Your Black Muslim friends are not okay. Your Black Muslim relatives are not okay. Your Black Muslim coworkers are not okay. Your Black Muslim congregants are not okay. When we are witness to yet another modern-day lynching, this time with a knee instead of a noose, we are not going to be okay.
Being a Black American Muslim in non-Black Muslim spaces is to constantly be reminded of your otherness, especially at times of great upheaval in this country.
Being a Black American Muslim amongst large populations of immigrant Muslims is a living, breathing, testament to the Qur’anic promise that Allah will make some of us a trial for others of us. Though those verses were revealed in the context of war, they are just as true in other contexts as well.
Where are the unapologetically loud, unified voices of consistent protest from the non-Black scholars, imams, and shuyukh of America? With the exception of a notable few, why aren’t there more of those voices unflinchingly condemning police aggression, unwaveringly supporting the victims of this oppression, and steadfastly working with Black Americans to bring about change? Some of the most prominent voices of Muslim America have either been silent, or have only shared a few social media posts here and there, addressing the trauma Black America is constantly reliving before promptly returning to their regularly scheduled programming, as if their job as Muslim leaders is complete. To witness this disconnect between the purveyors of Islamic knowledge, and the ethos at the heart of Islam is jarring. It is enraging. It is disheartening. It is the ongoing reality of Black Muslims in America.
To be a Black Muslim in America is to have the first mass communication from your suburban mosque after the death of George Floyd and the righteous anger that has spilled into the streets of America be a forwarded message from a home owner’s association warning mostly white, and white-adjacent residents to go into their homes, lock their doors, and be on the lookout for rioters and looters supposedly on their way from one of the few nearby towns with large Black populations. To be a Black Muslim in America is to have the second mass communication from your suburban mosque be more of the same. To be a Black Muslim in America is to have the third communication from your suburban mosque on this subject finally be a condemnation of the senseless killing of another Black man at the hands of the state, along with condemnation of looters and rioters. Even in our death, we cannot simply be mourned and fought for without others of us being admonished for perceived wrongdoing. To be a Black Muslim in America is to continuously be told in a myriad of overt and subtle ways that “you may be with us, but you are not of us.” These reminders are not only soul-crushing, they are iman-stealing; They are death by a thousand cuts.
So to my non-Black Muslim brothers and sisters, the ones who don’t seem to realize that these issues should be front and center for all of our communities, have you reflected on the fact that the story that Allah calls the best of stories, is the story of a boy, stolen from his land to be transported and sold into slavery in a foreign land? A land where his enslavement means he has to endure all of the indignities inherent in that position, including the attempt at sexual violence that so many of the world’s enslaved have endured. A boy who becomes a man, unjustly imprisoned and forgotten by all but his Lord and his God-fearing father. A man, who when finally freed and given a chance by the elite of his society, is able to save that society from utter ruin. Have you considered that Allah in His All-Knowing Wisdom and Mercy, knew that that story would hit differently for those of us who are actual descendants of people ripped from their lands and forced into slavery?
Have you reflected on the fact that the Qur’an revisits the story of Musa , over and over and over again, more frequently than any other Prophet? A story about a Prophet, born and raised in Africa, sent to literally speak truth to power, and to break the chains of oppression shackling a community of people who had been unjustly enslaved, demeaned, debased, and whose sons were routinely executed by the State for no other reason than fear for more than 400 years!
How are you reciting this Book daily but failing to make these connections?
I am no exegete of the Qur’an, but it has become clear to me that my people, Black people, are Abdullah ibn Umm-Maktum, and this ummah, by and large, is in a constant state of turning away. Turning away from us, to focus on America’s Utbah ibn Rabiahs, Ummayah ibn Khalafs, and Abu Jahls. If you don’t realize that Allah placed that scene in His eternal book as a warning and guide for all Muslim leaders to come, then something essential is missing in your process of reflection, and if you don’t ask yourself about it in this life, Allah will surely ask you about it in the next.
Why do you think Allah saw fit to include story after story of Prophets preaching to their societies, just to have the power-players of their societies reject their messages while the first and most numerous of their converts were ALWAYS from amongst the most rejected of their societies? How much clearer can Allah’s signs be before America’s Muslims wake up and act? What are your readings of Qur’an for, how are they benefitting you, your family, and your society, if you fail to see its modern equivalents when they are tweeted and broadcast straight into your homes? Who are the most rejected of your society, and how are you treating them, if you’re bothering to deal with them at all? There are only two paths in these fights, the Prophetic and the Pharaonic. I guarantee you, you’re on a path. For the sake of your dunya and your akhirah, you need to figure out which one.
For as long as I’ve been alive, the people turning to Islam in America at the fastest rate, and in the largest numbers are my people. Black people. But for America’s Muslim elite, like the Quraysh elite of the Prophet’s time, and the elite of every Prophet before him, we are not good enough. We are too poor. Our place in society is too low. Our power (in this dunya) is non-existent. And Shaytan’s creed— “Ana khairan minhu [I am better than him]” —is stamped so deep in so many of your hearts that you don’t know where that persistently toxic superiority complex ends and your God-given fitra begins.
In the past few weeks, I have found myself repeatedly thanking Allah that I am the daughter of converts, but not a convert myself. Not at all because there is anything to be despised in being a convert. In fact, anyone who has undertaken even the most rudimentary examination of our faith has to see that our deen was revealed to a community of converts, sustained by a community of converts, and spread by a community of converts. Converts are truly the best amongst us, if for no other reason than the fact that every single one of them have absolute knowledge of a firm date in their lives on which their Lord wiped every, single, solitary sin out of their book of deeds. Who amongst the rest of the Muslim ummah can say the same with certainty?
No, my prayer of thanks for not being a convert was the sinking realization that I don’t think I could have continued to survive and thrive in the modern ummah of the Prophet [aw] if I were doing this on my own. It would be so much easier to return to what I’d known before Islam for no other reason than to find the genuine love, support, care, and camaraderie we find amongst our closest family and friends. Because when your adopted community not only shows you none of that, but consistently, in big and little ways, shows you their disdain, or their indifference, the familiarity of the dark becomes more comforting than the hollowness of the light.
To my Black Muslim brothers and sisters, those of you who are new to Islam and those of you who are oldheads, the young of us and the old of us, the male of us and the female of us, you are not alone even though depending on what community of Muslims you worship amongst you might feel like it. If no one else is feeling your pain, to the extent that you are feeling this pain, the rest of us are. If no one else is hearing your cries, the rest of us are. If no one else seems to see what’s happened, what’s happening, and what will happen for the personal tragedies that they are for you, the rest of us do. Even if we’re not together in physical community, we are out here, and we are your community too. We are hurting together. We are struggling together.
For some of you your community’s response, or lack thereof, will be the last straw. You will want to separate yourself from people who don’t see you, or your pain. The people for who your Islam will never be good enough, for whom you will never be good enough. I feel you. Take whatever time and space you need, but please hold on to Allah; He is always near. He is with you whether you’re in the streets, in the boardroom, in the workplace, in the classroom or at home. He’s with you when you’re the victim of microaggressions and outright aggression. He hears you, and in His infinite Mercy He has promised to answer the call of the oppressed. Not the Muslim oppressed, or the Arab oppressed, or the South East Asian oppressed, but ALL of the oppressed, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Our God has got us even when the people who claim Him do not.
Know that He hears us, and He’s with us, so hold tight to Him, His messengers, and His Book. The Qur’an is speaking to us, our condition, our history, our present, and our future. Mine it for its gems. Use it for its support. Take comfort in its promises. We do matter, to each other, and to Allah if to no one else. Our lives matter, and our deaths matter.
So while you struggle to free us, whether you’re in the streets or on your prayer rug, keep praying for us. We aren’t just the children of Adam, we are the Adams of our time. The ones made of black clay, living in a world of arrogant beings who think that they are better than us for the most inconsequential and ephemeral reasons. May we be gifted the strength of Adam, the wisdom of Adam, the faith of Adam, the humility of Adam, the consistency of Adam, and the reward of Adam. Ameen.
Pray for the Yusufs of our time; the ones who are being locked away as the cameras roll, and the ones who are already sitting in dank cells throughout the country, calling on their Lord. The ones who were recently released or are soon to be released. The ones who are now desperately searching for the community of Believers who will not only help them stay firmly on the siratal-mustaqim, but give them the support they need to allow them to ascend in their societies, to the benefit of their societies, the way that Prophet Yusuf was blessed to ascend in his. May they be given the depth of faith of Yusuf, the mental fortitude of Yusuf, the patience of Yusuf, the wisdom of Yusuf, and the reward of Yusuf. Ameen.
Pray for the Musas of our time. The ones who may have made mistakes in their past and have good reason to fear death at the hands of the state, but call on their Lord, ask for His assistance, grab their brothers and sisters, and get to work, knowing that whatever gets thrown at them, He’s got them. May they always speak truth to power as Musa did. May they be given the knowledge of self and knowledge of community that Musa had. May they be given the patience of Musa, the resilience of Musa, the bravery of Musa, the conviction of Musa, and the reward of Musa. Ameen.
Pray for the followers of Muhammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him. All of us. May we be given insight into the Qur’an and the ability to see that it is a guidebook not just for our inner lives, but for the lived experiences of all of those we live amongst. May we learn what enjoining the good and forbidding the evil looks like in an American context. May we come to understand that these things are not limited to the good and evil of our day to day lives, but the good and evil perpetrated by the society we live in as well. May we be guided towards upright action that allows us to roll up our sleeves and get to work continuing the legacy of the Prophets in speaking truth to oppressors and rooting out oppression, wherever it is found, and if we don’t know where to find it, may we be blessed with the humility to turn to the leadership of those who do. May we reflect the status of the Beloved as a Mercy to this world in our every word, our every post, and our every action. Ameen.
Pray for our people. ALL of our people. Not just the ones who have found Islam, but the ones who may never get the chance to because they’re too busy trying to survive America’s knees on their necks.
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