“Let him make the living, and you make life worth living”

August 1, 2017

Decided to make a video today discussing one of my favorite books, Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I read this book quite a few years ago -before getting married and now I’m rereading it. The book is such a powerful reminder in a society that urges us to be “gender neutral”, that there are values that solely woman can add to a marriage if they so choose. I’m excited to read this book and inshAllah put a lot of what she says in practice in my own marriage. If you haven’t read the book yet, purchase below and take a listen to my reflection (Watch in HD for better quality). And maybe reflect on this, are there different and even better ways women can add to their marriages besides an extra income?

Purchase the book here: Fascinating Womanhood Publisher: Bantam; Updated edition

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Like my ideas? Consider donating: http://bythefigandtheolive.com/donate/

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Is nigg(er/a) really a term of endearment, or do we just not know what else to say?

July 24, 2017

man-person-black-and-white-people-photography-boy-1053497-pxhere.com“And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” [49:11]

Let me first say that the argument about whether white people should get to use the n-word is both tired and played out —the answer has always been no. It is a word used within a particular community and that has nothing to do with white people and needs no further explanation.

Yet unfortunately, black people do feel a need to repeatedly explain to white people faking ignorance why they shouldn’t use the word, that’s where things get tricky. The explanation goes that when we use the word it is a “term of endearment” and when white people use it, it is an insult because of the historical connections to the myriad of indecencies white people have perpetuated against black people. While I agree with the second part of that explanation, the first?  Not so much.

Nigg(er/a) is at best a neutral term when black people use it amongst each other. “Look at that nigga over there” connotes no intention of endearment, it’s simply a stand in for man/guy/brother/human being,  there is no deeper meaning except the fact that one could guess you’re talking about another black person. And yes it can even be derogatory when used between black people -not in the same way as if a white person used it but derogatory nonetheless, “You ain’t never gonna be nothing but a nigga”, is not a positive statement by any stretch of the imagination. And yes the word can be positive, “These are my main niggas, love ’em death”, ah, yes now we feel the love. But the question must be posed -positive,  negative or neutral, why exactly do we call ourselves niggas in the first place?

My parents never let me use the word, being Caribbean —and therefore a bit of an outsider from African American culture –my dad, in particular, saw nothing but hypocrisy in AAs claiming no one but us could use the word. So I never heard it said casually in my house and never used it with friends. Richard Pryor, a black comedian who —like most black comedians, used that word as often as possible, stopped using it once he came back to the U.S. from Africa, stating “I didn’t see any niggers there“. What did he mean? If nigger was a term of endearment or at worst neutral, why did he feel uncomfortable using it for Africans subsequently making him feel uncomfortable to use it at all?

Our use of the n-word only masks our pain, we tried to take the word back to no avail -we tried to take the pain back, to no avail. Sure white people will plead with us ‘hat in hand’ if they get caught using the n word, and we feel a bit of power by making them cower to us. But the reality is, it’s not stand in for the lack of apology for slavery,  Jim Crow, and the continued destruction of our bodies. It’s a facade. It’s a mirage. It’s not the thing we’re really after.

Maybe calling ourselves niggas connects us with the pain of our ancestors, a pain that was never rectified in any way what so ever. Or maybe it’s a signal that we’ve forgotten, forgotten the pain they went through making light of the word they might have heard last before being hung from a tree. It’s hard to know —how can you dig into the unconscious of a people? But it is clear that we have an unhealthy attachment to that word –and how can we not, how many centuries can a people be called something and not begin to think that’s exactly what they are?

And it’s pointless for anyone to get on their high horse and simply state that we ought to stop using the word, I agree with Ice Cube who said, “that’s our word”, it is -but why is it our word? Why do we hold on to it so tight?  Why do we refuse to let it go?

Stop teaching your kids to speak up

July 17, 2017

If you grew up a generation or two before mine —or within particular cultures (Caribbean or African for example), you know that when you were a kid, no one really cared about what you had to say. There was such a thing as a “grown ups table” and a “kid’s table” at large family gatherings. You knew that you ought to speak when you’re called upon, and not any sooner. You knew that if your parents were retelling a story incorrectly and you happened to know the real story —it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Repressive, no?

But something much worse has happened in the generations that came after, kids are not only be allowed to speak in adult conversations, they are encouraged. I remember a shuyukh once recalling an incident where two children were in his midst, he remarked to his teacher at how smart the talkative one must be but the teacher disagreed, it was the quieter one who probably possessed superior intelligence.

Smart people know when to be quiet. If I’m in a room full of chemists talking about chemistry I’d be best to listen and hold my thoughts or pose them as questions so I could learn if I’m in a room of psychologists or students of psychology, I should feel comfortable speaking up as appropriately as my knowledge allows. Children don’t have anything to offer an adult conversation but they aren’t yet smart enough to realize that, they have to be taught. The old system where you kept quiet if adults were talking wasn’t repressive as much as it was an initiation process into adulthood. Slowly, as you learn more, as you know more, and as you grow older, you begin to join the conversation while still holding your elders in esteem. But entering the conversation arbitrarily —talking just to talk or to make our kids feel important, does nothing but inflate their ego and give them and an unhealthy sense of self. It is why students in college stand up in lecture halls to give their opinion and debate known experts, they’ve been taught from an early age that their opinions —no matter how ill informed, matter.

At some point we became obsessed with children having good self-esteem, so we began to do everything we could to heap on the praise, ensure they know they’re loved no matter what and to always listen to them. But what is the use of an inflated ego based on nothing but external gratification for which you’ve done nothing to deserve? As my dear father explained to us recently, when you overpraise a child you lead them to believe that they are important in and of themselves, leading to a self-absorption that says, “I’m great because I’m great,” yet how can one not also develop a fragile ego under the veneer of greatness when they are fully aware they’ve done nothing to deserve praise? Yes, you love your child no matter what, but giving them a reality check to let them know that actually they don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to a conversation with adults whose life experience —if nothing else, informs their opinion and that the moments when the child is called to speak amongst them is a privilege. This creates a healthy respect for knowledge. People, who know something —whether through book knowledge or experience and people who don’t, are not the same, can we please stop teaching the younger generation that they are?


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Learn about how the concept of childhood has changed over time and varies between the West and traditional Islamic teachings, sign up for my upcoming course: nooralshadhili.com/childhoodandsociety

There is no reading of Islam that supports terrorism -or homosexuality

July 11, 2017

Liberals and far right conservatives (within and outside the Muslim community) have the same problem -they think that one can read absolutely anything into Islam/Islamic texts (primarily the Quran and Hadith). Reza Aslan, bless his heart, continuously goes on TV and talks about his “version” or “interpretation” of Islam, his “reading” of the Quran and his “understanding” of a Hadith. Let me make a note that I actually do like Reza Aslan on many fronts and appreciate his defense of Islam and criticism of Western hypocrisy but in some ways he makes the same error as far-right Islamophobes, far left Islamophobes (I.e. Sam Harris, Bill Maher), and Salafis -he believes that all interpretations are legitimate interpretations.

It’s true that when one reads the Quran they come to it with their own baggage and life experience, no one reading can purely asses what God Himself meant but that doesn’t mean everyone’s interpretation is equally valid. There is a myth that gets repeatedly pass around in the Muslim community that says that unlike Catholics, Muslims to not have central religious leadership. This is sometimes said in a positive way and sometimes in a negative light but the biggest issue with it is that it is simply not true. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.” [Related byTirmidhi] Since the death of the Prophet, peace to him, Muslims have followed scholarship that is until there was the Wahhabi movement which won over the hearts and minds of many Muslims by telling them they didn’t need to listen to scholars, no -they just need to follow the Quran and Sunnah. While I’m not interested and no have the ability to give an extensive account of that history, it left us in the state we are today where we believe that reading the Quran and Hadith directly is somehow following the sunnah more than if we were to follow scholarship.

Reza Aslan is right in pointing out that we all come to the religious texts with ourselves (our context) and our understanding is tinted by our personal realities but that is precisely the reason we depend on scholarship. A man prone to wife beating is going to enjoy interpreting verse 3:34 as an allowance to beat his wife whenever and however he likes, a woman leaning towards homosexuality will happily interpret the story of Lot not as a punishment for the sin of homosexuality but as a punishment for rape, a man who enjoys being authoritative would be absolutely gleeful to interpret the story of Kidr and Musa as meaning that authority should be listened to without question. This is the reality, yes -but it is also the problem.

A scholar -though they too are not perfect and they too will make mistakes, can tell us the context of these verses, their ruling as it pertains to various areas of life, how they can be understood through a Fiqh lens and the lens of tassawuf, how the companions understood it, what did the prophet do or say in relation to it, what are the verses that connect to those verses to give us a fuller meaning and so on and so forth. Yes, a scholar can be incorrect, insincere and make mistakes. But to pretend that their mistakes are equal to ours is a self-delusion -Is the one who knows like the one who doesn’t know? (39:9) God probes us in the Quran.

The mistake of the wife beater who wishes to believe he has a God-given right to abuse his spouse and the mistake of the homosexual who wishes to interpret away God’s punishment for the sin of homosexuality is the same. One may say they are Salafi and the other may say they are Progressive but they are in fact in the same camp -they want Islam to fit into their already predetermined ideology, that is a grave mistake.

One of the companions -Ibn Majah, may God be pleased with him, said: “When we were young we learned Aqidah (Islamic belief system) then we learned Quran and it increased our belief”. Sadly we lack -in some ways for reasons beyond our control, a systematic approach to learning Islam. We buy sophisticated books of tassawuf before we ever receive a basic education in Aqidah. For this reason one of my shuyukh ruminated on the danger of our printing fever -classical works of Islam are being translated into English and available for all to read, but without the scholarship to match -what use is it? The saints and scholars who wrote these books often didn’t intend for a wide readership, they were guide books for other scholars to teach their students.

Fringe interpretations of Islam and Islamic texts can only be demolished once we reinstate the value of scholarship in our understanding of Islam, without that -all claims will be equal, and equally dangerous.

Necessary Losses | Visual

July 5, 2017

Necessary Losses

July 3, 2017

I don’t know how mothers do it so gracefully, whenever I think about it makes me a bit mournful.

I’ve been a close part of my eldest niece and nephew’s lives for a large part of their early years. I saw them both the day they were born, carried them when they wept, fed them when they were hungry, played with them, laughed with them and comforted them when they cried. I tried to teach them good values and be a listening ear.

Now, they’re teenagers. My nephew stands about two inches above me, my niece plasters on makeup like a pro. They are, in many ways, different people. People I don’t know as much about as I once did. Their problems are no longer about learning the value of sharing toys. I feel more concerned for them now than I did when they could barely feed themselves. Are they getting a decent education? Is my niece being harassed by the boys when she walks down the street or the halls of her high school —like I was? Is my nephew kind to girls his age? Is it wise of him to pursue football? Will he really benefit from studying overseas? Is my niece trying her best in school? Is she getting involved in the nonsense gossip and girl clicks? Are they positive influences on their friends? Are their friend’s decent people?

And on and on. Maybe it’s because of those questions and the deep involvement in them that allow mothers to not experience the pain of loss —or maybe they do but never share it with us? Since the time of our birth all we do is grow and become increasingly independent until we eventually leave them. We start our lives dependent on their very bodies, then we’re born and completely dependent on their care. Soon we learn to crawl so they don’t have to carry us every place we’d like to go. Then we learn to walk, they cheer us on until we no longer need their help to move about, we don’t have the limitations of crawling and or the confinement of our initial immobility. We also stop needing their bodies for nutrition. Once their bodies were our sole source of nutrition. Then they start to feed us bits of soft food along with breastmilk until eventual they remove us (or we remove ourselves) and allow us to fully enjoy the range of tastes known to mankind. They still feed us, no longer with their bodies but with the preparation of their hands. Chopping things and mixing things, stirring and using fire —which they warn us not to touch. She might hit us if we try to come close, we’re confused that mother —our source of all that is good, would hit us, we don’t realize that only someone who doesn’t care would let us touch the fire.

Soon we’ll get dressed by ourselves, we’ll even argue with mother about which clothes we’d like to wear. She’ll guide our choices without being too imposing. Once in a while she’ll give in and let us wear those old bunny ears that were only for the school play. As we grow we become even more independent. Somehow mother gracefully guides us without constantly weeping over memories of the small innocent wide-eyed baby that is no longer. Sometimes the tension will grow between who we want to be and who they believe we ought to be. We grow angry because we think,”who is she to tell me anything, this is my life!” We forget that once there was no she and us, there was only one. She gave us her all and we consumed the nutrients in her body like leeches, giving back nothing in return.

How does it not tear mothers apart that the once inseparable bond will never be again? How do you deal with the fact that the small baby that once smiled at your very presence now sometimes scowls or frowns? If you were self-absorbed, as most of the world is, you wouldn’t let us grow, you wouldn’t teach us to be independent, you would force us into servitude until we paid back every ounce of your exhaustion, every pain in you’re pushing, every “pick me up” you obliged to —but you don’t. You let us grow and go and hold us in your every prayer hoping God will stay close to us even if you can’t. Do you ever miss that all dependent baby you rocked in your arms? Or do you simply realize it was a necessary loss?

Book Recommendations

June 12, 2017

I’ve not been so great with sharing the books that greatly influence my commentary and reflections on this blog -I will get better with listing them in the posts, but this will serve as a master list of all the books I’ve read that have influenced my life and way of thinking. The list will continue to grow so check back frequently. The links to the books include affiliate links so if you click I may make a few pennies. I hope you enjoy the books and benefit from them as much as I have.

 

  • A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit: I finished reading this book about a week ago (Around June 5th, 2017) and I have to say, it was hard to let it go. The book is primarily about female sexual modesty. It is a criticism of what has become a mainstay in our society -post sexual and feminist revolution. It questions some of the main assumptions underlying those movements. The question to readers is this: If sexual modesty is a social construct, why is it so difficult to get rid of? She argues that we have to fight so hard against sexual modesty because it is in fact natural. The overarching purpose of her book is to make us question whether women are better off in the post-sexual revolution, post-feminist world or if we may have missed the mark and are in need for a return to the virtues of the past. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially for any woman feeling a bit uneasy with current societal and gender norms -I hope to write a full review soon on the blog.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2tcKILr

  • The Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges: I’d recommend reading Chris Hedges writings in general on his site Truthdig.com. His commentary paints quite a bleak picture of America as a failing empire. I read this book quite a few years ago and wrote a book review for it here, but I imagine myself picking it up once again to further understand how exactly we got here -here as in, to the point where we elected a reality TV star as president. We live in an oligarchy, we’re obsessed with entertainment, we objectify and demean women -that is the view of Chris Hedges which he explains in graphic detail with this book. I believe it is important to not passively live in a society but to understand it -in order to change what’s wrong with it or at least not fall victim to it, whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, opening up your framework to see a larger view of our modern world is reason enough to read this book.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2seSPdb

  • Between The World And Me by Ta-NeHisi Coates: Toni Morrison called it “required reading” and I wouldn’t take any book recommendation from her lightly. I’ve followed his work for some time and believe him to be one of the most important commentators on race, race relations and racism in America and he’s simply an amazing writer. I’m still in the middle of his book but I have zero qualms about recommending it. I recommend you read everything he’s written for The Atlantic in particular. His book is written in the form of a letter to his son about his life through the particular lens of being a black man in America. I’ve shed tears and throw my hands up at different parts of the book, it’s an emotional journey. A journey every black person in America knows well, but Ta- Nehisi Coates puts into words that validate our pain while also highlighting our strength. For non-black people, it will be an eye opener and hopefully, they will leave the book a different person than before they opened it -I hope to write a full review soon on the blog.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2skd7Ts

Toxic masculinity, well -what’d you expect?

May 22, 2017

It isn’t uncommon of liberal ideology, in general, to try and piecemeal ideas of the past, without realizing that they worked within an entire way of life -attack religion then try to piece together spirituality and morality, and be left utterly confused and constantly spun around because you lack any core values -homosexuality is good because hey it’s not hurting anybody… transgenders should go in the bathroom they like because of freedom of choice (but women don’t get to choose if they want transwomen in their bathrooms?)… pornography is good because it’s liberating (or bad because it exploits women…?) It’s no wonder those of us who are conservative -I use that term in a nonpolitical sense, or religious wonder “what’s next?” since there seems to be no underlying theory behind their movement, except maybe that what is old is quaint and what is new is good. But how do they formulate these new rules concerning goodness and who gets to formulate them? The feminist movement (which is part of the liberal movement) suffers the same confusion -chivalry is bad because it implies that women are weak, modesty is bad because it exerts male control over women, making any distinction between women and men is bad because it allows us to not be treated equally. Then comes the piecemealing, men should not be aggressive to women, show sexual attraction or hit on them because that is sexual harassment. Yet, when there were clear rules regarding male and female interaction there was no need to threaten men with lawsuits, chivalry was expected -and men who dared cross the line were swiftly dealt with, by other men.

But once we as a society take on the feminist assertion that chivalry is sexist, what exactly do we expect will follow? If men are asked not to treat women with any deference because they should treat them the same why are women fighting for things like sexual modesty, honor, and respect? These things can never be given in a vacuum. Men have been convinced -as have women, to believe that men and women are the same -so why are men simultaneously being asked to hold women to a higher standard than themselves?

Women are sending men mixed messages, and I personally feel bad for them. I remember a guy in grad school musing that he didn’t know if he should hold the door for women -is it sexist and offensive or is it still considered good and chivalrous? What I remember is (the classroom filled mostly with women) laughing, but was it really funny? Just the basic rules of conduct between genders have been lost and men, as well as women, are confused. I recall thinking of men who didn’t hold the door as rude but simultaneously feeling bad when they did –You don’t have to do that, I’d think. And no, it’s not as simple as “people should hold the door for people”. Obviously, there is a common level of courtesy that we should all exert to one another, but there is a very big difference none-the-less between common courtesy and chivalry. Holding the door long enough for the person behind you to come in is one thing, but chivalry is a man opening the door for a woman and letting her go first.

But who cares, right? We can all hold our own doors.

And this is why we have “toxic masculinity” (“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”). Firstly, let’s be clear that the term is clearly women’s experience of men, it is not objective. And that is partly the point. If and when men treat us equally, we feel the force of their masculinity as brutish. In reality, they are just being themselves with no consideration for you, just as requested -equality. Why do I and many other women experience something as simple as a man not holding a door as rude? Because men have a superior physical strength to women and doing things like holding doors is a symbolic gesture that says “I choose to use my physical strength to protect you not hurt you”. When the door closes in our face or even when they simply hold the door only long enough for us to grab on and hold it for ourselves instead of opening it and allowing us to go first, it signals to us that we are not protected and if it comes down to physicality, he wins.

For the first time in Jordan, I experienced another chivalric gesture. Anytime a man saw me -or any woman, waiting for an elevator, they’d take the stairs. We didn’t have to spend two minutes of discomfort together in a small square space, I didn’t have to worry about sexual assault or rape -no, I don’t think those things are so common that one should worry about it every time you enter an elevator, but it was a signal from those men to us women that we were safe from them. It was also a small sacrifice to say they’d rather the bother of taking steps than making any woman feel uncomfortable.

When men are able to recognize their superior physical strength and use it to protect women, they do not need laws and conferences to scold them about toxic masculinity. But when women make men afraid and ashamed of their physical differences, when they belittle them by asserting that chivalry is no longer needed. Then we begin to experience men, full strength and unfiltered. It is similar to what has happened with women, we were told modesty is blasé so we began to strip ourselves of our clothing and put our full feminine beauty on display, now men experience our complete lure, the veil of modesty has gone so they are no longer inspired to court us, they instead ogle and pant like hunting dogs -what we call sexual harassment.

Male aggressiveness and female sexuality were dressed in the cloaks of chivalry and modesty for a reason. The world without both is one filled with chaos where men don’t know how to treat women and women don’t know what to expect from men. You cannot piecemeal aspects of chivalry through and ever growing list of laws and academic terms and expect to piece together an honorable man. Nor can you preach that women should be able to do whatever they want and still expect the full respect of men. Chivalry and modesty go hand in hand -if you want one you better be working for the other as well. We’ve gained nothing but broken societies and confused people when we pretend men and women are the same, we are not, we’re different in important ways and once we value that women will no longer have to fear men, for they will use their strength to protect us.

What’s in a name? Some thoughts on ‘scholars’

May 15, 2017

In the West, Sheikh Nuh Ha Meem Keller would be recognized as a religious figure but he’d also be recognized as a scholar of philosophy. Despite the fact that I solely know Sheikh Nuh as a religious scholar and have only occasionally heard him mention anything about philosophy, he has a Ph.D. in the subject and in the West that makes him a scholar of that subject. Dr. Amina Wadud is considered a scholar of Islam in the West because she has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, in Western Academia that is the requirement.

Yet in the Muslim community, Sheikh Nuh is considered an Islamic scholar whereas Dr. Amina Wadud, though no one would deny her Ph.D., would be considered as no more than a Muslim public figure. But why? And is that fair?

Scholarship is an interesting concept and obviously an English word which makes it difficult to understand how to use it and who it should be used for when religion and modernity cross paths.

The West has a very different method of learning and a very different road on the path to scholarship. It would be very possible to get through the American school system without reading a single book from beginning to end. Not that we don’t read books, but often we read a section from this book and a section from that book and American students are notorious for just wanting the quickest route that will get them the best grade, meaning they have no problem reading Spark Notes. That wouldn’t be possible in a traditional Islamic learning environment where the first thing you have to do with any book, is memorize it.

But that isn’t to denigrate Western scholarship and uplift traditional Islamic scholarship, it’s to point out that the methods, paths, as well as the goals, are different. In Western scholarship, the highest goal of learning is to learn, analyze and propose a new theory of one’s own. If you can successfully critic a foundational theory in any subject you’ll receive great accolades and be looked upon as a great intellectual in the field. That is not the goal of traditional Islamic scholarship. The goal of traditional Islamic scholarship is to learn firstly in order to practice. No sincere seeker studies Islamic knowledge in order to create their own rulings. And if one does it’s not celebrated, it’s shunned.

So is it shocking that Dr. Amina Wadud cursed a prophet or that Reza Aslan feels fine to practice other people’s religions as the world watches? Well, once you understand their educational background, it’s not surprising at all. In fact, if neither of them prayed or even believed in God for that matter it would not be shocking. Western academia does not care if you practice what you study. Whereas a religious scholar within the Islamic framework would rightly be called a hypocrite or an apostate if they did not practice what they studied.

We’ve been blessed in the Muslim community to not have an abundance of religious scholars (or practitioners) who are blatant hypocrites. If you look over to the other religious communities you’ll see how abundant it is for them to question and disregard even the most foundational beliefs of their religion.

It is safe to say that despite the common word, ‘scholar’, these two types of scholars can offer very different types of knowledge. I resolve that we begin to make it clear what kind of scholar we’re talking about (Traditional vs Academic) in order to clearly know the framework they are coming out of and clearly understand what we can hope to gain from them.

The difference between Ibn Ali and everyone else (ie The need for authentic dawa)

April 17, 2017

I’m not sure if ever interacted with Ibn Ali, I just noticed him and later his wife and kids among those sitting in an Islamic class in Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City -seeing a family learning together were reason enough to smile. Recently that man that I only happened to notice in an Islamic class became the object of nationwide attention for being the star of an unusual viral fight video. Sadly, teens now not only have to live with the consequences of their classmates knowing they got beat up in a fight -they must also deal with humiliation on the Internet. That’s exactly what Ibn Ali feared when he broke up a fight between two young men as their so called friends (as Ibn Ali cautioned them, are they your real friends?) recorded the scene on their phones. He advised the boys to think about the consequences of fighting only to become the subject of someone else’s cheap entertainment, they were men now and maybe this wasn’t the course of action they wanted to take. He not only ended the fight but made the boys shake hands. This act of leadership and humanity towards a group so often demonized (black + men + teenagers) propelled Ibn Ali to instant fame as a local hero and do-gooder.

There’s a lot of ways instant Internet fame can go wrong. So many people good, bad or otherwise become absolutely unbearable when the spotlight reaches them. So many of us have no real purpose in life or otherwise that we don’t know how to use fame if we ever achieve it. So much so that I fear for people who achieve instant fame, there’s probably few other surefire ways to lose one’s soul. But Ibn Ali clearly had a message despite his being plucked from obscurity and not asking for fame. Why did he do it? Because he’s Muslim and that’s what Muslims do. That simple line is the most honest bit of dawa I’ve heard from any Muslim in the limelight (momentary or otherwise).

Ibn Ali brought up Islam when he didn’t have to. He pointed people to Islam, he didn’t run away from it. And he gave God and Islam credit for his good deed. Does this sound familiar? No, not at all. The unwritten script amongst Muslims these days is to avoid at all costs talking about Islam and Muslims if one does talk about it be vague, if controversy comes up deflect, and make being Muslim as normal and as inconsequential as eating Apple pie -which you must insist you like a lot.

This is largely the fault of Muslim leadership in America turning away from black Muslims and toward immigrant Muslims. Despite our shared faith, we have completely different sociopolitical realities. Black Muslims could care less about being accepted by the mainstream -when you’ve been rejected from the beginning of your forced migration eventually you become indifferent to their acceptance. Immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, choose to leave their countries in search of the American dream which includes acceptance by the mainstream. A project that was going fine until 9/11. That connection to foreign terror made immigrant Muslims have to fight for acceptance in a way they never had -which explains the nauseating “I’m just like you” rhetoric. But black Muslims like Ibn Ali have a strange freedom only allowed to outcasts, to basically keep being themselves, business as usual.

My dad never stopped wearing the jalabia or Kufi after 9/11, it really had nothing to do with him and he never had to prove it didn’t.  When immigrant Muslims talk about Islam they speak from a place of fear when black Muslims speak about Islam,  we speak out of freedom. That freedom allows for an unadulterated dawa that isn’t concerned with naafsi naafsi  (how will this make me look?). It’s just concerned with truth. Ibn Ali didn’t set out to do a dawa campaign and in reality, we don’t need to. With no money,  fancy lights, or professional cameras Allah chose Ibn Ali to speak and to say “Islam is the reason why I’m on the right path”. Is that a good PR answer? Is that the kind of answer that with make Americans cozy? Was it well researched for virality? No, But it is exactly the kind of dawa that makes a real impact and changes hearts for the better.

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