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 (RabiasTravels.com)
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!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 1: Black Muslim Women Pioneers

By Jamillah Karim

Photo by Joi Faison, Eid al-Fitr 2017
Connecting to our foremothers with fabric from the Motherland
My dress: Fabric from Nigeria, made in Dakar, Senegal
Ayisha's dress: Fabric from Dakar, made in Atlanta by designer and beloved Audra Karim
In the legacy of our community mothers, celebrated in my post
 "Our Black Muslim Mamas Been Rocking Hijab Since Before We Were Babies"

O Allah, honor us by making us 
the beloved community, and there is no honor except by You. And finally, in these special days, when the selected among our community prepare to walk in the footsteps of our mother Hajar, or Hagar, make us faithful and content with You, as was she when she faced the adversity of being left alone in a new land that You, O Allah, made her home and the home of Your beloved Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him. And like her, O Allah, may we struggle for Your pleasure so that our children can be at home in this new land, thriving in this new land where the people of Muhammad (S) will shine with your light and love. Ameen.

I made this dua before an audience last year at ISNA 2016. Dhul Hijjah, the month of the hajj, was about to commence.

It’s that special time of year again, and though I hadn’t planned it, Allah so beautifully planned it, that I would have another opportunity to remember Mother Hagar, peace be upon her, on a public platform.

Mohammed Saleem interviewed me for the latest ImanWire podcast, which was released just days before the commencement of Dhul Hijjah 2017. Please listen to "In the Footsteps of Hajar: Black Muslim Women Pioneers" here. Here’s a summary of what we discuss:

“Despite facing the challenges of being marginalized at the crossroads of their race, gender and faith, Black women have been pioneers in the Muslim community in America. In this episode, Dr. Jamillah Karim, author of "Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam", details the rich history of Black Muslim women in their journey from the Nation of Islam to the Warith Deen Mohammed community. In focusing on their narratives, Dr. Karim discusses the importance of amplifying their voices and their relevance in helping guide the community at a time when racial and gender equity still remain elusive.”

Saleem opened with a lovely tribute to Mother Hagar, and then connected me and the women of my community to her legacy. What an honor! We discussed my book Women of the Nation for most of the episode, and then he almost had me in tears when he closed with a reading of his favorite quote of mine, from a post here on “Hagar Lives.”

“And don’t think that because you love Muhammad Ali and read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, it means that you are down with my people. Rather, it means that Allah has chosen White and immigrant Muslims to be leaders in recognizing what has been done to Black people in this country, that it is your moral duty to truly be brother and sister with Black people, and that God has given you an advantage in the fight for and with Black people by putting love for Ali and Malcolm in your hearts.”

To be continued here, “In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 2

For Mother Hagar’s full story and why my beloved sister Ayisha and I remember her through our words, revisit this post.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Keepin' It Real with Muslim Men: What We Muslim Women Want and Need

By Ayisha Karim

This photo was taken within the first three days of Ramadan. My summer vacation as a high school teacher was in full effect, and I’d come to terms with the fact that my two young children, Aasiya and Hasan, would be spending most of it with their father. So, I think subconsciously, I was coping with the reality that I’d be at home alone most of our holy month of Ramadan--a month which had previously been spent deepening family bonds and cherishing early morning and evening meals with family, which served as a buffer between ourselves and the physically trying fast from food and drink during the daylight hours. I must’ve told myself that I could manage by having another living organism in the house with me, even if it was in the form of a plant, as seen in the photo, ironically in my almost five year old son’s carseat.
For single Muslim women, Ramadan is a critical time: 1) We become acutely aware of our singleness (and remember, I’ve only been single for 3 years), and 2) considering that “the gates of Hell are closed,” miracles are likely to occur, and prayers are easily answered, we spend great periods of time praying for an ideal mate. Well, let’s just say I wrote the core message of this post, which follows below, in the last ten days of the month. Perhaps it was my last plea to the Universe to expedite delivering my ideal mate to me. Just kidding.

Lastly, I’ll say that the peculiar dynamic existing in the African American Muslim community is the backdrop to the message below. Considering that many of the African American, single Muslim women that I associate with, and myself first and foremost, are already financially ‘ok’ as professional, salary-earning women, we are not hard pressed or inclined to desire and look for a mate who will solely be a financial provider. We’re looking for other traits in treatment and maintenance from our men. I argue that we’re often primarily looking for a mate who will protect and maintain the purity of our hearts, or at least assist in that process, as we seek entry into Jannah. Please, enjoy the following, and stay tuned for co-writer of HagarLives blog, Jamillah Karim, who has more to say about singlehood of Muslim women in particular.
June 20, 2017 (Ramadan 25, 1438)
**Important Message for Muslim MEN, married and single (and their wives, and the women who love, support and seek them out)

I'm sharing now what's been on my heart recently and which recent events have made more pressing and relevant: the ROLE of Muslim men & what we, women, need (crave, desire, and hope to receive) from you.

1. God, in our Holy Book, has already instructed you to be the “providers/maintainers and protectors of women.” Many of you (and your wives) focus on the “providing” part of that: material provision. Yes, that's important. BUT realize that God created you with that already in your very essence and nature. Thus, you WILL do that in your own way, using your allotted material means to provide for the woman/women in your care. Plus, society reinforces this definition of male “provider.” BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. What are the women looking for in the MAN?

2. I believe that times are calling for us to return to this ayah and God's assignment for MUSLIM MEN. Particularly, I want to focus on the PROTECTING and maintaining part: both the physical and, maybe more so, the spiritual/emotional/psychological part. If we don't focus on ALL aspects of this CRITICAL role of Men, as ordained by God, then there will continue to be a harmful imbalance in our communities.

*SO, to MY STRONG, WONDERFUL, STRIVING Muslim Men: We, women, need you to PROTECT both our physical bodies, and right along with that, our emotional, spiritual bodies and lives. Furthermore, we need you to protect our HEARTS! After all, if so much of our faith revolves around the constant PURIFICATION OF THE HEART, what better way is there for a man to *provide & protect* for his women than by familiarizing himself with the matters of the heart and the nature of women, and doing all in his power, in his God-given male makeup, to serve, provide, protect, and cultivate that essence? Ameen.

Should I be more explicit? Well, for starters, in more worldly terms, stop with the games!! There is a time and place for strategy. Let God's Word guide and dictate your actions more than your EGO! Don't be greedy! And if you're considering polygyny, come correct!! Do so in a way that includes, honors, and protects your wife, children, family, and community. **We, women and children, are watching. We’re wiser and more in tune with our spirituality than you think. We SEE the inconsistencies in your thinking and method and the weaknesses in your heart.

3. “HOW does the male go about doing this?” you might ask. "How does he best equip himself to fulfill such an honorable role?" First, by constantly striving to purify his OWN heart by SIMPLY, sincerely submitting his will to God, i.e., acting like a “Muslim”:
Say: I am Muslim, I believe, and thereafter be UPRIGHT! Study God's word, Qur'an. Next, study the Sunnah, character and way, of our beloved Prophet (saws)!! Alongside that, read up on and explore his relationships with the women around him, particularly, his wives, the Mothers of the Believers.There are some beautiful stories, books, out there. Be taken by, and fall in love with, the ways in which he honored and protected and invested in the woman around him...and NOT just his wives, but ALL of the women in his community. Hmmm... <3

4. And WOMEN/Ladies!! Let the men carry out their God-ordained roles in PEACE!! With all due respect, sometimes we either restrict or try to control how our men navigate their role as provider and protector (married women in particular). OR we gradually weaken their inclination to do so by NOT demanding that they act honorably with us women, in general, and single, seeking women, especially.

LET ME SAY THIS and clarify with examples: Married women, your husband does NOT belong to you! He belongs to God. Let his relationship with God, his striving to reach and please Him, COME BEFORE his relationship with YOU! (Feel me?) And don't worship, believe in, and seek to please your man MORE THAN you strive to please God.

TRUST your husbands when they go beyond the marriage bond and seek to honorably engage with other God-fearing women in the community. Don't let jealousy and Satan's whispers drive you to insanity, paranoia, and the weakening of the sacred bond that you have with your husband. Although it may be difficult, try to get away from this "MY MAN" mentality. (Note to self too.) Trust me, I sometimes struggled with this very thing when I was married. And funny, even now, when I find myself attracted to a man, I feel that POSSESSIVE spirit kicking in, I seek refuge, and remind myself that these men don't and never will BELONG to us! Yes, we have rights over them, and they over us, but the moment we start thinking we own them as our husbands, we begin to lose that FREEDOM and salvation from the Hell Fire (on earth) that God has intended for us. (And by the way, since this message originally began to the men, your wives do not belong to you either.)

Single women (myself now included): DEMAND respect. Yes, and trust me, I know this is not always as simple or cut and dry as others make it seem. But we must encourage men to be men, honorable men. If we allow men to disrespect us, they are likely to disrespect themselves, the wombs that bore them, and other women later on. WE ARE BUILDING COMMUNITY; WE ARE KHALIFAH. We gotta keep it tight; our survival and success as a community depends on it.

Don’t let us be the ones who contribute to our men losing their rightful place in Heaven (on earth). Instead, let's encourage one another to hear & obey. **I know, I know, it's hard. It's not easy or fun living the single life, but let us be patient and know that God's promise is true. And lastly, let us step aside and give our men space to choose and get to know their future mates. May we want for our sisters what we want for ourselves. Let us be dignified and honorable. I'll stop there. <3

Oh, Allah, give us Allah in all that we do, in all that we seek and strive for, and in our relationships and marriages. Ameen.

Oh, Allah, God, please, let not my writing this prolong my search to find my mate :-). Instead, bless me and my sisters with mates that are a comfort to our eyes and hearts. Bless us with mates, in whose very makeup and essence we see You, O God. Let them possess many of your divine qualities on a human scale. And, let us recognize and welcome them when they arrive.

You are the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy, Ar-Raheem; you are the One who provides, Ar-Razzaaq; you are the One who protects, Al-Muhaymin; you are the One who Loves and places love & mercy between our hearts, Al-Wadud; you are the most Wise and Know what is Best for our lives, Al-Hakeem, Al-Aalim; and you are the One who will carry us on this path with gentleness and ease and with a patient spirit, Al-Lateef, As-Sabur.