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Exploring the Dynamics of Justice and Tyranny in Islamic Teachings

In my previous article, I had touched upon the universal and historical judgment and message of verse 58 of the Surah An-Nisa, highlighting the aspect of justice. My editor wrote to me that it is equally necessary to discuss tyranny, the opposite pole of justice, otherwise one side of the message of the verse would be incomplete. He is right. I said I would dedicate my next article to this. Here is that article…

The well-known verse, which was revealed specifically about the handing over of the keys of the Kaaba to Osman b. Talha, who had rightfully carried out this duty until the conquest of Mecca, uses the phrase “give trusts to their rightful owners.”

What is the opposite of this? Not giving trusts to their rightful owners. Handing them over to unqualified, incompetent people. In the first case, justice arises, and in the second, as my editor pointed out, tyranny.

In Arabic, tyranny, by dictionary definition, means placing something where it does not belong. When Prophet Luqman says to his son, “Associating partners with God is a great tyranny” (Luqman 31/13), he means precisely this. It’s about acknowledging God’s existence but not His oneness, distorting the truth, displacing it, and partially rejecting it.

In its terminological sense, tyranny involves different meanings depending on the political, legal, and moral contexts it is used in. In the political context, it is the misuse of powers and authority granted to rulers, in the name of the people, to use force.

In this dimension, tyranny leads to the loss of public duties that fill the essence of the trust and consequently harms the entire society. We are not talking about a police officer torturing someone. That is tyranny itself. Instead, we are discussing a broader scope of tyranny, encompassing all living and non-living beings and affecting not only the present but also the future of the nation.

How does one assist a tyrant?

The Quran mentions the word tyranny and its derivatives a total of 269 times. This alone reflects the Divine will’s perspective on tyranny. Our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has dozens of authentic statements regarding not committing tyranny, not being subjected to it, and helping the oppressed. Furthermore, the Prophet (pbuh) even speaks of helping the tyrant in one of his hadiths.

Yes, you read it correctly. One day, the Prophet said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or the oppressed.”

This statement was contrary to all the teachings he had preached and represented until that day. Moreover, this saying is attributed to Jundub b. Anber b. Temîm, a poet from the pre-Islamic Arab society, reflecting the tribal fanaticism of the Jahiliyyah period.

The saying “assist the oppressor,” which reflects Jahiliyyah fanaticism, coming from the mouth of the Prophet (pbuh), greatly surprised the companions. They asked, puzzled, “We understand helping the oppressed, but how can we help the oppressor?” The Prophet (pbuh) clarified, “Stopping the oppressor’s tyranny is the help to him.” (Bukhari, “Meẓâlim”, 4; Muslim, “Birr”, 62)

You can add to this perspective by saying, “Preventing the oppressor’s tyranny is also helping the society, Islam, humanity, including unborn children and the future, law, economy, etc.”

Since we are discussing justice and tyranny, let me share a brief comparison made by Hocaefendi about these two concepts: “Justice is the foundation of sovereignty; tyranny is a dynamite placed on this foundation; justice is the surest way to please God and the people, tyranny is a goblin that will startle hearts on this path; justice is the voice and breath of right, tyranny a groan of selfishness; justice is the only safety measure in this world and the hereafter, tyranny is a smog of oppression and injustice; justice is the Quranic name for what we call true servitude, tyranny is a title for disrespect to true human values; justice is the sturdiest bridge to universal peace, tyranny is the vilest form of pollution in the human horizon…”

SEE: https://fgulen.com/tr/eserleri/kendi-dunyamiza-dogru/zulum

A hint is enough for the wise. Let’s conclude this article with a prayer that the Messenger of Allah used to recite every morning when he left his house: “In the name of Allah, I seek refuge in Allah. O Allah! We seek refuge in You from committing errors, straying from the right path, committing tyranny, being subjected to tyranny, acting ignorantly, and being subjected to ignorance.” (Tirmidhi, “Daʿavât”, 34)

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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