Author: In Shaykhs Clothing

The Journey of the Dark-Skinned Student of Knowledge

The Journey of the Dark-Skinned Student of Knowledge

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

By Ustadh Muhammad Ahmed

To the dark-skinned student of knowledge, I say to you: “Don’t be disheartened by the racism you may find, even if it is within the circles of knowledge.”

I begin this post with a reminder for the young black or dark-skinned Muslims who have undertaken the study of their deen. The reward is immense, and there is much to be gained out of following this sacred path. Despite the reward, there is an essential core aspect that can dishearten even the most eager of students. This was something I encountered myself while on my journey.

I am currently studying a rigorous 6-year course in traditional Islamic Scholarship. I am in my final year and have developed a strong bond with various teachers and students. I don’t feel like an outsider or someone being treated poorly.

I am such an ‘insider’ that my peers and even teachers don’t have a problem making anti-Black comments in my presence.  Often times, it has to do with ‘black’ being used interchangeably with ‘ugly.’  In one of these incidents, a student made a duah for one of his friends that roughly translates to “May Allah give every scholar a white wife and those who oppose them a black wife.” I responded to the student saying that he should not use ‘Black’ in this way. Unfortunately, a few others, including our teacher jumped to his defense saying ‘Perhaps he did not mean it in a racist way, but just that people usually prefer to marry white women.’

Soon enough, other classmates jumped into the fray, explaining to me and another Black student how they weren’t racist, and ‘how the group just likes joking with us and we were all friends.’

Last year, a guest speaker was invited to our institution to speak to the students for spiritual upliftment and general advice. As I listened to the speaker, I noticed how the speaker kept mentioning Bilal’s ( رضي الله عنه) skin tone. Basically, saying that despite his being Black, he was such a great Companion of the Prophet ﷺ. He kept describing his skin tone as a defect, as something wrong with him that he had to overcome to be an amazing companion. He mentioned the other companions but never once mentioned their complexion. I found myself getting upset, and not wanting to sit in the “spiritually uplifting” speech any longer.

At that moment I recalled all the scholars throughout my studying days who also made comments about me being Black, or uglier, or ‘not as beautiful.’ This was mentioned nonchalantly, as if it were just an accepted fact.

I found myself remembering all the times when another Black student and I in the class, felt hurt or singled out because of students or teachers discordantly mentioning our race. I remember when anti-Black jokes like the  previously mentioned duah, would be shared or some other belittling comments against Black people would be made. It made my face flush from embarrassment, and my heart race from disrespect. I just wanted to focus on my studies like the others, but instead, I would feel on edge the moment when color would come up, the anxiety that jolted through me whenever the word ‘Black’ came up in Arabic, hoping it wouldn’t turn into a discussion on race and beauty.

I began thinking back to the tafseer given to explain that White was better. I remembered the jokes bantered about, claiming I should make myself whiter to look prettier. And all the while, I had to remind myself that these weren’t just jokes by immature, ignorant students, but from people I had respected and continue to recognize as Scholars of Islam. These so-called ‘jokes’ at my expense were made so offhandedly, as if I wasn’t there, as a Black student of theirs. Sitting there, listening to that speech, I found myself reaching a level of anger that I had not felt in a long time purely due to the constant reminder of Bilal ( رضي الله عنه) color.

The talk ended and in my quelled anger, I made my way back to my room. A couple of days later, one of the older Scholars of Hadith came to teach us, and he said something that really hit my heart. I had not told him of this incident, but in class, he spoke about people giving speeches, and how certain things being said were incorrect. This is a man who I have seen weep at the mere mention of the Prophetﷺ, someone who I believe holds the Prophet ﷺ  and his Companions (Radhiyallahu Anhum) in high regard, along with the utmost love and respect.

That day, he mentioned the way people talk about Bilal (Radhiyallahu Anhu) in their speech. This had been his second time over the last few weeks he addressed this issue. He mentioned that some speakers mention Bilal and describe him as short, Black, and talk about the shape of his nose. Then he asked, “Who forced you to describe Bilal ( رضي الله عنه) in this way?  Just say he was from Habasha.” The time before this, he said that ‘if we hear people speak this way, slap them in the face.’

He was genuinely outraged, and his anger and indignation quelled the burning rage in my heart. I was pleased to hear a scholar of the tradition speak against the cultural and social racism that exists even in his own religious circles. His actions to speak out against falsehood were a reminder to me, that when someone truly understands their deen and truly appreciates the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ then this is something he or she will understand and defend.

My message to the people attending the Mosque or institutions of study––don’t let the attitudes, comments, and cultural brainwashing you will unduly face turn you away from your desire to study Islam and connect with Allah. There is good and bad in everything, and I had to come to terms with the fact that this is something I will have to deal with even though it hurts deeply. As Black students, we will deal with racism both in our home countries and abroad, and I have to remind myself that my goal is to study Islam. I cannot allow someone’s ignorance be the reason I let go of my path to becoming closer to Allah.

I know for a fact, Black people and people of color have experienced worse when attending mosques or programs. My hope is that, inshallah, they find a way to work through it and continue down their road of studying and learning. That being said, we have to also make sure we are creating a safe space where everyone, people of all complexions, will feel comfortable coming to the masjid. This starts by learning and being willing to understand others.

When Abu Dharr ( رضي الله عنه) made a negative comment about Bilal being black,  The Prophet ﷺ  told him that he was someone who still held jahiliyyah (ignorance) in his heart. To most people, this may not seem like a harsh rebuke, but we have to recognize that they were Muslims at that point! They were no longer considered to be part of that jahiliyyah, and the Prophet ﷺ  equating his behavior to the unbelievers was a direct statement about Abu Dharr not being complete in his spiritual transformation. The Prophet ﷺ made it clear that anyone making a racist comment is still stuck in the ignorant customs before the light of Islam. This filled Abu Dharr with remorse and he quickly went to Bilal to make amends, where he was forgiven and enlightened.

Allah states in the Quran that He made us into different tribes and nations so that we may know one another. The question we need to ask is: Are we even trying to know one another? Are we trying to understand the nuances of different tribes and nations that Allah, The Almighty created and placed us in?

When we speak about Bilal ( رضي الله عنه) or any companion of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , we must make sure we are talking about them in the utmost respectful manner. These are the people who struggled, and gave their lives in propagating and acting on the religion of Allah and his Messenger ﷺ . Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Allah.

Yes, you will find racism and this disease of the heart in many circles. This is a problem dating back to Shaytaan himself when he cited that he was better than Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) on the basis that he was made from fire, and Adam from clay.

To the Black student of knowledge, the Black Muslim attendee, the eager Black Muslim who attempted to come back to the path only to be shut out by racism, or anyone who has encountered such bigotry and hatred within Islamic circles: remember Allah loves you and the Prophet ﷺ prayed for you. Remember that you have a responsibility to get closer to your deen. Let no one obstruct you from your path. Do not let the same ignorant individuals who hurt you in this world set you back in the next. Persevere and continue, no matter what evil comes your way. Inshallah, for every hateful comment or hurtful word uttered about your skin or race, Allah will grant you bounties upon bounties for your patience.

Next time you hear a racist comment, whether it be directed at you or anyone else, speak up and let the deliverer know, even if they are your teachers, that racist or anti-Black humor is not funny. It is not ‘just a joke’ ––it is not casual fun, and it is never acceptable. Ask them to reflect on why what they said is so hurtful to you. And most of all, tell them not to hide behind ignorance and bigotry, and to uplift their own Islamic standards instead of chopping away at yours.

Ask them why White converts aren’t told stories of Suhayb al-Rumi to validate their being White and Muslim. Ask why Pakistani and Indians don’t feel excluded from being normalized Muslims despite there never being a Sahaba from their race. Ask why Islam spread to Malaysia much later, but Malaysians are accepted as normalized Muslims. Ask why we, as Black Muslims, who actually had Black Sahaba and Black Islamic civilizations and Black scholarship still need to be validated through Black Sahaba to be accepted as natural Muslims.

The problem of our existence in Islam does not reside within us, but within the jahilya that still exists unforgivably in the hearts of many of our teachers.

 

 

Have you been affected by spiritual abuse in the Muslim community and would like to share your story or need help?  You can email us at info@inshaykhsclothing.com.

 

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Advice for Mothers on Worshipping in the Last 10 nights 

Advice for Mothers on Worshipping in the Last 10 nights 

By Ustadha Ammarah Bholat

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Ramadan is a time to spiritually cleanse ourselves, to build our taqwa, get rewards and blessings, and build a stronger connection with Allah. Of the days and nights of Ramadan, the most valuable are the last ten, with the greatest night of all being Laylatul Qadr. Worship on these nights gives us the opportunity to earn more rewards than we could in an entire lifetime.

We all look forward to experiencing the last 10 nights. We carefully plan and set high goals before they begin. However, some mothers are disappointed when they realize how difficult it is to get some time for ibadah (worship), especially when faced with an overwhelming amount of chores and managing children. 

As mothers, we may ask, “what about my spiritual health, my connection with Allah?”

It’s important to remind ourselves that we also have to dedicate time for our ibadah. If we neglect our spiritual selves completely it could have a devastating effect on our faith. Furthermore, children will learn from our own examples, and when they see us prioritizing worship they also grow in veneration for acts of worship. 

We must avoid going into excess of just spending time doing chores to the point where we treat chores as more important than our religious obligations and spiritual growth. Although it can be hard to find the time and energy to make the most of these days, do not lose hope. There are still many ways that we as mothers can increase in ibadah and benefit from the last ten days of Ramadan.

1. Make a plan and set a routine

Structure your time so you are not haphazardly going about your days and just trying to fit worship in. Things will come up, but if you have a strong intention and firm routine, inshallah you will be able to maintain it. 

Imam Ghazali explains in The Beginning of Guidance:

“Your time should not be without any structure, such that you occupy yourself arbitrarily with whatever comes along. Rather, you must take account of yourself and order your worship during the day and the night, assigning to each period of time an activity that must not be neglected nor replaced by another activity.”

Have a simple meal plan ready for the next few days. It’s important to get all family members on board. I recommend setting up a family meeting with all members before the last 10 nights begin. Have some activities set out for your children also. Look through your schedule and find the time that your children are most calm and dedicate that time for worship. 

2. Even small moments matter 

As mothers many times we tend to wait for that large chunk of time where we have no distractions. We can all agree that this type of opportunity rarely comes! So instead of waiting, take every opportunity you find. If you can’t read one chapter, read half. If you can’t complete that then even one page. But don’t deprive yourself of good actions all together. The fiqh principle is that, “If something cannot be done completely, it should not be left completely.”

So whenever free of pressing responsibilities, even if only for a short amount of time, engage in worship. Even if you manage to only read a verse of the Quran it is worth it!

3. Make a Duaa List

During these final moments of Ramadan, we should pour our hearts out to Allah (swt) as much as possible. After an exhausting day it may become very difficult to remember our duaas. Set aside some time to write a detailed duaa list and have that on hand during the last 10 nights. 

4. Involve your kids 

Have your children pick out different acts of worship that you can engage in together.

The Prophet said, “Whoever points to the good has the reward of the one who performs it” (Muslim). Even if it seems that teaching your child Surah Fatiha is something small compared to others who are completing multiple Quran recitations remember that every good action you teach your child is a continuous sadaqah being recorded for you. You are also setting the tone in your home for the importance of worshipping Allah. What greater thing can a person do than raise a believing and God-fearing soul in love with Allah and his Messenger?  

5. Increase in Dhikr

Engaging in dhikr and reciting Quran that we have memorized while doing our household duties will allow us to remain occupied in worship and will also bring barakah into our homes. If you are a nursing mother, engage in dhikr and reciting Quran while nursing your child.  This will have a positive spiritual impact on your children.

 6. Don’t be shy to ask for help!

If you have family support, find times in the day where you can count on your family to help with the children. Parenting is a shared responsibility between both parents. Allah tells us to have a spirit of helping one another in attaining piety (Quran 5:2). The most important people to help are your own family, and keeping meal plans simple, sharing household chores, and time with the children is a great example of helping one another in attaining piety.  Asking for help will help prevent us from being burned out.

7. Keep a positive mindset

Not everyone will have help around the house, and some will have to work while fasting and taking care of children alone.  We can take inspiration from Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet . She spent a large portion of her time handling household chores and raising her five children. There is a reason why the Prophet   described her as the “Queen of All the Women in Paradise.” So if you ever feel overwhelmed or disheartened by not being able to worship as much as you wanted, remember that paradise is attainable through multiple paths. It’s not easy to go through Ramadan, while everyone is busy with worship, and you’re so occupied with your children. It’s easy to become disheartened when we feel we are not reaching our goals.

Ramadan while raising children and breastfeeding is not easy at all. However, remind yourself that as a mother you’re on a special route of worship. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t able to achieve all your Ramadan goals. Your child may require nursing throughout the night, and you may not read all the Quran you wanted, but you are doing a great service for your child by nursing.

Have faith that Allah won’t allow your tears, your effort, your exhaustion, and your good intentions go to waste in Ramadan.

 

Related article: Worshipping While Menstruating During the Last 10 Nights of Ramadan

To contact Ustadah Ammarah and to learn more about her classes please email ammarahbholat@gmail.com 

Mixlr.com/piasisters

Ustadha Ammarah was born and raised in Los Angeles CA. At a young age she travelled to England to pursue an Alimiyyah degree in Islamic Sciences. Over the next 6 years she studied Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, Aqeedah, Usul (foundations of jurisprudence), Arabic Grammar and gained guidance from many esteemed scholars of England. During this time she received ijazaat from scholars in the Islamic Sciences with isnād (a linked chain of the prophetic traditions from herself to the Prophet) in numerous books of hadith. Since then she has been involved in teaching Islamic Studies and lecturing in various mosques across the Bay Area.

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Worshipping While Menstruating During the Last 10 Nights of Ramadan

Worshipping While Menstruating During the Last 10 Nights of Ramadan

By Ustadha Ammarah Bholat

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The sage Ibn `Ata’illah al- Iskandari mentions in his Hikam, “When The Real (Allah) knew of your boredom, he diversified for you acts of obedience.”
لما علم الحق منك وجود الملل لون لك الطاعات

Allah created different ways of worshipping Him so we may spend all our time in worship. Allah praises those “Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire” (Quran 3:191). 

There are times in the day when it is sinful to pray and there are times in the year when it is sinful to fast. For a woman in particular, there are days in the month where due to her menstruation cycles she cannot pray or fast, but she should never feel as if the door of worshipping Allah is being closed. Rather, other doors are being opened for her. In reality there is so much that a menstruating woman can do to fill her days and nights with Ibadah (worship). Below are five acts of worship our teachers recommend and that I teach to my own students:

1.  Find a replacement ibaadah for her Salah. 

During menstruation a woman can not pray, which leaves a large gap in Ramadan as she is not able to take part in Fardh, Taraweeh, Tahajjud, and all other voluntary prayers.

Ibn Abdin mentions in Raddul Muhtar that the overall recommendation is that a menstruating woman make wudhu for each prayer time, sit in her usual place of worship, and make dhikr for the time it takes for her to normally pray so that she does not lose her habit of worship while in this state. In Ramadan a woman should sit even throughout Tahajjud time and Taraweeh time and engage herself in different acts of Ibadah

2.  Connect with the Quran

Yes! A woman in menstruation can still spend as much time with the Quran! Although in many schools of thought a menstruating woman is not permitted to recite the Quran, she may and should listen to the Quran as much as possible. She should ponder over the meaning of the Quran, connect with each verse, understand its meaning, and recite the verses in her heart. A good book to help the non-Arabic speaker do this is Ma’ariful Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani.

It’s important to note that in the Maliki madhab a woman may recite Quran without touching the mushaf (physical copy of Quran), and when for the purposes of study she may even hold a mushaf. 

3. Dhikr, Duaa and Durood (sending prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ)

The 3 D’s! 

I) Dhikr of Allah is one of the best ways to cleanse and purify a person’s heart. 

My teacher Shaykhul Hadith FadhlHaq Wadee would mention that increasing our dhikr illuminates our hearts and increases our desire to do good actions. This is crucial for a woman to do during her menses so she does not experience a decline in her spiritual state. 

 II) Duaa If she finds it challenging to sit in duaa for a large portion of time then there are amazing duaa compilations [such as Hizbul Azam and Munajaat Maqbool] which provide beautiful duaas that she can recite. With each word she is beseeching and calling upon Allah and with each word she is strengthening her relationship with Allah. 

  III) Durood – Sending salutations upon the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is amongst the most virtuous acts of worship. She is rewarded, her sins are forgiven, and most importantly it increases her love and connection with the Prophet ﷺ. 

It was narrated that Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
I said: O Messenger of Allah, I send a great deal of blessings upon you; how much of my du‘aa’ should be sending blessings upon you? He said: “Whatever you wish.” I said: One quarter? He said: “Whatever you wish, and if you do more, that will be better for you.” I said: One half? He said: “Whatever you wish and if you do more, that will be better for you.” I said: Two thirds? He said: “Whatever you wish and if you do more, that will be better for you.” I said: I will make all of my du‘aa’ for you. He said: “Then your concerns will be taken care of and your sins will be forgiven.”

4. Seek Knowledge

She can read an Islamic Book, review lessons, or study with a teacher if possible. Yahya ibn Abi Kathir said, “Studying sacred knowledge is a prayer.” Sufyan al-Thawri and Shafi’i said, “There is nothing after what is obligatory that is superior to seeking sacred knowledge.”

5)  Find the beauty in submitting to Allah’s commands

Ibn `Ata’illah said, “No matter is difficult if you seek it through your Lord. Nothing is easy if you seek it through yourself.” Seek through Allah and you will be granted; seek through your own might and you will be seeking for a long time. It is not unlikely that through the blessing of submission and sincerity Allah will open up unimaginable doors of good for you. Allah knows well how much you would like to fast and perform Tarawih. You are worshipping Allah, just by the situation you are in. Our teachers would say: “Her praying while pure is an act of ibadah and her refraining from prayer while menstruating is also an act of ibadah. All of it is counted as worship.” 

May Allah give us all tawfiq and accept our worship.

 

Related article: Interview with Ustadha Ammarah Bholat

To contact Ustadah Ammarah and to learn more about her classes please email ammarahbholat@gmail.com 

Mixlr.com/piasisters

Ustadha Ammarah was born and raised in Los Angeles CA. At a young age she travelled to England to pursue an Alimiyyah degree in Islamic Sciences. Over the next 6 years she studied Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, Aqeedah, Usul (foundations of jurisprudence), Arabic Grammar and gained guidance from many esteemed scholars of England. During this time she received ijazaat from scholars in the Islamic Sciences with isnād (a linked chain of the prophetic traditions from herself to the Prophet) in numerous books of hadith. Since then she has been involved in teaching Islamic Studies and lecturing in various mosques across the Bay Area.

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