By Hakeem Muhammad
The Qur’an, Allah’s final message to humanity, has inspired Black freedom fighters across the ages to fight for a more just social order with a timeless message that should continuously motivate us to liberate ourselves from white rule and domination. The fourth juz’ of the Qur’an (3:93–4:23) in al-Imran offers important directives to Muslims who challenge white supremacy: be steadfast, principled and work to have Islamic ethics transform Black communities.
In the Battle of Uhud, rumors spread that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been slain and many of the companions began to retreat. Allah (swt) then revealed in the Qur’an,
Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful. — 3:144
This ayah served as a reminder, that even if the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been slain, Muslims had a duty to continue the struggle and continue to uphold the principles that he stood for. As believers in Allah, the death of no man, no matter how influential, impactful and powerful, should serve to put a dent in our faith or cause us to retreat from the struggle for justice.
We continue to struggle for justice inspired by the model of the Prophet Muhammad, who inspired others like, Licutan, the Brazilian Black Islamic scholar and the suspected mastermind of the Bahia slave rebellion; Makandal, the imam who was burned alive by the French for his role in organizing slave rebellions in Haiti; and Malcolm X who reignited the inevitable Islamic confrontation with white supremacy.We, as the inheritors of liberators who fought against white supremacy, can never turn our heels from.
Never turning our heels from white supremacy means being cognizant of the material conditions of Black people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. In a 2017 blog post describing the living conditions of Black people, Assata Shakur states that too many Black mothers have seen “the trapped look on the faces of our children when they come to fully realize what it means to be Black in Amerikkka.” She asks, “How many times have we run out of bus fare, rent money, food money and how many times have our children gone to school in hand-me-down clothes, with holes in their shoes?” Shakur declares, “We know what deprivation is.”
Indeed, the white power structure works to deprive Black communities in numerous ways, one of the main ways is through usury. In al-Imran, Allah (swt) tells humanity, “Do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful” (3:130). For Black people, the white capitalist oppressor, in dereliction of divine guidance, has used usury to keep Black people in a state of economic deprivation.
According to an article by Andrea Freeman, the entire credit card industry is one of the main culprits of the economic exploitation of Black communities. In fact, its business model makes profits for shareholders by targeting high-risk consumers who accumulate interest because they cannot pay the full monthly balance. By having an individual continuously pay interest, the credit card industry makes more profits for its shareholders.
Predatory payday centers who make loans that typically come with interest rates of 400% are disproportionately placed in Black communities. Lacking other options, Black consumers are three times more likely to go loan sharks, like these centers, to pay off credit card debt than their white counterparts. Black consumers are also more likely to declare bankruptcy due to credit card debt. On average, twice as many Black credit card holders paid interest rates of 20% in comparison to white credit card holders; and 40% of Black credit card holders were subsistence users meaning they rely on credit cards for basic living expenses. Furthermore, debt collectors are more likely to target consumers in Black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods. Debt lawsuits brought against black communities often result in foreclosures, wage garnishments, increased stress, and continues cycle of poverty in black communities. Indeed, usury has the impact of solidifying white people at the top of the socio-economic hierarchy with devastating impacts for Black communities.
The Qur’an is not just a book to be memorized and recited. In fact, like Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we are duty-bound to organize our oppressed Black communities and act on the Qur’an’s ethical principles. What good is it to memorize ayahs prohibiting usury if we are not looking to free our Black communities from predatory lenders and challenge loan sharks? The Islam of Black revolutionaries seeks to address the white capitalist exploitation of Black communities and make Islam’s principles of economic justice reign supreme in Black communities. Black Muslims must be active in challenging the existence of predatory payday centers in Black communities and all manifestations of white capitalist exploitation .
Allah (SWT) tells us,
And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.— 3:104
Therefore, let Muslims arise in Black communities as a force to challenge our subjugation under white supremacy. Let us right the wrongs of white supremacy and be steadfast and principled every step of the way.
Hakeem Muhammad is a Black Muslim public intellectual and educator at Muslim Empowerment Institute (MEI). Muhammad’s scholarship is dedicated to Islamic revival in the Black community. He believes that Islam must be restored to have the transformative effect it once had in mitigating the social ills of Black America.