Monday, September 12, 2011


As salaam alaikum,

One of the first surah that I knew as a child was al-'Asr. I learned it first in English, as my mother had the Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur'an.

"By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily, man is in loss, except for such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy."

This is probably the surah I recite the most in my mind as I go about my day, as I experience life, as I witness evils, as I recall past evils done upon people, my family, my neighbors, my people.

Last night, I watched Sarafina! the movie for the first time since I was 8 years old. The only part that I remembered was the triumphant "Lord's Prayer" at the beginning of the film, which is marked with a tinge of sadness because of the latter scene I remembered, with children being shot dead. Then I remembered Sarafina on the train, going home. I remembered little else except it was a frightening thought, as a child, that other people did this to people. I just thought they were evil, bad people. I didn't know that this was done under a government supported by other human beings.

Similarly, the first images of violence I remember was of the Rwandan Civil War. I was very young when I saw footage of that on the news, and I remember the nightmare I had of it, and it still makes me cry. It was of a Rwandan child, sitting in a dirt hut in a high chair with a cinnamon roll that he was going to eat. The child was all alone, no adults in sight. Two angry dogs came in and took the cinnamon roll from the hungry child, and ate it. The child cried, and there was no one to help him.

It was imagery that I could only understand, as a child in the United States whose mother fed us cinnamon rolls for breakfast in the morning on weekends. That was how the violence manifested to me in a dream, a starving baby, alone and brutalized.

I've been watching more movies about South Africa lately, and thereafter reading more about Apartheid. I've always said that black South Africans have a similar consciousness as we do in the United States because they, too, had institutionalized racism, but I think their consciousness is more acute, because unlike our slavery that ended not yet 150 years ago (not that long ago, actually), and our institutionalized racism that lasted more than 100 years after slavery, Apartheid ended in 1994. I've heard some people talk about "putting history behind them" in South Africa, and I'm like, well dang, that mess happened yesterday! That's like someone stabbing my brother and the next day, their relatives talking about I should put it behind me.

The "officials" that killed and beat thousands of school children in the Soweto Uprising are still alive! The legacy is still fresh. People as young as me were born in the era of Apartheid. Crazy!

These are just two examples of people being horrible to each other. Throughout time, verily man is in loss. By the token of time throughout the ages, man has been horrible to each other. They kill and maim brutally like they're killing mosquitoes, with no regard or reverence for human life. If they don't kill, they content themselves with treating other people like animals, or less than that. There is more outrage expressed over a celebrity that brutalized animals than the collective outrage of society over the hundreds (if not thousands) of men and boys lynched, hanged by mobs in this country.

Sometimes I wonder how people who have experienced some of the greater injustices of our lifetimes can get up every morning without paralyzing fear, anger, I swell with righteous indignation. I don't now how they do, but they do. No less do I complain about this world as I am one who has never been personally wronged in the least, except for having insults hurled at me by wayward homeless people.

But maybe those people, like me, believe in the greater truth, the greater sense of overarching justice that protects us all. It actually does not drive us to complacency. We have faith and direct our life towards righteousness. We do good works concurrent with faith in our Sustainer and his exacting of ultimate justice when all of this is through in a way that makes more sense than we can comprehend. We believe in joining together...and we know that no evil can touch us.

Because the end of our life on this earth is not the end of it all.

People can get angry and scared by believing in conspiracy theories, about people who actually rule the world, about powers that be, about the man, about the great evil forces. And while I would love to live to see ultimate truths revealed on this earth, they won't all be revealed in my lifetime. And that's okay, because the truth at the end of the day is that the world rulers, the powers, the man, the evil forces don't rule anything. God does.

And many ask, why does God allow these things to happen? To which He answers, I know what you do not (2:30). And did you think that you would not be tried like those believers who were tried before you, who begged for help in desperation (2:214)? And we are not chess pieces on a board, because we were not created for the sake of God's entertainment (21:16-17). Our purpose is to submit to Him, and we do that by having faith, doing good deeds, and helping each other in the way of truth, patience and constancy. Helping each other, not killing each other. Helping each other, not hurting each other. Helping each other, no denying each other the good of this world. Helping each other.

This is a different type of submission that ultimately benefits no one but ourselves and those around us who we help.

It will be a glorious day when we can all know the truth of things.

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