Liberty and Justice…For All? Reflections of an African-American, Ahmadi Muslim, Aspiring Imam

Muzammil Jalaal

CONTEMPORARY AND SOCIAL ISSUES

17th December 2020

My father is an African American convert to Ahmadiyyat raised in Ohio, while my mother was born in Qadian, India and raised as an Ahmadi Muslim. I am an African American Muslim, and training to become an Imam.

My perspective through life has been enriched by the vast experiences I’ve amassed from a multi-faceted upbringing; liberty and justice for all – at least that is what they taught us – but my experiences beg to differ. From being called a terrorist because of my faith to being called the n-word because of my brown skin, my identity as a youth has been assaulted and left defined with blurred lines. For a majority of my childhood the only place I saw someone with the same skin color was at home. The only place I saw people who worshipped God like me was at home. Growing up, I was never colored enough for the African Americans, nor was I cultured enough for the other Southeast Asians. From a young age however, I knew one thing for certain; that I am human enough for Islam, and this was the one true place I belonged. Growing up in a society where on one hand, African Americans are dehumanized and on the other Muslims are villainized, I fell into both hands. Ahmadiyyat was my safety, a comforting reprieve amongst the vast waters of this hostility.

‘Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet, the Immaculate one, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel which are with them. He enjoins on them good and forbids them evil and makes lawful for them the good things and forbids them the bad and removes from them their burden and the shackles that were upon them. So those who shall believe in him, and honor and support him, and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him — these shall prosper.’ [1]

One thing people must realize is that being African American, we still endure the direct and indirect effects stemming from centuries of not just physical enslavement, but centuries more of economical, psychological, and emotional subjugation. Bear in mind that not only were thousands of men, women, and children stolen, abused, and brutalized to an unimaginable, abhorrent, nauseating degree, but in the lives of American slaves, their religions, languages, culture, families, homeland, dignity, humanity, intellect, morals, self-respect – all that makes one human – were beaten out of them and they were left subjugated, empty and lifeless. Hence, till this day, the African American community at large is and has been attempting to piece together whatever shreds of humanity and sanity we can find, scattered across this blood-stained mirage of American equality.

Many say that we as a community have had adequate time to adjust and overcome our past. It is true that the Emancipation Declaration was signed in 1863 but still, in 2020 we as a people have yet to be liberated and are still waiting for true emancipation. There are some who so ironically place their hopes for salvation in the white Jesus; the same white Jesus their ancestors were crucified into believing. This misplaced ideology of salvation has led us to centuries of social, religious, and political movements which have ultimately failed us as a people.

But tell me truthfully, can a mother’s warm arms ever be replaced with cold chains, or the crack of a whip stand in for a father’s care? When family ties are severed by the highest bidder and the only education taught is that you have more in common with a monkey than a man, such beliefs transcend through generations. Did we suddenly expect people who have risen from such depths to practically raise a family and become functioning members of any society? At which point did we expect the owned to behave like the owners? At which juncture in time do we expect the owners to see that which their forefathers once considered property with pervasive dominance to be anything more than expendable assets?

‘Allah sets forth the parable of a slave who is owned, having no power over anything; and a free man whom We have provided with a fair provision from Ourself, and he spends thereof secretly and openly. Are they equal? Praise be to Allah! But most of them know not.’ [2]

It is a constant reminder at a national level, that we are still perceived and treated as less than human. It is our reality to witness the execution of another life, which now seems to be a daily routine; their only crime being that they have skin like mine. Oppression stares us in the face, and racism is my old companion. I am 34 percent of the prison population, but only 13 percent of America. My ethnicity has been diminished to mere color.

I bear this misfit identity of being “African’ even though I was born in America. Do we refer to the ‘whites’ in America as ‘European’ American? I am the United States income gap, I am society’s threat. There are no amounts of protests, demonstrations, or political movements that will change this – have they yet? Valiant though they may be, we did not achieve true liberation centuries ago with Frederick Douglass, nor did we decades ago with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, but 1400 years ago we did achieve it in the deserts of Arabia.

I tell you truly, genuine freedom is not found in the words of Malcom, but in the teachings Muhammad (sa). It is a fact, that no lasting or sincere progression can be satiated outside the breadth of Islam Ahmadiyyat. True freedom, true liberty and justice for all can only be found for our people in Ahmadiyyat, wherein the social construct of the oppressed and oppressors are both systematically reconstructed. Now, this upheaval of the self and society as a whole from the rusted chains of inner and outer oppression demands a ransom of the soul rather than that of Christ or his blood. If the mere crucifixion of an innocent life is worthy to levy the sins of humanity, then at the feet of every American slave is rendered an eternity of salvation for humanity.

‘And verily, we gave Moses the Book and caused after him Messengers to follow in his footsteps; and to Jesus, son of Mary, We gave manifest Signs, and strengthened him with the Spirit of holiness. Will you then, every time a Messenger comes to you with what you yourselves desire not, behave arrogantly and treat some as liars and slay others?’ [3]

‘O Mary, Allah gives thee glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honored in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God;’ [4]

Unfortunately, the faith of much of the Islamic world is limited to mere physical actions, much like the ‘god’ of Christians is left solely in body, whereas the soul itself has ascended to the skies never to return. Thus, nothing is left but a corpse whose only decadence is in its decay. Hence, such people who laud themselves as divine representatives lead their followers astray, for in actuality, their teachings defame the pure character of the Prophet Jesus (as) and his mother Mary (as), along with the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (sa). They seek to tarnish their pure countenance as prophets of God with blasphemous, shameful embellishments, left bare like the foul depictions of Christ we see hung from chapel to church.

Entire nations apparently pledge allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad (sa), who himself was orphaned, yet they pay no mind to those in need, those without parents, the hungry, the wayfarers, or the weak, as every true Muslim should. Instead, they subjugate such persons whom Muhammad (sa) loved the most.

Events like those on that bleak 11th day of September 2001, have stolen more than planes and lives; those terrorists hijacked my faith. They killed our countrymen, and with the collapse of the Twin Towers, so too fell our chance at a ‘normal’ life. Though I was too young at the time to understand that in the eyes of many my hands too were covered in blood.

This is in part why I dedicate my life to Islam, to rectify the misconstrued perceptions of our identity, and save those victimized on its account. The cumulative experiences of racism and bigotry, like being pulled over twice in one day by over militarized police threatening that the following moments may be my last, to religious discrimination and intolerances, like being one of the only Muslim families In Las Vegas for people to unleash their Islamophobic aggressions on. I see women abused and their rights stripped away, I see a spiritual blackout sweeping the nation, steeped in moral and ethical decline. I see a nation of people on the brink of collapse, with poor leadership. I see inequality and injustices.

Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada
Hence, not being racist, just doesn’t cut it. We must be anti-racist. Being a passive Muslim is not, and never was sufficient. Our faith and the success of this movement depends upon active progressions. Moreover, I see a need for Islam.

I tell you with certainty nothing will restore humanity in the lives of African Americans – rather all of humanity – except the teachings of Muhammad (sa). Show me better efficacy in any of the tried methods for the past 300 years and if they worked. Tell me why we are still being lynched physically and economically. Nothing can cure the Islamic world from what their own hands have wrought, save the teachings of the Promised Messiah (as). If not, then tell me why our faith is seen as nothing more to many than a fear mongering cancer? History stands witness to the utopian society which came about in Arabia, which men and women sacrificed their egos, wealth, and lives to establish. Within the span of the 23 years of Muhammad’s (sa) prophethood, slaves had become rulers, oppressors became civil servants, and woman too were reacquainted with the long-lost companionship of equality. Even today, this is not out of reach.

My mother comes from the small village of Qadian where this movement of reviving the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) and Islam began and has thus been given a new breath of life. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is our savior, the Promised Messiah (as) is our emancipator, and his Caliphs are our life support. Our nations are on fire, our faith is under attack. We have been witness to the pain of our people for too long.

We are the martyrs of Ahmadiyyat, and we are the innocent minorities murdered in America. And it is up to us, to become what those 313 companions on the day of the Battle of Badr were to Muhammad (sa), for our Caliph, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor (aba). All of humanity is from Adam (as); a White has no superiority over a Black, nor does a Black have any superiority over a White. Perhaps many have heard these words all too well, but in reality, they mean nothing if not predicated on the belief that Allah is one, and His messenger is Muhammad (sa). Until we recognize the Creator of Adam (as) Himself, it will continue to only be, liberty and justice for some.

About the Author: Muzammil Jalaal hails from Las Vegas, USA and is currently a student at the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada.

ENDNOTES

The Holy Qur’an, chapter 7, verse 158.
The Holy Qur’an, chapter 16, verse 76.
The Holy Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 88.
The Holy Qur’an, chapter 3, verse 46.

SOURCE THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS

Liberty and Justice…For All? Reflections of an African-American, Ahmadi Muslim, Aspiring Imam

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