Reflection on Juz’ 16 by Shahidah Sharif

This reflection is part of Sapelo’s Ramadan 2020 series. To read other reflections in the series click here.

By Shahidah Sharif

After reaching the halfway mark of Ramadan, we arrive at a transition between three chapters. These chapters are at a nexus of miracles and struggles intertwined in the stories of honorable men and women that carry us into the remainder of this blessed month. Each of their stories illustrates their connection with Allah, the trial they faced and the wonder that brought them through it. When I reflect on Juz’ 16 (18:75–20:135), I am compelled to sift through the meaning of miracles and how they manifest themselves for us. 

By definition, a miracle is a highly improbable, extraordinary occurrence or unique development that brings about welcomed circumstances. These surahs were revealed in the early Makkan period. The seerah details how the Muslims first made Hijrah, or migration, to Abyssinia and sought refuge with Negus, a Christian King. The verses about the story of Maryam (Surah 19) were recited to him to demonstrate the connection of the two faiths. It opened his heart and doors to offer them safety from persecution back in Makkah. Surah Ta Ha (20) was also recited to touch the heart of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) when he was on his way to kill the Prophet (SAW) and he was informed that his sister accepted Islam. Upon hearing those verses, his heart was opened to faith in Allah and His messenger. While these occurrences shook the minds of the unbelievers, the miracle of the word of Allah was clear.

To my Christian cousins and Muslim brothers and sisters who sometimes question the validity of faith of African American Muslims, remember the story of Khidr and Musa: “And how canst thou have patience about things about which thy understanding is not complete?”

To my Christian cousins and Muslim brothers and sisters who sometimes question the validity of faith of African American Muslims, remember the story of Khidr and Musa: “And how canst thou have patience about things about which thy understanding is not complete?” Although Musa was a Prophet and interacted with G-d and was spared several times by miracles from childhood to his encounters with the Pharaoh of his time, he was given the opportunity to learn from a blessed individual who had a different wisdom from him. What comes to mind is the constant challenge by others to the cultural and spiritual existence of African American Muslims as if our Islam is not authentic enough or our dress is not Muslim enough. We are called to justify our movements when we seek to carve out space for ourselves to express our thoughts, laughter and spirit that has been endowed by G-d. Thanks to the media’s portrayal of Muslims, our Christian cousins are given an image of a Muslim who does not always look like us, and thus we are compared to this effigy as not measuring up. Our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters test us with the recital of al-Fatiha or keep our discussions of the faith limited to social issues and not the sciences unless they deem us as a legitimate resource. My response to this is to get your own house in order as we do ours.

Work on your own hearts as we work on ours, as we all have work to do. Do not question the need for our Black Muslim conference, iftar or (fill in the blank here). You are welcome to have a seat and listen or not. That is your choice. 

The main concern from this section of the Qur’an is the family of Imran who was challenged in many ways yet devoted themselves in faith and service to G-d. Maryam, upon her be peace, was tested with bearing a child that she did not have a full understanding of how it came to be. She viewed it as a burden and a curse. Yet, it was her miracle and blessing not only for herself but for humanity.

Work on your own hearts as we work on ours, as we all have work to do.

But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? “He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; “And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; “(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” — 19:29-33

Through this struggle, we see a peculiar situation that seemed improbable but was eventually made clear. As African American Muslims, our story and experiences in this country are very unique. As a daughter of parents who came through the experience of the Nation of Islam and into the World Community of Muslims through the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, I can see there was a heavy burden placed on our people. It has been a purifying struggle for us as a people. 

From the time our ancestors were removed from our mother continent, enslaved and reduced to the lowest position in this society to come through now and be able to see countless children testifying today to the oneness of G-d and that Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d (SAW) is truly a miracle of that struggle. We no longer have space or time for small conversations or justifying who or why we are. It is time to Be! Be Muslim! Be Black! Be Proud! So Peace be upon our community the day it was born, the day that it dies, and the day that it will rise again!

He said: ‘So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, “that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us”: It is a matter (so) decreed. — 19:21

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Photograph of Shahidah Sharif

Shahidah Sharif‘s early Islamic education began in Brooklyn, N.Y. at the Al-Karim School and with various teachers in Miami,, at Masjid Al-Ansar. She studied at the University of Miami and was later afforded the opportunity through the Mosque Cares Study Abroad program to attend Abu Nour University with a focus on the Arabic language and the Islamic Sciences for the purpose of dawah, or calling others. Shahidah has worked with schools and organizations such as Muslim Youth of North America, Clara Mohammed School of South Florida and Oakland, Calif., and the Islamic Society of the University of Miami, the United Youth Leadership Forum of the Bay Area and Mohammed Schools of Atlanta where she organized and coordinated many events to serve the Muslim and non-Muslim community. She currently serves as the President of Sisters United in Human Service, Inc. and as the Communications Director for the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. Shahidah is also the co-founder and chief operating officer of Professional Hajj and Umrah Guides, LLC (Hajj Pros). She is a certified doula and novice gardener.

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