Like many of you, I’ve been following the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain—and a slew of other countries like Algeria, Yemen, Iran and Jordan—with a mix of hope and horror.
While the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have successfully toppled the countries’ despotic governments, it was achieved with significant loss of life and casualties, and civil unrest persists. In Libya, the death count purportedly numbers in the thousands, stemming from the government’s orders to quell the protests through violence and force.
I was torn as to whether to support these freedom fighters or not. On the one hand, I feel sympathetic towards their cause, which seeks to end the repressive regimes that have ruled them most unIslamically for decades. These governments have allowed poverty to exist while the ruling class hoards wealth, allowed low literacy and levels of education to persist, and have put the needs of the ruling class before that of their citizens.
On the other hand, as Muslims, we are enjoined to obey our rulers, as long as they allow us to practice Islam.
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: The Prophet said, “A Muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to Allah), but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it.” (Saheeh Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52, Hadith 203)
Some might interpret this as encouraging fatalism and defeatism, two attitudes frequently cited as hampering progress in the Muslim world. Others may argue that the freedoms and comforts of this world are not what we should seek; instead, bearing hardship with patience and fortitude, all the while striving to be as good a Muslim as one can be, should be the aim.
As faraway observers, it is easy to ponder and judge from the safe cocoon of Singapore, where we have significant freedoms and liberties, and lead relatively prosperous lives. Unless we have truly experienced what our brothers and sisters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the like go through on a daily basis, it is impossible to genuinely understand and appreciate their sentiments and motivations.
As the news on Libya gets increasingly dire, and as the revolution spreads across the Arab world, I came to the conclusion that in lieu of supporting or opposing the unfolding events, we can best contribute by making do’a for the best outcome for those affected, and for the violence to end quickly.
Shahirah is an aspiring journalist who is interested in social issues, women’s rights, the Middle East conflict, and Islam in the Western world. She is also interested in languages and would like to take up Arabic soon.