By Khadijah Abdul-Haqq
As a young Black girl who lived in a culturally diverse neighborhood, surrounded by an Irish community to the south and east and an Italian community to the north and west, walking home from the train or the market always became a hurdle. More often than not, I had to run full-speed through the all-white neighborhoods being chased and dodging rocks hurled at my friends or me while being called the N-word. I knew instinctively then that if I could just make it to the edge of the park that separated “us” from “them” I’d be safe. Approaching Ramadan in many ways has had the same effect on me: if I can just survive long enough in the world to make it to Ramadan, I will be safe.
In Ramadan, Muslims seek protection from a corrosive and often invasive society. We are living in perilous times: masjid shootings, church bombings, children slaughtered in the streets, Black boys still being sent to jail for kissing a white girl. In many ways, we have gone full circle as a worldwide community, but it leaves you to ponder while making our month-long spiritual retreat: How did we get here? How can we fix it? In Surah al-Araf in Juz’ 9 (7:88–8:40) of the Holy Qur’an, we have our answers to survive this––if we are willing to listen.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Araf ayahs 134–135,
And when the torment came down upon them, they said, “O Moses! Call upon your Lord for us by the covenant He has made with you. If you lift this torment from us, we shall surely believe in you, and we shall send forth the Children of Israel with you. However, when We lifted the torment from them, for a term they were to fulfill, behold they reneged.
Pharaoh thought he could make deals and false promises to remain safe from Allah’s punishment. Similar to Pharaoh’s approach, many when experiencing hard times also seek Allah’s mercy, but when they reach safety, they renege, finding comfort in false security, only to return to their neglectful ways. In many ways, as a community of professed believers, we have not only taken security in the light of technology and progression, but have also forgotten the favors that Allah ta’ala blessed us with: knowledge after ignorance, belief after darkness and deceit after being showed truthfulness.
In many ways, as a community of professed believers, we have not only taken security in the light of technology and progression, but have also forgotten the favors that Allah ta’ala blessed us with..
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) came as a mercy to all humankind. He came to rectify the human condition, but we have taken it upon ourselves to return to the ways of jahiliya, dispelling the truth of the Qur’an by seeking a seat at Pharaoh’s table. We have become like the Children of Israel, who after were giving guidance, wanted to return to misguidance:
And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea, and they came upon a people clinging to their idols. They said, “O Moses! Make for us a god as they have gods. The said, “surely you are an ignorant people. — 7:138
In haste, Bani Israel disregarded the iron fist that they lived under in the presence of the Pharaoh, and quickly returned to former bad habits and tarnished beliefs, trading the comforts of this world for the next. And like them, we too have forgotten the darkness of the world.
We have forgotten the animalistic manner we exhibited in the land without the guidance of our Lord. Instead, we now copy some non-Muslims in their behavior and speech. We seek their approval and permission to sit at their tables and partake in their crumbs, dwelling in their convoluted and often hypocritical comportments; a shameful lack of remembrance of Allah, who has exalted the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad as He had The Children of Israel.
The trial of being released into the world after subjugation is a time of patience and rebuilding; not one built on angst and haste. Nothing worth doing can be done easily.
Likewise, the Black community has also fallen to the call of the Pharaonic societal pressure by turning our backs on the mercies of Allah, who gave us freedom after oppression. Instead, we sought to sit with our oppressor and be a part of their communities rather than continue to build our own. The trial of being released into the world after subjugation is a time of patience and rebuilding; not one built on angst and haste. Nothing worth doing can be done easily. It will take commitment…sometimes hardship and pain, maybe even despair until the goal is finally achieved.
We find this tenacity of spirit within Prophet Muhammad’s actions (peace and blessings be upon him) –– like when the tribe of the Quraysh tried to starve the Muslims into submission by sending warners to neighboring towns threatening them that if they fed the Muslims, they would risk losing trade with them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) could have folded or perhaps made deals with the tribe, but instead, he stood steadfast in the face of inevitable hardship. It is important to remember that the Muslims made Hijra out of necessity –– not out of fear. In the face of starvation, they built their forces, stacked their paper and returned to Mecca stronger than ever. Their belief never wavered. They never cowered in the face of uncertainty.
We, the Muslim community, are not here to sit silently by, hiding in the light of comfort. As our sister Ilhan Omar quoted the Honorable John Lewis as saying, “We are here to make good trouble.” We are here as vice-regents on the earth. We are here to be the example to all of humanity. We cannot sit idly by as the world runs to ruins and expect not to be held accountable.
In Surah al-Araf (7:15), Allah says: “Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find inscribed in the Torah and the Gospel that with them, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and relieves them of their burden and the shackles that were upon them.”
We as Black Muslims, cannot sit idly by and watch the world burn. We are obligated to right the wrongs. We are compelled to reject oppression and topple false gods. We are obliged to be a beacon of light in a time of darkness.
However, all is not a loss. Allah is Most Forgiving and Merciful, indeed, and we can come home again. The Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) said, “But as for those who commit evil deeds and then repent thereafter and believe, surely, thereafter, thy Lord is Forgiving.”
We will never prosper by pleading to Pharaoh’s soft spot, but by inserting ourselves in the middle of his house and standing up for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. We must stand firm in the promise of Allah, and not turn back on our heels and run.
May Allah grant us safety in the light of His Throne, and keep us firm on belief after guidance. May Allah guide us to what is correct, provide us the good of this world and the next, and protect us from oppression and the Dajjal. Ameen.
Khadijah Abdul-Haqq is a writer and an educator. She is the author of the critically acclaimed children’s book Nanni’s Hijab. She has been a guest contributor to Hayati Magazine, AboutIslam.com, Sapelo Square and various other Muslim-focused publishings. Ms. Abdul-Haqq has a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration. She is currently enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Education from American University. She is originally from Philadelphia, Penn., but currently resides Memphis, Tenn.