by Shahidah Sharif
Say: “Verily my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight- a religion of right- the Path (trod) by Abraham, the true in faith, And He certainly did not join gods with Allah.”
Say: “Truly my prayer , and my service of sacrifice, My life and my death are (all) for Allah, The Cherisher of all systems of knowledge;
No partner hath He: This I am commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will. “ (al-An’am 6:161-163)
Upon reading Juz’ 8, particularly these verses of supplication, I reminisced about my childhood when my parents would recite a portion of this duʻa repeatedly. Since then, it stuck with me that everything I did literally was for G-d. I reveled in my childhood seeing my Black Muslim family among many others from coast to coast celebrating the concept of being a Bilalian. We had t-shirts and songs with positive words that proclaimed who we were to the world. The inherent thought was that we removed any label or racial construct society placed upon us, and we identified with a human being from our faith history synonymous with calling humanity to a life of prayer filled with vitality and success. Being Bilialian was an expression of pride in ourselves and our faith that blended well in the inner cities during the 1970s and early 1980s. The Black family was already being uplifted in our daily language and self love heralded a deep gratifying sense of dignity and respect for our connection to the African diaspora and the Continent. African American Muslim families were being widely represented here in the US and taking root bearing the fruit of Islam today. My absorbent mind locked those feelings and images in my heart determined that I wanted the same for my future family and community.
Fast forward to the present, we are currently witnessing a resurgence of #BlackFamily Love, #BlackExcellence, and #Black everything because we are being assaulted by a subversive and violent culture of police brutality and the media launched at attacking our men, women and children in plain view or live video streams. In our aim to build and maintain strong Black families and communities as Muslims, we have to combat our daily newsfeeds with a concerted effort to make Allah the goal as Prophet Abraham (AS) exemplified in his life and his family. In addition to teaching our children their roots and history in this nation and Africa, we must inculcate in their hearts a reverence and commitment to Allah that supersedes all. We are at a critical turning point in our history where our desire to express and celebrate our “Blackness” can overshadow our “Muslimness” because what is promoted as al-Islam in America does not always reflect us. Hence, having voices that clearly articulate and represent the intersecting lines of being unapologetically Muslim and Black or Bilalian without compromising our path toward the manifest destiny or “millatu Ibrahim,” as exemplified in the lives of Prophet Abraham (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), is vital to the survival and success of the Black family.
From the inception of the institution of chattel slavery in this country, the Black family was dehumanized and dismantled to the point where we can see traces of its effects to this day. Our men were emasculated, women were raped and our children were sold and bred as crops. This was done strategically to lower our self-worth and justify the enslavement of human beings in the name of G-d! How then do we reconcile in the minds of People of Color that they are worthy in the eyes of G-d? We have to ask ourselves is the color of my skin enough to make it through these tests, or is it my taqwa, or both? The devil wants to tear our families apart and pit the men against the women and the children against the elders or vice versa. Once we know the lies and schemes plotted against us, we can truly defeat our enemy.
Many of us are seeking to reconnect to our roots and ancestry linked by DNA samples to gain insight into who we are as individuals and learn about our lineage. We are still searching today to have a sense of identity and belonging. Although it is a painstaking process, it is essential to healing and nursing wounds of long ago. The silver lining and blessing that we have been given through Prophet Abraham (AS) and Muhammad (SAWS) is that regardless of our physical lineage and the psycho-social impacts our environment has inflicted on us, the most important identifying connection is what is imprinted on our souls as servants of G-d.
We should continue to research who we are and trace our lineage as far back and wide as the branches reach! Additionally, we must inculcate certain Abrahamic traits within the hearts and souls of our families to safeguard from the trials of life that await us. We are instructed to “consume only meats that have had the name of G-d pronounced over it…except under compulsion of necessity” (6:119). Literally and figuratively we should not ingest meat or “knowledge” that is not beneficial or from sources that have been tainted and use our rational minds as a filter. We must refrain from “shameful deeds whether open or secret” (7:33). We must encourage our children to be good to their parents; protect the orphans and their property; keep our word with each other; join together with believers of other faiths to do works of righteousness and fulfill our covenant to G-d.
The strength and preservation of the Black family is paramount at this stage in the game. We can pattern our lives on the examples of Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Abraham who gave us the blueprints on how to align ourselves with the principles of the universal human family or we can merely immerse ourselves in empty rhetoric and feel-good talks. When we subscribe to principles that are universally accepted as good such as preservation of life, deeds of righteousness, etc. not only will we survive, but also we will thrive in the times being painted as trying and turbulent. Our G-d-given Blackness and our Taqwa with true reliance on Allah alone will weather us through any storm and help us attain our true destiny: Allah.
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, or pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. She studied at the University of Miami and was later afforded the opportunity through the Mosque Cares Study Abroad program with Abu Nour University with a focus on the Arabic language and the Islamic Sciences for the purpose of dawah, or calling others.