The Black Muslim Experience: Capturing the Black Muslim

The Black Muslim Experience: Capturing the Black Muslim

If you are a Black Muslim, your face has probably traveled overseas before you have even put your foot on an international flight. “How?”, you may ask? Let me break it down for you.

Remember that Muslim program at a Masjid or Islamic Centre that you went with the intention of seeking spiritual revival or even just to gain knowledge?

Or that time you went to the masjid for one of your daily prayers in your pursuit of spiritual elevation, you suddenly feel lightning disturb your concentration. It’s not lightning, mntase. It’s the process of you being captured.

It’s the process of state capture- freezing the moment to prove that your black Muslim poverty exists.
It’s a picture of you being taken without your consent. A picture that is taken without our social standing being asked. The capturer is not even sure you qualify for zakah or not. And even if you do qualify for zakah, do you not have the right to agree to it being taken or not? Your picture is captured on assumption. Most of all, without your consent.

A picture that you will probably never see.

A picture that will be in a suitcase of a person who is going overseas. A picture that will be part of PowerPoint presentations that you know nothing of. A picture that is used on websites to advertise “your” poverty.

You become an international brand of poverty. You are on billboards of countries you have never been to.

A picture that is taken when you are in the middle of Salah, in conversation with your creator. But that doesn’t matter because you are not fully Muslim(they think). It doesn’t matter because a black person in salaah is the perfect pose to raise more money. It’s more believable when they are in qiyam or ruku. Sajdah, won’t do well, it completely covers your face. Another snap of you eating what everyone else is eating. Unwittingly, your picture is a mine of wealth.

Your face is plastered all over in an Asian country, probably the in the Middle East, used as a fund-raising token.

Do you ever see the money? Probably never. Maybe in grocery hampers,grocery hampers that are not sustainable in your community. The least effective form of empowerment.

But as you seek empowerment, as your thirst to know more about your Lord and His religion, as you find comfort and seek solace in Allah, and you are in the perfect position of lifting your hands and begging your Lord for forgiveness makes the perfect picture of a bidded begger.

You stand there, praying to your Lord, while they fulfill the pursuit of capturing the Black Muslim, one click at a time.

So this Ramadan, watch the cameras, give or not give consent. But make sure that your face is not unduly stilled

And if you are on the side of the camera, think about the human right violation you are partaking in.

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White shrouds and Coffins

White shrouds and Coffins

It was a blazing hot day of Jumu’ah as she walked in a Soweto Jamat in a black jumpsuit and high hair extension ponytail. Upon her entrance, two women, one in niqab, rushed to her and took her to the Jamaat’s bathroom. Her short-sleeved jumpsuit was now covered in an oversized green blazer and one of the Jamaat’s scarf hid her ponytail.

She then told the two women she was that she was here to become a Muslim. And so after Jumu’ah Salah, she took her Shahada.
As we sat on the bunkers outside the Jamaat and put our shoes on, she looked at me for a while and I smiled back at her. She then asks me, “How long have you been a Muslim for?”
“All my life”, I say. She responds by saying “I think since I’ve been a Muslim for a good ten minutes”. We both break into a harmonised laughter.
She proceeds to tell me that she was staring at me because I look a lot like her late cousin. She described how my facial structure, chubby cheeks, and smile resembled that of her cousin’s.
Her cousin was a Muslim. She died while giving birth.
“She is all I’ve been dreaming about… She led me to this place. I now know why she was Muslim. When I recited the proclamation of being a Muslim, I felt a breeze that passed through from my right side to my left while cleansing me. I can’t describe the peace that I feel. I feel brand new.” She slides her right foot into her black pumps.
At that moment I envied her – a good kind of envy because as a born Muslim I will never experience the serenity she felt.
Khadija is the name she said we should call her by. She had a petite body and a big spirit. On one occasion, I remember her telling me about her days of being a choreographer and how she loved singing. I asked her why she stopped and she didn’t give me a clear answer. She was still young- just 33 years old.
A month after she took her Shahada, during Easter weekend, there was a Muslim camp in Kwa Ndebele. One morning at the camp, she told me how she loved meditating after Fajr. For her, it was a way of talking to her creator, as she was still learning how to perform Salah. At that camp, my mother, my sister and I developed a bond with her. We simply fell in love with her.
June school holidays arrived, as a grade 9 learner, I was excited that I didn’t have to wake up for school. My excitement was deflated by the news of Khadija’s death. They said it was cancer. My whole world crashed.

I lost a sister.

A few weeks before her death, she looked so healthy and was her vibrant self. I remember how she would spontaneously break into song. She wore a yellow burka that day that I last saw her. She wore that burka often. I concluded from that that it was her favourite headgear.
On the Jumu’ah of the week of her death, my sister and I decided to take taxis and go for Jumu’ah in Soweto. We wanted to know about Khadija’s funeral arrangements.
Khadija, like many Black Muslims in South Africa, was the only Muslim in her family. Her death, like many others before her, was met with resistance for an Islamic burial from her family.
After Jumuah prayers the ulema, elders and some members of the jamat, including my sister and I, went to her family’s home to plead with them, once again, to give her muslim rights. I remember how the Maulanas tried to negotiate for her receiving a full Muslim burial to at least allowing us to perform ghusul on Khadija to begging them to at least allow us to perform Tayammum- the Islamic act of dry ablution using a purified sand or dust.
All of which her family rejected.
I was almost 15 at the time, I had never performed ghusl al mayyit (the ablution of a late person) and still haven’t till this day, but on that day I was determined to learn and do it for Khadija.
While we were at her family home, the funeral undertaker arrived with her body in a timber coffin. I wondered how her spirit felt as it witnessed its desire being cast aside. I imagined the frustration of her soul as it watched her wishes being dismissed and not being able to do anything about it.
That Saturday Khadija was laid to rest, not in the way she wished. Her wish was to be shrouded in white pieces of cloths just like her cousin. Her wish was to face the qiblah in her silent state just like her cousin.
But like many Black Muslims, her wishes were ignored. Their dying wishes die with them.
Ten years later, I still think about Khadija. I think about her in the month of Ramadan as she didn’t get a chance to experience it. I think about her on the days of Eid and how she didn’t get the chance to celebrate and do any Eid rituals. I think about her during the season of Hajj, how she will never get the title of Hajjah. I think about her when I pray because she was still learning how to pray when she left this world.
There are so many acts of worship and Muslim activities that we take for granted that she never got to experience. She didn’t get a chance to practice most of the pillars of Islam but she had conviction in the oneness of Allah and her faith touched a teenage Muslim girl who was soul searching, trying to find her Islam and her purpose as a Black Muslim.
I pray that as Khadija’s body lays in a place against her will, the will of Allah will place her and mahroomeen like her in the highest stage of Jannah.
Khadija’s story is only one of the many ways Black Muslims experience rejection. We are rejected by our non-Muslim families for being Muslim and by other Muslims for being Black.
In white shrouds or in coffins, we are proudly Black Muslims and no one can take that away from us.


The lived experience of racism Black South African Muslims go through everyday.

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And this is how black South African Muslims experience racism from fellow Muslims

As my taxi turned into Plein Street, I began to feel thirsty. I shouted “after robot” as the taxi approached Wanderous Street. I got off looking at the long Braam/Auckland Park taxi line. I was conflicted on whether I should go buy water or join the line and get water on campus. My thirst won, and I went to the shop that’s next to the line. I often by stuff here, especially if I need anything that may not be available on campus. I head straight for the fridge and grab a bottle of water. I get to the till and pay. As I put my change into my purse, the shopkeeper asks me if I’m Muslim. Clearly, my hijab doesn’t give it away, so I respond positively. He asks “Are you South African?”

He then asks whether I am married to a Bangladeshi or Pakistani. I tell him that I’m not married. He then asks if I’m sure that I’m not married to a Bangladeshi or Pakistani.

At this point, I feel a spark of rage flaming up inside of me. It’s the same feeling of humiliation that I felt when a Pakistani man asked me to prove that I’m Muslim by reciting Quran verses in a taxi a few years ago. The same feeling that I always feel when my marital status to a foreign national is asked to verify whether I’m Muslim or not. The same feeling that I had when my friend was called a ‘kariya'( the Indian version of k*ffar) when we were 14. The same feeling that I had when a Maulana in school said that because of how our(black people) hair grows we will not enter Jannah. The same feeling that I had when my madressa teacher described munkar and nakir having dreadlocks when they punish sinners in the grave. The same feeling I had when we were told not to speak our home languages at school. The same feeling that I had when I could only be domestic worker every day when we played house-house in nursery school. The same feeling I had when my little sister was told that putting her Zulu beaded band on top of her scarf is haraam, yet Punjabis are halaal. The same feeling that I had when we were told that the women of Jannah are fair in complexion. The same feeling that I had when a Maulana at school asked why we (black students) kept our “Christian” names and further said non-Arab names like Shirin and Shabnam are acceptable “muslim names”. The same feeling that I had when I was told that being Zulu and Muslim do not mix but constantly heard the same teachers ask the other kids in my class if they are Alipore, Memon etc. The same feeling that I had when my history teacher made a joke in class and said I wouldn’t get it because I’m not Indian. The same way I feel when I pass Salam and the wajib response is not given back to me. The same feeling that I had when black Maulanas are called Shaikh instead of Maulana, even though they are equally qualified. The same way I felt when I watched some of my friends leave Islam because of the way they were treated. The same way I felt when I watched some of my friends leave Islam because of the way they were treated.

Our parents send us to Muslim schools so we can be in an Islamic environment. We attend Muslim festivals so we can get spiritual upliftment. We go to the masjid to talk with our creator. But instead, these places have become toxic places to our well-being. Racism lurks in and selective Islamic principles become the norm of the day.

And he finally says, “How is that possible? You can only be a Muslim if you are married to a Bangladeshi or Pakistani man.”

I furiously walked out and never set foot into that shop again.

This is not an isolated incident. It has happened to me a lot. It happens to black South African Muslims every day. It’s torture and trauma. I don’t know why people feel that their skin colour gives them the monopoly on Islam. That they get to choose who is a suitable or not for Islam. But Allah says in the Quran:

“And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.”(2:213)

The irony of it all is that these are the same people who stand in the front of Free Palestine picket lines and shout “Down with Israeli apartheid” “Down with Israeli racism”, yet they put black Muslims through trauma like Israel. Do you not see the bombs you drop on us? How explosive your behaviour to the Ummah’s unity?

I’m not here to beg for your approval. I’m simply doing what Allah commands of me in Surah Imran Ayah 103 and 104.

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.

And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be successful.”

Reflect, how different is your behaviour towards black Muslims to how Israel treats Palestinians?

*Drops mic*

Struggling to breathe in my blackness because of racism

The Pretoria Girls High School hair struggle has evoked emotions of anger and also made us think of our own oppression during our school years.

I attended a Muslim school,predominately Indian, from nursery right until matric. It’s not an easy to space to breath a black child.

I always felt heavy,like a rock was being placed on my chest. Racist undertones didn’t make schooling easier.

Being a black child in such an environment meant constantly trying to prove that I’m intelligent as the next Indian child. It meant constantly fighting my blackness and constantly feeling ashamed of my black skin,my black name and language.

Being a black child in such an environment meant being told fabricated hadiths on how women with locks won’t enter jannah or how women with short hair make it too.

Being a black child in such an environment meant that my name was not “Muslim” enough.

Being a black child in such an environment meant frequently being beaten, especially if you were a boy and at time it reached a point of assault.

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Source: Twitter

The turning point in my life was in grade 9 when my parents bought a Malcolm X DVD and I fell in love with my blackness. I felt mentally free. I began to understand why my parents fought with me about my Indian accent. I began to understand myself and really saw how some people,so called learned scholars can use false hadiths to reflect their racism. I knew that only I held the key to my oxygen tank, so I could breathe.

I’m a proud black Muslim woman. I exist and I will resist.

5 ways you can recycle FREE political T-shirts

Local municipality elections are upon us, and every party is pulling out all the stops to get as many votes possible. From  #Asinavalo to #VoteForchange to #EFFwayawaya election campaigns, various methods are employed as campaign strategies. The most popular strategy is giving out FREE t-shirts. These t-shirts are mostly outcasts in our closest, leaving us questions on  what do to with these t-shirts,especially if you are a non-partisan person like me. Well,here are a few ideas on what you can do with them.

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Source: Pinterest

1. A multi-purpose cleaning cloth

FREE t-shirts make great cleaning tools. They are so diverse. They can be a scoroblap, vryfing lap, a duster or for polishing,  and they do a fantastic job at shining cars.

2. Pyjamas

FREE t-shirts make good summer pyjamas. The material used to make them is light (and cheap) and they normally come in big sizes,giving more room for freedom of movement.

3 . Hair dryer

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This is my personal favourite use of a FREE t-shirt. Instead of using a towel to dry my locks after washing my hair, I use a t-shirt. My hair drys faster than it does with a towel and its more stabile than a towel. Towels unwrap easily,while t-shirts are fitting on the head and stays stabile.

4. Cleaning or gardening uniform

Growing up black means you had two types of clothes; home clothes and clothes for going out. These t- shirts easily  qualify as home clothes. They are the cleaning type. When your mama declares that today is spring cleaning day, child you get your FREE t-shirts and clean your mama’s house. And when it’s old convert it to a scoroblap (there’s levels to this thing😂).

5. Bullet proof vest

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You may ask how is this possible. Well a friend of mine believes that one you collect as many party t-shirts possible,from different parties. Should a war or violent protest break out,  and you live in an area where party A has a strong hold,wear party A’s t-shirt. If you going to visit in a place where party B reigns supreme, rock party B’s t-shirt with confidence. That’s how many people were saved from bullets in Thokoza and KZN from the ANC-IFP violence.

Anyway, exercise your right to vote. Vote for the who you feel has your interests at heart. Most of all,make sure that whoever you vote for is as versatile,durable and delivers services to you like the t-shirt they give you.

Here’s why I am a Muslim feminist

Here’s why I am a Muslim feminist

More than 1400 years ago,Prophet Muhammad  (sawa) started his mission of prophethood by restoring the social illnesses that were present in the Arabian peninsula. At the time,women were treated less than second class citizens. Women abuse was a norm. Having a girl child was considered shameful,to a point where men would bury their new born daughters alive. A lot gross human rights violations against the women of Arabia had taken place,many undocumented. When prophet Muhammad  (sawa) began his mission as a messanger of Allah,one of his main goals was to restore the dignity of women. He was sent to break the social constructs that devalued women. He taught us that men and women are equal, and how one will enter jannah because of one’s actions and not gender. There are various incidents I can cite where prophet Muhammad(sawa) broke stereotypes that associated with women. Remember Nusaybah bint Ka’ab, the fearless women companion,who fought ,by sword, in great battles such as Uhud.And our Beloved  (sawa) praised her for her bravery.

Before I go any further,let me define a muslim feminist. A Muslim feminist is one who seeks to restore social justice,especially the status of women,as Allah intended. A Muslim feminist advocates for the God-given women rights that have been side lined or suppressed. Wikipedia defines Muslim feminism as “a form of feminism concerned with the role of women in Islam. It aims for the full equality of all Muslims , regardless of gender, in public and private life. Islamic feminists advocate women’s rights, gender equality, and social justice grounded in an Islamic framework.”

Today,I reflect on the state of Muslim women and how some cultural practices are enforced on Muslim women as if they are part of Islam. Myths,which unfortunately are treated as Allah’s law.

The first myth is the banning of Muslims from the masjid (I can already imagine someone reading this calling me a kaffir or bida-ist,Lol). Personally, this myth has brought about a lot of frustration in my life. It makes Islam look like it’s exclusively for men and purely favours men. Contrary to this myth, muslim women in the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) were always present at the masjid. He didn’t teach Muslim women from their homes,he taught them at the masjid, just as he taught Muslim men. That’s another factor that is deeply compromised when women are not allowed at masjids; KNOWLEDGE. The masjid is one of the main sources of knowledge for Muslims. The exclusion of Muslim women can from having access to knowledge is dangerous. Remember that the first teacher of a child is the mother,what will your child learn (oh one who believes women shouldn’t be at the masjid) if the mother of your child  is not knowledgeable about Islam? – think about that. It’s feels as though there’s hidden knowledge that we shouldn’t be aware off, maybe it’s women’s rights that they don’t want us to be aware off. Also, the masjid is also a space where Muslims socialize,where else should we meet other Muslim women if not at the masjid??? And what I really hate about women not being allowed at the masjid are the blessings and reward we are constantly deprived off,such as jumuah, eidgah etc blessings. Most of the time when women are at home during these events we find ourselves doing things that are not doing anything spiritually constructive.

The second myth is the most heart breaking one -female genital mutilation :'(:'(:'(:'( (I can’t deal). Allah has prohibited mutilation of bodies of dead people,even if they are your enemies,so what more your innocent daughters??? We are always reminded that our bodies are an amaana (trust) from Allah and self-harm is forbidden. What do you suppose harming your daughters is?It’s HARAAM!!!! There’s no sunnah or Quran scripture that ascribes to female genital mutation.

The third myth is forced marriages. Our Revolutionary Beloved (sawa) rejected forced marriages in its totality. When suitors came to the Messenger of Allah  (sawa) to propose to his daughters,he always sought their consent. He respected the fact that their right to choose a life partner,and this after all is the command of Allah. One can’t justify forced marriages.

The fourth myth is that the only place a Muslim women should be is in the home and not be a career woman. Let me start by saying BIBI KHADIJA (sa)!!! Yes,The Beloved(sawa) wife. Where would have Islam been without her wealth (which she generated from being a career woman) -NON-EXISTENT! It’s ironic how men who are against us having careers want their wives to only see female doctor when sick and have female gynecologists during pregnancy and when giving birth; How do y’all propose we have our medical services without having development of women??? Not using one’s logic is rather dangerous. Allah always tells us to think,ponder,reason and reflect in the Quran.But some of y’all ain’t about that logic life!

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Besides these myths there other things that makes me a feminist Muslim.

A. Growing up, I aspired to be a hafidha. I signed up for extra Quran classes after school so I would memorize more than my normal school Quran syllabus( I went to a muslim school). After memorizing what was termed as the “major surahs”,I was excited about finally starting my memorization of the holy Quran. And then I was told that a girl is discouraged from memorizing the Quran because with all the many responsibilities that a women will as a wife and mother, there won’t be enough time to revise the Quran and will forget the Quran,which some say is a sin. Yet, many males graduate every year as hafidha,and nobody asks how will they revise with their responsibilities of being a husband and father??? See how patriarchy messes with one’s ability to think logically,especially because Allah always tells us in the Quran to THINK ,PONDER and REFLECT . Nevertheless, I pray that this dream of mine is realized. I pray for all those who were denied this honor for whatever pathetic reason you were given.

B. White “liberal” feminist
Dear White “liberal” feminist (Yes, You FEMEN), we as muslim women don’t need you to protests for us and be our “voice”. The moment we feel oppressed,we will let our oppressors know. In fact,we will fight them on our own. We have our own voices.We are independent. We are braver than you think we are. We are more free within ourselves. Please take a seat as you were not elected by any Muslim women as a spokeswoman.

C.The silenced of the sexually violated and domestically abused Muslim woman. Sexual and domestic violence are things we pretend like doesn’t exist in our communities. Reality is that they are there and pretending like they  doesn’t exist only makes us weak Muslims. How are we guardians of justice of we quite about such great injustices on our women? How will we face Allah when we know we didn’t defend and protect women?Y’all know what prophet Muhammad (sawa) would have done. We need to create a space where women who are abused can feel free to voice themselves and a hostile environment for these abusers and predictors. Let’s not be selective about sunnah. Justice is a command of Allah and sunnah. Justice must be applied,especially when lives matter.

I really hope and pray that as an ummah we work together towards restoring the rights and dignity of Muslim women as Allah intended. By doing so we will be obeying the following ayah:” You are the best nation produced [as an example] for humanity. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.”(3:110) Let’s be the best ummah by standing up for women’s rights and be the upholders of justice like our Prophet Muhammad (sawa). In the word’s of Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie; We should all be (Islamic) Feminists.

©Nelisiwe Shahida Msomi