The events of the last month have been a historical eye opener. Both the Ummah and humanity at large have experienced an awakening unlike any time before. Thankfully, during the last few months there are positive signs that we can take effective, creative, and impactful activities against actors of extreme oppression. This has been largely the case against Israel and China’s illegal wrongdoings against the Palestinians and Uyghurs respectively. Their activities violate international law according to the findings of Amnesty International and the US-based think tank Newlines Institute. Those who have taken initiatives to bring an end to these brutal genocides and episodes of ethnic cleansing have no doubt engaged in a highly noble endeavour that humanity is in dire need of.
The fundamental questions are: are these actions considered noble in the sight of Allah, and do they guarantee eternal bliss in Jannah (Paradise)?
The answers to these questions depend on what one prioritises in their life. Suppose an individual spends hours everyday to campaign against these oppressive regimes or engages in other notable work, yet they consistently miss some of the daily obligatory prayers. Although they may view themselves as being a decent person, their life is actually in grave danger. This is because owing to these grave derelictions of duty, they may not actually be deemed a good person in the sight of Allah. In fact, they could end up burning in Jahannam (Hell-fire) unless they repent.
If you are from among those who are missing their prayers, you should seriously consider asking yourself from time to time:
“Why am I campaigning against these criminal activities and engaging in this notable work instead of performing the obligatory prayers? Is it because these public activities make me popular? Is it because I want to become famous? Is it done to show to the people that I am a good person? Is it because it feels good?”
There are other similar questions you can ask yourself to access the depth of your heart, and to diagnose any potential spiritual diseases you could be suffering from. After discovering that you have these faults, you can then work to cleanse your heart from the wrong intentions associated with them. This type of introspection is needed in order to ensure salvation in the Hereafter, for Allah says:
“The Day when neither wealth nor children will benefit [anyone].”
“Except the one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.”
According to some reliable commentators, the sound heart here refers to a heart free from diseases.
To understand the sheer importance of prioritising Allah’s rights, we may consider the example of Abū Ṭālib, who was the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Despite being a disbeliever, he fiercely opposed the oppression that the Quraysh exercised against the Muslims and always defended his nephew. A key work in sīrah provides the following details regarding these matters:
“The Quraysh incited people against the Companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), who had recently become Muslims. Every tribe subjugated the Muslims among them by beating them and trying to pull them away from their newfound religion. Allah protected His Messenger from their harm through the intervention of his uncle (Abū Ṭālib). When he observed what the Quraysh was doing to Banū Hāshim and Banū al-Muṭṭalib, he invited them to stand alongside him in protecting the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). They agreed to do so, except Abū Lahab, the accursed enemy of Allah.”
From this passage, we notice how Abū Ṭālib did well in protecting our Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) from any persecution, torture, and assassination attempts. In contrast, there are many of us across the globe who have been doing much to simply draw attention to the torture against the Palestinians, Uyghurs, and other oppressed peoples, yet we have not realised the same degree of success. We therefore acknowledge Abū Ṭālib’s immense virtue as a human being. However, will this virtue hold value in the sight of his Lord, Allah? There is no doubt that he protected the best human being (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to have ever set foot on this planet. But does this mean that he will be excused for his blatant disbelief? The answer is in the negative. This is because he committed a greater act of oppression by not recognising the rights of his Creator, Allah, and disbelieving in His message. Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī narrated that he heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say the following when somebody mentioned his uncle:
“Perhaps my intercession will be helpful to him on the Day of Resurrection, such that he may be put in a shallow fire which reaches only up to his ankles. His brain will boil from it.”
We notice from this ḥādīth that Abū Ṭālib will taste in the Hereafter a punishment which is far greater than the oppression he tried to protect his nephew (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) from. In conjunction with our current times, this observation has huge implications. Of course, we should stand up for justice, resist Israeli apartheid, oppose China’s torture of Uyghurs in the concentration camps, and address other forms of oppression taking place around the world. However, the wise and spiritually alert individual should stand up against the oppression he is imposing against himself, where he allows his base desire to prevent his innate nature from worshipping Allah. Allah runs the affairs of the Heavens and Earth. He has created all of that which we see around us. He alone deserves the right to be worshipped without any associates or partners.
Other reasons for ensuring the rights of Allah whilst carrying out the noble work of campaigning against dehumanisation
A ḥadīth clearly makes mention of the greatest form of injustice and oppression that a person can commit. ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd narrated the following report:
“I asked the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam): ‘Which sin is the gravest in the sight of Allah?’ He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘That you associate a partner with Allah despite the fact that He created you.’ He [the reporter] said: I told him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam): ‘Verily it is indeed grave.’ He [the reporter] said: I asked him what the next [gravest sin] was. He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘That you kill your child out of fear that he shall join you in food.’ He [the reporter] said: I asked [him] what the next [gravest sin] was. He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) observed: ‘It [the next gravest sin] is that you commit adultery with the wife of your neighbour.’”
The word sin in this ḥadīth refers to injustice and oppression. One notices how the killing of an innocent child – “That you kill your child out of fear that he shall join you in food” – is mentioned immediately after committing shirk (associating partners with Allah). Now, recall all of the innocent Palestinian children who are being bombed or shot. Such actions are without any doubt immensely evil and atrocious. Yet, at the same time one must realise that a higher level of evil and wickedness is dying upon shirk and disbelief. Related to this point is the chilling fact that the one who deliberately neglects a prayer with no valid excuse until the period expires is a disbeliever according to many Companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and later scholars. Therefore, if someone has these faults, they must rush to repent now as death can overtake someone at any time. One must stand up against the internal oppression that is currently destroying themselves, which Shayṭān (the devil) tries to conceal or trivialise.
Furthermore, Allah informs us of the enormity of polytheism:
And [remember] when Luqman said to his son, while advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Joining others in worship with Allah is indeed a great form of injustice.”
This verse reinforces the fact that worshipping others with Allah (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is the greatest type of injustice one can commit.
What causes us to make Allah’s rights secondary?
“Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah) to be moved by Allah’s Reminder [this Qur’an], and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become like those who received the Scripture before them, and the term was prolonged for them such that their hearts were hardened? And many of them were people of disobedience.”
The first part of this verse highlights the importance of believers pondering upon the Qur’an in order to treat their hearts. The latter part of the verse mentions how the hearts of those who received the scripture became hard after a period of time. There is a correlation between the initial and latter parts of the verse. This relationship denotes that reflecting on reminders from the Qur’an softens our hearts, whereas not doing so can eventually cause our hearts to harden. When the hearts become hard, our īmān (belief in Allah) obviously becomes very weak. This causes us to consider the rights of Allah to be of secondary importance in our lives. To prevent this from happening, we should always spend a portion of our day reciting and reflecting on the Qur’an. Make it a habit to recite for at least 20 minutes, as these reminders soften our hearts and make our imān strong. This will allow us to fulfill the rights of Allah before taking secondary measures to defend the rights of others.
In another important set of verses, Allah highlights to us the importance of reminders and that He is worthy of being worshipped alone:
“And remind [by preaching the Qur’an, O Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)], for verily, reminding profits the believers.”
This verse highlights the significance and necessity of giving reminders to the believers. In the verse immediately after it, Allah says:
“And I did not create the jinns and humans except that they should worship Me Alone.”
As you may notice, after highlighting the importance of reminders in the first verse, the purpose of life is mentioned immediately in the next. We observe correlations between these two verses as well. This nexus between the two can be explained in the following manner: the more a person turns away from the remembrance of Allah, the weaker his īmān will become. Ultimately, this increases the likelihood of them failing to fulfil the primary purpose of their existence: worshipping Allah alone. Conversely, the more a person remembers Allah, the stronger their īmān will become. Such a person is likely to be consistent in giving the rights of Allah precedence, thus living a meaningful and purposeful life.
We should realise that denying Allah’s right to be worshipped alone without any partners is a greater injustice than killing innocent women and children. Dying in a state of disbelief leads to eternal punishment. Therefore, worshipping your Creator alone should be given its due importance whilst standing up for the rights of the oppressed—which is itself just one type of worship.
As Muslims, we should not become overzealous in our noble work and campaigns against oppression to the extent that they lead to us forgetting the purpose of why we exist in the first place, which is to be sincere and devoted in worshipping Allah alone. Thus, remembering Him, praying the five daily prayers, and fulfilling religious duties should remain a priority. Therefore, it is imperative that we adopt a balanced approach. We should continue to campaign against the criminal activities targeting the Palestinians, Uyghurs, and others around the globe who are being dehumanised. However, we must provide greater attention to Allah’s rights in the manner just explained.
What helps to overcome this overzealousness is referring to heart-softening reminders. One of the most effective reminders is being mindful of Allah’s punishments and trials in the hereafter. A person can achieve these goals by reciting and reflecting upon Qur’anic verses which describe the horrifying torture that awaits those who disobey Allah in this life. One can also be mindful of these reminders by listening to scholars and reliable people of knowledge who deliver lectures on these topics. Alternatively, one can read authentic scholarly works that highlight those punishments mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In addition, to illustrate the horrors waiting for those who deny their Creator’s rights, imagine yourself actually living through the experiences of your worst nightmare. Suppose you were attacked and eaten by a swarm of spiders, hornets, snakes, or lions. How about being torn apart by a meat grinder? Whatever you imagine, realise that Jahannam is far worse.
Other general reminders that can help us to overcome this overzealousness include the following topics: the names of Allah, purpose of life, life in the grave, Day of Resurrection, Jannah, stories of the prophets (ʿalayhim al-Salām), the sīrah (Prophetic biography), and chronicles of the Companions.
In addition, spend some time regularly reciting and reflecting upon the Qur’an to keep your heart clean from any diseases, such as pride and loving other things more than Allah. Keep your heart soft, but at the same time remain firm and steadfast in serving the ultimate purpose for which you were created: worshipping Allah alone. Therefore, fulfil the rights of your Creator, and then give attention to the creation by taking proactive measures to end illegal criminal activities against the oppressed.
Finally, realise that by prioritising Allah in our prayers, reciting Qur’an regularly, and fulfilling other duties that deserve precedence, we would be much more helpful in our campaigns to bring justice to the Palestinians, Uyghurs, and others around the globe. How is this the case? It is because of the barakah (blessings) which Allah will bestow upon us for having honoured His rights. With this barakah, we will become more effective, stronger, and faster towards victory against the despicable parties who seek to continue the illegal occupation, torture, dehumanisation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of our brothers and sisters.
 Al-Qur’ān, 26:88-89.
 Ibn Kathīr, 26:89.
 Sīrah Ibn Hishām, 44-45.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 3885.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
 Ibn ‘Uthaymīn, Risālah fī ḥukm tārik al-ṣalāh.
 Al-Qur’ān, 31:13.
 Al-Qur’ān: 57:16.
 Al-Qur’ān, 51:55.
 Al-Qur’ān, 51:56.
Mohammed Burhan is a Hāfidh of the Qur’ān, who studied at Dar Al-Arqam institute, where he now delivers courses. A regular Khatīb, he has a Bachelors of Science in Economics with Banking, and is the author of ‘Gratitude to Greatness: Proven Practices Producing Profound Success’. He is passionate about Islamic sciences, particularly Tafsīr and contextualising the Qur’ān and Sunnah in the modern context.