Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Struggle for the Beloved Community: Radical Love Lessons from Our Mother Hajar and Malcolm X

We are Hagar: Eid 2020, Celebrating Our Mother Hajar

Eid Mubarak, Beloveds! As with all else that has shifted with Covid-19, I remembered our Mother Hajar (R) this Dhul Hijjah more in speech than in writing. “The Struggle for the Beloved Community: Lessons from Our Mother Hajar (R) and Malcolm X” is a talk that I gave for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center on the Third of Dhul Hijjah. I invite you to watch the video. I’m also sharing my main points here, including new personal discoveries in The Autobiography of Malcolm X that are quite exciting and illuminating.

When I went through the biggest test in my life (perhaps I’ll share in more detail in an upcoming post), I was able to survive and thrive once I embraced this: Now is my Hajar moment--my moment to be Hajar. Retelling her profoundly inspiring story, I highlighted the point in her narrative that moves us the most: the moment that she understood that her trial was beyond Prophet Ibraham (S); that is, the moment when Prophet Ibraham (S) answered that Allah (SWT) commanded him to leave her there alone. 

“We aspire to be like Hajar in the moment when she realized her struggle was between her and her Lord. It is what God decreed for her, not what Prophet Ibrahim wanted for her, and so it was the moment to fully give her heart and limbs to God. 

“The sweetness that came out of her struggle strikingly resonates for us as Muslims in America. Thousands of years later, millions annually visit Allah’s house, and one cannot visit Allah’s house without remembering Hajar and her struggle. Beyond Zam Zam, the ummah is Hajar’s gift. Every year the beloved community converges at the house of Allah and walks in her footsteps.”

And so, in my talk, I proclaimed that now is our Hajar moment. “The problem of systemic racism in this country is our Hajar moment. And the only way we can achieve radical change is through radical love- love for God, the highest love- demonstrated in the radical surrender of our father Prophet Ibrahim, our Mother Hajar, and their son Prophet Isma’il, may Allah grant them all peace. The work to resist racism can only be achieved if it is for Allah, with Allah, through Allah, and to Allah. God has to be all in it.”

As with our Mother Hajar, our reward in this struggle is the beloved community. “Who is better positioned to be the beloved community in the United States when Allah has already gifted us with a leader and a model who tells one of the world’s most compelling accounts of brotherhood? Here I am referring to Malcolm X (R), and his narrative is the narrative of the beloved community.”

I shared with the audience how illuminating it was to revisit The Autobiography of Malcolm X all these years later, especially with a more fine-tuned gender lens. How had I totally forgotten that Malcolm X’s sister, originally from Georgia, Ella Little-Collins- who raised the teenage Malcolm- preceded him in leaving the Nation of Islam for Al-Islam, had been saving up for the Hajj when Malcolm X took interest in making the pilgrimage, and sacrificed her savings to finance his Hajj?

(This would have fit perfectly in my book Women of the Nation in the section “Wallace’s Path to Dissent” where I state that “Wallace was not the only one dissenting at this time,” and tell the story of Barbara Hyman who was put out of the Philadelphia temple in 1964 because her husband supported Imam W.D. Mohammed’s early dissent.)

But the climax for me in revisiting the autobiography was seeing Hajar’s name! Many have described how singular Hajar is, such as Dr. Abdul-Hakim Murad’s noting that she is the only woman to have instituted a major ritual in all of the world’s great religions. To this I would add that the quintessential narrative of the Muslim in America (“the Muslim from America,” as written in the autobiography) mentions only one woman from the Qur’an and Sunnah*- Hajar- and presents her gift- the ummah- as the precious gift that Islam offers to a nation plagued by racism. How remarkable! How profoundly insightful! We are called to be the beloved community!  

 “You are the best community, brought forth for humanity. You enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in Allah” (Quran, 3:110). 

“The Mutawaf and I next drank water from the well of Zem Zem. Then we ran between the two hills, Safa and Marwa, where Hajar wandered over the same earth searching for water for her child Ishmael” (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, “Mecca,” 337).

*After writing this, I thought of the possibility of his mentioning Mary, the Mother of Jesus, peace be upon her. I asked my ten year-old son who is reading the autobiography, and he said he thought so, in a lecture he gave once but couldn't remember. If you know, let me know.