This reflection was originally published in Ramadan 2020. To read reflections in the 2021 series click here.
By Rasheed Shabazz
During the winter of 2019, Pew Research Center published a report about Black Muslims. Much of the report focused on the high percentage of Black Muslims who have converted to Islam. While it is remarkable that so many people of African descent have embraced Islam in the U.S., perhaps more important to our sojourn here in the wilderness of North America is the report’s observation about our awareness of this society’s inequities and injustices and the depth of our faith. According to Pew, Black Muslims recognize anti-Black discrimination more than both Black Christians and non-Black Muslims. And, like our non-Muslim Black family, we have high levels of religious commitment. That awareness and commitment is in our DNA and our Deen. We, the former so-called-Negroes, have inherited a faith tradition of resistance. And there are many parallels in our journey with the stories of people found in the Qur’an.
Do men think they will be left alone on saying, ‘We Believe,’ and that they will not be tested? — 29:2
Just like the Prophets (peace be upon them) and those who followed them, we will be tested in our faith. And Allah has given us the Qur’an as our study and survival guide and has provided us with armor for our daily struggle: prayer. In Juz’ 20 (27:56–29:45), the Qur’an instructs us:
Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do. — 29:45
Prayer empowers us individually, but it has the potential to strengthen us as a community. In Revolution by the Book, Imam Jalil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) writes,
“Prayer is a practice, a program, that begins to make you aware, that makes you conscious of the Creator; it makes you fear Allah, and that brings about with you a transformation, a change that is necessary to throw off that whole system that you have become accustomed to. It is the beginning of a revolution in you which expands to other aspects of your reality.”
Prayer empowers us individually, but it has the potential to strengthen us as a community.
Daily prayers instill discipline within us. With our remembrance of Allah, we will never be without. The practice of regular remembrance can provide us with both mental and physical benefits.Praying together builds our community as we remember Allah collectively. “By arranging yourselves in ranks Allah begins to synchronize the hearts of believers,” Imam Al-Amin writes. Being part of a group that worships One God, with One Aim and One Destiny, keeps us from doing wrong and mobilizes us as an “organized force.”
It is this spiritual force, that ol’ time religion, that will unleash us from the devil’s bondage. And while we pray to Allah, God doesn’t need our prayers. We reap from the seeds of our salat. We benefit from our acts of worship. Our prayers, our fasting, our charity, and our righteous actions benefit us in this life and the next.
As we enter the last third of this blessed Ramadan, may Allah increase our faith, transform our hearts, and use our lives for the Cause. May we truly trust in Allah, strive to be true believing Muslims, and remain mindful that none but Allah can guide us. Islam is the truth and the path to our liberation.
So put [your] trust in Allah: for [you are] on (the path of) manifest Truth — 27:79
And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their own souls: for Allah is free of all needs from all creation.— 29:6
Rasheed Shabazz is a historian, journalist and photographer based in the Bay Area. He embraced Islam in 2004. Rasheed received his Bachelor’s in African American Studies and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He facilitates Habari Ummah, a platform for Muslims in the Bay Area, and is a member of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.