Connect with us

Books

5 Important Lessons From Harry Potter

MuslimMatters

By: Abu Ibrahim Ismail

Perhaps you’ve tried to ignore it as I have. But you cannot.

Why? Because it’s everywhere.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

No, it’s not the wildly fluctuating winter temperatures. It’s not the political wrangling in Washington. It is Harry Potter.

Last summer, the final installment in the Harry Potter movies came out. And this time, I learned to accept the fact that Harry Potter was going to be big no matter what. And whether I liked it or not, millions of young Muslims were going to watch the last movie in the series.

You’ve probably heard much of the same rhetoric I have over the past ten years. Ever since Harry Potter became an international phenomenon, Muslim parents, speakers, lecturers and imams have spoken out against the boy with the scar.

• “Magic and sorcery is becoming more accepted in today’s society.”

• “The devil is trying to influence your children to believe magic is okay.”

• “Harry Potter is eeeeevvviiiillll!”

I’m not here to defend Harry Potter. There are some things about the series I don’t really care for either. Like the whole “Dumbledore is gay” thing.

Nonetheless, I believe there is good in everything. For instance, I’m not a fan of U.S. foreign policy. But there are many things I like about the United States.

With that in mind, I wanted to create a list of things we (people who have read or watched the series) can take from Harry Potter that might actually benefit us. InshaAllah, we’ll see that the boy with the scar can teach us something after all.

1. There’s Nothing Wrong With Mudbloods.

In the Harry Potter series, there were wizards who were pure-bloods and wizards who were “mudbloods.”

Pure-bloods were wizards who came from a pure wizarding family. Mudbloods were wizards who were born from Muggle (human) parents.

In the story, many of the pure blood wizards felt they were better than the mudbloods. In fact, the term mudblood is actually a derogatory term for Muggle-born wizards.

• Some pure-bloods hold a supremacist attitude towards mudbloods.

• Some pure-bloods refuse to marry mudbloods and look down on wizards who do.

• Some pure-bloods even treat mudbloods as second-class citizens.

Unfortunately, we have some of these same problems in the Muslim world. As an African-American son of Muslim converts, I’ve seen my fare share of “Pure-Blood Supremacy” amongst Muslims.

• Some Muslims who come from the Middle East or Indian subcontinent seem to think I’m ignorant about Islamic laws and  requirements.

• Some Muslims seem to think American Muslims have not memorized much Quran or learned the rules of Tajwid.

• Some Muslims refuse to let their children (especially their daughters) marry outside their race, nationality, or tribe.

One of the best lessons learned from Harry Potter is that it’s perfectly okay to be a Mudblood. Furthermore, a Mudblood is often just as good a wizard as a Pure-blood.

The same holds true for Muslims. An American-born Muslim may be just as knowledgeable about Islam, and just as good a Muslim as our foreign-born brethren.

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Say You-Know-Who’s Name.

Voldemort is the main antagonist in the series. He’s Harry Potter’s arch enemy.

Before the beginning of the series, Voldemort and several evil wizards stage a rebellion and take over the wizarding world. This resulted in the death of several wizards, including Harry Potter’s parents.

Eventually, Voldemort is defeated, order is restored, and things go back to normal. However, the legacy of Voldermort’s reign is so traumatic just about everyone is afraid to say his name.

Instead they refer to him using cryptic phrases such as “You-Know-Who” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Only Harry Potter, who is initially ignorant of Voldemort’s evil deeds and Professor Dumbledore are brave enough to say his name.

Perhaps you’ve noticed some topics that are taboo in your Muslim community also. Sometimes, it seems like Muslim leaders and parents are afraid to talk about some of these sensitive subjects.

Topics such as:

Sex

• Drugs

Terrorism

Racism

This list may differ based on your locality and community. But it’s still the same song. The people in positions of leadership don’t want to ruffle feathers and so they stay away from these serious topics.

Don’t be afraid to say Voldemort’s name. Don’t be afraid to talk about these topics that are important and impact us all.

3. You Can Influence the Sorting Hat

In the first Harry Potter novel, the new students at Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardy go through a sorting procedure to see which house they will belong to. They take their turns under a talking hat that reads their mind and analyzes their character.

Based on this information, the Sorting Hat places them in one of four different houses within Hogwarts:

• Gryffindor

• Slytherin

• Hufflepuff

• Ravenclaw

When it was Harry’s turn to go under the Sorting Hat, it wanted to place him in the Slytherin house. Based on Harry’s character and abilities, the Hat felt Harry would have been a great addition to that house.

But Harry did not want to go to Slytherin. Instead of giving in to the Sorting Hat, Harry resisted and insisted he belonged in the Gryffindor house. Eventually, the Sorting Hat gave Harry what he wanted, and sent him to Gryffindor.

What about your Sorting Hat? Are members of your family or your community trying to make you fit into a mold that you don’t belong?

Are they insisting that you follow a career path that you’re not interested in?

Are they trying to make you marry someone you don’t want to marry?

I’m not at all suggesting that you rebel or disobey your parents. However, it is important that you make it clear what you want, especially if you have proof based on Islam. Let them know, in the most respectful way, that they shouldn’t push their dreams and desires on you.

Yes, you can influence the Sorting Hat.

4. You May Have to Join Dumbledore’s Army.

In the story, Harry’s friends realize the danger around them as Voldemort grows stronger throughout the series. They are upset there is no one to teach them how to defend themselves against their enemies.

Hermione, one of Harry’s closest friends, suggests that Harry teach them Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry has had the most experience fighting against dark magic and agrees to secretly teach his friends what he knows.

This group of friends calls themselves “Dumbledore’s Army” after the Hogwarts headmaster. They play a critical role later in the series when Voldemort’s followers begin their assault.

Is it time for you to join Dumbledore’s Army? Are you ready to expand your knowledge of Islam, but there’s no one to teach you?

It may be time to go in search of this knowledge for yourself. With the vast possibilities of the internet, you can now get a very sound understanding of Islam without leaving your home, through online Islamic institutes.

Don’t wait for someone to start the class at your local Masjid. Be proactive. Go out there and get the knowledge you desire.

5. Muggles Are Boring.

Three of the most unlikeable characters in the entire series are his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Cousin Dudley. They adopt Harry after the death of his parents before the start of the story.

But they are hardly the loving sort.

They mistreat Harry and hate all things magic and out of the ordinary. They are the epitome of Muggle boorishness.

They are straight-laced, uptight and arrogant.

But most of all, they are boring. And they want Harry to be the same. They hate the fact that he’s a wizard and they try their best to suppress his true identity.

Don’t be like the Dursleys. It’s okay to be different.

Being a Muslim in the West is not easy.

• You dress differently.

• You eat different things.

• You don’t celebrate the same holidays.

It’s so much easier to be like everyone else. It’s much easier to try to fit in with the rest of the Muggles.

But Muggles are boring. And you’re not a Muggle.

Don’t be afraid to wear your hijab. Don’t be afraid to grow your beard. Don’t be afraid to tell the Muggles you don’t celebrate Christmas or drink alcohol or deal with interest.

Don’t be a Muggle.

And don’t be a wizard either.

Be the best Muslim you can be.

 

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

#Culture

Podcast: Day Of The Dogs Part 1 | Wael Abdelgawad

THE DOGS WOULD NOT STOP BITING HIM. Omar felt wet all over, and knew it was his own blood. He was almost blind from the sting of it in his eyes, and tasted it in his mouth, coppery and hot, along with the rank dog fur he’d bitten off. Pain burst and roiled everywhere in his body. He’d been in pain before, he’d been beaten and bruised and had even fractured bones. But nothing like this. He was baking like a piece of beef in an oven, transforming into something unrecognizable. They were killing him…

Part one of Wael Abdelgawad’s newest novella, Day of the Dogs, read by Zeba Khan. The full novella will be posted every Wednesday on MuslimMatters.org

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Culture

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas | Book Review

In the second decade of the 21st century in America, Muslims consider themselves “as American as apple pie,” don American-flag hijabs, and consider their presence and participation in American politics as a crowning achievement. There is little to no resemblance between the majority of the American Muslim population today, and the very first Muslims who landed in America – not as privileged individuals, but as enslaved people at the hands of vicious white colonizers who had already decimated the Indigenous population and who had no qualms about destroying the lives of their slaves. Dr Sylviane A. Diouf’s book “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” tracks the journeys and experiences of African Muslims who found themselves shipped aboard slave-trafficking vessels and taken to the other side of their known world. From their induction into the Transatlantic slave trade, to their determination to uphold the five pillars of Islam – regardless of their circumstances – to the structure of the enslaved Muslim community, their prized (and dangerous) literacy, and their never-ending resistance against slavery, Diouf illustrates in incredible detail the powerful and painful experiences of enslaved African Muslims, and the legacy that they left behind in the Americas.

This review of “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” will focus on the unique qualities and formidable faith of the very first Muslims in the Americas, and the legacy that they left for Muslims in the Americas today.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

In Chapter One, Diouf begins by answering the very first question that arises when considering the path of enslaved African Muslims: how did they end up enslaved in the first place? Slavery already existed as an institution in Africa, though vastly different from the horrifying standards of the European slavers. Between the existing slave trade, military conflicts that created prisoners-of-wars who were then sold as slaves, and the European propensity for kidnapping innocent people, many Muslims found themselves swept into the Transatlantic slave trade. These same Muslims were the ones who provided us with much of the knowledge that we have today regarding the American slave experience. Most African Muslims were literate, due to the religious and cultural importance of education; of those enslaved, many were religious scholars or students of knowledge. They described how they were captured, the torturous journey of the slave caravans across the continent, and the even more horrific experience of the slave ships themselves. These men also documented their lives as slaves, and indirectly, provided deep insight into their own inner nature. 

Despite the intense pressure and demands on African enslaved people to renounce their ‘heathen faith’ and be inducted as Christians, African Muslims demonstrated a commitment to Islam that should cause modern Muslims today to feel deeply ashamed in comparison. The very first words that Job ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleyman Diallo) uttered, after running away and then being discovered in Pennsylvania, were the shahaadah; Omar ibn Sa’id wrote numerous Arabic manuscripts, in which the shahaadah was always found (Diouf, 2013, p. 72-73). When Catholic priests tried hard to educate slaves about Christianity as part of the conversion process, the African Muslims were both resistant and unimpressed; they were already familiar with many Biblical stories, thanks to their Qur’anic education. Of those who seemed to have accepted Christianity, many did so only outwardly, while confirming their belief in Allah and His Messenger in every aspect of their lives. Indeed, in Brazil and other areas where there were large concentrations of Muslim slaves, the Muslims established underground madaaris to maintain and pass on their Islamic knowledge and education. Muhammad Kaba Saghanughu was a man whom the missionaries had thought was successfully converted when he provided all the right answers to their pre-baptismal questions – eleven years later, in a Baptist Missionary Society notebook, he wrote a 50-page fiqh manual in Arabic that encompassed the rulings of salaah, marriage, and other topics. 

Slavery did not stop the African Muslims from maintaining their salaah in whatever manner they could manage, considering their circumstances. Some did so in secret, while others insisted on upholding their salaah in public, to the extent that these incidents were recorded by the descendants of slaves and slaveholders alike. In Brazil, the African Muslim community – both enslaved and freed – held together so strongly that they were able to secretly establish Salatul Jumu’ah and attend gatherings of dhikr, even in the face of intense scrutiny (Diouf, 2013, p. 88-89). 

Perhaps one of the most greatly moving examples of enslaved African Muslims’ dedication to their Islam was that even in the midst of the utter poverty of slavery, they found a way to uphold zakaah, sawm, and Hajj. In Brazil, it was recorded that the Muslims would end Ramadan with the exchanging of gifts, no matter how simple they were; in truth, these gifts were zakaatul fitr and zakaatul maal.

In other areas, the descendants of Muslim slaves recalled that their parents and grandparents would make rice cakes called saraka at least once a year – saraka was a corruption of the Arabic word sadaqah, and the rice cakes were a Jumu’ah tradition in West Africa. (Diouf, 2013, p. 92-94) In Ramadan, many Muslims sought to fast; indeed, despite the incredible hardship and lack of nutritious food that the slaves already endured, there were those who fasted voluntarily outside of Ramadan as well, often by pretending to be ill. They knew that their situation meant that fasting – in Ramadan and outside of it – was not obligatory on them, and yet, to them, no circumstance was bad enough to warrant not even attempting to observe Ramadan. Hajj was another pillar of Islam that was both impossible and no longer obligatory on the enslaved Muslims; yet in Brazil, in a house that was used as a masjid, there were illustrated depictions of the Ka’bah – demonstrating the emotional bond that the African Muslims had with the Sacred House. 

Throughout Diouf’s book, the overwhelming theme that arises is the fierce commitment that enslaved African Muslims had to Islam. It was not superficial, shallow, or easily shrugged away in the face of difficulty. Instead, the African Muslims held onto their belief in Allah and their daily, lived practise of Islam, even when they had every excuse to relax their obligations. They upheld their Islamic and cultural dress code, not just at its minimum standard of modesty, but in a way that clearly demonstrated their religious identity (Diouf, 2013, p. 101-110). They found ways to make prayer mats and dhikr beads; they gave their children Muslim names in secret, when they were expected to present themselves as Christians; they even strove to observe whatever they could of the Islamic dietary code, by refusing to drink alcohol or eat pork – Ayuba Diallo went so far as to only eat dhabiha meat that he himself slaughtered (Diouf, 2013, p. 119-122). The enslaved African Muslims valued their Islamic identity above all. Even in slavery, they knew that their ‘izzah came from their Deen – and so did those around them, who noted their unique bearing in the face of the horrors of slavery. 

The story of the African Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas is not merely a history lesson, or a token homage in honour of Black History Month. It is a story that echoes the persecution of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, and applicable to Muslims today. Muslim minorities in the West are often all too eager to complain of our difficulties and to seek religious exemptions for our minor inconveniences. Yet who are we in comparison to the earliest African-American Muslims, who endurable the unspeakable? Who are we, with our privileges, with our very freedom, in comparison to those Muslims who were stripped of everything and everyone they knew and loved, and who still held ever tighter to the Rope of Allah? One may say that it is unfair to compare us and them; that to recognize their struggles should not mean invalidating the challenges we face today. Certainly, we face numerous different fitan that are very different from what they experienced, but the truth is that we should compare our attitudes with those of our predecessors. We should be ashamed of our own weaknesses in times of privilege compared to their strength in times of oppression. More importantly, we must learn from them what it means to have such a relationship with our Creator and our Deen that we are capable of surviving and thriving in even the worst of circumstances. 

May Allah have mercy on the enslaved African Muslims who endured one of this Ummah’s historic tragedies, and may He make us of those who demonstrate their strength of love for Him through every tragedy of our own.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

Africa

Top 10 Books On Black Muslim History

The history of Black Muslims seems to be trapped between Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Malcolm X. While these are particularly bright supernovas in the pantheon of giants from Muslim history, they are far from being the only stars in that history.

Recent events have meant that many Muslims want to actively close that gap in their knowledge of Black Muslims. This isn’t just an academic interest, it is one of the recurring pieces of advice given by Black Muslims themselves when asked what the rest of the Muslim community can and should do to actively fight against racism in all its forms.

When you don’t know the story of a people, it becomes easy to belittle or even dehumanise them.

So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 books on the history of Black Muslims in the English Language.

  • Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles amongst the early pious Muslim by Dawud Walid and Ahmed Mubarak

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

There are many reasons why tokenising Bilal ibn Rabaah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) is embarassing. One of them is because there are just so many other Black Sahaabas out there to talk about. This great book showcases so many of the greatest generation who, we may not have realised, were black. I actually did a prior book review on this that you can check out here.

  • The history of Islam in Africa edited by Levtzion & Pouwels 

This is less a book and more like a mini-encyclopaedia. This is for the serious student of history and a good reference book. If you want to tell the difference between the Songhai and the Sanussi or want to tell apart the different Tariqahs – this is your encyclopaedia. I mean book.

  • Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam by Habeeb Akande

Habeeb Akande is one of the most prolific Black Muslim writers out there on a range of topics. This book offers a sweeping narrative dealing with history, social issues like interracial marriage and the concept of race as dealt by scholars such as Al-Suyuti. As expected, this book is well researched and well written so a good primer for those new to the topic.

  • Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa by Ousmane Kane

Timbuktu and West Africa was for a time one of the richest centres of Islam in terms of wealth and intellectual tradition. To read about this time read this book by the Harvard professor Ousmane Kane. To all those who believe in the idea of racial superiority, you’ll be quickly disabused of that notion when you realise that this is the intellectual depth of a book about the intellectual depth of Black Muslims in West Africa.

  • The Black Eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire: Networks of Power in the Court of the Sultan by George Junne

In almost every Muslim Empire, the Sultans and rulers might change but there is a constant presence just off centre if you look closely enough. Eunuchs, who were often but not always of Black heritage, were right there at the centre of power. While the institution that brought them there was horrific and inhumane, the power they wielded was serious and far reaching. This book goes through the lives of a group of Black Muslims who shaped the Muslim world in ways that may surprise you.

  • The African Caliphate: The Life Work & Teachings of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio by Ibraheem Sulaiman

In a part of the world that gave us the world’s richest known person, great kings and warriors – you have to be pretty special to stand out. Usman Dan Fodio was more than special. He was one of those people who excelled as a military leader, a teacher and a person. He revived the sunnah and stands as one of the giants in the history of Islam. Learn about the man they call simply “Shehu.”

  • The Caliph’s Sister: Nana Asma’u, 1793-1865, Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader by Jean Boyd

History tends to be His story far too often. It is the history of great men doing great things. 50% of the world is missed out with women far too often playing cameo roles as femme fatales or spoils of war. Well, the story of Nana Asma’u bucks this trend. She was not just a towering figure. If her father conquered lands, Nana conquered hearts. Learn about her story. Herstory – get it? Just read the book.

  • Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas by Sylvaine Diouf

The story of how enslaved Muslims struggled to hold on to their faith and values, to not just survive but to actually thrive is fascinating and should be required reading. While there are other books that deal with the subject in a more detailed manner, this book is accessible and touches on all the main themes from revolts to literacy levels. Ms Diouf does a lot to shine a light on one of the darkest institutions in Islamic history.

  • Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

It is a measure of the man that despite being the greatest sportsman of all time, it was still only the 2nd most interesting part of the life of Muhammad Ali. How this young scrawny kid from Louisville went from being Cassisus Clay to one of the most recognisable human beings on planet Earth is not just a biography of a superstar but the story of the struggle of a people, the many missteps on the road to that struggle and the ultimate redemption that awaited. Long after the name of the Presidents and Kings of his era will be forgotten, the name of Muhammad Ali will live on.

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley

For me, even though it speaks to a specific person, place and struggle, this is by far the greatest of all the books out there on the history of Black Muslims . This is the denouement of a centuries long struggle for the survival of faith against the greatest odds and how slavery, racism and enforced conversions all came crashing down when one man of rare intelligence decided that it was time to overcome “by any means necessary.” If you have not read it, what are you waiting for? It will change you.

As I argued in a previous article called Erasing Race: Problems with our Islamic history, the history of Islam without Black Muslims isn’t really a history at all.

Whether you decide to read any of these books or check out some YouTube videos or articles about the history of Black Muslims, let us all educate ourselves. Only then will we all be able to start helping to build a more just world. Only then will we all be able to breathe.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
.
.

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending