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 , a Black man responsible for issuing the first call to Allah’s prayer, is worth pause.
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.