by Shamar Hemphill
The believers are a but a single family: So make peace and reconciliation between your brothers and sisters; and fear Allah, that you may receive Mercy — 49:10
We are in the midst of some of the most vulnerable times as it relates to violence and poverty. Greed is at an all-time high for a small portion of society, yet our inner-cities continue to struggle with some of the same challenges as they did 50 years ago. Solving problems like violence, lack of jobs, police violence and brutality, education, immigration, etc., requires us to realize that our greatest strength as human beings lies in understanding one another’s stories and realizing that some of our best assets are African Americans. Now more than ever, Muslims should be leading the movement for social justice and community organizing in the United States and around the world. What does that mean? It means we have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty in communities that are the hardest hit.
When Allah says “So make peace and reconciliation,” He is referring to our people who are often vilified and framed as “high risk.” It seems like we are scared of each other. Some Black folks are even pleading for the president to solve our problems, but we do not need the government to solve our issues. We already have the collective power to do so; now Black and Brown communities are looking for another way with higher values that demonstrates both accountability and justice. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the best organizer; he understood the collective stake towards creating a just community and starting with the most-affected people and tribes. We have to begin reconciling our differences of opinions around issues that continue to pit communities against one another. I believe we have the ability to change our own conditions with help of Allah.
Do they not see that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and never wearied with their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yes, verily He has power over all things. — 46:33
Our community must understand that Allah is over all things and He is the best of planners regardless of what is perceived as victories for the oppressors in society. Fighting for justice must guide our efforts in life. If we continue to believe in the power of God, nothing can truly stop us from achieving our goals in this life and the next. Do not fall into the trap of seeking fame and fortune in this life; we must maintain our patience during times of hardship. When we feel the pressure in our communities, families and jobs, we must remember that Allah is over all things. We must continue to be that light for which Allah can resurrect anything and bring it to life.
Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (the one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). — 49:13
The month of Ramadan is a perfect opportunity to show our love and appreciation for Allah (SWT). But most important, this month also reminds us about being accountable to ourselves spiritually and being physically engaged in our communities. As I reflect on this beautiful ayah in our book, I think about some of the most electrifying people who experienced hardship. A person who might have spent 24 years in prison on death row can still return home with sincerity and a zealous love for Allah and His messenger. We have an obligation to help our brothers and sisters who come out of such circumstances re-acclimate to society. We have an obligation to help those young brothers and sisters who are able to still see the beauty in our faith who would otherwise become followers of a popular culture that is often moving at a fast pace. I have had the privilege of working with some of the most vulnerable sectors in our community, and I can tell you firsthand that these are some of the most righteous people I have been around in my 13 years of doing this work.
When we think about righteous people, we often think about a scholar who often retreats in isolation reflecting on the complexities of the world and translating it for us. But, we also must include among the righteous those who are on the frontlines speaking truth to power and working on issues at messy intersections in society. This includes creating an alternative food ecosystem in primarily low-income inner-cities that are populated by predominantly immigrant-owned corner stores or spending time with residents on the margins of society who often do not have a voice to engage in local politics by drafting legislation that addresses their needs. These areas of activity in society are where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made his mark in history by empowering the most affected members of society who went on to become the best and most righteous people in society.
From your brother,
Senior Organizer, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)
Shamar brings with him vast experience in the areas of civic engagement, community organizing and youth development. Born on the South Side of Chicago, he attended Langston University in 1999 and studied sociology. Upon his return to Chicago in 2005, worked at the Mosque Foundation as youth coordinator, working with both Arab and African American Muslim youth. In 2007, Shamar was recruited to participate in Public Allies, a leadership development program started by Michelle Obama. After graduating from Public Allies in 2008, Shamar began working for the IMAN as coordinator for the organization’s youth department and now serves as the Senior Organizer. Since 2016, he has served as a professor teaching Community Organizing from an Interfaith Perspective at the Chicago Theological Union.