By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Because the language of Juz’ 22 (33:31–36:27) is very poetic, I found it easier to reflect on the juz’ in poetry. The translation used is from The Noble Quran, with translations from Dr. Muhsin Khan and Muhammad Al-Hilali.
Verily, the Muslims men and women, the believers men and women, the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat, the men and the women who observe Saum (fast), the men and the women who guard their chastity and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise). — 33:35
Make Me Sure
Jannah, a paradise of rewards unseen
Is only for Your servants.
I’m not sure that it is for me
I want to be Your servant
I tell You and myself this but my sins are so vast, so deep
Oh Allah, how do I get clean?
I raise my hands in prayer
These brown hands grasp for mercy
And Your mercy fills the sky
I don’t lift my hands high enough though
Reach! Reach! My soul screams
Oh Allah, what keeps me from reaching out to You?
I bend my stiff knees — I can’t bow low enough though
Repent! Repent! My soul weeps.
What keeps me from repenting to You?
I wet my fasting tongue with Your remembrance
Repeat the words You have written
Oh Allah, thank You for words that are true!
But I forget those words
And I forget Your promise too
And my throat is dry and sore without the verses I used to know
Just believe, I tell myself
But doubts whispered in the dark leave me uncertain
Oh Allah, give me the steady light of a faith unwavering
I call myself Muslim
I am human
I walk the earth, heedless and in sin
I say I am Muslim!
Teach me how to walk
Teach me how to walk like Your servants
Make me sure, Oh Allah, that it is for me.
The first ten verses of Surah Saba (34: 1–10) resonated deeply with me. For brevity, below I only cite the first three. But the poem that follows was based on the first ten verses of the surah.
All the praises and thanks be to Allah, to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. His is all the praises and thanks in the Hereafter, and He is the All-Wise, the All-Aware.
He knows that which goes into the earth and that which comes forth from it, and that which descend from the heaven and that which ascends to it. And He is the Most Merciful, the Oft-Forgiving.
Those who disbelieve say: “The Hour will not come to us.” Say: “Yes, by my Lord, it will come to you.” (Allah, He is) the All-Knower of the unseen, not even the weight of an atom (or a small ant) or less than that or greater, escapes from His Knowledge in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a Clear Book (al-Lauh al-Mahfuz).
The weight of an ant
The weight of an atom
The weight of whatever is smaller
It doesn’t escape the All-Knower
The weight of the heavens
The weight of the earth
The weight of whatever is bigger
It submits to Allah, the Greatest
So, I will give my grievances to Allah
I will give them all to Him
And know that the prayers of the oppressed are answered
And know that the final Judgment will come
I will fix what I can with my hands
I will speak against what I can with my tongue
I will hate what I can in my heart
But I will leave what I can’t change to Him
I will bow my head in prayer
And give it all to Him
I will give Him the weight of a microaggression
I will give Him the condescending tone that makes me feel not smart enough
I will give Him the being followed in the store that makes me feel not good enough
I will give Him the joke, the caricature, the stereotype that makes me feel not human enough
I will give him the countless everyday things whose weight has almost bowed my head—
I will give Him the weight of those things
And unburden myself with His justice
I will lift my head high and I will be made whole,
I will be made new
I will give Him the weight of 400 years of oppression
I will give Him the baby ripped from the arms of his mother country
And the baby redlined into missed opportunities and miseducation
I will give him the girl raped and beaten
And the strong Black woman she becomes — a mixture of mule and magic
I will give Him the innocent man hanged from a tree
And the man enslaved with chains and prison bars
I will give Him the cries of the mother at the auction block and those of her child too
And the cries of the mother as the police stop and frisk and those of her child too
I will give Him the song of the freedom seeker following the drinking gourd by night
And the song of the freedom fighter marching to overcome by day
I will give Him those things that have almost crushed my people —
With the words of my prayer, I will give Him the weight of those things
Oh Allah, unburden the ancestors with Your justice
Unburden their descendants too
Insha’Allah, we will be made whole.
Insha’Allah, we will be made new.
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Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is the author of the critically praised debut picture book, Mommy’s Khimar. She worked as an English teacher in high schools and middle schools for over a decade. She now works in the nonprofit world as a program director at Mighty Writers helping kids learn how to write outside of the classroom. In her writing, Thompkins-Bigelow strives to portray children who are Black American and Muslim, two identities that she is proud to represent. She has also served as an anti-racism educator through her work as a fellow with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. She received her bachelor’s degree in English Education from Temple University and a master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. She resides with her family in Philadelphia, Pa.