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Soul Searching in the Hour of Chaos, by Shaykh Jihad Brown

In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the surprise victory of Donald Trump, Shaykh Jihad Brown asks some tough questions and paves a way forward for American Muslims.

Its 3:00 a.m.; there is a hollow feeling in the chest, but I have family, I have students. We all knew this could very well be a possibility—never inevitable but certainly possible. While there is a silver lining up there somewhere, make no mistake, it is a rain cloud. Inclement weather does not deter the “deadliest catch”. It is what we signed up for, no? Did the believers think they had yet tasted the surat ankabut that we so relish citing from the manabir for years now? Let’s find our hearts in the resolve that has led even some Alaskan and North Pacific fisherman to embrace the Deen of Islam. The job must get done and the Prophet (Allah bless him) never promised you a rose garden.
Make no mistake; this has been a victory driven by a fear for loss of white privilege. A comforting imperceptible entitlement that seems to be slipping away with a nostalgic ‘Norman Rockwell’ America that ceased to exist long before the canaries keeled over. For some Americans it certainly never existed; and Rockwell himself—as he painted—seemed to realise that in his later years. But our question must be this, will the ‘Muslim establishment’ take this moment to realise this and reconsider their taking ‘white upper middle-class suburbia’ as their ideal? Will they address the disconcerting racism and classism so prevalent in our mosques? It is a victory made possible by a regime of dumbing down the electorate. Will Muslims reconsider their more recent insistence on dumbing down all and every aspect of Islamic discourse? An electorate devoid of critical acumen will buy anything offered as panacea; as will a Muslim community believing themselves nourished by slogans and spectacles.
Yes, the ‘elites’ of Spiro Agnew and the Editor of the Harvard Law Review have been defeated. But don’t think that this is a cattle call that the ‘herd’ shall inherit the earth. Now more than ever, intelligence is important. But it will be a grounded intelligence coupled with empathy that only Islam can bring. Wisdom, hikma and a kind word, is never data, never rhetoric. An ‘information age’ is dangerous at worst, empty at best, without the third dimension. Let us desist from our cheeky courtship of post-modern nominalism—that reality and truth lies only within the words we utter. Let us consider the compelling merit of the realism offered by a human rational soul—that principles have meaning and there is a reality independent of our thoughts and language. That Allah and truth is, regardless of whether there is a human mind to conceive it.
[cwa id=’cta’]

What our Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him) wanted for new shores

We are on the cusp of a period of intense soul-searching for this country. Muslims now have an opportunity forced upon them to begin a process of soul-searching as well. Will they be able to find the authenticity of perspective, direction, and contribution this society needs so deeply from them? The programme moving forward will be to ask ourselves what our Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him) wanted for new shores; and what healing the Deen of our Creator would bring to a new society that is thirsty and suffering from its own particular forms of pain. Can we also be physicians of hearts and minds. As well as honest custodians of truth and fidelity for our own children and families?
The modern Muslim community has been one of extremes to this point. Now more than ever before we need engaged participation without assimilation; care, concern, and empathy, without sentimentality and emotionalism; authenticity and leadership without triumphalism. Here is a mā’idah disguised as a disappointment; a pasture of opportunity disguised as a tragedy. A call to what will give you life—for those who would respond. Every path to the mountain top can only begin with, “physician heal thyself.” Let’s invite one another to discover Islam as it is and not as entertaining or self-congratulating ideal; bismillah People.

Silver linings

The expectation is that matters should—in general—be safer than assumed for minorities, in that the Right Wing got what it wanted. There would have been more danger on the streets in the case of a Hillary win. Will xenophobes be emboldened—it is possible. Will there be new unfair policy initiatives, maybe. These things are uncertain still. But there will be no barrel-bombs. Rather than looking for the sky to fall just yet, let us focus instead on strengthening our hearts. Muslims will have to explore the merits of real, tangible, and true fraternity, solidarity, and community, not just as cozy buzz words and idealistic slogans—the furniture of our own form of jingoism. If you haven’t understood this then know that the 1980s called and said it wants its 1950s dinosaur figures back.
We all know privately, that there is a more privileged segment within the American Muslim community that has always leaned Republican; conflating economic conservatism with moral conservatism. Conflating prophetic istiqama with evangelical ‘moralising’. This ‘kool-aid’ of uncritical Muslim-establishment faith in the mythology of a Protestant Work Ethic will be a major obstacle to authenticity; if decision making weight on matters of theology, social well-being, and community direction continue to remain in such hands.

The need for real humanity

If ‘new Americans’ want to participate in basic mainstream American conversations—as ‘basic’ Americans—by all means, welcome. But Muslim please, don’t do so on the dime of ‘Islamic daawa’. Americans have historically been hopeful in the healing and uplifting promise in the Deen of Muhammad (Allah bless him). Take it outside if you don’t mind—get a room if you must—but  please don’t deny us that. Americans ask—explicitly or with the tongue of their condition—for that enrichment and sophisticated depth and warmth of real humanity and godly, rabbani, insight that only you can offer; not for the cold technology or mechanical management techniques that they already have. We do not tend to expect that working class Americans are going to be saved by this enterprise they have sunk their votes into. Do you have the respect, compassion, integrity, and resolve your neighbours hope for? I still find that I am unable to relinquish my hope that you do; even though its been hard. Just really, really hard.
Know that the world turns for people who put impressing Allah and His messenger first. Everything else is window dressing. Don’t get side-tracked. The ‘labeeb’ understands that when we say we dig your taste in drapes, that we’re just making small-talk to keep it down to earth.
For those who have been optimistically looking toward ‘hope’ and ‘change’, then know that it comes in phases—and recognise phase II for what it is. Take a moment, take a deep breath, and then put on your rain poncho, grab your galoshes, and be a part of building phase III. Inclement weather doesn’t prevent the fisherman from going out on deck when the job must still get done. Look up. Downpours are an inevitable part of the open seas and the waves will get rough, and the tumult of the ocean intimates uncertainty. But look up, the constellations continue to shine with their reassuring serenity and constancy; and the heavenly bodies continue to swim in their orbits—and by the stars they are guided.

How Can I Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Me for a Long Period of Time?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: How can a person mend their heart after being hurt by people?

I have been told to let it go and to make supplications for the person that has hurt you. I don’t understand why. Am I allowed to ask Allah that the person who has hurt me receives the same treatment?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for seeking clarity on your troubles, and may He ease your sorrow.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is from the sunnah, and is an act which is beloved to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

Be honest with yourself. What do you need to do, in order to let go of your hurt? Do you need to see a counsellor? It is natural and important for you to process what you feel, in order for you to release it. Each of us is different. Bear in mind that just venting to a friend puts you at risk of backbiting. Speaking to a trusted local scholar or counsellor, if they are qualified to help you and will keep it confidential, is permissible. Please refer to these answers: What is Backbiting and How Can One Be Safe? and When is Backbiting Permissible?

Dua

I urge you to perform the Prayer of Need and ask Allah to help you forgive this person. Never underestimate the power of sincere dua.

If this person is still hurting you, then I encourage you to learn how to assert yourself instead of passively receiving pain. Standing up for yourself may help you forgive this person. You can learn how to be assertive through a counsellor’s help.

Mercy

Abdullah bin ‘Amr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens. The womb is named after Ar-Rahman, so whoever connects it, Allah connects him, and whoever severs it, Allah severs him.” [Tirmidhi]

Please reflect on this beautiful hadith. Forgiving someone is part of having mercy. I am not sure who has hurt you, but if it is a family member, then you have even more reason to forgive them. I know how hard it can be to forgive a relative who that has wronged you, but your effort is never lost with Allah.

Dua

Narrated Abu Sirmah: The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “If anyone harms (others), Allah will harm him, and if anyone shows hostility to others, Allah will show hostility to him.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]

Please do not make dua against the person who has hurt you. It is tempting, but not becoming of a Muslimah. To be clear – it is impermissible to harm another person.

Make a choice that will please Allah, and not your lower self. It is part of human nature to want to lash back at those who have hurt us; the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) came to help us rise above these base desires.

Making dua for another

The wisdom behind making dua for someone who has hurt you is manifold: you are reminded of Allah, you subjugate your lower self, your tongue is connected to the heart so your heart is more likely to be softened, and so on.

Please bear in mind that if you choose to make dua against someone and Allah accepts your dua, then you will be held accountable for harming another person.

Oppression

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.” [Bukhari]

Many years ago, a compassionate scholar shared this scenario with me. On the Last Day, we will all be faced with those who have oppressed us. If He wills, Allah’s Justice will be dispensed in full. If you wish, you have the choice to condemn the person who hurt you to Hellfire. But on the Last Day, we will all witness the Fire, and it is nothing we would wish upon our worst enemy.

I pray that Allah grants you the ability to forgive for His sake, and that He shows you mercy because you showed it to another.

Please see:

Is it Obligatory to Forgive Others? How to Deal with Abusive Family Members?
Understanding Allah’s Attributes: Love & Mercy

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Helen Warren

The Prophetic ﷺ Response to Islamophobia: The Story of Adi bin Hatem

What can we learn from the Prophetic ﷺ response to Islamophobia? There was once a known Islamophobe, Adi bin Hatem. He was the head of a monotheistic tribe that worshipped the God of Abraham but lacked any further guidance. Adi bin Hatem hated Islam and hated the Prophet ﷺ. His own sister had gone to see the Prophet ﷺ and embraced Islam and this infuriated Adi bin Hatem even more. So when he visited Madinah, how did the Prophet ﷺ treat him? A fascinating, uplifting true story, retold by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. It is replete with lessons for our time.

How Do I Get Rid of Intense Hate Towards Someone in My Workplace?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I work in proximity to an individual who is very selfish and spreads toxicity. He insists on micromanaging our work simply because of his prestige in the community. I am consumed by anger and hatred. How can I deal with this?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah lift this tribulation from you and fill your heart with tranquility.

Dua

`A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that, “The Prophet entered while [I] was angry. So he rubbed the tip of my nose and said, ‘My little `A’isha. Say, ‘O Allah, forgive my sin, remove the anger in my heart, and protect me from Satan.’ (Allahumma’ Ghfirli dhanbi, wa adhhib ghaydha qalbi, wa aajirni min ash-shaytan)” [Ibn al-Sunni, as mentioned in Barkawi’s Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya]

اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي ذَنْبِي وَأَذْهِبْ غَيْظَ قَلْبِي وَآجِرْنِي مِنْ الشَّيْطَانِ

Excerpt from A Little Fiqh on Controlling One’s Anger by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Practical steps

1) Make continual istighfar.
2) Give in charity regularly, even if it’s a small amount and beg Allah to remove this tribulation from your life.
3) When you know you are going to be near this person, be in wudu and ask Allah to protect you from harm.
4) Give regular salawat upon the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace).
5) Perform The Prayer of Need and beg Allah to help.

Assertiveness training

Are you seeing a therapist to help treat your depression? If you have not seen a therapist, please consider doing so. You do not need to struggle through this alone.

In addition to learning how to cope with your severe depression, please ask your therapist to teach you how to be more assertive in the workplace. I can appreciate how difficult it can be to set boundaries in general, let alone with a well-known community elder. However, it sounds like your current approach is not working. I am not asking you to be rude, but I am suggesting that you think of tactful, respectful and firm ways to protect yourself.

It is also likely that this person has no idea how annoyed you and your colleagues are. If none of you say anything to him/her, then he/she will persist in behaving this way.

An example of a workplace boundary setting statement is: “Thank you for your advice, but my managers are happy with my performance. If you are not, then please take it up with them.”

Continue to repeat this, firmly and respectfully. However, try not to fret if you find it difficult to do this right now. Build up your courage first, role play with your therapist or close friends/family, then read Ayatul Kursi for ease. The first time you stand up for yourself, it’s natural to feel anxious and stressed, but it will get easier over time, inshaAllah.

Human resources

Does your workplace have a HR manager? It sounds like this toxic character is affecting the whole office. If direct interaction with this person does not bring about the desired outcome, then perhaps you and your colleagues need to lodge an official complaint about this person. If you do not have HR manager, then at least notify your bosses so they can look into it.

Reflect

When you are in the midst of a difficult test, remember the One who is sending this test to you. Spend some time in nature and reflect on what you can learn from this. Let this person be a warning to you, about how not to behave. Reflect on how our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) called upon us to improve our character.

Please refer to the following links:

A Little Fiqh on Controlling One’s Anger
What Are Some Prophetic Supplications That Can Help Me Deal With Trials in My Life?

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

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

Shaykh Muhammad Mendes responds to this question during a Lamppost Education Initiative Seminar on Muslim Spirituality From Africa to Americas.

“Why is the colour black – black people and all things black, so foul to humanity?”

Resources for seekers

Cover photo by Andrea Moroni.

Dalia Mogahed’s debut at TED met with standing ovation

What do you think when you look at me?

When you look at Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed, what do you see: a woman of faith? a scholar, a mom, a sister? or an oppressed, brainwashed, potential terrorist? In this personal, powerful talk, Mogahed asks us, in this polarizing time, to fight negative perceptions of her faith in the media — and to choose empathy over prejudice – TED

Resources for seekers:

"Sunni and Shia Hatred: A Disease We Must Fight"

Sunni and Shia Hatred with Imam Zaid Shakir


This SeekersHub Study Circle will give you a deeper understanding of the centrality of love and mercy within Islam. Loneliness and isolation, Imam Zaid Shakir argues, have no place in an ummah of compassion and mercy. He also addresses Sunni-Shia aggression and hatred, which he describes as a disease we must fight.

Imam Zaid Shakir shia
Ambassadors of Goodness

Students will be empowered to be ambassadors of goodness through learning about the love of Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, the duties of brotherhood and sisterhood, and the signs of a healthy community in a world suffering from hatred and division, spreading love and respect is needed with the utmost urgency.

Setup Your Own SeekersHub Study Circle

Can’t attend these gatherings in person? We encourage you to set up SeekersHub Study Circle in your own community. It’s easy! Just email us or find more details online.

Responses To The Islamophobic Attack On The Bus Illustrate Wider Problems Of Racism

LondonBusRantOver the last few days, the video of a black woman launching an islamophobic attack on two muslim women has attracted much attention on social media, and eventually was reported in the National Press. The provocative lady who undertook a tirade of threatening verbal abuse has since been arrested by the police, and one hopes she will be held to account for her actions.

As a black Muslim woman I was sickened by this lady’s behaviour. It was particularly saddening that a black person acted in such a venomous manner, and undertook a xenophobic attack upon another minority in a way that black people often experience themselves. Her behaviour illustrated sheer ignorance of the history and struggle of her own people; if she had truly internalised the lessons from black history, she never would have behaved in such a manner. Her actions culminated with a distinct lack of humanity, when despite her irrational grievances she felt it was acceptable to threaten to kick a pregnant woman in the stomach.

‘Half of all Caribbeans are animals’ and ‘banana eating inbred’

However, I was equally disgusted by the reactions of seemingly ordinary Muslims who used utterly vile anti-black language on social media in response to this episode. Although part of me is not surprised at this spew of vitriol, the carefree manner in which some Muslims expressed their racism so openly was something I have not seen before. In one social media group full of Muslim women, one commentator thought it was acceptable to state that ‘half of all Caribbeans are animals’. There was a common theme of people using disgusting racist language such as ‘banana eating inbred’. There were references to her skin tone being the product of ‘ancestral rape by the slave master’ and questions around the father of her child (who she can’t possibly know because all black women are whores). Worst still were the numerous references to the enslavement of black people by Arabs; ‘’we used to own you!’’ one social media commenter spited, regardless of the fact that she was of Asian descent and not an Arab.

Racism is just as as disgusting as Islamophobia

Furthermore, not only were there those who readily used anti-black language, there were those who sought to justify their use of it – ‘we are racist towards black people because of women like her’. Let us be very clear that the South Asian Muslim community of Britain has struggled with racism, and this incident somehow gave a number of racist Muslims the ‘courage’ to publicly air their views. For those that found this ignorant black woman’s islamophobia disgusting, it would be hypocritical if they were not equally disgusted by the racist anti-black reactions. It is imperative that we condemn both equally and unreservedly.

She didn’t create Islamophobia

However, let us not forget that whilst this black woman’s actions are totally reprehensible, she didn’t create Islamophobia. She isn’t the person who has criminalised Islam and made it synonymous with terrorism and violence. She is not the enforcer of the laws that continually view Muslims through the lens of securitisation. She does not give muscular public speeches, beating Muslims with a stick that they must adopt undefined ‘British values’ (even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims proudly assert their British identity). She is not of those spreading suspicion throughout society, encouraging others to view the Muslim community as the fifth column. Whilst she has no doubt been influenced by much of the negative discourse surrounding Muslims, we must remember that much of it is essentially coined by the upper echelons of society.

Of course, this in no way diminishes the crime that took place on that bus, especially now that this woman has now been arrested and charged, but what next? Should we demand the arrest of Daily Mail writers, and certain politicians who tread ever so closely on the boundary of free speech and inciting hatred? Whilst this isolated attack on a bus is indeed shocking, the ‘well-articulated, well-reasoned’ Islamophobia we face is far more sinister and much more insidious than what this woman did.

The rise in racism throughout society is indeed a worrying phenomenon, and superficial approaches to the problem will do little to address it. The BBC recently ran documentaries on Britain First and the Ku Klux Klan in America. However, I think there is a fundamental problem in focusing on fringe groups when addressing racism, as in some respects these groups become convenient scapegoats in much the same way that this ignorant black woman has become following this incident.

It’s about power

At the heart of the debate around racism and Islamophobia is power and that many of those who run our society hold similar, narrow-minded views. Documentaries such as those aired by the BBC hide from this fact, leading us to fall into a false belief that anti-Muslim and anti-black sentiments are largely limited to a handful unintelligent individuals that are part of a crazy cult. It absolves the institutions of the state; from politicians, the media and the police from the role they play in creating and perpetuating racism and Islamophobia. It allows cross sections of society to be under a collective illusion that hate and xenophobia are exceptions; it isn’t us, it is ‘them’.

This type of superficial analysis does nothing to challenge the structural and institutional racism and Islamophobia that affects us all and impacts adversely on our children. We should be angry at this latest incident, but let’s also have some perspective and get a grip on reality; this woman isn’t the root cause of the problem, her actions and the actions of others like her are symptoms of a deeper problem that is in fact far more dangerous than a lone black woman’s vile rant on a 206 bus in London.

By Sulekha Hassan. Republished with much gratitude to our friends at Islamicate.


Resources for Seekers:

Our Condition Today: the Disease and the Remedy
Advice from Habib ‘Umar: How to defend the Prophet
Hadiths on the “Bad Traits” of Black People
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together
Race To The Top
Would it Be Wrong To Avoid Interracial Marriages For Cultural Considerations?
Dealing With Those Who Harass Muslims
“Sound societies come from sound hearts”
Allah’s Mercy and the Mercy Showed by People

Islamophobia is alive and well but are we capable of a compassionate, introspective response? Tanya Muneera Williams

WindrushOn the 22nd of June 1948 the landscape of England changed in the most unprecedented way. The arrival of the empire Windrush from Jamaica to Tilby docks in Essex has been pinpointed as one of the biggest changes in post-war British history.

It can also be said that the 500 or so passengers on board the Windrush, represented a complete rethink of what it meant to be British, and in essence it was the start of what has become known as multiculturalism.

An Era of Social Bias

My father left Jamaica and came to England in 1962 on a Spanish ship called ‘The Big Owner’, the ship docked in Southampton, and in a matter of hours my father was in the back of van on the way to Bristol, where he was met by his two brothers. This was the era of cramped housing and notorious slum landlords, this was before ‘foreigners’ could freely enter public buildings such as banks, pubs, and shops, this was the era where racial bias was an acceptable criteria in the work place, this was the era of Teddy-boys, this was the era where physical assault and verbal abuse was the norm.

Tension between minorities evident on a daily basis

Maybe this is one of the reasons why I was sickened to see the video of a black British woman, who was quite possibly of Caribbean heritage abusing a pregnant Muslim woman on the bus in a multicultural area not so far from me. A few days later, another video emerged of a young man hurling abuse at a disabled Turkish man. I should not be that surprise, because despite living in an ethnically diverse area of London, on a daily basis I see contentious interactions between mainly migrant communities, but more specifically between ‘Black British people’ and people from a Muslim background.

LondonBusRantI am often astonished how the act of sitting on a bus, or waiting in a queue can get so volatile. This was summed up perfectly when one day I was standing in rather long queue at a cash point when an East African Muslim lady who was the first person in line at the cash point, could not find her card and continued searching for it despite the queue growing longer; out of nowhere a young ‘Black British man’ maybe in his mid 20s shouted out “You can’t come to England and be a problem, now you want to take my time.”

At first the lady did not respond, but after some members of the of the queue started showing solidarity towards the man and others huffed and puffed, she swore at him and the slanging match started. Thank goodness she was able to give as good as he got, and in the end she boldly walked away, but that does not disparage the fact that an everyday event escalated in a matter of minutes and by time the incident finished, they offended each other with terms like ‘bloody refugee’ and ‘fatherless child.’ Granted these terms were said in the heat of the moment, but on some level they are indicative of wider cultural perceptions.

A deeply rooted, self-inflamed anger

Back to the bus incident, however, in the first few seconds of seeing the footage, to my shame, I thought what did the pregnant Muslim woman do or say to get the other woman so enraged, but before the first minute was over it was clear to see that the pregnant Muslim woman probably could not even speak English and even if she could, whatever issues the abusive lady had, were deeply rooted within herself, and the anger that she unleashed was self inflamed.

Not that it needs to be said, but for the sake of clarity, what happened was totally wrong, and as the abusive woman has handed herself to the police, she will no doubt see the repercussion of her wrong doings.

The antagonist is our sister in humanity

Someone asked me if it is difficult for me to see the wrongs of the ‘black woman’ being black myself, I was mystified by the logic because the school of thought that I am from is that we have to be self analytical, we have to be able to critique ourselves, our actions and inactions in order to develop and grow in a healthy way. Although it may be shocking to some, I see the antagonist as my sister, my sister in humanity and my sister in ethnicity, so as my sister I want better for her, I want her to learn that her actions are not the type of action that can be tolerated in this society, and want her to know that in short, her attitude stinks.

Descendants of immigrants become aggressors to new immigrants

Being that she is only a little older than me, the likelihood is, like me she is a second generation immigrant to this country; the hardships that my father and many others like him endured during the Windrush era and the lasting consequences of their efforts would absolutely be in vain if 50 years down the line we as their children become the aggressors to immigrants who too are seeking a better life.

Racist, derogatory responses on Muslim social media

Another interesting thing this incident bought up, which sickens me equally if not more, is the sheer amount of racism that is festering deep in the crevice of some believing people’s hearts. This is not a new phenomena, many people have been speaking about it for years, and have been told “it’s dying out”, “it’s not really racism, it’s just cultural differences”, “you have an inferiority complex”, “you are causing divisions in the Ummah” or “oh you are one of those black Muslims.”

Poetic Pilgrimage with Tanya Muneera Williams (right) and Sukina Douglas (left)

Poetic Pilgrimage with Tanya Muneera Williams (right) and Sukina Douglas (left)

But after seeing the comments to the video of the bus incident, no one can deny the sickness that in many cases is not hidden that deep beneath the surface. Some of the comments used terms like “Nigger”, which was justified by someone else saying it was only used for the ‘black women’ in question not anyone else. Another person actually said “had it not been for Islam you would all be slaves,” in reference to those from the African diaspora.

No place for racism

I feel foolish having to point out the obvious, but there is no place for racism in Islam. The conversion experience of Malcolm X attracted many converts from the African Disaspora to the Deen – particularly his experience of men of all colour treating each other equally. For many, part of the conversion process is trying to separate seemingly racist encounters with people of Muslim backgrounds, from the words of God and the practices of the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, and it was his practice to rid racism wherever he saw it. So this should be our Sunnah, up there with men wearing beards, or fasting on a Monday and Thursday.

If the words “An Arab has no superiority over a non Arab nor a non Arab has any superiority over an Arab” and “A white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action” is not enough for us, then let us then reflect on the actions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and how he welcomed black people into his family in the case of his adopted son Zaid b Harithah, or how he honoured and respected his Black mother by breast milk, Barakah Bint Tha’labah. We can also reflect on how Allah has honoured Bilal by allowing our Rasool, peace be upon him, to hear Bilal’s footsteps and call to prayer ahead of him in the heavens.

Allah has said in Quran 49:13 “O Mankind, We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.”

Racism is not befitting to a believer, and as the reality of Islamophobia has dawned on us and we are now making strategies to tackle it, so should the reality of racism dawn on us so we can make strategies to tackle it and fulfil a sunnah.

The community’s lack of acknowledgement

These are comments and attitudes that don’t belong in Islam, and are not befitting for those who believe in the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). It is not so much the racism that bothers me, it is our community’s lack of acknowledgement of it, which will naturally lead to inactivity toward changing it, which leaves me thinking how are we as a Muslim community in Britain going to develop and grow in a healthy way?

A polarised public discourse

Every day, “Muslim terrorist”, “sex grooming gangs”, “refugees”, “halal meat”, “Shariah law”, “Islamic State”, and whatever other negative connotations that can be conjured up are fed to us through the media. We are in the era of political parties increasingly leaning towards the right, the era of comments like “multiculturalism has failed” and “Muslims are not integrating”. Coupled with tensions between communities means that unfortunately, appalling incidents like the one we witnessed on the bus are liable to be on the increase before they decrease. A perfect example of this is another clip which recently came out, which shows a mix heritage young man acting aggressively towards an older Turkish man, again on a London bus. After his tirade, the perpetrator threw the elderly man’s zimmerframe off the bus. The direct physical threat was made clear and explicit. What was sad to see is in both this clip and the one involving the pregnant Muslim woman is that no one on either bus intervened.

Injustice to ourselves

As Muslims we keep faith, point out injustices and continue to showcase the beauty of our path, but what maybe a greater task is looking at our own short comings, pointing out when we have done an injustice to ourselves, for the sake of preserving this beautiful path.

My prayers are with the pregnant sister who was the victim of the attack, may you give birth to an awliya. My prayers are with us all.

By Tanya Muneera Williams

Tanya Muneera Williams or Muneera Pilgrim, is a Bristol born, London based, rapper, poet and cultural commentator. She is one half of the hip-hop and spoken word duo Poetic Pilgrimage. She facilitates workshops, gives seminars and performs around England and Europe and has toured South Africa, Morocco and The United States. Muneera has facilitated a series of participant led, poetry performance courses in Sudan where she lived as a teacher and performer, she conducts engagement workshops in schools and performs and hosts around England. She is currently studying for her MA in Islamic studies where she is focusing on the Caribbean contribution to Islam, migration, gender and race. Using her talent, skills and passion Muneera colourfully etches a space of dialogue that can be accessed regardless of cultural, religious or gender boundaries. Rooted in spirituality, she uses communication for edification and change.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Our Condition Today: the Disease and the Remedy
Advice from Habib ‘Umar: How to defend the Prophet
Hadiths on the “Bad Traits” of Black People
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together
Race To The Top
Would it Be Wrong To Avoid Interracial Marriages For Cultural Considerations?
Dealing With Those Who Harass Muslims
“Sound societies come from sound hearts”
Allah’s Mercy and the Mercy Showed by People

Ramadan, Rumi, and Love By Zeshan Zafar

It is part of life to have a difference of opinion with various individuals or groups of people. Terry Tempest Williams, in one of her books, states, “Most of all, difference of opinions are opportunities of learning.”

However, generally speaking, on many occasions, when this occurs, if one doesn’t manage it well or lacks comportment, the result can turn into a feeling of animosity. Furthermore, when uncontrolled, it can turn into hatred, a spiritual disease that sits at the core of one’s heart, dictating and defining one’s behaviour unbeknown to oneself.

When such hatred sets into our way of life, individuals choose to deal with it in a variety of ways. Some try to mask the emotion or seek validation for that hatred; others seek revenge or violent harm with devastating consequences to those they may have loved unconditionally at one time. We also see the modern phenomenon of social media being used to spread this hatred, unfairly sowing the seeds of doubts that stick and label many unfortunate individuals with “justified” gossip becoming an accepted discussion on each of our tables.

Such behaviour has unfortunately broken down many marriages, families, friendships, communities, business partners, etc. as this trait continues to become rampant to the point that we no longer discern the goodness and sacrifices that many still work towards in our respective communities, regardless of our opinions. Instead, we tend to sideline them and bad mouth them, thinking we are safe to share statements against people in the confines of our close circles, yet at the same time we do not realise the terrible human beings we are all becoming through the mismanagement of this emotion.

One of my teachers once said in one of his lectures, “Do not have a crablike mentality whereby when crabs are put in a bucket together, each one tries to escape by pulling the other one down, just to escape themselves, leading to collective demise.” This is exactly what hatred is doing to the development and growth of our communities in times when our real challenges are elsewhere and which we should all really be focusing our energies on. Unfortunately, we cry out emotional slogans such as “Muslim Unity” without realising that little can be changed without changing oneself.

One of the most notable scholars and thinkers of Islam, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, recently shared a profound insight from the Qur’an that states, “Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” He stated that our community is besot by changing the world whilst forgetting the simple hard rule of changing oneself, and that the role of changing the condition of people as a collective is the role of God. So if we all focused on changing ourselves first, ridding ourselves of our hatred for one another and purifying our own hearts, God will take care of the rest.

The question arises, how can we move beyond this hatred and begin to remove this infection so that goodness can be achieved in the short time we tread on this earth, with the invaluable gift we have been given of life?

Many have their own mechanisms of dealing with this. Recently, whilst on a journey to the States, a dear friend of mine gave me valuable and practical advice on a way to manage such tendencies, by making a conscientious and sincere effort to reach out to individuals you feel you have wronged, or who you feel wronged you, or who seem distant to you. He suggested making a prayer for them to rid your heart of antagonistic presumptions by reaching out to them on a weekly basis, until all that is contained or constricts your heart disappears until you only have mahabba (love) for that person.

The Muslim community as a whole is known to be a giving community, especially when it comes to charity and hospitality, and they continue to hold tight to the noble virtues that are fast disappearing in a globalised world. Yet charity as described by our Prophet (peace be upon him) is also through actions and good deeds: hence being altruistic through your generosity, kindness, compassion, and time are equally important. Letting go of the self is important to move away at an individual level, especially in a world where the “self” has become a dictator over our natural inclination of moderation. Many argue over the ownership of ideas and whether certain ideas are relevant and can work. The best advice I was given was to let people learn from their mistakes but to not cause further rift that our communities are regularly torn by. Instead, you must choose the incision point that you feel can best help and support individuals that you perhaps disagree with, as our commonalities are far greater than our differences.

For those who feel they do not need help from someone sincerely trying to offer their support or help, remember even if such advice is not appropriate or compatible with your aims, never ignore it. You will always find a time when such advice can be found to be valuable at a different stage of your life or applicable to a different situation.

This is what distinguishes people of wisdom, such as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who represents someone that keeps love at the centre of how he lives (may Allah grant him good health and a long life), through his acts of consistency. He epitomises renewal in his scholarship, but, more importantly, through his self-discipline and observance, he embodies renewal in his character. He is someone who knows not of hatred. He is someone who cannot but love and be objective to those who may be fierce critics or who oppose him or his approach. What struck me in my observances of the Shaykh is that despite any animosity shown to him, he always takes the time to listen and offer his help as he would to those who are amongst his family. This is evident in the Shaykh’s writings and rulings that speak with kindness, graciousness, and nobility of the other. I am sure everyone can relate to an individual out there who embodies such prophetic characteristics, and if you can, do not be ashamed to acknowledge your shortfalls before making that effort of change required by those who inspire you.

As Ramadan makes its yearly entrance into our homes, lives, and hearts, this is what I will be aiming to strive for, being mindful and realistic that things do not happen over night. I hope others can have mercy with me and forgive me for any wrongdoing. Imam Shafi’i famously said, “Be hard on yourself and easy on others,” noting that our God is a God that is all-merciful and all-forgiving; these are utterances that we grow up on and repeat daily.

So if your heart has flipped once, let it flip repeatedly until you have nothing but love for those who are around you. This can be achieved only by empathising. Ramadan Kareem. I will leave you with the words of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Zeshan Zafar is the Director of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and is currently based in Abu Dhabi.

Taken from Healing Hearts