Welcome to #MuslimGirlAnon, your one-stop spot for all the advice you could need! Every week, we crowd-source the very best advice our #MGClique has to offer about issues plaguing our girl gang. Need some advice? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may just feature you! Q: […]
“You can’t blend in when you’re born to stand out,” sure sounds like an inspirational, beautiful quote when you aren’t the one doing the standing out, huh? And when you are, you learn how messy, tiring, and lonely “standing out” eventually gets—but what can you do to cope?
For me, writing was my way of dealing with everything. Being a Black Muslim girl in a predominantly white and Asian school, I felt isolated from a young age. I felt the anger of being misunderstood and alone. Even though I couldn’t properly understand what I felt, I wrote pages and pages of it, releasing everything I felt inside of me.
As my mental health spiraled out of control and PTSD slowly took over my life, writing was one of the only things that would make me feel at ease.
I first wrote about how I wished I was like everyone else, how I wished I had long, flowing, straight hair cascading down my back, and how I wished my blonde porcelain dolls looked like me. I wrote about my skin being called muddy and dirty. I never realized that it made me feel better, and I never understood why, either. I can only describe it as having an extra hard workout at the gym after a bad day, and the satisfaction you feel afterwards, almost watching your anger evaporate. I never realized writing was a talent or skill someone could have, because it didn’t really seem difficult to pick up a pen and put everything that was bothering me into words that sounded nice.
As my mental health spiraled out of control and PTSD slowly took over my life, writing was one of the only things that would make me feel at ease. I would write about how every flashback would knock the breath out of my body, how feeling safe felt like a luxury. On the good days, I wrote about how much better everything would be soon, how amazing my future would be, and how good healing would finally feel.
My creativity has brought me immense self-acceptance, and I sincerely hope my confidence will continue to grow.
On the not-so-good days, I wrote about my secret fears of never being able to be “normal” again, and how my trauma might be something that would haunt me forever. I’m not an open person, and being able to confide in my journal brought me the same comfort as talking to another person would. I found that writing about something you truly felt strongly about, or something that had a significant effect on your life, makes your writing ten times better.
Watching how my writing evolved truly brings me a lot of hope for the future. I used to write about how I wished I was a freckled, pale-skinned girl. Now I write about how my skin and eyes look like honey in the sunshine, and how I wear my curly hair like a crown atop my head. My creativity has brought me immense self-acceptance, and I sincerely hope my confidence will continue to grow.
I’m very pleased to say that I have come far, and that a poem I wrote for a competition was selected to be published in a book. In the future, I would hope to write and illustrate a children’s book full of poems about black history to bring them closer to their beautiful culture and heritage, and to teach them the strength of their ancestors. I want to use my creativity to inspire, much as I have been inspired.
On the 1st of February,1960, four Black college students sat, nervous but determined, at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, patiently requesting service. As the “Greensboro Four” expected, they were largely ignored. But the next day they came back, supporters in tow. For six […]
By Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari
Believers would recognise that God has made knowledge the foundation for the superiority of human beings over other creatures on Earth. The first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘Iqra’, meaning ‘read’ or ‘recite’. The Prophet said “the seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim” (Al-Tirmidhi). Knowledge thus goes hand in hand with the Islamic creed.
Muslims are asked to seek knowledge by reading, learning and reflecting to live their lives as stewards in our planet. They are asked to supplicate “O my Lord! Advance me in knowledge” (Al-Qur’an 20:114). To emphasise the message of the superiority of learned people in Islam, the Prophet said, “The superiority of the learned man over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars …” (Abu Dawud).
One can observe exemplary practices amongst those who are often labelled as enlightened. A trait that typically stands out prominently is their craving for knowledge and emphasis on reading. Many would own bookshelves or even a private library in their homes; public libraries would abound across the country. Through knowledge, scholarship, good character and hard work they endeavour to create long-lasting civilisations; whether it be Greek, Indian or Chinese examples.
During the Islamic Golden Age which began in the 8th century and lasted over 600 years, Muslims flourished in intellectual pursuits because of their thirst for learning. They became the ardent lovers of books and became synonymous with knowledge. They made momentous progress in all areas of life. At a time when books were written and copied by hand, affluent Muslims spent their wealth to establish libraries, mostly adjacent to schools or mosques, so that everyone could use them. Books and libraries became the Muslims’ umbilical cord in connecting their material progress and spiritual quest together.
During their peak cultural and intellectual period, Muslim scientific and technological innovations, as well as their translations of ancient Greek knowledge into Latin, inspired Europe in its intellectual resurgence. This Muslim-led knowledge revolution with the flowering of science, art, medicine, and philosophy spread across the Muslim world. It was the infusion of this knowledge into Western Europe that fuelled the Renaissance and the scientific revolution. The invention of the printing machine in 1451 further helped to transform Europe, as knowledge rapidly reached beyond the elite class.
While Europe was brimming with energy and started its new journey with astounding vigour, political weaknesses and collective inertia meant the Islamic world fell into stagnation. One calamity that befell Muslims, considered by many historians to be a hammer blow to their intellectual backbone, was the Mongol invasion of Muslim lands. The occupation of Baghdad in 1258 witnessed an unparalleled barbarity; killing scholars, burning books and destroying libraries. In spite of the successful military fightbacks against the Crusading armies, the conversion of many Mongol invaders to Islam and the victories of the Ottomans over the next few centuries, the Muslim world gradually succumbed to intellectual passivity and socio-political fracture. The rest – the colonisation of lands and minds, eventual independence but subsequent failures of leadership to this day – is history.
Today, the overall condition of Muslims – in terms of their education level, economic performance and intellectual standard – is less than satisfactory. Their political and religious leadership has imploded in many places; their ineffective governance and lack of institutional capacity to harness human and material resources are still hindering progress. Post-9/11 disorder in the form of imposed or proxy wars in historic lands and failed or repressive politics in some countries have displaced millions of people from their homelands.
There are however signs of genuine awareness and reappraisal as well as positive changes in many places. It is time Muslims sharpen their reading habits, build character and find practical ways to join the dots of good works with a ‘glass half full’ attitude. The regeneration of their grass-roots leadership across the world of Islam – from parents at home, teachers in school and Imams in mosques – has become a necessity. Muslims must learn to excel in what they do in their family, community, workplace and wider society with inclusive social activism. Only then, can they create an effective civil society everywhere.
Their reading, as in their heydays, should start from core religious texts for moral guidance and spiritual peace to all areas of modern knowledge which has made astounding progress in recent decades largely without Muslim input. Reading activates the human brain and provides food for thought and is vital for developing curiosity and enhancing critical autonomy. Ultimately it is knowledge that empowers a people.
In a world of information overload, one has to pick and choose what to read and what not to. With our short and limited lifespan, we cannot afford to waste time by only reading junk and indulging in vanity. Good books are the sources of silent power; they are the pillars of success. Like a balanced diet for a human body, good books are vital sources for mental agility and spiritual peace. Reading should be for a purpose that injects the attitude of reflection and action, build character to act for the good of all. Good reading nourishes from within, fills hearts and souls with gratefulness to God for all the bounties around and catapults people to serve others with the best of human character, Adab.
Let us read books, inspire children, and help create a better world for our future.
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari is an educationalist, parenting consultant, and author. His memoir A Long Jihad: My Quest for the Middle Way was published in summer 2018. Dr. Abdul Bari is the former Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Here is Dr Bari’s concise recommended reading list:
1) Islam for Children Series
2) Children’s books on various topics – Khurram Murad
3) Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim book of Colors – Hena Khan
4) Crescent Moons and Painted Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes – Hena Khan
5) A Guide to Parenting in Islam: Cherishing Childhood – Muhammad Abdul Bari
1) To choose 2-3 from classical and modern Tafsirs
2) Understanding the Quran Themes and styles – Mohammad Abdel Haleem
3) The Majestic Quran: A Plain English Translation – Musharraf Hussain
4) Way to the Qur’an – Khurram Murad
1) The Complete Forty Hadith – Imam an-Nawawi
2) Stories of the Prophets – Ibn Kathir
3) Muhammad – Martin Lings
4) Companions of the Prophets 1 and 2 – Abdul Wahid Hamid
5) The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet – Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri
6) In The Footsteps of the Prophet – Tariq Ramadan
1) Ihya Ulum Id Din: Book of Religious Learning Hardcover – Imam Ghazali
2) In The Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self Development – Khurram Murad
1) The Road to Mecca – Muhammad Asad
2) Islam Between East and West – Alija Izetbegović
3) Islam and the Destiny of Man – Gai Eaton
4) Autobiography of Malcolm X
5) Inescapable Questions: Autobiographical Notes – Alija Izetbegović
6) To Be a European Muslim – Tariq Ramadan
7) A Long Jihad: My Quest for the Middle Way – Muhammad Abdul Bari
8) 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in our World – Chief Editor, Salim TS Al-Hasani
1) Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman
2) Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
3) The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament – Wael Hallaq
There is a reason why America is perpetually forgetful; the reason being that history is never taught with guaranteed accuracy. Instead, it is taught with political restraint. There is a common mentality that believes children don’t need to know everything about slavery, so they just […]
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. If you have not read or watched “The Hate U Give,” the following article may contain passages considered to be spoilers. Proceed with caution! Angie Thomas’s debut novel, “The Hate U Give,” portrays a realistic fiction on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. […]
*Important note about the term “enslaved”: Slavery has existed since the beginning of time. Different communities of people were enslaved regardless of creed or color. When it comes to Africans, the assumption is that we were always slaves. Furthermore, using the term “slaves” further perpetuates the unconscious bias that Africans were born to be “slaves,” and that’s all African people were ever going to be. It reduces our rich history to one thing: slavery.
Therefore, it is important to clarify the difference between using the adjective “enslaved” instead of the name “slaves.” The use of the term “enslaved” allows for the individuals that were enslaved to be associated with an identity as a human being, rather than diminishing them to the one-dimensional state of being a “slave.” All that to say, moving forward this article will feature the term “enslaved” over the more dismissive term, “slaves.”
Now back to our scheduled programming about the arts.
Intentional, vibrant, spiritual, and resilient are all terms one can use to describe the West African talking drum, the “Tama.” The intricate infrastructure of the Tama drum is very unique. The pitch of the drum can be controlled in a way that mimics the tone and prosody of human speech. The Tama was used by Senegambian griots for special occasions, a call to arms during wars, and to relay important messages over long distances.
For them [the enslaved], art was not merely something to admire, it was a possible way home. Once the captors realized what the enslaved people were doing, they removed the drums from their grasps and banned them from being used.
By the grace of God, some drums made it aboard some ships carrying enslaved people, and made it to some plantations. This allowed for some who were captured to use them as a way to communicate, and retain a connection to their homeland. For them, art was not merely something to admire, it was a possible way home. Once the captors realized what the enslaved people were doing, they removed the drums from their grasp, and banned them from being used.
What the captors did not realize is that rhythm was naturally embedded in the enslaved bodies. They could take their drums, but they could not break their spirits. The enslaved used their bodies and various objects that they could find to mimic the drum-like communication they had lost. They would clap with their hands, and stomp with their feet. This new tradition is widely known as the origin of modern tap dancing in the U.S.
Throughout all of the injustices and torture, the enslaved and their descendants continued to use singing as a way to remain close to their ancestors and orally preserve history.
The most used, and in turn, the most influential method of communication was shouting and singing. The songs the enslaved created replicated various sounds they heard while working, reminiscent of the griot tradition of their ancestors. Throughout all of the injustices and torture, the enslaved and their descendants continued to use singing as a way to remain close to their ancestors and orally preserve history. These songs were the seeds that formed what we know as scatting, R&B, and heavily-influenced country music.
Additionally, the banjo, a very popular instrument in the U.S., and widely used by musicians in the South, is of West African origin. Even though Black people were despised by many, their inventions were used and appropriated for entertainment. Captors used this instrument to create songs, attributing no credit to the instrument’s real origins.
The captors tried to use, abuse, and erase Black people. They tried to take their freedom, names, and spirits. Through it all, the ancestor’s resilient voices and influence permeates almost every inch of art we see and know in America today. They were strong for us, now it’s time for us to be strong for them by acknowledging how their fight was not in vain. We must honor them, and the art they left us.
Author’s Footnote: Shoutout to my colleagues Dr. Harriet Lewis and Sadia Nawab for the quick education lesson on the use of the term slave vs. enslaved.
118 Ummi’s house is beaten by the aroma of a whistling kettle filled with red zinger tea grandchildren bouncing in & out screen doors firecrackers conversing in the backyard neighbors shouting yesterday’s yesterdays with living rooms just big enough to seat the world’s problems And […]