by Asha Noor
“O you who believe! Persevere with patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance. Strengthen each other, and fear Allah, that you may prosper.” 3:200
To be patient during turbulent, politically toxic and unjust times is difficult. Allah advises us in Surah al-Imran to “persevere with patience and constancy” and that we must “strengthen each other” so that we may prosper.
As a Black Muslim woman and activist the themes in Juz’ 4 are very critical to my understanding of faith and identity. This Juz’ covers a wide range of topics, including defeat, triumph, inter-faith, family life, the oppressed, the vulnerable and women. Women play a strong role in Juz’ 4 because it is comprised of Surah al-Imran from ayah 93 to Surah al-Nisa (Women) until ayah 23.
Al-Imran was revealed after the Hijrah during the first years in Madinah and mainly after the devastating defeat at the Battle of Uhud. A significant theme is that we as believers must seek victory through Allah and remain steadfast even during calamities and times of immense loss such as the Battle of Uhud.
The Muslim American community has been under immense pressure with the rise of Islamophobia and the election of an openly hateful president and administration. This marginalization is not new for the Black Muslim community, which has historically faced both anti-Blackness and anti-Muslim sentiment. However, many Muslim immigrants erroneously believed that eventually after 9/11 things would go back to pre- 9/11 attitudes, and their track towards aspirational whiteness would continue. With state-sanctioned Islamophobia in the form of surveillance, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy, the now defunct National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERs) and more, this dream became less and less attainable.
In the previous years the Muslim community has faced challenges both internally and externally. It is expected to have outsiders challenge every aspect of your identity and mission, but to have those amongst you do the same is demoralizing and highlights their hypocrisy.
During the Battle of Uhud, mentioned in Surah al-Imran there were 300 defectors and hypocrites amongst the believers who bowed out before the battle. This did not change the commitment of the true believers and the protectors of the faith.
“Those (i.e. believers) unto whom the people (hypocrites) said, “Verily, the people (pagans) have gathered against you (a great army), therefore, fear them.” But it (only) increased them in Faith, and they said: “Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).” (3:173)
The hypocrites failed the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the believers by turning their backs on the ummah in ways that some community members have done regarding matters oppressing Muslims today. Allah made clear in this instance who the true believers were and those who were not strong in faith. Today we see instances of leaders who are not strong in principles rooted in Islam. They sway with whatever political stance or leader is dominant. Allah will test our community as he did the ummah of the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and we will continue to see who is genuine in their commitment to our community.
“And that He might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: “Come, fight in the Way of Allah or (at least) defend yourselves.” They said: “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah has full knowledge of what they conceal (3:167).”
A clear example of division and disunity amongst the ummah was the introduction of the CVE program in 2014 which surveilled Muslims in three pilot cities Boston, LA and Minneapolis. Although this program has been proven as a faulty method to otherize, criminalize and oppress Muslims in a discriminatory way, some Muslims openly supported it. Not only were Muslims supporting this program, they were amongst the architects of it, and eventually many accepted large grants to conduct surveillance work within the community – playing a similar role as the defectors and hypocrites during the Battle of Uhud.
In Surah al-Imran Allah reminds us that in order to prosper and emerge out of turbulent times we must remain steadfast in our worship and constant in our dedication and perseverance.
In today’s warped political climate we see the oppression of women, and other marginalized groups more visibly. We must refrain from these actions as Allah stated “…and live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” (4:19).
Both within and outside the Muslim community we see acts of violence, and subjugation of women. Surah al-Nisa (Women) is the fourth surah of the Qur’an and it is no mistake that Allah has chosen to reveal some of the most important passages dealing with family and society within this surah. Allah has elevated woman so much that critical factors of daily life: inheritance, marriage, triumph and perseverance were addressed in this surah.
In al-Nisa, we are reminded to honor women, orphans and the vulnerable. This is an important point of reflection during a period of high anti-woman sentiment, primarily rooted in negative and subhuman views of women. Because of this, it is important to see the rights provided by our Creator to women. Furthermore, this surah serves as a firm reminder to not view the scripture through a misogynistic and patriarchal lens that devalues and diminishes the humanity of women.
While reflecting on Juz’ 4, I focused on some of the overarching themes that could serve our community during these trying times. We see the theme of perseverance, submitting fully to Allah towards victory, protecting and honoring the vulnerable, weak and oppressed, and abstaining from hypocrisy in all of our matters. We cannot afford to have competing end goals, or we will continue sabotaging each other’s efforts for justice and equity. We must continue on a righteous path while steering clear of replicating the same oppressive systems we seek to dismantle.
Asha Noor is a racial justice and human rights advocate who served her community, and other marginalized groups for the last ten years. Noor currently is the Programming and Outreach Director at CAIR-MI for Safe Spaces, the largest Muslim civil rights organization. She worked both domestically and abroad in conflict zones with marginalized communities, including women, afro-indigenous groups, refugees, religious minorities and trauma victims. She holds a MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and BA in Political Science from Michigan State University.