Helping the Oppressors is a Great Sin

Helping the Oppressors is a Great Sin

Helping the Oppressors is a Great Sin: ‘Helping the oppressors’ is a great sin in Islam. Fazl Ibn Shazān has narrated from Imam Riďa (a.s.) that he said concerning the Greater Sins: “And helping the oppressors and bending (leaning) towards them.”

In the narration of Amash from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) the following is mentioned, “Not helping the oppressed people is a Greater Sin.” In other words helping the oppressors is also a Greater Sin.
Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far (a.s.) says: “To participate in the activities of the oppressors and to endeavour to achieve their evil objectives and to help them is equal to infidelity and to knowingly lean towards them is a Greater Sin and deserves Hell.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
The Holy Prophet (S) similarly says: “On the night of ascension (Miraj), I saw the following inscription on the doors of Hell, ‘DO NOT BE A HELPER OF THE OPPRESSORS.’” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
It means that if one does not wish to enter Hell he must refrain from co-operating with the oppressors. Moreover, this is a sin that is promised Divine punishment by the Almighty in the Holy Qur’an.
“And do not incline to those who are unjust, lest the fire touch you, and you have no guardians besides Allah, then you shall not be helped.” (Surah Hūd 11:113)
According to Tafsīr Minhaj us-Sādiqīn ‘do not incline’ means we must not have the slightest inclination towards the oppressors. Hence we must not treat them honourably nor mix with them freely nor express our affections for them. We must not be greedy of their gifts, nor should we praise them and obey their orders. When such are the prohibitions against the oppressors, it is obvious that then it cannot be lawful to help them and co-operate with them in oppression.
The Messenger of Allah (S) remarks, “One who prays for the long life of an oppressor is as if he likes the opposition of Allah on the Earth.” (Minhaj us-Sādiqīn)
There is an interesting incident in the book Rawzātul Jannat concerning the author of Maqasikul Ahkam, Sayyid Muhammad. Once the Sayyid and another respected teacher, Shaykh, planned a pilgrimage to the Holy tomb of Imam Reza (a.s.) at Mashad, but when they learned that Shah Abbas Safavi was staying at Mashad they decided to cancel their visit.
Similarly under the biography of Sayyid Bahrul UlMansūrm it is mentioned that when the Governor of Shustaran Province behaved with utmost respect with him, he says, “Before I could develop some liking for him and come under the denouncement of the Qur’anic Verse, I fled from that place.” Thus he shifted from Dezful and settled down in Iraq for the rest of his life.
When we study the biographies of some scholars we realize how strictly they refrained from meeting, mixing with or communicating with the oppressors, so that there would not be even a remote chance for them to befriend them and help them in their activities.
Muhaddith Jazaeri writes in the book Fawaidur Rizvia that there was a person who committed some blunder in the presence of Shah Abbas Safavi and in order to escape his wrath took refuge in Mashad. Then he approached the late Mulla Ahmed (Muqaddase Ardebeli) and requested him to write to the Shah that he may forgive his mistake. Muqaddase Ardebeli wrote as follows: “Founder of a kingdom obtained through asking, Abbas! Know that even though this man was initially an oppressor, but he is now an oppressed one. So, overlook his mistake. I hope Allah will forgive some of your mistakes.”
Signed: From the slave of the king of Wilāyat, Ahmed Ardebeli.
The Shah replied to his letter: “You have been grateful upon me for ordering those things which you did (in your letter). Do not neglect me in your invocations.”
Signed: Dog of the House of ‘Ali, Abbas.
It is quoted from Tarikh Bahire that Khwaja Nizamul Mulk the Prime Minister of Malik Shah Seljuq, was very much thoughtful of the Hereafter and the Day of Judgement and he used to be fearful in this regard. During the tenure of his ministry he was a supporter of the helpless, a patron of intellectuals, and steadfast in following the religious obligations. He thought of obtaining a certificate from the scholars and intellectuals, certifying his good morals, so that the document could be kept inside his shroud during burial. He hoped to achieve salvation by this. He drafted a certificate and sent it to various scholars and intellectuals for their signatures. When it reached Baghdad and was presented before the respected teacher of Nizamiya Madrassa, Shaykh Abu Ishaq, he wrote, “I witness that Shaykh Nizamul Mulk is slightly better (oppressor) from among the oppressors.”
When Khwaja saw the remark of Abu Ishaq, he wept and said: “Whatever Abu Ishaq has written is true.” There is no doubt that helping the oppressors in any way is Harām and a Greater Sin. There is an Islamic law for every kind of oppressor and the ways of helping the oppressors, and it is incumbent to learn these rules and commands.

Types of oppressors
‘Zulm’ the Arabic word for oppression and injustice implies disregard for Divine commandments and also to oppose whatever is compatible with reason and logic. There are two types of such oppression:
(1) Crossing the limits of religious law is equal to polytheism. As the Almighty says, “…most surely polytheism is a grievous inequity.” (Surah Luqmān 31:13)
(2) Belying the Divine signs is also oppression as stated in the Holy Book, …and the unbelievers- they are the unjust.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:254)
In short, we can say that all the religious laws that we are supposed to follow according to reason or religious commands must be obeyed in totality. Not accepting them or not believing them is a kind of injustice. Apart from this, non-acceptance of the Divine commands or not acting upon them or disregarding the limits specified by the Almighty, like neglecting a Wajib act or doing a Harām one, all of these constitute injustice.
Thus the Almighty Lord says, “…and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah these it is that are the unjust.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:229)
This also applies to injustice upon ones own self. As Allah (S.w.T.) mentions: “Therefore whoever disbelieves, his unbelief is against himself.” (Surah Fāt’ir 35:39)
Various kinds of oppressions include insulting, abusing, degrading or imprisoning a person; also backbiting or accusing a person falsely or hurting a person physically. Another form of oppression is to usurp someone’s property or to obtain it without the owner’s permission, or not to return the rights to its owner etc. Another way of usurping a right is to forcefully occupy a position reserved for someone else. The supreme example of such injustice was comitted by the tyrant rulers of Bani Umayya and Bani Abbas when they usurped the position of Wilāyat which clearly belonged to the Holy Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). Another example is that of the unjust jurist who assumes the seat of Qazi.
Oppression belongs to two categories. In one category are the tyrant rulers and vicious kings, for whom committing oppression is a normal practice. In the second category are the individuals who may do injustice to someone else once in a while. We shall study all these types of injustices in four sub-topics.

Helping the oppressor in oppression
Helping an oppressor in any way whatsoever is Harām. For example to hand over a cane to someone so that he can beat an innocent person, or to help in any way to imprison him or kill him.
The renowned Shaykh Ansari writes in Makasib that the prohibiting of co-operation with the oppressors is confirmed by all four proofs required to prove the Islamic laws. i.e. Qur’an, reason, Sunnat and Ijma.
Logic: Reason dictates that there is no difference between the actual oppressor and the one who helps him. Both are equally responsible for the act of injusice. It is possible that if there is no one to help the oppressor he may not be able to oppress. Hence logically it is Harām help an oppressor.
Ijma: Refering to books on jurisprudence, confirms that all the jurists are unanimous in their opinion that helping the oppressor is Harām.
Qur’an: The Qur’anic verse “And do not incline to those who do injustice,”
is sufficient to prove the illegality of helping the unjust. Because if even a slight inclination towards unjust people is prohibited, then how can helping them be permitted. As helping them would be the greatest form of inclining towards them.
Moreover, the Almighty says: “…and do not help one another in sin and oppression; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in requiting evil.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:2)

Helping the oppressors in other matters
Helping the oppressors or tyrants in matters other than oppression; like to work as their personal assistant, to stitch clothes for them, or build their house or guard their property. All these types of jobs can be classified into Three categories:
(1) In some cases these jobs indirectly help in oppression; for example, if the tyrant had usurped a piece of land and orders a mason to build a house on it, or a cloth which has been obtained forcefully is given to a tailor to stitch a dress, or a person may be ordered to guard the money exhorted from innocent people.
There is no doubt that all such kinds of jobs are Harām. Because the use of things acquired by illegal means is Harām for the one who has acquired them or for anyone else who is aware of their contraband nature.
(2) The second category is of those jobs which are not direct acts of oppressions or which do not help in oppressing, but since the one who is involved in them is associated with the tyrants and the common people consider him to be a part of that oppression; it is Harām. His presence may encourage the tyrants, consequently his name is also included in the list of oppressors. He is also counted among those who usurp the rights of people. All these are Harām according to numerous traditions. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
“One who has his name registered in the office of Bani Abbas will be raised on the Day of Qiyāma in the form of a pig.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
In another tradition he says that such a person will be brought in the form of a black pig. Imam (a.s.) has also said, “Do not help the oppressors in the construction of mosques.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Ibn Abi Yāfur says that I was in the company of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) when one of the Shias came and spoke to Imam (a.s.). He said, “May our lives be sacrificed for you! Some of our people have problems in obtaining livelihood whereas there are vacancies in the establishments of Bani Abbas for construction of buildings and digging of canals. So what is your opinion regarding this?”
Imam (a.s.) replied: “I don’t like to tie even a knot, or the mouth of a water bag or the strap of a purse for them. Even if they were to pay me with Madinah and whatever is in it. I do not like that I help them even as little as the ink at the tip of a pen. Without any doubt, the oppressors will remain standing at the verge of Hell-fire till the time Allah decides about all others.”
Muhammad bin Azāfar says that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) told his father, “I have come to know that you deal freely with Abu Ayyub and Abu Rabie. Then what would be your condition when your name will appear in the list of the helpers of tyrants?”
Hearing this command the father became aggrieved. When Imam (a.s.) saw his restlessness he said, “I have only warned you of that about which the Almighty has warned me.”
The narrator says, “My father remained sorrowful for the rest of his life.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “It is incumbent upon Allah to raise you on the Day of Qiyāma with the same group from which you derived benefits in this world.”
The Imam (a.s.) has also mentioned the incidents when some of the followers of Hazrat Musa (a.s.) decided to support Fir’on for worldly benefits and secretly planned to change sides. When Musa (a.s.) was about to win, they enrolled as his supporters, but it so happened that when Fir’on and his soldiers were about to be drowned and these people made a bid to cross to Hazrat Musa’s side, the Almighty Allah caused their horses to perish and they also drowned with Fir’on and his army. (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Our beloved Imam (a.s.) has the following advice for us: “Fear Allah, strengthen your faith with an uncomparable Taqiyya and avoid presenting your needs to the ruler. And if a person is respectful to an irreligious man, Allah will degrade him and will consider him His enemy and leave him on his own. And if he receives any monetary benefit from this man, Allah will remove barakat from it. And if he uses this money to perform Hajj or emancipate slaves, or for any other benevolent deed, he will not get any reward for it.” (al-Kāfi)
‘Ali bin Abi Hamza says, “One of my friends was a scribe in the employ of Bani Umayya. One day he requested me to take him to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.). I took him to Imam (a.s.). He saluted and said, ‘May my life be sacrificed upon you, I had been in the employ of Bani Umayya as a scribe and have earned a huge amount of wealth without giving any thought to right or wrong.’ Imam (a.s.) said, ‘If people like this had not been in the service of Bani Umayya to write letters for them, collect their wealth for them, fight their enemies and attend their assemblies, they (Bani Ummaya) would not have usurped our rights. And if they had been left alone they would not have been able to accumulate any wealth more than what they had.’
The man said, ‘May I be sacrificed for you, can I attain salvation after what I have done?’ Imam (a.s.) said, ‘Separate whatever wealth you have earned from them and try to return it to the rightful owners if you know them. Whatever you cannot deliver should be given as charity (Sadaqah) on their behalf so that I can guarantee that Allah will send you to Paradise.’
Upon hearing this, the young man bowed his head thoughtfully for sometime. Then he raised his head and said, ‘May I be sacrificed on you, I will do as you have ordered.’ After this he accompanied me to Kufa and returned all his wealth to the rightful owners as much as it was possible; the rest he gave away as Sadaqah. He even gave up the dress he was wearing. I procured some money for him and bought him a dress and gave him some amount for his expenses. After some months he fell ill and I paid him a visit. I found that he was in a very serious condition. He opened his eyes and told me, ‘‘Ali ibn Abi Hamza, by Allah, your Imam (a.s.) has fulfilled his promise.’ He died soon after. I supervised his final rites and returned to Madinah to meet Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) said, ‘O ‘Ali! I have fulfilled my promise to your friend.’
I said, ‘May I be sacrificed upon you! You speak the truth, because my companion testified to it at the time of his death.’” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)

Assistance which is not Harām nor can be an encouragement
(3) The third type of help is that which is not objectionable in any way an encouragement to the oppressor, nor can it be considered as help to the oppressor in general sense. For example, to hire vehicles or carry the load of permissible goods and eatables etc. All these types of actions are not totally Harām but some elders have mentioned that on the basis of precaution it is necessary to avoid even these actions. As we have stated earlier, by involving oneself in such matters one is prone to incline towards the oppressors.

Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) commands Safwan Jamāl
Safwan bin Mahram Kufi was a very pious companion of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). He used to earn his livelihood by hiring out camels. He owned a large number of camels. He says that one day Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) said to him, “Safwan every action of yours is meritorious except one.”
“May I be sacrificed for you, what action is that?” He said, “You hire your camels to Harun al-Rashid (l.a.)”
He said, “I don’t give my camels for hunting or games but he takes them when he goes for Hajj and I do not serve him myself, I order my servants to accompany them on the journey.”
Imam (a.s.) asked, “Do they pay you in advance or after their return?”
“After they return”, he replied, “Don’t you carry the hope that they return safe and sound from their journey so that you receive your payment?”
Imam (a.s.) said, “One who wishes them to remain alive is like them and one who is connected with them will go to Hell.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Safwan says that when he heard this he sold away all his camels. When Harun heard of this he summoned him and asked the reason for it. He said, “I have become old and weak and am unable to take care of the camels, even my slaves are not capable of maintaining them properly.”
Harūn said, “It is not so! I know who has persuaded you to do this. You have done this on the direction Musa Ibn Ja’far (a.s.).”
“What do I have to do with Musa Ibn Ja’far?” said Safwan but Harūn was not satisfied and said that if he had not had good relations with Safwan he would have got him killed.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “One who likes the oppressors to continue (to live) likes the disobedience to Allah (to continue) on this earth.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
While explaining the Qur’anic verse, “… and do not incline to those who are unjust, lest the fire may touch you.” (Surah Hūd 11:113)
Imam (a.s.) says, “If a person comes to a ruler and wishes for him to live if only for as long as it would take for him to put his hand inside his money bag and give some amount.”
Wishing for the life of an oppressor even for a moment is the same as being inclined towards him.

Helping an oppressive person who is not an habitual oppressor
To help a person, who is not always oppressive, but occasionally happens to commit oppression, is also absolutely Harām. If one knowingly helps a person in a situation where he oppressing another, one commits a Harām action and a Greater Sin and will be punished as promised in Qur’an:
“Surely We have prepared for the iniquitous a fire, the curtains of which shall encompass them about; and if they cry for water, they shall be given water like molten brass which will scald their faces, evil the drink and ill the resting place.” (Surah al-Kahf 18:29)
Oppressing and helping someone in oppression is one and the same.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has remarked: “The oppressor, the one who helps an oppressor and the one who is satisfied with it, are all partners in oppression.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
It means all Three of them are equally responsible. A similar tradition has been narrated from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) who says that the Holy Prophet (S) said: “One who breaks allegiance to the Imam, or raises a standard of misguidance or conceals a piece of knowledge which is obligatory to be imparted or usurps some property or helps an oppressor knowingly; then he has deserted the religion of Islam.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
On the night of ascension (Miraj) the Holy Prophet (S) saw the following inscription on the door of Hell: “Allah degrades the one who insults Islam, the one who insults the Holy Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) and the one who helps an oppressor in oppression.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
In this way the Qur’anic verses and traditions prove the seriousness of oppression and helping an oppressor as a Greater sin. Moreover, one who helps an oppressor has also acted against the Divine commandments of forbidding evil. He is actually a hypocrite because he has in fact encouraged an evil and this is one of the characteristics of a hypocrite. As the Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “The hypocritical men and the hypocritical women are all alike; they enjoin evil and forbid good…” (Surah at-Tawba 9:67)

Preventing oppression is necessary
If a Muslim sees an oppressor trying to oppress someone and if he is in a position to prevent him it is obligatory on him to do so. The Messenger of Allah (S) says: “Help your Muslim brother whether he is an oppressor or the oppressed one.”
People asked, “O Messenger of Allah! We shall help the oppressed ones but how is it possible to help the oppressor?” He replied, “Hold both the hands of the oppressor so that he cannot oppress. If you do it, it is as if you have helped him and such an action is a help to your brother (in faith).” (Anwārun Nomaniya)

Helping a person who is not a professional oppressor
It is permitted to help an oppressor (in acts other than his acts of oppression) if rendering this help can discourage him from his oppression.
If however, helping him has no effect on his oppressive activities then from the point of view of Nahy anil Munkar (forbidding evil) it is Harām to help him.

We must not co-operate in sinful deeds
It is also Harām to help an oppressor whose oppression is not directed to others; but he is unjust to himself. For example to omit prayers and avoid fasting, to drink wine, commit adultery, gambling etc. Every type of sinner is being unjust to himself. Hence helping him in being unjust to himself is also prohibited. One who helps him is his partner in sin. The Almighty Allah has mentioned: “Help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and oppression, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:2)
Sin (Ithm) is limited to the one who commits it and aggression (udwān) affects others too.
All the proofs and arguments that are applicable to the obligation of forbidding evil also apply here.

Helping in Sin
To help in any condition required in a sinful act is Harām.
(1) For example to sell grapes with the specific purpose of making wine.
(2) A person may help in some way without the intention of helping towards a sinful act, for example, he may sell grapes to a wine-maker without the intention of this being used for making wine, but if there is no other source available for the wine maker to procure grapes, then the selling of grapes by this person is Harām, because it would directly contribute to the manufacture of wine.

Helping a sinner in some other way
Is it allowed to help a sinful person, by way of giving loan or solving his difficulties to one who does not pray or is an alcoholic? Sometimes it is very difficult to decide as to what is the proper course of action in such circumstances, because we are commanded to maintain a distance from sinners. Thus ‘Ali (a.s.) says: “The Messenger of Allah has ordered us to be unfriendly with the sinful people.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Hazrat Imam Sadiq (a.s.) rebuked his followers: “It may happen that in your social circle one of your Shias does evil, and you do not prevent him nor dissociate with him nor hurt him, till he gives up his evil deeds.” (Tehzīb)
There are several traditions regarding certain specific sins. For example: “One who helps a person who does not pray, with a morsel of food or a piece of cloth, is as if he has murdered seventy Prophets, the first of whom being Adam (a.s.) and the last, Muhammad (S).” (Layali Akhbār)
In another tradition the Holy Prophet (S) says: “One who smiles at a person who does not pray, is as if he had demolished the Holy Ka’ba seventy times.” (Layali Akhbār)
The Prophet of Allah (S) also says: “One who helps a person who does not pray, with a drink of water, is as if he has made war upon me.” (Layali Akhbār)
Other traditions of this kind are against associating with alcoholics, with those who cut off relationships with their kith and kin and with liars. On the other hand we have traditions that emphasise the respecting of a believer’s rights, helping and socialising with the followers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), the Sayyads, the neighbours etc.
The latter kinds of traditions are not conditional. For example it is obligatory to do Silet ar-Rahm with one’s kindered and it is not a necessary condition that the relatives should be pious. We have discussed this matter in the chapter of Silet ar-Rahm and the rights of parents. Even if they are unbelievers we have to fulfill our duties towards them. In the same way the Holy Prophet (S) says regarding Sayyads: “Respect my descendants, be kind towards the righteous from among them for the sake of Allah and towards the non-righteous ones for my sake.”
Imam Riďa (a.s.) says the following with regard to the devotees of the Progeny of Muhammad (S):
“Be a friend of the Progeny of Muhammad even if you are a trangressor and befriend their friends even if they are transgressors.”
As far as the rights of neighbours are concerned we are told that if your neighbour is a Muslim he has double rights upon you (One of neighbourhood and another of being a fellow Muslim). If he is an infidel he still has the right of neighbourhood on you. (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
On the basis of the above it is incumbent to befriend the followers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), help them and fulfill their needs even if they are not pious. We must respect the Sayyads and fulfill our rights towards the kindered even if they are sinners.
Secondly when one is faced with more than one obligation at a time, one should try to fulfill all if it is easy to do, if this is difficult, one should fulfill the one which is more important.
For example when one is faced with a situation when one is keeping an obligatory fast and a child is drowning in a pond. If he jumps into the pool his head will submerge and the fast will become invalid, but since it is more important to save a human life it becomes Wajib for him to jump into the pool. According to Shari’a breaking a fast is a lesser evil than allowing the death of a human. By doing this he would not be liable for the punishment of breaking a Wajib fast. On the other hand he will be deserving of Divine reward for saving a human life.

Preventing others from evil is most important
Enjoining good and forbidding evil are the Divine commands, which are obligatory to be followed. They are so important that in case of their clashing with other duties, priority has to be given to these comands. If mother, father, son or some relative do not obey the divine obligatory commands like praying etc. And if by withholding kindness and help from them, it is possible to reform them and induce them to give up their sinful ways, then it is Wajib to withhold kindness and help from them. The same reasoning applies to Sayyids, neighbours and the followers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) who have a right on us. But if withholding help is not going to make any difference in their behaviour, then it is meaningless to adopt such measures. For these were witheld only that they may force the sinners to reform. Otherwise there is no point in employing these retaliatory tactics. If one’s parents and relatives are not in the habit of ritual prayers and dissociating with them will not change their attitude; then it is Harām to dissociate with them or disobey them.

We must discriminate between different ranks and positions
We must remember that Nahy Anil Munkar (Forbidding evil) is more important than the rights of relatives, Sayyads and neighbours. Hence we should first try to fulfill the duty of forbidding evil even if it necessitates the non-fulfillment of latter duties, provided there is scope of improvement among the sinners. If it is not so, then it is not required to dissociate with them or withhold kindness etc. from them.
And as far as possible we should try an adopt a charitable option. If it is possible to reform a sinner through love and help we must try it, before we resort to harsher ways of withholding kindness and help. For example, a father has better chances of influencing a son, who is not steadfast in his prayers, if he tries to influence him gently. A gentle option must be tried before taking strict measures against him.
In other words, when withholding kindness does not achieve the desired results (giving up of sinful ways) there is no prohibition in being kind. In fact it is an obligatory act and its omission is Harām.

A Glance at Paradise and Hell

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