Being a revert to Islam and the only Muslim in my family, my journey started quite lonely. I was overjoyed to learn and take in as much as I could. How to offer salat, how to fast, studying the life of Muhammad (PBUH) were just a few items of study on my list. I was hungry not just for information, but also I wanted to connect with other Muslim women. A new life for me meant I would need to make new friends and join with the Muslim ummah.
I am from a small city where the Muslim population is quite small. I would visit a few of the local masjids in the hopes of finding the community connectedness that my soul was craving. Most of the masjids were immigrant communities where no one looked like me and there was a lack of invitation and warmth. However, each time I would visit another masjid, my heart would beat out of my chest thinking this would be the time a sister would at least give me the greetings or a smile. To my disappointment, I would continue to be checked by several sets of eyes griming me from top to bottom, giving nonverbal approvals that I was in proper hijab. The women would converse and laugh with each other in their native languages while I sat alone reading Qur’an on my cell because none of them were speaking in English. I would stay for the prayer, mimicking the motions of the women next to me, and then leave feeling weighted. I have moved twice to different cities since taking shahadah, each time with prayers that I would find this deeper level of connection with community. What I have come to understand is that some of these spaces were never meant for the Muslim ummah in totality and were not meant for Black American Muslims.
We have always seemed to remember that Allah chose us and blessed us with a rich and beautiful way of life.
As I reflect on the 12th juz’ of the Qur’an, the story of Yusuf rests heavy with me. He, too, found himself alone just as many Black American Muslims. Yusuf was gentle, a great person, a good son; his father adored him. Yet he was left to be enslaved by his own brothers. We as Black American Muslims too have been abandoned by our own brothers and sisters. We see a beautiful masjid that houses schools for children, has great educational programs, beautiful iftars during Ramadan and grand Eid celebrations. Yet to hear “Salaam” from those who are supposed to be your sisters is just as foreign as the languages they speak. We struggle through building with severely limited resources. We are separated and divided because we don’t feel welcome. This is not what Allah has instructed nor was it the way of Muhammad (PBUH).
Just like the resilience of Yusuf, his trust and unwavering faith, Black American Muslim communities continue to press forward. We demonstrate patience just as he did. “And be patient; verily Allah wastes not the reward of the good doers (11:15).” We simply keep going, whether heavily or lightly equipped. Islam has never changed; it is perfect just as Allah has told us. It is the same perfect religion of Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions. “And I have followed the religion of my fathers Ibrahim, Ishaq, and Yacub, and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most men think not (12:38).” We have always seemed to remember that Allah chose us and blessed us with a rich and beautiful way of life.
Yusuf’s faith, patience and ability to fully trust Allah (SWT) demonstrates the tenacity and steadfastness of Black American Muslim communities across the United States. Regardless of the disconnectedness we feel, no matter the small spaces we gather in, no matter the struggle for resources, we welcome lovingly all those who wish to be with us, exemplifying the true nature and essence of community.
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Summayyah Shakir is a graduate of Toledo Academy of Beauty and Stautzenberger College, and has a diploma in Islamic Studies from International Open University Also a certified Tea Sommelier and published author, Summayyah is a creative to the core. Using her skills of creativity to deliver through her writings an awareness to trauma in the Black community, Summayyah has future hopes of curating a space and resources for healing through holistic health and wellness.