There are so many people out there living silently in pain, and have no hope or roadmap of how to get out of this complex life situation.
Unfortunately there are no quick fixes without an understanding of the basis and etiquette of the global relationship of the human race with each other individually and collectively.
Allah Subhanawataala guides us in the Quran modulating human behavior to avert the pain that humans afflict on each other:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards East or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. Quran:2:177
The believers are guided to what is good for fellow human beings on one hand and sternly warned against Oppression on the other hand by Allah (SWT). Repeatedly in the Quran the oppressors are given due notice that if they continue in this world to oppress the weak, there awaits for them in the Hereafter, the pit of fire from which there is no escape. It will burn their skin, baring the nerve endings, new skin will be replaced with all its sensitivity to burn again and thus the cycle will continue forever. A soul shaking warning for those who are cognizant and not blinded by arrogance.
The Arabic word for oppression, as I understand it is dhulm. Some how the translation into English as oppression just does not cut it. Dhulm on the other hand is not a single action, but a series of continuous acts to denigrate, dehumanize, and subjugate someone by encroaching indelibly on his or her rights and who is unable to resist this encroachment.
The means employed by the oppressor are not as important as the actual intention and act of oppression. The oppressor is called Dhalim and the oppressed is called Mazloom.
There are many types of oppression, but one thing is consistent in all forms: the oppressor is powerful and the oppressed is powerless against the onslaught of dhulm or oppression.
I have often wondered why Allah SWT repeatedly warns humankind to be kind to each other and not oppress each other and not take another’s right by force or fear? Aren’t human beings practicing humanity?
This stern warning in the Quran serves as the great balancer of life in this world. One person oppresses another one, and a third one comes to the rescue of the oppressed. Sometimes the oppressor begins oppression and then because of his fear of Allah retracts his behavior and lets go of the subjugation of the oppressed.
There are two formats of Oppression:
1. Deliberate: Inebriated with the arrogance of power the Dhalim (oppressor) rides rough shod over the weak and when he/she succeeds in usurping the rights of the weak continues to do so as he does not have any fear of Allah in this state of mind.
2. Ignorance: A Dhalim oppressor may be unaware that his actions may be a form of oppression and the obedience that he is extracting is at the expense of the rights of the mazloom or oppressed. This I call silent oppression.
The reason I call it silent oppression is because the oppressor conducts it silently and sometimes may even be unaware or may consider it his right to impose this form of Dhulm on the other individual.
On the other side there is silence from the mazloom or the oppressed who is slowly being “gaslighted” or chronically abused such that he or she begins to think that this is what he or she deserves and therefore no longer stands up to his or her rights anymore. And yet one day the mounting acts of oppression are no longer tolerable even with the rationalization noted above. The situation between the oppressor and the oppressed explodes into external violence. That is the day when the issue of oppression becomes a headline not as oppression but only the result of it.
Examples of silent oppression are seen in schools and the outcomes are seen in the actions of the carnage done by the two boys of Columbine High School or more recently the single shooter of Virginia Tech.
Silent oppression usually does not have the explosive outcome in the devoutly muslim people as it has in the non-muslim countries. The reason being two fold:
1. The oppressor in moments of cognizance recognizes his oppression and backs off due to fear of Allah, or someone in the muslim society puts pressure on the oppressor and puts the fear of God in him thus forcing him without violence to accede the rights to the oppressed.
2.The oppressed turn to Allah and it is a Hadith that a true heartfelt supplication to Allah from the lips of the oppressed is never turned away by Him ( SWT). Thus the ability to bear minor oppression is strengthened in a person who remains in Dhikr.
Factors propagating oppression in muslim societies:
Sometimes the veil of false facts invented from cultural religiosity is used to continue oppression. This is when both the oppressor and the oppressed believe this oppression to be right, as they are ignorant of the God given rights of the victim clearly outlined in the Quran and summarized in Surah al Baqara. The right of being treated with dignity by all irrespective of caste creed and gender given to human beings by Allah SWT are distorted by self serving, ignorant half baked but well intentioned wannabe scholars and Imams.
Where is silent oppression most evident?
1. Silent oppression is most overt in the beaurocratic organization where people are captive due to their dependence on the goodwill of their bosses for their jobs rather than their expertise. Their bosses if they are not God fearing, recognizing the helplessness of the people under them oppress them. Examples are the sexual advances towards female workers under male bosses. The male bosses do not feel that they are accountable to Allah SWT for their behavior. They are ignorant of the fact that making sexual advances to a woman working under them are punishable by the severest laws of the hudood. The laws of sexual harassment in secular countries are mild slaps on the hand for such people.
2. The other place where silent oppression is most evident and yet unrecognized is in the home. Here if each individual does not ask the question of himself or herself before demanding something from the other “ Am I asking her or him to do something which is beyond my right to ask for?” then oppression occurs and slowly builds creating a power structure in the heart and mind of the oppressor and suppressed anger and evolving passion of violence in the hearts and mind of the oppressed.
Again this wound festers and eventually boils over and the public sees it in a newspaper headline where a wife set fire to the bed in which her husband was asleep, or a husband kills his wife and children after she separated from him and went to live elsewhere. In society this factual report is only the tip of the iceberg.
In the second surah of the Quran, Surah Baqara it appears to me in my initial review that Allah SWT has given us a summary of the code of ethics and behavior to follow in our daily life. He (SWT) outlines the “Haqooq al Ebad” which means the rights of the humankind over each other.
I am confident that if we took a vote of how many muslim men and women entering matrimony have actually read and studied Surah Baqara and are well versed in the code of ethics of Haqooq al Ebad, I would say that the majority have not even cracked the book, leave alone studied it. I myself once belonged to that group. I would be happy if a reader dispels this assertion if they can.
How can one expect to have a smooth ride through marriage if both parties do not know the verbage and code of behavior that the contract warrants?
Why is there such a strict code of behavior in Islam? My non-muslim friends often ask me this question. The answer is, having a global code of ethics that is based on humanity makes for a peaceful and happy world.
Thus if everyone remains within the circle of being human with each other and constantly questions oneself “Have I fulfilled the rights of my relatives, my friends, my coworkers, my boss, my society………..etc etc? Then the chances of silent oppression become low in the household, and thus rare in society in general.
How about in school? Learning begins very early in childhood. A child learns by observing the actions of his or her parents. He cries and watches the response of the parent. The actions of the parents are indelibly engraved on the brains of the children long before they can put two words together.
How then can parents expect children to do as they say but not do as they do? A great example is when parents (hopefully not a muslim one) say to their children “ Alcohol is bad for you”, but then proceed not only to drink it but to visibly enjoy it and glamorize it by dressing up beautifully (cocktail dresses) to attend parties where alcohol is the main course (cocktail parties) and yet they tell their children it is not good for you….! It is an oxymoron.
The children’s action imitates the adult, thus school statistics in the US reveal that fifty percent of sixth graders (age 10-11 years) have imbibed alcohol, usually from their parents wine cabinet.
If the parents do not base their conduct with each other on the guidelines of the code of Humanity and children are not taught the code of ethics of humanity “Haqooq al Ebad” then they have no reason not to oppress their colleagues and feel powerful (popular) while doing so.
Thus in school there is little or no protection from oppression. It takes place everywhere, but most poignantly in the locker room where boys are teased about their private parts and girls are also, especially if they do not wish to undress in front of everyone. With time this continuous oppression creates an ever-increasing rage in the oppressed, which fueled by the continuous subjugation of words or acts of the oppressor then explodes into violence. The oppressed child then goes berserk and does damage to the oppressors. That is when I have to see the patient to evaluate them for their “ rage attack” to evaluate if they have a neuropsychiatric disorder. Silent oppression breeds rage. Continuous, unresolved injustice breeds’ rage, which begets violence.
For each individual there are three levels of evaluation of Oppression:
1. To look within oneself not once not twice but intermittently and continuously to keep ones behavior fair and just with all his/her contacts, neither oppressing them, nor being oppressed.
2. To look in ones immediate environment for signs of oppression and to assist the oppressed and desist the oppressor.
3. To look further away into society at large and if oppression is apparent, to assist the oppressed and desist the oppressor.
If the inner code of human ethics as taught by the words of God in the Quran coupled with a healthy fear of God is present it usually is enough to keep oppression in check both in adults and in children.
In summary: In this world progressively going crazily violent around us, we need to pause and let it sink into our psyches that an unshakeable belief in the Hereafter, of accountability on the Day of Judgment and living by the creed of One God and obedience to Him and His last messenger is imperative for the prevention of silent oppression and oppression of all kinds and in all scenarios.
Supplication: May Allah Subhana wa taala protect us from Dhulm and from becoming a Dhalim.
The contemporary words for opression is psychological abuse, sexual harassment, mental torture, etc etc.
In this post I have used the terminology of the Quran so that one can understand how Allah Subhanawataalas commandments help us give and receive human rights.