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10 Things Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King Invites Us To Do

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Hasan Minhaj’s comedy special on Netflix, Homecoming King, is simply amazing.  His honesty, talent for telling stories and jokes, and integrity to himself create an important space for dialogue and action. I felt inspired by Homecoming King to do the following 10 things in my own life and hope that all of us will participate and allow this piece of art and culture to have a larger impact than just an hour’s worth of entertainment.

*Short disclaimer: The comedy show includes many profanities and some vulgarities. This is also not a family-friendly show due to the abundance of profanity and some sexual innuendo.

 1. Explore our own identity development and create our own stories about it.

All the laughs aside, the stories that Hasan Minhaj narrates about growing up and becoming the person he is today are deeply vulnerable and painfully honest.  He invites the audience into some of the most intimate moments of his existence, letting us relive his confusion, joy, anger, and hurt. It may be hard to notice, but the story that Hasan Minhaj tells is rooted in his socio-cultural autobiography. He’s not just talking about funny or strange things that happened to him as a kid, he’s talking about critical incidents in his life related to his understanding of race, ethnicity, language, socio-economic class, and religion.

Here are a few examples of that.

  • The first time Minhaj realized that his skin was not white was when his elementary school crush yelled at him, “‘your skin is the color of poop!’”
  • He discusses who his parents were and what values he grew up with from childhood to adolescence, like his dad’s common sayings of  “‘no fun, no friends, no girlfriends’” and “‘log kya kehenge?’”
  • A moment of ridicule from culturally ignorant “Ryan Lochtes” at school making fun of his sister calling him “‘Hasan Bhai.’”
  • Falling in love with his “white princess,” the traumatizing rejection from her family, and his long road towards healing from that and better understanding race politics and good versus bad people.

While watching this, I felt as if this story was mine in so many ways and that I could relate to it on so many levels.  But that’s where Homecoming King might make fools of us all—this is not my story, this is not your story. Let’s not force the burden of representation on Hasan Minhaj and make him carry all of our stories on his back.  Let’s explore our own identity developments and create our own socio-cultural autobiographies.  The gist of doing this is to find critical moments from your childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood that shaped who you are today in relation to one of your identities (black, second-generation Pakistani, poor, etc.)  Here’s a resource that explains how to do this.

You’re probably thinking, this is going to take a lot of time, and you’re right.  You’re also probably thinking, some of the stuff that Hasan Minhaj talked about was brutal to recall, and you’re right.  But what he also invites us to do is to laugh at ourselves, to cry with our past selves, and to truly relive our emotions.  I actually had to write a socio-cultural autobiography for an educational psychology class I took last semester and although I already knew many of the bits and pieces of how my identity formed as a kid, the assignment helped me understand all of the pieces together. I also discovered a new identity (that I started identifying with other racial minorities as “brown” in college).

My suggestion is to definitely include these markers in your life:

  •  When did you first realize your skin was a certain color?
  •  What was your earliest birthday memory?
  •  What are your early memories of what Islam is? (Going to the masjid, Ramadan, Eid, etc.)
  •  What are the “cards” that you played with your parents?

2. Explore our parents’ histories and appreciate their life trajectories.

Part of the socio-cultural autobiography is to also explore the impacts of immediate family members in our lives.  But Hasan Minhaj goes beyond that and actually discusses his parents’ histories.  In a charmingly critical “arranged marriage” versus Tinder example, Minhaj manages to contextualize his parents’ marriage to examples of dating in mainstream American culture. Exploring our parents’ histories will give us much needed context as well as appreciation for their sacrifices to us and friendship founded on knowing a person.

I actually started a recording project of my eldest aunt telling me the history of her grandparents (my great-grandparents) earlier this summer and I hope to continue the project over the next few years.

Talk to your parents and find out who they are.  Hear their stories.

 3. Challenge our paradigms and viewpoints with those of our parents’.

One of the things that knowing and understanding our parents’ histories allows us to do is to challenge our paradigms with their paradigms.  Hasan Minhaj admits to not knowing who is right about an issue, his “zen brown Mr. Miagi” father or himself.  Should Minhaj put his head down and become a doctor and live in the suburbs and let racism slide off his back, or should he have the “audacity of equality?”  Should he forgive an old friend from high school, or should he hold on to that grudge?  When we get to know our parents, we can understand how to contextualize their paradigms and values.  When we humble ourselves and admit that we are not always right, we are able to see that our parents have been alive for 20 to 30 years longer than we have, and if they’ve made it that far they must have survived somehow.

Check your paradigm and values. Be open to others’ viewpoints, especially your parents, who may have not gotten a fair chance from you in the past.

4. Accept wisdoms/advice from our parents.

It’s only when we have humbled ourselves enough to challenge our own perspectives that we will have the ability to be open to accepting the wisdom and advice our parents have. Minhaj tells us how he internalized a piece of advice that his father gave him and how that changed his life.

What advice have your parents given you in the past that you ignored? In your life right now, what do you need advice on?

5. Talk about identity development and share our stories with others.

When Hasan Minhaj talks about “us,” it feels like a hit of dopamine each time to me. That’s right, us, born-and-raised in California to Muslim immigrant parents from the Indian Subcontinent. That’s me!  That’s us!  I felt as if I belonged to a community as I watched the comedy special, and can only imagine how desis in the audience must have felt a special camaraderie with Minhaj and each other.  What Homecoming King invites us to do is to share our stories with others, especially others who come from a similar background.  Although Minhaj did translate most of the Hindi/Urdu he used, some of the things he said simply rang more true to people from a similar background.  “Isn’t life like biryani, where you move the good [stuff] towards you and push the weird [stuff] to the side?”  That saying probably makes a lot more sense to me than it would the average American, simply because I grew up eating biryani.

I think it is incredibly important to share with people from different backgrounds from ourselves to build cultural humility, but perhaps unseasoned story-tellers have to work their way there.  In my class last semester, I managed to not cry for the first time when I told the story of how my white best friend told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore on September 12th, 2001.  I admitted to my professor and classmates that this was the first time I was able to get through the story without becoming emotionally overwhelmed, and my professor remarked that sharing the story about a traumatic experience can be a powerful way to heal and that each time a person tells the same story it gets easier to tell.  I guess it took the twentieth time to finally master my emotions enough to get through the story with dry eyes.

Let’s make this more tangible!  Eid ul Fitr may be over but Eid ul Adha is just around the corner, inshaAllah.  Send this article to a friend you know you will see during Eid.  Encourage that person to start thinking about their own socio-cultural autobriography.  At an Eid get-together, pull that close friend or family member to the side and invite them to listen to your stories and share their stories with you.

6. Appreciate the unsung heroes in our lives.

The only moment when it looks like Minhaj can’t keep it together is after telling us about his relationship with his sister, Ayesha.  He tracks their relationship from the moment a “fob in a frock” showed up in his home to the moment when she laid down “one of her cards” for him so that he could get married to a Hindu woman. Minhaj finally turns his back to the camera and pauses for a few moments after admitting he would never have got married to his wife if it weren’t for his sister’s intervention.  I don’t know if he’s just taking a break at that point, but to me it appeared as if he was overcome with very raw emotions and was unable to speak.  Although he goes after his sister, and even his father, in parts of his show, Minhaj does appreciate them for being heroes in their own ways in his life.

Who are the heroes in our lives?  Who are the people that we never appreciated but owe so much to?  In so many ways, this comedy show is a huge message of apology, thanks, and love to his sister and father. Who do we owe a sorry, a thank you, and some overdue love to?

7. Question how much we’ve stuck to “following our dreams” or “promises to ourselves.”

Minhaj takes us through the gruelling journey he experienced in following his dream of being a comedian.  From exposing himself to ridicule over his Pizza Hut sliders commercial to admitting that he nearly ruined his “Daily Show” audition, we got a taste of what it was like for Minhaj to reject a traditional career and follow his dreams. Towards the end of the show, he says, “This is new brown America, the dream is for you to take—so take [it]! Stop blaming it on other people.”  Although I think this statement could do with a little bit of nuance, like systemic racism perhaps, Minhaj himself is probably justified in saying this because he’s made it as far as he has in one of the most anti-diverse fields.

What promises did we make ourselves as kids and throughout high school?  Have we managed to follow our dreams in some way?  Did we give up on our dreams?

8. Come face to face with the demons in our past in a self-critical way.

Minhaj speaks of his father’s disappointment when he hears the prom story from him.  But his disappointment is for the lack of forgiveness that Minhaj has exhibited towards Bethany Reed, which Minhaj also equates with realizing that love is greater than fear.  Minhaj meets up with Bethany Reed to talk about prom and is humbled to hear her side of the story.  Minhaj admits that he just wanted the white “co-sign,” and that it wasn’t really about Bethany Reed and prom after all.

What demons do we have in our past that we need to tackle?  Is it limited to the experience or person, or does that experience or person represent something greater that we need to overcome?   

9. Look past the differences of “tribes.”

Homecoming King also invites us to look past the differences in race, class, color, and creed that divide us into “tribes.”  Hasan challenges us to not just talk about overcoming these differences “behind closed doors,” but to truly take action whenever life presents us with an opportunity to prove ourselves.  “For every Treyvon Martin or Ahmed the Clock Kid, there’s shades of bigotry that happen every day between all of us because we’re too afraid of letting go of this idea of ‘the other’.”

Another great benefit of undertaking the socio-cultural autobiography project is that in knowing ourselves, we are equipped to understand others.  Once we are self-aware of our own identities and how they were shaped, we can detect biases and prejudices that we may have and need to tackle.

How far do I have to go before I can be a member of my own “tribe” and still be open, tolerant, and accepting of people from other “tribes?

10. Look for the greater context of race problems in this country, and globally.

Lastly, Minhaj invites us to grapple with the race problems in this country, and globally by extension.  Although Minhaj does speak about his hardships and the idea of the “immigrant tax,” he does admit that it takes the loss of life for us to wake up the reality of a race problem existing in the United States.  One of the statements that personally touched me the most was when he talked about consoling himself and contextualizing paying his own taxes to Uncle Sam. “At least your spine isn’t getting shattered in the back of a police wagon,” Minhaj is telling himself, “the way that it’s happening to my African American brothers and sisters in this country to this day, so if this is the tax you have to pay for being here…Uncle Sam—take it!”

After re-watching Homecoming King for the third time, my husband got pulled over by a cop while I was on the phone with him.  He had to hang up, and I was overcome with fear and anxiety for his safety.  My feelings in that moment really tied together for me what it means to explore our stories while placing them in the context of the race problem in this country.  Although our stories make us all different from each other, we are tied together by the fact that we come from minority and marginalized groups.  The minority-on-minority prejudice and racism needs to end.

What are you doing in your life now that help combat racism and other forms of discrimination against others? What are we doing as a community?

 

Standing at just under 5’2,” Meena is still growing (figuratively, sadly no longer literally) into her place in the world. She is a graduate of Comparative Literature studies at the University of California, Irvine, where she was active with the Muslim Student Union.As a student of knowledge, Meena has discovered the power and beauty that words can have, the highest example being the Words of Allah preserved in the Holy Quran. In her own capacity and with the help of Allah, she hopes to capture and communicate her reflections and thoughts as she continues on in this exciting time of her life.You can follow her on Twitter @imeanking & read more of her posts on her personal blog: http://imeanking.wordpress.com/

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muhammad

    June 30, 2017 at 10:16 AM

    So this is how low Mu slim matters Has fallen, recommending shows with vulgarity and sexual innuendo to practising Muslims? And straight after Ramadan as well.
    Before you dismiss me as a member of the haram police, I would seriously urge brothers and sisters to Think whether the profit would allow this filth.
    We only have one shot at paradise.

    • Avatar

      Meena Malik

      June 30, 2017 at 10:22 AM

      I’m sorry to offend you, brother, but have you watched the show or read the transcript to know exactly what the content of the show was?

      Also, Muslim Matters prides itself on allowing its authors to have their own opinions. In fact, my opinion about this show is quite different from some of the others involved with Muslim Matters. The responsibility is mine, please don’t drag MM as a whole into this.

      • Avatar

        Ismail Wadiwala

        July 3, 2017 at 12:11 PM

        Well the show isn’t much about the Muslim side of growing up in North America, it’s more about growing up brown or desi in NA.

  2. Avatar

    Abdullah

    July 11, 2017 at 3:36 PM

    Salam. While some of the content of Hasan Minhaj’s stand up may give a voice to minorities, I am not exactly sure how practicing Muslims can justify his stand up as appropriate and something to encourage others to watch (I was introduced to it by other practicing Muslims). There are issues with his comedy: sexual innuendo, profanity, mocking people, sharing sins, etc.

    At the same time, I don’t think we should campaign against him or shame him or exclude him from our community. I just think *it shouldn’t be promoted* among practicing Muslims who know better and wouldn’t watch this type of content if it wasn’t from a Muslim brother that had relate-able stories. I pray for the best for him and all of us and ask Allah to guide us all to what is correct. Ameen.

  3. Avatar

    Abdullah

    July 11, 2017 at 3:37 PM

    Btw, forgot the mention that the article was really good and the points made in it were awesome :)

  4. Avatar

    Nadia

    July 20, 2017 at 4:42 PM

    Loved your article! I watched Homecoming King twice and so much of it resonated with me having grown up as an Indian Muslim girl from California. I think there was a definite identity crisis I had growing up and there were so profound points you made as did Minhaj. Your article and Minhaj’s show are a great way for us to begin a dialogue with our own children on bias, culture, religion and identity.

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#Culture

Book Review of Revolution by the Book by Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (Formerly known As H Rap Brown)

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Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s magnum opus, Revolution by the Book, is a paradigmatic Islamic liberation theology manifesto. It gives an outline of spiritual cultivation specific to the experience of the marginalized who are advocating for freedom from structural oppression, particularly Black Americans in the context in which Imam Jamil is writing. In his book, Imam Jamil Al-Amin argues that Islamic religious practice, which he refers to as “the Muslim program” provides a successful guide to revolution, specifically for Black Americans who have been marginalized, dehumanized, and oppressed in the United States for over 400 years. This revolution is not to be understood in the context of the masses suddenly rising up and overthrowing the ruling class. Rather, it is a suttle and spiritual revolution of the hearts. Imam Al-Amin argues that only through the revolution of self can a person be able to revolutionize the community around them. He writes that “It is said in Islam that the greatest struggle is the struggle against the evil of self. The struggle against the evil of self is the great Jihad, the foremost holy struggle,” alluding to a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon him). The book’s quotations are almost completely from two sources: the Qur’an and ahadith, which are sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Revolution by the Book is adorned with these two sources of Islamic knowledge. It is seldom impossible to find a page of the book without either a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon him), or a verse of the Qur’an. Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s book begins with Surah Fatihah, the opening chapter of the Qur’an. Following them come the 10 chapters of the book all deal with a particular aspect of this program. Each chapter begins with a particular set of verses of the Qur’an.

The first chapter, “God Alone” stresses the importance of belief in God in transforming society. Without this belief, society cannot move forward in improving itself. It is followed by a chapter entitled “Born to Worship” which emphasizes the importance of prayer. Thereafter comes a chapter titled “Holy Money” which speaks of the importance of charity, which morphs into a discussion on the sociopolitical imperative of investing one’s money in the community. Then comes “God’s Diet” which speaks of the importance of fasting and eating healthy food. The fifth chapter is titled “Pilgrim’s Progress” and mentions the Hajj, and how Islam connects Muslims to a broader community of brothers and sisters around the world. The book is then followed by a chapter titled “God Natured” which speaks of the importance of the fitrah, or original nature of submission to God that all human beings possess, described in a hadith by the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon him). The book then presents a chapter titled “Turn Right at the Light” which emphasizes the importance of repentance when one commits a sin. Chapter 8, “In Your Family” emphasizes the importance of the nuclear family, and is followed by a chapter titled “Everybody Can Fight But Everybody Can’t Win” which emphasizes the importance of practicing the program and living by an Islamic epistemology, as opposed to ascribing to secular ideologies such as nationalism and Marxism. The book ends with a chapter titled “Finish Lines” which accents how death can come any day for a human being, and how the Muslim must prepare for it, each and every day. The book then culminates with Surah Asr, a three verse chapter of the Qur’an dealing with the importance of time, and making the most of the limited time that man has on Earth. Revolution by the Book serves as a call to action, intended to resurrect the soul of the reader, so that they can ultimately resurrect a broken society. The text reads in the voice of a powerful figure. In order to understand just how powerful of a figure the author is, one must understand both his contributions as both an Imam and leader of American Muslims as Imam Jamil Al-Amin, as well as his contribution to the freedom struggle of Black Americans as H. Rap Brown.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin is a leader within the Dar Al Islam movement, a Sunni Muslim, predominantly Black American, Islamic movement in the United States. Founded in 1962, the Dar Al Islam movement was the single largest Sunni Muslim organization in the United States until Imam Warith Deen Mohammed transitioned his father’s formerly pseudo-Islamic Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam in 1976. The Dar Al Islam movement’s ideology can be seen in the sources that Imam Jamil Al-Amin cites. He uses very few sources outside of the Qur’an and ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad. This is because the Dar Al Islam movement overall did not affiliate itself to any particular madhab, or school of Islamic jurisprudence, nor did it affiliate itself to any Sufi order. However, the organization is distinct from Salafis in the sense that they are not anti-madhabb or anti-Sufism. But one can see the ideology of not following a particular Sufi Shaikh or school of thought in this work of Jamil Al-Amin. Rather, he focuses on preaching to people the Qur’an and authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. This is not necessarily an issue as he is preaching very rudimentary and basic Islamic teachings, and means of purifying oneself in this book.

The title of the book may also seem strange to some. As opposed to a revolutionary manifesto, the book seems to rather be a book on how to change one’s own self and how to restructure society from there. Before his conversion to Islam, Imam Jamil Al-Amin was known as H. Rap Brown, a charismatic and nationally-known leader within the civil rights movement. He would be mentored by now-Congressman John Lewis, who was then Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At the young age of 23, H. Rap Brown became Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, succeeding Stokely Carmichael. Under Brown’s leadership, SNCC entered into a working relationship with the Black Panther Party. Brown took the nonviolent out of the name of the organization, and renamed it the Student National Coordinating Committee, lamenting that “violence is as American as cherry pie” and that they would “use violence, if necessary” and fight for freedom “by any means necessary.” 

While chairman of SNCC, Brown simultaneously was appointed Minister of Justice of the Black Panther Party. In 1971, Brown was sentenced to 5 years in jail for “inciting a riot”, a crime that many suggest came out of the Cointelpro program that specifically had the goal of “neutralizing” him. It was in jail that chaplains from the Dar Al Islam movement invited him to their weekly Friday prayers. Familiar with Islam because of Malcolm X, H. Rap Brown attended Friday prayers without becoming Muslim. After a few Friday prayers, H. Rap Brown converted to Islam and took the name Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Upon leaving jail, Imam Jamil Al-Amin studied the classical Islamic sciences in West Africa, India, and Pakistan. Following that, he became Imam of a community of around 400 Muslims in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. The title Revolution by the Book comes from Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s credentials as a revolutionary. He is alluding to how he feels that his Islam is the culmination of his revolutionary days in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Black Panther Party, and that he has now finally found a means of making this revolution possible. He says in the prologue of the book that becoming Muslim did not mean a shift from his revolutionary lifestyle. Rather, he says that Islam was a “continuation of a lifestyle” of the struggle for freedom for Black Americans.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin writes that:

It became evident that to accomplish the things we had talked about in the struggle, you need a practice. Allah says He does not change the condition of people until they change was is in themselves. That is what Islam does, and it points out right from wrong. It points out truth from falsehood.

He continues on to say that:

It is criminal that in, in the 1900’s, we still approach struggle…sloganeering saying, “by any means necessary,” as if that’s a program. Or “we shall overcome,” as if that’s a program. Slogans are not programs. We must define the means which will bring about change. This can be found in…[what] Allah has brought for us in the Qur’an and in the example of the Prophet. Our revolution must be according to what Almighty God revealed…Successful struggle requires a Divine program. Allah has provided that program.

The remainder of the book outlines the ingredients for successful struggle. Imam Jamil Al-Amin claims that the most important aspect of revolution is belief in God. Without this, none of the other objectives such as prayer, fasting, charity, repentance, and pilgrimage to Mecca can be actualized and implemented. He also goes on to argue a divine command morality. If a person does not have belief in God, they lack an objective morality to base their lifestyle on. As a result, they fall into a subjective morality that makes it very easy for them to stumble and constantly reinterpret their values in accordance to their whims and desires when faced with pressure to compromise their values. To successfully mount a revolution, a person needs to be solidly grounded and not constantly reinterpreting what is right and wrong. Such an action could jeopardize the struggle and place the one engaging in the revolution in danger of selling out his or her values. Divine command morality serves as an anchor for the person revolutionizing society. This is why Imam Jamil Al-Amin believes that Imaan, or faith in God is the single most important ingredient to successful struggle. It is also interesting to note that the Arabic word “imaan” which means faith comes from “Amaan”, a root word that means safety or security. Through faith, believers are strongly anchored and have safety and protection from being misled by their whims and desires.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin writes that:

Iman is an essential ingredient to success, for a fearful, doubtful person is unable to struggle; he gives up easily, submits to every oppressor, compromises his integrity, acquiesces in injustice, and accepts enslavement. In contrast, a person who has taqwa, God-consciousness, fears only the Ruler of the Universe, Almighty Allah; he perseveres against the greatest of challenges, maintains his integrity, resists injustice, refuses enslavement, and fights oppression without regard to man-made standards.

Next, Imam Jamil Al-Amin claims that the most important aspect of this struggle is prayer. He says that prayer is the center of the community. He quotes the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that prayer is what separates a believer form a disbeliever. He also quotes verse 11 of Surah Raad which states that “God does not change the condition of people until they change was is in themselves.” This is the most quoted verse of the Qur’an in his entire book, emphasizing the change in self that is required for the revolution that SNCC and the Black Panther Party imagined. He asserts that prayer is the key to this change, and that prayer is also what binds his mosque together.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin writes that:

Any building is just an edifice. The mosque is built to make prayer. Prayer is the key to the community, not buildings…Prayer is a practice, a program, that begins to make you aware, that makes you conscious of the Creator; it makes you fear Allah, and that brings about within you a transformation, a change that is necessary to throw off that whole system that you have become accustomed to. It is the beginning of a revolution in you which expands to other aspects of you reality.

Following his emphasis on prayer as the foundation of successful Islamic practice, Imam Jamil emphasizes other very important aspects of Islam, cemented with verses from the Qur’an and ahadith. Aside from just emphasizing the religious obligation of the action, Imam Jamil Al-Amin connects the idea to a sociopolitical imperative. It is not just his goal to explain to the reader why the action is religiously mandated. But he also seeks to connect it to why it is important for the social resurrection of the community in which a person resides. For example, he presents many hadith and the verses of Qur’an on the importance of charity. But beyond that, he connects the idea to the spiritual and social resurrection of Black Americans. 

Charity — you cannot have an effective social struggle, a successful movement, if you don’t have charity. You cannot have a successful revolution if people don’t have charity, if you are not willing to sacrifice. Sacrifice deals with giving, with sharing those things that Allah places in your trust? 

Beyond just laying out religious obligations, Imam Jamil Al-Amin points out many flaws in modern society, particularly those of materialism and corporatism. In his view, modernity is filled with many diseases that have deprived people of who they really are. People just go around consuming food, drugs, and entertainment, and are unable to cultivate their souls, or even ponder the fact that they have one. He writes about how society is devoid of values and how Americans have become a people who just go from one holiday to another without contemplating their existence. Americans have become a people not just intoxicated by drugs. More prominently, they have been intoxicated by holidays and entertainment.

We talk about intoxicants. We reduce the problem to cocaine and crack. But indeed, it is more than cocaine and crack. In fact, the problem is not crack and cocaine, the problem is that we live in a society that has made a virtue out of being high. This society arouses within you desires and passions that make you seek to escape reality by being high. Everything is geared toward keeping you in a state of euphoria. One holiday follows the next: Christmas to New Years, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, to Father’s Day, to the NBA playoffs, to the Superbowl, to championship fights, to Olympics. Everything keeps you high. Everything is geared towards keeping you away from encountering reality, everything is geared to keep you from remembering God.

He advises parents on the dangers of this corporatism also. Imam Jamil writes that: 

Your child must stop eating what the media sells; the television, radio, comics, magazines, recordings, etc. You must help them control their lives; you must take control of your children’s lives away from their enemy. You strive hard to teach your children right, then you turn the television on and allow everything that is against your religion, against your Lord, to be propagated in your house. You lock your doors and windows then turn on the TV.

One weakness in this text comes with regard to who Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s audience is. One review referred to it as “A valuable text for new Muslims and an excellent introduction to the fundamental teachings of Islam for non-Muslims.” So perhaps it is a text aimed at introducing non-Muslims to Islam, while also allowing Muslims to review the basic teachings through the context of his unique life experience. But which non-Muslims is he specifically speaking to? Is he speaking to Black revolutionaries who are not yet Muslim? He could be speaking to past colleagues of his from SNCC and the Black Panther Party. Is he making the case to them that Islamic practice presents a necessary program for them to actualize what they want in regard to this revolution?  Is that the purpose of this book? Or is he is referring to Islam as the continuation of the struggle in a rhetorical way. He is saying to his people that they do not need to wage revolution through protests and the ballot box. Rather, by the practice of Islam, each and every person transforming themselves will transform society. After all, society is merely the summation of a bunch of individuals. If all parts of the whole have revolutionized themselves, the whole too should revolutionize itself.

I also question if it weakens Islam or sells the deen short to present it as a means of good revolutionary praxis as opposed to salvation. The objective of Islam is to get close to God, not to restructure society. But establishing justice and ridding the world of this oppression is a result that comes from closeness to God. One begins a Muslim out of belief in God, and out of realization that the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the messenger of God, the last of prophets, and the greatest human being to ever walk this Earth. It is obvious that Imam Jamil Al-Amin understands. He emphasizes that the self must be transformed before anything else and that it is important to be aware of one’s close proximity to death. I wonder if maintaining the notion of a revolutionary self is to essentially say to those from his past days in the freedom struggle that he has not changed as a person. The H. Rap Brown who asserted that “violence is as American as cherry pie” has discovered what real revolution is all about—the greater jihad against the nafs. It is a sign that he has not committed some sort of political apostasy towards the freedom struggle, or cultural apostasy towards Black people. Rather, he has discovered that this materialism and lack of spiritual ethic guiding the freedom struggle can be purified and best applied when put into Islamic guidelines. 

For Muslims, this is an especially important text. It reminds them to fulfill the basic obligations of their religion and the evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah for fulfilling these basic obligations. It also connects to a figure who is seldom forgotten. Many know of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, but few know of the Imam Jamil Al-Amin. In addition, the Dar Al Islam movement which he was a leader in provides a model for dawah and Islamic institution building. But moreover, Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s book exemplifies to the reader that purification of the self does not have to take place in a vacuum of political quietism. Rather, in purifying themselves, the reader too can purify the community around them. Revolution by the Book is a seminal text representing a seminal figure.

Both Imam Jamil Al-Amin and his manifesto will be etched in the American Muslim imagination for years to come as symbols for purification of self, and the purification of society, insha Allah. 

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Ten Reasons You Should Support MuslimMatters This #GivingTuesday

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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.

With so many amazing #GivingTuesday campaigns running, why should you choose to support MuslimMatters?

1. MuslimMatters publishes Islamic news and perspectives not given voice in mainstream media, and we do it for free.

2. We bring awareness to the issues otherwise sidelined by mainstream media, like refugee rights, Palestinian self-determination, the oppression of the Rohingya, mass internment of the Uighur, and government lockdown and repression of the Kashmiris.

3. We are the oldest, largest, and more reputable online site for Muslim-specific content. When Muslims have an important message for other Muslims, MuslimMatters is how to reach them.

4. Your funding keeps us independent, allowing our writers to speak truth to power without worrying about losing funding, government support, or corporate donors. Click To Tweet

5. Muslimmatters is the global platform that is proud to raise other Muslim voices up. Anyone can write for us, and everyone can benefit from what we’ve worked to establish.

6. We’re taking back the narrative about Islam that is too often hiijacked by people not Muslim and entirely ignorant of Islam. People won’t have to believe what others are saying about us when we have the platform to speak for ourselves.

7. Our content has been cited by media outlets like CNN, ESPN, Buzzfeed, and the Washington Post.

Your contribution to MuslimMatters is building a reputable, credible source of news that other outlets look to for clarification.Click To Tweet

8. Articles published on MuslimMatters have appeared in Supreme Court Briefings, reading requirements for College Classes, and Interfaith Education events, granting their authors reach beyond what micro-blogging could ever accomplish.

9. Many of our pieces have inspired Friday Khutbas, and Khateebs from all over the country have shared how something they read gave them insight and inspiration to write a more informed, more relevant sermon than they would have been able to otherwise.

10. MuslimMatters brings difficult and otherwise taboo issues to the table for discussion, not shying away from the responsibility of trailblazing and myth busting in the Muslim community.

MuslimMatters is provided for free, and supported entirely by readers like you. So please, help us continue our work.

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A Letter From The Executive Director

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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.

AssalamuAlaikum Dear MM Fam,

Alhamdulillah in 2007, I was fortunate to be a part of the team that started up a little website called MuslimMatters.org. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a decade. In that time MM has grown from a group blog into a full-blown media entity giving an independent and authentic Islamic voice to contemporary spiritual, social, and political issues that we face.

MM's work has been featured in CNN, Washington Post, ESPN, Buzzfeed, and more. This platform has grown tremendously and now reaches millions of readers every year.Click To Tweet

With 2020 around the corner, we are at a critical juncture. Traffic has grown beyond our current capacity – yes, we’re basically the masjid that now has an expansion project lol – and we have to grow in order to meet our community’s media needs.

Your help is needed to invest in the MM infrastructure so we can not only keep up with our current growth but also develop new content such as podcasts and videos to continue to reach more readers all across the globe.

Your contribution on #GivingTuesday is particularly vital as it will count as double with a Facebook match. We need your help to make vital improvements that will enable MuslimMatters to continue being a voice for the voiceless and a platform for mainstream Islam in the media.

This #GivingTuesday I’m raising money for Muslimmatters Inc and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. And on GivingTuesday Dec 3, Facebook will match a total of $7 million in donations first come, first served. Thank you for your support.

Contribute what you can, and please share this post to help us hit our #GivingTuesday target to keep MuslimMatters strong for 2020.

JazakAllahuKheiran,

Omar Usman

Executive Director

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