Reflection No. 198 on Q 28:17 – Assisting an Oppressor

قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ
Qāla rabbi bimā an‘amta ‘alayya flan akūna zahīran lil-mujrimīn
He said: My Lord! Because You have bestowed a favor on me,
I shall never be a supporter of the wrong doers.
(Sūratul Qasas, No. 28, Āyat 17)

The above verse was said by Nabī Mūsā (Moses) after he asked forgiveness for the inadvertent death of a man when he intervened in a conflict. History narrates that when Prophet Moses was a young man in Egypt, he once saw two men fighting, one from the Israelite (his follower) and one from the Egyptians. When his follower saw him he called out for help. Nabī Mūsā (a) tried to help him. The Egyptian stumbled backwards and hit a rock, dying as a result. Moses asked Allah for forgiveness and Allah forgives him.

Moses (a) acknowledges the blessings of Allah. He has forgiven him, and has also blessed him in many ways throughout his life. Prophet Mūsā (a) says that out of gratitude to God he will never help those who do wrong (mujrimīn). A mujrim is one who sins against God, oppresses others, and takes away the rights of others.

An oppressor is able to oppress people because of there are others who support him and help him do his work. Without them he cannot carry out the oppression alone. These supporters are then just as guilty and play the role of oppressors themselves. Often these people are too weak to resist the oppressor or they are greedy for wealth and position. They give up what is good and right to gain the benefits of this world.

To assist an oppressor and those who do wrong, even in a small way, is a sin. To support wrong is to do wrong. Many other verses of the Holy Quran warn believers not to cooperate with the oppressors. And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression (Q 5:2). The Quran also says: And do not incline to those who are unjust, lest the fire touch you (Q11:113). Even an inclination of mental and emotional support of such people must be avoided.

Imam Zaynul Abidin (a) warned his companion Muhammad bin Muslim Zuhrī about helping the oppressor of his time, Hisham bin Abdul Malik in the following strong words: I am too afraid that you will acknowledge your sins with the betrayers tomorrow and will be asked about whatever you have gained due to your supporting the unjust in oppression, since you have taken the gift that was not yours, you have been close to him who did not give back anyone’s right, you have not rejected a wrongdoing when he approached you, and you have responded to him who antagonized Allah. As the unjust ones invited you, they made you the axis of the hand-mill of their wrongdoings, the bridge on which they cross to their misfortunes, and the stairs to their deviation. You have been the propagandist of their temptation when you took their courses. . . If you compare what you have done to them with what they have given to you, you will find it too little. Likewise, they have built for you very trivial thing while they ruined your great things. (Tuhafal ‘Uqūl, pp. 323 – 324)

One great scholar was asked about a man who was a scribe/secretary for an oppressive ruler. The secretary simply wrote down the daily comings and goings of the ruler for administrative purposes. Through that work he was able to earn enough to support his family. When the scholar was asked about it he asked if the man had not heard the verse where Nabī Mūsā (a) says he will not support the wrong doers (i.e. the above verse).

Recite this verse to remind yourself of the importance of not supporting those who do wrong. Shun their actions and refuse to cooperate with them in any way. This is the only way to break the power of the oppressors.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīre Namune;
Abū Muhammad al-Hasan b. Ali b. al-Husayn b Shu‘bah al-Harrānī (compiler), Tuhaful ‘Uqūl. Online copy of this work is available here.