The Pain of a Black Muslim

By Arthur Richards

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. My lips have been whispering this since this evening as my heart yells, “why?”

For the last 7 months I’ve been living abroad, fulfilling the goal of many students of the Islamic sciences in a country with a corrupt government and instability. Before I left America my community members and friends all continually reminded me that I’m leaving a country of freedom and safety to a country where I would need to be on my best behavior, where I would need to avoid confrontations with the police, where I would need to make sure I am not in the wrong place at the wrong time (not sure how that’s done), and that ultimately I would need to be conscious that at any moment something could happen to threaten my life. Little do they know that these safety precautions were taught to me with more vigor than an Islamic school teacher teaches his students to pray, they were shouted into my ears, and they were beaten into me when I forgot until the tears of my father hurt more than the belt on my behind.

I so desperately want to make something clear to you all. Even with all of the trials and tribulations that come with living away from America, I’ve never felt safer in my life. The immense weight and trauma that my heart is currently carrying isn’t there because of my current surroundings or because of the corrupt government that I now find myself living in, it’s there because I heard the yells and screams of Keith Scott’s wife as she said “Keith, come on out the car.” I could hear the realization in her voice that something was going to happen. The intuition that every black mother, wife, or mother of a black child has. It’s that realization that says I’m about to lose my world and it’s about to happen right now. That realization that no matter how many years you’ve had to mentally prepare yourself for this moment, those long talks of telling your son to cut his hair because an afro is like a dart board for the police, those talks of not wearing jackets because having an extra place to put your hands isn’t safe for you. Those reminders that you have to speak loud and clear and don’t allow anyone to doubt your command of a language that long ago was forced upon your ancestors.

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. I’m still trying to remind myself that He is in complete control and that I am being broken so that can I fully rely on Him, but it was recently released that Keith Scott’s mother believes that the last book he was reading was the Quran, “He loved to read that book”, she said. This black man sitting in his car reading the book of a group of people that unfortunately didn’t have the remorse to say his name in a Friday sermon, or to at least mention one of the 172 other black people killed by police this year. Maybe the Khateeb could have at least mentioned what is going on in the black world. I say world because it truly is a completely different place, for many believers it is like the world of the unseen, a world that many are blind to, sometimes intentionally so. A world that isn’t as important as their own and will never be.

God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. If this were a letter written with ink then it would probably be ruined right now with these drops of pain from my eyes. Gaines, Garner, Brown, Martin, Rice, Crutcher, Castile, Sterling, Bland, Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray. God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He. Within 24 hours I have viewed videos of congressman, ex-mayors, “Black people hate white people, because white people are successful and they’re not.” I’ve spoken to acquaintances tell me that I should look at these killings objectively, that no doubt there is some racism but that I might be missing something, “not everything is about race,” they tell me. I’ve had my own beloved teachers who I love for the sake of God, they are the ones who have set me on this path of knowledge tell me blatantly that I’m taking this race issue too far and that they fear for me. They fear for me. But they can never understand the fear my mother has for me. I want to ask Shaykh, “Do you fear for me because you know at any moment when I arrive back on American soil that it could be me sitting in my car listening to Mishary or to your own Halaqah when it happens? When they call me and say, Come out with your hands in the air. . . only for me to awake and hear, Who is your Lord?”

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I have no doubt in my mind that I need counseling; that every person of color in America is in need of counseling. That being Black and Muslim feels more like something a doctor diagnoses you with more than the perfect will of God. I feel so much pain; pain for those who are losing life, those afraid of losing someone, afraid of the next khutbah that they have to attend that neglects to mention the loss of life in their own neighborhood. Life that if walked in the masjid to embrace this faith would be hailed with praise but when that life is taken in a hail of bullets is met with silence.

I’ll continue to do my part, to educate, and to inspire. But this hole in my heart isn’t going anywhere, and I so desperately just want God to fill it. So I’ll keep saying it until my heart is filled and the pain goes away, “God is sufficient, and what an excellent guardian is He.”

HasbiAllah

“Hasbunallahu wa ni`mal Wakil’: حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ
Allah (alone) is Sufficient for us, and what an Excellent Guardian He is!.”
 آل عمران‎ : Surah Al ‘Imran (3:173)
Arthur Richards is a student of literature specializing in postcolonial theory, Islamic literature, and Muslim Africa. He has studied Islam through traditional methods among various scholars, du’at and students of knowledge here in the US and Mishkah University. He is currently studying Islamic sciences overseas.

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16 responses to “The Pain of a Black Muslim”

  1. Avatar Noor says:

    Always remember the sacrifices of the valient Sahaba (ra). The lost their lives loved ones wealth and propert , all in the way of Islam.

    • Indeed they were killed, starved and persecuted. Yet there is something so very important that we need to remember, our faith is one of action and wisdom. While we take the time toremember the companions (God be pleased with them), we should remember that the reason we remember them is because they placed their wisdom and action together. They saw injustice and fought it, they conquered themselves and allowed our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to mold them into the pearls they became.

      Today we have people around us suffering, we have pearls around us waiting to be molded but they are being killed. People we can directly affect for the better if we only decide to be of those that submit to God and serve His creation.

      Let us remember the sacrifices the companions made and the sacrifices that we can make as well for a stronger tomorrow.

    • Avatar Brittney Slavonjack says:

      verily, the help of Allah I’d near.

  2. Avatar Sameen says:

    All I can say to you my brother is, May Allah fill your heart with peace and give you the strength to continue your mission. I will speak up whenever I will get the chance and I hope my voice will be of help!

    • Avatar Naeeyma says:

      Oh Allah respond to the cry of the oppressed. Allah is sufficient for the needs of His creatures.

    • Amīn to your beautiful prayer. We are all branches of the same tree, and with our Prophet as our trunk and God as our nourishment we will continue to bare fruit that will change the world for the better.

      May you be blessed.

      • Avatar Rafeena Khan says:

        Ameen May Allah swt keep you safe to fulfill your journey, fill your heart with peace and grant mercy and shelter to his servant. May Allah swt open out hearts and minds to accept all of humanity regardless of race or religion.

  3. Avatar GregAbdul says:

    May Allah reward those who run this website, for giving this black man an audience and a hearing.

    We have a divide in American Islam. We have the immigrants and we have the black Americans. For me, we are all wrong. We live in a non-Muslim place that is full of riches and suffering at the same time. Most of us seem a little to pre-occupied with the riches. Black American Muslims have a cultural tradition of withdrawing from the larger black American non-Muslim community and hiding in our mosques only to pretend the leaders are kings or bosses whenever they see any black American Muslim. These black American Muslim groups run from the actions of Malcolm X, who went out into the streets to beg suffering black people to leave the religion that was forced on us during slavery.

    Our American immigrants often leave places run by Muslims to come to this place run by Christians. Some sheiks long ago told me this is an act of disbelief UNLESS, you make dawah your prime mission here in this non-Muslim place. If you immigrated to come here to get money for you and your family and to take money for running from or hiding your Islam, make no mistake, you will answer to Allah. I love both groups. Because of my upbringing, I could only enter Islam through a masjid operating under the leadership of Warith Deen Muhammad, may Allah shower light into his grave. Today I seek Muslim integration and I am blessed to attend an immigrant masjid where the people are not perfect, but I see them, working hard, to be inclusive and to leave the immigrant intolerance of the older generations behind.

    Keith Scott died trying to enter Islam. This is the version we as Muslims believe of him and it reminds us of the man who killed the 99. Islam teaches us that Allah and his deen are the answer. Malcolm famously said Islam is the cure for racial division in America. We are failing, mostly ourselves, but then even our nation and our black American fellow citizens, when we see and know they are suffering because many black people are stuck in a shirk forced on them during our captivity, yet we pretend it’s tolerance to sit and watch black Americans die and suffer in bad religion because many of my people simply do not know existential happiness.

    This is the only power of Shaytaun and the fruit of when he tricks or blinds people about the greatness of Allah. He is the author of much of the suffering we see around us, as a test from Allah. The shaytaun is our open and greatest enemy and we must fight him for every soul within our reach and we must move beyond lip service and make this a real priority in our American Ummah. We didn’t reach this man in time. We should be afraid. We did not reach him, yet he died trying to reach us as we sat comfortably in our ever-expanding mosques. Allah and His messenger are always the answer. I pray we as Muslims fulfill our duties and that Allah grants us true happiness.

    • Avatar Zeinab says:

      I know lots of black Muslims who have gone to Muslim countries in search of the utopia you seem to allude to, only to find that racism and class elitism is just as bad there, if not worse. To the point that some of them are questioning whether they want to be Muslim anymore. Black people who live in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are discriminated against all the time. Even African Muslims in the U.S. disrespect blackamericans even though none of those immigrants would be here without our sacrifices. So where is the refuge? Islam is great but Muslims are often horrible, even to their own.

      • Avatar GregAbdul says:

        asa Sister,
        Neither I nor Br. Arthur, who wrote this article said that overseas was a black Utopia. There is prejudice in the Ummah. I am only a commenter, but writers featured here have openly said racism exists within the Ummah. We have major Imams like Dawwud Walid talk often about racism and Muslims.

        We are not perfect. But please be fair. If you go to Africa, the people in Africa are not color blind or without tribal bias. Farrakhan is an old black American bigot who claims he is a Muslim. Discrimination belongs to those with power, but the idea that you treat people badly simply because they are not from your place or because their skin is not like yours, is not the province of any particular group. The key issue is movement and for me, the main movement I do not see as a black man are the millions of black people who refuse to openly denounce Louis Farrakhan. Maybe we should take the log out of our own eye first?

        Br. Arthur said he was warned of the dangers overseas by his sheik, yet he hurts for the dangers he faces here at home. I said, American Muslims ignore blacks trapped in bad religion. I criticize my immigrant brothers and sisters, but they are not some foreign group I bash. Allah commands me that they are my brothers and sisters, even when they don’t behave as such. Farrakhan is an immigrant basher who lies on Islam. Do you stand against him and his open racism?

      • Avatar Brittney Slavonjack says:

        I agree, the grass always seems green on the other side. we as Muslims have to remember everyone has their trials. blacks whites, Arab Ethiopian Muslim’s and non nomuslims ect.

        trying to figure everything (injustices) out here is useless in my opinion. that’s Allah’s work. keeping the pillars of islam’s should be our only concern. weather we are in usa, Australia, or Antarctica.

  4. Avatar abu taubah says:

    Maa shaa Allaah, and baarakallaahi feek. You have touched on the topic well and I hope that we grow from it and do more to fight the injustices that we face as afrikan amerikkkan muslims.

  5. Avatar Latifah says:

    “Hasbunallahu wa ni`mal Wakil’: حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ1

    Allah (alone) is Sufficient for us, and what an Excellent Guardian He is!.”

    آل عمران‎ : Surah Al ‘Imran (3:173)

  6. Avatar Haroon says:

    So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair: For you will eventually have the upper hand if you are true in Faith. If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days of varying fortunes, We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may make evident those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses. And Allah loves not those that do wrong. Surat Al-Imran 3: 139-140

  7. Avatar Umm Hadi says:

    Br Arthur,
    Very Inspiring and thought provoking. May Allah add barakah to your work and may the world see more leaders like you in wisdom and action.
    Ameen ya Rabbul Alameen.

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