One woman’s reflection on the imprisonment of her brother.

The believer’s approach to injustice

Of all the many profound statements made by our beloved Messenger, one in particular stands out in guiding how we are to approach witnessing harm and oppression: 

Narrated by by Abdullah Ibn Abbas, the Prophet (PBUH) said: :

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” لا يَقِفَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ مَوْقِفًا يُقْتَلُ فِيهِ رَجُلٌ ظُلْمًا ، فَإِنَّ اللَّعْنَةَ تَنْزِلُ عَلَى مَنْ حَضَرَ حِينَ لَمْ يَدْفَعُوا عَنْهُ ، وَلا يَقِفَنَّ أَحَدٌ مِنْكُمْ مَوْقِفًا يُضْرَبُ فِيهِ أَحَدٌ ظُلْمًا ، فَإِنَّ اللَّعْنَةَ تَنْزِلُ عَلَى مَنْ حَضَرَهُ حِينَ لَمْ يَدْفَعُوا عَنْهُ ” .

المصدر : الترغيب والترهيب الصفحة أو الرقم: 3/283

“No one of you stands witness to a situation where a man is wrongfully killed, except the curse (of Allah) befalls everyone who witnessed this yet did not defend him. No one of you stands witness to a situation where a man is wrongfully hit, except the curse (of Allah) befalls everyone who witnessed this yet did not defend him”

As a fundamental part of what makes us human, Islam is a faith that does not tolerate humiliation and oppression, neither allowing us to oppress or be oppressed. Because of this, it is a faith that brings out men and women of strong character who refuse to bow to tyranny, nor allow for the dignity and honour of men to be trampled on and abused.

The consequence of turning a blind eye to tyranny- great or small- is made clear when we are told that those who stand witness to the oppression and humiliation of even just one man will consequently face the curse of Allah (swt).

It is with this understanding I was always raised, with the glorious pages of our history  filled with stories of men and women whose lives were defined by striving to establish justice and preserve human dignity.  We learn of those who stood firm against the odds, ever ready to give up all they had in service of this noble mission.

In a world of subjectivities, honour and dignity is a red line for the believer who understands his religion and what Allah expects from him. This is why working to protect the honour of his religion and the dignity of man is prioritised and overrides every challenge he might face in this pursuit. 

The challenges of imprisonment are varied and traumatic, whether it is being subject to terror, material loss, physical torment, psychological intimidation and separation from loved ones. These different expressions of oppression are all but temporary experiences that the believing soul perseveres patiently through, seeking great rewards from His Lord. Moreover if the believer finds his strength wavering, he only has to tap into the vast sources of strength he finds in the examples of the steadfast who have walked this path  before him.

Fearing the wrath of Allah over the wrath of the oppressors who roam the earth becomes an active decision for the true believer. He understands the meaning of testifying to the truth, a  testimony that does not simply roll off the tongue, but is evidenced in the way he lives and eventually dies.  

Memories of precious childhood tales

I recall as if it was just yesterday that myself and my older brother would spend our school summers with our grandparents and relatives abroad. We would, as all young children do, wake up every morning and explore the gardens and streets in search of anything that would fascinate and arouse our excitement for the day. This of course at times also meant we got in trouble – which for us was secretly part of the thrill!

Aside from searching for adventures, there were other elements of our visits that remain forever memorable for different reasons.This would be the reflections and stories we would hear from our elders. As I became an adult, I would come to realise that I had subconsciously stored these stories in a deep part of my conscience, not realising the significance they would have for us later on in life.

One such story was that of two Indian brothers, Muhammad Ali and his older brother Shaukat Ali. They were strong Muslims we were taught, who gave up their lives serving the cause of Allah. They had a mother called Bi Amma. A formidable character, she made them  who they were. Bi Amma was known as a lady with deep faith and incredible bravery. Her sons were part of major efforts to resist the British colonialists, who were oppressing and stripping away the dignity of their subjects.

The Ali brothers soon became subject to the wrath of the colonisers and it wasn’t long before the colonialist forces arrived at their homes to arrest and take them away.

Time would pass while the two brothers were held in the dungeons being punished for being men of character.

One day a rumour began to spread among the people that the Ali brothers would soon be released as they had finally succumbed to British pressure and had submitted to their terms.

This false news reached the ears of their mother Bi Amma. She was deeply unsettled by what she heard and passionately denied the possibility of this being true. Thereafter, our elders explained, she is narrated to have said, “However if what you are saying is true let them know not be deceived by the old age and frailness of their mother. Rather if they return to me in this disgraced way, I will squeeze their necks and strangle them with my own bare hands”.

What this taught me, even in those days of youth, was that  the status of men and women in society depended on their stances in defending their faith and the honour of their nation.

Many years have since passed since my brother and I first heard these stories. Today more than ever I find my mind drifting back and reflecting on their stories and the stories of so many other noble men and women.

When the story of struggle comes home

All this time on, today my brother shares the fate of those who preferred the wrath of arrogant men over the curse of their Lord. It is a new experience for us as a family to have someone so close placed unjustly behind bars. Despite this,  we are comforted greatly knowing that his imprisonment was a result of  his refusal to be intimidated by the Pharaohs of today. In exchange for these principles, he has lost  his personal freedoms, security and other material losses. Today, he stands  his ground at all costs, seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah alone, never affected by the blame of the blamers. This is the case of not just my brother but hundreds of thousands of other prisoners of conscience around the world. They are the flag bearers of this Ummah and should be honoured and remembered as such. They are a source of strength for our nation. Their eyes teach us the deep meanings of patience and reliance on Allah alone. And their stories instil in us determination to rise up and shake off the debilitating dust of inaction and hopelessness.

I ask Allah to accept from them all and increase them and their families in firmness and patience. Those who stand accused and are sentenced unjustly entered the prisons with honour and dignity calling upon their Lord and seeking His assistance alone. Their upright attitude resembles that of our noble Prophet Yusuf (upon him be peace) who called on His Lord saying:

رَبِّ ٱلسِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَىَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِىٓ إِلَيْهِ 

My Lord, prison is better to me than what they are inviting me to do. [Quran 12:33]

May we be counted as those who stood firm and upright against harm and injustice, holding on patiently for the promise of Divine Justice to come.




Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

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