Reflection on Juz’ 01 by Latasha Rouseau

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

In the name of Allah, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate

I am by no stretch of the imagination a theologian, scholar or even someone well versed in the bottomless ocean of the Qur’an, so to start this Ramadan, I present to you a glimpse of who I am and how it relates to the first juz’ (1:1–2:141). 

On my Instagram page, a short bio reads: The ‘A’ raised me, but Allah saved me. In all honesty, I was trying to find something catchy to write, but there is truth within those words. My life has been influenced by my environment and Allah did save me. 

The Qur’an begins with surah al-Fatihah, The Opening, which is generally the first surah that every Muslim learns.


“In the Name of Allah,

The Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate

Praise be to Allah, Lord of All the Worlds

The Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate

Master of the Day of Judgement

You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help

Guide us to the straight way

The way of those whom You have blessed, not the way of those

on whom is [Your] anger, nor those who are astray” — 1:1–7


I have had various openings in my life, but there are two that stand out. Born in the 80’s during the surge of the crack epidemic, I was not spared from the devastating effects it had on the community or my life. As a five-year-old Black girl growing up in the South, the nucleus of my family was ripped apart. I didn’t know then that it would never be mended. Nor would I understand the lasting impact an absent father would have on who I would become. 


If you grew up in the 80’s, especially in predominantly Black spaces, you probably witnessed a lot of grandparents becoming parents all over again as they raised their grandchildren, determined to keep them out of the clutches of the foster care system or away from street life. Unfortunately this still rings true today. My brother and I were no different. Both my grandparents grew up in the rural parts of Georgia and later met in Atlanta. My grandfather was an old school type, he wasn’t afraid of work and made sure the bills were paid. My grandmother, a steadfast proclaimer of The Watchtower, was certain to knock on your door and wake you up on a Saturday morning to question your relationship with Jesus (peace be upon him). She was the first person to ever teach me about God. 

…when I opened the Qur’an for the first time and read, “Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds” I felt God for the first time.

Living in my grandparent’s household provided an opening. 


My room was directly across from my grandmother’s bedroom. Every night she grabbed her book, reading glasses and pen, dedicating her time before bed to “study the scripture”. When the sun went down, I knew if there was a slit of light peeking from underneath her door, she was surely underlining verses in her Bible. Her place of worship, the Kingdom Hall, was unlike the loud boisterous churches I saw on television. Instead they were quiet enough for me to fall asleep under the lull of the brother’s “talk” for the day. I usually received a good shake and a stern look from my grandmother every Sunday when my eyelids met. I guess that’s why she’d hand out sugar to try to keep us alert, peppermint that smelled (and tasted) like the inside of her “pocketbook”. There was no collection plate passed around, only an upright slender box at the front door for members to anonymously make their donation. The congregation sang in unison from a book of hymns at the beginning and end of each service. As a child I can’t say that I enjoyed the atmosphere, but I didn’t hate it. I respected it because I respected my grandmother and her devotion to God. 


Around the age of twelve I eventually made the decision to stop attending service at the Kingdom Hall. However, I had already gained a spiritual foundation from her years of nurturing. As a young girl I remember lying in bed praying to go back to my real home. As a teenager I prayed for my father to stay clean and eventually I had no choice but to pray for his soul when he finally passed away. I was confident that there was a God. I often talked and cried to Him at night. Just the two of us. Sometimes I would fall asleep. Other times I would turn on “Joyce Littel and the Quiet Storm”, a radio segment that played melodic R&B music, imagining a future that did not bring me to tears. 


Islam was not on my radar and I vaguely remember brothers from the Nation selling newspapers and bean pies on Glenwood Road, as they stood on the medians separating the flow of traffic, intent and focused on their mission. There was one boy in my elementary class named Tariq, but I didn’t make the connection until I was an adult. Spike Lee’s Malcolm X premiered when I was around thirteen and was actually a favorite of mine. Denzel’s portrayal of Malcolm X was commanding and stirred something within me that soon fizzled because I had no words for what I was feeling or the avenue to explore it. Not until many years later would I truly be exposed to Islam by reading a book entitled, Dajjal: the AntiChrist by Ahmad Thomson. This book immediately validated my experience living in America and my life’s circumstances. I was intrigued to read the source of the book’s inspiration. The source was the Qur’an, which began with al-Fatihah, The Opening. 


And so, I end where I began. Allah saved me. From conception, to my mother’s womb, to this very moment, Allah has protected and guided me, providing openings at different stages of my journey.


Ubaydullah Evans wrote, “Our scripture is just as much about feeling something as it is about learning something.” At that moment when I opened the Qur’an for the first time and read, “Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds” I felt God for the first time. I caught my breath, reread the sentence, and cried. It was as if the innermost part of my being had been unlocked and freed. I was a prisoner, but until that moment I never knew I was chained. 

“How can you cover up [the Truth] about Allah when you were dead and He made you alive?” (2:28)


Visiting a mosque for the first time was familiar. My days in the Kingdom Hall prepared me for the solace it gave. I was used to the quiet tones spoken to one another. I was accustomed to the reverence and respect that was given to a house of worship. I also noticed that collection plates were not passed around, but zakah was given freely, everyone aware of their community obligation. Even the communal prayer was reminiscent of my time as a young girl standing and singing alongside my brother. What was unfamiliar were the children running around, playing freely with little to no reprimand. Various groups gathered together, laughing, smiling, happy to be in the company of one another. I welcomed and longed for that feeling too. My grandmother would probably be irritated to hear it (she recently celebrated her 86th birthday and is still trying to convert me), but those early years helped facilitate an easy transition to take my shahadah. 


And so, I end where I began. Allah saved me. From conception, to my mother’s womb, to this very moment, Allah has protected and guided me, providing openings at different stages of my journey. I embrace times of meditation, and understand reflection to be a necessary part of faith. In the first juz’ of the Qur’an, Allah constantly urges us to remember the favors and pardons He has bestowed upon the people who came before so that we can do the same for our own lives. 


“And [remember] when We delivered you from the family of Pharaoh who afflicted you with terrible suffering, slaying your sons and sparing [only] your women? And in that there was an awesome trial from your Lord.

And [remember] when We split the sea and saved you, and drowned the family of Pharaoh and you were looking on?

And [remember] when We appointed for Musa forty nights [of solitude], and then you took the calf [for a god] after he had left and you became oppressors [of yourselves and others]?

Then after that, We pardoned you in order that you might be thankful.

And [remember] when We gave Musa the book and the Criterion [to discern the True from the false] in order that you might be rightly guided?” — 2:49–53


As I look back on my life, even in my darkest moment I know Allah has never forsaken me and al-Fatihah has resided in my heart all along.

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Latasha Rouseau is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and is the executive director for Sapelo Square.

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  • God. I needed to see someone write an astonishing reflection about baqarah as this barakillahu fik.

    Your lord never forgets. This was part of the plan. You were a Salman Al Farsi prototype in the journey of life

    • Salaam Ayatullah. I am so glad you enjoyed my reflection and that it touched you in some way! Thank you for your positivity and light. And yes, Allah never forgets. We are the ones who forget Him. Ramadan Mubarak.

  • As Salaamu Alaykum, My dear sister Latasha,
    Al hamdu lillaah. Thank you for sharing this personal and heartfelt reflection. Although I am much older than you, my story has many parallels with yours. It is amazing how Allaahu ta’aala guides us, allowing our hearts to be open to His light, while, simultaneously, protecting us from some of the trials that would serve to divert us from the Path. May Allaaah contunue to bless and guide you and yours. Sis Islaah

  • Walaykum Salaam Sister Islaah,

    I thank you for taking the time to read my reflection and comment. I am moved by your words and so happy that it resonated with you. It doesn’t matter the gap in ages, some experiences are simply timeless I think. I agree, it is amazing how Allah guides and protects. Subhanallah. Looking back it seems like there were times when I could have embraced Islam earlier in my life but I was not enlightened or ready to read the signs I guess. And Allah knows best.

    May Allah bless and guide you as well dear Sister Islaah. Ramadan Mubarak.

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