by Tahir Abdullah
To my people in the African Diaspora,
God said in the Qur’an, “And we sent no Messenger before you, save that We revealed unto him, “Verily, there is no God but I; so worship Me.” — 21:25
Being a Muslim means carrying the inheritance of the Prophets (upon them be peace), being conscious of your responsibility toward God at all times and upholding the divine covenant God bequeathed to you. When you bear witness that “There is no God but Allah (God),” you become a believer and you make a commitment to carry out the rights associated with this weighty testimony. This is a great honor and a tremendous responsibility with implications in this life and the next. God said,
Every soul shall taste death. We try you with evil and with good, as a test, and unto Us you shall be returned. — 21:35
This is important to understand because divine context is often necessary to put tragedy into perspective. When you witness destruction in the motherland or the indiscriminate killing of your loved ones at the hands of warmongers, tyrants or the state, you empathize; you feel anger, sorrow and compassion. You also feel motivated to alleviate their pain and suffering; all of these feelings are appropriate responses to tragedy.
However, what about your own life? Have you thought about your own demise? What are you prepared to face God with? These might seem like unfair questions because you’ve been tested so much by evil, but the angel of death doesn’t send texts or tweets. There will be no “heads up”! God said,
Rather, it will come to them unexpectedly and bewilder them, and they will not be able to repel it, nor will they be reprieved. — 21:40
Fortunately, you haven’t been left alone to figure this out. God sent Prophets as signs of His power and will, and to demonstrate your capacity to defy the impossible. An example of this is Mary the mother of Jesus (peace be upon her). God said, “As for she who preserved her chastity, We breathed into her Our Spirit, and made her and her son a sign for the entire world” (21:91). I thought of you when I read this because the circumstances of your existence are miraculous. You weren’t supposed to be, but your mother gave birth to you under impossible circumstances and was accused of being unchaste as a result. Then, after you were born, similar to Jesus (upon him be peace), the state came after you, fearing your potential and knowing that if anyone could bring its corrupt edifice to the ground it would be you.
You also have in Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) the most excellent example! To be Muslim means that you bear witness that “Muhammad is the messenger of God” and by doing so, you acknowledge the honor and distinction God bestowed upon him. What was revealed to the Prophets before him has one source — God! And, Muhammad is the seal of them all. You are part of his nation (‘ummah), and one of his inheritors. Therefore, you must know him, follow him and love him.
When God said to Prophet Muhammad, “And We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds,” know that you are both a recipient and benefactor of Muhammad’s mercy. You will need his mercy especially on the day when God,
…shall set the just scales for the Day of Resurrection, and no soul shall be wronged at all. Even if it were the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it. And we suffice as a Reckoner. — 21:47
The good news is, if you love Prophet Muhammad, you will be with him on The Day of Resurrection, and the divine covenant of “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” that you took from him, will outweigh everything you’ve ever done.
So why is this divine covenant so heavy? Think about all of the tribulation and rejection the Prophets endured from tyrants and their own people for you to receive it? You will also be subject to similar difficulty,
And if they deny you, the people of Noah denied before them, as did Ad & Thamud, and the people of Abraham, and the people of Lot, and the inhabitants of Midian and Moses too was denied.” — 22:42–44
Similarly, Prophet Muhammad and his community were denied and among those “who were expelled from their homes without right, only for saying, ‘Our lord is God’”
The same happened to your Muslim ancestors who were enslaved by Europeans, taken from the shores of Africa, and sold into bondage throughout the Americas, all while holding to the divine covenant. Your ancestors’ forced removal from their home wasn’t God punishing us, as a people, nor was their enslavement a curse. You were made for struggle, and singled out as the inheritor of a divine covenant that God decreed that you deliver to the shores of America. And, you did not fail in that responsibility!
Therefore struggle for the sake of God in a manner that is benefitting. God is the one who chose you. Nor has God placed on you any [undue] strain in your religion. It is the sacred way of your father Abraham. He named you Muslims from before — and in this [Qur’an] — so that The Messenger may bear witness before all of you, in order that you may be a witness to all people. So establish the prayer and purify your wealth by giving the poor their share and hold to God. God alone is your Guardian. Then how excellent a Guardian is God and how excellent a Supporter!” — 22:78
With love from your brother,
 Qur’an 21:107
 ‘Ad was the name of an ancient people to whom the Arabian Prophet Hud was sent. The people of ‘Ad are said to have come from southern Arabia between Hadramawt, Yemen and Oman.
 Thamud was an ancient Arabian tribe to whom the Prophet Salih was sent. Thamud existed in the Western Plains of Arabia in an area called al-Hijr, between the Hejaz and Syria. Similar to ‘Ad, the people of Thamud are said to have descended from Prophet Noah through his son Shem.
 The people of Midian existed during Arab antiquity and are believed to be the descendants of Abraham. The Prophet Salih, often identified with the biblical figure Jethro, was sent to the land of Midian located in the region of Northwestern Arabia and Southern Jordan.
 Qur’an 22:40
Tahir Abdullah grew up in Oakland, California where his exposure to West African Islamic history & scholarship motivated him to pursue knowledge of the traditional Islamic sciences under various scholars in the United States. Tahir went on to complete a B.A. in Africana Studies and Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago where he continued his interest in Islamic History. Tahir is currently the Associate Director of Spiritual Life and Advisor for Muslim Affairs at the University of Chicago where he leads initiatives broadly related to spiritual and religious life on campus, while serving as a campus resource for Islamic faith and practice. Tahir remains actively engaged in educating members of the university, and broader Muslim community, about Islam’s socio-religious history and current affairs.