Category: Ramadan 2017

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Ramadan 1438/2017: Black Muslims Reflect on the Qur’an – Juz’ 30

by Hakeem Muhammad

The Future of Islam in Black America

The beautiful ayahs of the Qu’ran and the extraordinary stories found within the prophetic biography are designed for each succeeding generation to be able to articulate and evoke the rich tradition of Islam to uplift, galvanize and inspire the oppressed.

For Black people, our 400 years of enslavement impacted our spiritual and theological needs. A substantial amount of Africans brought to the Americas were not only Muslim, but they were also astute scholars of the deen — yet the tyrannical nature of slavery denied them the ability to transmit Islamic knowledge to their posterity. As a result of this, Islam was eradicated among the descendants of enslaved Africans. Yet and still, Islam remains the first religion, we were able to select of our own free will and studies show Blacks continue to rush to Islam.

Overcoming Modern Pharaohs

In his classic article Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet, sociologist Loic Wacquant pinpoints several peculiar institutions which have worked to oppress Black people: Slavery (1619-1865), Jim Crow (1865-1965), Ghetto (1915-1968) and Hyper ghetto-Prison (1968-present). Discussing life within the ghetto-prison system, hip-hop artist Jay-Z, between hustling for survival, ducking the police, and rivals, says that he, “never read the Qur’an or Islamic scriptures. The only psalms I read was on the arms of my nigga.” This bar of Jay-Z highlights the separation of the Black underclass from access to Islamic knowledge. Could this be because we have not mass produced tasfirs of the Qu’ran which have as their audience the oppressed Black underclass? If so, we must rectify this, for the Qur’an, more so than any other book, offers oppressed people hope, perseverance, and complete liberation. A clear example of this is found within the Juz’ 30 of the Qu’ran.

Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad -[With] Iram – who had lofty pillars, The likes of whom had never been created in the land?And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley? And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? -And increased therein the corruption. So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment. ––89: 6-13

Surah Fajr reminds us that it is Allah, not temporal nation-states, who is the only superpower. The wealth, materialistic and architectural accomplishments of a civilization is not sufficient to avert the judgment and punishment of Allah if those civilization become corrupt and neglect the poor. For Black Americans, the vast wealth and many of the unique American architectural accomplishments were built by our enslaved ancestors. As a direct impact of institutional racism, Black people have been made poor and it would take over 200 years for Black families to have equal wealth as white families. Surah Fajr should remind us all that Allah is on the side of the oppressed against hegemonic powers.

Ali Shariati, the Iranian sociologist taught: “Allah wants to raise the position of the poor and miserable hostages of the Third World and get rid of their inferiority complexes.” Exemplifying this is Malcolm X who said, “the religion of Islam had reached down into the mud to lift me up, to save me from being what I inevitably would have been: a dead criminal in a grave.”

Never Turning Away From the Blind

In the critical hour, a surah that Muslims must take heed of is Surah Abasa. It was revealed after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) approached several of the high-ranking Quraysh elites in his society with the message of Islam. While doing so, a poor blind man interrupted him asking a myriad of questions about Islam. This Surah reminded the Prophet (pbuh) that the poor blind man of low social rank was more worthy of his attentions than that of the arrogant, highly influential, Quraysh elites.

In contemporary times, I posit that it is Black people in the urban centers who have been made blind to a knowledge of themselves and who hunger for Islamic knowledge. This is who we must once again begin to focus our time and attention on.

We can begin to do this by making our masjids centers for Black Liberation. This allows us to uphold a Quranic struggle against white supremacy and institutionally work against the deleterious impact structural racism has on the Black community. When Imam Siraj Wahhaj established Masjid Al Taqwa, he recounts the numerous drug houses all up and down the blocks where the new Masjid was located. Again, structural racism in motion. That didn’t stop him from working night and day with his congregation to clean up his community. Black liberation in action. Now, all up and down the block are Muslim businesses. His masjid is so much more than a “prayer-rug activity centers”: but has worked actively to transform the entire hood into one of the finest Islamic communities in the world.

We need more Islamic scholarship produced by ourselves to solve the social problems in our community such as gang violence, mass-incarceration, drug addictions, police brutality and the school to prison pipeline. Islamic spirituality in the hood must include purifying the heart of greed, arrogance, and pride, but it must also include weaning our people from the, “sexual chaos that ravages our society” according to Dr. Sherman Jackson. Our Islamic scholarship should be that force that works to transform society and the world.

When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest, And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance. ––110:1-3

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Hakeem MHakeem Muhammad is a Black Muslim public intellectual, Public Interest Law Fellow at Northeastern Law School and educator at Muslim Empowerment Institute (MEI). Muhammad’s scholarship is dedicated to Islamic revival in the Black community. He believes that Islam must be restored to having the transformative effect it once had in mitigating the social ills of Black America. Muhammad has previously worked in the African-American Male Initiative, working to increase the college retention rates of Black male students. He has also taught political philosophy for Harvard Debate Council and Cal Speech and Debate Camp at UC Berkeley. Muhammad is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Significance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to the Entire Muslim Ummah.”

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Ramadan 1438/2017 Black Muslims Reflect on the Qu’ran – Juz’ 29

by Eric Powell 

A’udhubillahi min al-Shaytan, al-Rajim. Bismillah, al-Rahman, al-Rahim.
(I seek refuge in, with, through and by Allah from the rejected enemy, Satan. In, with, through, and by the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.)

He it is Who made the earth subservient to you, so go about in the spacious sides thereof, and eat of His sustenance. And to Him is the rising (after death). Do you feel secure that He Who is in the heaven will not make the earth to swallow you up? Then lo! it will shake.

Or do you feel secure that He Who is in the heaven will not send on you violent wind? Then shall you know how (truthful) was My warning! And certainly those before them denied, then how (terrible) was My disapproval! Do they not see the birds above them spreading and contracting (their wings)? Naught upholds them save the Beneficent. Surely He is Seer of all things.

Or who is it that will be a host for you to help you against the Beneficent? The disbelievers are in naught but delusion. Or who is it that will give you sustenance, if He should withhold His sustenance? Nay, they persist in disdain and aversion. Is, then, he who goes prone upon his face better guided or he who walks upright on a straight path?

Say: He it is Who brought you into being and made for you ears and eyes and hearts. Little thanks it is you give! Say: He it is Who multiplies you in the earth and to Him you will be gathered. And they say: When will this threat be (executed), if you are truthful?

Say: The knowledge is with Allah only, and I am only a plain warner. But when they see it nigh, the faces of those who disbelieve will be grieved, and it will be said: This is that which you used to call for.

Say: Have you considered if Allah should destroy me and those with me — rather He will have mercy on us — yet who will protect the disbelievers from a painful chastisement?

Say: He is the Beneficent — we believe in Him and on Him do we rely. So you will come to know who it is that is in clear error.

Say: Have you considered if your water should subside, who is it then that will bring you flowing water? (67:15-30, as translated by Maulana Muhammad Ali)

“Woe on that day to the rejectors!” Juz’ 29 begins at the first ayah of Surah al-Mulk (the 67th chapter) and concludes at the final ayah of Surah al-Mursalat (the 77th chapter). In the translated tafsir of Maulana Muhammad Ali, he states that:

From here to the end [of the Qur’an] there are forty-eight chapters […] All of them, sometimes in plain and sometimes in metaphorical language, contain prophecies of the greatness to which Islam would rise and of the failure of the opposition. But while they mostly belong to the earliest period of the Holy Prophet’s revelation, the prophecies contained in them very often relate to the distant future of Islam, and are certainly not limited to the prevalence of Islam in Arabia or to the lifetime of the Prophet (pg. 1111).

Divine Revelation is always relevant, and in our current state of difficulty, we see prophecy being fulfilled in many ways. The aforementioned verses from Surah al-Mulk sum up the essence of this entire juz’, hence why I felt compelled to include the whole thing.

Each surah contained within Juz’ 29 focuses on the Day of Resurrection and the Judgment: how they are forever near, how this is perceived by the Believers and the Disbelievers while in this life, and the reward (or penalty) brought about by a person’s or people’s awareness (or lack thereof) of Allah and our duty toward Him. Allah tells us all throughout the Qur’an of how He made the earth and the creation in it subservient to human beings (31:20), yet He also reminds us to “walk gently upon [it]” (25:63). There is a balance that must be struck in our Nafs, or self, acknowledging the immense power given to us by Allah, while staying humble, even with this great power since Allah gives power to whomsoever He Wills.

When Allah created Adam, He made him (and all of us, as Adam’s descendants) a Khalifah or vicegerent on the planet, bestowing upon us the mission to care for and cultivate all under the heavens. It is known that Allah provides sustenance to those of us who are grateful. The ungrateful are allowed respite and some satisfaction for a time. Eventually, what we took for granted is taken away from us as a way to humiliate and punish, so that we may realize the error of our ways and turn in repentance. We are given an example of this when Allah speaks of the “owners of the Garden” (68:17-33). Nothing can save us when we choose unrighteousness.

As Black Muslims living in the West, particularly in the United States of America, we find ourselves born and raised among “those who reject” — ignorant people, hoarders of wealth, oppressors and persecutors. They are neighbors, classmates, colleagues, employers, people in power and people behind the curtain pulling the strings of economics and politics. Not only that, we live under a system set up by these same people and the mentality they espouse. Within this juz’, we are informed to not be “pliant” with them (68:7-9), to not bend to their low desires, when we know what Allah’s will is, for whatever reason.

“And Allah has made the earth a wide expanse for you, That you may go along therein in spacious paths” (71:19-20). We should never feel limited to one country or nation-state, for we have been granted the whole planet. Repeatedly in this juz’, Allah tells us the best way to deal with these types of people and their system is to simply leave them alone (68:44; 70:42; 73:10-11; 74:11).

Nothing built upon falsehood and evil lasts, and therefore there is no need to try and bring about its end with our own hands. Rather, we should direct our work toward building a new society like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did in Medina that will survive the one that is, by nature, self-destructive and gradually being brought low “by degrees” by Allah (68:44). We are commanded to warn, so that those whom Allah wills see the Truth and come out of that civilization, but those who are repeatedly warned and invited, who do not heed and try to blot out the Truth and the purveyors of it, must be left to Allah.

As Muslims, we must not be focused on trying to convince those who hate us to love us. Rather, we must have enough love for Allah and ourselves and allow that to be sufficient for us, as we seek to establish a society that reflects His will and spreads to the rest of humanity by example. And Allah knows best.


Eric Powell.jpegEric Powell is a rising junior at Howard University with majors in media, journalism and film communications and a concentration in audio production. He is the president of the Muslim Students Association. When he is not studying, he is an emcee and spoken word poet, who performs as E.L.P.J. He hopes to apply the knowledge and experience he gains, as well as the network he builds at Howard, toward aiding his career and life’s mission of shaping a better world through his art.

 

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Ramadan 1438/2017: Black Muslims Reflect on the Quran—Juz’ 28

by: Dallas Wright

Salaams Dallas,

You certainly came across the ayat: “O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.” (61:2–3)

Your Creator has asked you to look inward, analyze and confront your many shortcomings and regular inconsistencies. Scholars of interpreting the Qur’an (mufassiroon) have explained that these ayat describe those people surrounding the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم who were prone to exaggerating and lying about their bravery on the battlefield. Similarly, you affirm for yourself a role in the struggle for racial and economic justice, so consider what sacrifices you’ve made and what risks you’ve taken thus far. Have you done what you say that you do?

Personal sincerity is not guaranteed by the company you keep, no matter the caliber of individuals and organizations with which you’ve surrounded yourself. How many people before you attached themselves to the greatest of company — Prophets and Messengers of Allah — yet that did not protect them from a demise destined by the spiritual illness they attempted to hide?

“Allah presents an example of those who disbelieved: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of Our righteous servants but betrayed them, so those prophets did not avail them from Allah at all, and it was said, “Enter the Fire with those who enter.” — 66:10

While it struck your heart with fear, Surah al-Munafiqoon (The Hypocrites; 63) was revealed by your Lord with perfect Mercy. He exposed the outward and inward traits of those who earned His Anger, so that you might put your own soul on notice and strive hard to avoid their fate. Will you listen?

He, Most Subtle and Gracious, warns you of your own loved ones and material privilege: “Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward” (64:15).

He encourages you toward true sincerity in the most clear, plain speech: “So believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Qur’an which We have sent down. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do” (64:8).

And He, Owner of all that exists, brings the good news of a generous reward if you align your actions with your words: “If you loan Allah a goodly loan, He will multiply it for you and forgive you. And Allah is Most Appreciative and Forbearing” (64:17).

You may not live up to your words at every moment, but to declare — publicly and privately — that you’ve devoted your life to Truth and Justice is itself a bold step, and a necessary one. Remember the advice of your Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and keep fighting: “…Say that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, then remain upright” (Recorded in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Sufyan ibn Abdillah, may Allah be pleased with him).


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Dallas Wright lives and works in the South Side of Chicago, which is his birthplace. He is pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at DePaul University, and graduated from Northwestern University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism. Dallas has worked with several community organizations in the Chicagoland area, including The Chicago Wisdom Project, Urban Prep Academies, Communities United and Inner-City Muslim Action Network, where he currently serves as Communications & Volunteer Coordinator. Dallas also has an extremely talented younger sister whom he loves dearly.

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Ramadan 1438/2017: Black Muslims Reflect on the Qur’an—Juz’ 27

Surah al-Rahman and the Gift of Blackness

by: Ameer Hasan Loggins

Juz’ 27 begins with Surah al-Dhāriyāt (The Winnowing Winds; 51:31) and ends with al-Hadid (The Iron; 57:29). I will focus on the gleaning the gems from Surah al-Rahman

Surah al-Rahman (55) is named after one of the most beautiful of Allah’s 99 Names. This surah repeatedly provides examples of His Divine Grace and reiterates the importance of various Gifts of Allah, while simultaneously posing the question, “Which is it, of the Favors of your Lord, that ye deny?” This question begs humankind (as well as the jinn) to interrogate our potential neglectfulness of Allah’s Divine Favors, while reminding us that life in itself is a gift. Our family, friends, culture, food, water and health (both mental and physical) are all gifts; and we should be cautious of any individual or institution invested in the denial of the Divine Favors granted to us by Allah.

While reading Surah al-Rahman, I found myself focusing on the ayah 24, where Allah says, “And to Him belong the ships [with sails] elevated in the sea like mountains,” and thinking about the slaver ships carving a hellish path through the Atlantic Ocean during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Although I tried to avoid this connection, my anchoring to my Blackness and my consciousness of the macabre Middle Passage forced me to think of how sharks trailed slaver ships from one edge of Old World Africa to the New World Americas, and become overgrown by the time they reached Jamaica from feeding on Black bodies tossed overboard en route.[1] I found myself thinking of the social death that my ancestors suffered, chained together as human cargo, floating through the ocean in mountainous, man-made vessels of dehumanization, permanent exile, and absolute exclusion from their homeland.

I felt enraged.

While wrestling with my anger, pinpointing the historical architects of the systemic oppression that has plagued the Black community — the Middle Passage, antebellum slavery, Jim Crow segregation, hyper-ghettoization, mass incarceration, and the modern-day lynching at the hands of the police — I saw light amid darkness. I was able to rescue my higher-self from being overly consumed by my lower-self. The light came from reading, “Which is it, of the Favors of your Lord, that ye deny?” With one glance, my focus shifted to celebrating the resiliency of Blackness. I began to hear the voices of my Black elders saying, “God is good, all of the time.” I began to think about Black Power, Black Consciousness and Black Love.

I felt favored.

I re-read the ayah. I reoriented the way I imagined those ships, dislodging myself from focusing on those ships of Shaytān, that were vessels of systemic oppression and dehumanization during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and I began to revel in the “favors of our Lord,” that have allowed me the audacity to be unapologetically Black, and unrelentingly Muslim, praying that the ships on which my ancestors came to the New World are the antithesis of the ships that they sail on into the afterworld.

[1] Marcus Redicker, “History from below the Water Line: Sharks and the Atlantic Slave Trade,” Atlantic Studies 5, no. 2 (2008): 285-297.


 

ameerAmeer Hasan Loggins is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in African American Studies both from UC Berkeley. He is currently working toward his doctorate in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. His research explores reality television as a social phenomena and its effects on the perception of African Americans. Ameer has conducted research for Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute (The Hiphop Archive and Research Institute) and currently works with Harvard University’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice on a series of summer forums. Ameer also received the UC Berkeley’s 2011 Graduate Council Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs, Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.