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How Do I Deal With My Racist Spouse?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: Our children go to public school, where they have friends of all ethnicities. My husband, an immigrant himself, is blatantly racist. He often tells our daughters not to trust or befriend African Americans, Hispanics, etc. and forbids me to tell them otherwise.

How do I confront his racist views?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah grant you an easy opening in your dilemma, and soften your husband’s heart.

Racist spouse

As with any disagreement in marriage, use your discretion, wisdom, and tact. Racist people don’t like to be told they are racist. It looks like your head-on approach is not working. Try a different strategy. Be the example to your daughters and your husband, by being kind and just to people from all backgrounds. Make dua that Allah softens his heart.

Immigration

Have you asked your husband why he holds such strong views about race? Immigration to the West can be a traumatic experience for many. Many immigrants have been treated badly, and as a result, develop a very defensive mentality in order to protect themselves.

Obedience

It sounds like your husband has a very patriarchal, cultural understanding of the role of the wife. This is all too common, unfortunately, due to lack of authentic Islamic education.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) treated his wives with respect and compassion. They were all strong, intelligent and capable women. Please enrol in Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life when registration re-opens, to help you understand the role of the husband and wife in a successful Islamic marriage. It would be ideal if your husband could do this course too. Often, when husbands lack a convincing argument for an unreasonable and unislamic stance, they resort to saying “A wife must obey.”

Daughters

Is it possible to come to a compromise with your husband when it comes to your children? If he does not want them to go to anyone’s house, can their friends come to yours? Reassure him that you will be present in the home when their friends visit, and if need be, he can be at home too. He sounds afraid of losing control, and as a result, he is exerting too much of it. Take the time and effort to reason with him, and remember that Allah is with the patient.

Looking forward

Keep up the conversation about race and difference with your daughters. Teach them how kindness to all ethnicities is pleasing to Allah. Be the example for them to look up to. InshaAllah over time, your husband’s attitudes towards race will lean towards that which pleases Allah. Never lose hope in Allah’s ability to soften hearts.

I pray that Allah softens his heart, grants you patience, and helps you guide your daughters to friendships which please Allah.

Please refer to the following links:

Race to the Top – Imam Zaid Shakir
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Afraid to get groceries? Ustadha Anse Tamara Gray on being a Muslim woman in today’s turbulent climate

Each time a high profile act of violence is committed by a Muslim or in the name of Islam, the fear of reprisal attacks rises acutely in Muslim communities. It has become almost par for the course, and the statistics prove the threat is real. Often, women who are visibly Muslim find themselves the primary soft target. Ustadha Anse Tamara Gray has been inundated with concerned messages from many who are directly and indirectly affected. From being afraid to leave the home to do basic, every day errands to fearing for their lives – this has become the sad reality for many. Ustadha Anse has some much needed advice.

Resources for seekers:

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

Our Condition Today: the Disease and the Remedy – Habib Ali al-Jifri

Reposted, with thanks via Habib Ali’s website here.
The Root Diseases of the Ummah, their effects and their remedies according to Prophetic Teachings
We live in a time of struggle. Things happen fast and one event quickly follows another. This leads to an imbalance, impairs people’s judgement and clouds their vision. People are in dire need of some quiet time in which to stop and reflect. They may then attain a moment of truthfulness and Allah will in turn bless him with some insight.
Away from the noise and the disputes, someone who reflects will find that the calamities of the Arab world can be attributed to three diseases.
1. Sectarianism (For example: Sunni versus Shia, Christian versus Muslim)
The roots of this disease lie in what our the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ called: “The disease of nations.” He said: “The disease of previous nations has crept up upon you: envy and hatred. Truly, hatred is a razor: it shaves away not a person’s hair, but their religion.”
The remedy lies in spreading peace and love, as mentioned at the end of the same hadith: “I swear by the One in Whose hand my soul lies, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not inform you of something which enables you to attain this? Spread peace among yourselves.” (Narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Abu Ya’la)
2. Racism (Arab versus Persian, Kurd versus Turk, white versus black)
The roots of this disease lie in what the Prophet ﷺ called: “The rallying cry of the Age of Ignorance.” A dispute took place between some of the Emigrants (Muhajirun) and the Helpers (Ansar) and each side called for support from their respective group. Another dispute took place between members the Aws and the Khazraj, the two tribes which made up the Helpers and each side called for support from their respective tribe. The Prophet said ﷺ: “Is this the rallying cry of the Age of Ignorance while I am amongst you? Leave this, for it is repulsive!” (Bukhari)
Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I once traded insults with a man. I insulted him by mentioning his mother, who was not an Arab. He complained about this to the Messenger of Allah. He said ﷺ: ‘O Abu Dharr, you are someone who still possesses some of the qualities of the Age of Ignorance!’” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Imam Ibn Hajr and Imam al-Nawawi mention that the man who Abu Dharr insulted was the Companion Bilal bin Rabah. His mother’s name was Hamamah and she was Nubian.
The remedy is in making God-consciousness (taqwa) the criterion in judging a person’s merit. The Prophet ﷺ said: “An Arab only has merit over a non-Arab through taqwa.” (Grading: sahih. Found in Ahmad and others)
3. The relentless pursuit of worldly things (i.e. wealth, power, dominance over others)
The roots of this lie in what our Master ﷺ called feebleness (wahn). He said: “Allah will surely cast feebleness into your hearts.” Someone asked: “What is feebleness?” “Love of worldly things and hatred of death,” he replied. (Grading: sahib. Found in Abu Dawud)
The Prophet ﷺ also said: “This material world is sweet and lush and Allah is placing you in it to see how you act. So beware of the material world.” (Muslim)
The Prophet ﷺ said: “I swear by Allah that I do not fear that you will commit polytheism after I have gone. I fear rather that you will compete over it [the material world].” (Bukhari)
The Prophet ﷺ also said: “I swear by Allah that I do not fear poverty for you. I fear rather that the material world will be opened up to you as it was opened up to those before you and that you compete over it as they competed over it and it destroys you as it destroyed them.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ warned us about what these sicknesses will lead to:
1. Tribulations
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Rush to perform good works before tribulations come like part of a dark night. A man will be a believer in the morning and become a disbeliever by the evening or he will be a believer in the evening and will become a disbeliever by the morning. He will sell his religion for some small worldly gain.” (Muslim)
2. Widespread killing
The Prophet ﷺ said: “I swear by the One in Whose hand my soul lies, the world will not end before people experience a time in which the killer will not know why he killed and the person killed will not know why he was killed.” Someone asked: “How will that be?” He said: “There will be killing: both the killer and the person killed will end up in the Fire.” (Muslim)
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Just before the last hour there will be killing. You will not be killing polytheists but rather you will be killing each other, to the point where a man will kill his neighbour, his brother, his uncle or his cousin.” The companions asked: “Will we still possess our intellects at that time?” He said: “The intellects of the people of that time will be removed. All that will remain will be the dregs of society. Most of them will believe that they are fighting for a cause but in reality have no cause [to fight for].” (Grading: sahih, in Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, Ibn Abi-Shayba)
3. Conspiring of Others against Muslims
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Other nations will soon summon one another to attack you just as people invite others to share their dish.” Someone asked: “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied: “No, you will be numerous at that time, but you will be like particles of waste that are seen upon a torrent. Allah will remove fear of you from the hearts of your enemy and cast feebleness into your hearts.” Someone asked: “What is feebleness, O Messenger of Allah?” “Love of worldly things and hatred of death,” he replied. (Grading: sahih, in Abu Dawud)
Analysis
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ informed us that the roots of these calamities lie in diseases in the souls of individuals. The severe consequences of these diseases are like branches which spring forth from these roots. May Allah cure the Ummah of these diseases.
Allah Himself alludes to this in the Qur’an in Surat al-Shams. Firstly, He swears by things which have an effect upon our cosmos: the sun, the moon, the day, the night, the heavens and the earth, then He swears by the human soul as if to say that this too is one of the forces that has an influence in our lives. In the response to these oaths ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are made dependent upon how man deals with his own soul. Allah says: Truly he who purifies it, succeeds, and he who corrupts it, fails.
The Quranic remedy and solution to these calamities is purification of the soul. What we need today is the courage to confront this reality. We must not allow our lower selves which command us to commit evil to make light of this reality. We must not let ourselves flee from confronting it under the pretext of being too preoccupied with solving the seemingly greater problems of the ummah.
May Allah implant taqwa in our souls and purify them; He is the best able to purify them and He is the soul’s Guardian and Master, the Possessor of Majesty and Generosity.

Nelson Mandela: A Reminder for Us All – Habib Ali Al-Jifri

habib_ali
Original article can be found here.
Of the many principles that Nelson Mandela stood for, his struggle against the apartheid regime was one, but it was not this that made him unique. In fact, Imam Abdullah Haron preceded him in this struggle in South Africa and died in prison after being tortured by the apartheid regime.
One of the things Mandela taught his people and the modern world was how the victor should forgive and pardon those who wronged and oppressed him. He showed how a leader can help his people surpass the difficulty of the past to build a common future.
Meanwhile, we as Muslims have forgotten the words of the Prophet, upon him be peace, to the disbelievers of Quraysh who had tormented him and his companions. He said to them when they were completely at his mercy: “Go forth, for you are free.” This was then a cause for them to enter Islam and take part in spreading the lofty values of the religion throughout the world.
Another great principle that Mandela stood for was global humanitarianism. He was not merely concerned with his own people. Rather, he experienced the pain of oppressed people throughout the world regardless of their race, colour, nationality or religion. He supported the Palestinian cause in the international community. He likened the struggle of the Palestinian people to the freedom struggle of black South Africans. The Elders organisation which he brought together issued a statement condemning the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Mandela described the attack on the ‘peace ship’ carrying aid to Gaza as completely inexcusable. He worked to resolve the conflict in Burundi which had led to a vast number of deaths and succeeded in bringing conflicting groups to an agreement. He vehemently opposed the American occupation of Iraq and lambasted U.S. President George W. Bush for his decision, even though in the same year the latter had awarded him the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. He accused Bush of “desiring to plunge the world into a new holocaust” and said that all that Bush wanted from Iraq was its oil. He said that the U.S. had committed more “unspeakable atrocities” across the world than any other nation, citing the atomic bombing of Japan.
Meanwhile, we have forgotten that the Prophet stood up when the funeral procession of a Jewish man passed. When they asked him why he was standing for a Jewish man, he replied: “Is it not a human soul?” We have also forgotten that he commended the ‘Alliance of the Virtuous’ (Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl), a pre-Islamic pact made to support the oppressed. He said that if he was invited to make a similar pact again he would do so.
470x400nelsonMandela fought against racism, which he regarded as something despicable. He did not only oppose white racial discrimination against blacks, but he taught blacks not to reciprocate by showing racism towards whites. He said: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
We have forgotten that the Prophet refused to consider people wronging us as a justification for showing aggression towards other people of the same race or religion. He did not use the treachery of the Jewish tribes of Banū Qaynuqā` and Banū al-Naḍīr and the Jews of Khaybar as a justification for showing aggression to every Jew living in al-Madīnah. In fact when he died his shield was pawned to a Jewish man in exchange for some food which he had bought from him. Neither did the Prophet refuse to have dealings with the man and nor did he regard it lawful to take the man’s property just because his co-religionists had wronged and betrayed Muslims.
Mandela realised that hatred and racism had been the cause of his 27-year imprisonment. He thus decided to make racism the enemy and not the people who had the misfortune of believing in and spreading racist beliefs. In other words, he declared war on the illness itself and not on those suffering from the illness. He said: “When I was released from prison I realised that if I did not leave my hatred behind me I would remain imprisoned.” He also said: “I knew that people expected me to harbour bitterness towards white people, but I had no hatred for them whatsoever. The hatred that I had for them gradually disappeared during my time in prison, but my hatred for the regime increased. I wanted the people of South Africa to know that I love even my enemies, while I hate the regime that created this enmity between us.”
We have forgotten that the Prophet warned us against hatred and called it ‘the disease of nations.’ He said: “The disease of previous nations has crept up upon you: envy and hatred. Truly, hatred is a razor: it shaves away not a person’s hair, but their religion.” Likewise we have forgotten the Prophet’s words: “Honour those who sever ties with you, give to those who withhold from giving to you, and pardon those who wrong you.”
Mandela realised the importance of having a sound heart, and that a person’s intellect alone is not capable of managing the affairs of this life if their heart is corrupt. In fact, if a person’s heart is corrupt, their intellect then becomes a cause of corruption on the earth. He said: “A sound intellect and a sound heart are always a great combination.”
We have forgotten that the Prophet said: “In the body is a lump of flesh. If it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt. It is the heart.”
The first house that Mandela entered after spending 27 years in prison was the house of his Muslim friend, Dullah Omar. Dullah Omar was Mandela’s comrade in the struggle and as a lawyer he advised and represented him. The fact that Mandela had attained fame and victory did not cause him to show arrogance to others based upon false religiosity.
We have forgotten that after his victory at the Battle of Badr, our the Prophet remembered Muṭ`im bin`Adī, a man who had not become Muslim but who had protected him from the nonbelievers on his return from al-Ṭā’if to Makkah. The Prophet said that had Muṭ`im still been alive and had he interceded with him on behalf of the nonbelievers who had been taken prisoner at Badr, he would have honoured him by setting them free. We have also forgotten that the Prophet’s poet, Ḥassān bin Thābit, wrote a poem eulogizing Muṭ`im upon his death.
Mandela fought against those who fought, killed, oppressed and racially discriminated against his people. He took the path of armed struggle when he was forced to do so. However, he did not make killing and bloodshed his methodology. He said clearly after his release from prison: “As long as apartheid is the case, the armed struggle will go on.” As soon as the regime accepted peaceful negotiations, he promised that fighting would stop. When this happened, he kept to his promise. He suppressed the inclination to take revenge and strongly spoke out against violence, saying: “If violence is not firmly and decisively rejected then any hope in progressing towards a new political system with remain shaky.”
We have forgotten that our Prophet rushed to accept the Treaty of al-Ḥudaybiyah, in spite of the unjust conditions contained in it. He accepted these conditions because he knew that if his adversaries from the Meccan Quraysh tribe honoured the treaty, the phase of violent conflict would end and a new phase would begin in which he would be able to peacefully call people to Islam. He firmly defended his position when some of his companions refused to accept the treaty.
We have also forgotten that our Prophet pardoned many of Islam’s most bitter and violent opponents. He had ordered for the worst of them to be put to death even if they sought amnesty by clinging on to the Kabah. However, as soon as he had taken Makkah and these individuals no longer had the opportunity to engage in bloodshed, he pardoned them. Ikrima, the son of Abū Jahl, was among those the Prophet pardoned. When he came to the Prophet wishing to enter Islam, the Prophet welcomed him. Furthermore, he forbade the Muslims from mentioning anything unpleasant about his father so as not to hurt his feelings. This was in spite of the fact that this father, Abū Jahl, was the most vehement of the Prophet’s enemies and the person who played the greatest role in spurring hostilities against the Muslims.
It was due to the aforementioned principles and others that the world respected Mandela and was affected by his life and death. Through embodying these values we can have a true role in benefitting the whole of mankind. Through them we can attain the pleasure of God and be a source of joy for His Prophet. Without these values we will have no value in this life and nor attain a high station in the next life. In closing, let us recall the words God says to His Prophet: “Yours is indeed a tremendous character.”
A shorter version of this article appeared in The National on 12 December. Click here for the link

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

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

“The fight against racism is not over; we must redouble our efforts.”

As the level of racially-charged exclusionary politics grows throughout the Western world, Muslims will have to contribute to the developing discourse to counter this problem. Doing so will require a plunge into the murky waters of racial politics. We should not shy away from the challenge. We readily acknowledge that Islam opposes all forms of racism and bigotry. However, sometimes we deny the need for any involvement in a racially defined political arena fearing that by involving ourselves on such a basis, we are somehow implicitly legitimising racial distinctions.

Racial and ethnic distinctions are real, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. One of the greatest factors working to perpetuate the negative manifestations of such distinctions lies in a failure to acknowledge their existence. By failing to acknowledge the existence of a problem, we are robbed of any realistic basis to help eradicate it.

Such denial was not the way of our Prophet. He acknowledged the reality of racial prejudice and took concrete steps to eliminate it. For example, a companion insulted Bilal, one of the first appointed muezzins (callers to prayer), by derisively referring to him as the “son of a black woman.” The Prophet rebuked that companion by reminding him that his attitude displayed the influences of pre-Islamic incivility.

The Prophet took concrete measures to insure that social practices that displayed racist attitudes were broken down by public policy. One of the largely unmentioned examples is his active work to undermine the stigma that many aristocratic Arabs in his time attached to marrying black men: he ordered several Arab families to allow the marriage of their daughters to black companions.

Zayd ibn Haritha, the beloved companion, is described by Ibn Jawzi in his work Tanwir al-Ghabash, as being of very dark complexion. The Prophet ordered the family of Zaynab bint Jahsh to marry her to Zayd. Perhaps Zayd’s dark complexion was one of the reasons for the well-known resistance of Zaynab’s family to the marriage. Another marriage of this type involved Julaybib, a black companion. The Prophet asked an Ansar family to marry their daughter to Julaybib. The mother vehemently refused. However, the daughter, owing to her piety insisted that the marriage proceed. The couple would go on to enjoy a happy and blessed union.

An especially moving story, in this regard, involved a companion known as S’ad al-Aswad. Sa’d was a black man of pure Arab lineage from Bani Sulaym. He came to the Prophet and asked him if his dark complexion would prevent him from entering Paradise. The Prophet responded that it would not, as long as he was mindful of his Lord and believed in Him. Sa’d immediately accepted Islam. Sa’d later complained to the Prophet that he had searched persistently for a wife, but had been rejected because of his dark complexion. The Prophet sent Sa’d to marry the daughter of ‘Amr bin Wahhab, a recent convert from Bani Thaqif who retained many pre-Islamic prejudices.

Sa’d went to ‘Amr’s door and informed him that the Prophet asked that he marry his daughter to him. ‘Amr flatly refused. His daughter, overhearing the conversation between her father and the stranger, interceded telling her father to relent lest he be disgraced by Revelation. ‘Amr went to the Prophet and was strongly rebuked for refusing Sa’d. Hearing this, ‘Amr promptly married his daughter to him.

Shortly after, as Sa’d was in the market purchasing provisions for his new wife, he heard a caller rallying the faithful for a military campaign. He decided to first answer this call and purchased arms and a steed to set out for the battlefield, where he fought valiantly until he was slain. Learning of his death, the Prophet went to his body and placed his head in his lap until his grave was prepared. He then ordered that his arms and mount be sent to his wife’s family.

As we can see from these brief examples, the blessed Prophet acknowledged race and its implications in society. He then took steps to reform society to be less accommodating to racially-based prejudices and attitudes. This must be part of our duty as citizens in the West. We cannot sit silently aside as political forces organise themselves along racial lines and attempt to implement policies that are essentially racist, even though many of them are framed in anti-Muslim language. Those policies will have devastating consequences not only for Muslims, but for all racial and ethnic minorities. For example, here in the US, the most draconian measures of the Patriot Act have been enacted to ostensibly fight “Muslim” terrorism. However, it is the Latin American community that has suffered most severely as a result of the arbitrary arrests, summary detentions and deportations that those policies facilitate.

At a deeper level, the rise in racist politics and policies in Western democracies not only threaten racial minorities, it threatens the very nature of our countries. A monumental and heroic struggle has been waged in the West to create open societies that extend civil and human rights to all. This struggle was especially significant in the US which has had large numbers of non-white people among its population since its inception – the native Indians and the imported African slaves.

Because of that struggle, we have moved closer to societies – to paraphrase the words of the great American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. – where people are judged based on the content of their character and not on the colour of their skin.

The full realisation of Dr King’s dream is now threatened. Those voices that continue to advocate the politics of inclusion are drowned out by those calling for the politics of exclusion. Those voices calling for co-operation and understanding are marginalised by the advocates of conflict and obscurantism.

Muslims must become a part of this raging discourse. We have to break free from the chains many of us have imposed on ourselves through self-censorship and a lack of self-confidence. When we censor ourselves, we assume that if we remain silent all of the controversies currently involving Islam and Muslims will simply go away. They will not. When we lack confidence in ourselves we assume we have nothing meaningful to contribute to the conversation. There is indeed much we can contribute as individuals and as
a community.

Ultimately, and ironically, in light of the growing negativity surrounding Islam and Muslims here in the West, Islam can help to create a social consciousness that works against a re-entrenchment of racist or white supremacist politics. The power of Islam to create such a social consciousness was grasped by Malcolm X, during his Pilgrimage to Makkah. From there he penned the following words: “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blonde, and whose skins were the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the ‘white’ from their minds, the ‘white’ from their behaviour, and the ‘white’ from their attitude. I could see from this that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in colour.”

This optimism that society could be reformed, which Islam kindled in Malcolm X, can be contrasted to the pessimism that seized Dr King after a lifetime of struggle in the arena of civil rights. He would conclude shortly before his assassination, “Yet the largest portion of white America is still poisoned by racism, which is as native to our soil as pine trees, sagebrush, and buffalo grass.”

Let us follow the lead of Malcolm X. Let us believe that Islam can indeed help to repulse the rising racism that threatens the future of these western lands most of us call home. Let us then work to translate that belief into effective action. Let us rid our own lives of any vestiges of racialised thinking and racist actions. Let us open our hearts to our neighbours and fellow citizens who may be of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Let us join or work to help build coalitions that work towards the advancement of ideals that foster peace, reconciliation and harmony in our societies. Now is our time. Let us seize it!

Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2010 edition of EMEL Magazine: http://www.emel.com/article?id=87&a_id=2152

Race to the Top – Imam Zaid Shakir

Race to the Top – Imam Zaid Shakir – Emel Magazine

Subscribe to Emel Magazine’s dynamic content

The fight against racism is not over; we must redouble our efforts.

As the level of racially-charged exclusionary politics grows throughout the Western world, Muslims will have to contribute to the developing discourse to counter this problem. Doing so will require a plunge into the murky waters of racial politics. We should not shy away from the challenge. We readily acknowledge that Islam opposes all forms of racism and bigotry. However, sometimes we deny the need for any involvement in a racially defined political arena fearing that by involving ourselves on such a basis, we are somehow implicitly legitimising racial distinctions.

Racial and ethnic distinctions are real, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. One of the greatest factors working to perpetuate the negative manifestations of such distinctions lies in a failure to acknowledge their existence. By failing to acknowledge the existence of a problem, we are robbed of any realistic basis to help eradicate it.

Such denial was not the way of our Prophet. He acknowledged the reality of racial prejudice and took concrete steps to eliminate it. For example, a companion insulted Bilal, one of the first appointed muezzins (callers to prayer), by derisively referring to him as the “son of a black woman.” The Prophet rebuked that companion by reminding him that his attitude displayed the influences of pre-Islamic incivility.

The Prophet took concrete measures to insure that social practices that displayed racist attitudes were broken down by public policy. One of the largely unmentioned examples is his active work to undermine the stigma that many aristocratic Arabs in his time attached to marrying black men: he ordered several Arab families to allow the marriage of their daughters to black companions.

Zayd ibn Haritha, the beloved companion, is described by Ibn Jawzi in his work Tanwir al-Ghabash, as being of very dark complexion. The Prophet ordered the family of Zaynab bint Jahsh to marry her to Zayd. Perhaps Zayd’s dark complexion was one of the reasons for the well-known resistance of Zaynab’s family to the marriage. Another marriage of this type involved Julaybib, a black companion. The Prophet asked an Ansar family to marry their daughter to Julaybib. The mother vehemently refused. However, the daughter, owing to her piety insisted that the marriage proceed. The couple would go on to enjoy a happy and blessed union.

An especially moving story, in this regard, involved a companion known as S’ad al-Aswad. Sa’d was a black man of pure Arab lineage from Bani Sulaym. He came to the Prophet and asked him if his dark complexion would prevent him from entering Paradise. The Prophet responded that it would not, as long as he was mindful of his Lord and believed in Him. Sa’d immediately accepted Islam. Sa’d later complained to the Prophet that he had searched persistently for a wife, but had been rejected because of his dark complexion. The Prophet sent Sa’d to marry the daughter of ‘Amr bin Wahhab, a recent convert from Bani Thaqif who retained many pre-Islamic prejudices.

Sa’d went to ‘Amr’s door and informed him that the Prophet asked that he marry his daughter to him. ‘Amr flatly refused. His daughter, overhearing the conversation between her father and the stranger, interceded telling her father to relent lest he be disgraced by Revelation. ‘Amr went to the Prophet and was strongly rebuked for refusing Sa’d. Hearing this, ‘Amr promptly married his daughter to him.

Shortly after, as Sa’d was in the market purchasing provisions for his new wife, he heard a caller rallying the faithful for a military campaign. He decided to first answer this call and purchased arms and a steed to set out for the battlefield, where he fought valiantly until he was slain. Learning of his death, the Prophet went to his body and placed his head in his lap until his grave was prepared. He then ordered that his arms and mount be sent to his wife’s family.

As we can see from these brief examples, the blessed Prophet acknowledged race and its implications in society. He then took steps to reform society to be less accommodating to racially-based prejudices and attitudes. This must be part of our duty as citizens in the West. We cannot sit silently aside as political forces organise themselves along racial lines and attempt to implement policies that are essentially racist, even though many of them are framed in anti-Muslim language. Those policies will have devastating consequences not only for Muslims, but for all racial and ethnic minorities. For example, here in the US, the most draconian measures of the Patriot Act have been enacted to ostensibly fight “Muslim” terrorism. However, it is the Latin American community that has suffered most severely as a result of the arbitrary arrests, summary detentions and deportations that those policies facilitate.

At a deeper level, the rise in racist politics and policies in Western democracies not only threaten racial minorities, it threatens the very nature of our countries. A monumental and heroic struggle has been waged in the West to create open societies that extend civil and human rights to all. This struggle was especially significant in the US which has had large numbers of non-white people among its population since its inception – the native Indians and the imported African slaves.

Because of that struggle, we have moved closer to societies – to paraphrase the words of the great American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. – where people are judged based on the content of their character and not on the colour of their skin.

The full realisation of Dr King’s dream is now threatened. Those voices that continue to advocate the politics of inclusion are drowned out by those calling for the politics of exclusion. Those voices calling for co-operation and understanding are marginalised by the advocates of conflict and obscurantism.

Muslims must become a part of this raging discourse. We have to break free from the chains many of us have imposed on ourselves through self-censorship and a lack of self-confidence. When we censor ourselves, we assume that if we remain silent all of the controversies currently involving Islam and Muslims will simply go away. They will not. When we lack confidence in ourselves we assume we have nothing meaningful to contribute to the conversation. There is indeed much we can contribute as individuals and as
a community.

Ultimately, and ironically, in light of the growing negativity surrounding Islam and Muslims here in the West, Islam can help to create a social consciousness that works against a re-entrenchment of racist or white supremacist politics. The power of Islam to create such a social consciousness was grasped by Malcolm X, during his Pilgrimage to Makkah. From there he penned the following words: “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blonde, and whose skins were the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the ‘white’ from their minds, the ‘white’ from their behaviour, and the ‘white’ from their attitude. I could see from this that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in colour.”

This optimism that society could be reformed, which Islam kindled in Malcolm X, can be contrasted to the pessimism that seized Dr King after a lifetime of struggle in the arena of civil rights. He would conclude shortly before his assassination, “Yet the largest portion of white America is still poisoned by racism, which is as native to our soil as pine trees, sagebrush, and buffalo grass.”

Let us follow the lead of Malcolm X. Let us believe that Islam can indeed help to repulse the rising racism that threatens the future of these western lands most of us call home. Let us then work to translate that belief into effective action. Let us rid our own lives of any vestiges of racialised thinking and racist actions. Let us open our hearts to our neighbours and fellow citizens who may be of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Let us join or work to help build coalitions that work towards the advancement of ideals that foster peace, reconciliation and harmony in our societies. Now is our time. Let us seize it!