What is a Righteous Man ?
On Being Focused:
'Like a man going to Mecca'
By Mahmoud Andrade Ibrahim
The responsibility of a Righteous Man, like our Beloved Prophet Ibrahim, is to bear witness to the truth in all circumstances and not be timid with the truth in the face of power and authority. To speak the truth, not with an eye to make anyone feel comfortable but to challenge an ‘imagined’ truth with the best information available. To be Righteous in today's world is to be truthful in the face of power as an act of Revolution.
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا
And call to mind Ibrahim, behold, he was a Man of Truth and a Prophet (19:41)
۞ What I Believe
I believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Prophets and in the Day of Reckoning. I believe none is to be worshipped except Allah and I believe this was the message of all of the previous Prophets including Prophet Muhammad (pboh). This is what I believe.
ا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ
إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ
فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
O you who have believed, be firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not personal inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do. (An-Nisa 4:135)
۞ What I Know
Now let's talk about what I know ! ......Race in Islam is a very touchy subject. Our sacred texts all agree that the color of one's skin has no currency with Allah and that our deeds are what we are responsible for. Allah is He who will do with them, our deeds, as He pleases.
But race on the other hand is something that we can and should talk about. As a Black American I have been keenly interested in the history or the origins of race issues in the only country I've known, the U.S. of A. My interest lies in the knowledge that everything we as black folk have done, are doing or aspire to do in America is subject to the vigorous complexities of race. In some ways my very conversion to Islam is related to race, as was that of many of my contemporary coreligionists. During the 1950's and 60's black people were looking for alternate ways of living that added a sense of dignity to ourselves. We were disenchanted with the habits of our parents and grandparents that seemed to accept the second class condition that black people had in this country. Some of that disenchantment had to do with the religion that was practiced by them, a form of Christianity that preached 'turning the other cheek' in the face of many of the horrible atrocities that we encountered as Black People daily and which was a source of humiliation and degradation to us. ( Booker T. Washington was quoted as saying about the fifty-one black Americans that were lynched in 1913. “This is the smallest number in any year since these grim records have been kept,” that’s like the numbers we are seeing today, one black person being shot each week by our nation’s police )
Christianity was seen by many of our black youth of the civil rights era as another instrument used by white society not only to initiate slavery and maintain the Jim Crow laws of exclusion but also the bible was used to counsel black people to suffer the injustices of intentional and legal racist enterprises. We were familiar with the history of white Christian men who wished to conquer the 'new world' and the permission they received from the only world wide Church organization at that time, The Roman Catholic Church, to discover new lands and subjugate its inhabitants all in the name of Christ. The Black relationship with Christianity has been bipolar at best, sometimes seemingly good and at other times, terribly wrong.
Young Ibrahim Smashing the Idols of his Father (challenging the assumptions of his fathers society)
But if we are willing to be truthful, we must also cast our gaze in the direction of the treatment of black people at the hands of Muslim Arabs from the 7th century and even up until today, Dafur * being a recent example. My point here is that people of African heritage have been, despite the various religious impulses be they Christian or Muslim, a prized object of trafficking for the purposes of human labor and other forms of debauchery. This doesn't negate the fact that Islam was practiced in Africa for a thousand years prior to slaves being sent to America, but we should be clear about the co-relationship that Arab Muslims and White / European Christians share with respect to the horror that is our legacy.
But whenever slavery as a topic is discussed, there is a tendency to focus on the Trans- Atlantic trade, which was pre-dated by the Middle East slave trade by a whole 700 years. The Middle East trade lasted more than a 1,000 yrs, outlasting the Trans-Atlantic trade, and affected Africa even more greatly than the Trans- Atlantic trade.
So, in plain English, Arab Muslims were also fully invested in the slave trade that negatively impacted the social fabric of the African Continent with the result of enslaved Africans being sent all around the world, including to the Americas to be further exploited as an unpaid labor force.
However, with all of this said, we have rejected Christianity, in some measure as a 'tool' that was used by the owners of slaves to keep their property in check and we have accepted Islam as a way of life to be practiced here in America.
So, for me, the question remains the same, given what I know of our collective history as a people …. What is the responsibility of a Righteous Man in our society? My answer is the same, to emulate our Beloved Prophet Ibrahim (as), to tell the truth and stand for what is just for every person in this society. We must dig into the principles of our deen as they relate to justice and equality and use those principles as organizational tools to better the condition of all people and especially the disadvantaged among us. We should organize to assist the weak against the strong, we must even challenge the beliefs in the ‘idols of our tradition’ which are maintained by our ‘religious authorities’, as Prophet Ibrahim did, and not continue harmful attitudes or practices, which include racism and notions of cultural superiority that have no place in our present religious-social circumstances.
The Arab participation in the targeted slavery of African people predates the Western (white) involvement by several hundred years. The Sahara Desert is to the Arab slave trade experience what our (black folk) Atlantic Middle Passage was for the Europeans. " Arab dhows began to take slave cargoes from the east coast of Africa as far south as Mozambique, for distribution in Arabia, Persia and western India. On these northern and eastern flanks of Guinea where the Mohammedans operated and where the most vigorous of the African peoples dwelt, the natives lent ready assistance in catching and buying slaves in the interior and driving them in coffles to within reach of the Moorish and Arab traders. Their activities, reaching at length the very center of the continent, constituted without doubt the most cruel of all branches of the slave-trade. The routes across the burning Sahara sands in particular came to be strewn with negro skeletons.
[Footnote 5: Jerome Dowd, "The African Slave Trade," in the Journal of Negro History, II (1917), 1-20.]
(W)herever Mohammedanism prevailed, which gave particular sanction to slavery as well as to polygamy, the virtues of the negroes as laborers and as eunuch harem guards were so highly esteemed that the trade was maintained on a heavy scale almost if not quite to the present day. The demand of the Turks in the Levant and the Moors in Spain was met by exportations from the various Barbary ports. Part of this Mediterranean trade was conducted in Turkish and Moorish vessels, and part of it in the ships of the Italian cities and Marseilles and Barcelona. Venice for example had treaties with certain Saracen rulers at the beginning of the fourteenth century authorizing her merchants not only to frequent the African ports, but to go in caravans to interior points and stay at will. The principal commodities procured were ivory, gold, honey and negro slaves.
[Footnote 6: The leading authority upon slavery and the slave-trade in the Mediterranean countries of Europe is J.A. Saco, Historia de la Esclavitud desde los Tiempas mas remotas hasta nuestros Dias (Barcelona, 1877), vol. III.]
* Re: Dafur: One side of the conflict was composed mainly of the Sudanese military, the police and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group recruited mostly among Arabized indigenous Africans and a small number of Bedouin of the northern Rizeigat. The other side was made up of rebel groups, notably the SLM/A and the JEM, recruited primarily from the non-Arab Muslim groups. Although the Sudanese government publicly denies that it supported the Janjaweed, evidence supports claims that it provided financial assistance and weapons and coordinated joint attacks, many against civilians, Estimates of the number of human casualties range up to several hundred thousand dead, from either combat or starvation and disease.