‘An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood’.
1400 years after Muhammad delivered this sermon, how much closer is the Ummah to delivering upon the message? From what I can see, Muslims are in a bad shape.
I reverted 20 years ago; my Islamic journey has been long and winding. When I pray, I beg Allah for mercy because of the life I had before my awakening, but also for those moments when I fall into old habits. The only Jihad* that interests me is waking for early morning Fajr prayer.
If we cannot overcome personal obstacles then perhaps we should hold back from trying to change the world, because the fundamental actions will not be right and exact even if coming from a place of genuine intent. Imagine trying to build a great house on a weak foundation.
I come across Muslims whose actions cause harm to the Ummah but are recognised as ‘proper’ Muslims because of their ethnic background. There are 1.7 billion Muslims across the world, but some are still viewed as more Muslim than others. Unfortunately, I have seen many black converts/reverts in their hunger to be accepted try to ‘out Arab’ the Arabs; become more Asian; adopt dress code and traditions from other cultures while entirely rejecting their own.
Perhaps we should acknowledge the history and struggles of the past in order to open hearts and minds. Why did Allah choose Bilal? Despised and rejected by Arabs for not renouncing Islam, it is the words of a black man-a former slave- that calls the faithful to prayer. On a business trip to Barbados, I visited the oldest slave burial ground on the island- going back 350 years- and was very surprised when the tour guide said: ‘ALL of the 500 unearthed bodies were buried facing east due to their Islamic traditions.’ My ancestors in Barbados were originally practicing Islam hundreds of years before Christianity!
Meanwhile, 1000 miles across the Caribbean Sea in Jamaica, Maroon Town was established by former slaves who fought the British to a standstill. The greeting amongst these newly freed people was ‘A salaam alaikum! To ignore black Muslims from the west is ignorant, dangerous and distinctly unislamic when measured against the Prophet’s final message. And in 2018, we witness the irony of western backed Arabs killing, torturing and enslaving black Africans in Libya while shouting ‘Allah Akbar!’
Spreading the word of Islam came through the children of former slaves who were mainly students of Elijah Muhammad (the first scholar I read to acknowledge the Islamic heritage of blacks in the west). The NOI proclaimed us Muslims when Asian and Arab shopkeepers were happily selling us alcohol, cigarettes and pork. And the majority of viewed us as consumers who loved partying, we didn’t function as real people.
Recently, I contacted a well known, nationally respected, Islamic charity that does great work helping vulnerable Muslims. However, their websites Nationality and Ethnicity monitoring criteria was disheartening, but revealing; Muslims of Caribbean origin were not listed even though there are thousands of us in the UK. We are classified under ‘others’ category, but it is reassuring to know their criteria mentions Lithuanian and Polish Muslims. I am not an ‘other’!
But, this attitude probably explains how a Jamaican Muslim friend recently married a divorced Bengali sister and her brothers started threatening their new brother in law. The situation could’ve gotten messy but a group of West Indian Muslims intervened, by warning the brothers if anything happens to the newlywed couple- even a single hair out of place- there will be serious repercussions: ‘If you cannot be civil to them, simply leave them alone.’
Would this situation have happened if the new husband was a white Polish Muslim? Think about it. We can guess, but only Allah knows.
*Non-muslim readers ‘jihad’ means struggle- it does not mean overthrowing the government!