Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire.
Surely those who believe and do good will have Gardens under which rivers flow. That is the greatest victory.
Indeed, the ˹crushing˺ grip of your Lord is severe. [Surah al-Burooj 10-12]
China has been accused of committing crimes of genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in the north-western region of Xinjiang – this has been going on for decades but has intensified in the last 5-10 years. Human rights groups believe China has detained more than 1 million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps“, and sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison.
There is also evidence that Uyghurs are being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised. Some former camp detainees have also alleged they were tortured and sexually abused.
Who are the Uyghurs?
There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in the Xinjiang region which spans almost 1/6th of China’s land and is rich in oil and natural gas, producing 1/5th of the worlds cotton and this area has always been an important land and sea trade link at the start of the Silk route into Central Asia and Europe, all the way to Turkey. The Uyghurs speak their own language, which is similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations, and have always sought independence from China.
China has also been accused of targeting Muslim religious figures and banning religious practices in the region, as well as destroying masaajid, under the guise of a war against terror. Recent decades have seen a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) into Xinjiang, allegedly orchestrated by the state to dilute the minority population there while they forcibly ethnically cleanse the Uyghur population in concentration camps.
Several countries, including the US, Canada and the Netherlands, have spoken out against this with little effect. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said China is committing “genocide and crimes against humanity“.
The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has said the treatment of Uyghurs amounts to “appalling violations of the most basic human rights”, and the UK parliament declared in April 2021 that China was committing a genocide in Xinjiang.
An independent tribunal into China’s genocide started in Westminster, London in June 2021 and the stories shared by prisoners were shocking. Sister Zumrat Dawut shared “While they were beating me, I cried out ‘Ya Allah!’. This made them beat me even more, mocking me saying ‘Go and find your god!’”
Many of us are now aware of the genocide taking place against our Uyghur brothers and sisters. Concentration camps, forced labour, hair and organ harvesting, child-separation, forced sterilisation, torture, rape, mosque demolitions, burning Qur’ans, atheist indoctrination camps… the list goes on. Academics, rights groups and journalists have been shining more and more light on the genocide of the Uyghur people and their Islamic identity in the last few years.
But one of the biggest obstacles to helping our Uyghur brothers and sisters is the feeling of powerlessness that Shaytan tries to instil in us. What can we do against a growing superpower? How can anyone stand up to China?
This is your test
Allah(SWT) has given us an incredible amount of potential for positive change, we just need to be motivated enough to use it, and coordinated enough to use it wisely. No Muslim should say: “I’m just one person. What can I do?” Why? Firstly, because it ignores our primary objective on this earth: as a test. We are not in charge of the outcome, but ensuring that we act correctly and sincerely for Allah.
Allah(SWT) tells us in Surah al A’raf that a nation of Bani Isra’il were tested with the command of not working on the Sabbath day. Some of them disobeyed while others stayed firm. However, of those who stayed away from this act, they were split into 2 groups – one who was warning the others not to work on Sabbath, while the other group criticised the first group saying “Why do you advise [or warn] a people whom Allah is [about] to destroy or to punish with a severe punishment?” What’s the point? Why are you wasting your breath when Allah will destroy the wrongdoers? Their answer should be engraved in our hearts, because that is the basis for our activism and da’wah in many areas: “To be absolved before your Lord and perhaps they may fear Him.”
When a group of them said, “Why do you exhort a people whom Allah is going to destroy or chastise with a severe punishment?” They said, “To absolve ourselves before your Lord, and in order that they may fear Allah.” [Surah al A’raf 7:164]
You can make a difference
The senior figures in the Uyghur movement for justice have constantly mentioned one thing: that the Muslims—particularly in Europe and North America—have an incredible amount of power and influence when it comes to helping Uyghurs.
The important lesson in the story of sister Zumrat Dawut is what one man did to help her. While she was being tortured in a concentration camp for over 60 days, her husband, who is a Pakistani citizen, threatened Chinese officials that he would go to the media. And guess what—she was released.
Just because you cannot fully solve a problem, it doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to work towards the solution. Allah(SWT) will not ask you, why you did not liberate the Uyghur people, as that may be beyond your capability, but every one of us can, and should, speak to our local MPs about it, or raise awareness to your circle of influence, or donate some of your wealth to help their cause. This tribunal was not held by government, nor by Muslims – it was organised by non-Muslim individuals and traders who felt moved by the injustice against the Uyghur Muslims.
Imam Nasai and Imam Ahmad (rahimahumallah) have recorded on the authority of Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (RA) that Rasoolullah (SAW) said “[The reward for] 1 dirham superseded the reward of 100,000 dirhams. The Sahabah asked, ‘How is this O Rasulullah?’ Nabi (SAW) said: ‘One person had two dirhams only, he gave one in charity, another person, who was very wealthy, he gave one hundred thousand from a [small] portion of his wealth.’
Allah is testing us, and judging us according to our potential ability, not necessarily absolute measurements.
The Boy and the Kind & the people of the Ditch
Surah al Burooj explains to us that the Muslims of our ummah are not the first to be tortured, oppressed, ridiculed or killed. Allah (swt) speaks of a people from the past. There’s a lengthy hadith in Sahih Muslim (3005) where the Prophet(SAW) narrates that there lived a king who had a (court) magician. As he (the magician) grew old, he requested the king provide an apprentice to teach them magic. The king selected a young man who set out to travel from the magician. On his way to the magician, he came across a religious man who talked to him about Islam and he was very impressed by these teachings, and so this became his habit on the way to see the magician. Every day he did this, he would be delayed arriving to the magician who would beat him for coming late, but he never revealed the cause of his constant delay.
One day, the boy came across a huge animal which had blocked the way of the people, and he said to himself: I will come to know today whether the magician is superior or the monk is superior. He picked up a stone and said: O Allah, if the affair of the monk is dearer to You than the affair of the magician, cause death to this animal so that the people should be able to move about freely. He threw that stone towards it and killed it and the people began to move about (on the path freely). He (the young man) then came to that monk and Informed him and the monk said: Today you are superior to me. Your affair has come to a stage where I find that you would be soon put to a trial. That young man began to treat the blind and those suffering from leprosy and he in fact began to cure people from (all kinds) of illness. When a companion of the king who had gone blind heard about him, he came to him with numerous gifts and said: If you cure me all these things collected together here would be yours. Be said: I myself do not cure anyone. It is Allah Who cures and if you affirm faith in Allah, I shall also supplicate Allah to cure you. He affirmed his faith in Allah and Allah cured him and he came to the king and sat by his side as he used to sit before. The king said to him: Who restored your eyesight? He said: My Lord. Thereupon he said: It means that your Lord is One besides me. He said: My Lord and your Lord is Allah, so he (the king) took hold of him and tortured him till he gave a clue of that boy. The young man was thus summoned and the king said to him: O boy, it has been conveyed to me that you have become so much proficient in your magic that you cure the blind and those suffering from leprosy and you do such and such things. Thereupon he said: I do not cure anyone; it is Allah Who cures, and he (the king) took hold of him and began to torture him until he told them about the monk who was then summoned also. It was said to him: You should turn back from your religion. He, however, refused to do so. He ordered for a saw to be brought and placed it in the middle of his head and split his body open. Then the courtier of the king was brought and also pressured to turn back from his religion. He also refused to do so, and the saw was placed in the middle of his head and he too was killed in this manner.
Then that young boy was brought and it was said to him: Turn back from your religion. He refused to do so and he was handed over to a group of his courtiers. And he ‘said to them: Take him to such and such mountain; make him climb up that mountain and tell him to renounce his faith at its peak but if he refuses to do so, then throw him off it. On reaching the mountain the boy made dua: O Allah, save me from them (in any way) You like and the mountain began to quake and they all fell down and the youth came walking back to the king. The king said to him: What has happened to your companions? He said: Allah has saved me from them. Surprised, the king sent more of his staff to carry him on a boat and to pressure him to leave his religion in the middle of the ocean or throw him overboard. So they took him and he said: O Allah, save me from them and what they want to do. It was quite soon that the boat turned over and they were drowned all except the boy, who returned walking to the king, and the king said to him: What has happened to your companions? He said: Allah has saved me from them, and he said to the king: You cannot kill me until you do what I ask you to do. And he said: What is that? He said: You should gather all the people in a plain and bind me to a tree, then take an arrow from the quiver and say: In the name of Allah, the Lord of the boy; then shoot an arrow and if you do that then you would be able to kill me. So he (the king) called the people in an open plain and tied him (the boy) to the trunk of a tree, then he took hold of an arrow from his quiver and then placed the arrow in the bow and then said: In the name of Allah, the Lord of the boy; he then shot an arrow and it hit his temple, killing him. On witnessing this, all the people said: We affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man, we affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man, we affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man.
The courtiers came to the king and it was said to him: Do you see that Allah has actually done what you aimed at averting. The people have affirmed their faith in the Lord. So the king commanded huge ditches to be dug at important points in the path. When these ditches were dug, and the fire was lit in them it was said (to the people): He who would not turn back from his (boy’s) religion would be thrown in the fire or it would be said to them to jump in that. (The people courted death but did not renounce religion) till a woman came with her child and she felt hesitant in jumping into the fire and the child said to her: “Oh mother, endure (this ordeal) for it is the Truth.” (Yaa ummahi isbiree fa innaki ‘alal haqq).
There are many lessons to be taken from this story including:
- The firm adherence of their believers to their religion, and their great patience about afflictions is Praiseworthy . Allah (SWT) has given them lasting fame and praise in Surah Al-Burooj. Know that there are also other Muslim Turkic people in China, who are not oppressed as they have accepted the Chinese culture adopting chinese names and speaking chinese.
- Achieving true victory may not necessarily be victory in the eyes of people, rather the victory of holding firm to belief, even to the point of death is true victory which gains the Pleasure and Paradise of Allah (SWT).
- Observe persistence on calling people to Allah
- Take sincere refuge in Allah as per the words of the boy who had trust and certainty in His Lord: ‘O Allaah, protect me from them in whatever manner You wish’
Every one of us has a voice
Most people I have spoken to in preparation of this khutba responded by saying “Only now, you’re speaking about it, why didn’t you say something at the beginning?” Its interesting how we find a voice to criticise but struggle to raise our own voices in support. This topic is being raised from the minbar across the United Kingdom today and I’m sure globally too. But you only hear a crowd when everyone raises their voice. Join us in raising awareness and concern about this topic.
The Stand4Uyghur campaign have organised a demonstration on Thursday, 1st July outside the Chinese embassy from 5-8pm and it would be great if we can get a good attendance here inshaAllah.
That day is hugely symbolic for the Chinese regime, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary on that day, and our Uyghur brothers and sisters want us to show our presence there in a display of moral support and solidarity for them.
One of the most poisonous whispers of Shaytan is when he comes to suffering Muslims and tells them that the Ummah has forgotten them.
Gain knowledge about the struggle and share what you learn responsibly and after checking the facts.
Call out to the One who hears every request
Make du’a for Allah to protect our Uyghur brothers and sisters, and their Iman, which has been under attack for decades.
May Allah support our Muslim brothers and sisters in East Turkestan, forgive us for our shortcomings towards their rights, and awaken and empower our Ummah to stand up for them.