Gaining Inspiration During Black History Month

Our hearts are broken, and our souls heavy. We’re trying, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Some head out of their homes and protest, whilst others sob silently on their prayer mats for their brothers and sisters suffering. Every action is having an impact, no matter how small.

The all-encompassing grief and guilt is to be expected as we’re all connected. The Prophet (saw) said: “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Saḥih al-Bukhari)

As an individual watching events unfold from your phone, you may feel as though you’re drowning in your guilt, and questioning whether what you’re doing is enough. During Black History Month, we can gain inspiration from those in the past who strove, inspired and led others in times of turmoil.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X was a minister, human rights activist, and a leader in the civil rights movement. He worked tirelessly spreading the message of empowerment for Black lives, and later joined the Nation of Islam.

In 1963, he went to Makkah and completely changed his mind about Islam and gained a deeper understanding of race equality. He converted to Islam and had hopes for a future with a united brotherhood regardless of race.

Malcolm said: “I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their colour.” He advocated for justice and spoke on topics such as racial equality, police brutality and institutional racism. Going up against such huge forces in his time can feel as though the tide is against you, but throughout this he stayed perseverant and driven. 

He said: Stumbling is not falling;”  reminding us that although we may not be on a straight forward path of success, the actions we deem as failures or helplessness can be part of the bigger picture which we cannot see but trust in. After all, we see the pixel, whilst Allah knows the bigger picture.

Malcolm’s commitment to his cause reminds us of our own activism, and how, although we may feel helpless, as a small cog in a machine, our actions and words have an impact. United we’re stronger, and we strive strongly towards that as our brothers and sisters deserve freedom and peace.  He said: “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

Inspired to learn

We can learn from Malcolm X and his life story. A sister from Senegal, who is a beneficiary of a HHUGS, shares her experience of being a Black Muslim, and how Malcom inspires her.

“I’m originally from Senegal but was born and raised in France as a Christian. I later became Muslim at 16 years old. The life of Malcolm X inspired me to learn and read about Islam. The way Allah guided him and showed him the real Islam in Mecca and how there shouldn’t be any racism.”

She shares how although there are stereotypes against her race and her religion, she sets an example for those who are interested in getting to know the real her.

“I handle racial and religious stereotypes through the way I act, like when they say, ‘Black women are tough or loud,’ or ‘Muslim women are oppressed and have a miserable life.’

“I’ll show them with my attitude, manners and way of life and communicate with the ones that are interested to know the real me.”

There’s still a long way to come with racial equality within the Muslim community, and its our role as individuals to educate, act and challenge behaviour which is unacceptable. She goes on to talk about what is deficient within the Muslim community.

“Unfortunately there’s still racism in our community and there’s stereotypes and stigma towards black people. In many mosques, we don’t have black teachers and not a lot of representation for black people.

“We can tackle this by more diversity in mosques, schools, talks or at any event; making sure that from a young age young black Muslims have people they can identify with.”

Muhammad Ali

Besides Malcom X, Muhammad Ali also strove towards justice, using his platform to raise awareness for racial equality and civil rights. He vocalised his experience of racism, being raised in Kentucky, Louisville. He used his professional career in boxing to amplify his platform and get his message across.

He said: “When you saw me in the boxing ring, fighting, it wasn’t just so I could beat my opponent. My fighting had a purpose. I had to be successful in order to get people to listen to the things I had to say. I wanted to be a champion who was accessible to everyone. I hoped to inspire others to take control of their lives and to live with pride and self-determination.”

Muhammad Ali using his platform as boxer to raise awareness of injustices, is a reminder to us all that we can show up using whatever skills we have, channeling our voices, and raising awareness, whilst making du’a.  

The weight you carry is a reminder of your humanity, your ache for your fellow brothers and sisters suffering across the world. It’s the ache of injustice, of trying your utmost to bring peace and save lives. That ache is a connection you have as believers, and the love you have for others

Don’t underestimate your actions or dua when it comes to injustice and to striving for peace.  Muhammad Ali says: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe”  – a reminder to keep your eyes on the day to day details, as well as the bigger picture.

You’re not alone in this. You’re connected and surrounded by the strength of our belief that Allah is the Most Just, and Most Merciful. Fill your heart with that strength and mercy and continue praying and striving for justice and peace.