“And had Allah seen in them any good, He would certainly have made them hear [the message of Islam]. But even if He made them hear, they would surely turn away in aversion.”

—Qur'an (Al-Anfaal, 8:23)

 ***

Black Ghetto Culture?

The man shuddered at what he saw. Gangs of boys killing each other at the pettiest of slights. In the name of territory, honor, or in defense of a fellow gang member who felt rebuffed, blood was spilled. And the killers were praised and honored for their ruthlessness. Entire neighborhoods were divided by these gangs. Some of the strongest youth would lie in wait for an unsuspecting member of a rival gang to pass, and they would pounce on them stealing all the money and valuables in the rival's possession. Some residents would be staggering about in drunkenness, and at times others walked around nude. Some women would become pregnant after committing fornication with several men and have no idea who the father was. Unwanted babies were aborted after birth or abandoned and left to die alone. And illiteracy was quite accepted and normal. Yet the nights were alive with such lively music and partying that a passerby would not suspect the depths of corruption behind the joyful sounds…

Anyone familiar with the culture of the “ghetto”—home to thousands of impoverished Black people in America—might find this scene chillingly familiar. But the man was not shuddering at America's infamous “Black ghettos.” In fact, this was not America at all. What was unfolding before him was a vivid mental picture of the lifestyle of pre-Islamic Arabia, home to the greatest generation to ever have graced the earth: the Companions of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

'But They're Corrupt!'

Imagine this scene…

A woman suffering from domestic violence rushes to the local masjid for help and is told:  “Until you women correct your corrupt ways, men are allowed to abuse you. You brought this on yourselves.”

Of course, the one uttering such an enormous insult has no genuine desire to help victims of abuse; but, remarkably, he imagines he does…

Allah says,

“When it is said to them, 'Make not mischief on the earth,' they say, 'Why, we only want to make peace!' Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.'”

Al-Baqarah, 2:11-12

These “peace-makers” are almost always present when an effort, or even progress, is being made in fighting oppression, abuse, and injustice. They remind abused women (and men) of the corruption of their gender group…and they remind victims of discrimination of the corruption of their blood.

 'They Deserve Discrimination'

“Black people are always complaining about racism,” the woman said. “These people bring their ghetto culture to Islam and expect people to respect them. They need to learn some self-respect.”

As jarring as these words may be, the sentiment is one that most of us are accustomed to hearing—if we are not uttering it ourselves. If it's not Black people who need to learn self-respect, it is Arabs and Pakistanis, Africans and Americans, men and women….and so on.

In other words, we all deserve discrimination because we're doing such a horrible of job of correcting our personal and collective problems.

Black Culture Corruption

Those who are inclined toward racism or self-hate will inevitably bring up the faults of the people they detest whenever discrimination is discussed. In America, it appears that African-Americans are not only the most fault-ridden group in the eyes of others, but the most likely candidates of discrimination—even in Muslim communities and masjids. And some argue this is because of their faults.

However, let's analyze “Black corruption” according to Allah's measure of ultimate good and evil.

The Breakdown: If we were to draw a pie graph of the racial breakdown of America, it would look roughly like this:

 chart1mm

 

However, if we were to draw a pie graph of the racial breakdown of US-born Muslims, it would look something like this:

 

chart2mm

 

What's Your Point? My point is simply this: When we define good based on Allah's definition—hearts being open to Islam—we find that the most “corrupt” racial group (as defined by many humans' perception) is amongst the most honored and good in the eyes of Allah.

Nevertheless, let's not be dishonest here. It is undeniable that aspects of Black American culture—like aspects of pre-Islamic Arab culture—has much room for improvement and self-correction. However, this fact alone does not seal a person's fate as good or evil. In fact, the existence of “degenerate” cultural realities did not keep Allah from choosing the Companions of the Prophet as the greatest humans to ever live. And contrary to popular belief, after accepting Islam, the Companions did not completely shed their negative tendencies. What made them great was not their “perfection”, but their commitment to supporting good and fighting corruption, as well as having strong faith in Allah, despite their human imperfections.

Allah says of them,

“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind: You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in Allah.”

Ali 'Imraan, 3:110

Let Allah Decide

Anyone who has had the challenge of interacting on a daily basis with a group that's considered “the other”—whether Black, White, Arab, Pakistani, or what have you—knows the familiar shock of learning a cultural group's faults up close. And for many of us, we react by thinking (if not saying), “And they want to talk about us!”

I know this reaction because I have it myself from time to time: The more I travel and interact with “the other”, the more grateful I am for the strong principles of standing up for right and standing strong against wrong that is deeply rooted in my “Black culture.” And it's not without at least a trace of “Black pride” that I witness Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, and many more rushing to the shores of America to benefit from the civil rights and justice that my people fought for—even as many scorn the very people who facilitated this for them.

But even as I regularly witness the corruption of racism from fellow Muslims—often more than what I witness from non-Muslims—I don't imagine that “they” deserve mistreatment because of this corruption.

I imagine only that our job as Muslims is not yet complete. There is much work to be done in supporting good and fighting corruption. And our first job is realizing that we are all in need of correction and improvement.

Those who are foremost in believing that any race or culture is amongst “the worst” need only to look at the history of pre-Islamic Arabia—and the demographics of Islam in America and abroad—to see whom Allah chose as His believers.

Because He chooses only the best.

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.

Copyright © 2013 by Al-Walaa Publications.  All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

7 Responses

  1. Thank you

    Just wanted to say thank you for writing this. Racism is so prevalent in our communities, especially, it seems, amongst the older generation of immigrants; yet it is a topic that Muslims hardly ever speak about openly. For many, it is so ingrained that we don’t even realize how racist (=arrogant) we are. Personally, I have seen such attitudes come out most commonly in the context of marriage (it’s okay to be friends, but we’re not equal enough to be married it seems).

    But if we are ever to purify ourselves and progress as a community, then this is a topic we will have to address not just in dialogue, but also to look within ourselves and notice how we treat people differently. I hope this article can play a role in starting that process.

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  2. Greg Abdul

    as salaam alaikum and al hamdulillah that you are writing sister.

    Black American culture is crime ridden. But I don’t think you can accurately say Black American Muslims have a culture of criminality. First off, we are not in large isolated pools where we are doing crime or we have a crime area in America. I know overseas there are Muslim immigrant neighborhoods that are like the ghettos in America, but I don’t know of a distinctly Muslim ghetto in America. Maybe there is one in New York? But my understanding is that Muslims in America are more prosperous and educated than the general population. Of course there is criticism of cultures. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Black Americans are the ones most prone to believing our culture should not be criticized, but you know what the trick of that is? The most criticized culture in the world is white America and the height of criticizing whites was the 60s. Today they are the leaders in the world and usually you would rather deal with a white man because even if he hates you, he knows how to behave because of all the political correctness that’s been drilled into him. Blacks on the other hand, we do tend to be expressive to the point of being rude. No one can correctly criticize gansta hip hop criminal culture in the black community and so our kids stagnate. As Muslims our criticisms should be reminders to return to Allah and His messenger. It is folly to think that as you need and editor, the rest of us don’t need naseehah.

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    • Ali

      I spoke about this over on my blog. As for African-American criminal culture, on the whole, outside the W.D. Mohammed community (which is rapidly dying off from old age), there really isn’t much of an culture of self-identified AA Muslims left other than like what you see with the pathological ghetto criminal class up in Philadelphia. Nowadays, it seems that AAs who are embracing Islam are doing so more on an individual basis in pockets here and there, and there isn’t much left of a mass movement of AA Muslims or an AA Muslim culture. Much of it has been supplanted by the immigrant Muslims and their children with whom they have not been able to compete with socially.

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  3. Shahin

    Wow. I have been confused about this issue for the longest time ever and I’m currently struggling with it. I think Hispanics are victims of this “they deserve it because of their corruption” mentality as well. I knew my thinking was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how exactly to solve it. Jazakallahu Khairan for writing this article and addressing yet another aspect of racism; reading it has helped me immensely and I hope it will help others as well.

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  4. maliurjmaliurj

    Alhamdullillah Rabbill Alameen. Dear Slaves of Allah: WE have engaged in too much kalam regarding the issue of racism. However bear in mind that the one who perceives racism is guilty as the one who promotes it. Islam has given us the tools to deal with this monster covertly and overtly. The bottom line is if we start paying attention to ourselves and stop giving attention to the ignorance and arrogance of those who are afflicted with this disease, you will find that our lives will begin to show positive signs of improvement. The first thing we have to stop doing is labeling each other as Pakistani Muslim, African American Muslim, Ghanian Muslim, European Muslim and on and on; that cultivates polarization. Secondly, treat people the way you want to be treated. If a fellow Muslim does something that you perceive as wrong, you have one solution to deal with this individual…take them to Allah SWT. Our problem is that we talk the talk but forget to walk the walk. Allah SWT says in Surah 4: 1. O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship) . Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.

    As Muslims we must remember that Allah SWT is whom we must turn to when we are wronged by anyone. We need to behave like matured individuals and stop putting ourselves in positions to be disappointed…then we end up getting mad. Come on people, give it a go…stop talking so much and do what Allah swt has instructed us to do. The dunya approach is killing us and causing us to spew hot air. Grow up and start seeing the hikmah in every disappointment and every so called failure in our lives. Allah SWT reminds us in Suah An Ankabuat Ayah 4:2. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested? So what is the problem if the outcome was not what you anticipated? Suck it up on move on! Cause at the end of this journey…all that we used to fret about and get angry about will have zero significance…remember that!!

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