Nobody Cares About Black Muslims, He Said

The first time I remember not feeling loved—I mean really not feeling loved—was at college, when the school disparaged me because I was Black. And Muslims showed their eager support.

I wrote the above entry in my journal because alone at home with a pen and paper is one of the few places I feel safe enough to be honest about my pain. The other places are when I am alone with Allah, when I am alone with those I love, and those whom I trust love me.

But recently I’ve been taking a few risks, sharing my heart in ways I never have before. It started, I think, with the decision to speak about feeling like I could no longer be Muslim, in the video I Never Thought It Would Be Me. That was a scary first step, but it was a necessary one because I felt trapped in my confusion and pain, and trapped in a life others had carved out for me. Then the words flowed a bit more easily, even if hesitantly, in Pain. From the Journal of Umm Zakiyyah, then Broken yet Faithful, and now Faith.

But it’s still hard, and I often cringe in knowing I’ve shown so much of myself. But today, for the sake of my emotional health and spiritual sanity, I feel I have no other choice.

The truth is, the most difficult part of the battle to be seen as human is the one waged against oneself. I was taught that I didn’t have the right to exist, and I’d believed it. Though no one used those exact words, it was instilled in me nonetheless. In circles of those who looked like me, I was taught that my existence had to be sacrificed for “the greater good,” for a Black legacy that was bigger than me. I was taught that internal hurts—those inflicted upon me by those who looked like me—had to be kept quiet because the admission would be seen by “them” as an opportunity to inflict more hurt.

But in my eyes, “they” inflicted hurt because of their own internal pain and spiritual depravity, not because I admitted to having pain of my own. Yes, “they” would use any opportunity to say I deserved to hurt, and I certainly didn’t want to give them more power over me than they already had.

But the problem is, this hiding of hurts (and thus giving oneself no opportunity for healing) is itself a grave hurt and a form of oppression, incited by a culture of systematic racism. It is the existence of racism that tells us that we do not exist like others do.

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Besides, isn’t it the very definition of being human to have within you, individually and collectively, both good and evil? And is there any group of people who escape this part of human experience? What then, I wondered, was the point of denying my right to be seen as human too?

Equal Opportunity Evil

Here’s the problem with buying into bigoted untruths of the self and others: evil doesn’t discriminate. Shaytaan, as well as his army, views all human hearts the same: as opportunities for corruption and dragging them alongside him to Hellfire. He doesn’t care about the amount of melanin (or lack thereof) in the skin of human beings, the descendants of the one toward whom he felt destructive, envious pride. Ironically, Shaytaan sees us as we should see ourselves: as a single people, a single group, a single family of Adam.

When we, whoever we are, begin to believe evil has escaped us more than it has escaped others, or that good has come to us more than it has come to others, then we have joined Shaytaan and his army, and thus have given our hearts over to the same prideful disease that destroyed Iblis.

Black in the MSA (Muslim Student Association)

When I was in college, I was very active in the MSA. Ultimately, I served as Vice President one year and President another. During my four years in undergrad, I was often the only Black Muslim who participated consistently. But it was a fellow BSU (Black Student Union) member who approached me after class one day and asked if I would come to a speech by a man who had been part of the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. She showed me some of the man’s writings, and I was appalled. It listed in unapologetic horrid detail “scientific proofs” of the biological inferiority and pathology of Black people. In other words, it detailed how Black people, allegedly, had not fully evolved from apes and thus had underdeveloped intelligence and “inherently” violent and immoral ways.

I sat in the audience listening in shock to a speech by a man brought to the university on school funds. My only consolation was that we, the Black students, had come in groups, prepared to challenge him during Q&A. When I glanced around the audience, I was pleasantly surprised to see some members of the MSA in attendance. Like myself and the Black students, they were different shades of brown sitting amidst the predominately White audience though the MSA members were mostly Desi, from India and Pakistan.

When the speaker made a joke disparaging a Black student, I saw the reaction of some MSA members, and I did a double take. The MSA group was laughing and clapping. When the speaker spoke of Blacks and Latinos being inherently ignorant and mentally diseased and Whites and Asians being inherently intelligent and superior, the Desi Muslims roared in applause. When he spoke of the inherent inferiority of Black people, they nodded in agreement as their eyes lit up in an eager admiration that I associated with someone being in the presence of a beloved celebrity.

A Wake-up Call

I could say I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the speaker himself was originally from India. But that wouldn’t be true, and it wouldn’t be right. I was surprised, and I should have been. Why should I, or any believer, expect anything less than basic human decency from fellow believers in Allah?

But it hurt. I cannot deny that. These were the same Muslims who sat opposite me, an administrator of the MSA, to brainstorm events to bring together Muslims on campus. No wonder I was the only Black person who participated regularly. I was the only one who hadn’t gotten the memo. But since I’d been voted in as an administrator myself, in the eyes of the MSA, I had no right or claim to my pain. After all, how could they be racist when they voted in a Black board member?

So I went home that day and said nothing about what I’d seen or heard. As far as I could tell, the Desi MSA members hadn’t seen me in the crowd, so after the event, I found my way out of the room and carried my heavy heart alone.

Nobody Cares About You

“Nobody cares about Black Muslims except Black Muslims,” an MSA member said to me months later when I suggested an event aimed at explaining the differences between the Nation of Islam and orthodox Islam. This member was Arab, and I’m sure, like the Muslim supporters at the racist speech, he meant no harm. “Good people” never do.

But they somehow manage to continually inflict it. And because they don’t mean to, our job is to suffer in silence, continuously. Because apparently, the only crime greater than good people inflicting pain is for hurt people to openly acknowledge that they hurt.

This is particularly the case if those hurt people are members of a group unapproved for full human existence. If you’re of a privileged group, you can speak of the hurt you felt when the people you hurt didn’t praise you enthusiastically enough for not hurting as much as they could.

Being Black and Muslim

I don’t like sounding like a victim because I am not. I am a hurting human being. But because I am not viewed as a full human being, when I speak of hurt, it is allegedly because I see myself as a victim. When others speak of hurt, it is because they see themselves as a human who is hurting.

Being Black and Muslim is not a victim experience. It is a human experience, and it is my human experience. And it hurts. And it’s not because I bemoan either gift (Blackness or Islam) that God has given me. It is because the suffering inflicted on me by my brothers and sisters in both humanity and faith due to their dislike of the melanin God has given me.

I don’t pretend to understand the fight that people are picking with God when they speak so condescendingly about the black and brown-hued creations of God. But I myself feel grateful for the gift of brown skin that my Lord has given me. If nothing else, it at least offers me that much more protection from destructive human pride.

Also, as I experience daily mistreatment from both fellow Americans and fellow Muslims, I am given the priceless reminder that this earth is not my home.

 

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, cognitive behavioral therapist.

To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

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24 responses to “Nobody Cares About Black Muslims, He Said”

  1. Sister Suzanne says:

    Dear sister,

    You see only one side of the reality. Many Muslims, I am one of them, love the black people. If some of them are racists, this is their problem. They do not have only this problem, they have a lot of other problems, because they follow their corrupt culture instead of following the pure religion of God. We are all suffering from what Shaytan put in the mind of the people, but the truth is with us, the justice is with us, this is what makes us strong. Do not let your heart be hurt by this, have pity for them, because they are clearly on the wrong direction. May Allah bless you. I love you for the sake of Allah.

  2. Noorunnisa Ibrahim Kutty says:

    Dear sister, I am an Indian Muslim woman, although not from the USA. When I read of experience like yours, I just wish I lived there – not because I think it is a better place than my own home, but just to show my solidarity with my fellow Muslims of ALL races. When will Muslims understand that ‘Asabiyyah was HATED by the Prophet (saw), and that he will disown the people who practice it!? Let me tell you, Sister, that I admire you deeply for your ability to write honestly and beautifully, and let me also tell you I love you for the sake of Allah. May Allah bless you!

  3. Yo! Khary says:

    This is needed to be emphasised and ponder upon for all to reflect upon:

    “Here’s the problem with buying into bigoted untruths of the self and others: evil doesn’t discriminate. Shaytaan, as well as his army, views all human hearts the same: as opportunities for corruption and dragging them alongside him to Hellfire. He doesn’t care about the amount of melanin (or lack thereof) in the skin of human beings, the descendants of the one toward whom he felt destructive, envious pride. Ironically, Shaytaan sees us as we should see ourselves: as a single people, a single group, a single family of Adam”

    This is the truth as human beings need to accept.

  4. Ahmad B. says:

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Sister,

    Thank you for writing so honestly and holding up a much needed mirror to the Muslim community. Racism is disgusting and, to my mind, quite incomprehensible. It just seems so utterly arbitrary; I would really like to know what the origins of it are.

    Let’s get to work, brothers and sisters, on exorcising this demon from within our midst. Islam is so explicitly and unequivocally anti-racist, probably more so than any other religion. The Prophet (saas) explicitly stated that a white / light-skinned person has NO superiority over a black person. And Allah explicitly mentions on many occasions in the Qur’an that the differences in your tongues and *colors* are among the precious signs of His wisdom and power. Bilal (ra) was a black Ethiopian slave who was given the highest honors. Quraysh seethed when they saw him ascend the Ka’ba to call the adhan after the conquest of Mecca. How many Muslims alive today would have similarly seethed?

    We can do much better than this, and must. Malcom X saw better than this among Muslims. He wrote about it so eloquently, how Islam had managed to overcome the ugly racial divide he saw in America. But alas! The problem is still there. If not after 1,400 years, when will we ever learn? May Allah forgive us our collective sins and show us to the way of Truth. Ameen!

  5. Maham Meher says:

    I cannot believe that this actually happened to you, and to be very honest, I have nothing to say to comfort you but to sympathize with you. I myself am a Pakistani, and thanks to my parents who taught me how to love without seeing color. I respect people (whether or not they are brown or Muslims) to appreciate and acknowledge what they did and not judge them for who they are.

    Im truly sorry for what happened to you, and Im assuming this was in US college?

    I just wanted tot hank you for composing the first legitimate article that I read in which finally someone talked about this issue.
    It’s a shame those people who think this way still call themselves Muslims.

    I also wanted to let you know that my closest friends since I moved to North America have been black or white (both Muslims and non Muslims alike) because I purposely distanced myself from “my” people. I know their way of thinking, and how they will go to lengths to disregard some one based on a stereotype, but let me tell you, at the same time, there are also people who are trying to change this, or doing as much of the opposite to reduce stigma and ignorance.
    All in all, I have met some amazing Muslims in the time I spent here, who happened to be Middle Eastern, black, white and desi, and Im thankful to Allah that I did.

    As for you sister, I really hope that you don’t take this to heart, and that you find true support and real friends elsewhere.
    I would also like to say that please don’t quit MSA, simply because you don’t want them to see that they have gotten to you or that you will quit just because of them. If you are the only black, you have the honor of being the only actively working black student, and you should be proud of that and hold that status.
    Don’t worry about them, they will get their part of the punishment.

    Good luck!

  6. The MSA like every other organization Muslims form is infiltrated by agents of sufyani and dajjal. That is who you describe in your article. By failing to understand the people you saw applauding the racist speech are not Muslims but are satanists posing as Muslims you put forth wrongful stereotypes of Indian and Pakistani Muslims. Shaytaan knows every trick. Arm yourself with knowledge and wisdom.

  7. Abu Bilal says:

    Assalamu aleikom dear sister, I don’t want to make this comment long so I say, your post moved me because I really thought that racism was only found among the elders that grew up during earlier times and that it has at least gone extinct in our younger society but I was wrong.. My sister I named my son after Bilal Ibn rabah, and how he was treated by the community of the prophet and sahaba makes me burst into tears for how far we are from that… I just want to say to any black Muslim or brown Muslim or any one treated with racism that is reading this, that I love you from the deepest part of my heart and that we are all equals in front of allah and that I ask allah that this sickness is cured from people.

  8. Ahsan says:

    Wow I’m impressed. This actually brought tears. The ending was epic, this earth ain’t our home! May Allah ease our journey.

  9. Arab bro says:

    May Allah remove the stresses and pain from your heart and my fellow black Muslims like he removed the torture from Bilal. My Allah bring ease and tranquility into your heart and the hearts of my fellow black Muslims like he brought ease and tranquility into the heart of the mother of Musa.

    The pain is real.

  10. Shabeeb says:

    Asalamu Alaykum

    I am a Canadian Indian, my parents are from India. I can honestly and truly say that I have met black Muslims who are better mannered and softer than desi Muslims. Black Muslims who are more progressive than many of the desi Muslims that I know and encounter often. Isn’t Akhlaaq and activism more important than where one is from. Kudos to you sister for writing this piece. Salam

  11. It’s shocking to hear about the behavior of the students at that event. May Allah educate our Ummah, and bring forth a generation with pure hearts, who see and treat all human beings as equals regardless of race, tribe or nationality.

  12. Dr. Tariq says:

    I am a non-black Indian Muslim and I assure you that I feel as much love for black Muslims in my heart as for those who are white or brown. I’ve been trained never to discriminate on basis of color, race or country of residence and this is the teaching of Islam. If someone is discriminating on these lines he/she is simply not following Islam in true sense.

  13. rashida says:

    As Salaam Alaikum sister, I am not surprised, after being shocked myself by an online article that warned fellow muslims to be aware of blacks as the article related a Hadith about a black man who would destroy the Holy Kaaba! I re-read the Hadith as I’d never read it before, how could I have not seen that? I questioned many about it and felt saddened about how Prophet Muhammad (saw) had a dream in which he saw a skinny black man destroying the Kaaba, but the story online was very racist. I was troubled, I no longer looked at foreigners the same. I prayed, I cried, it remained on my heart until one day I asked a fellow muslim of whom I had not seen or heard from in many years about it and he asked me what do you think of it? I answered the same question I’d once asked him, In Sha Allah, I said, one day there will be no need for any symbol, location or direction in which to turn to worship Allah. He said you have answered your own question sister! My answer was from Allah and it surprised even me. And as we must exit this world, Allah’s Will is all that remains. Allahu Akbar!

    • Yusuf Smith says:

      As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

      I believe I have heard another version of that hadeeth, namely that a specific Ethiopian or Abyssinian ruler will destroy the Ka’aba before the End of Time. Not merely “a Black man”. As we know, central Ethiopia and parts of Eritrea remain Christian to this day; the number of Black African Muslims is much larger, and about a third of the population of Ethiopia itself is also Muslim.

  14. Assalamu’alaikum, I am a Muslim from Indonesia … don’t be sad my brother. We are all brothers, we are all equal before God. Let us pray for one another. Although we are far apart, although we had never met, but I know that we are brothers. Keep the spirit … we all pray for you.

  15. Assalamualaikum, I am a Muslim from Indonesia. I was thrilled to read your story. Do not be sad my brother, we all have weaknesses, and also I have many weaknesses. Let us pray for one another. In order for us to be strong and mutually reinforcing. I hope you are always in the protection of Allah

  16. Yll says:

    Selam Alaikum Umm,

    I definitely understand your pain, and it’s important to recognize and validate it, without jumping to ‘explain’ the ‘why’ as a way to ignore the injustice.

    I came upon this article via a friend, and it amazes me how just some small details of history can illuminate a deeper understanding of the human race, and can actually prevent all this avoidable racism. I still don’t get why people choose to speak ignorantly, and I’m curious to learn what are their actual underlying fears.

    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Heres-How-Black-Muslims-Lifted-Europe-out-of-the-Dark-Ages-20170409-0026.html

  17. Aisha P says:

    I love your honesty Masha Allah. I am a convert, my skin is very light and I have only felt welcome and comfortable in Masajids that are mostly African American. Unfortunately the closest one to me is 25 miles from my home and 15 miles from my office so I don’t even get to attend Jummah unless I take a half day off of work. As much as I wish the environment in the 5 Masjid close to my home would change, it won’t. They will always be cultural or anti convert, etc…. And as much as they say they want you involved, they disregard you’re ideas. So what I have done is, like you, not give up on my relationship with Allah and I joined and have become active (as the token Muslim) in the Racial Justice committees. I Love it… and I feel like I am actually making a difference in our nation through the will of Allah.

  18. B says:

    I was so shocked to read this; I didn’t expect that young people, young so called Muslims would be like this! How horrible! But then again, they were probably non-practising Muslims, cause I can’t believe a practising Muslim is racist. In that case it would be even logical, as they probably don’t pray, so if they can disobey Allah so easily… and Shaytaan is around them the whole time as well, may Allah guide them.
    Then IF they were practising Muslims, something went completely wrong. I mean, somebody who knows about Bilal r.a., who knows about Musa ‘alaihi essalaam (about whom is said he’s dark skinned!), about ‘Isha ‘alaihi essalaam (superdark skinned according to the soundest narrations), and OUR OWN FATHER ADAM ‘alaihi essalaam! Either they’re superignorant or they’ve got a giant problem which might block their entrance to Jannah. The same problem Shaytaan had: feeling better than someone else because of their creation. LIKE THEY CREATED THEMSELVES OR CHOSE IT THEMSELVES -_-‘. How ignorant can a person be..
    Anyway sis, be strong and DO speak out definitely. May Allah guide us all.

  19. Timi says:

    I am Desi, I know how you feel. These so called D’esi’s can be very cruel and subjective when it comes to color. I myself am desi of Pakistan and do not feel comfortable around them because I am brown as well. What a shame that as a Muslim, they are denying Allah’s creation and thus making fun of Allah SWT. Brother thank you for sharing your story and stay strong. Black have brains and intelligence, what they have lacked is opportunities which is a huge determine of success. Those who called themselves Muslims, desi, white have just shown lack of intelligence by their applause, and laughs making fun of Allah’s creation. These people are ignorant, not well informed and lack intelligence to underdtand and appreciate Allah’s creation.

  20. Syed h says:

    The Shining Light (pbuh).

    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    The world was illuminated by your arrival so bright.
    Your life shines brighter than the brightest sunlight.
    No words can express the beauty of its might.
    Every aspect every angle so serene and right.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Memories beautiful memories come to me.
    As I go through the journey of your blessed life.
    First there is Badr, the day Allah called Yaum ul Furqan.
    When you begged Allah for victory crying all through the night.
    Allah loved those words of yours begging His mercy.
    For the 313 unarmed who were ready to fight and fight.
    AbuBakr (ra) stood up saying go Rasoolallah go.
    We are with you whatever the battleground however tight.
    Then it was Umer (ra) crying out in union with Siddiq.
    Go Rasoolallah go, you will find us by your side.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    These words these emotions pleased you very much.
    But you looked towards the Ansar waiting inspite.
    Sa’ad bin Muadh stepped forward and said firmly.
    O Rasoolallah we will jump in the oceans if you say so.
    We are steadfast in wars and ever upright.
    Victory came your way my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Down the lane of memory comes another sight.
    So beautiful, so memorable that it stands outright.
    When Khaled, Amr bin Aas and Uthman came together.
    To accept Islam and hold on to it tight.
    The words You said have a fragrance unexplained.
    ‘Makkah has thrown out its gems’ your voice held delight.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    To me the final beauty is the scene at Makkah.
    That same Makkah you had to leave overnight.
    But you were now returning as a Hero my Nabi.
    Your entry in that city is engraved in me deep inside.
    Your head was bent low in humility and humbleness.
    With Osama bin Zaid sitting behind, holding you slight.
    On your blessed lips was praise and glory for Allah.
    The one and only whose beloved you are infinite.
    O RasoolAllah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Umm Imad.

  21. Brother says:

    Salaam Sister. Shatyan is a racist; he believes he’s better than humans because he’s made of fire. It’s strange that the non-Black brothers and sisters didn’t find it offensive when the speaker said their ancestors were apes. It would require them to reject what the Quran teaches in order approve whatever pleasantries the speaker spoke about their race. Shaytan will not cease to trap any of Adam’s (pbuh) children.

  22. Muqeet Ahmed says:

    Being Black and Muslim is not a victim experience. It is a human experience, and it is my human experience.

  23. A SA indian Muslim men says:

    My sister in Islam
    This has been a brilliant article with true living facts that needed to be mentioned. This incident is one of many that I see daily. There is no justification and no excuse. Really enjoyed the part of how could we be racist when we voted a black MSA member, exactly like we named our son Bilaal.
    What I enjoyed most is the comments, my dear people there is No justification and No excuse.

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