Martyrs & Miracles: The Sapelo Square Muharram Series

compiled by Ryan Hilliard

The first Islamic calendar month of Muharram is underway, long considered one of the “sacred months”, a status it held even before the advent of Islam. For Muslims worldwide, it ushers in another new year since the Great Emigration (hijra) of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him). One particularly special day called ‘Ashura, which occurs on the 10th day, carries myriad events of great importance to the Muslim community as a whole.

‘Ashura is most notable for the deliverance of Moses (peace be upon him) and the Children of Israel from the tyranny of Pharaonic Egypt and the heart-wrenching murder of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Husayn ibn ‘Ali (peace be upon him) at Karbala.

These two significant markers in our history are replete with lessons and echoes into today. We, as Black Muslims in United States, can clearly see our ongoing struggle to speak truth to power, support our siblings in faith and race, and achieve true liberation from a system of white supremacy and hegemony in the story of Moses and Aaron. We also see stark similarities in the painful ordeal of Imam Husayn and the Prophetic Household (peace be upon them), who were made vulnerable by the hypocrisy of those who called themselves Muslims and were slaughtered with no regard for their immense value.

Sapelo Square humbly presents these curated, but not definitive, pieces by which we intend to express the complicated yet powerful narratives of the blessed 10th day of Muharram, and points of entry to discovering the parallels with Black Muslims in America.

Our series includes concise overviews of the events at Karbala, its spiritual significance and parallels to the Black American experience from Hope CopelandBrother Adibudeen, and Dawud Walid. We also feature a video recording of the 2016 Next Wave Muslim Initiative (NWMI) panel discussion “Faith in Action: At the Intersection of Islam, Race, and #BlackLivesMatter,” wherein PhD candidate Donna Auston encouraged the audience to reflect on the story of Karbala and the Exodus from Egypt and ask themselves: where do you stand on the side of justice? In his response to Auston’s presentation, activist and author Tariq Touré discusses what allyship by non-Black Muslims should look like and encourages financial support to Black Muslim organizations and issues in the spirit of Muharram.

We also feature classic homages to the Ahl al-Bayt titled “I Love You More” by poet extraordinaire Amir Sulaiman and “By Any Means Necessary” featuring The Dean and the late Malcolm Latif Shabazz off the Karbala Mixtape Vol.1, Then we round out the series with reflective pieces from Sapelo Square alumni Narjis Nichole Abdul-Majid and our founder, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer.

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