Bravery is to fight against the powerful, not against the weak

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 25 November 2022

“And has the story of the disputants come to you? When they made an entry into the private chamber by climbing the wall —  when they came upon David so he was afraid of them. They said: Do not fear; (we are) two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other, so decide between us with justice, and do not act unjustly, and guide us to the right way. This is my brother. He has ninety-nine ewes and I have a single ewe. Then he said, Make it over to me, and he has prevailed against me in dispute. He said: Surely he has wronged you in demand­ing your ewe (to add) to his own ewes. And surely many partners wrong one another except those who believe and do good, and very few are they!…”  — ch. 38: Ṣād, v. 21–24

وَ ہَلۡ اَتٰىکَ نَبَؤُا الۡخَصۡمِ ۘ اِذۡ تَسَوَّرُوا الۡمِحۡرَابَ ﴿ۙ۲۱  اِذۡ دَخَلُوۡا عَلٰی دَاوٗدَ فَفَزِعَ مِنۡہُمۡ قَالُوۡا لَا تَخَفۡ ۚ خَصۡمٰنِ بَغٰی بَعۡضُنَا عَلٰی بَعۡضٍ فَاحۡکُمۡ بَیۡنَنَا بِالۡحَقِّ وَ لَا تُشۡطِطۡ وَ اہۡدِنَاۤ اِلٰی سَوَآءِ الصِّرَاطِ ﴿۲۲  اِنَّ ہٰذَاۤ اَخِیۡ ۟ لَہٗ تِسۡعٌ وَّ تِسۡعُوۡنَ نَعۡجَۃً وَّ لِیَ نَعۡجَۃٌ وَّاحِدَۃٌ ۟ فَقَالَ اَکۡفِلۡنِیۡہَا وَ عَزَّنِیۡ فِی الۡخِطَابِ ﴿۲۳  قَالَ لَقَدۡ ظَلَمَکَ بِسُؤَالِ نَعۡجَتِکَ اِلٰی نِعَاجِہٖ ؕ وَ اِنَّ کَثِیۡرًا مِّنَ الۡخُلَطَآءِ لَیَبۡغِیۡ بَعۡضُہُمۡ عَلٰی بَعۡضٍ اِلَّا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ وَ قَلِیۡلٌ مَّا ہُمۡ ؕ  

“And if Allah were to punish people for what they earn (their sins), He would not leave on the back of it any creature, but He gives them respite till an appointed term; so when their doom comes, then surely Allah is ever Seer of His ser­vants.” — ch. 35, Al-Fāṭir, v. 45

وَ لَوۡ یُؤَاخِذُ اللّٰہُ النَّاسَ بِمَا کَسَبُوۡا مَا تَرَکَ عَلٰی ظَہۡرِہَا مِنۡ دَآبَّۃٍ وَّ لٰکِنۡ یُّؤَخِّرُہُمۡ اِلٰۤی اَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّی ۚ فَاِذَا جَآءَ اَجَلُہُمۡ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ کَانَ بِعِبَادِہٖ بَصِیۡرًا ﴿٪۴۵

The first set of verses which I have recited relate a story of the prophet David (Dāwūd) who was also a king. Two men came to him to settle a dispute. The wronged one put his case to David. The words “This is my brother” should not be taken literally. They could mean his partner in some business, or someone involved in the same line of work or profession, or a member of the same religious community (like two Muslims). This is clear from David’s reply in which he mentions “partners”, some of whom do wrong to others. The other man had 99 sheep and the complainant had one sheep. But the man with 99 sheep took even the single sheep which this complain­ant had. He could not tolerate someone of his own community or his own line of work or business having even one sheep, and he took it from him by force. David gave the judgment in favour of the complainant. He declared it to be an act of clear injustice by the other man. Obviously it was not an act of bravery that, having 99 sheep himself, he takes the one and only sheep that belongs to someone else. But, as David says, most people behave in this unjust way towards their own fellows.

What is the connection of this incident with the second verse that I recited? This second verse shows the great tolerance of Allah which we can contrast with the intolerance of the man with 99 sheep. That man, while having 99% in his control and possession, could not tolerate that even 1% should be out of his possession and control. But Allah says: Even though I can punish each and every person because they have committed sins, and they are behaving as if they are out of my control and are not my possession, still I will give them respite and a chance to repent. There is a hadith in Bukhari as follows: “No one and no thing has greater patience than Allah upon hearing hurtful words. People attribute a son to Him, and He grants them safety and sustenance” (Bukhari, hadith 6099). Allah does not hold back material benefits from those who say wrong things about Him, such as that He has a son.

Let me contrast this with the treatment of Ahmadis in Muslim communities. Ahmadis constitute much less than 1% of those communities, perhaps one in a thou­sand or even less. Yet the anti-Ahmadiyya religious and political leaders, who are easily in a stronger position than the man who had 99 sheep out of a total of one hundred sheep, regard it as an achievement and a courageous struggle by them to capture Ahmadis and bring them into their own fold if possible. To fight with the weakest, and gloat about your success, is an act of cowardice. As this hadith says, Allah continues to grant material benefits to those who don’t accept His teachings given through His prophets, and yet, quite opposite to this, the anti-Ahmadiyya leaders in countries like Pakistan, countries where they have the backing of the law, deprive Ahmadis of their jobs, businesses and livelihood, even refusing to sell them the basic necessities of life.

Almost every prophet faced tremendous numerical odds against him and struggled against the most powerful forces. Take the example of David himself. Before he was king and was yet a youth, in the reign of King Saul, the Israelites were once facing their enemy on the battle field. One of the enemies’ powerful fighters, a man of enormous stature and frightening strength, whose name was Goliath, was challenging the Israelites to put up a man for a one-to-one combat with him. All the Israelites were terrified but the youth David volunteered to fight one-to-one against Goliath. The Quran says about this: “they (most of the Israelites) said: We have today no power against Goliath and his forces. Those (of the Israelites) who were sure that they would meet their Lord said: How often has a small group overcome a numerous army by Allah’s permission! And Allah is with the steadfast. … So they (the forces of Saul) put them to flight by Allah’s per­mission. And David killed Goliath” (2:249–251). This is how we come to have the expression “David against Goliath” for a combat where one side is as nothing in strength as compared to the other.

It is reported in Hadith that the Companions of the Holy Prophet used to say that the number of Muslims who went to fight in the battle of Badr was the same as the number of soldiers under Saul in this battle in which David killed Goliath (Bukhari, hadith 3957). The statement made here, “How often has a small group overcome a numerous army by Allah’s permission!”, meaning that it often happened, applies to the battles the Muslims fought during the life of the Holy Prophet and during the rule of Hazrat Abu Bakr and Umar.

This statement has also been mentioned by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Move­ment, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, while relating a dream or vision of his. In that dream he wanted to gather an army of 100,000 to work for the defence of Islam. This army would not be undertaking any physical fighting or combat, but would be mounting a spiritual struggle to spread true knowledge of Islam, in order to defeat the arguments of the critics of Islam and make the arguments of Islam prevail over them. But in the dream he realised that he would only be given an army of 5000. He writes that in his dream, when he thought that this was a small number, these words of the Quran came to his lips: “How often has a small group overcome a numerous army by Allah’s permission!”. In Arabic these words are:  کَمۡ مِّنۡ فِئَۃٍ قَلِیۡلَۃٍ غَلَبَتۡ فِئَۃً کَثِیۡرَۃًۢ بِاِذۡنِ اللّٰہِ

Everyone in the world, regardless of their religion or nation, recognises that bravery and courage is when a small, committed group faces up to a much larger group for a just and righteous cause. It is not courageous for an overwhelmingly powerful and dominant group to try to crush a small and weak group. There is a well-known hadith that “the most excellent jihad is to say a word of truth before an unjust ruler” (Abu Dawud, hadith 4344). There is an expression in English which has become common in the last sixty or seventy years: “speaking truth to power”, which means telling the rulers and those in authority, in a clear and explicit way, where they have gone wrong and what injustices they are committing. This modern expression is what is intended by this hadith. The Holy Prophet did not say that it is an act of jihad to find some helpless person, who cannot answer you back, and then criticise his actions to his face. That is what the anti-Ahmadiyya leaders and their followers are doing towards Ahmadis, particularly in Pakistan. Imam Husain is revered and venerated because what he did was that, with a handful of weak people on his side, he challenged the actions of a most powerful tyrant Yazid, who had vast armies under his command.

For the sake of truth, the prophet Noah suffered, Abraham suffered, Moses suffered, Jesus suffered and of course our Holy Prophet Muhammad suffered, all of them at the hands of their powerful and numerous opponents. None of them was up against a small minority, on whom they could place all the blame for their comm­unity’s problems and then try to crush them out of existence. The Quran promised to Muslims that twenty of them would be able to overcome 200 of the enemy by Allah’s help, but it added that as they are very weak, nonetheless even in that state a hundred of them shall overcome 200 of the enemy (ch. 8, v. 65–66). It does not say anywhere that a thousand of you shall overcome 200 of the enemy. Muslims in the Holy Prophet’s time won battles, or at least held their own, when they were far lesser in number than their enemy. But shortly after the conquest of Makkah, in the battle of Hunain, when Muslims outnumbered their enemy, they started to lose that battle. The Holy Quran says: “Certainly Allah helped you in many battlefields, and on the day of Hunain, when your great numbers made you proud, but they availed you nothing, and the earth with all its vastness was narrowed for you, then you turned back retreating” (9:25). So, fighting against those who are much weaker than you in numbers and strength brings out the worst in you, and has never been commended or praised by God, His prophets or by any just-minded human beings. But, regrettably, this is what the opponents of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement do.

May Allah enable us to show bravery and courage, stand up for right in the face of much more numerous opponents, and never to oppress those who are weaker than us. — ameen.