This reflection is part of Sapelo’s Ramadan 2021 series. To read other reflections in the series click here.
By Sultan-Diego Sulayman
Juz’ 4 (3:93–4:23) descriptively explains the importance of Muslims unifying under one ummah. In this juz’, Allah SWT gives the believers a reminder that “Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” — 3:144
This part of the revelation relates to an event at the battle of Uhud in the year 3 AH. The Prophet SAW disappeared from sight and rumors spread that he was dead. (According to a report of Aisha RA cited by Ibn Kathir and narrated by Bukhari, it was Iblis who had shouted that Muhammad was dead.) At this moment, some people whose hearts were sick said that if the Prophet SAW were dead there was no point in remaining Muslims. Others, who were true in their faith, said that if he were dead, there was no point living; rather, it would be better to die defending what Muhammad SAW had died defending. According to many scholars of tafsir, Allah then revealed this verse. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and Razi.)
Allah also reminds the believers in this juz’, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah’s favor unto you: How ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace; and [how] ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided.” — 3:103
This excerpt from Juz’ 4 makes me think about the countless times I deviated from the righteous and straight path (as-sirat al-mustaqim) and how it was Allah that brought me back.
This verse makes me think about the countless times when I deviated from the righteous and straight path (as-sirat al-mustaqim) and how Allah brought me back. Indeed, He makes a way out of no way. Growing up in America as an Afro-Latino American Muslim, I found myself a minority (by ethnicity) within a minority (my race) within a minority (my religion).
There was a time when I gave into societal pressures of otherness and saw my marginalization as a sign of my insignificance. This led to further isolation from social activities and religious gatherings. For a while I found myself lost, searching for my identity.
But I believe everyone longs for a sense of belonging. Fortunately, I now see my unique experience as a sign of my significance. It is my uniqueness that brings forth my identity and reinforces my faith in Islam. Although I use many descriptors when I self-identify, being Muslim remains my central core identity.
It is my uniqueness that brings forth my identity and reinforces my faith in Islam.
Black American Muslims exist at the intersections of race and religion and we are told to give up one for the other. We often live within two worlds while never truly belonging to either one. In doing so, we become invisible Muslims, unseen and unheard.
This is because we are often told by others who we are. We can feel inadequate and unable to embrace our roots because of a sense of not belonging. However, as Black Muslims, we should remember that we were here before Columbus (discussed in Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick’s Deeper Roots). Moreover, an estimated one third of enslaved Africans brought to America were Muslim.
I believe that when we finally learn to give voice to the voiceless, then we can change the socio-Islamic illnesses plaguing our ummah. As a wise person once said, “When we replace ‘i’ with ‘we,’ even illness turns into wellness.”
Juz’ 4 teaches us how to create the unity and belonging that we need to succeed as an ummah. It contains many reminders for us to solely depend on Allah as our one and only Provider and Protector.
In the following verse, Allah explains everything we need to become one ummah.
And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. — 3:104
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Sultān-Diego Sulaymān is a business-doing, chess-playing, hip-hop-loving Afro Latino Black American Muslim. He’s a recent finance graduate from the illustrious Howard University, Class of 2020. Currently, he’s an Islamic chaplaincy student at Bayan Islamic Graduate School. His goal is to become a college chaplain and Islamic finance specialist.