Tyranny is born of ignorance and arrogance

Tyranny is born of ignorance and arrogance

Allah Almighty mentions in the Quran in different surahs, and on different occasions the continuous fight between truth and falsehood, since Adam was sent down to earth. There has been a battle between shaytan and his followers and Adam and his offspring, which will continue till the Day of Judgement.

Every Friday, we read Surat al-Kahf which demonstrates the battle between the two camps – those who believe and those who do not, the believers, and the disbelievers, the camp of evil and the camp of goodness.

In this surah, Allah Almighty mentions the youths who took shelter in the cave, because they were afraid of being persecuted.

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

When the youths took shelter in the cave, they said, “Our Lord, give us mercy from Yourself, and bless our affair with guidance.” (18:10)

هَٰؤُلَاءِ قَوْمُنَا اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ لَّوْلَا يَأْتُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِسُلْطَانٍ بَيِّنٍ ۖ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا

These people, our people, have taken to themselves gods other than Him. Why do they not bring a clear proof concerning them? Who, then, does greater wrong than he who invents lies and attributes them to God?” (18:15)

إِنَّهُمْ إِن يَظْهَرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ يَرْجُمُوكُمْ أَوْ يُعِيدُوكُمْ فِي مِلَّتِهِمْ وَلَن تُفْلِحُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا

If they discover you, they will stone you, or force you back into their religion; then you will never be saved.” (18:20)

Russia, Ukraine and the crushing force of the brutal dictator

The events that have unfolded in Ukraine are an illustration of the same story. How one person decides to impose their choices on others [i.e a dictatorship]. This is exactly what happened to the people of the cave, who were threatened that they would be stoned to death, if they were caught.

The dictator exhibits the mentality of brutal intolerance – if you are not with us, you are against us. If you are not on our side, then we have to kill you. This is the mentality of tyrants, tughat. They are blinded by their power and fail to understand that they are accountable for their actions to a higher authority.

Tyranny in the past

Allah Almighty gives examples of this same pattern of behaviour in the past. In the story of Nuh (peace be on him) who was one of the five Resolute Messengers (Ulu ‘Azam), enemies threatened to stone him if he did not listen to them. Other prophets experienced the same treatment, such as Shuaib, and Ibrahim (peace be on them), whose own father threatened to stone him. Musa (peace be on him) was also threatened to death as well as Eesa (who was lifted to heaven) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on them), whom the disbelievers plotted against and attempted to assassinate.

قَالُوا لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ يَا نُوحُ لَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمَرْجُومِينَ

They said, “If you do not refrain, O Noah, you will be stoned.” (26:116)

قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ مَا نَفْقَهُ كَثِيرًا مِّمَّا تَقُولُ وَإِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِينَا ضَعِيفًا ۖ وَلَوْلَا رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْنَا بِعَزِيزٍ

They said, “O Shuaib, we do not understand much of what you say, and we see that you are weak among us. Were it not for your tribe, we would have stoned you. You are of no value to us.” (11:91)

قَالَ أَرَاغِبٌ أَنتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ۖ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا

He said, “Are you renouncing my gods, O Abraham? If you do not desist, I will stone you. So leave me alone for a while.” (19:46)

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا أَصْحَابَ الْقَرْيَةِ إِذْ جَاءَهَا الْمُرْسَلُونَ

And cite for them the parable of the landlords of the town—when the messengers came to it. (36:13)

قَالُوا إِنَّا تَطَيَّرْنَا بِكُمْ ۖ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهُوا لَنَرْجُمَنَّكُمْ وَلَيَمَسَّنَّكُم مِّنَّا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

They said, “We see an evil omen in you; if you do not give up, we will stone you, and a painful punishment from us will befall you.” (36:18)

وَإِنِّي عُذْتُ بِرَبِّي وَرَبِّكُمْ أَن تَرْجُمُونِ

I have taken refuge in my Lord and your Lord, lest you stone me. (44:20)

وَإِذْ يَمْكُرُ بِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِيُثْبِتُوكَ أَوْ يَقْتُلُوكَ أَوْ يُخْرِجُوكَ ۚ وَيَمْكُرُونَ وَيَمْكُرُ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ

When the disbelievers plotted against you imprison you, or kill you, or expel you, they planned, and God planned, but God is the Best of planners. (8:30)

Tyranny in our time

Tyrants have no religion, and their religion is their own opinion: dictatorship and control.

Sadly this story keeps repeating itself not only in the Quran, but also in our time. We have witnessed atrocities against Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and against the Uyghurs in China. In Ukraine we are seeing an exodus begin, particularly as women, children and elderly people flee, carrying their belongings in rucksacks, plastic bags and suitcases, with children clutching cuddly toys, and even pets under their arms. Peace is shattered by blasts and shells and another country begins to crumble at the whim of a power-hungry, leader laden with arms.

Blaming Putin for having no qualms about destroying Ukraine to show the West Russia will not tolerate them bringing arms to their border, does not absolve the West for provoking him nor their disregard for keeping their own promises.

Whether world leaders wear the cloak of a dictator, king or democracy, almost all world leaders with power and arms have failed the test. Rather than using their power positively, they have exploited their positions for personal gains, self interest and to show their national supremacy, with no regard for human life or ‘collateral’.

The reason for tyranny is unbridled power

In Surat al-Alaq, the first Surah to be revealed, Allah Almighty says that the human being is always liable to transgress and overstep all limits, when he thinks that he is self-sufficient, or does not need anyone.

إن الإنسان ليطغى

Indeed Man transgresses

أن رآه استغنى

Because he sees himself self sufficient

إِنَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ الرُّجْعَىٰ

But to your Lord is the return. (96:6-9)

We see this in today’s context: “I have nuclear power; I have China on my side; I have the gas pipes feeding Europe, therefore I am untouchable. No one can stop me.” This is the reason for oppression and transgression, as Pharaoh himself admitted, saying the he reason he transgressed was because no one stopped him.

وَاسْتَكْبَرَ هُوَ وَجُنُودُهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا يُرْجَعُونَ

He and his troops acted arrogantly in the land, with no justification. They thought they would not be returned to Us. (28:39)

This is how one becomes too powerful and abuses his position. The leaders of the Quraysh similarly exhibited acute aggression towards the Prophet (peace be on him) and he warned us against such behaviour. Yet one’s ability to transgress gives one no justification to do it.

In a hadith Qudsi, on the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifaree (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him) from his Lord, that He said:

يَا عِبَادِي: إنِّي حَرَّمْت الظُّلْمَ عَلَى نَفْسِي، وَجَعَلْته بَيْنَكُمْ مُحَرَّمًا؛ فَلَا تَظَالَمُوا.

O My servants! I have forbidden dhulm (oppression) for Myself, and I have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. (Bukhari)

Tyranny is born of arrogance and ignorance

Imam Al Razi commented that the definition of tughyan (tyranny) is rooted in arrogance (kibr) and rebellion. Arrogance leads to all sorts of problems. The very first crime committed was committed out of arrogance:

[Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” (7:12)

Thus dictatorship is based on arrogance. And it is also based on ignorance as the dictator is unaware that his power is test from Allah, and that oppressing others is punishable. Therefore many dictators fail the test.

Power comes in different forms: physical strength, authority, and wealth, and cyber ability. It is very easy to use and misuse it, which in turn often leads to oppression. Pharaoh was ruthless.

إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهْلَهَا شِيَعًا يَسْتَضْعِفُ طَائِفَةً مِّنْهُمْ يُذَبِّحُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ

Pharaoh 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 truly a corrupter. (28:4)

Allah Almighty has given tyrants many chances to repent, come back to Him and reconcile on many different occasions. However, the nature of Pharaoh and the like of him is that they never come back or repent.

Tyranny backfires and will be punished

Pharaoh said, “I am your lord, the most high.” (79:24) knowing that he was lying and he could make such a statement because he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. This is the nature of tyranny and the fastest route to hellfire. “Indeed, hellfire is the final destination for tyrants”. (78:21-22)

Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

عن أبي مُوسَى، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُمْلِي لِلظَّالِمِ فَإِذَا أَخَذَهُ لَمْ يُفْلِتْهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ ‏{‏ وَكَذَلِكَ أَخْذُ رَبِّكَ إِذَا أَخَذَ الْقُرَى وَهِيَ ظَالِمَةٌ إِنَّ أَخْذَهُ أَلِيمٌ شَدِيدٌ‏}‏. رواه مسلم.

“Verily, Allah Almighty will give respite to the wrongdoer until he seizes him and he cannot escape.” Then the Prophet recited the verse, “Such is the seizure of your Lord, when he takes hold of the cities while they are doing wrong. Verily, his seizure is agonizing and severe.” (11:102) (Bukhari and Muslim)

Where is justice?

What about the oppressed in the dunya? What will happen to those who suffer persecution and oppression from these tyrants? In these scenarios, we must always trust Allah’s wisdom, He will definitely grant full justice to the oppressed either during this life, or in the hereafter. We may see justice in the dunya, but it is not a promise. Allah Almighty has promised justice in the hereafter.

فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۚ فَإِمَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِلَيْنَا يُرْجَعُونَ

So be patient. The promise of God is true. Whether We show you some of what We have promised them, or take you to Us, to Us they will be returned. (40:77)

We must trust Allah Almighty and His wisdom. Allah Almighty says:

And the evil plot engulfs none but its own people. (35:43)

فَأَخَذْنَاهُ وَجُنُودَهُ فَنَبَذْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ ۖ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ

So We seized him, and his troops, and We threw them into the sea. Observe, therefore, what was the end of the oppressors. (28:40)

The punishment for tyranny is severe

Hellfire is waiting for the oppressors, longing to receive them.

وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنصَرُونَ

And We made them leaders calling to the Fire. And on Resurrection Day, they will not be saved. (28:41)

وَأَتْبَعْنَاهُمْ فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ هُم مِّنَ الْمَقْبُوحِينَ

And We pursued them in this world with a curse. And on Resurrection Day, they will be among the despised. (28:42)

هَٰذَا ۚ وَإِنَّ لِلطَّاغِينَ لَشَرَّ مَآبٍ

All This. But the transgressors will have a miserable return. (38:55)

جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ الْمِهَادُ

Hell; in which they will roast; what a miserable abode! (38:56)

إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا

Hell is lying in ambush. (78:21)

لِّلطَّاغِينَ مَآبًا

For the oppressors, a destination. (78:22)

لَّابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا

Where they will remain for ages. (78:23)

How should we respond?

We may not be able to stop dictatorship, but we have to condemn it wherever it rears its ugly head.

In the meantime, we also must protect the weak, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Our hearts are with those under attack, no matter what race or religion or ethnicity. In Ukraine, there is a region called Crimea, Al Qirm in Arabic, which was Muslim since the 10th century.

Crimean Tatars are a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula, on the northern coast of the Black Sea. In 1944, all 180,000 Crimean Tatars living in Crimea were forced onto cattle trains and exiled to Uzbekistan under the orders of Joseph Stalin.

It is estimated that about half the Crimean Tatars died either during the journey to Uzbekistan or from subsequent disease and starvation during their first two years in exile. Four countries, including Ukraine, have recognised this deportation as genocide.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the peninsula became part of Ukraine, and the Crimean Tatars were able to return to their homeland.

There is a Muslim link in Ukraine, but regardless of this link, we feel the suffering of every human being everywhere. We keep our brothers and sisters in our prayers, may Allah grant them peace and protect them from the tyrants. We ask Allah Almighty to help us to always to side with the truth and defend those who are oppressed everywhere. Ameen.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim’s Khutbah delivered to the Muslim World League 25th February 2022 Transcribed by Zahra Hrifa

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.