By Jamal Adam
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
People of the Book, Our Messenger has come to make clear to you much of what you have kept hidden, and to overlook much [you have done]. A light has now come to you from Allah, and a Scripture making things clear — 5:15
In these early days of Ramadan, it is incumbent that we be introspective not only as individuals, but also as an ummah. As America presents a facade to the world of triumphant successes and advancements in race relations and religious tolerance, many Black Muslims can tell you that Islamophobia and anti-Blackness has continued to permeate every level of American society. As an educator and mentor specifically focused on being an extra layer of support for young and vulnerable students of color, providing them with the necessary knowledge and tools they need to succeed, I am often reminded of my responsibility to help them navigate this trial-ridden world in a beautiful and just way. In reflecting on the sixth juz’ of the Qur’an (4:148-5:81), I found that the guidelines for navigation have been laid out.
I recently went on the Civil Rights Research Experience with several students and staff from my institution. Throughout the experience, the students and I were educated about the history of our people. As much as I got out of the it, seeing our Black students be fully immersed in their history was absolutely powerful. Our history, their history –– was placed front and center, combating the erasure that we are repeatedly subjected to as Black people. The Qur’an emphasizes the importance of knowing one’s history. In the sixth juz’, this is evident in the stories Allah relates about the People of the Book as well as the stories of His prophets, peace be upon them all. He sent “messengers bearing good news and warning,” describing what did and what did not take place in the past, “so that mankind would have no excuse before Allah…” (4:165)
Our history, their history –– was placed front and center, combating the erasure that we are repeatedly subjected to as Black people.
Allah gives us another lesson in the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah as an opportunity for us to become mindful as Muslims of our faith and the actions we take. During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the Muslim community was barred from worship in Masjid al-Haram by the Quraysh. After the triumph of the Muslims over the Meccans, Allah reminds them and us to be just even to those who have obstructed us in our worship and livelihood stating, “…And do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgress. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty” (5:2).
Clear is the reminder to not let the hatred of a people, whether it be then or now, consume us and lead us astray. The students and I saw that we too have had our moments of triumph, and, Allah willing, there will be even more in the future. But those moments must be moments that uplift us as human beings. And we should not as Believers, transgress the limits of what Allah has permitted for us. To be a Believer is to “...be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice” (5:8). And so, as He goes on to say, it is imperative that we “do not let the hatred of a people prevent [us] from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do” (5:8).
We must teach them that they are their ancestors wildest dreams. And if their ancestors were able to dream so vast in the face of so much hardship and pain, then their own dreams must be limitless.
Just as we are given the stories and histories of various groups within the Qur’an, it is imperative that I as an educator and that we as Black Muslims in America learn and understand our own history. “…[T]ell them the truth about the story of Adam’s two sons…” (5:27) We must teach our youth about the truth of our history, this intersection that is soaked in love, liberation and resilience. We must teach them that they are their ancestors wildest dreams. And if their ancestors were able to dream so vast in the face of so much hardship and pain, then their own dreams must be limitless.
This knowledge that we strive to attain is not only for Black Muslims and Black Americans. As activist Fred Hampton proclaimed compellingly, “All power to all the people!” It is through our shared knowledge and understanding of the deep and traumatic history of America that we are able to truly learn and take actions that progress our people in a direction of equitability and justice. And it is through the wisdom of our Creator that the best version of this path forward will manifest, so that we have no part in history ever repeating itself.
Jamal Adam is an Achievement Specialist at Wayzata High School. In this position, he works with students of color to provide an extra layer of support if and when they need it. He is a Public Allies AmeriCorps alum, having worked as a Community Specialist for the CORE program at the University of Minnesota and as an associate teacher at SUN Academy. He is also on the Board of Directors for CommonBond Communities, an affordable housing non-profit whose mission is building stable homes, strong futures and vibrant communities.