لِلظَّالِمِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ ثَلاَثُ عَلاَمَاتٍ: يَظْلِمُ مَنْ فَوْقَهُ بِالْمَعْصِيَةِ، َ مَنْ دُونَهُ بِالْغَلَبَةِ و يُظَاهِرُالْقَوْمَ الظَّلَمَةَ۔
The oppressor among the people has three signs: he oppresses his superior by disobeying him, and his junior by imposing his authority and he supports other oppressors.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #350)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, the Ahl al-Bayt, and his noble companions.
In this profound Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), he highlights the three signs of an oppressor among the people. Let us delve into the meanings of the important words in this Hadith to gain a deeper understanding.
The first sign mentioned is
يَظْلِمُ مَنْ فَوْقَهُ بِالْمَعْصِيَةِ
which translates to
he oppresses his superior by disobeying him.
Here, the word (oppressor) "ظَالِم" refers to someone who transgresses the rights of others and acts unjustly. The word (his superior) "فَوْقَهُ" indicates someone in a higher position of authority or knowledge. And the term (disobeying) "مَعْصِيَةِ" signifies the act of going against the commands or wishes of the superior.
The second sign mentioned is "مَنْ دُونَهُ بِالْغَلَبَةِ" which means
he oppresses his junior by imposing his authority.
Here, the phrase (his junior) "مَنْ دُونَهُ" refers to someone in a lower position of authority or knowledge. The word (imposing authority) "غَلَبَةِ" signifies the act of exerting dominance and control over others.
The third sign mentioned is "يُظَاهِرُ الْقَوْمَ الظَّلَمَةَ" which translates to
he supports other oppressors.
The term (supports) "يُظَاهِرُ" implies actively assisting or encouraging others in their oppressive actions. And the word (other oppressors) "الْقَوْمَ الظَّلَمَةَ" refers to those who commit acts of injustice and transgression.
To gain a deeper understanding of this Hadith, let us turn to the Quran for guidance. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:205):
And when he turns away [from you], his effort in the land is to cause corruption therein and to destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption.
This verse highlights the consequences of oppression and transgression. The oppressor, in his disobedience and imposition of authority, causes corruption and destruction in society. His actions disrupt the balance and harmony that Allah has ordained for the world.
Furthermore, in Surah Al-Hujurat (49:11), Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says:
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
This verse emphasizes the importance of treating others with respect and avoiding oppression. It reminds us that superiority in the sight of Allah is not based on worldly status or authority, but on piety and righteousness. Therefore, the oppressor who ridicules and insults others is engaging in disobedience and wrongdoing.
Reflecting on this Hadith, we can see the profound wisdom of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). He highlights the various ways in which an oppressor manifests his oppressive behavior, both towards those in higher positions and those in lower positions. By disobeying his superior, imposing his authority on his junior, and supporting other oppressors, he perpetuates a cycle of injustice and corruption.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), known for his immense knowledge and wisdom, teaches us the importance of recognizing and standing against oppression in all its forms. He reminds us that true leadership is not about exerting dominance and control, but about upholding justice and righteousness.
As Muslims, we are called upon to emulate the teachings of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and strive for justice and fairness in all our interactions. We must reject oppression in all its forms and support those who are oppressed. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) guide us on the path of righteousness and grant us the strength to stand against oppression.
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