Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Pain of a Black Muslim

By Arthur Richards

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. My lips have been whispering this since this evening as my heart yells, “why?”

For the last 7 months I've been living abroad, fulfilling the goal of many students of the Islamic sciences in a country with a corrupt government and instability. Before I left America my community members and friends all continually reminded me that I'm leaving a country of freedom and safety to a country where I would need to be on my best behavior, where I would need to avoid confrontations with the police, where I would need to make sure I am not in the wrong place at the wrong time (not sure how that's done), and that ultimately I would need to be conscious that at any moment something could happen to threaten my life. Little do they know that these safety precautions were taught to me with more vigor than an Islamic school teacher teaches his students to pray, they were shouted into my ears, and they were beaten into me when I forgot until the tears of my father hurt more than the belt on my behind.

I so desperately want to make something clear to you all. Even with all of the trials and tribulations that come with living away from America, I've never felt safer in my life. The immense weight and trauma that my heart is currently carrying isn't there because of my current surroundings or because of the corrupt government that I now find myself living in, it's there because I heard the yells and screams of Keith Scott's wife as she said “Keith, come on out the car.” I could hear the realization in her voice that something was going to happen. The intuition that every black mother, wife, or mother of a black child has. It's that realization that says I'm about to lose my world and it's about to happen right now. That realization that no matter how many years you've had to mentally prepare yourself for this moment, those long talks of telling your son to cut his hair because an afro is like a dart board for the police, those talks of not wearing jackets because having an extra place to put your hands isn't safe for you. Those reminders that you have to speak loud and clear and don't allow anyone to doubt your command of a language that long ago was forced upon your ancestors.

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. I'm still trying to remind myself that He is in complete control and that I am being broken so that can I fully rely on Him, but it was recently released that Keith Scott's mother believes that the last book he was reading was the Qur'an, “He loved to read that book”, she said. This black man sitting in his car reading the book of a group of people that unfortunately didn't have the remorse to say his name in a Friday sermon, or to at least mention one of the 172 other black people killed by police this year. Maybe the Khateeb could have at least mentioned what is going on in the black world. I say world because it truly is a completely different place, for many believers it is like the world of the unseen, a world that many are blind to, sometimes intentionally so. A world that isn't as important as their own and will never be.

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. If this were a letter written with ink then it would probably be ruined right now with these drops of pain from my eyes. Gaines, Garner, Brown, Martin, Rice, Crutcher, Castile, Sterling, Bland, Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. Within 24 hours I have viewed videos of congressman, ex-mayors, “Black people hate white people, because white people are successful and they're not.” I've spoken to acquaintances tell me that I should look at these killings objectively, that no doubt there is some racism but that I might be missing something, “not everything is about race,” they tell me. I've had my own beloved teachers who I love for the sake of God, they are the ones who have set me on this path of knowledge tell me blatantly that I'm taking this race issue too far and that they fear for me. They fear for me. But they can never understand the fear my mother has for me. I want to ask Shaykh, “Do you fear for me because you know at any moment when I arrive back on American soil that it could be me sitting in my car listening to Mishary or to your own Halaqah when it happens? When they call me and say, Come out with your hands in the air. . . only for me to awake and hear, Who is your Lord?”

I have no doubt in my mind that I need counseling; that every person of color in America is in need of counseling. That being Black and Muslim feels more like something a doctor diagnoses you with more than the perfect will of God. I feel so much pain; pain for those who are losing life, those afraid of losing someone, afraid of the next khutbah that they have to attend that neglects to mention the loss of life in their own neighborhood. Life that if walked in the masjid to embrace this faith would be hailed with praise but when that life is taken in a hail of bullets is met with silence.

I'll continue to do my part, to educate, and to inspire. But this hole in my heart isn't going anywhere, and I so desperately just want God to fill it. So I'll keep saying it until my heart is filled and the pain goes away, “God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He.”


“Hasbunallahu wa ni`mal Wakil': حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ
Allah (alone) is Sufficient for us, and what an Excellent Guardian He is!.”
 آل عمران‎ : Surah Al 'Imran (3:173)
Arthur Richards is a student of literature specializing in postcolonial theory, Islamic literature, and Muslim Africa. He has studied Islam through traditional methods among various scholars, du'at and students of knowledge here in the US and Mishkah University. He is currently studying Islamic sciences overseas.
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