By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
The Quran thus reinforces people’s inner strength using several methods that mainly involve ridding man of the feeling of weakness that leads him to deviate from the path of God. Firstly by exposing the false idols that the oppressed had been worshipping besides God or to which they submit or surrender in weakness. Moreover the Quran tries to describe all aspects of strength and its ability to cause harm or do well including its control over living and even life and death etc. Because the source of all strength and possessor of the power of existence is God and to Him all people will return. This is clearly shown in the following verses:
“Say: ‘Would you worship something other than God that can neither harm you nor benefit you?’ God, He is the one Who hears all and knows all.” (5:76)
“What you worship, other than God, are just idols. You are inventing lies. That which you worship cannot provide you which any means of subsistence. Therefore seek your means of subsistence through God.” Worship Him! Be grateful to Him! You will be brought back to Him.” (29:17)
“Yet they have adopted gods besides Him that cannot create anything but are themselves created, that have no control of good or harm to themselves nor can they control death, life or resurrection.”
“Say! ‘Invoke those who you believe to be gods other than God! They do not possess even the weight of an atom not in heaven nor on earth. They are, neither here nor there, associated with God. God receives no help from them.’” (34:22)
Likewise, the Quran encourages us to expose the reality of those who are followed by exhorting the followers to be aware of the faults of the oppressors no matter how strong and influential they would appear to be because, if their harm and benefit turns out to be ineffective in saving themselves how could it have a positive affect on others.
Moreover, in some verses, the situation becomes very serious to the extent that the Quran urges people who feel vulnerable before oppressors to rid themselves of the influence of the bluffing and false appearances of these oppressors and to compare themselves realistically to the latter in order to realize that they have no hidden or different power that normal people do not have, they do not have any distinctive qualities that ordinary people do not have and that they too are servants like them and with this in mind it becomes obviously meaningless to submit to or worship these people.
“In truth, those who you invoke other than God are servants like you. Invoke them! Let them heed your prayer if you are truthful!” (7:194)
Some people may claim that these verses aim at stopping people from worshipping idols other than God and not to discourage people from following oppressors, persecutors or tyrants. According to this point of view, these verses came to combat polytheism that was predominant at the time. In reality, human idolatry resulted from that fact that the idolatrous were intimidated by the supernatural powers that the gods of stone or flesh enjoyed in the same way that oppressed people feel intimidated by the powers of despots and consequently treat them as their idols. And even so the persecuted do not regard their submission to the oppressors as being the same although they are putting this idea into practice because they need their oppressors and this need arises from their feeling of vulnerability before them. Hence the Glorious Quran attempts to destroy this worship by working on the souls of the followers: eradicating the feelings of reverential fear they have for their idols and eliminating the reasons to believe they have horrific powers.
The Weak and the Oppressed Confronting the Oppressors
The Quran endeavors to make the weak and the oppressed feel the necessity of daring to defy their oppressors, to resist them and deprive them of their power. It therefore gives them the right to fight in defense of their homes as well as their freedom and the right to practice the religion they believe in.
“Those who have been attacked are given permission to defend themselves because they have been unjustly oppressed - God is powerful enough to save them - and the same applies to those who have been unjustly chased from their homes just because they said: ‘Our Lord is God!’ If God had not stopped certain people by means of others, monasteries, synagogues, churches and mosques where the Name of God is invoked often would have been demolished. Yes God will save those who help His cause. God is, in truth, strong and powerful.” -(22:39-40)
So the Quran authorizes people to fight and explains the conditions were fighting is justified such as defending the right to remain in their homes, upholding their freedom of belief as well as their freedom to act as they want. In addition, the Quran guarantees victory over their enemies to these people if they continue along the right path in conformity with God’s methods and goals.
The Quran also wants to emphasize that the right of the weak to resist and confront the strong who are oppressing them is part of the natural laws that have been laid down to make humans feel secure in life and in their religious beliefs. If this law had not been in existence, no system would ever have survived on earth and no moral principles and sacred things would have endured. It is also the legitimate and natural justification for people to fight and destroy the enemies of freedom and of life itself because in this way we can realistically build a way of life based on a just system.
What is more, the Quranic verses seek to assure those who help or fight for the cause of God that their final victory is guaranteed if they continue to help His cause using His methods. One of these methods is moral boosting and reminding them that theirs is God’s battle; a battle that He Himself watches over with all His power. This is the realistic way in which the Quran stirs the souls of the weak into action, musters their strength and courage and invites them to use this strength and courage in the fight against those who oppress, exhorting them to rely on their individual strength and, firstly and lastly, on God. The Quran shows the weak that they always had and still do have strength - a strength they were not aware of because of their preoccupation with the powerful appearance of their oppressors. And this had previously frustrated them and eventually led to their defeat.
We notice that some Quranic verses emphasize the importance of souls vanquishing the dishonest as in the verse below:
“Yes, God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality towards your close relations. He forbids all shameful acts, bad deeds and rebellion. He exhorts you. Maybe you will think on it.” (16:90)
These verses as well as others have been cited in the context of describing pious people who had pleased God and acquired His forgiveness. Similarly other verses point out that the oppressed are not accountable for the harm caused during the course of a battle that gain them a victory over injustice. The oppressors would be entirely responsible as it was they who made the whole war necessary in the first place.
“As for those who, after having been treated badly, bring about justice themselves, against them no action can be taken. Action will only be taken against those who are unjust to men and who without reason, become violent on earth - these are the ones who will receive a painful punishment” (42:41-42)
The height of the Quranic discourse on this subject is the promise that God will appoint the weak and oppressed to leading positions on earth such as in the story telling us how the strength of the weak will be regenerated which is a story about how faith grows through the promise of God to the weak as the verse below asserts:
“But we wanted to favor those who had been humiliated on earth; We wanted to make them its leaders and heirs. We wanted to establish them on earth and thus show Pharaoh, Haman and their armies that which they fear.” (28:5-6)
It might be that this verse had been cited in the story of the children of Israel; but it shows a more general way to God’s order in this life that lets no power on earth continue its oppression or conserve its power without end as is expressed in the verses below:
“We make those changing days for men…” (3:140)
“Oh God! Lord of the Kingdom, You give royalty to whoever you wish and You take the royalty from whoever you wish. You honor whoever You wish and you bring down whoever You wish. Happiness is in your hands, You have, in truth, power over everything.” (3:26)
Excerpts fromthe book “Islam and the logic of power”