Tag Archives: Black

Abdullah bin Hamid Ali – How Islamic is Critical Race Theory?

https://lamppostedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/how-Islamic_critical_race_theory.pdf

Critiquing ideologies is often mired by oversimplification. And, such critiques, likewise, result in the terms under scrutiny being stigmatized along with their advocates. This applies to ideological targets like Marxism, socialism, feminism, and critical race theory. Whenever one wants to make short work of another’s perspective, all one needs to do is scream, “Marxist”, “Feminist,” or “Critical Race Theorist.”

The problem with ad hominem aspersions is that these ideologies contain ideas, which conform with the values of their audiences. Had those ideas not been present, the ideologies would not be attractive. Take, for instance, the fact that feminism, especially in its earliest waves, promoted women’s agency, self-determination, suffrage, and the right to own and earn wealth. There’s no fundamental or valid reason to believe that Islam is opposed to such aims. So, it makes sense that many Muslim women, unwittingly, refer to themselves as feminists. One, however, must take care not to assume that such a label sufficiently summarizes the mission of the Prophet Muhammad in light of his embrace of the betterment and social well-being of women. Such characterizations are a danger, which could lead one to blasphemy.

One must, also, remain skeptical of the putatively inherent and universal applicability of such overarching ideologies since one can mistake the forest for the trees, considering that their epistemic foundations often clash with Islam’s moral vision and truths. Like other egalitarian ideologies, critical race theory has its own metaphorical wheat and chaff. And, there seems to be a growing interest in CRT among Muslims in activist circles. Many have adopted its assumptions unwittingly, completely oblivious to what guides the decisions of their so-called political “allies.”

For these reasons, I’ve decided to pen together a few words that will, hopefully, provide a
shimmer of guidance on this topic.  Critical race theory (CRT) is an analytical approach employed by certain activist scholars, such as CRT’s intellectual father, Derrick Bell, professor of law at New York University. CRT theorizing started during the mid 1970s. Its main goal is to transform the way race, racism, and power in Eurocentric cultures interact. CRT is concerned with creating an egalitarian sociopolitical, cultural, and economic order, while taking direct aim at white cultural imperialism and deconstructing its philosophical foundations. CRT builds on the efforts and insights of a number of minority civil rights activists; critical legal studies; radical feminism; and European philosophers, such as Antonia Gramsci and Jacques Derrida.1

According to scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, CRT is founded upon the following six moral assumptions:
• Racism against “colored” people is endemic to Eurocentric societies (“colored” being a
synonym for “non-white i.e. non-European” peoples, rather than its original reference to
indigenous, Black and Native Americans).
• White over “colored” ascendancy serves important purposes, physic and material.
• Races are social constructions, not biological facts.
• Differential racialization, i.e. the calculated alternation of discriminatory policies between
one racial minority to another depending upon time and circumstance, happens “in
response to shifting needs in the labor market.”
• Intersectionality and anti-essentialism, which means that “each race has its own origins
and evolving history” and no individual member of a racial group can be presumed to be
the same as any other group member. Rather, one is always distinguished by a multiplicity
of factors that contribute to one’s identity such as sex, sexual orientation, political
affiliation, and social class. (These facets of one’s “identity” in today’s world determine
the degree of severity of one’s oppression on a continuum of “least” to “most
oppressed.”)
• The “unique voice of color” thesis which posits that every “group” due to their experience
with the white supremacist order has developed a unique stand point for explaining one’s
socio-political and economic status. That standpoint is considered superior to that of
whites, who are presumed to, generally, lack the capacity to see the privilege with which
they live.

2 CRT’s greatest utility, like certain other aspects of postmodern philosophy, is its ability to
deconstruct and identify “problems” and “social inequities.” Also, like other postmodern
philosophies, it is not good at re-constructing after it deconstructs. In other words, the fixes
offered to society’s problems are almost always superficial and fundamentally undermine the very project of CRT.
1 For more information, see Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory (New York: New York University Press, 2001, pp. 6-8).
2 Ibid.

The most glaring example of this is in CRT’s insistence upon redefining “racism.” The oldest
definitions of racism in English posit that any “race” can be guilty of racism and that it is
fundamentally the “belief” in one’s superiority to another on the mere basis of race or color. While one may agree that contemporary “race” is “largely” a social construct (biology does play a limited role), CRT’s definition conflicts with Islam in that after rejecting notions of race or colorbased behavioral determinism for “coloreds”, CRT’s proponents suggest and sometimes aver that to be white is to be “privileged” and “racist”, knowingly or unknowingly. In other words, while it is a goal of CRT to dismantle white supremacy and white privilege, it reinforces and solidifies it by claiming that the members of one “race” of people are motivated and guided by things the other races are not and cannot be. This solidifies the otherization of “whites” who cannot truly be white without the existence of their “colored” opposite(s) who in turn become permanent counterpart(s) also.

This is both racist and essentialist. It is racist because it reinforces biological race and behavioral determinism, two things that CRT alleges to disavow. It is essentialist because it lumps all “whites” together into a shared experience vis-à-vis “coloreds” such that there is no distinction between the English, Scottish, French, German, Russian, Slav, Irish, Italian, Swede, Jew, etc.3 They are all equally complicit in the oppression of “colored people.”

They all enjoy white privilege as a birthright. This is so even though the critical theorist claims to be opposed to essentialism. It seems that one is allowed to be an essentialist if it relates to allegations against “whites.” That’s not to mention the essentialism involved in considering the counterpart of “whites” to be a single unified collective as well.

A critical race theorist would never accept the notion that he/she is being racist against white people. That’s because the theorist has convinced him/herself that only whites can be racist due to the fact that only whites have power. That is to say that racism can only be racism if and when you have the power to oppress others. And, since only white people have this power according to the critical race theorist, only they can be racist. This means that even if I were to say, “White people are born with tails”; “The white man is the devil incarnate”; Or, “White people smell like dogs when they’re wet”, none of that is racist because I’m black. And, black people have absolutely no power to oppress others (sigh). The lack of sincerity to this principle is exposed every time blacks or others cry foul, demanding punishment for whites who accost them using racial epithets such as calling black female basketball players things, “Nappy headed hoes.”

* Keep in mind that many of those considered “white” were inducted into whiteness between 19th and 20th centuries.

“All” power is wielded by white people “absolutely.” If a colored person is ever in a position ofpower, he/she is wielding “borrowed” power, not inherent power. So, they can never bear full culpability for any crimes they commit. That’s because all might and power belong to the “white man.” Of course, this last sentence is meant to show how absurd and idolatrous this belief is to the Islamic teachings. The truth is that colored people all around the world have power, many of them significantly more than millions of white people. If the teachings of CRT are taken to their logical end, this would mean that not one dictator in the Arab world is responsible for the carnage they create every time they massacre their people. Nor are the Chinese, Burmese, or any other person, group, or government represented by a particular ethnic enclave.

This is not to say that the European political elite are not in fact culpable for great carnage, oppression, and savage treatment of others for many centuries. They are responsible for what they did and do. However, every soul is mortgaged for it earns. And, no bearer or burdens bears another’s burden.

In Islam, all human beings are the children of the same mother and father, Adam and Eve. Our only permanent and avowed enemy is Satan. And, Satan is not a man. We all are susceptible to the same forms of vice and shortcomings; Our impulses, appetites, and emotions make us malleable. And, our ignorance of objective fact and the moral path expose us to manipulation.

In other words, Islam assigns the same nature to every human being. And, it considers every individual to be redeemable regardless of race, color, sex, sin, religion, or political affiliation. Every person regardless of race can be guilty of racism, even if we acknowledge that a racist with power is more dangerous than one without that power.

All societies have a conception of race. And, that conception influences very much how one
differentiates between outsiders and insiders. As Muslims have embraced the legitimacy of their status as citizens of western countries, many have also taken on some of the baggage of racial polarization. Does Islam have something unique to offer societies plagued by ethnic bigotry?

If so, will Muslims employ that perspective to heal humanity? Or will they contribute to the
widening rift between racialized factions in society? When did this racialization process begin?

What parallels exist in the Islamic tradition? And, will Muslims redeem their faith before it is
permanently rendered into a race and drained of its transformative and conciliatory spirit?

Advertisements

StreetOrDeen – “STOP ACTING BLACK” MY REPLY AS BLACK REVERT TO ISLAM

Excellent reply from our brother Hussain Thomas, an active Da’ee from London who regularly attends speakers corner on why the statement from Abu Ibraheem was so problematic to our black brothers and sisters, and why he is going to find it so hard to get over these words.

Abu Ibraheem Hussnayn and Standing Firm for Justice

O you who believe, be persistently standing firm for Allah as witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just, for that is nearer to righteousness. Fear Allah, for verily, Allah is aware of what you do.
Quran translation, Surat Al-Ma’idah, 5:8

Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

A large number of people on social media, including myself have been critical on our respected brother Abu Ibraheem Hussnayn for his racism during his otherwise very admirable efforts to forbid the munkar during ‘Chaand Raat’ celebrations in Birmingham. This is a cultural celebration with no basis in Islam which takes place the night before Eid and often involves many blameworthy acts.

His words if you’ve not heard or seen them yet were,

‘Brothers, we’re not black; let’s stop talking like we’re black! Let’s talk in a decent way, with decent manners.’

Though this was one comment in a long night, we need to be clear about this, using black as synonymous with gangster-ism is extremely insulting, it’s degrading of a whole people and yes it’s racism and anyone saying it is racist to some degree and I am surprised people cannot see this clearly.

It also turns out this is not the first time he has done this, so it cannot be excused as just a slip, as some have tried to do on his behalf. More comments have been found and exposed from a talk he gave in the past entitled ‘Evil Effects of Music’ when he makes similar comments, “When they are out on the streets they are gangsters, they talk like Jamaicans, they walk like Jamaicans but the man was born in like heartlands hospital.”

WHY IS THIS RACIST – SURELY HE DIDN’T MEAN TO BE?

Using black, or Jamaican as shorthand for all the worst shortcomings of urban living is racist, it shows an individual is at best on a subconscious level taken on and then perpetrating these harmful stereotypes that these negatives are due to blackness or black culture.

Now no one is saying a person who does this is a Nazi, or National Front level racist, but it is a form of racism and the person who does this is a racist. Racism is not a binary, either you’re a good person or you’re Adolf Hitler, it’s instead a spectrum.

Racist is defined as: showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.

Being racist therefore does not require active intent or feelings of superiority as some claim, many good people or those at least striving to be good as Muslims should be, will fall into it unintentionally from time to time.

Some reading this might also be uncomfortable and defensive upon hearing this label being used here in it’s correct and right place, as people you know and love or perhaps you yourself have made similar comments.

Asians and Arabs … Yes I am talking to you now or many of you at least, and yes, you the white reverts. Your discomfort is because you’ve probably heard racial slurs, negative stereotypes from people around you often as you grew up or attended madrasah or the masjid, or sat or ate with your friends and family. You most likely never challenged it, many of you thus normalised it, maybe yourself you internalised it and you don’t now want to feel you or those around you are evil or wrong.

That discomfort of yours’ should not stop us addressing the issue, we cannot excuse it but also should be clear that is not the same as saying you or these other people are irredeemably evil or might not be good in many other ways.

STANDING FIRM IN JUSTICE

O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your desires, lest you not be just. If you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then Allah is aware of what you do.
Quran translation, Surat An-Nisa 4:135

We also need to be fair, we cannot throw someone under the bus for what is in most cases probably unintentional bias, coming from decades of living among people who also have such biasses on a day to day basis.

Racism is from jahiliyyah and needs to be corrected in our hearts, speech and actions as Rasoolullah (Salallahu alayhi wa salam) said to Abu Dharr when he insulted Bilal (May Allah be pleased with them both) “You are a man in whom there is still some jahiliyyah.”

Abu Ibraheem is a brother who has helped hundreds through his Ruqya and thousands, including myself through his many beneficial lectures and talks on the evils and dangers of Sihr, the jinn as well as many other topics.

He’s a brilliant speaker, a da’ee, calling people to Islam and to the practice of Islam and I don’t doubt his intentions were good during these talks. But even if you don’t like his style or delivery, or content of his reminders most would at least say he does not mean to be racist or sees himself as such.

Another form of Jahiliyyah is use of profanity, cursing others, being unjust and people have been going way over the top when it comes to this matter and it’s reaching the levels of mob justice.

But even if they were saying evil things in response, it doesn’t justify the original comments and besides we hold our respected teachers, activists and imams to a higher standard than general laypeople but still we need to be fair also and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It certainly looks to me that he’s catching the flak for the whole Asian community right now which is unfair on him, and those around him but is the nature of the beast when it comes to public speaking and being a public figure.

RACISM IS JAHILIYYAH NOT KUFR OR NIFAQ

Though this is not kufr or nifaq, unless like some other sins it becomes justified or taken to extremes but this is still not a small issue, just a minor sin, a slip up or casual mistake as people have said who have tried to defend their brother, themselves or those they know, or their own culture when they’ve shown these traits.

Our black brothers and sisters are leaving the deen or leaving off practicing Islam partially over the way they are treated by Arabs and Asians (and yes white reverts) in the Masaajid and the wider Muslim community in the UK and too many of those crying foul now this has been brought to light were silent when it was not causing them issues personally before.

But we still have to be fair, and if someone falls into error on some matter it does not mean we cannot benefit from them elsewhere, even whilst we urge them to change their ways, this is especially true when their error be on a subconscious level, i.e unintentional.

Though this has been a very ugly episode, especially coming right after Ramadhan if we process and work through this problem correctly then Allah willing all of us, and I mean all, including those who have fallen into this mistake can when matters calm a little use this episode to move forward after a period of reflection.

To do that though requires bringing this problem into the light, so we can then check ourselves, check those around us and make sure racist attitudes are never again tolerated in our community no matter who is the perpetrator.

Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman

Arab Nationalism in the Masaajid

Assalaamu Alaykum,

I help out in a Masjid in my local area, they give me a spot to run new Muslim activities, mentoring etc, as well as store Dawah materials and I help them out in terms of admin tasks in the Masjid. It’s a pretty good relationship for everyone.

However several times in the past couple of years of helping out some brothers have asked for help or favours or leniency from those involved in the running of the Masjid, implying they are more deserving as Arabs.

Leading to them perhaps getting a little more terse a response than perhaps they are used to from myself.

Ahmad (22978) narrated from Abu Nadrah: Someone who heard the khutbah of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) on the second of the days of at-Tashreeq told me that he said: “O people, verily your Lord is One and your father is one. Verily there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of taqwa. Have I conveyed the message?” They said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has conveyed the message.
Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Saheehah (6/199).

We need to clear to the ignorant among us, that our Masaajid and Islamic centres are upon the Quran and Sunnah, even better to be upon the best of understanding of that, the Salafi Manhaj.

We can be pretty tolerant of others as well, but if they wish to have a place of worship for their arab nationalism I suggest the Masaajid is not the right place for them to push that ignorance upon the rest of us.

Now here is a fatwah from a person of knowledge, who has used his understanding of arabic as a language to push back against asabiyyah in the arab community.

https://islamqa.info/en/182686

Is the Arab Muslim better than the non-Arab Muslim?

A while ago I read a hadith from the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him): It was narrated from ‘Utbah ibn ‘Abd that he said: A man said: O Messenger of Allah, curse the people of Yemen for they are tough fighters and great in number, and their fortresses are well fortified. He said: “No.” Then the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) cursed the non-Arabs, and the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If they come to you, with their women and carrying their children on their shoulders (then show kindness to them), for they are of me and I am of them.” Narrated by Ahmad, and also by at-Tabaraani, except that he said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) cursed the non-Arabs, the Persians and Romans (Byzantines), and the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If the people of Yemen pass by you, with their women and carrying their children on their shoulders (then show kindness to them), for they are of me and I am of them.” The isnaads of both reports are hasan, and Baqiyyah clearly stated that each narrator heard it from another.

My question is:

Why did the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) curse the non-Arabs, the Persians and Byzantines? Didn’t many of them become Muslim after the conquest of Syria and Iraq, and even as far as China? Is the hadith proven to be sound and of a high level of authenticity? Why did he not say, O Allah, curse the disbelievers, and leave it at that? Is the Arab Muslim considered to be better than the non-Arab Muslim? I am from Syria and am not fully Arab; does this mean that my Islam is less than the Islam of those who are fully Arab among you? Were there any of the Sahaabah who were not Arabs?

Praise be to Allah

Firstly:

We have explained previously that Islam does not pay attention to differences in colour, race or lineage. All people are descended from Adam, and Adam was created from dust. Rather according to Islam, superiority of some people over others is measured by faith and taqwa (piety, mindfulness of Allah), doing what Allah has enjoined and refraining from what Allah has forbidden.

At-Tirmidhi (3270) narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) addressed the people on the day of the conquest of Makkah and said: “O people, verily Allah has taken away from you the arrogance of Jaahiliyyah and its pride in forefathers. People are of two types: righteous and pious, who are dear to Allah, and doomed evildoers, who are insignificant before Allah. People are the descendants of Adam, and Allah created Adam from dust. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted’ [al-Hujuraat 49:13].”

Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi.

Ahmad (22978) narrated from Abu Nadrah: Someone who heard the khutbah of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) on the second of the days of at-Tashreeq told me that he said: “O people, verily your Lord is One and your father is one. Verily there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of taqwa. Have I conveyed the message?” They said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has conveyed the message.

Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Saheehah (6/199).

Al-Bukhaari (4898) and Muslim (2546) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: We were sitting with the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and Soorat al-Jumu‘ah was revealed to him: “And [He has sent the Prophet to] others of them who have not yet joined them” [al-Jumu‘ah 62:3]. I said: Who are they, O Messenger of Allah? He did not answer him until he had asked three times. Among us was Salmaan al-Faarisi and the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) put his hand on Salmaan and said: “If faith were at the Pleiades, some men from among these people [the Persians] would get it.”

Al-Bukhaari (5990) and Muslim (215) narrated that ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) say, out loud and not secretly: “The family of Abu Fulaan (the Father of So and so) are not my friends. My friends are Allah and the righteous believers.”

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was speaking of a clan that was closely related to him, and pointed out that mere lineage did not make them his friends; rather his friends were Allah and the righteous believers of all backgrounds.

End quote from Iqtida’ as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem (144).

See also the answers to questions no. 12391 and 3793.

Secondly:

Imam Ahmad (17195) narrated: Haywah ibn Shurayh told us: Baqiyyah told us, Baheer ibn Sa‘d told me, from Khaalid ibn Ma‘daan, from ‘Utbah ibn ‘Abd that he said: A man said: O Messenger of Allah, curse the people of Yemen for they are tough fighters and great in number, and their fortresses are well fortified. He said: “No.” Then the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) cursed the non-Arabs, and the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If they come to you, with their women and carrying their children on their shoulders (then show kindness to them), for they are of me and I am of them.”

The commentators on Musnad al-Imam Ahmad (ar-Risaalah edn., 29/194) said:

Its isnad is da‘eef (weak). Baqiyyah – who is the son of al-Waleed – is mudallis [i.e., he engaged in tadlees, which is when a narrator narrates a hadith that he did not hear directly from his shaykh, without mentioning the name of the third party from whom he did hear it, using wording that may or may not give the impression that he heard it directly], and narrated by saying ‘an (“from”, without clearly stating that he heard the hadith himself from another narrator). His hadith cannot be accepted unless it is clearly stated that each stage of the isnad that one narrator heard it directly from another.

It was also narrated by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim in al-Aahaad wa’l-Mathaani (2280); at-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer(17/304) and in ash-Shaamiyyeen (1139), via ‘Abd al-Wahhaab ibn Najdah al-Hooti; and by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim (2280) from Hishaam ibn ‘Ammaar, both of whom narrated it from Baqiyyah ibn al-Waleed with this isnaad. In ash-Shaamiyyeen it mentions Ismaa‘eel ibn ‘Ayyaash instead of Baqiyyah, and we think it most likely that this is an error on the part of the copyist. End quote.

Even if we assume that the hadith is saheeh (sound), it is to be understood as referring to those among them who are deserving of being cursed, namely the disbelievers, evildoers and their ilk. These people were only singled out for mention because in most cases they were disbelievers and were misguided, especially at that time.

Thirdly:

In the answer to question no. 115934, we noted that Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah are unanimously agreed that the Arabs are superior to others in terms of descent and lineage, and that regarding the Arabs as superior is in general terms, and does not apply at the individual level. So a non-Arab who is pious and righteous is better than an Arab who falls short in his duties to Allah, may He be exalted.

Therefore an Arab Muslim cannot be superior to a non-Arab Muslim just because he is an Arab. Rather superiority is based on taqwa (piety, mindfulness of Allah). So whoever is more mindful of Allah and obedient to Him is better than his counterpart, regardless of whether he is an Arab or a non-Arab.

So the fact that you are not fully Arab does not mean that you are less than one who is fully Arab in terms of virtue and status simply because of that. As is clear from what we have mentioned above, the real standard is faith and righteous deeds.

Fourthly:

There were some of the Sahaabah who were not Arabs, such as Salmaan and Miqsam, who were Persians, Bilaal al-Habashi (who was Ethiopian) , Zunayrah ar-Roomiyyah (who was Byzantine), Barakah al-Habashiyyah (who was Ethiopian) and others such as Suhaym the freed slave of Banu’l-Has-haas, Ya‘eesh the slave of Banu’l-Mugheerah, Khaalid ibn al-Hawaari, and Tamaam al-Habashi.

Al-Haakim (8194) narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “I saw (in a dream) many black sheep who were joined by many white sheep.” They said: How did you interpret it, O Messenger of Allah? He said: The non-Arabs will join you in your religion and your lineage.” They said: The non-Arabs, O Messenger of Allah? He said: “If faith were at the Pleiades, some men from among the non-Arabs would get it.”

Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Saheehah (1018).

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

The confirmation of that is seen in the many Persians, both free men and freed slaves, among the Taabi‘een and those who came after them, such as al-Hasan, Ibn Sireen, ‘Ikrimah the freed slave of Ibn ‘Abbaas, and others, and those who came after that of people who were prominent in faith, religious commitment and knowledge, until these prominent figures became better than most of the Arabs.

Similarly, among types of non-Arabs, such as the Ethiopians, Byzantines, Turks and others, there are people who excelled in faith and religious commitment, too many to be counted, which is something well known to the scholars, because true virtue is in following that with which Allah sent Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) of faith and knowledge, both inwardly and outwardly. So the more strongly a person adheres to it, the better he is, and virtue is only in terms of the praiseworthy qualities mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah, such as Islam, faith, righteousness, taqwa, knowledge, righteous deeds, ihsaan and so on.  There is no virtue in a person simply being an Arab or non-Arab, or being black or white, or being a city dweller or desert dweller.

End quote from Iqtidaa’ as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem (p. 145)

And Allah knows best.
Islam Q&A

REFLECTING ON ‘BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME’

Written by Asim Qureshi

between-the-world-and-me-620x330

“When I finished reading this book, I realised that I’m still actually quite racist.”

These were the words spoken to me by a white doctor of Anthropology who has spent her life defending black men facing the death penalty in the South of the US. Her own story is one full of racism, having grown up in a racist house that despised her for rejecting their ‘ways’, in having a sister who married a member of the KKK in order to have a pure blood child, and being generally surrounded in a miasma of bigotry and violence.

Despite all of this, she grew up to fight every inch of prejudice and structural racism that she sees. It is that effort that I have learnt from directly, as she has taught me to learn the stories of my clients and their families, as humans, and not as witnesses. Her never-ending devotion to understanding is precisely the reason why my children call her Dado (grandmother) when she comes to stay at our home, because that is the relationship we feel she has with them.

And yet, on the completion of reading this book, my friend and mentor confided that she had not escaped her racism. Having now completed Coatses’s beautiful epistle to his son, I now understand how she came to that conclusion. It is not that I think my friend has any racist or bigoted tendencies, it is that Ta-Nehisi Coates forces us to reflect on our life and the lives of those around us, as we listen to his voice.

The experience he recounts, albeit with a brief sojourn to Paris, is largely about his experiences as a black man in the US. For me, as someone whose entire working life has revolved around policy and practice in the War on Terror, his intersection of the black experience to that of Muslims is a welcome sign of someone who sees and understands the structural nature of the threat we face,

“Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed. And still the questions behind the questions are never asked. Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, rendered without trial, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be? And all the time the Dreamers are pillaging Ferguson for municipal governance. And they are torturing Muslims, and their drones are bombing wedding parties (by accident!)”

However, it is not these limited references to Muslims where I connected to Coates…it was in his experience as a black man. Throughout the book, he references moments where the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Biggie Smalls become a soundtrack to certain experiences. He speaks of Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Franz Fanon, the names that woke me from my slumber. It dawns on me, that while I have never experienced the specific systematic discrimination of young black Americans, my younger self had subconsciously adopted their resistance as a reference point for my own. Perhaps it is because Asian communities had provided little to no avenue for resistance or counter-culture that could help to define our specific experience in the UK, that I, and many like me, chose to identify so strongly with conceptions of being black – that is – until for some of us, Islam provided a holistic response.

Ultimately, the central concern Coates has, is how his son will respond to the world around him. A world where he is trying to provide Samori with every opportunity he can, while at the same time forcing him to realise that the system that surrounds him and props up his privileges is utterly broken,

“I do not believe that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos.”

How does a father teach his child this lesson in a way that makes sense and is understandable? I am a father of three boys, and I am someone who works with trauma survivors. To what extent do I expose them to the reality of this world, and to what extent do I ask them to reject the superficial veneer that hides the truth of the matter? How do we teach them to resist prevailing narratives, when we want them to lead comfortable, poverty free, peaceful lives? Coates does not provide clear answers to these questions, but his voice of frustration vibrates like a deafening bell for the parents who live the same struggle,

“All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile. No one told those little white children, with their tricycles, to be twice as good. I imagined their parents telling them to take twice as much. It seemed to me that our own rules redoubled plunder.”

Resisting pre-conceived notions of what is acceptable is no easy task. As a British-born Pakistani, I have made it my ultimate aim to shield my children from the over-obsession with whiteness, and in this instance I mean the specific desire that many Asians have for lighter coloured skin. My wife and I are dark skinned, as are two out of our three children. My eldest boy, in particular, has a skin colour and melanin count that does not require much protection from the sun we have in the UK, except on exceptionally bright summer days. When I see my wife fuss unnecessarily about putting a hat on him because others will comment on further darkening, it is the only time that I become upset. Upset, not with her, but with the way in which we have been forced to construct our decisions. Largely, I have been successful in shielding my children from this, but then I receive a curve-ball that I never anticipated. My middle boy, Aadam, saying, “Why am I the only one who isn’t dark? I want to be dark like you all.” I never told them one way or another about what is and isn’t beautiful, it was his own anxiety about being different and wanting to fit in better with those of us around him.

So how do we move away from the superficial? How do my children, and the son of Coates, avoid the ever present elephant in the room, that colour, race and class are everything. Coates realises that the truth itself is where any emancipation can begin, by accepting the truth of who we are, and the world that surrounds us. The problem with this acceptance, is that it leaves us in a very bleak place. For the sake of our children, it is not enough to simply encourage them thrive in a hostile environment as singular case studies of success,

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage. Enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor—-it is not so easy to get a human being to commit their body against its own elemental interest. And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random manglings, the gashing of heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape. It must be rape so regular as to be industrial. There is no uplifting way to say this. I have no praise anthems, nor old Negro spirituals. The spirit and soul are the body and brain, which are destructible—that is precisely why they are so precious. And the soul did not escape. The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings.”

‘Between the World and Me’ is a book I will return to again and again. In particular, I will return to it when I am in need of helping my children make sense of the world that surrounds them. My instinct is to shield them, but perhaps that is the most sure-fire way of disabling them, and it is precisely there that Ta-Nehisi Coates makes his most important contribution.

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com