بسم ٱللَّٰه ٱلرحمن ٱلرحيم
So when the Qur’ān is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy. — al-A’raf 7:204
One of the miracles of the Qur’an is that it has the ability—if we pay attention—to speak to us as we are in any particular moment. In whatever state we find ourselves, whether hardship or ease, Allah’s words will call us toward what gives us life.
O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered. — al-Anfal 8:24
In the spirit of the life-giving capacity of the Qur’an, I am focusing on the joy of the resilience of African Muslims as inspired by the ninth juz’ of the Qur’an. The history of enslaved Africans being brought to the U.S. goes back a little over 400 years. Of the 10 to 15 million Africans abducted by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English and French, about 500,000 Africans were enslaved in the North American colonies. Most of these Africans were taken from a region in West Africa where at least 15% of the population were Muslims. Statistically, as descendents of enslaved Africans, it is highly likely that several of our ancestors were Muslim. The transatlantic slave trade was supposed to remove Islam from the hearts of enslaved Muslim Africans. In spite of that, at least one of our ancestors in the 20 generations since 1619 was a walking Qur’an, stripped of life, lineage, intellect and property, but still spiritually buoyed by “la ilaha ilAllah Muhammadur-rasulullah.”
Said Moses to his people, “Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah. He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.” (al-A’raf 7:128)
I am convinced that enslaved African Muslims must have seen themselves in the story of Prophet Musa (Peace Be Upon Him). They took Prophet Musa’s advice to his people in times of adversity as guidance for their current predicament. They continued to stand, bow and prostrate because even the unfamiliar lands in which they were subjected to forced labor were under the dominion of Allah. They were certain that Allah would produce the best outcome from their dire situation.
Pharaoh had a new face, but the African Muslims must have recognized a signature pharaonic move in their oppressors who ordered them to obey at the penalty of death. These Muslims did not need permission to believe in the Lord of the Worlds. They made du’a for patience and to die as Muslims. They held fast to the Book preserved in their hearts and stole precious moments to make salat. They held on to Allah, the trusty handhold that will never break. They held tight to the religion of Muhammadﷺ as a way of clinging to their self, sanity and humanity (Rashad) in a new world that deemed them no more than animals.
Even now, we reap the hasanat of the ardent prayers of our ancestors who were walking Qur’ans in chains, Muslims who faced the east, “prayed on the bead,” settled their foreheads on the soil, writing Arabic from memory on the walls of the cells that constrained them.
I believe each Black Muslim is a response to the dua of our ancestors, because Allah always answers the supplication of the oppressed. Through the generations, Allah chose some of us to be among those who returned to Islam. We are an indication of the immense love of al-Wadud calling His servants back to Him after tremendous tribulation. Many Black Muslims have responded to their inner yearning to return home to West Africa, reviving the spiritual heritage of our African Muslim ancestors. We have a deep-seated desire to resuscitate our relationships with the shuyukh and recite dhikr in a rhythm familiar to the souls of folk from the Sapelo Islands.
We are no longer Gambian, Senegalese, Guinean, nor Malian. Rather, we are something new, a unique expression from a West African lineage. We are unapologetically Black and Muslim, continuing a legacy of resistance and resilience, and giving life to the Muslim community in the U.S.
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Since 2013, Kori Majeed has used her Green Ramadan platform to encourage Muslims to eat mindfully and tread lightly by cultivating sustainable habits during Ramadan. These habits are based on Islamic teachings and principles that call humanity to give all of Allah’s creation their rights. Kori is a GreenFaith fellow, Muhammad Ali Scholar at Bayan Islamic Graduate School, Master Naturalist trainee, and chair of the Green Team at Masjid Muhammad, the Nation’s Mosque, in Washington DC. Kori is also co-author of the ebook Forty Green Hadith: Sayings of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ on Environmental Justice & Sustainability.