Islam is a beautiful and complete way of life. It covers all aspects of life from personal life, business, community, government, and society at large. As we all know, society has problems just as much as it has good sides.
One element of society that has always been prevalent is the injustice of various forms. Although Islam has the solution to every problem, Muslims at large don’t seem to care or speak against injustice. So, why don’t more Muslims talk against injustice?
Speaking against injustice is a part of Islam
Of course, there will always be some Muslims who are passionate about speaking up against social problems, but it doesn’t seem to be the norm in the ummah as it probably was at one point in time. One thing that is noticeable is that people tend to speak up against wrong-doing only when it affects them directly. That contradicts the teachings of Islam. As Muslims, we are urged to change injustice when we witness it.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported by Abu Sa’eed Al Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) to have said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand. And if he is not able to do so, then (let him change it) with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.“ Sahih Muslim
Quoting isn’t the same as implementing
Interestingly enough, many of us quote that hadith, but sadly, it doesn’t reflect in our daily lives. Speaking against something wrong isn’t limited to telling a Muslim woman off when she wears the hijab the wrong way, telling a Muslim man when he shaves his beard or informing a Muslim of his/her mistakes. All that is without doubt very important, but so is speaking against the injustice done by others.
Addressing common mistakes is important, but…
What we find is that those who are quick to voice their opinions against social injustice are usually young people who may not even know much about Islam. They speak about real social problems that affect real people. And many of those who are considered to be “religious” based on the appearance rarely talk about real social problems. They may speak on how to make wudhu (ablution), how to pray, how to wear hijab, why your pants shouldn’t go below your ankles or the common mistakes that are made. Again, all that is absolutely crucial! We would be lost as an ummah if there weren’t people addressing those issues. So, what is really the issue here?
People trust those who address their problems
The issue is that when people who are considered to be the visual representation of Islam don’t talk about real social issues that affect people’s daily lives, they lose credibility; especially in the eyes of the young generation. And when those who are ignorant about Islam fill-up that void, they gain credibility, trust, and followers. That usually leads to misguidance, misinterpretations, ignorance, the lack of zeal for Islam, and sometimes apostacy; believe it or not.
Examples of prevalent social issues
Social problems like domestic violence, racism, child abuse, divorced women looked down upon, mental and financial abuse, men preying on new Muslim women, abuse of domestic workers, underpayment and abuse of workers, and many more other issues are barely talked about. When those affected speak up, they are often seen as “fitnah makers.” The word ‘fitnah’ (rebellion, causing problem or unrest) is today used a lot to discredit or shut down people who chose to speak up against injustice.
I do agree that it may sometimes be done in a distasteful way, but that’s the consequence of allowing oppression to continue for long without making mention of it. It creates distrust, anger, and division. And if those who claim to know a better way of speaking would take the time to address these issues, there would probably be less “fitnah.” I mean, how often do we even hear of these problems in the masjid (most); a place that’s supposed to serve as a reminder?
Silence enables injustice
You may be thinking, “These problems don’t only happen in the Muslim community.” I agree; and, there are Muslims in almost every society in the world. What makes these problems worse in the Muslim community at large (worldwide) is the fact that little to nothing is done to make a difference. Speaking up means we acknowledge that there’s a problem, we identify the problem, raise awareness, and walk towards change. Also, raising awareness about an issue deters many perpetrators. Silence enables injustice even further.
Living in theory vs living in reality
The truth is, many Muslims like to live in theory rather than reality. Saying things like “There’s no racism in Islam,” or “Islam elevated the status of women” will NOT make racism, domestic abuse, or other issues go away. Islam is a way of life that Muslims are supposed to abide by; but, it doesn’t always mean that we do. We are often taught to avoid speaking on certain issues, especially when they do not affect us.
I have to be honest that I wasn’t always the type to speak up because I wasn’t brought up like that. I usually prefer to live a low-key life and mind my own business; even if what I see bothers me a lot. But I’ve now realized that I’m part of the problem when I don’t do the little I can do or say against injustice. Why only wait to be affected before speaking up? Why can’t we speak up for each other?
If we have internal problems, they need to be addressed and dealt with. What’s supposed to happen isn’t always what happens. So we need to face reality and stop using Islam as a cover. We also need to teach our children to live by the above-quoted hadith and stop wrong-doing in whatever way we can. We must understand that the young generation is the future of Islam. What are we doing to leave a positive legacy?