This reflection is part of Sapelo’s Ramadan 2020 series. To read other reflections in the series click here.
By Nur Shaina Ayers
“You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” It’s an aphorism you’ve heard. If not many times, you’ve heard it at least once in your lifetime. Growing up Black in America, you were prepared for life understanding nothing would ever be handed to you. You were taught even when you are prepared to work for it, you should expect additional obstacles, and you still may not receive the accolades you strived for. If by God’s mercy and will you were blessed enough to attain it—to be appointed to a ranking position—-do not look for the recognition. Look to your community. Look for the next person you can help guide down the path you took, for there will be those who would never recognize the ridicule you’ve experienced, the tears you cried, or the self-doubt you had to overcome. Your sacrifice, your endurance would appear minuscule and futile.
I have witnessed far too many times brothers and sisters having to invest more energy and time, often with limited physical resources, into their respective roles for little to no acknowledgements of the oceans they had to part to arrive at their destination. Their counterparts float through projects, lack discipline and morals, yet will still be categorized as “leaders.” Worse still, I have seen my community have to prove our worthiness of holding titles and belonging in spaces; completing tasks and achieving levels of greatness they were destined for still without being accepted.
But I have also watched in awe and pride as brothers and sisters earned leadership positions and led with fairness and reverence those they are charged to lead.
I have experienced “leaders” exert their authority unjustly, solely because they are in a position of power. But I have also watched in awe and pride as brothers and sisters earned leadership positions and led with fairness and reverence those they are charged to lead. When met with aggression in their positions of power; their reply is words of peace. It is not an easy task and many question their abilities and strength to withstand the pressures of this dunya; standing in positions they knew they had been called to by Allah, Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala (swt), yet the psychological phenomenon of impostor syndrome would emerge. My admiration is with those who do not succumb to these feelings of inadequacy but keep God forefront in their mind and ask for guidance.
As I reflect on Juz’ 19 (25:21–27:55), I am reminded of those in my community and remind my brothers and sisters of those same messages. Now, in no way, shape form, or fashion would I equate myself, or anyone else, to any of the Prophets, ’alayhi as-salam to all of them, but I do believe in their stories, find similarities in their struggles, identify with their trails, and find hope in our Deen.
So to the recognition not received in this life, I remember the words spoken by Nabi Moses, Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot, and Shu’ayb, I ask no reward of you, for my only reward is with the Lord of the Worlds (26:164).
To those who experience self-doubt, I remember Nabi Moses’ fears and Allah’s command, “The Lord called to Moses: ‘Go to those wrongdoers, the people of Pharaoh. Will they not take heed?’ Moses said, ‘My Lord, I fear they will call me a liar, and I will feel stressed and tongue-tied, so send Aaron too; they have a charge against me and I fear they may kill me (26:11–14).
When drained, it is through seeking out our Creator that we are revived. Our discernment – our wisdom was given by Allah (swt). In all my faults and insufficiencies, I know if I stay mindful of the Almighty, it doesn’t matter what I face.
Allah (swt) assured Moses and provided him with everything he needed to complete his task in freeing the Children of Israel. Do not doubt your capabilities or the power in having faith. As Moses said when even his own followers doubted him, “My Lord is with me: He will guide me” (26:62).
To the real leaders, The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when aggressive people address them, reply with words of peace (26:63).” Remember the message of Nabi Salih, “Be mindful of God and obey me: do not obey those who are given excess and who spread corruption in the land instead of doing what is right.” (26:150). Remember the message of Nabi Shu’ayb, Give full measure: do not sell others short. Weigh with correct scales: do not deprive people of what is theirs. Do not spread corruption on earth. Be mindful of God who created you and former generations” (26:181-184).
To those who assert their authority, their power, their greed and hatred over me and my community, I remember, “On the Day when the sky and its clouds are split apart and the angels send down in stream, on that Day, true authority belongs to the Lord of Mercy” (25:25).
To my community, when faced with uncertainty, believe our Lord is a sufficient guide and helper. When drained, it is through seeking out our Creator that we are revived. Our discernment – our wisdom was given by Allah (swt). In all my faults and insufficiencies, I know if I stay mindful of the Almighty, it doesn’t matter what I face. Assalamu ‘alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
For the past 5 years Sapelo Square has been delivering award-winning original content that centers Black Muslims in the U.S. — on a shoestring budget. Help up reach 5 more years and beyond. Donate today!
Nur Shaina Ayers graduated from Howard University’s School of Business with a Bachelor’s in International Business and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies at Howard University’s School of Divinity. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Shaina grew up between California and Singapore. Born into a Muslim/Christian family, Nur Shaina maintained a relationship with her paternal Christian family though was born, raised, and has always identified as Muslim. Her dynamic outlook on religion, race and nationality influences her research interests and propels her curiosity on the intersectionality of religion and identity.