All oppression has an expiry date
In the Quran Allah Almighty says that Firaun arrogantly set himself up as the supreme authority and shrewdly divided the people into factions and ordered the killing of their sons with a ruthless disregard for life.
إِنَّ فِرعَونَ عَلا فِى الأَرضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهلَها شِيَعًا يَستَضعِفُ طائِفَةً مِنهُم يُذَبِّحُ أَبناءَهُم وَيَستَحيۦ نِساءَهُم ۚ إِنَّهُ كانَ مِنَ المُفسِدينَ
Firaun exalted himself in the land, and divided its people into factions. He persecuted a group of them, slaughtering their sons, while sparing their daughters. He was one of the mischief makers. (Surat Al-Qasas: 28:1-4)
Allah has mentioned Firaun in the Quran no less than 70 times across 28 different surahs. He doesn’t just appear a few times, Allah keeps returning to the story of Firaun in the Quran, to underscore the lessons about unchecked power, transgression, and oppression.
Firaun is the archetypal symbol of tyranny and irrespective who he is, he represents all those who unashamedly overstep boundaries and consider themselves above the law. Those who think no one can challenge them or hold them accountable. No surprise that in another ayah, Firaun said to his people:
فَقَالَ أَنَا۠ رَبُّكُمُ ٱلۡأَعۡلَىٰ
and said, “I am your supreme lord.” [An-Nazi’at, Ayah 24]
We see this pattern of behaviour in today’s world. The modern Firauns are the ones who are unstoppable by the international community, the security council, Geneva convention, and UN resolutions, because they think they are beyond all laws. They even manage to carry out their plans with impunity. The good news is that Allah Almighty shows us in the Quran that no matter how mighty the tyrant is – his reign will not go on forever. It has a time limit. And as we will see that time limit is also indicated by the Quran.
The camel race
Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to have a camel who would win every race. She was strong and fast. However one day a Bedouin came along and his young, unknown camel beat the Prophet’s camel. As this had never happened before, everyone was shocked.
عن أنس رضي الله عنه قال: كانت ناقة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: العضباء لا تسبق، أو لا تكاد تسبق، فجاء أعرابي على قعود له، فسبقها، فشق ذلك على المسلمين حتى عرفه النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال: “حق على الله أن لا يرتفع شئ من الدنيا إلا وضعه” . ((رواه البخاري)).
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) had a she-camel called Al-‘Adba’ which would not allow any other camel to surpass her. A Bedouin came riding a young camel which outstripped it. The Muslims were much grieved at this. Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) perceived it and said, “It is Allah’s Law that He brings down whatever rises high in the world.” [Bukhari]
In this hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the shock in the faces of his companions and used this event to teach them a profound lesson – whenever Allah lets something reach the pinnacle of success, He brings it down. It is His law.
We see this law being applied clearly in the story of Firaun. His punishment came when he reached his zenith. It is when Firaun declared ‘I am your highest lord’ that Allah responded by sending his punishment. Firaun was at the peak of his oppression and his downfall serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of transgression and oppression in this world. Allah seized him at the height of his power. Not before. Just as the Prophet’s camel was defeated when she was considered unbeatable by an unknown camel.
فَأَخَذَهُ ٱللَّهُ نَكَالَ ٱلۡـَٔاخِرَةِ وَٱلۡأُولَىٰۤ
So, Allah seized him for an exemplary punishment in the Hereafter and the present world. [An-Nazi’at, Ayah 25]
This is a lesson to us that all oppression does come to an end. It does not continue forever. Until that time, Allah gives the oppressor respite. And when He takes him, His destruction is completed Allah leaves no traces of him. As in the hadith, when Allah took the towns that committed transgression His punishment is severe.
Know that when we see oppression around us, it will come to an end. So we need to trust Allah and until that moment comes do our best to defend our rights and to resist oppression.
In another hadith, Abdullah bin Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated:
عن عبدالله بن عباس رضي الله تعالى عنهما قال: كنت رديف رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه
وسلم:” يا غلام أو يا بني، ألا أعلمك كلمات ينفعك الله بهن ؟ قلت: بلى. فقال صلى الله عليه وسلم:
“احفظ الله يحفظك، احفظ الله تجده أمامك، تعرف إلى الله في الرخاء يعرفك في الشدة، إذا سألت فاسأل الله، وإذا استعنت فاستعن بالله، فقد جف القلم بما هو كائن، فلو أن الخلق كلهم جميعاً أرادوا أن ينفعوك بشيء لم يقضه الله لك، لم يقدروا عليه، وإن أرادوا أن يضروك بشيء لم يقضه الله لك لم يقدروا عليه، واعمل لله بالشكر واليقين، واعلم أن في الصبر على ما تكره خيراً كثيراً، وأن النصر مع الصبر، وأن الفرج مع الكرب، وأن مع العسر يسراً.
“I was behind the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he said to me, ‘O young man, shall I teach you some words by which Allah may benefit you? I said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Be mindful of Allah, and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help from Allah. “The pens have dried with what has been decreed. If all of creation were to collectively intend to benefit you with something, they could not bring it about unless Allah has ordained it for you. Similarly, if they intended to harm you with something, they would be powerless unless it is within Allah’s decree. Work for Allah with gratitude and certainty.
Know that in patience over what you dislike, there is much good. Victory comes with patience, relief comes with hardship, and with difficulty comes ease.”.'” [Tirmidhi and Ahmad]
Towards the end of this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave the recipe we need to follow. He said work for Allah with gratitude and certainty. Therefore to fight transgression you need to purify your intention and intend it purely for Him. First act with gratitude. Then have certainty that Allah will make you victorious and help you. Thirdly when you act with patience in the face of affliction, you will achieve victory.
Patience is not passive. It is active. It requires controlling your actions so they are in line with what pleases Allah and within the limits that Allah has set. Victory comes with patience, relief comes with hardship and with difficulty comes ease. This is the promise of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
We can see with our own eyes, that Allah is giving our Ummah a new beginning and new hope. It will be the beginning of the end of oppression.
How can we help our brothers and sisters who are oppressed in Palestine? We can ask for the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and 2334 to be implemented. It is our right. We need to keep making dua and writing to our MPs.
History is being written, so choose to be on the right side of history. We ask Allah to make us among those who side against oppression and transgression and defend the truth. Ameen.
Based on the Khutbah of Shaykh Haytham Tamim 17th Nov 2023
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