After the civil strife that followed the assassination of the third Caliph Uthaman, many Muslim scholars promoted a quietist outlook. This aversion to rebellion and overthrow of the government was borne out of the bloodshed of those civil wars and conflicts. Achieving an “ideal” Islamic state was seen as too costly in terms of blood, family, and stability. The horrors of war and displacement and damaged infrastructure became the bogeyman of many classical scholars, such that tolerating unjust tyrants and oppression were seen as preferable to violent insurrection. Many hadith and Qur’an verses were used to justify this quietism in Sunni Islam.
Even when the authority becomes unbearable, there are rules and limits to what the people can do against the established authority in order to preserve Deen, Life, Lineage, Intellect, and Wealth. These limits adjudicate the expression of dissatisfaction of the masses against their rulers. Interestingly enough, many non-violent movements started to stimulate reforms without challenging the authority of the rulers and actually had a better track record of success of compared to the violent rebellions that had to rebuild a government that was needlessly destroyed.
For a Muslim, social justice work should be done to enhance the good in our society and check injustice based upon the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The first and foremost motivation and reason a Muslim should do any kind of activism is for the pleasure of Allah and everything else is secondary. In order to understand the guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and what pleases or displeases Allah, it requires religious literacy, hence, Muslim activists should be learned enough in their faith tradition so that they do not fall into promoting that which the Qur’an and Sunnah have forbidden or preventing that which the Qur’an and Sunnah have commanded. Especially now with so many ethically tricky issues, the Muslim activist should get in touch with Muslim scholars and educate himself/herself on the issue from an Islamic perspective. The scholar and the activist should regularly interact instead of living in their own bubbles apart from each other’s frameworks.