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The Power Of Seeing Yourself On Screen

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As a young perceptive boy, I looked for myself in almost everything I came into contact with. I was among countless other youth who saw characters from comic books and tv shows as symbols of triumph, of wherewithal. Like the Supermans, Spidermans and Wolverines, almost all depictions of Islamic fortitude were mostly attributed to people I could not identify with, given the complexities of race, ethnicity, and culture.

What these stories narrate, after a brief life of absorbing them, is from fantasy to faith, no one who looks as you do, has offered much to where your religion stands. They tell you in so many subtle ways, that a now 1.7 billion Muslim Ummah has been constructed with you just as a guest in mind. And the burden of Black resilience in the face of deliberate psychological and spiritual exclusion is a need to disconnect from parts of history where you don’t see yourself lauded. Art will always be mighty medium through which we can level this damage done by omission. That we’ve come to bring to light the story of Bilal ibn Rabah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), a Black man responsible for issuing the first call to Allah’s prayer, is worth pause.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0GrNUSPBP8

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So we celebrate him. We celebrate his journey from dwelling at one of the lowest man-manufactured rungs of civilization to one of the highest plateaus in Allah’s command. We celebrate his Blackness. We celebrate his beloved Abyssinian mother, who kindled the light of his life that illuminates ours today. We revere his numerous sacrifices for a faith we all call home. True Islam, exposes injustice, inequity, and indifference, for the abominations of the human soul that they are. And there are little stories in our history conveying the true significance of what it means when Allah raises the station of his servants like Mawlana Bilal’s. Those of us who make up numerous portions of the Islamic African Diaspora across the world have all existed during an era which continues to attempt to lay our heritages, narratives, and spirituality low, due to our pigmentation.

To see a production created exploring Bilal Ibn Rabah’s life as ultimately a soldier for dignity through Islam should power our souls. It should add firmness to the self we see in the mirror. Knowing it is portrayed in a format for our youth to grab hold of his legacy with their hearts is a crucial step in investing in the spiritual and psychological esteem of our future. Our children partly become what their eyes and ears encounter.

Movies like Bilal affirm their place in a rich history still occurring in the lifeblood of his descendants today.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. 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.

Tariq Touré is a Muslim essayist, poet, educator and public speaker from Baltimore, Md. He uses prose as medium for shedding new light on issues such as social justice, racial inequality, black culture and Black Muslim narratives. In 2015, he was honored with the Real Men of Baltimore award by 92q jams radio station and the Alumni Excellence award by his Alma Mater Bowie State University.

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