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Through My Lens: Observations from a Midwestern Muslimah

June 24, 2010 by  


TMO Editor’s note:  We are proud to introduced a new Muslim Observer column–by Nadirah Angail.

On Color Lines in the Ummah

Would you agree that it’s safe to say the world is “color struck”? Even in this age of brown American presidents named Barack Hussein Obama, the light and dark of it all still seems to trip us up. I guess it’s the bluntness of skin color that makes it an easy target. Other qualities are hidden, not so obvious, but race (which is a social construct, not genetic) is easily observed. No effort or dialogue required.

And, of course, we Muslims are affected. Though we may not be of this world, we are definitely in it, and that influences our practice. Our Prophet (s) resolved the color issue long ago, but 1400 years later, we’re still having trouble digesting his beautiful message:  “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood” (Prophet Muhammad’s (s) Last Sermon).

Despite this crystal clear explanation, we cling to the inflated values of nationalism and color bias. We’ve been told, and have decided to believe, that the similar-colored brother is worth more. We’ve been told, and have decided to believe, that our daughters must only marry brothers of matching origin. (Never mind the fact that the “foreign” brother may make a better husband.) We’ve divided ourselves in ways we weren’t meant to be divided.   Allah did not deliver an Islam for each nation. If we are both Muslim, then your religion is no different than mine, though our skin colors may vary greatly. Our physical and cultural differences are but a sign of Allah’s power and mercy. By His leave have we been crafted so differently, so beautifully. He chose the striking hues of our skin, the slants of our eyes, the varying curls of our hair. We are His design. How could there be any problem with that?

I challenge us all to embrace our fellow brothers and sisters regardless of race, nationality or madhhab. And I don’t mean the typical “I’ll give you salaams because we’re at jummah” kind of embrace. I’m talking about a genuine acceptance that recognizes the other person’s good nature, that sees them as equal and whole.  Division is what has gotten us where we are: separated. Too focused on differences and flaws, we’ve created “mini ummahs” that aren’t nearly as powerful as they could be collectively. We’ve allowed shaitan to poison our thinking when it comes to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.  We must reclaim our minds.

The world may be fine with racism and color discrimination, but we are held to a higher standard. We go against the grain if the grain is unjust. We upset the rest if the rest is undue. We challenge authority if the rule is unreasonable. We aren’t your average, everyday Earth dwellers. We answer to a call many others don’t hear. Allah has instructed us to fight against oppression, so it naturally follows that we should never oppress ourselves. I’ll type that again in all caps for effect. WE SHOULD NEVER OPPRESS OURSELVES. We don’t like to think of our “preferences” as oppression, but when we deny each other a fair chance based on these preferences, what else could you possibly call it? Islam is for us all. Islam unites us all. Let us remember that. More importantly, let us act like we remember that.

(Nadirah Angail is a Kansas City-based blogger/author with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has recently published her first book, entitled “On All the Things That Make Me Beautiful: Short Inspirational Essays on Life, Love & Self.” Contact her at nadirah.angail@gmail.com and visit her on official website www.nadirahangail.com.)

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