As a Muslim, you may have come across the term “dhulm” in the Quran, Hadith, or other Islamic literature. Dhulm is an Arabic word that has a deep and significant meaning in Islamic teachings, and it refers to oppression, injustice, or wrongdoing.
In this article we will take a look at some simple definitions of the word dhulm, and how this issue can affect us in our communities on a day to day basis, along with guidance on how best to handle opression and being faced with wrong doings.
The Arabic Meaning of the world Dhulm
The root of the word “dhulm” comes from the Arabic root “dhalama,” which means to oppress, to wrong someone, or to put someone in a difficult situation. Dhulm is an act that goes against the principles of justice, equality, and fairness, which are essential values in Islam.
The word “dhulm” in Arabic is ظلم.
Ibn Faaris defines ظلم (Dhulm) as:
“ظُلْم [Dhulm] has two root meaning, one of (which is darkness) which is the opposite of light and radiance; and the other is: putting a thing in other than its own place.”
Lane’s Lexicon defines ظلم (Dhulm) as below:
“ظَلَمَ [Dhalama] when intransitive usually means: he did wrong; or acted wrongfully, unjustly, injuriously, or tyrannically: and when transitive: he wronged; or treated, or used, wrongfully, unjustly, injuriously, or tyrannically…
الظُلم [adh-Dhulm] signifies the putting a thing in a place not its own; putting it in a wrong place; misplacing it;… and it is by exceeding or falling short, or by deviating from the proper time and place: or the acting in whatsoever way one pleases in the disposal of the property of another: and the transgressing the proper limit;… or,
According to some, dhulm primarily signifies النَّقص [an-naqs] (meaning: making to suffer loss or detriment).”
What is Dhulm?
In Islam, the concept of dhulm is not limited to physical violence or abuse; it can also take many forms, such as economic exploitation, political oppression, or social discrimination.
Allah SWT says in the Quran, surah al Maida “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” (5:8)
وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ
Transliteration: “Wa laa yajrimannakum shanaanu qawmin ‘alaa ta’diloo, ‘idiloo huwa aqrabu lilttaqwaa.”
Translation: “And let not the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” (Quran 5:8)
Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has frequently spoken about the importance of justice and equality in Islam. He said, “Oppression will be darkness on the Day of Judgment.” (Bukhari)
حَدَّثَنَا بِشْرٌ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا دَاوُدُ بْنُ قَيْسٍ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللهِ بْنُ مِقْسَمٍ قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ جَابِرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ اللهِ يَقُولُ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: اتَّقُوا الظُّلْمَ، فَإِنَّ الظُّلْمَ ظُلُمَاتٌ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، وَاتَّقُوا الشُّحَّ، فَإِنَّ الشُّحَّ أَهْلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ، وَحَمَلَهُمْ عَلَى أَنْ سَفَكُوا دِمَاءَهُمْ، وَاسْتَحَلُّوا مَحَارِمَهُمْ.
Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Fear injustice. Injustice will appear as darkness on the Day of Rising. Fear avarice. Avarice destroyed people before you and led them to shed one another’s blood and to make lawful what was unlawful for them.”
Therefore, Muslims should always strive to uphold justice and fairness in their daily lives, and avoid any form of dhulm towards others.
Three Types of Dhulm
The types of Dhulm:
With regards to the types of Dhulm, Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Saaleh al-`Uthaymeen رحمه الله said:
- The most oppressive (form) of Dhulm, and it is Shirk with regards to Allah.
- The Dhulm done by a person against his own self, so that he does not give it its rights. For example: he fasts and does not break the fast; he stays awake and does not sleep (properly).
- The Dhulm done by a person against someone else. For example: he transgresses against a person by hitting (him) or killing (him) or by taking away (his) wealth and whatever resembles that.
Source: [al-Qawl al-Mufeed `alaa Kitaab al-Tawheed]
Real Life Examples of Dhulm
The type we are talking about below is the third type of dhulm, or opression, which you would suffer at the hands of someone else. This can be very hard to deal with, as someone else’s behaviour is out of our control.
Some examples of dhulm behaviour in daily life include:
Economic exploitation can take various forms, including not paying employees their fair wages, charging excessive interest rates, or engaging in fraudulent business practices. Here are some examples:
- Not paying workers their full wages or underpaying them compared to their peers in the industry
- Exploitative business practices such as price gouging or selling counterfeit products
- Charging excessive interest rates on loans or credit cards, which can trap individuals in debt cycles
- Denying employees their legal benefits, such as sick leave or maternity leave, or denying them promotions or salary increases based on their identity
Domestic violence or abuse
Domestic violence or abuse is a severe form of dhulm and can have devastating physical, emotional, and psychological effects on individuals, especially women and children. Here are some examples:
- Physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping, or kicking someone
- Emotional abuse, such as name-calling, belittling, or insulting someone
- Sexual abuse, such as rape or sexual assault
- Financial abuse, such as controlling someone’s finances or preventing them from accessing their money
Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion: Discrimination can take many forms, and it can occur in various settings, such as education, employment, housing, or public services. Here are some examples:
- Refusing to hire someone based on their race or ethnicity
- Paying employees of different genders or races differently for the same job
- Denying someone a loan or housing based on their religion or ethnicity
- Treating someone unfairly or denying them opportunities based on their sexual orientation or gender identity
Political oppression: Political oppression refers to denying people their fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to free speech, assembly, or participation in the democratic process. Here are some examples:
- Imposing restrictions on freedom of speech, such as censoring the media or banning protests
- Using violence or intimidation to suppress political dissent or opposition
- Rigging elections or denying certain groups the right to vote based on their identity
- Using state power to target and persecute certain groups based on their identity
As we can see, dhulm is a severe form of oppression that can occur in many different settings, including economic, domestic, political, and social contexts.
It is essential to recognize and address instances of dhulm, whether as perpetrators or victims, to promote justice and fairness in our society.
How to Handle it, If You Are Dealing With Oppression?
If you find yourself suffering from oppressive behaviour, it is important to take action to protect yourself and seek justice. One way to do this is to speak up and report any instances of dhulm to the appropriate authorities, whether that be the police, human rights organizations, or other legal channels.
Moreover, seeking support from family, friends, or a counselor can also help you deal with the emotional and psychological effects of oppression. It is important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards healing and justice.
In conclusion, the concept of dhulm is a critical part of Islamic teachings, and Muslims should always strive to uphold justice, fairness, and equality in their daily lives. We should avoid any form of oppression, whether towards ourselves or others, and speak up and seek justice if we encounter any instances of dhulm.
As Allah SWT says in the Quran, Surah an Nahl “Verily, Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and giving to kith and kin, and He forbids all indecent deeds, injustice, and rebellion: He instructs you, that you may receive admonition.” (16:90)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Transliteration: “Inna Allaha yamuru bil-‘adli wal-ihsani wa-itaa’i thee alqurba wa yanha ‘ani alfahshaa’i wal-munkari wal-baghyi, ya’ithukum la’allakum tathakkaroon.”
Translation: “Verily, Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and giving to kith and kin, and He forbids all indecent deeds, injustice, and rebellion: He instructs you, that you may receive admonition.” (Quran 16:90)