In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported in a famous Hadith, found in both Bukhari and Muslim, to have said, “Support your brother, whether oppressor or oppressed.” On the face of it, this is nothing radical. In fact, this statement is an old Arab adage, the ultimate manifestation of blind and ignorant tribalism. Indeed, wars between the Arabs were routinely fought when tribes would defend its criminal members to the death.
Knowing the Prophet (pbuh), however, the Companions questioned him further. They told him that they understood that an oppressed person should be supported. Yet, how can they support their brother who oppresses others? This seemed a bit strange to them. The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”
This is nothing short of revolutionary. In fact, it turns the old Arab adage on its head.
When you see your brother, or fellow tribesman, or countryman, or President, or Country do wrong, the best thing you can do is to prevent him from doing wrong. “Friends do not let friends drive drunk,” the saying goes. The same is true with oppression: “Friends do not let friends oppress others.”
This means that if your fellow tribesman commits a crime, then you must stop him, not defend him to the death. It is the fulfillment of the Divine command: “Believers! Stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor; for God can best protect both.” (4:135) Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said that if his daughter Fatima committed a crime, he himself would punish her.
This is the Islamic standard: no one is above the law; no one can get away with oppression; we do not defend criminals in our midst, rather, we call them out and punish them. Alas, this standard has all but disappeared from the Muslim world.
Case in point, the recent Arab Summit in Qatar. Arab leaders rejected the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent indictment of President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. At the end of the summit, a joint statement read: “We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision.”
Now, on a purely pragmatic level, no one expected that Arab leaders would endorse the ICC indictment. If they were to do that, they would put themselves in a vulnerable position, as many of them are brutal dictators with their own proverbial skeletons. President Assad of Syria said that those who had “committed massacres and atrocities in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon” should be arrested first. That is completely irrelevant to the issue of Darfur.
Darfur, remember, is the region in Western Sudan where government backed militias are fighting against rebels. An estimated 300,000 people – Muslims – have been killed by, get this, fellow Muslims. And the Muslim world has done nothing. Nay, they have stood by the alleged architect of the massacre and genocide in “solidarity.”
“Support your brother”…
Indeed, there are other alleged war criminals who remain free, and there very well may be a political motive to the ICC indictment against Al Bashir. Yet, again, that is irrelevant. If Muslims today held to the principles of their faith; if they followed the way of their Prophet (pbuh), they would have stopped the genocide in Darfur long ago. They would have made “peace between your two (contending) brothers and fear God” as the Qur’an (49:10) commanded.
Moreover, it must be said that the West did prosecute some of its own alleged war criminals -Slobodan Milosevic, for instance – the victims of whom, remember, were Muslims. The Muslim world has failed to follow suit.
Indeed, if more people followed the Prophetic wisdom of supporting an oppressive brother by stopping his oppression, our world would be a much better place. Yet, this sort of tribalism abounds in our world today, and it is truly a sad commentary on the state of humanity.
Yet, one would have thought that the self-proclaimed followers of the Last Prophet (pbuh) would indeed follow his example. One would have thought.