The Message

In the Footprints of the Prophets: The Path to Social Justice

One of the sad failings of human beings has been to devise social and political constructs that are inimical to the timeless, instructive guidance of Divine revelation and prophetic traditions. Prophets were the progenitors of religious beliefs and practices that were often contrary to the dominant ethos of their contemporary societies. Notably, they were fearless claimants to being standard bearers for social justice in the societies in which they lived. The Quran states that Allah sent messengers to every people so that they could serve Him and avoid evil (Quran 16:36). In any oppressive society, the elites strive to dis-empower the people.

A common refrain for this decade must be “justice for all.” Any nation that ignores the pleas of the oppressed and utilizes rights-abusing tools of suppression and oppression is destined to be relegated, ignobly, to the trash bins of history.

The way to counter their stranglehold is attainment of true knowledge of the Creator and knowing how to uplift and purify the self. In the teachings of all unadulterated revealed scriptures, God (Allah) is the firmest ally and advocate for the oppressed. Witness the Pharaonic System confronted by Prophet Musa (peace be upon him). After three thousand years of the masses being indoctrinated to worship their contemporary pharaoh while viewing themselves as inferior human beings, Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), by the Mercy of Allah, was able to lead a physical liberation movement of the Bani Israel that simultaneously freed scores of Egyptians from mental bondage as well. Prophet Musa hated the system of oppression that plagued his people, but it was only after he received Divine guidance that he was able to transform the existing social order.

The transformative power of tauheed (belief in and worship of the one and only God) was evidenced in an even more dramatic and startling fashion with the 23-year mission of Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah (peace be upon him). After more than 120,000 prophets and messengers, it can be said that the final Messenger, Muhammad (pbuh), led a movement that revolutionized Arabian society in every dimension of its existence, and thereby manifested a practical guide for all generations to come. The victimization of women, the poor, orphans, slaves, those belonging to less powerful tribes, and non-Arabs by the ruling Quraysh elite was ideologically vanquished by the Divine guidance and wisdom espoused by Muhammad. This set the stage for an egalitarian society founded on a system of justice where no one was oppressed. This Islamic movement likewise freed the ruling elites from their own mental entrapment that caused them to attempt to usurp the sovereignty of the Creator. Oppressive societies have always temporarily triumphed by obscuring absolute truths from the masses of the people. The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) went against the ethos of the time, an ethos by which the dominant elites, positioned through tribal and inherited privilege, ruled over and were served by those outside of their racial, ethnic, or class delineations. These unjust social practices were smashed in the brief span of two decades by the movement led by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

In one of the more odious ironies of history, the United States of America was formulated on the propositions of “liberty or death,” espoused by Patrick Henry, a patriot who captured the sentiments of colonists burdened beyond their capacity by British royals in the so-called mother country. This rebellion against exorbitant taxation and imperial imposition on the colonies led not only to the Revolutionary War and subsequent independence from Great Britain, but the formulation of a Constitution that seemingly broke with the Old World norms of social, economic, and political control by the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the pronouncement by the Constitution to “establish justice” and that of the Declaration of Independence about the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” at least as applicable to all citizens, never reached fruition as the new nation built its industrial and capitalist economy and the national wealth by enslaving Africans for over 245 years, all within the framework of laws. Millions of Africans, at least one-third of whom were Muslims, toiled under this pernicious system as a sad example of the cruelty of human beings toward fellow humans. Enslaved Africans were denied the opportunity to learn how to read and write in English for fear that any acquired knowledge militated against their ongoing subjugation. The Divine imperative to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave was thwarted by cruel machinations of the slave owners, including U.S. presidents. Native Americans also suffered unspeakable abuse by the new nation. Native land was seized by forcible expulsion of indigenous people by federal troops and local vigilantes, as well as by unapologetic extermination. In a little-known fact of American history, Natives were enslaved in southwestern states including California, though not to the numerical extent of the kidnapped Africans. How could such cruelty and suffering become so commonplace in a land ostensibly based on freedom, equality, and justice?

Sadly, while physical slavery of Africans in America and the genocide of Native Americans have long since been outlawed, discrimination against, and abuse of, these populations and others such as Latinos, immigrants, and Muslims, are ongoing and deeply entrenched. The present climate of religious, racial, and class strife necessitates that Believers and other Americans who are committed to fair play in the distribution of wealth and the equitable availability of opportunities and privileges, and most importantly, in the rejection of discrimination and hate, must “stand firm for justice” (see Quran 4:135). A common refrain for this decade must be “justice for all.” Any nation that ignores the pleas of the oppressed and utilizes rights-abusing tools of suppression and oppression is destined to be relegated, ignobly, to the trash bins of history.

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