By Jamil Muhammad
As the Muslim world welcomes Ramadan 1438 during this turbulent and troubled world of 2017, we stand on the threshold of great progress. Despite the fractious and divided relationships among Muslim nations and communities, we, Black Muslims in America, have a vast opportunity awaiting us.
In the study of Juz’ 7 of our precious Holy Qur’an, there is much for the hopeful heart to cling to. There is, as always, enormous inspiration from Allah to continue striving in His way with our lives, our property and the best that we can give of our thoughts, energy and effort.
We, Black Muslims in America, regardless of our schools of thought, persuasion or specific identification, come from a jama‘at that does not enjoy the benefits of orthodoxy and majority in the society where we live. Both of our racial and religious “otherness” sets us apart in the United States. This experience gives us a unique perspective on how to usher our people into a greater knowledge of themselves as Black people and as Muslims.
It is no coincidence that African Americans and Latinos, as well as Muslim communities in the inner cities and poorer suburbs, suffer from marginalization, isolation, white supremacy and the institutional racism that emerges from the swamp where all of those fetid waters drain. But Allah gives us keys to the cages in which our people find themselves locked. For our part, we must have the will to stand up on Truth and the firm confidence that Allah has not only permitted, but also encouraged our actions to serve and to save our people. It is our very way of devotion to go forth and make the call of resurrection to a spoiled and fallen people.
Without the permission of Allah, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is beyond our reach. As Allah reminds Isa ibn Maryam (as) in Surah al-Ma’idah:
…and when I taught thee the Book and the Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel, and when thou didst determine out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then thou didst breathe into it and it became a bird by My permission; and thou didst heal the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when thou didst raise the dead by My permission…–5:110
Indeed, for Muslims, the humble and obedient servants of Allah, to obey Him and seek His permission for striving, we must position ourselves to perform miraculous feats that will stun and amaze a world that viewed Black Americans as incurably blind and leprous and irreversibly dead.
We, the Believers, must rely solely on Allah. Our people are in a condition like the man mentioned in 6:71 of al-Khatib:
…one whom the devils cause to follow his low desires, in bewilderment in the earth — he has companions who call him to the right way (saying), Come to us. Say: Surely the guidance of Allah, that is the (true) guidance. And we are commanded to submit to the Lord of the worlds.
The last sentence of this ayah is a crucial reminder that for all of our Black and Brown unity and solidarity, for all of our raised fists, soul handshakes and mass Black Power rallies, we yet must submit to Allah and accept His call to a righteous life. In short, we cannot, “Blackety Black Black” our way into Jannah.
That said, is there still room for us to congregate and create our own community? Of course, there is. While Islam promotes the unity of the One Ummah worldwide, we are not forbidden to join onto our own kind. We are given divine consent to express this beautiful deen in terms of our own unique cultural and historical experience. This ayah from Juz’ 7 (6:38) gives us a clue:
And there is no animal in the earth, nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but they are communities like yourselves. We have not neglected anything in the Book. Then to their Lord will they be collected.
There is safety and comfort in largely homogenous congregations in religion, as long as they do not degenerate into racism and bigotry against our fellow Muslims from other backgrounds. In our world of Islam, there is no room for what our family in Los Angeles calls “set-trippin’.” The communities that share commonalities of heritage and outlook, social and experiential backgrounds become prime locations for the religious requirements of Islam to be reiterated and rehearsed in a supportive environment, free of the danger of inter-cultural misunderstanding.
My dear friend and brother, Imam Luqman Ahmad of Sacramento and Folsom, Calif, reminds us in a plain but resonant way to keep Islam simple. People do not take shahada to become part of a sect. They come to develop their piety in faith after the example of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They want to be Muslim, just plain Muslim.
A Masjid or Mosque community with like-minded and culturally similar brothers and sisters can also be an ideal venue for the teaching of Allah’s supremacy and sovereignty over all. This is the place where we learn of His power over even the way humans encounter and deal with one another. In Surah al-An’ām (6:65), we learn how to bear witness to His awesome power:
Say: He has the power to send on you a chastisement from above you or beneath your feet, or to throw you into confusion, (making you) of different parties, and make some of you taste the violence of others. See how we repeat the messages that they may understand.
In this one ayah, Allah, The Most High, reveals His control and mastery of every possible challenge in the life of an individual believing man or believing woman, a nation, or the ummah.
We need no licenses from our respective cities or states to address the urgent human needs of the ghettos and barrios. We need no carte blanche from the governments whose policies crippled our people and laid them low. We do not require a prescription from the American psycho-medical establishment to go and heal our sin sick family with the medicine of Islam. No, sir. And no, ma’am!
We have the permission of Almighty Allah, and that is a license to heal.
Jamil Muhammad is a hard-hitting, inspirational, community organizer. He served as a pioneering Nation of Islam leader in cities as diverse as New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta. In his capacity as National Spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Minister Jamil has had meaningful and productive dialogue with many of America’s key opinion makers on all sides of all issues.