see, the people of Midian were addicted to being unjust. Prophet Shu’aib taught against acting deceitfully in general and depriving others of their legitimate rights. When the people of Midian cheated people they were ultimately denying others “Justice.” One could argue that Black people of America or oppressed people of America are also being denied justice.
Since justice is the birthright of every human being, it is a prerequisite to life. Unlike the people of Midian, the modern day oppressors’ injustices are in the form of widespread death, rising racism, mob attacks, and police brutality on Blacks and is coupled with economic deprivation and stark poverty. During today’s oppression, people demand that something be done to address and correct the condition.
Juz 9 continues and comes to one of the most important even controversial ayats in the Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-A’raf ayat 157: “Those who follow the Apostle, Prophet the ‘Ummi’ whom find they, written (in their own scriptures) with them, in the Law and the Evangel; commands he unto them (what is) good and he prevents them from evil,…These are they who are the successful ones.”
This verse describes as to who is in fact a follower of the Holy Prophet; and what their personal qualities are with which it would be but natural that Allah’s (swt) mercy should be bestowed on him. The controversy in many of our muslim communities lies in the word ‘Ummi.’ The Arabic word ‘Ummi’ has several possible meanings: 1)one born of a mother, 2) unlettered, or 3)a citizen of Mecca, which is called Ummul-Qura, the mother city.
When the adjective is applied to the people it means unlettered and when it is applied to the Holy Prophet (saw) it means the unlettered one who had no formal education in reading and writing and yet divinely gifted in it and was the fountain head of learning and knowledge, to be called “the city of knowledge and Ali the gateway of it.”
In this ayat we learn that the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw) has been written in the scriptures of the Old Testament, the Torah, and the Evangel. ‘Ummi’ has generally been translated as one who is illiterate, however it actually means a person who was born of his mother and did not receive formal education and does not necessarily mean his being unable to read or write. The prophets were ‘Ummi’ in this sense however they were taught by Allah (swt) through Divine Agencies.
After Allah (swt) makes clear in Juz 9 that Mercy is promised to those who accept Apostle Muhammad (saw), then Juz 9 continues and explains that Muhammad the Prophet (saw) is for the whole of mankind, there is punishment for transgressing the limits, the Progeny of Adam will bear witness to itself, the Resurrection, then Surah Al-A’raf concludes with conclusive warnings against Polytheism.
Juz 9 continues with Surah Al-Anfal (the Accessions) and begins by discussing the Battle of Badr, then goes on to cover the Obedience to Allah (swt) and His Apostle, the Guardianship of the Sacred Mosque, then Juz 9 concludes with the Battle of Badr as a proof of the Apostle’s Truthfulness.
Hope Copeland learned about Islam at boarding school and took Shahadah during her freshman year of college 20 years ago. She is particularly interested in the Jafari Fiqh and has found an unlimited amount of knowledge in the study of the Ahlul Bayt of the Prophet Muhammad (saw).