Ramadan 1438/2017: Black Muslims Reflect on the Quran—Juz’6

by Faatimah Knight

Juz’ 6 contains part of Surah al-Nisa and Surah al-Maida (4:148–5:81)

Surah al-Nisa

The theme of inheritance is woven throughout Surah al-Nisa, the Chapter of the Women. It goes into painstaking detail to instruct Muslims on how to divide their wealth in the inevitable event of their passing. For our purposes, what is most significant is the care to leave such a detailed prescription, which implies the importance of bequeathing wealth for the benefit of one’s living relatives. The opposite, then, is also true, that one should avoid burdening their descendants with debts and financially dubious entanglements. Moreover, that one should have a certain amount of transparency with their close family so that upon passing, it is known what wealth or debt is left behind. This precludes wealth being lost to the family and ensures that they have the knowledge to handle whatever, good or bad, is left after a loved one’s passing. A certain pride may prevent transparency in financial matters, but the fact is that all will be brought into the open sooner or later- only, after that loved one has passed, he or she will not be there to explain the situation.

Black Americans sometime criticize one another for not being financially strategic and planning for the future. Of course, for a considerable part of our history in America, it was difficult or impossible to subsist much less accumulate wealth for inheritance. Thus, generations were forced to start at zero in a world with odds already stacked against them. However, it has also been noted that the inability to save and build wealth can be a façade. Many people, not just Black Americans, claim to not have enough money to save, yet regularly spend money on miscellaneous items that do not add real value to their lives. Part of the problem is that we live in a country that promotes instant self-gratification: binge- watching television, constantly updating social media accounts and consuming fast food are just some of the things that drive us to exhaust our time and money quickly. Because our American culture is so external, it can be challenging for us. For example, a car may have three more good years of driving to its owner or $500 if traded in. Clearly, there is more value in holding on, but many choose to make a quick return, which they either spend on something frivolous or roll into financing a $20,000 car.

The benefit of inheritance is not just that it provides seed money for children or close relatives, it is also self-serving because it encourages you to store money for a somewhat ambiguous future—where you may need to tap into savings before anything is “left” for your children. In other words, saving for the future provides a safety net for the saver not just the presumed benefactor. By putting aside money now, you are not strictly relying on luck or children/relatives to provide for you when you become elderly. Although children are certainly expected to help their parents it is no doubt inconsiderate for parents not to plan, to the best of their ability, to take care of their own future expenses.

It has been said that “inheritance is cursed,” which refers to the countless situations in which inheritance is improperly handled with malicious intent to railroad others and amass more wealth for oneself or whoever is deemed more worthy. This is the real problem with inheritance—family members who take advantage of one another and trust is ruined. However, this should not deter us from having the foresight to plan for the future. Indeed, we are encouraged to make wills, be responsible with the blessing of wealth and plan for a death that is promised.

Surah al-Maida

You who believe, do not violate the sanctity of God’s rites, the Sacred Month, the sacrificial animals, including the garlanded, nor those going to the Sacred House to seek the bounty and pleasure of their Lord- but when you have completed the rites of pilgrimage you may hunt. Do not let your hatred for the people who barred you from the Sacred Mosque induce you to break the law: help one another to do what is right and good; do not help one another towards sin and hostility. Be mindful of God, for His punishment is severe. (5: 2)

Critics of the Quran mention that the book is overly critical of people of other faiths, especially Jews and Christians. However, an observant reader will apprehend that the Quran speaks most often to those who claim to believe in it (i.e., Muslims) and reminds us constantly of the burden of our beliefs. Thus, Surah al-Maida, the Chapter of the Feast, opens with an address to Muslims to fulfill their obligations, and then identifies those obligations. It immediately provides a flashback to the historical moment when the Muslim community was denied access to the Ka’ba by the opposition in Mecca. Then, it fast forwards to when the Muslims finally were granted access to the Ka’ba, but cautions them against acting out of hatred toward those who wrongfully oppressed their religious right to make the pilgrimage. God acknowledges the justified ill will of the Muslims toward the Meccans, but does not sanction the abandonment of His laws in response. We gain an important glimpse into the human mind through these opening verses. We see that in our hatred toward those who have violated our rights, we can be led into actions that violate God’s rights. This is, of course, the danger of acting out of hatred; it often impedes our ability to take focused action and instead allows the ego to rampage. Perhaps this is a sobering message for many of us that while our indignation may be justified, it is not excusable to add to injustice by violating the rights of God who often, out of His mercy, does not immediately take us to task.


Faatimah Knight

Faatimah Knight holds a Masters in Theology from the Chicago Theological Seminary and a Bachelors in Islamic Law and Theology from Zaytuna College. Faatimah resides in Washington, DC with her husband.

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  • Thank you sister. The black Muslim community in America has a special history here, very different from others. I think this approach is needed.

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