By Shahidah Sharif
Before thee, also, the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message. Nor did We give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they exempt from death. In the end We fulfilled to them Our Promise, and We saved them and those whom We pleased, but We destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds. We have revealed for you a book in which is a Message for you: will ye not then understand?—Surah Al-Anbiya, 7-10
When we think of the concept of struggle, the core of our soul shudders at the thought of enduring hardship. Honestly, who wants to experience the pain of loss, grief, anxiety, unfulfillment, abandonment, or mass devastation? Yet, struggle surrounds us and is hurled directly in our faces on a daily basis. Bombarded by so many challenges, we either want to curl into a fetal position or shake someone into consciousness.
As I was reading juz 17, I thought about the Prophets mentioned and simultaneously how we, as African American people, descend from a history of struggle in this country.
How were the Prophets able to maintain and endure through the difficulties they faced? And what can we learn from their lives?
With their human frailties and their faith in Allah, they pushed through the unimaginable. It compelled me to think of the severe aggravation our people endured by their oppressors, and I realized in essence this thorn kept us awake to our reality; the reality that G-d is the only true reality. As the Prophets were enveloped by the darkness of ignorance around them—they were forced to keep their light of consciousness of G-d with them—so were the enslaved Africans who had to work arduously to keep their faith, stay alive, and gain their freedom.
The Prophets’ journeys given to us in scripture set forth an example for us as human beings in this life’s voyage. Prophet Abraham was said to be burned in the fire by his own people because he defied their ancient practices and beliefs; however, the fire was commanded to be cool because he was upright and sincere in faith.
Our manifest destiny is to be on the path of Abraham and the path of Muhammad, prayers and peace upon them both.
Enslaved Africans suffered not only at the hands of their oppressors but also their own people who served under the authority of their slave masters. Those who were enslaved had to struggle to keep their life and not be killed until it was safer for them to exist under a more humane rule. Even when the opportunity came for them to be free from plantation life and confinement, they had to struggle and strive as sharecroppers.
As Prophets Lut and Noah were saved and spared from their people who rejected G-d and practiced abominations, they had to stomach the loss of their spouses and children. As African Americans endured the pangs of slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination, they suffered the loss of many loved ones but it kept them awake to their innate desire to be free.
And (remember) Job, when he cried to his Lord, ‘Truly distress has seized me, but Thou are the Most Merciful of those that are Merciful.’ So we listened to him; we removed the distress that was on him, and We restored the people To him, and doubled their number-as a Grace from Ourselves, and a thing for commemoration, for all who serve Us.—Surah Al-Anbiya, 83
We are called to remember Prophet Job, Sulaimaan, Idris, Ishmail, Dhu al Kifl, Zakariya, and Maryam and their struggle to remind us that we are not immune to harm. And Allah calls us to call on Him in our times of desperation and our intense moments of needs. We are instructed to not despair, or lose faith, rather to keep our hope and put our trust and true reliance in Him. While the times of physical slavery are gone to some degree, there is still a need to strive and struggle because we are surrounded by some who do not want the best for us or to see us succeed. We have to want the best for ourselves and push ourselves towards excellence because nothing is guaranteed except death.
We granted not to any human being before thee permanent life (here): if then thou shouldest die, would they live permanently? Every soul shall have a taste of death; and we test you by evil and by good by way of trial. To Us must you return.—Surah Al-Anbiya, 34-35
While we are not Prophets and will not receive revelation, we have been given these human beings who communed with the Divine while experiencing an earthly existence to show us the path to meet Allah on the Day of Judgement. When we encounter struggle as well as those who do not mean well for us, we must accept that this is a part of life and embrace it because it keeps us awake to our real destiny. If it becomes too quiet and comfortable, we might go to sleep. Struggle is the greatest gift because it forces us to turn to Allah for all of our needs because He is truly the only One that can provide for us.
Our manifest destiny is to be on the path of Abraham and the path of Muhammad, prayers and peace upon them both. In order to reach our manifest destiny as they achieved, we have to receive the struggle as a gift with patience and perseverance so we may be cool in the fire.
And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the manifest destiny of your father Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (revelation); That the Messenger may be a witness for you and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular prayer, give regular charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your protector—The best to protect and the Best to help!—Surah Al Hajj 22:78
Shahidah Sharif currently serves on the Board of Sisters United in Human Service, Inc, as the Program Director of the Faith Institute of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, and is co-founder and COO of Professional Hajj and Umrah Guides, LLC organizing delegations annually with her husband for the Hajj.