For Juz’ 26 we are featuring a repost from our Black Muslims Reflect on the Qur’an 2016 archive.
By Um Hussein
In the Name of Allah, The All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful
In the true words of the Holy Qur’an, 17:9-10
“Indeed this Qur’an guides to what is most upright, and gives the good news to the faithful who do righteous deeds that there is a great reward for them. As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have prepared a painful punishment for them.”
As we reflect upon the 26th juz’ of the Qur’an, we must understand what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said about the Holy Qur’an.
The Prophet (saaw) said:
“I leave behind me two weighty (very worthy and important) things:
The book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an), which is a stretched string from the heaven to the earth, and my progeny, (my AhlulBayt); for verily Allah, the Merciful, the Aware, informed me that never, never will these two get separated from each other until they meet me at the Fountain of Abundance (Houd of Kauthar). Therefore, be careful and contemplate on how you will treat them (after me)”. Ma’uni-ul-Akhbar, p.90 Tradition 2 & Musnad Ahmad-ibn-Hanbal, Vol.3, p17
The 26th Juz’ of the Qur’an is comprised of six chapters:
Surah Al-Ahqaf 46:1-35 verses (ayah), Surah Muhammad 47:1-38, Surah Al-Fath 48:1-29, Surah Al-Hujurat 1-18, Surah Qaf 50:1-45 and Surah Al-Dhariyat 51:1-30.
The first surah of this juz’, which was revealed in Mecca, reveals a major warning to anyone who denies the truth and the Resurrection. The word ahqaf refers to the “curved sandhills” whereby the people of Ad were warned by Prophet Hud (as) and they ignored his warnings. Thus the wind blew for seven days and seven nights piling up sand that erased traces of their existence. False pride and enduring obstinacy were the prevailing attitudes then and one can observe them clearly in contemporary global society. This particular juz’ is filled with the warnings of “fire and brimstone ” reminiscent of early rural African American sermons that resonant in some speeches today. Wrong doing impedes insight and results in deprivation of Divine Grace. Today, we are faced with the decision to “stand up” and risk loss of worldly freedom, wealth, even life or live a life filled with anxiety, oppression and ultimately a loss of faith that can result in the loss of Allah’s forgiveness.
In Surah Muhammad, the dominant theme of jihad against the enemies of Islam strikes a deep cord of fear familiar to those present in the time this surah was revealed in Mecca which persists even to this day. People fear to say the word jihad, much more to type it into their electronic devices or utter it in a public space. It is mentioned in verse 20 that when struggle is mentioned as in war, the faint heartened become sick. The defining specifications of those who follow their own desires is stated clearly as those who choose to enjoy this life and seek personal pleasure. We are abound with pleasure-seeking activities that numb our sensibilities masking our fear and doubt. Resultant of fear, doubt, and ignorance is our decreasing faith and withdrawal of Allah’s rewards.
We live in a time where polytheism and disbelief appear to be truth which gives us free license to pursue our enamored examples of the rich and famous, singing idols and “golden calves”. Let us be clear that polytheism can even be a form of self-worship, placing ones desired and personal preferences before the commands of Allah.
Reference in the final verses of Surah Muhammad, refer to “stinginess”. We can observe in the millions of people migrating from war today, that the cost of struggle is expensive. Would it be so far a stretch in thought, that as people of African descent in the West, our migration could take another forced turn in the light of contemporary threats? Will we be then stingy and niggardly? Even now we can report the reluctance of some Muslims to return a simple greeting of “Peace.” Imam Husayn (as), grandson of Our Holy Prophet, said:” The niggardly person is he is too niggardly to greet.” Stinginess is sometimes overlooked within our struggling communities. Our economic power must be refocused to promote unity, reject the branding of our oppressor and encourage self sufficiency within our African American communities and throughout the African Diaspora.
Characteristic of Allah’s Mercy and Compassion, we are given hope and promise of victory in Surah Al-Fath in terms of forgiveness. We can also be given guidance, composure in our hearts and the ability to increase one’s faith. In this Medinan surah, revealed in the sixth year after the Treaty of Hudabiyya, strivers are given assurance that they will be recognized and rewarded according to their good deeds.
We as people of African descent and of the African Diaspora, let us self describe as having been guided by Allah, to have submitted to Islam. Surah 50:15, defines:
“The faithful are only those who have attained faith in Allah and His Apostle and then have never doubted, and who wage jihad with their possessions and their persons in the way of Allah. It is they who are the truthful (sincere)”
Are we, the African Diaspora, like the people of Noah..?
The people of Noah denied before them, and [so did] the inhabitants of Rass, and Thamud, and Ad, Pharoah, and the brethren of Lot, and the inhabitants of Aykah and the people of Tubba.
Each [of them] impugned the apostles, and so My threat became due [against them]. Surah Qaf:12-14
Let us strive to be as individuals, families, clans, tribes and communities in the Diaspora to be described as in Surah Al-Dhariyat 51:17-19:
“They used to sleep a little during the night, and at dawns they would plead for forgiveness, and there was a share in their wealth for the beggar and the deprived.”
Let us not think of Islam as a worthless old lie from the past (46:11), but rather utilize the bounties of health, property, wealth, delicious food and intellect to attain virtue and perfection which can be accomplished within 40 years of life. Let us not aid the enemies of Islam in usurping and erasing traces of our existence or living lives worthy of Allah’s erasure. By example, we can bring hope to our oppressed communities of a good life in this world and in the Hereafter for those who have done good deeds.
Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!
Support the Believers Bail Out campaign. Donate today.
Khadijah Rose is the descendant of Black Cherokees, the more than 15,000 free and enslaved Africans that were owned or intermarried with tribes in the early part of the 19th Century. Rose doesn’t call herself a Shia, but strives everyday to be a good human being and live by the teachings of Imam Hassan Al-Askari (as) about how to be a true momin. She was the development editor of “Lets Get to Know Imam Ali” a children’s book about the life of Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s.). She is a mother of 7, but an Umi to more.
By Kelly Crosby
In reflecting about Juz’ 24 (39:32–41:46), I must first reflect on my love for the Holy Month. In short, I love Ramadan!
It always comes with its myriad of blessings and opportunities to remember our Lord. Worship becomes easier. And, despite the rigors of fasting while doing our jobs or taking care of our families, my spirit always feels strengthened. The days are consumed with prayers, dhikr and sharing iftar with my friends and community. For those who don’t fast as a part of their faith tradition, it’s hard for me to explain how I can feel physically tired but spiritually energized,
I guess that’s why I refer to the Holy Month as a spiritual reboot. There is always some spiritual improvements to be made — some polishing of rust off the heart and shrinking of the ego.
I consider Ramadan to be a radical shock to our nafs — a monthly bootcamp to remind us of why we are really here. And, in our busy lives, reminders certainly benefit the believers. One of those well-needed and much appreciated reality checks comes first in Juz’ 23 in Az-Zumar:
And when adversity touches man, he calls upon his Lord, turning to Him [alone]; then when He bestows on him a favor from Himself, he forgets Him whom he called upon before, and he attributes to Allah equals to mislead [people] from His way. Say, “Enjoy your disbelief for a little; indeed, you are of the companions of the Fire.” — 39:8
This thread of ease and adversity is woven throughout Juz’ 24. What is it about ease and comfort that can easily allow us to forget Allah ta ‘ala? It is no wonder that pious scholars say that the trial of ease can be more difficult than the trial of hardship. Allah subhana wa ta’ala repeats later in Juz’ 24 (39:32–41:46) in Az-Zumar,
And when adversity touches man, he calls upon Us; then when We bestow on him a favor from Us, he says, ‘I have only been given it because of [my] knowledge.’ Rather, it is a trial, but most of them do not know. — 39:49
I don’t think I ever relied upon Allah so much as during the time I was dealing with a seemingly endless succession of calamities. A job loss, a broken heart, fair-weather friends and a relocation to another city left my self-esteem and faith shattered. Little did I know that I was suffering from a mild form of depression. The process of healing was quite painful, but I still called upon Allah, even when my faith was as small as a mustard seed.
Fast forward to today. I look at my life and I see an abundance of blessings. I have a job that I love, a new sense of self-worth and a budding career as an artist and writer. I take joy in having a loving family and in being a part of a community of Muslims who are committed to community development and social justice. Sometimes I have to convince myself that just a few years ago, I was burdened with such levels of sadness and despair that I never thought I would experience joy or hope again. Even in these times of happiness and contentment, I remind myself to call upon Allah. I must thank Him in times of ease and ask for His strength during times of difficulty.
So this Ramadan, let’s reset or “reboot” our relationship with the Creator. Let’s ask ourselves, “are we only thinking of Allah when there is a crisis?” Or, do we infuse our days and nights with His remembrance? Our Alhamdulillahs, Subhan’Allahs, and Allahu Akbars should be said and reflected upon during the emotional highs and lows, during our sadness and grief; our happiness and euphoria.
Reflecting on the juz’, I was inspired to create this piece titled “Al Hadi” (The Guide). May Allah make us people of profuse dhikr and reflection. May we be counted amongst the grateful to our Lord. Ameen.
Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!
Support the Believers Bail Out campaign. Donate today.
Kelly Izdihar Crosby is an artist and freelance writer based in Atlanta, Ga. Born and bred in New Orleans, she is committed to “waging beauty” in the world with her multicultural Islamic aesthetic. You can find her work at Kelly Crosby Design.
by Sheik Ja’far Muhibullah
In the name of Allah, the Exalted
Abundant blessings & salutations
Upon Muhammad, his Family
And the Believing Nation
Each chapter and verse of the Qur’ān is divinely placed in its particular order. As one reads the words of Allah from beginning to end, they partake of Godly wisdom that nourishes the soul. From the Opening (al-Fātiha) till the last verse there is something for Humankind (al-Nās) to learn. The only conditions are: (1) to read this heavenly book in the name of the Sustainer of souls who has created humanity (Q 96: 1); and (2) to read it carefully (Q 73: 4).
Provided we succeed in reading the Qur’ān as we should, Allah will bestow upon us wisdom as he promises. “God grants wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever is granted wisdom, indeed is given blessing in abundance. Yet none grasp this except people of reason” (Q 2: 269). This, in fact, is the purpose for which the Prophet Muhammad was sent. That is, to teach us the book and its wisdom so that we can purify our souls (Q 62: 2).
Perhaps one of the aspects of wisdom is to understand the reflexive nature of the Qur’ān. The idea, that the Qur’ān has a way of explaining itself, is a popular notion in some exegeses (tafsir). For example, the Qur’ānic verses 62: 2 and 3: 164 reflect the nature or method by which God’s promise, in verse 2: 269, will be fulfilled. In other cases, verses and chapters complement one another. Hence, (Q 73: 4) emphasizes the quality of reading that pleases Allah when He commands His servants to read (Q 96: 1). In this same vein, scholars have recognized that chapter 94 (al-Sharh) complements chapter 93 (al-Dhuha) and chapter 106 (Quraysh) complements chapter 105 (al-Fīl).
The thirtieth and final part of the Qur’ān, in a sense, complements the twenty-nine parts that precede it. All the major themes such as monotheism, prophethood, eschatology, the stories of the prophets, and so forth are recapped in these concluding chapters. The thirtieth part, however, does not serve as an end to Allah’s message and instructions for humanity. Accordingly, one must reopen the book after completing a single reading to ponder its wisdom once more. With each reading newfound knowledge is uncovered.
When adhering to the cyclic or repeated reading outlined above, we will discover how the first surah of the Quran, al-Fātiha (the Opening), complements the final surah, al-Nās (Humankind). In the following paragraph I will combine these two chapters into a single text, clearly marking the verses from al-Fātiha with [F] and al-Nās with [N]. I will also interweave brief comments (in italics) with the text to explain the reflexive nature of these two chapters and for a smoother reading.
Of course we must begin In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful [F/N]. All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds [F]. Therefore, in prayer humankind must Say: “I seek refuge with the Sustainer of humankind” [N], the all-beneficent, the all-merciful [F]. He is the Master of the Day of Judgment [F], therefore the Master of humankind [N]. You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help [F] since you are the God of humankind [N]. Show us the straight path! The path of those whom you have favored – not the (path) of those who earn your anger nor those who go astray [F]. Anticipating success, I seek refuge in you from the evil of the whispering, elusive tempter who whispers in the hearts of humankind amidst the jinn and men [N].
To clearly perceive the reflexive nature of these two chapters, one must first understand their shared focal points. They share three focal points: (1) Allah as the “Sustainer” (Rabb), (2) Allah as the “Master” (Mālik), and Allah as the divine being or “God” (Ilāh). It is worth noting that the Arabic word Ilāh (used for god or God) literally means “worshiped entity”; thus understood, verse three of al-Nās [N] (The God—the worshipped entity—of humankind) is complementary to verse five of al-Fātiha [F] (You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help). Likewise, the following complementary relationships can also be outlined:
- Verse one of [N] complements verse two of [F].
- Verse two of [N] complements verse four of [F].
- Verses four, five, and six of [N] complements verses six and seven of [F].
Secondly, the grammatical structure of each chapter must be acknowledged. The overarching mood of al-Fātiha is one of an informative proposition. Hence, we are informed that Allah is the only sustainer of the worlds, the master of the Day of Judgment, and the only one we should worship and from whom to seek help. On the other hand, al-Nās is in the imperative mood; thus, exhorting us to act upon the knowledge and wisdom we have acquired. Therefore, if we truly desire to walk on God’s straight path (Sirāt al-mustaqīm) we must seek refuge in Him daily ‘from the evil of the whispering, elusive tempters.’
So ponder the words of God:
The Opening (al-Fātiha)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1)
All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds (2)
The all-beneficent, the all-merciful (3)
The Master of the Day of Judgment (4)
You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help (5)
Show us the straight path (6)
The path of those whom you have favored – not the (path) of those who earn your anger nor those who go astray (7)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Say: I seek refuge with the Sustainer of mankind (1)
The Master of humankind (2)
The God of humanity (3)
From the evil of the whispering, elusive tempter (4)
Who whispers in the hearts of humankind (5)
Amidst the jinn and men (6)
(Q 96: 1)
Read in the name of your Sustainer who created.
(Q 73: 4)
…and recite the Qur’ān calmly and distinctly, with the mind attuned to its meaning.
(Q 62: 2)
He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow in purity, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, whereas before that they were indeed in manifest error.
(Q 3: 164)
Indeed, Allah bestowed a favor upon the believers by delegation amid them a messenger from among themselves, to convey His revelations unto them, and to cause them to grow in purity, and teach them the Scripture and wisdom; whereas before that they were indeed in manifest error.
Sheik Ja’far Muhibullah is the Imam of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association in Austin, Texas. He completed ten years of Islamic seminary studies in the US and Iran in 2001 and received his MA in Religious Studies at Duke University in 2005. He also spent three years at the University of Texas at Austin completing work towards a PhD in Arabic Studies. His interests are in classical Arabic, Persian, and Urdu literature and Arabic literature in medieval Sicily. Since 2005 he has owned and managed a translating and interpreting service business that has made significant contributions to the Arabic translation of Encyclopedia Britannica’s Learning and Discovery Libraries, Harper’s Magazine, UNC Kenan-Flager Business School and Zachary Karabell’s Peace Be Upon You as well as other projects. He is currently pursuing ijtihad in the Islamic Seminary of Qom and engaged several academic research projects.
Aisha Ibrahim, a standout student at Zaytuna College, offers a video reflection on juz’ 29. Watch below.
Aisha Ibrahim is the daughter of an African American father and Italian-Irish American mother; both of whom are converts to Islam. Raised in the far side south Chicago neighborhood of Roseland where she was homeschooled for nine years.
Aisha is currently preparing for her Senior year at Zaytuna College in Berkley California. Her course of study is Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence, including in depth study of the Prophetic Tradition, Islamic legal philosophy, Philosophy, Logic and Qur’anic Sciences.
by Rama Mbacke
Juz’ 28 of the Quran is comprised of nine Surahs from the first verse of Surah al-Mujadilah to the end of Surah al-Tahrim. Although the themes vary, the context in which some of the Surahs’ verses were revealed is significant. This was during a time when Muslims were living as a community in Medina (Yathrib) after Prophet Muhammad (s), his companions, adherents and followers emigrated from Mecca to escape persecution. The revelations of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta‘ala) that the Prophet (s) and his followers needed at the time were not the same kind as those they needed when they were oppressed and persecuted in Mecca, which is noted throughout the Quran. The “Mecca” verses spoke most directly to the Prophet (s)—to affirm his mission—and to uplift the consciousness of individual believers. In contrast, the “Medina” verses were aimed primarily at the Muslims as a social and political community and the Prophet as legislator, a reformer and an example to follow.
In Surahs 60:7 and 60:8, Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta‘ala) says:
“It may be that Allah will put friendship/affection between you and those of them whom you hold as enemies. Allah is Able and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you for religion and have not driven you from your homes. Allah loves who acts justly”.
These verses mark a defining moment in history of Islam also known as Hijrah. Indeed, Hijrah was the beginning of the triumph of Islam over the entire Arabian Peninsula.
In Medina, a new community was established that was not bound to the traditional tribal organization of Arabia. The Meccans who migrated with the Prophet Muhammad (s) were known as Muhajirun, while natives of Medina were called the Ansar, which was a name given by the Prophet Muhammad (s) to honor and distinguish them from the immigrants from Mecca. One of the first major acts of the Messenger of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta‘ala) was to agree on a pact with the different religious and ethnic groups in Medina. He encouraged the Ansars to welcome the Muhajiruns. This journey of the Prophet (s) to a new territory is somewhat similar to our stories as Blacks in America. We are named African Americans. We belong to the minority groups.
I am from Senegal, West Africa where I was born and raised. I am Black, African, an immigrant, who embraces American culture, and above all else, I am a Muslim. Here in the US, I am considered a minority because I am Black in contrast to Senegal where a minority is the person who is not Black or not Muslim as Islam is the dominant faith. A minority is perhaps differentiated on the basis of language more than racial identity in Senegal. I then belonged to the “larger” group. The definition of “minority” that I learned in the United States taught me that the definition of the term varies depending of where one lives.
Nevertheless, the concept of “minority” (as defined in the current context that we live in) does not necessarily exist in Islam for there is not a “majority” in Muslim communities. There is no distinction made between people i.e. native vs. migrant or white vs. Black. The only distinction is between Muslims and non-Muslims and that only applies when it comes to laws and principles. The Quran has brought it up in al-Anfal (8:26):
“And remember when you were a few and oppressed in the land…”
The term “qalil” used in this context can be defined as “few” but also as minority.
Practicing Islam in the context of a historically Christian society, we are confronted with different systems (educational, legal, judicial, economic and political) of “mainstream” America that constant reminds us of our “differences.” For example, in the field of law and justice, Islam has a series of laws whose authority that transcends any legal system. However, American law does not recognize all Muslim religious law (Sharia). There is a perceived difference between Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and American law. How do we follow the teachings of Islam and maintain that balance as a minority group in America?
Diversity and multiculturalism have always been part of Islam. From an Islamic perspective, the differences in civilizations, cultures and religions are perceived as multiple expressions of a unique message sent by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta‘ala) to people living in different places at different times.
“…and the diversity of your language and your colors” 30:22
The Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (s) during the night in which he met Prophets Ibrahim, Musa and Isa (Alayhimu al-Salam) is symbolic in the sense that it highlights the interaction between believers, whether within their communities or with other traditional communities. The existence of different communities, each with its cultural, linguistic, historical and religious differences is specified in the Quran for the guidance of humanity. The acceptance and recognition of the other and reconciliation between people are the foundation of a natural peaceful coexistence synonymous with unity in diversity. From the beginning, Islam has supported the notion of belonging to a single community, gathered around the Prophet (s). Islam then seeks to establish a society where race, language, ethnicity, gender or culture does not become the basis for discrimination and no privilege is given to one particular community over another.
“We are but brothers” 49:10
“…hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided” 3:103
As Black Muslims, we do have roles and responsibilities to play in that although our experience as Black Muslims in America differs from that of Muslims born in Muslim-majority countries like Senegal. We belong to a community whose religious and political identity was marked by the struggle for equality, freedom and justice and we continue to face challenges associated with race and our heritage as Africans and Americans.
As such, much like the experiences lived by the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his companions in Mecca and Medina, interacting with a larger interfaith, intercultural or interracial community can be challenging. In order to overcome these challenges, we are recommended by the Prophet Muhammad (s) (among other recommendations) to:
- Respect the laws in which we are governed.
- Interact respectfully with other communities and be open to dialogue.
“…and cooperate in righteousness and piety” 5:2
- Have good morals, ethics, reliability and trustworthiness.
“…O you who have believed, fulfill all contacts” 5:1
- Have patience, kindness, compassion and be responsible.
- Honor ourselves.
May Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) bless us, forgive our sins, and accept all of our prayers in this month of Ramadan.
Rama Mbacke is a great-granddaughter of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba, founder of the Muridiyya Sufi Tariqa in Senegal, West Africa. She moved to Los Angeles in 2006 after graduating high school and completing her Islamic education through the Quran, Tawheed, Fiqh and Tasawwuf. She is a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles with a B.S and M.S in Electrical Engineering. Rama is now working as a Nuclear Engineer and also continuing on the legacy of her grandparents
by Sister Islaah Abd’Al-Rahim
On the Day you see the believing men and believing women, their light proceeding before them and on their right, [it will be said], “Your good tidings today are [of] gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.” That is what is the great attainment. (Surah Hadid, 12)
Allah is beautiful. Islam is beautiful. And Muslims– when we are functioning in our highest spiritual state—are a reflection of that beauty.
We live in a time, however, when people frequently deny the beauty of Islam, which de facto is a denial of the beauty of Muslims. For the Black man and woman, this denial of another human being’s beauty is all too familiar. Historically, the dominant, Euro-centric culture has chosen to interpret melanin as an indicator of ugliness. To be light or white is beautiful. To be dark, is not, and could not ever be.
Our challenge and charge, as black Muslims, is to reevaluate our racial reality in light of Revelation. Concepts and classifications must be held up to the light of Islam. Long-standing, unsubstantiated ideas must be purged from our thinking. New definitions must be embraced.
Definitions of beauty must be renewed. New connotations must reflect a spiritual origin. True beauty emanates from the spirit and is a manifestation of the light that Allah bestows upon the believers. It is a light that comes from seeking and submitting to the Truth. It is a light that will illuminate our path on the day when everyone will be seeking a light.
Allah says in Surah Hadid:
“On the Day you shall see the believing men and the believing women — their light running forward before them, and in their right hands.
Glad tidings for you this Day!
Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever!
Truly, this is the great success!
On the Day when the hypocrites, men and women, will say to the believers: ‘Wait for us! Let us get something from your light!’
It will be said: ‘Go back to your rear! Then seek a light!’”
It is the light of Islam that makes us beautiful. When we affirm that Allah is the Lord of the Worlds, and that Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasallam) is His Last Prophet, we are taking the first step toward being beautiful. This is how we start earning that light we will need in the hereafter.
But often, our affirmations are thwarted. Our beauty and light are misunderstood, feared and maligned. And for some of us, our own self-loathing keeps us from affirming that beauty and light.
These are not easy times. These are times of tests and trials. It is not easy being a poor person or a person of sound morals during these times. It is not easy being a black person or a Muslim. It is not easy being what our fitra—the natural state in which Allah created us— urges us to be.
Allah, subhana wa ta ‘ala, created everything beautifully: “[Allah] perfected everything which he created and began the creation of man from clay.” [Surat-us-Sajdah, 7] And Allah says about Himself, “The most beautiful names belong to Allah. So invoke Him by them.” [Surat-ul-A’raf, 180]
How we understand beauty, however, varies from person to person and culture to culture. We cannot understand the beauty of Islam if we have faulty, delusional concepts of beauty. The definitions that we have been taught are social constructs that are highly mutable, changing based upon context, culture, and political power. Therefore, to know what beauty really is, we have to rely on ‘ilm, or divine knowledge.
But we are a people who have been enslaved by the corruption of Truth. When an external group informs our concept of beauty, then we can become their slaves. If you teach us that God is beautiful, and then you come back and you teach us that God is white, God is a human being, and that God is even a man, how, then, will our psyches rearrange the pieces of that equation without self-loathing?
So, black Muslims have to relearn the meaning of Beauty to fully reclaim their light. According to the scholar, Ibn Al-Qayyim, Allah loves that His slaves beautify their tongues with the truth and beautify their hearts with sincere devotion, love, repentance, and trust in Him. That is Beauty.
Ibn Al-Qayyim goes on to say that really beautiful people recognize Allah through these qualities of beauty and seek to draw close to Him through beautiful words, deeds, and attitudes. [al-Fawaa’id, 1/185] The more we stray from Allah’s fitra, the more we corrupt our own natural beauty and light because Shaytaan whispers to us to exceed the limits. We whiten our skin. We add on hair that is not ours. We seek narrower noses and thinner lips. Centuries of oppression and decades of self-hate have a cumulative effect on our actions.
Yet, we say we know that Allah created everything beautifully and loves beauty. We say Allah created us and loves us, but we don’t seem to grasp that when we do not fully love ourselves, we cannot fully love Allah, Who created us. When we don’t love ourselves, we cannot fully appreciate our own beauty or hope to receive spiritual light.
Allah says that we are the best of nations, but a dark, murky thing wiggles its way into our hearts, preventing us from believing it. Shaytaan wants us to stay in darkness. He wants us to be ashamed of the light of Islam. He wants us to think that Islam is barbaric, inherently racist, misogynistic, and ugly. He wants us to think that we, as black people, are also ugly and unworthy of the light of this beautiful deen. Self-loathing is an effective tool. No one else has to work hard to oppress us when we do it to ourselves. And when that happens, Muslims adopt some of the ugliness of the world.
Truth be told, parts of the Muslim world are not very welcoming of black people. In truth, every jama’ah does not respect people of color. Some Muslims openly operate on the plain of hate. And that is not pretty; there is no light in that.
Some of us have become jaded about our condition. We are tired of Islam in the spotlight. We do not want to always see it in our social media newsfeed, usurped by those who seek to snatch our light. When we Google Islam, we don’t want to always see images of angry men with assault weapons. We just want to do our five pillars and live our lives.
But our current reality is Allah’s Divine Decree. Our beautiful way of life is under siege, and we should be trying to manifest the light of Islam to protect it. To do so, we must sincerely submit to the light and beauty that is Islam, and that light which is within ourselves.
And we must realize that the former is the only true source of the latter.
Sister Islaah Abd’Al-Rahim has served as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Education, where her specialties were Human Development, Learning Diversity, and Culturally Responsive Education. She is the author of The Book of Islaamic Lists, a reference book that compiles and categorizes lists from dozens of seminal works in Islam.