Allah Ta’ala declares: “Indicted are those who oppress others and are haughty on earth.” (Surah Shurah)
Committing Oppression is Haraam
The purport of this Aayat is to warn over committing oppression when extracting revenge. However, it also alludes to starting oppression. Thus the Aayat covers oppression irrespective of it being retaliatory or introductory, for the words of the Aayat are of general import. In fact, the prohibition of oppression can be readily understood from the Aayat in spite of the context of the Aayat being oppressing in retaliation. If it is haraam to oppress even in retaliation then to a greater degree is it haraam to commit unprovoked oppression.
When retaliating, a person is overcome with anger on account of the zulm (oppression) committed by the other party. In this frenzy the chances of overstepping the limits of revenge are not remote. In fact, it is only a man of valour who will observe the limits in such circumstances. Now when there is no permission to commit oppression in an excusable situation then how can it be permitted to be oppressive where one has no reason or justification? Thus, the Aayat’s purport covers introductory oppression as well.
The Root of Oppression
Then Allah Ta’ala states: “...and they are haughty and rebellious on earth.” This additional clause is to point out that the root and cause of oppression is haughtiness. It is for this reason that we find one reason for the disregard of the rights of others being the erroneous notion of rights being due solely on account of honour. People fulfil the rights of one whose honour is accepted whilst disregard the rights of one who holds no position and honour in their hearts. Having no honour in the heart for someone is synonymous to thinking of that person to be inferior to one; and this is the gist of haughtiness which Allah Ta’ala speaks of in this Aayat, “they are haughty”.
Haughtiness is reproachable. Intelligence and norm accept this fact. Therefore, it has to be treated. Further in the Aayat Allah Ta’ala mentions the treatment, “on earth”.
The teachings of Allah Ta’ala are wonderful. He outlines the sickness and provides the cure as well. Reflecting over the entire Qur’aan will reveal that where a sickness is mentioned the cure is also to be found there.
Even in this world Allah Ta’ala has implemented this pattern. Where something is harmful, the remedy is found nearby. One explorer writes that there is a type of poisonous grass which inflicts pain similar to the sting of a scorpion. However, close by is another grass which is the antidote to the sting. By external application of this grass the pain caused by the first type of grass immediately subsides.
Similarly, the treatment of haughtiness is stated here, “on the earth”. The gist of this is that your haughtiness is astonishing considering you live on earth and have been created from it. Ponder a little! What is your origin? Your origin is this earth and sand upon which humans and animals walk and move about, urinate and defecate. This is from what you have been created. You should therefore have shame in you.
At another place in the Qur’aan Allah Ta’ala draws our attention to this by saying: “From it [earth/soil] We have created you, to it We will return you and from it We will extract you for a second time”. Here, too, we are taught to meditate about our origin being the earth. We have been created from the soil of the earth to which we will return when we die and decompose into dust. What then prompts us to display haughtiness?
This is truly a wonderful treatment for haughtiness. We should therefore utilize it by meditating on the condition of the soil of the earth. Shaikh Saa’di (Rahmatullahi alaih) says:
“Allah Ta’ala created you from the land
So, O Servant of Allah, be humble like sand”
Alas! Our origin is under everyone’s feet whilst we wish to propel ourselves into the sky. All these airs are only as long as we bask in the favours of Allah Ta’ala. Let just one favour be snatched away and our airs will be reduced to dust. Look at a mentally handicapped person. What does he lack that he is not considered a normal human being? His mind is impaired. Just look, then, at the consequence.
A friend suffered a stroke. He was a distinguished Aalim. The stroke completely wiped out whatever he knew. He even forgot Surah Faatiha. After recovering he was taught like a child Alhamdu Lillaahi Rabbil Aalameen. His brother became so happy at his recovery that he distributed sweetmeats. Now what makes man haughty? Everything is going to be reduced to dust. “…on earth” draws our attention to this – living on this earth and you are haughty? Don’t you have any shame?
You Have No Right to be Arrogant
Thereafter, Allah Ta’ala states: “… without right.” This conditions oppression and haughtiness as oppression and haughtiness are invariably without right and unjust. Here it is unequivocally stated that you have no right to oppress and be haughty. Then why do you commit this unjust oppression?
There was no real need to mention this (the condition of ‘without right’), however, it was clearly stated owing to some people labouring under the misconception that they have the right to display arrogance in view of their standing. They are told plainly that, Allah created you from the earth and commanded you to live on earth. Don’t project yourself into the sky.
The Sentence for Oppression
The sentence of the crime is then passed. Judgement passed over those indicted for oppression is: “These people are sentenced to a painful punishment.” Dear Friends! This matter of oppression is so grave that as long as the oppressed does not pardon the crime, Allah Ta’ala will not forgive the crime. Allah Ta’ala forgives His right, but in so far as the rights of His servants are concerned as long as they do not pardon the wrong inflicted upon them He will not forgive the oppressor. This is the gravity of the case.
Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi was a very just and intrepid king. Once, he saw in a dream a magnificent palace in Jannat. He asked the Angels who the palace belonged to. “To Mahmood Ghaznawi,” they replied. “In that case allow me to enter and view my palace,” he said. The Angels replied: “No, not yet. Permission is withheld for there is a case against you. If you are acquitted then you may enter. “What is the charge against me,” he asked? The Angels pointed out to a whip hanging on a wall. ”You whipped a worker with that. Your entry into Jannat is prevented pending the discharge of the right you owe the worker.”
Hearing this, Mahmood (Rahmatullahi alaih) trembled with fear. His eyes opened due to being horrified. Till dawn he turned sides in anxiety. When morning came he called the worker and placed the whip in front of the worker saying: “Here, take this and whip me as much as you please.” Furthermore, he pleaded with the worker to extract revenge otherwise he (Sultan Mahmood) will be deprived of Jannat.
The worker said: “O King! One zulm was that which you inflicted upon me; now this greater zulm by telling me to take revenge!” The worker fell at the feet of the king and said: “I have forgiven His Majesty! Rest assured that I have no claim against you.” Still Mahmood was not at ease. He conferred a load of gifts to the worker who became delighted. Then only did Mahmood become restful.
Dear Friends! This zulm is not a trivial matter. All Ibaadaat are insufficient as long as one is not exonerated of zulm.
(From Khairul Irshaad Li Huqooqil Ibaad by Hazrat Moulana Thanwi Rahmatullahi Alaih)