From the Glorious Qur’ān
I S S U E N O . 4 1 5 T H J A N U A R Y 2 0 0 9

In the Face of Oppression
 What is considered oppression in Judaism?  Who were the Ashab alUkhdud?  What are the similarities between that event and what is happening today?

ُ ُْ ُ َ ْ َ )٤( ‫ُق ِتل أَصاب اْلخْدو ِد‬ ِ َ ِ )٥( ‫النَّار ذات الْ َو ُقو ِد‬ ٌ )٦( ‫ِإ ْذ ُه عَلَْيْ َا ُق ُعود‬ ُْ ٌ ُ َ ْ َ َ َ ُْ )٧( ‫َو ُه عَل َما ي َ ْفعلُون ِِبلْ ُمؤ ِم ِنني شهُود‬
Cursed be the Makers of the Pit. Of the fire (kept burning) with fuel. When they sat above it. And were witnesses to what they did to the believers. (al-Buruj [85]:4-7)

Dhu Nuwas was a Jewish King of present day Yemen who ruled from 515 to 525 A.D. He was not a Jew by birth but converted to Judaism after becoming king and changed his name to Joseph. He then began to propagate Judaism and when he heard of the persecution of Jews by Byzantine emperors, he retaliated by killing some Byzantine merchants who were passing through his kingdom. He also made war with the Christians of Najran and offered them the option of accepting Judaism or being put to death. When they refused to renounce their faith, he ordered a large pit of fire be made and then ordered that the Christians be thrown into it while people sat above and watched what was being done to them.

their rights. Brute force is being used on unarmed civilians by fanatic Jews who have given only one option to the Palestinian people accept subjugation or die. And all this is happening while the richest Arab nations are watching passively, nay, even colluding with the merciless Israeli butchers. What they all seem to have forgotten is that oppressors are doomed to face terrible consequences both in this world and the next. The philosopher Plato is noted to have said: the enslaving of another is also the enslaving of oneself. In another verse of the Glorious Qur’an, we are told about the punishment of the people of Thamud who were oppressive to the Prophet Salih: ‘So there lay their houses, fallen in ruin, because of their oppression. There is indeed a sign in this for people of knowledge.’ (alNaml [27]:52) The consequences of oppression have been described clearly. Shortlived success in this world followed by utter ruin. This is what awaits all the oppressors. The Zionists who perpetrate great evil in the world to secure their own interests can no longer hide behind the shadow of the holocaust when they themselves are embarking on genocide and a new holocaust against the Palestinians. All human beings with a conscience should stand up in protest against the heinous crimes of Israel. Those who adopt a ‘least bothered’ attitude are just like the people who sat around the pit of fire and looked at the innocent Christians of Najran being burnt to death.

Oppression is generally defined as ‘subjugation through unjust use of force.’ A more specific definition is given by Ann Cudd in her book Analyzing Oppression as ‘a harm through which groups of persons are systematically and unfairly or unjustly constrained, burdened or reduced by any of several forces.’ Interestingly, in Judaism, oppression is synonymous with theft or not giving dues to those who are rightfully deserving. Maimonides is quoted as having defined it thus: “Oppression is the forceful withholding and not restoring of the money which had been received…” Grave acts of oppression are described and decried in the religious scriptures of all world religions. Even agnostics and atheists are averse to these acts which human beings are naturally disposed to abhor. In the Qur’an, Allah, the all-Wise, describes ‘the people of the pit’ and how they mercilessly burned believers alive just because they refused to recant their faith. Though commentators have given differing views about what event these verses refer to, most of them say that the reference is to the oppression of Dhu Nuwas.

What are our responsibilities?

A depiction of oppression made in the sand

Some commentators say that hundreds of innocent people were killed and others say thousands, but their only crime was that they did not accept the religion of the tyrant king. If we turn back our gaze to the events that are currently unfolding in the middle east, we will note that there are stark resemblances between what happened over 1500 years ago and what is happening today. Innocent men, women and children are being massacred in Ghazza for no reason other than standing up for

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