By Dr. Kimberly Harper
This Ramadan, as I reevaluate my place in this ever-changing world, Juz’ 21 provides a starting point to realign myself in worship of Allah and to realize anew his ability and willingness to aid the believers. Juz’ 21 (29:46–33:30) is filled with many golden nuggets of wisdom that it is hard to discuss them all, but what truly resonates with me is the understanding that Allah is sufficient and that we are born into this world with a ticket returning us directly to him.
In Surah 29 verse 52 Allah states, “Say (to them O Muhammad) Sufficient is Allah for a witness between me and you. He knows what is in the heavens and on earth.” Allah witnesses all that we do. As such, we need not waste our time with constant explanation. He knows all and sees all. When we remember this and begin to internalize what it truly means, we can stop spending our energy on things beyond our control. Allah tells us several times that He is doing his job and that we need to do ours. He states in verses 60–63 of Surah al-Ankabut,
“And so many a moving creature carries not its own provision! Allah provides for it and of you. He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. And if you were to ask them: “Who has created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon?” they will surely reply: “Allah.” How then are they deviating (as polytheists and disbelievers?) Allah enlarges the provision for whom He wills of His slaves, and straightens it for whom (He wills). Verily, Allah is the All-knower of everything. And if you were to ask them: “Who sends down water from the sky, and gives life therewith to the earth after its death?” they will surely reply: “Allah.” Say: “All praise and thanks are Allah’s!” Nay, most of them have no sense.
Through these verses, Allah reminds us of His capabilities and that we will return to Him. It is also a reminder that we are easily distracted by the amusements and play of this world. “This present life is merely an amusement and a diversion; the true life is in the Hereafter, if only they knew” (29:64).
Allah tells us several times that He is doing his job and that we need to do ours.
Case in point, there is social media. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about algorithms and how social media platforms have fooled us into believing that we are open and tolerant of each other’s different perspectives. This intolerance is especially visible on Twitter right now as people talk about boycotting this year’s Black Iftar. I cannot understand why some Muslims are so upset that Black Muslims created a space that is welcoming and affirming. People chose to focus on the audacity of a Black Muslim calling out the racism that resides within the Ummah, when they should focus on the root of the problem by asking “What’s wrong with the ummah at large?” and “What are we doing that causes people to feel invisible?” I know from experience that feeling of aloneness and wondering, first as a new Muslim and even now as a 20+-year veteran of the deen. Allah reminds us that hypocrites can be among the believers when he states in al-Ahzab verses 18–20,
God knows exactly who among you hinder others, who [secretly] say to their brothers, “Come join us,’ who hardly ever come out to fight, who begrudge you [believers]any help. When fear comes, you [Prophet] see them looking at you with eyes rolling like someone in their death thres; when fear has passed, they attack you with sharp tongues and begrudge you any good.
In this chapter, the understanding of Allah’s power to create and recreate is emphasized, and we should consider our ability to also bring about renewal and rebirths in our own lives. Starting over can be hard, but if we look to Allah for guidance we can see that Allah encourages us to start anew: “It is God who created the heavens and the earth and everything in between them in six days” (32:4). This simple reminder is evident in nature. When I see the green grass, hear the birds chirping, see the lush life that comes after the rain, I am reminded that life goes on — in spite of the chaos that humanity creates. Life continues in spite of our desire to be divisive with one another.
We, like nature, can go through many reawakenings as we journey toward our final destination — to reunite with Allah.
In Surah 30 verse 22 Allah states, “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.” We must continue to strive in our worship, in our relationships and in our deeds. We, like nature, can go through many reawakenings as we journey toward our final destination — to reunite with Allah. And we must remember that starting over is necessary. For me, that is what Ramadan is about — starting over and removing the baggage that I’ve collected since the previous Ramadan. It is the best time to renew our commitment to Allah, reawaken our love for Allah and learn to trust in His divine plan.
Kimberly Harper (@ronbett75) is an assistant professor of English and director of the technical writing concentration at her alma mater North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. She teaches undergraduate courses in technical communication and rhetorical studies and loves historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Currently, she is writing a book about the visual rhetoric of Black maternal health in America.