Reflections of a Black Convert: Part I | Part II – Eating at the Rind | Part III
By Anthony Hardy
“My father always complains about how Islam has broad acceptance in the African-American community but not in the White American one,” said a Pakistani friend of mine as he handed me a cup of chai. “He doesn’t like how many African-American brothers come to Islam through the prisons and stuff like that. He wished more middle class White Americans were Muslims. He disdains Islam being associate with the lower class in this country.”
I shouted, “Wait? What? Is he serious?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Hasn’t he read the seerah [biography of the Prophet]? Hasn’t he read the Qur’ān? The people most receptive to the message are the exploited and downtrodden. That’s how it usually works. In America, that means Blacks, Latinos, and women!”
“It must be nice,” I told a White Muslimah friend of mine, “to have people approach you for marriage so frequently in the masjid. I mean, your beauty is a constantly being reinforced, unlike Black beauty. I’m sure it helps with your self-esteem.”
“Yeah, it was nice,” she admitted.
“Was? What do you mean by was?
“Well, it was nice…until I realized why they were asking me. The aunties and Arabs were only approaching me because I was White and because they wanted lily-white children. Once I figured that out, I just stopped entertaining their request. That’s one reason why I stopped going to the masjid altogether. I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal.”
While shopping for naan and daal in an Indian store with some Pakistani friends, I happened to browse the cosmetic section. I found a package of “Fair & Lovely: MAX Fairness for Men.” I had heard about this cream from my Indian and Pakistani friends, but I didn’t know it was sold in America or even that it could be sold here.
I read the label:
“…fight [the] darkening of your skin due to your active lifestyle.”
I laughed aloud. No amount of cream was going to lighten my melanin-enriched skin. My friends joined in my laughter when they saw what I had found. Afterwards I put it back on the shelf.
My laughing spell continued in the car ride home. One of my friends asked me, “What’s so funny man?”
I answered, “Because it’s all so darkly comical: White people here destroy their bodies to look like Brown people and Brown people there destroy their bodies to look like White people. Everyone wants to be something other than what Allāh has made them, and they all make themselves sick in the process.”
A wise Muslim woman, who happened to be a White convert, once told me that my skin color, despite the hardships attached to it, is actually a blessing in disguise: she described it as a filter which would sift through those individuals who are not serious about their commitment to higher religious or moral principles, whereas she and her family, all of whom are White, will always have to worry about people dissembling their commitment to those principles for her and her family’s Whiteness. She said my dark skin was a test for them, one many of whom are failing miserably.
“So an auntie was trying to find a wife for me,” a Latino Muslim friend of mine told me, “but when they saw my pictures, they said I looked ‘too Mexican.”
I laughed a little on the outside—died a little on the inside. He is handsome in his own right, a Mexican man with German heritage. The German traits dominate his physical appearance.
I replied, “Just exactly how are you suppose to look?”
“I don’t know bro. ‘Too Mexican’? What does that even mean?”
“It means you’re the right skin color – White or White-looking in your case – but you come from the wrong culture.”
He nodded. “That’s Jahiliyya [ignorance] man.”
I continued, “I know. But cheer up. You’re better off than me: at least you’re on the right side of the color line. I’m both the wrong skin color, and I come from the wrong culture.”
Midway into my nine-year tenure as a Muslim, I returned to my hometown to visit the religious community of my upbringing. Standing there in the middle of a giant cathedral, gazing at the beautiful stained glass renditions of New Testament scenes, I began to reflect on my experiences as a Black Muslim convert in America. The Muslims I had chanced upon who hailed from abroad or whose parents hailed from abroad were in fact beneficiaries both of the injustices perpetrated against Blacks and of the “universal” franchise that resulted from the struggles against those selfsame injustices; and yet, this stark reality was seldom if ever brought to the fore at conferences, masjids, Muslim Student Associations, or Islamic centers, or what have you: rather, what I saw and heard was a community by and large preoccupied with the preservation of culture – some of which contain elements of anti-Black or anti-dark-skin bias – or obsessed with producing fair-skinned progeny or enamored with prospects of making Islam more palpable to the palates of the White middle class in America – itself a byproduct of anti-Black racism – while at the same time both relegating and denigrating the very community so instrumental in their success and indeed their very existence in America in the first instance.
To employ sacred history, by way of metaphor: the Muhajir (Immigrant), when he arrived in Medina, kicked sand into the eyes of the Ansari (Helper) man; and when the Ansari was doubled over in pain, trying to remove the sand from his eyes, the Muhajir climbed on his back, to elevate himself to a higher plane and then proceeded to disparage him for his state.
This monumental incongruity made me realize many self-proclaimed and perhaps well-intentioned Muslims do in fact worship multiple gods, and one of the modern deities that has caused many others, including myself, so much difficulty within large segments of the Muslim community and around the world happens to be – for lack of a better word – a White god or a god of Whiteness whereby the standards, sensibilities, sensitivities, and suspicions of certain classes of people become not just normalized but something for which to appease and sacrifice. The only difference I could gather that day is that whereas other communities tended to be more open, honest, and straightforward in their personifications and anthropomorphizations of this god, the Prophetic directives in Sunni Islam not to depict God or His Prophets and even the racial, ethnic, and tribal egalitarianism promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) tended to obscure the historic and contemporary reality of bias against darker bodies and of predilection for fairer ones.
By my estimation, many Muslims are racially agnostic at best: the tragic irony in this racial agnosticism or the unwillingness to deal with the issue is that it perpetuates and exacerbates racism within the community, creating a staggering dissonance of nonsensical proportions. Moreover, the inability to discuss the issue effectively means it does not exist and raises it beyond critique. One can quote the Prophet ﷺ and say “No White man is better than a Black man” or recite the popular platitude “There is no racism in Islam” or appeal to the racially progressive nature of the Prophet’s career or even name his children after prominent Black Companions of the Prophet and yet be rubbing “Fair and Lovely” on her skin to “beautify herself” or requesting “fair” women for marriage in public matrimonial advertisements or telling their children to “avoid too much exposure to the sun lest you become dark and therefore unattractive” or assert something seemingly innocuous as “Blacks are scary” or Black converts are “a dime a dozen.” Very few would be the wiser.
The irony of this glaring dissonance reminded me of Al-Lāt, Al-‘Uzza, and Manat, the mighty triumvirate of the pagan Arabian pantheon, and how the capricious conclusions drawn from idolatry and polytheism are often illogical, inconsistent, and, to be blunt, asinine. Our sacred history informs us the Prophet ﷺ had these stone effigies smashed to smithereens after the conquest of Mecca. I contend, however, these idols were never really destroyed; they merely took more imperceptible, incorporeal forms: instead of sacrificing for a god or goddess fashioned from stone, wood, or date pit, now sacrifices made for modern deities are intended to placate false, arbitrary ideals of what it means to be beautiful, intelligent, pure, civilized, rich, honorable, valuable, successful, wise, and – most of important of all – human; instead of sacrificing for and finding nobility within the aegis of an inviolable set of transcendent principles dictated by Allāh, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), Himself and His Prophets, modern Muslims are content to destroy their bodies, their communities, their families, their children, their religion, and maybe even the integrity of their hearts and souls to achieve an empty, ephemeral sense of honor and worth.
“So have you considered al-Lat and al-‘Uzza? And Manat, the third – the other one?” (Qur’ān, 53:19-20)
“Those who take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do they seek with them honor [through power]? But indeed, honor belongs to Allah entirely.” (Qur’ān, 4:139)
Yes Allāh, honor it is they seek in something other than You. I finally understood my mother’s fear of “becoming White”: shirk à la modernity.
These words are not written with sorrow. I’ve shed far too many tears already for this community, enough to fill a suburban pool thrice over.
Nor are these words are not written with anguish. I’ve spent the better part of my tenure as a Muslim being angry to the point where I resided in such deep and dark nadirs that I existed in a state of oblivion regarding the blessings of my Lord.
Nor are these words written with pain. I’ve become desensitized in many respects to my own pain out of psychological necessity.
Nor are these the words of another Black convert to Islam who has faced insurmountable difficulties within the community for petty, superficial reasons. The Internet is inundated with such tales. Communities are filled with them as well. I therefore see absolutely no need to contribute to this sphere. If Muslims were so inclined to our struggles, they could sadly find those stories with minimal effort. Besides, imitation is the highest form of flattery: if the sacrifices and privations of converts were as inspiring as the community would have us believe then I would expect to see many others attempting to follow in our paths and make the sacrifices we are willing to make for the sake of the faith. Unfortunately, I don’t find this to be the case.
These are the ruminations of a detached wayfarer, one without a home who is just passing through trying to reach his destination: it’s far better not to have a home if having one means residing in the septic tank. The usage of this metaphor is, for me, quite literal, since, as I mentioned, in the wake of Jim Crow and the White Flight, the powers that be in my hometown decided to erect a sewage and water treatment in the Black neighborhood where God Himself chose to place me. This depiction is all too familiar for what awaits many converts after they declare shahadah (the testimony of faith), especially if they happen to be Black, even more so if they happen to be Black women. The way I see it, my ancestors had to endure this relegation for fear of violent reprisal. I, however, do not have to nor will I, especially at the hands of Muslims whose hues are often just as brown, if not darker, as mine own flesh and who are just as much victims of the same oppressive discrimination and just as susceptible to the caustic regimes of thought as I am.
These are the words of a young Muslim man who sincerely suspects many of his fellow co-religionists may be guilty of committing the worst sin in Islam, the only unforgivable one. And what’s worse: they may not even be aware of it.
These are the words of a soul attempting to cut the world asunder and peer at its core in an attempt to see what has gone awry.
I don’t expect my words will be heeded or taken seriously. I find many Muslims lack the sagacity and internal fortitude needed to rise to the occasion and confront the issues plaguing this community, whether it’s racism, colorism, tribalism, sexism or whatever the case may be. And if they are received, I doubt they will be received kindly. In “post-racial, colorblind” America, no one wants to have honest dialogue about race, including many Muslims, who are just as hypersensitive about color privilege and predilection in their own communities as many Whites are about White privilege in America. And even if they are received kindly, I seldom doubt the presence of the necessary courage needed to induce substantive change exists. Muslims excel at paying lip service and empty rhetoric; when it comes to walking-the-walk I find them languid.
Still, the inevitable pushback notwithstanding, I write these words in the spirit of the Prophet who informed us that religion is sound advice and who said that to change something with the tongue or words is the second tier of iman (faith). I am locked into this second tier because what afflicts Muslims and indeed much of the world cannot be changed with actions, the first tier, as the malaise is lodged both in the mind and the heart; and not even the Prophet ﷺ, best example of creation, could modify the hearts of his contemporaries.
I therefore would like to say this to my fellow Muslims who may chance upon what I’ve written here: it is our duty before our Lord to challenge idols of our times with due diligence and vigilance, whatever they may be, wherever they may be. The Prophet’s destruction of the idols in the Ka’bāh is symbolic to what we should be doing for the rest of our lives, for the remainder of time itself. The idolatry of olden times is far too crass to exist within the Muslim community today. Ancient, physical idols have been supplanted with ideological ones; the effects upon society, however, remain the same.
To be clear, what I’m writing about has little to do with White or fair skinned people per se: if anything, the false ideals to which I’m referring have the capacity to be just as damaging to White and fairer-skinned people. I’m sure my words will vibe with those people. I’m talking about a pernicious constellation of ideas that goes unchallenged because of cowardice, because of ignorance, and because of a degree of buy-in on the part of many people, Muslims especially.
I present this to the community with the hopes to commencing serious, heart-felt conversations about what ails us. I realize the gravity of my claims and I do not take them lightly. It is my solemn prayer that those who read this won’t take them lightly either.
I am so tired of waiting,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two —
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.
— Langston Hughes, “Tired”
Jazakallahukhair! This is a much needed discussion related not just to racism but many other idols of our time, as you mentioned. Thank you for sharing such thought-provoking experiences and insights.
As I read I cannot but feel the crying in your soul!
But my dear brother you must not be idealistic! Though we humans are born with fitrah hidden within us we have to earn our place in paradise and be worthy of being designated as the Vicegerent of Allah.
Through Islam and its teaching we are given opportunity upon opportunity to better our souls. Before that can be reached we have to as an individual be able to recognize our shortcomings which is not an easy thing to do.
It comes through a learned understanding of our lslam. The religion is handed to us for the very purpose of making us a human being that Allah finds worthy!
Therefore I am of the opinion if a person is very aware of the reason of his being in this world he will strive to find a balance to live a harmonious being with all of Allah’s creation be it pleasant or unpleasant!
Allah Almighty knows his creation better than his creations themselves. To do it any other way is impossible and may be
detrimental to our Absolute Faith in Allah and his Wisdom!
Thus do not be overly in despair if you find the so called muslims are not the supposedly idealistic muslims they are supposed to be.
Allah knows best!
Yes, to be a “white” convert has meant that you are relegated to the status of “mascot.” Someone to be paraded about as a symbol of racial diversity and acceptance that doesn’t really exist. But, your light skin and blue eyes are seen as your only value. Beneath all that you are regarded as someone who is only pretending to be Muslim. This is because you don’t fit peoples’ preconceived notions of what a Muslim is supposed to look like, and you are imagined to enjoy privileges that other Muslims do not. The reality is that the larger “white” non-Muslim society, including your own family in many cases, regards you as anything from a “traitor” to a “weirdo.” You don’t enjoy the benefits of being accepted by any social group.
And, while I don’t pretend that this discrimination is as bad or worse than what my convert brothers and sisters from other ethnicities endure. It is a lonely place to live as a Muslim.
InshaAllah Brother! May Allah open our eyes and make us, as an Ummah, do something about our flaws which we have to this day shoved ‘under the rug’.
Salaam to all
This is a great article and this indeed had to be said, but I just worry that we shouldn’t tar every South Asian or Arab etc with the same brush.
As there are some people within a certain race, who might display ignorant attitudes towards particular races, there are at the same time, those who don’t. If we begin to act like them and think ALL South Asians and Arabs are racists, then we will start to judge them as well – this is exactly what happened with the Nation of Islam – they felt that all white people thought in the same manner as the Ku Klux Klan, and as a result they thought the white man to be the devil.
People with a common sense know better, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a South Asian, Arab, White, Black, Latino, Native American etc etc – it all depends on the attitudes of the individual.
Just to give you an example, there was a South Asian guy who migrated to the UK during the 50s; this was around the same time when the Afro-Carribbeans also migrated to UK. He told me that when he arrived, he regrettably admitted that he was afraid of the Black man – the stories of them being brash and hot-headed, as well as thieves, worried him – these stories interestingly resonated amongst the Western Colonialists in the 18th and 19th century. He further went onto say that it was only after a few months that he began to realise that they were not as bad as they were made out to be..in fact he developed a good friendship with a Nigerian. It just goes to show that people can change attitudes before it is too late for them, and like what Brother Adam said, this issue which the author has experience will InshaAllah become obsolete during the time of the 2nd and 3rd generation of born and bred Non-White Western Muslims.
The man did say that it wasn’t an Islamic attitude but a cultural one – he knew Sikhs and Hindus who thought similarly too. But he also told me that there were tensions within the Black Community as well i.e. the Africans did not like the Caribbeans and vice-versa; the Africans thought of the Caribbeans as lazy bums who did nothing but smoke ganja; whilst the Caribbeans thought the Africans were too snooty for their own good!
What I’m writing about doesn’t just afflict Arabs or South Asians or Persians or what have you; I’ve seen this tendency in my own people. Nor is this an attempt to tar any one group of people: I happen to notice this more in Arab and South Asians Muslims because of my proximity to them as a Muslim in America. The issue is much larger than how a certain groups of people are esteemed: what I’m trying to do is ascertain why specifically the sensibilities, sensitivities, and prejudices of some groups of people in the modern world – namely, (White) Americans – are valued more than others – usually Black and/or Latino Americans. What I’m talking about is NOT within the realm of crass racism, which, hopefully, most people have enough sense to reject (not holding my breath); rather, this is the realm of ideas, which is much more subtle and harder to pinpoint.
Since you mentioned the Nation of Islam, let’s not forget HOW and WHY it began in the first place: the devaluing of Blackness and Black life for centuries made its opposite – namely, its deification – an inevitability; it only needed the right time and catalysts, Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad, to get it going. And with its deification came the debasement of other life, hence this cycle of shirk.
Lastly, concerning second and third generation Muslims: while I have some hope for them, I would remiss if I didn’t say many of them house the same sorts of prejudices that affected their parents. Couple this with class and racial stratification in America and the problem may not abate as much as many would hope.
The effects on South Asians and Middle East are largely a byproduct of colonialism unfortunately. Our lands maybe free but our minds havent recovered from its effects.
Agreed! Its a manifestation of internalized racism. White man is revered, at the expensive of all other races, including one’s own. As a Pakistani-American, I can tell you, we have trouble accepting ourselves, let alone accepting those “lower” than us in the color spectrum.
Race/color is one of the ways we are divided. The bigger issue is an inability to accept whatever is different from the standard. And the standard is set by the people in power at any given time.
I disagree with this. European colonialism exacerbated the issue but it is hardly the only culprit. Muslim South Asians for example, whether they realize it or not – and I’m sure many do not – are still living with the remnants of the Hindu caste system which situated the Aryans at the top and the Dravidians in lower tiers. The predilection for Aryan features goes WAY back. Ironically, the Europeans “ended” the caste system, not the Muslims.
As for the Arabs: historically, many Arabs were just as willing to adopt certain prejudices about Africans to justify their enslavement. Again, ironically, the last country to abolish was not a European country, but an Arab Muslim one, that being Mauritanian in 1981.
I am a convert to Islam from Hinduism, which means the colour of my skin makes me look like my family and forefathers have always been Muslim. And so because of my ‘browness’, I am never recognised as a convert. And that has its own issues! But what I really want to say here to you brother Anthony is that while you have hit a raw nerve and I cannot agree with you more on each and every point that you make, I hope that you and others who are in similar situations of being an ‘inconvenient colour of Muslim’ don’t forget that this constant reminder of being a stranger in this world, of never finding a comfort zone, is also a gift from Allah. A constant reminder of our true nature as a traveller, a stranger to this world.
“my skin color, despite the hardships attached to it, is actually a blessing in disguise: she described it as a filter which would sift through those individuals who are not serious about their commitment to higher religious or moral principles, whereas she and her family, all of whom are White, will always have to worry about people dissembling their commitment to those principles for her and her family’s Whiteness. She said my dark skin was a test for them, one many of whom are failing miserably.”
This is true, and not just for having an ‘inconvenient’ skin colour – it’s for any ‘inconvenient’ trait of no relevance to character and faith. And yet… there are times when you wish you had the chance for the illusion, even knowing that in the end it would disappoint, than to observe immediately the naked truth of the results of the test, that *no one* seems to pass it. I don’t know if the wish is wise – probably not – but in moments of weakness I wish it nonetheless because the truth is sad.
“(Allah) said, “What prevented you Iblis from prostrating to the one I created with My Own hands? Are you proud or are you one of the exalted ones?”
(Iblees) said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and you created him from clay.”
Sura Sad, 75-76.
Shaitan was the first racist, and committed the first sin of arrogance.
Thanks Brother Anthony for reminding us that so many of us follow him so well…
While agreeing with most of what is being told, I think that there is the risk of over-pushing things. Just to make things clear, all that matters is what position one has with Allah, this immediately follows from La ilahe ila Llah. And Allah decided that the best in position with Him is the one that has most takwa (fear, guarding oneself from Allah’s anger). So no gender or race or wealth or worldly position matter.
Yet gender and race were created by Allah for a purpose as well, the ayah that mentions people being made into tribes mentions the wisdom behind it being to appreciate one another. My understanding is that we need to keep some level of organization within kinship and nation, the Messenger in the battle field organized the ensar and the muhajerin separately, even in Medina they had their own leaders to consult with. It is easier to know people that are more similar to you, the interaction becomes easier, misunderstandings less and as a result you can appreciate (tell apart the good character from the bad) and choose who to follow better. Yet there was intermarrying in Medina and friendship among different tribes, just tendencies to marry nearer to your closer community or organizing oneself in such manner shouldn’t be seen as wrong. For converts or smaller communities the institution of mewla (friendship/guardianship – which is used to make two tribes essentially one or add people who are not part or the tribe into it) could then be used to avoid them from being left alone or in too small communities to be viable.
Jazakumullahu Khayran brother anthony, These are very powerful words, may Allah help us to implement it. I know that there are many awful attitudes amongst muslims, I want you to know that not all of us are ok with such types of attitudes, and that the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is very serious to us in all its aspects. I love you brother and I hope to Allah that we can be better as muslims.
This discourse is exactly the one presented by the esteemed Dr. Sherman Jackson. Have you read and been inspired by any of his books? I have been strongly influenced by him, and this message, the one you conveyed in these two articles, are critical for the maturation of the Muslim American communities.
I’m deeply indebted to Dr. Jackson for his insights into this matter. You know, I’ve had similar thoughts for quite some time due to my readings of other Muslims scholars such as Ali Shariati (“Religion vs. Religion’ which I read right after I converted to Islam) and due my own rudimentary ruminations into the application of Muslim theology in the modern America, but it was Dr. Jackson’s formulations that made these ideas much more salient and easier to articulate. I figured the function of scholars is not only to elucidate the religion and the Law but also to inspire the lay commonality – for lack of a better word – to bridge the gap between the Ivory Tower and Main Street, as it were. I believe if we can’t make Muslim theological discourse pertinent, if we can’t employ some level of imagination to address our own problems at the level of ideas, then we may as well accept the reality of religion, Islam in this case, being consigned to oblivion.
Jazaks for reading and for your kind words. May Allah forgive us all.
Assalaamm alaykum. I enjoyed your thought-provoking anecdotes. IT’s hard not to sound cynical in the face of the above but you have managed to address this topic with maturity and frankness.
May Allah redirect our hearts toward Him.
JazakAllah Khayr for these posts.
PS: How do you still stay in Islam considering our two-facedness?
Salaam to all
Anchor Keidl, we stay in Islam not for anyone but Allah 🙂
Also, if we are buckling under the pressures of the media, and feeling tempted to leave Islam due to being letdown by certain members of the Ummah, then how on earth are we going to endure the Big Test of Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) when he will make Paradise look like Hell, and Hell look like Paradise? The tests we are experiencing now are nothing of what is expected to come – if we give up now then what does that say about us? Are we quitters or are we strivers?! *fist pump time!*
Eschatological considerations aside, what’s to come should not make us lose sight of now. I personally don’t blame people – converts or otherwise – for leaving Islam if they are subjected to the same caustic regimes of thought – whether it be the issue of race or any other issue – without any sort of guidance or help to slake those negative influences. And speaking of eschatology, when the Dajjal does surface and take the reigns, it’ll only be because the Muslims have utterly failed in their duties and obligations to both God and to creation. And I personally believe not sufficiently challenging this way of perceiving the world is ONE of the ways the Muslims are failing in their duties to God. Allahu’Alim.
On another note, if you’re even on my side of the world, we should totally meet up for tea or something. 😀
As-salaam-u-alaykum Brother Anthony
I totally agree with what you are saying regarding the sensitive issues that the Muslim Ummah have to face and discuss. We are meant to be united by faith not by race, tribe or culture. Indeed this is what can cause us to fail our duties to Allah…and if we look at history, it was only after the Guidance did the Children of Israel start to rebel and initiate inter-tribal wars (e.g. Kingdom of Judah vs Kingdom of Israel). We shouldn’t do the same. But I emphasised the Dajjal because that is a big test, and if we are hurting each other now, the what will it be like when we are facing the one whom every Prophet has forewarned their nation?
I also apologise concerning the converts who feel they have to leave Islam because of being negatively critiqued or disheartened by the lack of support by their fellow Muslim brethren. Everytime a person leaves Islam, we are partly to blame.. insha-Allah hope they will return..Allah knows best. What I feel is that people who enter into Islam should be educated early on regarding the harsh realities of the Ummah, and the fact that not everyone will think like them i.e. due to different culture etc… bottom line is that being naive can put one in a serious predicament. The sooner they understand, the less vulnerable they will feel and more determined to be stronger Muslims than those who attempt to break the Ummah – unknowingly and knowingly. Muslims are humans too, and the common thing between us and the non-muslim is our nature. For some Muslims, their human nature can precede their Islamic values, and this is why we are in this situation now. This is our test – the self-desires/beliefs/habits vs Islamic values – this is what differentiates us from the non-muslim, and this is what can make a Muslim good or bad.
And I will gladly accept your invitation to tea regardless of where you are in the world 🙂 I live in the UK, so Tea is in our blood..be it Earl Grey or Iced Tea..I’m up for it! 🙂 And if you are in my part of the world, I invite you to a meal 🙂
thank you for this great article and discussion. how do we build a resilience in ourselves and others that will allow us to focus more on the beautiful path to God, so as to not be affected by the ills in our community? “the community” of today is so spiritually immature – and this is the cause of all the other ills we see in it from extremism to racism to sexism to plain narrowmindedness. i think it could be of solace to some to reduce our personal expectations of the Ummah and of connection with others and make our faith about Allah Alone and being with Him. i don’t really see an alternative – we have to build resilience of this kind in ourselves and other converts so that we are not placing hopes in other muslims, but are strongly walking the Path to God, *with* Him as our Companion…with Rasul Allah peace be upon him as our Guide, and dwelling more in THAT unseen realm than the worldly realm of other human beings and their ways of being Muslim (or failing at fully being that).
personally, whenever i place a higher level of hope in community – or the storied brotherhood that is promised – i lose all my spiritual strength, i get super frustrated, i get angry. I don’t need that, becuase it is a distraction from the Path. If each person works on their path…this will contribute to a spiritual change that will sweep others up with it. Not saying that this article isn’t useful or anything of the sort – but we need to develop greater resilience so these ills that exist and have existed for so long don’t hurt us so badly and dissapoint us so deeply.
Jzk for sharing your honest thought with us. With my deepest level agreement with what you said, as a black sister hijab with a headscarf gives me one more strikes in my record !!! On the top of every single “discrimination” against being black and a muslim, black sisters are being put in one more dimension to purifiy their faith – hijab. To wear it or drop it. It is very tempting everyday for me to remove the hijab to get a better treatment. May Allah comfort us and remind us that Jannah is our ultimate goal. Are you planning to write III, may be share more on how you practically face the harsh fact on a daily basis. Jzk.
Yes, part III is to be published soon. As I mentioned, short of comporting myself in accordance to the Prophetic dictates, making the community aware of these problems, and formulating possibly explanations as to source of these issues rooted in the Muslim narrative, I feel there’s not much I feel I can do. My mother used to always tell me, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Therefore, The way I deal with the issue is honestly more philosophical and internal than practical because I’m inclined to think along those lines, so I’m not at all sure if will be of that much help.
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ASA. A well-written and insightful article. And to add more than a little irony to the mix, many of those white mascots of us feel some of the closest kinship to Af-Am converts. Where would many of us be without the AF-Am Muslim community ‘indegenizing’ Islam and making it a possible path for us to journey through. May Allah give them bountiful rewards.
[…] of a Black Convert: Part I | Part II | Part III – All You Who Are […]
Salam brother Anthony,
I finally got to read this series that was on my reading list for…well..months I suppose?! While trying to pull one of my friends out of his depression for the past two months because a girl of a different ethnicity “left him after 3.5 years for a white man” (words uttered by him at his lowest dips of lack of self-confidence), I realize how the problem is so deep-rooted in our communities. As you wrote part I, your grandfather was so right. They just cover it up. Say things in perhaps more “politically correct ways” (whatever that means in the current state of the world) but at the end of the day, we as a community are just so flawed.
I’m sorry that you, people like my friend and many others have to go through these turmoils. I’d have to agree with the convert sister who told you that our dark skins are indeed a filter for us to eventually meet the right people who would not only embrace us for who we are but honor us and cherish us for they will find the beauty in our faces that the blessed Messenger (peace be upon him) found in many of his close companions who…by the way…were not mostly white.
What if it’s a test from Allah?
Muslims will be surely tested by Allah. I was discriminated for being the only Muslim that lowers my gaze. They laughed at me, they called me a sexist but I didn’t care because All that mattered to me was Obedience to Allah. I knew that defeat is sure if I will disobey my lowered. I knew my Lord is All Powerful. I also did some sins out of my ignorance like misinterpreting the Qur’an etc. The college was run by a Muslim Trust. Most of the Muslims were not teachers. But Allah will test no matter where you are. So, I request all the Muslims to be patient when you are being tested. You know something, one of the companion Bilal was also tested by Allah. He passed the test and won his freedom. So, as I was saying after I repented and asked Allah for forgiveness things changed. People stopped trying to defame me. When I thought about the past I learnt a few things like not to misinterpret the Qur’an, don’t do religious innovations, why alllah df doesn’t accept certain prayer( because if you make certain prayers and if Allah accepts those prayers, that will be back for you, Allah is All-Knowing ). Nobody can make racist remarks in the Hereafter. So, be patient and try to pass the test and repent to Allah and ask him for forgiveness. Also see this, http://islamqa.info/en/1774
Most of the teachers were not Muslims
It’s not lowered its actually Lord
Everything is test from Allah. But this fact and the patience and dignity one is suppose have while confronting those tests can’t be used as an excuse to not speak out against injustices or against things which are flatly wrong. What you have just expounded is a troubling trend I’ve seen in Muslims whereby they use the notion of patience in the face of adversity as an excuse to acquiesce. The two are not mutually exclusive: one can be patient and yet speak out against wrong doing – or in this case – wrong thinking (or non-thinking).
And for the record, systemic racism or systemic prejudice based upon physical features that one has no control over is NOT even remotely tantamount to being ridiculed for lower your gaze, something one CAN control. This is a logical fallacy which serves very little in this (non)-discussion and actually diminishes the issue in and of itself.
And also at the end it doesn’t matter whether you are black,white,brown,yellow,red etc.
Apparently it does matter, otherwise I would not have felt the need to write these pieces…
Thank you brother, I know that it is forbidden to be racist and Muslims shouldn’t be racist. You have done a good thing by making articles regarding racism in our community. I sometimes don’t find the courage to tell others what they are doing is wrong. But, patience while you are being tested is also good. And also the end I meant was the hereafter
“Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah . He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.” Quran 7:128