As Ali Harfouch writes,66
Kashmir poses a unique problem for the Muslim world. Not only is it on the edges of the international order dominated by the West, it is also on the margins of the Muslim world. Muslims have a multifold obligation towards Kashmir. The first obligation stems from the fact that its people are Muslim, and is augmented by the fact that they are oppressed. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” People asked, “O Allah's Messenger ﷺ! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”67
In the case of Kashmir, the oppressed are not merely oppressed—it is their steadfastness on being Muslim that has resulted in their oppression.
Many people, in order to dissuade Kashmiri Muslims from resisting India’s colonization, present the persecution we are experiencing as proof of Allah’s displeasure with us. The idea is unsustainable. Did the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions not starve and bleed when they chose to challenge the false gods of their time? Doesn’t Allah proclaim in Sūrah al-Baqarah
that, “Surely We shall try you with something of fear
, and loss of wealth
; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, who, when disaster strikes them, say: Indeed, we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.”68
Fear, hunger, loss of wealth and lives, and crops—is this not how Kashmiri Muslims have been tested under settler-colonialism? Yet for seven decades, they have remained steadfast.
Maḥmūd ibn Labīd reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, declared, “If Allah loves a people, then he afflicts them with trials. Whoever is patient has the reward of patience, and whoever is impatient has the fault of impatience.”69
Instead of regarding persecution as a manifestation of Allah’s anger, shouldn’t it be regarded as a natural consequence of Kashmiri Muslims holding fast to Islam in the face of a mighty tyrant? In the Qur’an, in Sūrah al-ʿAnkabūt,
Allah discredits the idea of equating suffering to Allah’s punishment when He says, “Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test?... There are some who say, “We believe in Allah,” but when they suffer in the cause of Allah, they mistake [this] persecution at the hands of people for the punishment of Allah. But when victory comes from your Lord, they surely say [to the believers]: We have always been with you. Does Allah not know best what is in the hearts of all beings? Allah will certainly distinguish between those who have [sure] faith and the hypocrites.”70
Contrary to the assumption that persecution is necessarily an effect of a community’s sinfulness, Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah ﷺ, which people are tested most severely?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is put to trial according to his religion
. If he is firm in his religion, his trials will be more severe.
If he is weak in his religion, he is put to trial according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be put to trial until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.”71
The idea that harm, or suffering, is always evil, and material benefit is always synonymous with good, is closer to Jeremy Bentham’s secular utilitarianism than it is to Islam. If persecution and its victims are inherently
evil, then Kashmiri Muslims should be able to easily escape this condition simply by forgetting the teachings of the Qur’an and obeying the tyrant at the expense of obedience to God. But Kashmiri Muslims choose otherwise. They strive to be not among the hypocrites, but among those who have sure faith. They know that peace without justice is no peace, and that, as argued
by Dr. Ovamir Anjum and Dr. Omar Suleiman, “compromise accompanied by weakness and appeasement only strengthens the enemy and aggravates his tyranny. Only unified, disciplined, and persistent action capped by fearlessness and utter trust in God brings an arrogant, unprincipled bully with far greater resources to the negotiation table.” As Fanon said, colonialism only loosens its hold when the sword is on its neck, and never out of selfless generosity. The colonizer never gives away anything for nothing.72
Inaction against oppression does not solve the evil of oppression—it normalizes it.
The armed struggle of Kashmiri Muslims against the colonial state is validated by the Qur’an itself. Allah declares, “Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom aggression is launched, because they have been oppressed, and Allah is powerful to give them victory. [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right—only because they say: Our Lord is Allah.”73
In Sūrah al-Nisā,ʾ
Allah says: “Why, then, should you not fight in the cause of God and of the oppressed, helpless men, women, and children, who cry out: ‘O Lord! Bring us out of this land whose people are oppressors, and appoint for us from Your Presence a protector, and appoint for us from Your Presence a helper!’”74
These verses speak both to
Kashmiri Muslims and for
Kashmiri Muslims. They speak to Kashmiri Muslims, in that they announce Allah’s permission for them to struggle against the oppression they face. They speak for Kashmiri Muslims, in that they ask other Muslims to support them meaningfully in their battle against oppression.
Ali Harfouch rightfully reminds us of the fact that the Qur’anic and Prophetic model privileges the oppressed—the mustaḍʿafīn
. It demands that we see things not from the gaze of the oppressor, but from the prism of the oppressed; not from atop but from below. In Sūrah al-Baqarah
, Allah says: “And fight them until there is no more oppression and the religion is for God, but if they cease, then no aggression is permitted except against the transgressors.”75
India’s occupation of Kashmir signifies a multitude of transgressions both against God and His servants. In our desire to be close to power, we delude ourselves into thinking that it is meaningless to side with the oppressed. Thus we rationalize befriending the oppressor. The Kashmiri Muslims turn this condition upside down. They choose to side not with the oppressors of Muslims elsewhere, but instead with the oppressed, knowing very well that it would only add to their tribulations.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, a prominent jurisconsult and scholar of Islam, categorizes the virtue of ṣabr,
patience, into four types:76
1. Physical patience by choice, such as doing hard labor willingly.
2. Physical patience without choice, such as patiently bearing illness and extremes of heat and cold.
3. Psychological patience by choice, such as refraining from things which both the Sharia and common sense say are wrong.
4. Psychological patience without choice, such as patiently bearing an enforced separation from one you love.
Patience, then, can be practiced either by choice or without choice. Patience by choice, for Ibn Al-Qayyim, is more valuable and precious than patience without choice, as the latter is common to all while the former distinguishes the best from the ordinary. He gives, by way of example, two incidents that happened in the life of Prophet Yūsuf. Prophet Yūsuf’s patience in rejecting the sinful invitation of the the wife of al-ʿAzīz, and his patience in bearing the punishment that followed, is of a greater status for Ibn Al-Qayyim than his patience in response to his brothers’ throwing him into the well, as he wielded no choice.
The Muslims of Kashmir, in their struggle against prolonged occupation, have exhibited all four forms of patience delineated by Ibn Al-Qayyim. They have patiently led the physical labor of fighting against an immoral occupation (physical patience by choice), and they have patiently endured the physical abuse inflicted upon them by the occupation (physical patience without choice). They have been psychologically patient by not permitting the condition of colonization to distort their fiṭrah and colonize their minds (psychological patience by choice), and they have patiently withstood the enforced separation from their imprisoned and martyred loved ones (psychological patience without choice).
The kalimah that the Indian state wants Kashmiri Muslims to truly live by is “Lā ilāha illa India,”—an absolute subversion of our faith that we will unceasingly resist. The ummah continues to breathe, not in the air-conditioned rooms of Riyadh, Cairo, or the Gulf, but under heavy repression on the streets of Kashmir, a valley that’s unfortunately been seen as peripheral to the Islamosphere. As in the case of Islam’s earliest martyrs, the steadfastness of Kashmiri Muslims under oppression is one of the profound ways in which their Islam is lived, embodied, and practiced. ʿIbādah, for us, is not merely the daily five ṣalāh or other normative practices, but our struggle against the occupation.
When I speak to many Kashmiri prisoners, including my own parents, and ask them about what keeps them going, “We hope that our Allah is pleased with us!” is all they say.