The word mustadhafeen (the downtrodden/oppressed) comes from the Arabic root da-aa-fa, meaning weak or feeble. However, when put onto the Arabic pattern of “Istif’aal” and becoming the word “mustadhafeen”, it takes on an entirely different meaning of: someone who has been pulled towards oppression or weakened and one who has been imprisoned (not physically) and relegated to a life of bondage of others.
In other words, the “Mustadhafeen” are not people who are weak and have no power or abilities (on their own); rather, the “mustadhafeen” are those who have the potential, power, and drive to effect change. However, due to the actions of the oppressors and ruling powers, they have been put into precarious situations in life. Even though they have been enchained and enslaved, they refuse to remain quiet and submissive to the powers that be; they continue to struggle and fight for their rights until that time that the chains which shackle their existences are shattered and they are freed. At this time they are able to remove the oppressive regimes and establish truth and remove all visages of falsehood.
God has promised these individuals that they shall become the inheritors of the earth and has promised to help them achieve this goal – not those people who, even though they are ‘oppressed’, but just sit around, afraid to confront the tyrants of their times, and are not even ready to let out a small peep of the oppression they face, let alone go into the middle of the conflict to fight for their rights!
One point that we must keep in mind that the “mustadhafeen” (the downtrodden/oppressed) are of various types:
- Intellectually oppressed (those who have not been given the right or ability to broaden their intellectual horizons);
- Economically oppressed (those who have not been given the right or ability to improve their economic status and are relegated to a life of living ‘hand to mouth’);
- Morally oppressed (those who have not been given the right or ability to implement the moral and ethical traits conducive to a wholesome and healthy life and are constantly bombarded by advertising and media aimed at the destruction of one’s moral being);
- Politically oppressed (those who have not been given the right or ability to choose their own political destiny and the form of government which best represent them).
Although the Qur’an and Islamic teachings speak about all four groups, God focuses mostly on the politically oppressed and morally downtrodden – perhaps such that through political freedom and the right of the 99% to govern or at least have a say in their political process, that intellectual freedom and economic liberty will develop as the natural by-product.
Such people are kept in economic oppression as this prevents them from having an opportunity to think about their political oppression and to stand up against the minority who are ruling them. When it comes time to cast their ballot, they can only vote for that person or party that will provide the best economic solutions for their current situation – even if that means that the party will support corrupt, foreign regimes and will have a very slanted foreign policy.
They also don’t have the time or resources to even think about their intellectual oppression, as education becomes so expensive that it almost becomes out of reach of these individuals who work multiple jobs just to put food on the table.
Not being able to educate themselves and perhaps their children, the society is caught up in the vicious cycle of life in which the 1% continues to stay as they are – the so-called elite of society, while the 99% continue to drudge through life forever in the life of misery they find themselves born into.