Reflections of a Black Convert: Part I | Part II | Part III – All You Who Are Dreamers
By Anthony Hardy
“I don’t understand,” said a friend of mine who happened to be an agnostic, “if Muslims here are just as racist as the Christians, why the Hell are you still Muslim?”
This question had never been posed to me in all my years of being Muslim. I had given it ample thought. I hadn’t, however, formulated a cogent, verbal response for it in the event someone asked me.
“I mean,” he continued, “if one of the reasons you converted was because of the race thing, you didn’t get very far. Seems like you may have regressed a bit actually. Just seems like you going through a lot of trouble for this Islam stuff.”
I conceded his point. While some phenomenal Muslims, Black and non-Black, had crossed my path along my trek in this great faith, I can say with unwavering certainty the vast majority of my time as a Muslim has been filled with hardship, isolation, and loneliness. Some converts break and fold under the immense pressure to which they are subjected at the hands of the community and their families. Some apostate as a result. I can’t say I blame them. I wasn’t broken – alhamduliLah (praise be to God) – but I was scarred and bent: the human heart is a fickle and fragile morsel of flesh.
There really was nothing on the outside anchoring me to Islam: with the exception of my younger brother, himself a convert, I didn’t have any Muslim relatives; my culture wasn’t enmeshed in Islam; though I have a strong affinity for the Black Muslim community, I didn’t belong to any community in particular; and because of my experiences and the experiences of loved ones, I didn’t even want to belong.
I responded to my friend’s inquiry, “True, in terms of race, I probably did backtrack a bit. Still, there are some existential considerations for which Islam provides sufficient explanations that no other system of thought I’ve come across has the potential to answer. For that reason, I stick around.”
Islam mandates upon those who embrace its inspiration to submit their ego as best as they can manage to a set of transcendent principles and confers nobility upon those individuals who make earnest attempts to uphold those dignifying principles. Unlike in our society, where one’s worth is determined by wealth, lineage, extent of education, occupation, gender, sexual orientation, physical beauty, physical handicap and – yes – even skin color and hair texture, the notion of submission and adherence to a set of divine principles as the ultimate measure of one’s value is largely independent of the circumstances surrounding one’s genesis into the world or current station in the world and thus lends itself to a humble agnosticism concerning the ultimate worth of others: under such an empowering paradigm, even the jettisoned pauper, pygmy, or orphan has the potential to be a prince or princess in the eyes of God by virtue of character, actions, and outlook.
Each soul is granted a story of its own from its Lord related to where and when He chose to author it. The purpose of those different stories is so that we might all learn and grow from them all and hence from one another. We are meant to be mirrors unto one another. I remain Muslim, among other reasons, because Islam dictates by virtue of tauhīd (oneness of God) that my story and the stories and experiences of my people have intrinsic value for humanity at large, even if many in the world, including and especially Muslims, fail to recognize that value for our skin color, class, culture, or whatever. We are lessons to be heeded and learned. As it stands, large segments of Muslims in America deign to perceive themselves as superior to us because of what Allāh, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), has bestowed upon them out of His Mercy and do not wish to educate themselves with our stories or even has us in their company or communities or families, quite possibly out of the very essence of kufr (disbelief of God) itself, for it was Allāh (swt) Himself who created us as we are.
“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.”
— Qur’ān, (49:13)
Unfortunately, Muslims have done themselves, their families, their children, their communities, and their religion a grave disservice in their folly. Until Muslims begin to realize the source of their honor is with God alone, until Muslims resume their slave status before God and not to the inventions of men, physical or otherwise, my mother will continue to be correct and Black Muslims or other communities who have contributed or have the potential to contribute so much to Islam in America and throughout the world will only always be just “niggers” or “thugs” or “gangsters” or “scary” or “dime a dozen” or “too dark” or ‘abd or zenci or whatever other derogatory term cultures may design. We must muster the courage to strive against the false gods and false regimes of validation that have taken residence in our hearts and minds for the integrity of the community, for our collective existence in this country, and for the integrity and purity of our eternal souls before our Lord.
I pray for a better way forward. I can’t do it without you.
To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world
Outside our world of here and now –
our problem world –
To dream of vast horizons of the soul
Through dreams made whole,
Unfettered free – help me!
All you who are dreamers, too,
Help me make our world anew.
I reach out my hands to you.
– Langston Hughes, “To You”
Suhana Allah for this wonderful story!
Each soul is granted a story of its own from its Lord related to where and when He chose to author it. The purpose of those different stories is so that we might all learn and grow from them all and hence from one another. We are meant to be mirrors unto one another. I remain Muslim, among other reasons, because Islam dictates by virtue of tauhīd (oneness of God) that my story and the stories and experiences of my people have intrinsic value for humanity at large, even if many in the world, including and especially Muslims, fail to recognize that value for our skin color, class, culture, or whatever.
As salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!
I feel you, Akh–been there, done that, made du’a for patience, constancy and straight-up help from Allah (Highly Glorified is He)!
If you have time to search SuhaibWebb.com for my revert stories, I pray they help you a fraction of as much as your well-written story helped me.
Ameen to your dua. i pray we can overcome this so no one has to go through what you and other reverts are going through. Jazakallah for sharing your experience. I think far too often the issue of race in the muslim community is ignored.
“Each soul is granted a story of its own from its Lord related to where and when He chose to author it.”
How true this is, yet how hard to accept. Such immense damage is caused by the majority to our children, let alone to others, by raising them with the expectation of a certain uniform life story and certain criteria that should ‘qualify’ them for the ‘target’ life story. Yet it is Allah who has written each one and they’re not the same.
I wager all discontent with one’s lot stems from this mismatch between what Allah has written and what one was brought up to expect as the ‘target’ or ‘deserved’ story. It would have been far better if everyone were raised to focus on learning things for the purpose of being able to develop oneself and find out this personal story, which may or may not involve certain jobs, loves, children, or may involve them at various timings across life. How much better would society be if Muslims, having chosen submission, then worked to define their given life story. Then we would focus much more on how to contribute to others from our own path, rather than constantly measuring others for theirs, with all the resulting disappointment, guilt, insecurity, rebellion, despair, apathy and loneliness that follows.
It’s such a pervasive thing that, even aware of it, even being among those Allah has not written the ‘desired’ path, I myself cannot quite completely get rid of this paradigm in my mind. I hope I get there in time.
love this article. I am a “black convert” as well. 2) our ancestors on the slave boat were Muslim. Second.
During slavery, our ancestors came here worshiping the God of Abraham alone, without partner and they were whipped raped murdered and worked like dogs and forced under those circumstances to worship a man.
Those two facts make it pretty clear that my first struggle is the regain my freedom of worship and to worship the Creator, no matter how much trouble the white man gives me for it.
People are prejudice, but our Prophet left us a book and he clearly told us in ways that are not found in any Bible that slavery and racism are wrong. Some Muslims kill unjustly even though they say they follow. Some Muslims are racist and prejudice, even though they say they follow.
The most revolting Muslim racist I know are called the Nation of Islam. They killed Malcolm and they live in America and their history is American, so they are more wrong and backwards than the immigrant who comes from a place where there was only one race and now they are in this new melting pot and finding change hard. And let me finish by saying, I have seen immigrant Muslims work hard to drop the prejudice and police their own. We have black American Muslims who still praise fake prophet elijah Muhammad. Where are the black American Muslims openly condemning Louis Farrakhan?
The universal fight is against racism where ever we find it. Our battle as Muslims is to fight against the idea of worshiping anything other than the God of Abraham. Hate me and my skin all you want…
just please do not give any partner to Allah.
Assalamu alikum brother
I really respect your honesty in writing this article. Racism is alive more than ever and is met definitely one of the most disgusting and dangerous diseases that society at large faces, both in and outside of Muslim communities. I’m of a south-east Asian background living in Australia.. I will never understand your experiences but I stand in solidarity and support you and all my brothers and sisters in the tests that Allah gives us. You are all in my dua’s