Saving Our Souls Series | Part 2: Thirty-Two Obligations of the Heart – Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

When we think of obligations we often think of the five daily prayers, fasting, zakah, hajj, being good to your parents, etc; which are all bodily obligations.  We hardly hear of obligations of the heart. Yes, the heart has actions and can commit haram and other vile deeds.

These obligations of the heart are:

  1. Faith in Allah Most High
  2. Faith in all that has come from Allah Most High
  3. Faith in the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace)
  4. Faith in that which the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) has brought
  5. Sincere affirmation:
    • which is the essential meaning of faith
  6. Conviction:
    • which is a lack of doubt in that which one believes
  7. Sincerity:
    • which is acting in obedience to Allah, alone.
  8. Remorse for disobedience:
    • since it is contrary to the command of Allah
  9. Trust (i.e. reliance on) in Allah in matters of provision, safety from harm, and other things:
    • not relying on the means
  10. Constant awareness of Allah:
    • which is to remain aware that Allah Most High knows, sees, hears, and is aware of you
    • so that fear of Allah always prevents you from disobeying
  11. Contentment in Allah Most High:
    • to submit to Him and to abandon objecting to Him
  12. Holding a good opinion of Allah Most High:
    • to constantly bring to mind the blessings that Allah has bestowed on you in the past and to yearn for similar in the future
  13. Holding a good opinion of the creation of Allah Most High:
    • not to assume bad of anyone without sufficient religiously recognized proof
  14. To revere the symbols of Allah Most High:
    • everything that signifies obedience to Allah, like prayer
    • i.e. to revere everything that is revered in the Sacred law
  15. To be grateful for the blessings of Allah Most High:
    • meaning, not to use them in His disobedience
  16. Perseverance in fulfilling what Allah has obligated:
    • meaning, forcing oneself to do that and to hold fast to that
  17. Perseverance in abandoning that which Allah has prohibited:
    • restraining oneself from doing the forbidden
  18. Bearing patiently in the tests that Allah Most High sends your way:
    • that the test does not drive you to the forbidden
  19. Being confident that Allah will provide:
    • knowing that whatever is decreed for you to benefit from will never miss you
  20. Accusing the self:
    • accusing yourself in that which your desires call you towards lest it deceive you and draw you toward the forbidden
  21. Never being pleased with the self:
    • by always keeping in mind its deficiencies
  22. Abhorring the Devil:
    • by inclining to his disobedience
  23. Abhorring the world:
    • by not turning your attention to that which distracts you from the obedience of Allah Most High
  24. Abhorring the people of disobedience:
    • by inclining away from them, being averse to their disobedience, and refusing to follow them therein
  25. Love of Allah:
    • by accustoming the heart to His obedience alone, obeying His commands, and abstaining from His prohibitions
  26. Love of His speech:
    • by venerating its verses, submitting to it, and acting upon it
  27. Love of His Messenger:
    • our Master Muhammad (may Allah bless him and give him peace) by believing in him, honoring him, striving to follow him entirely
  28. Love of all the Prophets:
    • by believing in them and honouring them
  29. Love of the companions:
    • by keeping in mind their virtue; that they surpassed all in their Islam, in honor (by their companionship with the Prophet may Allah bless him and give him peace), their giving Him assistance, and their conveying the religion
  30. Love of the Prophetic family:
    • having concern for them, out of honor for the Prophet, for they are His family and closest relatives
  31. Love of the emigrants and the Helpers
    • those from the people of Mecca and Medina who helped the religion
    • especially the predecessors amongst them. (Loving them) by keeping in mind their uniqueness.
  32. Love of the righteous:
    • by revering them, turning to them, and travelling their path

Black Lives Matter: Racism, Social Activism, Justice | A Reader

SeekersGuidance is always committed to provide clarity, answers, and guidance, especially when new issues emerge.

We feel that in these times it is important for us to listen to our black leaders. In this reader we are featuring the voices of some of our most impactful black Muslim leaders, including Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Dawud Walid, Shaykha Zaynab Ansari, and others.

May Allah make us of those who stand up for justice, truth and equity with principles. In the spirit of the Quran:

People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another. In God’s eyes, the most honoured of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware. (49:13)

You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly- if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do. (4:135)

Articles

Blackness, Racism And How The Arabic Language Rises Above It All

  • When “Black” is good. An insight to what “blackness” truly means in the Arabic language

Black Lives Matter: If You’re Right With God, You’re Right – Imam Zaid Shakir

  • Imam Zaid Shakir has led funeral prayers (janazas) due to blue-on-black crime and black-on-black crime. In this video he touches on the history of the black struggle and sheds some spiritual light on the issue. Allah tells us our lives matter, we don’t need a movement.

Race To The Top – Imam Zaid Shakir – New Islamic Direction

  • It’s okay to get involved. Racism existed, and still does. Let us talk about it.

Spiritual Activism and the Tradition of Salawat in West Africa

  • Imam Dawud Walid discusses the inspiring story of a west African scholar, Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba

 

On Demand Courses

Social Justice In The Islamic Tradition: How to Approach Justice and Uphold Truth with Wisdom and Principle

  • Islam is a truly complete religion; a way of life. Does it lay down foundations for social justice? Of course!

Islam in Blackamerica

  • BayanOnline, an online Islamic seminary, is offering this insightful course for only three easy payments of free, yes, FREE.  Check out this beneficial course with Dr. Sherman Jackson.

 

Answers

How Do I Deal With My Racist Spouse?

  • It’s easier to avoid problems outside your home, but what do you do when the problems lie within?

Hadiths on the “Bad Traits” of Black People

  • How do we understand hadiths which seemingly describe black people negatively?

Would it Be Wrong To Avoid Interracial Marriages For Cultural Considerations?

  • Are you racist if you don’t want to marry someone from outside your race? The following answer discusses some prophetic direction in marriage.

How Do I Deal With Racist Attitudes at Gatherings?

  • Self-hate will lead to a dull fate.

Are the Islamic Rulings Regarding Marriage Racist?

  • Islam doesn’t teach us to be racist. Many people, including Muslims, are simply misinformed.

 

The Soul’s Estrangement : A Beautiful Intimate Prayer and Conversation – Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf

* Courtesy of Muwasala – Scholarly Teachings of Hadramawt

Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf shares an intimate conversation at a blessed time in a blessed place with his own soul.

My Generous Lord honored me to be at the Ennobled Kaaba during the last part of the night on a Friday. Heralds of longing began to stir in my heart for the reality of what Allah has created us for. I penned some of that in the following words, which I ask Allah the Exalted to make a means to direct the reader with truth and sincerity to Him the Exalted. I ask you, dear reader, to read it in a calm and serene place.

I said:

         I know you…but I don’t know you. 

         It’s as though I’ve forgotten you.

Download here: The Soul’s Estrangement

An Invitation to Support the Islamic Scholars Fund – Imam Khalid Latif

During these times of crisis, many scholars and students have been left without support – and we can’t afford to let this prevent the spread of Prophetic light, guidance and knowledge. 

Imam Khalid Latif explains the Islamic Scholars Fund and the importance of supporting students of knowledge and qualified teachers around the world during the pandemic.

Don’t Let a Faith Pandemic Happen: Support Our Islamic Scholars Fund This Ramadan 

Faith Pandemic

We need your help to raise $1 million in Zakat and Charity to urgently support scholars in need around the world.

There are so many deserving Students and Scholars in need who are struggling to continue to teach their communities.

We ask you to help and support these inheritors to spread this light and guidance, and enable many individuals to have a deeper connection with our creator.

Give your Zakat and Charity to support the Prophetic legacy, increase people’s faith and spiritual growth during the current pandemic.

Supporting Islamic Scholars

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reported to have said: “Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.” [Related by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and others] 

Islamic Scholars Fund

Support the Spread of Sacred Knowledge through the Islamic Scholars Fund this Ramadan, by giving your Zakat and Charity to Help Us Raise $1 Million for Deserving Students and Scholars in Need Around the World. 

On behalf of everyone here at SeekersGuidance, please accept our gratitude for everything you have contributed, and we pray you have a blessed end to Ramadan.

Wasalaam,

Waseem Mahmood
Business Strategy Manager

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary

Fasting The White Days of Sha‘ban – Muwasala

We are now approaching the “White Days” of the month of Sha‘ban. The “White Days” are the days which follow nights in which the moon is full, namely the 13th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ encouraged his Companions to fast three days in every month and to fast these days specifically.

We should attempt to fast all three days if we are able, since Sayyidah ‘A’ishah said of the Prophet ﷺ: “I did not see him fasting in any month more than Sha‘ban.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If we are unable to do so, we should attempt to fast the fifteenth, since the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said that when this night comes we should spend it in prayer and fast the following day.

Please check the moon sighting in your locality.


With gratitude to our Content Partner: Muwasala.org.


 

The Day of Arafah – Shaykh Faid Mohammad Said

* Originally Published on 20/08/18

What is the Day of Arafah? How do we know that it is so special? And what should we do on this day? Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said covers these topics in this article.

In the name of Allah the Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate,

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.” [Qur’an, 9:36]
Amongst months there are those that are sacred, amongst days there are those that are chosen, and among days there or those that hold the utmost blessing. The Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah, and in particular the Day of Arafah, are the most sacred and blessed day in the Islamic calendar for the following reasons.
1) Sacredness: Allah Most High swore by these ten days, showing the importance and blessing of these days over others. [Qur’an, 89:2]
2) Mention: Allah has mentioned these ten days in the Qur’an and the culmination of these ten days in the Day of Arafah: “That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor.” [Qur’an, 22:28]
3) Good Action: Good action is loved by Allah Most HIgh in these ten days, with the Day of Arafah being one of these ten (Imam al-Darami)
4) Completion of the Blessing on the Muslims: The Day of Arafah is also the day on which the blessing upon us, the Muslim community, was completed. a Jewish man said to Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) that there is a verse in your book that we (if we were you) would take as a day of celebration. Umar asked which day he was referring to, to which the man said the verse in Surah Al-Maidah. Umar responded by saying that he knew this verse and that it was revealed in Arafah while the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was standing before the Companions, and recited: “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” [Qur’an, 22:28].
5) Fasting: For the one who fasts the Day of Arafah, Allah Most High forgives the year prior and the year to come (Imam Muslim).
6) Feast: Eid al-Adha is a day of celebration especially for the people who stand (in supplication/prayer) on the Day of Arafah. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that the Day of Arafah, the 10th of Dhul Hijjah and the Days of Mina are feasts of Eids for us (Imam Muslim).
7) Best Supplication: The Best of Dua is that on the Day of Arafah (Imam Tirmidhi).
8) Salvation: There is no day on which Allah Most High pardons more of His creation than the Day of Arafah (Imam Muslim).
In all of the days of Hajj, the standing on the Day of Arafah is the greatest moment and the culmination of the Hajj.
In standing on the blessed Day of Arafah, we have been given a great blessing in the time in which we can stand, as the Day begins at sunset/Maghirib (today) and ends at Fajr on the Day of Eid. Hence, we have a full day and two nights, which may be a reason why Allah will forgive us for the year prior and the year to come!
In implementing and following the above, we are in actuality appreciating the advice of our Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), who wanted nothing for us other than blessings, as Allah Most High told us in the Qur’an at the end of Surah At-Tawbah:  “There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” [Qur’an, 9:128]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the one that Allah told that he is not responsible for the implementing his message but that he only needs remind us about it, but the Messenger’s love and care for us went beyond any reminder, and as such, let us love and honor His word of advice for us by honoring this Day of Arafah!
In addition, after the honor and love for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), we should honor this Day for its rights and blessings.
May Allah Most High forgive our sins, and may He give us the success to pray for each other, care for each other, and be kind to one another, all in following our Master, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), as Allah said in Surah Al-Ahzab (21): “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah the greatest example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [Qur’an, 32:21]


 

The Role of Sayyids and Sharifs in Spreading Islam (Interview) – Prof Syed Naquib al Attas

Prof Syed Naquib Al-Attas was interviewed by Prof. Mehmet Ipsirli on the role that the Prophetic family (Sayyids and Sharifs) played in spreading Islam in South East Asia.

 

Prof Mehmet: What are the places of Sayyids and Sharifs in the Islamic tradition?

Prof Al – Attas: Nowadays, I feel that these two concepts have become separated in such a way that the Sharif are Hasanese (i.e. following Hasan), and the Sayyid are Husseinese (i.e. following Hussein). I think that this was probably the same in earlier times. Sayyids were called Sharif, and Sharifs were called Sayyid. Of course it is true that the Hasanese gradually became the Sharifs of Mecca and the post of Sharif was established by the Abbasids. I noticed that when I was reading Tabari, he mentioned that Al-Ma’mun appointed one of the sons of Ali as the Sharif of Mecca. The main aim of Al Ma’mun here was to neutralize the followers of Ali in a diplomatic way, as at first they were opposed to the Umayyads and later to the Abbasid’s as well. Thus, he was trying to be friendly with them and to show his favor by appointing such people. Now, Al Ma’mun lived around the year 800; another man al-Dimashqi, who was a geographer, wrote in 1200 that the first missionaries to be sent to Asia were in the time of Uthman’s caliphate; therefore, he said, the missionaries were here because they were running away from Al-Hajjaj, from his persecution, in the time of the Umayyads. They first fled and then they came to that part of Indo-China known at that time as Shampa, and now called Sand in Cambodia. And they then came to Southeastern Asia. Al-Dimashqi referred to them as Alawiyyun (followers of Ali). This was in the time of Uthman. Therefore in the time of Al-Ma’mun and at later dates there were many envoys who were sent to China; it is said that there were at least 32 envoys sent between the time of the Umayyad and Abbasids until around the year 500 (Hijrah).

 

Prof Mehmet: Was there any policy to send envoys that had been particularly chosen from the Prophet’s descendants?

Prof Al – Attas: Yes, I think that the Chinese emperor respected them more because they were from the Prophet’s descendants. I suppose the reason why the Tang dynasty sent a Chinese ambassador to the court of Medina at the time of Umayyads was because the political center was still in Medina at that time, not in Mecca. There was a Sharif in Mecca, but the seat of caliph was in Medina. The purpose of this ambassador was to report to the emperor about this new power in the world. Who was this new power? It was reported back to China that they were worshipping heaven. They had no idols and they did not eat pork. The source that mentions this ambassador also records that an Arab general accompanied the ambassador back to China. We are not sure who this general it was. Some say that he was Sad b. Abi Waqqas; the Chinese believe that he is buried in the north of the country. This was at the time of the Companions.

 

Prof Mehmet: Was there a difference between the Sayyids and the Sharifs in this sense?

Prof Al – Attas: The role of the Sharifs, I think, was more administrative. They gradually became the Sharifs of Mecca. That is, they acted like governors and gradually became the rulers. But the Sayyids were the ones who continued to struggle, as the Umayyads were more opposed to the Husseinese rather than the Hasanese.  Many of them were located in southern Arabia. What is now known as Oman at that time was called Hadramout – Hadramout is even mentioned in the Bible, and this was at the time of Moses – and this was a very important area.

Many of the Husseinese were located in this area. They were a seafaring people, who traveled by sea. It is for this reason that Ibn Khurdabbe talks about the sea routes, and he mentions how the Sayyids got to China and how they went on to India and so on. They were people who spread Islam following the hadith (sayings of the Prophet). You know the Dutch scholars and Western scholars talk about merchants and traders. Merchants and traders would not be able to be close with ruling powers. The ruling powers would only have respected people who were descendants of the Prophet. For that reason, the locals intermarried a great deal with the Sayyids, just like in Sumatra.

I think one of the characteristics of the Sayyids is that wherever they went, they were not very nationalistic or racist. I think it was Sayyid Ali who was the first one to marry with a non-Arab, the daughter of the Persian emperor, Yezdecarb. In other words, the Sayyids married non-Arabs, but other Arabs did not act like this. When the Sayyids went to Africa, they gradually became like the Africans with this intermarriage, and the same can be stated for China.

But what is important here is that the role of these people, this mission, was prepared in advance. It did not happen accidentally. In other words, they were selected as pious people who knew Islam, and were brave enough to go on these dangerous routes. They were not only traders and merchants either. The western people knew that traders and merchants would not able to spread the religion. They claim that in Islam everybody is a missionary. Of course, theoretically this is true, but in reality, a missionary must be acquainted with many things, because ultimately he has to speak with the king. They have to be able to be close to the kings. Much of the missionary work consists of this high-level diplomacy. That is what is most important in my opinion.

 

Prof Mehmet: In your opinion, what is the social responsibility of descending from the family of the Prophet?

Prof Al – Attas: These descendants of the Prophet spread knowledge. Even Western orientalists say that the descendants of the Prophet are the ones who spread the knowledge. They mentioned the Fatimids and the Al-Azhar. These people established universities and places of education, and much more.

Of course, not everybody was doing all of these things. Some of them, the simple people, may have been doing nothing.  It was a question of spreading knowledge and the religion.

And they were careful not to add to the heresy. They were more traditional, and being traditional entailed going back to the ways of the Prophet. This was because, particularly in the southern part of Hadramout, they were isolated. The early Sayyids who came here learned the hadiths, and then they read the works of the ulama. The books that we can see they were using were ones like Kutb al-Kulubal-Maki, al-Qushayri’s Risala and several others, as well as Ghazali, of course.

As for Hadramout, the first man who brought Sufism (tasawwuf) was a man called Fakih al-Mukaddaam, and this must have been sometime in the 15th century.

 

Prof Mehmet: We see that these journeys started very early from the time of the Prophet. As soon as they learned about Islam they left their country and went to a different part of the world. The Prophet also encouraged the Companions to make these journeys.

Prof Al – Attas: Yes, as we have said already, before the advent of Islam, it has been acknowledged that there were already Arabs in Europe, even at the time of Christ in that area, and they were involved in trade at the time of the Romans.

But I think the role of the Sayyids was to spread Islam. This was the most important. The second factor was that they were trying to teach people the proper forms of Islam from such books. They did not add any thing. Of course, they studied the hadith, so they had more information about what was legitimate. They also read other works. But they did not seek publicity. They also did not care if people acknowledged them or not. They just completed their tasks.

 

Prof Mehmet: How were the Sayyid roots of the first people arriving into Asia influential in the Islamization of the region?

Prof Al – Attas: It is true that the Sayyids came first. These Sayyids were already in the north of Sumatra. They came first to Sumatra, then to the Malay peninsula and then to Joho. Malaca, of course is Joho, and from there they went to Brunei and from there to Sulu and then finally Java. I think the reason why they arrived last in Java is because Java was very powerful at that time and the kingdom was very large. There were also Arab writers there in ancient times; it is said that the maharaja was not called a maharaja, but rather known by the Japanese title batara. It is said that he had a hundred thousand troops and weapons ships. In other words, this was a very strong kingdom with a tradition of Hinduism or Hindu -Buddhist.

So, the plan was probably to first Islamize the Malay side and when that was done then to go on to Java. It would not have been possible to go to Java first, because they were so powerful. Gradually, of course, by coming to them in the 1470s, the Japanese kingdom fell into the hands of Islam. However, some Arabs navigators writing in the 1430s said they Muslim kingdoms were already present in Java. The problem is that I am not sure if this date is correct.

The simpler meaning of Sayyid is those people who went to the villages. They taught people Islam, and the question of adab (manners). This is still going on. If you go to Indonesia you can find many of such people in the villages. They demonstrate a certain exemplary behavior, and they are very pious people. You can the see Hasanese in Singapore; they are very popular in Singapore, even among the non-Muslims, because they are simpler and more open-handed as well.


Syed Muhammad al Naquib bin Ali al-Attas (born September 5, 1931) is a prominent contemporary Muslim philosopher and thinker from Malaysia. He is one of the few contemporary scholars who is thoroughly rooted in the traditional Islamic sciences and who is equally competent in theology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, and literature. He is considered to be the pioneer in proposing the idea of Islamization of knowledge. Al-Attas’ philosophy and methodology of education have one goal: Islamization of the mind, body and soul and its effects on the personal and collective life on Muslims as well as others, including the spiritual and physical non-human environment. He is the author of twenty-seven authoritative works on various aspects of Islamic thought and civilization, particularly on Sufism, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy and Malay language and literature.


* This article was modified from its original source (lastprophet.info)

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How Do We Know When Ramadan Starts? – Shaykh Rami Nsour

Shaykh Rami Nsour discusses how one determines when the month of Ramadan enters and the differences of opinions on the matter.

He brings up the debate concerning actual sightings versus calculation, and mentions that the discussion has a long history, but emphasizes that disagreements concerning these methods should not cause harsh words or the breaking of bonds.

Shaykh Nsour reminds us that the spirit of our faith is to accept differences of opinion in a broad range of subjects and to always seek conciliation and grace.

Our focus should be on the point of Ramadan which is to get closer to Allah through our worship.


With gratitude to Shakyh Rami Nsour and Tayba Foundation.


Reflections on the Life of Omar ibn Said – Dr Hadia Mubarak

Dr Hadia Mubrak shares her reflections and thoughts on the life and legacy of Omar ibn Said.

 

In our public discourse, the term “Muslim” tends to be synonymous with words like “foreigner,” “immigrant” and “refugee.” Yet the historical reality of Muslims in America depicts a completely different portrait. The first Muslims to come to America were Africans, chained, forced into bondage and stripped of their heritage, religions, and families.
The history of Muslims in America begins with people like Omar ibn Said, a Muslim scholar who was brought to Charleston, SC in 1807 and was later imprisoned in Fayetteville, NC for running away from his slave master. A few months ago, the Library of Congress made virtually accessible his autobiography, the only one of its kind, to the world, noted in the PBS video below.As a Muslim American, I feel personally indebted to the legacy of Omar ibn Said. I cannot fathom what it must have been like for this 37-year-old Gambian scholar of Islam to arrive to a new land, forced to contend with a new culture, religion and language and be stripped of one’s freedom and identity. The autobiography of Ibn Said speaks to his faith, wisdom and perseverance.
His decision to write his autobiography in Arabic – the only extant autobiography in Arabic by an African slave – is not incidental. By writing his autobiography in Arabic, a language that neither the slave masters nor the dominant society could understand, Omar ibn Said was asserting an autonomy of identity. He, and not his slave masters, would have the final word on his own narrative. Further, Ibn Said’s reference to the 67th chapter of the Quran, the Chapter of Dominion (Surat al-Mulk), in his autobiography is revealing. It reflects the faith of a man who internalized the ultimate reality of God’s dominion over all things; it reflects the knowledge of man who recognized that the only Master in this world is the Creator of the heavens and earth and everything in between.
It is worth considering how Omar ibn Said’s mastery of the Quran paved his way to living the rest of his life honorably, removed from a life of arduous labor under ruthless conditions, to which most slaves were subject. By writing passages of the Quran in Arabic on the walls of his Fayetteville prison cell, Ibn Said was recognized by those in power to be an educated man. As a result, Ibn Said was not subject to the laws applied to runaway slaves. Saved from punishment, he was instead transferred to the home of General James Owen, the brother of North Carolina’s governor, and treated very well, according to Ibn Said himself. It was not Omar’s decision to run away from slavery nor to seek shelter in a church that turned his fate around. Rather, it was his decision to write passages of the Quran on his prison cell walls that turned his fate around, attracting the attention of state authorities.
As the Library of Congress makes virtually accessible Ibn Said’s autobiography to the world, I cannot help but wonder whether he had ever considered the possibility that millions of people would one day read his biography. As an educated, literate and well-read scholar, his decision to select high quality paper for his manuscript indicates that he was writing for posterity. Could he have imagined, however, that millions, maybe billions, would read his words nearly 200 years later? We can never really know.
The public release of his autobiography reflects the redemptive nature of history, a history in which the marginalized, the oppressed and the voiceless are given the final word. As a Muslim, I interpret this as God’s acceptance of Ibn Said in His divine favor, and God knows best.
The stories of Muslim African slaves like Ibn Said’s offer just a glimpse into a part of American history that we’ve neglected to tell. And by the way, Ibn Said’s story represents not African American history nor Muslim American history, but American history. The personal accounts of enslaved Muslims like Ibn Said, who felt compelled to publicly convert to Christianity – the official religion of their slave masters – shifts the overall story we have told ourselves about religious freedom in U.S. history. Without question, America offered refuge from religious persecution for scores of immigrants who came to U.S. shores of their own volition. Yet this was not the case for over 300,000 enslaved African men and women. The personal accounts of folks like Omar ibn Said should occupy the center, not the margins, of American history.

Dr. Hadia Mubarak is an assistant professor of religious studies at Guilford College. Previously, Mubarak taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson College. Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world.