I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard Muslims use Bilal (rA)’s name to support their theories on why racism cannot or does not exist in the Ummah. As if the Ummah is monolithic, as if it were a small community or a classroom or a place that could be static, even for a moment. As if the act of tokenizing a man as a one size fits all patch to the “non racist” racism that “doesn’t exist” is somehow okay. As if they were capable of naming another black Sahaba and not have to resort to Malcolm X in a desperate attempt not to be labeled the “R word.” As if Twitter and other social media platforms weren’t littered with the word abeed, as if in the mad dash to advocate and mobilize for Syria and Palestine we didn’t forget Somalia, and the war on black men, women and children and non binary folks that is occurring right now in our towns, our cities, our homes.
As Muslims we like to knock ourselves in the head with the idea that we aren’t susceptible to racism, that somehow because we were warned by the Prophet (saws) to beware of oppression and to remember that racial hierarchies are bullshit, we are spared from the parasitic nature of anti-black racism. We give the Ummah this projected identity of a safe and equitable space, void of aunties who want lighter-skinned daughters for their sons; uncles who won’t let black men marry their daughters; and masjids that actively work to keep out “urban culture”, i.e., black culture. As if there aren’t brothers and sisters who forget what private naseeha looks like when they see the blackness of someone’s skin, as if there aren’t entire countries being crushed by the foot of neocolonialism that go unsupported because a significant portion of their populations are black.
A few months ago I went to a masjid that was predominately Pakistani. I stopped on my way home from work, it wasn’t my normal masjid, but it was the closest one to me, so I decided to pray there. I generally have no qualms about praying somewhere on the side of the bus stop or in a quiet place at the subway station, but this day I had a little more time, and so I thought I’d check out this masjid I’d never been to before.
Immediately after I walked in, the women were staring at me. As a black woman, I’m used to this. I was also wearing a merlot colour lipstick and big headphones so I wrote off their looks as inquisitive, or disapproving of my chosen aesthetic (I can see how it may be an acquired taste). Either way, their prying eyes were inconsequential, because as a black woman who has experienced being the only black woman in her class, or at her place of work, staring is something I can generally ignore.
This Ramadan has been hard. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough, and the wondering why piety doesn’t entail feeling more.
It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.
This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.
They ask me why I always wear black.
And I answer, “I am in mourning”.
They ask me who am I mourning.
I’m mourning my grandfather, I say.
They found his bones 10 years after his head was cut off, Quran in hand.
I’m mourning my uncle too; his remains still not found. I wonder how much he suffered.
I’m mourning my grandmother, killed by the grenades that left her son handicapped.
I’m mourning the thousands of Ahmeds, Aishas and Fatimas massacred for being Bosniaks, for being Muslim. I’m mourning my Bosnia, the land of milk and honey.
I’m mourning Palestine and her olive trees. I’m mourning Palestine and the land my friends will never get to see.
I’m mourning Palestine and her rascal children, now gone.
Read the rest of this entry »
fr mariam , khadijah, fatima, hajar, alla , yall,
fr our communities that hold us,
recite algebraic formulas against evil eye
2 × al fatiha plus 3 astaghfirallahs =
your eyelashes wont fall out
written with such love and concern
fr when we struggle w them
against islamophobia ,
racism , the revolution
do our dawah n make
dua fr you, me, the deen
thinkin abt the dirty linen
we spent all night
folding with our teeth clenched…
Read the rest of this amazing poem, here!
I was born to be a doctor, or so I was told. Many years later, doctor I will be, though not of the medical profession. This particular journey has taken longer than the one expected of me, leading to the need for me to make some choices.
Being a medical doctor, you see, is just the right amount of time for a girl to spend on her education. You work hard, learn, achieve and then it is over and you can get started on your “real life”. Pursuing a PhD, however, is a longer and more nebulous path that required, for me, space to focus, which meant not getting married according to a societal deadline. The road to get here has been tough. I have made choices while navigating a system that works against me.
One day, I realized that rather than navigating the system, I should be tearing it down.