Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Finding Yourself, and Maybe Even a Friend, in the Midst of Loneliness

By Ayisha Karim, with poetry by Liza Garza

October 2017
I’m sure it’s a phase, but I don’t recall ever feeling as lonely as I do now at any other time in my life. Don’t get me wrong, my day to day life is filled with noise – the seemingly incessant noise from my 5 and 7 year-old kids, noise from my bright-eyed, eager freshman students (excited to share their answers and problem-solving methods in math class) to the random noises from the halls and playgrounds of my school.

My sixth period class, in particular, has this peculiar way of being completely rambunctious while staying on task with their math work, collaborating well, and discussing politics at the same time. But they are LOUD!

And after school, from the time I pick up my kids in aftercare to the time that I say my umpteenth “goodnight,” the sounds that result from their kiddie world of play, sports in the house, kiddie TV-shows, and bath time makes me fantasize and long for just 30 minutes of complete, utter silence and solitude.

But then there’s also the noise jumping off the pages of my Facebook Newsfeed, the kind of silent noise that can pull you in for hours on end and give you the illusion that, in reality, you’re not physically alone. Yet, there’s a strong likelihood that loneliness, to some extent, is the reason that you’ve turned to social media in the first place.

I’ll stop beating around the bush and get to the story which was the inspiration behind writing this blogpost in the first place. I think it’s safe to say that there are certain places one goes to feel less lonely when out.

Honestly, I often go to the movies by myself because it’s dark inside and no one really notices. There are even certain restaurants I’ll go to by myself because the food is just so good, and they know me and there are bound to be a few others also there alone.

Well, the setting for this particular story was an Atlanta favorite: The Dekalb Farmers Market. It just so happens to be a few miles away from the community center that I sometimes practice African dance on Saturday mornings.

After one such class, I stopped by the Farmers Market to do my weekly grocery shopping and grab a bite at the hot bar where you can get amazingly healthy, delicious food for cheap. As I walked into the cafeteria, I quickly scanned the tables to decide where I’d feel the least amount of awkwardness sitting alone.

After succeeding in this, something surprising and even more spectacular happened. Another young African American woman asked to sit with me. Okay, she wasn’t a complete stranger; we recognized each other from our African dance class.

I felt like a shy middle school kid, being invited to sit with the cool kid. We quickly got into the juicy, yet slightly weird introductions. Turns out, she was also an Atlanta native, a Georgia Peach, the same age as me…and yup, you guessed it, SINGLE.

Yet, unlike her, I’d been married previously, happily married, at least from what she gathered. My current divorced status briefly became the topic of discussion, and when she realized she was safe to speak on the woes of singlehood with me, she admitted that there was a time—not sure how long a period, actually—that she envied me, the lifestyle she imagined I enjoyed, and practically fantasized about what it would be like to walk in my shoes.

Yes! This was all in the context of African dance class. She described--what I pictured in slow motion--a small group of attractive, graceful MARRIED women moving their bodies sensually to the rhythm of the live drum, flailing their hands in the air, at which point our sparkling wedding rings shone and confirmed our marital bliss, and therefore, lives void of loneliness. HAAAAAA!

Meanwhile, I recalled feeling extremely self-conscious of my occasional lack of coordination in movement and natural African rhythm. However, this newfound friend told me that she looked at me in those moments and convinced herself that I, and women like me, had zero trouble finding companionship and were residing in matrimonial bliss.
Uhuru Dancers; African dance class in Clarkston, Ga
I found myself apologizing for appearing this way in her eyes and causing her any discomfort, to which she dismissed as her problem and not mine. We laughed, shared more of our painful stories of love and loss, as well as insights we’ve gained along the way.

Our exchange was a gift that stemmed from loneliness: Had I not been sitting alone that day, chances are, she would have never asked to share my table, and I would have missed out on this golden opportunity to expand my capacity for empathy, compassion, deep listening, sharing and caring (hehe, mommy moment). It reminds me of a saying from Inayat Khan:

There is no better companion than solitude,” as such a companion leads one to other treasures if you just dare listen and pay close attention.


Sometimes, a separation that wants
 to burn up this world and leave.

Other times the inward joy of union.
 We feel them both.

How odd and sad it is
that on the white tablet where
 everything has already happened,
it says, This on one day. That on another.

Rumi (Soul Fury)

January 2018
I knew this time would come. When I’d have to stare the reality of loneliness back in the face again. And really come to terms with what it looks like, what it feels like, what conditions invite loneliness into my space, and what it means for me when it shows up so glaringly.

I must admit that, although I knew it would return, I enjoyed the unexpected break from it, replaced by deep connection, of being heard and understood. 

Yes, God sent me a friend.

It was in such stark contrast to my previous state, so much so, that I struggled to know when to just let the waves of connection naturally crash into me. I found myself between finding various ways to put up a barrier and letting go to lighten my load of loneliness.

Simply put, I was bracing myself for heartbreak. See, I’m no stranger to heartbreak either. Just as I’ve been blessed with solitude and loneliness, I’ve been blessed with heartbreak as well. In fact, I’ve gotten to know them quite well and, if I look discerningly, see them as opportunities and pathways to growth, wisdom, beauty, and most importantly, to God directly.

As Rumi taught,

Learn from the Prophet (s): whatever God gives you, be content.

At the very moment you become content in affliction, the door of paradise will open.

If the messenger of heartache comes to you, embrace him like a friend!

Then that heartache can throw off its chador, rain down sugar, and be gentle and heart-ravishingly.

Seize the edge of heartache’s chador, for she is beautiful but deceptive.
Nothing is more blessed than heartache, for its reward has no end.

I’m becoming less and less afraid or anxious when I see either heartbreak or loneliness rearing its funny-shaped head. I recognize loneliness for what it is, acknowledge it, and let it run its course through me.

Oh, and I’ve also realized that loneliness and heartbreak are commonplace to relationships as well, healthy marriage relationships at that. Here’s what author Micheal A. Singer has to say about us giving space to loneliness:

What goes on when loneliness is given the space it needs to pass through you? Be an explorer. Witness it, and then it will go. If you don’t get absorbed in it, the experience will soon pass and something else will come up. Just enjoy all of it. If you can do this, you will be free, and a world of pure energy will open up within you.”
(The Untethered Soul, 87)

May we learn to embrace the beauty where loneliness leads.

If we turn to God in the solitude, always, it leads to pure beauty, like in a Rumi poem, or in this breathtaking piece on loneliness by Liza Garza. Listen and be delighted.

This piece is part of a video series leading up to the release of the early 2018 poetry book by Liza entitled "love apocalypse: veil I."

**For more information on Liza Garza's work, visit her website:

Friday, December 29, 2017

Islamic Education, Reclaiming Our West African Islamic Legacy

By Jamillah Karim

#SisterClaraMuhammadSchool #Qur'anSchool #BlackAndMuslim #Sufism

Shaykh Hassan (R) and Imam WD Mohammed (R), 2005, Chicago, Drake Hotel
Our Beloved Hajja Ayisha Jeffries arranged the meeting between them.

This post is the talk I presented at the 7th Annual Commemoration of Shaykh Hassan Cisse (R) in Atlanta, GA, on December 24, 2017.

1976. It is the year that Shaykh Hassan Cisse, may Allah be pleased with him, first visited the United States. Here, he would continue the legacy of his grandfather Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (R), twentieth century West Africa’s most influential scholar and spiritual guide. Before his death in 1975, Shaykh Ibrahim’s followers had reached the millions in more than fifteen sub-Saharan African countries, gaining him the distinction of the one who brought the fayda, or the divine flood, of the Tijaniyya spiritual brother and sisterhood. With Shaykh Hassan, the flood would now extend into the United States among African Americans.

To me, it is no coincidence that the Tijaniyya flood would take root in the United States just one year after another flood of sorts took place in America. In this case, the year is 1975. The leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, dies. His son, then called Supreme Minister Wallace Mohammed, assumes the leadership, and immediately introduces the Nation of Islam community to the Qur’an and our beloved Sayyidina Muhammad, Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, transforming the community almost overnight. That year, 1975, marks America’s one and only mass conversion to Islam. The converts honored with this distinction were none but you in this room, the descendants of enslaved Africans.

Arguably, the Nation of Islam played the most prominent role in popularizing Islam in Black America. At the same time, several other Black Muslim movements gave Black American Islam its unique expression. No doubt, the first generations of African American Muslims were divided, but what they shared was a common pursuit of an Islamic identity. The descendants of a noble people stripped of their religion and culture, they were all struggling to reclaim their true human identity. And all of them, in one form or another, found their humanity in Islam.  

1975, therefore, marks a significant moment in the history of Black American Islam for all of us, not just those with Nation of Islam heritage. 1975 symbolizes a turning point, when Allah gifted us with the clarity and knowledge to separate truth from falsehood. Although the Nation of Islam’s false beliefs were striking, we were not the only early Black Muslim group in need of the light and beauty of Sayyidina Muhammad (S).

And although we had discovered the light, the African American Muslims of the 1970s were vulnerable to another round of confusion. Eager to prove our true Islamic identity, too many of us surrendered our culture. We were told that to be Muslim meant you had to be Arab or Pakistani.

But there were a few select leaders who had the vision as early as 1976 to teach us that we can be authentically Muslim and African American too.  Imam Mohammed (R) was one of those teachers. Shaykh Hassan (R) was one of those teachers. Two foremost spiritual guides, two spiritual brothers. Their connection and contribution are undeniable.

Interestingly, it was through their death that many of us began to realize the depth of their connection. They both returned to Allah in the same year, 2008, first Shaykh Hassan in the month of Sha’ban, and then Imam Mohammed immediately following him in the month of Ramadan.

Their living legacies are connected by the coinciding time frames in which Allah sent them to do shared work, which, in light of their spiritual brotherhood, can be interpreted in this way:

1975, when Imam Mohammed guided America’s Black Muslims, represents the mass movement of darkness into the light, and 1976, when Shaykh Hassan first visited us, symbolizes the subsequent opening that happens after gazing upon the light. The actual descending of the light of Sayyidina Muhammad (S) upon us, in a form that we could relate to: Black and beautiful like us.

I was born in 1976 and grew up in the Warith Deen Mohammed community here in Atlanta. I never met Shaykh Hassan, though I was in the company of esteemed women in the Atlanta community who were very close to him, women like Dr. Askari, Sister Rabiyah, Auntie Ayisha, Sister Jeanette, and Sister Rakaia. When I look back at how I saw these women in the 1990s, when I was just a teenager, I remember them standing out, likely because they warmly radiated West African spirituality, but at the same time, I saw them as I saw my own mother, women who gracefully wove together their African American and Muslim identities.

What I sensed as a teenager about these women--that they were imbued with a striking love for Allah and love for themselves--was confirmed when I dug a little deeper. I discovered this about Shaykh Hassan: Our pioneer, Imam Sayed Abdus-Salaam (R) used to say, “Not only did Shaykh come to us here in America, but he interceded.”

In the words of Imam Sayed’s son Hajji Ajib Abdus-Salaam,

“Shaykh Hassan saved us from a form of religious slavery, where religious authority is given to Arabs. Shaykh Hassan intervened by teaching us that it is not the color of your skin that determines your knowledge. He broke the chains of religious slavery so that we could practice freely. He let us be who we were.”

SubhanAllah, those last words, “to practice freely,” and “to be who we are” deeply resonated with me because that was the sentiment that I heard over and over again from women followers of Imam W D Mohammed when I researched how they felt when the imam transitioned them to Sunni Islam. But here’s the really brilliant moment of connection. Hajji Ajib noted, “And,” in addition to this freedom to be who we are, “Shaykh Hassan gave us something, he gave us an institution. He said this is for you.”

Hajji Ajib’s words solidify why we are here together, in Atlanta, GA, and perhaps why I was chosen to speak here tonight. We are honoring the legacy of Shaykh Hassan (R) in light of the legacy of institutions, one of the most celebrated aspects of my personal heritage. The Nation of Islam not only taught my parents to love their African features, but it provided them the institution, Sister Clara Muhammad School, to ensure that their children would be educated enough and loved enough to never question their beauty. But more importantly an institution, that at its best, would beautify our hearts with the Qur’an.

And this is what Shaykh Hassan gave us. He gave our parents a Qur’an school in his home of Senegal, but for us. And he made it clear that it was for us by calling it the African American Islamic Institute. Many of you in this room studied there, and were transformed there into these beautiful souls in our midst tonight.

And there are some among you who were blessed to have benefitted directly from these dual legacies. One is our dear Sayidah Kubra, the daughter of Dr. Khadijah Askari, and the wife of Shaykh Mahy, may Allah bless and preserve them all, who memorized the entire Qur’an in Medina Baye, Senegal. But her early years were spent right here in Atlanta, GA, where she was a student at Sister Clara Muhammad School.

I cannot mention Sayidah Kubra without mentioning her predecessor, Aminah Abdul-Kareem, may Allah bless her, the first American woman to memorize the Qur’an in Medina Baye in the 1980s, and as far as we know, the first American woman period to memorize the Qur’an.This indicates the magnitude of Shaykh Hassan’s gift to us. What African American children, and girls in particular, were memorizing  the Qur’an in the 1980s and 1990s? By the grace of Allah, ours were.

Like Shaykh Hassan, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed also imparted a message when he named an institution. In 1980 he changed the name of the University of Islam, as it was called in Nation days, to Sister Clara Muhammad School. It was to honor the legacy of his mother, without whom there would not have been a Nation of Islam.

In 1930 it was Clara Muhammad who first heard about Islam and immediately thought that the message, as given by the mysterious Fard Muhammad, might help her husband who was struggling with unemployment and hopelessness. She brought him to Fard Muhammad, and the rest is history. Tonight I want to highlight just one part of this story that frames my main message. It is the message of reclaiming our lost identity, reclaiming our legacy of West African Islamic scholarship and spirituality.

Clara Muhammad first learned of Fard Muhammad’s teachings from another woman. Sister Clara once recounted, “My girlfriend told me there’s a man who’s saying some things about our people. We once dressed in long flowing cloth and we were royal. We were not Christians. We were Muslims.”

This idea, passed on through women, that we were once a great Muslim people gave birth to the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam gave birth to Sister Clara Muhammad School. Sister Clara Muhammad School is where I spent all my school years, from 1980 to 1993. There, our hearts became attached to the legacy of African American people as much as to the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (S).

My English teacher, Sister Sandra El-Amin, who introduced me to the classics in African American literature, was also one of my first Qur’an teachers. She had me memorize the 99 Names of Allah and short surahs from the Qur’an in Arabic and English. At Sister Clara Muhammad School, our own people were our first Qur’an and Arabic teachers.

Add to that beautiful fact, my first Qur’an teacher who was not African American was still African, our very own Imam Bye Secka, may Allah bless him. He was the first to teach me Ayatul Kursi, which I recently taught my sons. And as Sister Sandra would expect of me, I also had them memorize it in English.

My classmates and I didn’t realize it, but by memorizing Qur’an under Imam Bye, we were taking from a great lineage of African Muslim scholars and awliyah, friends of Allah. In addition to this, we were now linked to a movement of African American children taking from this lineage, children from New York, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban centers, who were traveling to Senegal to memorize the Qur’an under the loving guidance and care of Shaykh Hassan.  

Like the case of Sister Clara Muhammad, an African American woman stood at the center of this historic moment. Sister Kareemah Abdul-Kareem, from New York City, managed the home where American students lived while attending the Qur’an school in the 1980s and ‘90s. Called the Yellow House, the residence provided American students a home away from home and a community mother who supported them.

But perhaps my connection to the Qur’an school that most illuminates my message tonight comes through my longtime classmate, Furqan Muhammad. Our mothers, who joined the Nation in the early ‘70s, were close from the time we were babies. In our early school years, our fathers carpooled us and our siblings to Sister Clara Muhammad School. May Allah bless them all. Since then, our paths have been different, but nonetheless parallel, leading us to a common destination.

Towards the end of our ninth grade year, Furqan’s parents sent him, and later his brother Haneef, to Senegal to protect them from society’s negative influences. Alhamdulillah, Allah blessed them with protection and more. Furqan memorized one third of the Qur’an, earned a scholarly license to teach Qur’an, and was trained under Shaykh Hassan in the Islamic science of purifying the heart, also known as tassawuf, or Sufism.  

Meanwhile, I continued on at Mohammed Schools in Atlanta, graduated, and then matriculated at Duke University. Majoring in Electrical Engineering, I had no idea that in reality Allah had placed me on a path to discover the vast richness of Islam. Duke was one of the top schools for pursuing a PhD in Islamic Studies, and the study of Sufism in particular. Alongside my math and engineering courses, I took courses in Islamic law, civilization, and philosophy.

I learned that Sufism has been the soul of Islamic culture and practice since its beginnings. I found the study of Islam in academia deeply fulfilling because when I read about Islam’s history in any region of the world, my readings were infused with the beauty of Islamic spirituality, stirring my inner yearning to know and love Allah more. Take this passage from Dr. Zachary Wright’s book Living Knowledge in West African Islam. Although his book is relatively new, it mirrors the type of reading I was assigned at Duke.

As Islam spread from North Africa to south of the Sahara, the “teaching-master [was] the principle source of knowledge: ‘For the Moors, the shaykh was their library.’ Early West African scholars...were revered for their learning and piety, the power of their supplications (for rain for example), and spiritual blessing (baraka).….It was such scholars, whose beings were inscribed with the ethical and legal norms of their religion, that deserve credit for the spread of Islam in West Africa, rather than the traders often credited with spreading Islam in the region."

Dr. Wright’s phrase, “Beings inscribed with the ethical and legal norms of their religion,” can be restated this way: Scholars whose hearts radiate the beauty and light of Sayyidina Muhammad (S).

While I was reading about the beautiful heritage of my ancestors, my classmate Furqan actually tasted it, as he drank from the fountain of knowledge of Shaykh Hassan (R). But either way, through the pursuit of Islamic knowledge, instilled in us early on as students of Sister Clara Muhammad, we both fulfilled her earliest vision of African American Muslims, a once broken people reclaiming our royal roots in Islam. We tapped into the rich, living legacy of West African Islam.     

In April of this year, almost 30 years after Furqan made his journey to sub-Sahara Africa, I made mine for the first time. Many fortuitous and favorable things happened on that trip, indicating that Allah was watching over and orchestrating things for me. One of those things was that Furqan was also visiting at that time, another sign that we are brother and sister. As our roots were one, our destination is one. From Allah, to Allah.

I will end tonight by sharing what I wrote about my travel to Senegal:

Allah set my trip up most beautifully in that immediately after arriving in Dakar, we were escorted directly to a village that is a spiritual center, Medina Baye, and the first thing we did upon our arrival was greet a great scholar and servant of Allah, Shaykh Mahy, may Allah ta'ala preserve him and his family. How exquisite a return! To witness whom we would be, who we are! The brutality of slavery separated us in proximity, but Allah preserved our hearts and healed them so that neither distance nor difficulty separates the hearts of believing servants. It is as though we have always been on this path. It was not just a homecoming but a coming home to the best of our legacy.

April 2017, Grand Mosque of Medina Baye, Senegal

Within us is the light of the legacy of Sister Clara Muhammad, of Elijah Muhammad, of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, of Shaykh Hassan Cisse, of Sister Kareemah Abdul-Kareem. May Allah bless them all. The light of their legacy illuminates in proportion to the light of our hearts. Shaykh Hassan once said, “If you ask where the house of Allah on earth is, I will show you the mosque: these are the houses of Allah. If you want to know where the place of Allah in the body is, that is the heart. Because Allah said in a ḥadīth qudsī, ‘I cannot be contained in the heavens nor in earth, but only in the heart of a believing servant.’ That is the place of Allah. You should always make sure that you are cleaning it.”

We have been singled out. We have been gifted with a unique legacy. Not everyone has what we have. And that’s why people are attracted to Atlanta, and are attracted to Medina Baye, and are attracted to us. But with every gift, there is a test. Our institutions are struggling. We are needy before Allah. And yes, we need more money. But also, let us not forget this. When we come begging to Allah ta’ala, what does He look at? Does He look at our wealth, or our capacity to build wealth? No, the Beloved of Allah (S) told us that Allah ta’ala looks at our hearts.

When we clean and beautify our hearts for Allah, He fills them up with Him, with everything we need to build institutions. He fills them with patience, with faith, with excellence, with truthfulness, with compassion and generosity, with the will to serve and sacrifice, with unity, with love and beauty. May Allah ta’ala make us the people of hearts. May people know us by our hearts. And with clean hearts, we will, by Allah, build and sustain the institutions that uphold the legacy of our Beloved (s) and the legacy of our beloved ancestors, may Allah grant them the highest level of paradise, their hearts’ content.

7th Annual Commemoration of Shaykh Hassan Cisse (R)


The Divine Flood by Rudiger Seesemann

Living Knowledge in West African Islam by Zachary Wright

"The Yellow House in Medina Baye, Senegal" by Samiha Rahman

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 2: Moving Hearts Toward the Beloved Community, ISNA 2017

ISNA 2017 with the luminous Yasmin Mogahed
Photo by Rabia Khan (
In Part 1 of this post, I ended with how I was touched when the host of ImanWire, Mohammed Saleem, read a quote of mine about God having put the love of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X in the hearts of non-Black Muslims as a gift  to facilitate their connection with and care for African Americans in general.

Even before that sentimental moment, I was impressed by the way Saleem sought to explore in the interview various aspects of my book with sincere enthusiasm and interest. Perhaps this is his job, nonetheless he carried it out with beauty and care. Alhamdulillah, I am reminded of the great honor Allah, the Most Great, has bestowed upon me to tell the history of my community. On top of that honor, I am moved that others value Allah’s entrusting me with the narratives of African American Muslim women especially. That Saleem is a man, of South Asian background, and feels this connection, amplified my feeling of gratitude for Allah’s beautiful gift and plan.

The quote on the love of Ali and Malcolm in the hearts of non-Black Muslims also worked well for Saleem because he wanted to end on a spiritual note. He wanted to move the hearts. And so I responded with comments from my last ISNA talk, where I also aimed for the hearts.

And this is truly the beauty of our mother Hagar as a perfect symbolic fit for the kind of scholarly activism to which I aspire. I am inspired to write passionately about race and gender, but my ultimate passion is being touched by and touching the hearts of people who desire God and His Beloved Prophet (S), above all else.

It is the expression of sisterhood like that between me and Yasmin--crossing race, built on love of God--that inspires my spiritual, scholarly activism.

Mother Hagar embodies the race, class, and gender struggles that I bring to light in my scholarly work, but more than that, she represents the exemplary human being that finds satisfaction with God in the ultimate moment of distress, and as a result, changes the world forever!

With Hagar I ended my ISNA 2016 talk, remembering her as the one who took the primordial footsteps that forged the way for the Blessed Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, to later inspire hearts to become the Beloved Ummah. With Hagar, I opened my 2017 talk, aspiring again to inspire us to become the Beloved Community.

And so I answered my gracious host--after he read my comments on hearts loving Ali and Malcolm-- with my latest reflections on becoming the beloved community as shared at ISNA 2017. Below I share an excerpt of my talk, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

What community is better positioned to be the beloved community? Who are the people of brotherhood and sisterhood? Who are the people that have as its leader, its teacher, guide and model, a human being who embodies the utmost beauty? This human being is none other than the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him.

But have we made the Beloved Ummah a priority? Do we ask for it in our dua?

Ask any Muslim, “What is the American Muslim struggle?” All of us would say the fight against anti-Muslim hate and bigotry. We’ve made that fight our priority. But what is the most effective way to fight anti-Muslim racism in this country?

The scholar and saint Abul-Qasim ibn Muhammad al-Junayd said, “One cannot struggle against his enemy outwardly except he who struggles against his enemies inwardly (and the inward enemies are the desires of the ego). Then whoever is given victory over them will be victorious over his (outward) enemy, and whoever is defeated by them, his enemy defeats him.”

If we do not prioritize the internal struggle--the fight for beautiful hearts--then how can we fight the external enemy of anti-Muslim propaganda and bigotry.
The Qur’an guides us in this regard through the example of the early Muslims, the Emigrants who left Mecca because of religious persecution and the Helpers, the people of Medina, who gave them refuge in their new city.

“...The poor emigrants who were removed from their homes and their possessions. They seek Allah’s grace and pleasure and assist Allah and His Messenger. These are the ones who are true. Those who were already firmly established in their homes [in Medina], and firmly rooted in faith, show love for those who migrated to them for refuge, and harbor no desire in their hearts for what has been given to them. They [the Helpers] give [the Emigrants] preference over themselves, even if they too are poor. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls—they are the successful ones.”(59:8-9)

How refined were the hearts of the Emigrants and the Helpers! And herein lies the lesson to take home. The early Muslims, their hearts were made beautiful first--love was established in their hearts first--and then they fought and won battles together.

We want to be a beloved community in the eyes of American society, and that is an important and legitimate struggle, but our first priority, and sole concern really, is to be beloved in God’s eyes. “God does not look at your external forms but gazes upon your hearts,” said the Beloved of God, prayers and peace be upon him.

Let us get to the work of making our hearts beautiful, and that is the work of becoming the Beloved Ummah. Our survival and our position in this country depend upon it. We need each other to reach the heights of faith and beauty, the heights of iman and ihsan. For verily, our faith is not a complete faith until we love for our brother and sister what we love for ourselves.

Until we love Malcolm and Ali, and we love the people they loved, Muslim and non-Muslim, Black and non-Black.

Wow! The women outnumber the men on a main Saturday evening session having nothing to do with women's issues. Tayyibah Taylor, may Allah have mercy on her, would be so proud! Mashallah!