Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their [newborn] sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupters. And We are willing to confer favor upon those who are oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors and establish them in the land and show Pharaoh and [his minister] Haman and their soldiers through them that which they had feared. — Qu’ran 28:4-6
The Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., hosted “Qur’an in Chains,” an immensely beautiful program on February 4, 2017, that focused on the history of Islamic religious establishments in West Africa. More specifically, the talks highlighted how Africans from these communities, when stolen and enslaved in the Americas, ported their Qur’anic heritage into our generation of Black Muslims in the United States.
Guest speakers Shaykh Adeyinka Muhammad Mendes, Dr. Rudolph B. Ware, and program emcee Ustadha Ieasha Prime delivered a master class that allowed the audience to understand why the enslavement of Black African Muslims is a major factor in the presence of Islam in the United States, and why the importance of Qur’an in these Muslims’ lives was a means of liberation through preservation in the midst of slavery’s trauma.
Shaykh Mendes expounded on the aforementioned ayat of Qur’an and more to draw the clear parallel between the oppression of Bani Isra’il at the hands of the Pharaonic powers-that-were then (mentioned in Surah al-Qasas) and the oppression of Black people at the hands of the Pharaonic powers-that-be today.
Dr. Ware, the author of The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa, pointed to the many examples of Qur’anic education in West Africa to demonstrate Muslims’ interactive relationship with the Divine text and its inseparability from life and identity, inspiring Black Muslims today and of future generations to truly live in and by the Qur’an.