Racism Hurts

Sometimes, racism hurts but it doesn’t hurt all of the time. I suppose when you have a lot of experience with it or are expecting it, the racism doesn’t hurt so much. But, when it catches you off-guard, it cuts more deeply.

A few years ago, several sisters and I volunteered to help set up before a fundraiser at a school during Ramadan. As we were preparing the table settings, one sister asked a sister that had moved away from the community what was the best new difference about her new school and neighborhood.

Three words: No black people.

What?

She (nbp) said it again with stronger emphasis: No black people.

Ok, so sitting at table are mostly indo-pakistani (i-p including nbp) sisters, one sister of mixed ethnicity (m-e), and one black sister (muslim apple).

The i-p’s didn’t say anything not that they necessarily agreed because there was a really awkward silence as if they didn’t know what to say. The m-e rebuked her (nbp) and said, “It’s Ramadan, you’re fasting, and you’re Muslim”. Muslim Apple lowered her gaze to avoid getting angry.

I am fasting, I am fasting, indeed.

Later that evening after the fundraiser, we gathered to pray taraweeh in the school’s gymnasium which had an appallingly massive picture of the school’s mascot, a big blue devil on the wall but alhamdulillah not in the direction of the qiblah.

I found a spot easily in the rows and only after I settled in did I notice that there was just a single sister between myself and the “no black people” sister. I thought to myself, alhamdulillah, at least I don’t have to pray next to her. Astagfirullah.

After the iqamah, a gap appeared in the line in front of us, and the in-between sister quickly moved up to fill in the gap. My heart lurched. Am I going to have to move over and pray next to this “no black people” sister or is she going to move over? Maybe, I should just step out of line and pretend I need to pull up my socks or straighten my hijab or something, anything really. But no, it’s Ramadan, you just completed your fast, and you’re Muslim. Repel evil with that which is better. Okay. Maybe after the first two rakah I can move. Stop. Allahu Akbar…

Muslim Apple making dua in each sajdah, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and do not put any rancour in our hearts towards those who believe. Our Lord, You are the All-Gentle, Most Merciful.  [Al Hashr 59/10] Still feeling something in my heart against this “no black people” sister after the first two rakah. Hashr 59/10 over and over again.

During itikaf, I talk to some sisters about it. No names, just the situation. Good advice but still feeling something negative in my heart.

Eid salaah and the Imam is speaking about forgiveness and making excuses for people and good akhlaaq and Abu Bakr and the story of ifk and wouldn’t you love for Allah to forgive you. Okay, the heart softens. Yes, I want Allah to forgive me. We pray the 2 rakah and afterward I look for the sister but can’t find her. I don’t feel any rancour in my heart.

Fast forward a couple of years and the sister formerly known as nbp needs an extended favor from Muslim Apple. I do it, no problem. I remember the comment from before but I don’t mention it.

Over the next few months the sister and I begin working on projects together and then we both go on separate trips and don’t see each other for months. When we meet again, there are genuine warm salaams exchanged and to my surprise the biggest and longest bear hug, I’ve had in years. Dua answered, there is no rancour at all, only love. Alhamdulillah.

Side Note: In the stories narrated about Bilal radiyAllahu anhu, we never hear his response to racial provocations.

In the story of the adhaan, a man said, “Could not Muhammad [sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam] find anyone else besides this black crow to call out the adhaan”? Or when Abu Dharr and Bilal were arguing and Abu Dharr tried to insult Bilal radiyAllahu anhu by saying he was the son of a black woman.

While the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and others spoke up and defended Bilal, I have never read anything that mentions a response by Bilal himself. I suppose there is a wisdom in that as well.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

15 thoughts on “Racism Hurts”

  1. OKAY IVE EXPREINCED RACISM, AND THAT, BUT NOT 2 THAT EXTREME WHERE SOMEONE ACTUALLY SAYS IT 2 MY FACE

    ANYWAY GOTTA ASKA QUESTION

    THERES THIS FILM THATS BEEN MADE OF BILAL, AND PROPHET MOHAMMED’S ( PBUH) UNCLE, AND HAS LOADSA IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN IT FROM THE AGES OF PROPHET MOHAMMED ( PBUH), AND ITS BEEN DONE IN CARTOON VERSION, IVE NOT SEEN IT YET, BUT IS THE FILM AJAS TO SEE ( IS IT RITE 2 WATCH) BECASUE IT HAS CARTOON VERSIONS OF BILAL AND PROPHET MOHAMMED’S ( PBUH) UNCLE, AND ALSO THE FIRST WOMAN WHO WAS KILLED TRYING TO PROTECT ISLAM

  2. yeah thats the one, i asked my Pupo’s father in law, who is a Pieer, and he said no its not right to watch it, because of the fact that it has faces of important people in Islam

    some Islamic organisations are not always right you know, like it is wrong to read Namaz if you know that women you dont know are reading it in the same place as you, while at a Mosque in Halifax, they make special announcments over the speakers within the building that the sisters who are upstairs, please get ready for prayer

    I know this peice of info, bevause a friend of mine went to the Mosque to read Quran, and she told me

  3. AssalamuAlikum,
    May Allah accept your Ramadhan.
    Ok the Hadeeth with Abu Dhar(May ALlah be pleased with Him) where he called Bilal(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) son of a Black women. There is a response by Bilal(May ALlah be Pleased with Him). After Abu Dhar(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) was Rebuked by the Prophet(Peace and Blessing of Allah be Upon Him). Abu Dhar(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) put his face on the ground and told Bilal(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) to put his feet on it. Instead Bilal(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) told him no and told him to get up and hugged him and said we are brothers. (Btw this is just my wording, let me know if you need the full narration).

    Also there is the case of one of the companions Ubadah ibn Saamit(May ALlah be Pleased with Him). He was put in charge of the delegation by Amr ib Aaas(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) to meet the coptic ruler of Egypt. The copt was scared because Ubadah(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) was really black. So he said to the other companions etc with Ubadah(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) that don’t you have anyone since i am scared of the black man. The other companions replied that he is the best among us in all respects and he is the one that is incharge and blackness is not despised among us. So when Ubadah(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) approched Muwaqis. Muwaqis was scared etc.. and you know what Ubadah(May ALlah be Pleased with Him) told him that in our army there are thousand more black men darker and I think taller than me.

    Anyways there are too many examples of these things in our deen, the only problem is that they have become bedtime stories for us, and we like to tell them but not implement them.

  4. Asalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah and May Allah subhanahu wa ta ala accept your Ramadan and shower upon you his blessings.

    MashaAllah, I had not heard either of those beneficial narrations. Thank you for bringing them to my attention.

    Our deen is beautiful even if we the followers are not always so.

    Wa salaam

  5. Assalamu Alaykum,
    I was just reading your story and I feel soo bad you had to witness this kind of bigotry. It’s sad. I know how you feel. Although, I look i-p, my parents do not come from a country that speaks Urdu/Hindi so I have also felt the same discrimination. I’ve felt a lot of ill-treatment from a few individuals (mostly Aunties) because my parents weren’t from a certain village or we didn’t speak a certain language. It’s these tests that allow us to turn to Allah (Subbhana Wa Ta’ala) and provide a path to find ways to bridge the differences. Allah made us all of different backgrounds, colors, cultures, and creeds and I think that is a great blessing and there is sooo much wisdom in how Allah created humanity! Even if some of our feel brethern can not accept our differences whether they are external or internal, the best thing is have Sabr and trust in Allah (Subbhana Wa Ta’ala). Diversity is one of the many reasons, I love our deen so much!!!
    Walikum Assalam

  6. Asalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

    Alhamdulillah, the emotional pain or discomfort from that experience made me a better person and now I have only love for that sister. Islam is so beautiful and I feel so blessed that Allah chose me for this deen. Ya Nafsee, I hope to see you soon in sha Allah.

  7. Unfortunatly this happens. It is very bad that some/many muslims forget Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) last sermon;

    “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 a white – except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belogs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

  8. masha’Allah at your response, sister. there is nothing more to say. i’m sorry you had to experience that.

  9. As salamu alikum wa rahmatullah,

    I was researching Bilal ibn Ribah (raa) and found your Muslimapple web site. I found it to be very interesting…not stuffy or stiff yet you’re able to maintain excellent Islamic decorum. I also felt bad about your encounter with I.P. but loved the fact that the example of Bilal (raa) served you well. You are a tribute to the legacy of Bilal ibn Ribah (raa). You mentioned in your side note two hadith. Will you provide me with the source of those hadith? Jazakumullah in advance.

    Haji Yaqub

  10. Asalamu alaykum wa Rahamtullah

    Jamal: I agree far too many of us forget that we are brothers and sisters and our variety of color is something that should be celebrated/

    Alix: Alhamdulillah, this experience and so many others made me a better person so I’m grateful the experience.

    Alhaj Dhul Waqar Yaqub: In sha Allah, I will look up the sources of those two hadeeth but they are well known.

  11. I feel very discriminated against just about every time I attend a mosque function and I assume it is because I am one of the few white Americans there. I am very rarely approached with any kind of warmth or openness and it’s not for a lack of trying to find it. It is for this reason that I have stopped trying. I just pray at home. In addition, my husband says that when he tells people that he is married to an American, all previous warmth and invitation dries up.

    It’s a source of great sadness that, in my previous experience as a Christian, I felt much welcomed in the church and was invited to join in many very worthwhile activities. I would be a liar if I said I never think about going back.

  12. Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah Sahar,

    Yes, I understand chilly receptions, people are people and they always come with their biases, it can also depend on the community you are in, may Allah subhana wa ta ala make things easy for you, increase you in emaan and goodness, and help you to find that warmth in your community or a community better than it. Ameen.

    The idea of leaving Islam do to the awfulness exhibited by some Muslims has zero appeal for me whatsoever, neither before my Islam or after it. Islam is the truth and to leave it would just be full of sadness. I feel like my real life began after I accepted Islam.

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