The change that you can believe in! Something is happening in America and in the world. The Muslims are coming, again. The election of Barack Husein Obama is an affect of something bigger, if that isn’t big enough. President Obama made a great Ramadan message. It was so strong in its support of Muslims. It expressed the Obama administrations depth of understanding regarding Islam. Obama had to be clear in his speech that he is a Christian, even after saying that critics are still left wondering.
During the month of Ramadan I have been traveling to masajid (pl. masjid/mosque) around the country. Since the beginning of month this year people seem to be racing to take shahadah, testimony of faith in Islam. They are coming in every color, every age and every social status. In the first ten days Allah informed the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, ”You will not guide to Islam who you love, it is Allah who guides whomever Allah chooses.”
My good friend, Tariq Nelson, reminded me that in the 80’s and 90’s many new shahadahs were told to drop out of school to study only the Qur’an and Arabic language. Others were told to abandon their families as “Kafir”s. Many who accepted Islam in prison established their own understanding of Islam on the “inside”. Rahim Jenkins, The Dean of Re-Entry, explains that their understanding created a social-spiritual safety net during their incarceration yet for too many was not adequate for the realities of everyday life on the “outside”. Today as many of these men and women come home they are proclaiming the virtues of Islam from that context and the message is resonating in the heart of many in the ‘hood. We have had teenagers come to us to accept Islam. Take my advice. Go home with them, met their family. Explain to their parents what is going on and get them involved. If they take shahadah ask the parents to sign a document for activities with the masjid: parent consent form. You may be surprised what the reaction will be.
The wealthy and successful from that era have failed to bring the understanding of Islam into their middle-class social circle. Although, there are exceptions to the rule, many have chosen the Sufi-circle where they can maintain their “white privilege” by day while expressing their Muslim identity by night. Today we need those Muslims and their relatives to come out of the closet with their faith and show that Muslims look just like everybody else in America.
What’s going on! It is clearly not because of something Muslims are doing. Many Muslims are trying to live their faith but are not going door-to-door, or engaging in massive conversion rallies to witness about their faith. For the most part Muslims are just reaching out and sharing the faith in action. That’s not what’s doing it.
Many Muslims have expressed fear that the community is not prepared for the influx of new of believers. In the last major wave of conversions/reversions (90’s-Malcolm X: The Movie) many new members of the faith experienced rejection from their families and their communities. The masajid and their new Muslim community failed to give them the full embrace of Muslim Ummahood (Brotherhood and Sisterhood in Islam), as described by Ismail Faruqi, may Allah have mercy upon him.
We have a second chance to make real the promise of Islam in our community. It is too late to get ready the rain has begun to fall, the sun is rising on a new day for Islam and Muslims in America. Our support of these brothers and sisters is more critical than ever. Should we succeed in educating them to reach for the highest levels of service and personal development, they will become a beacon of hope to Muslims around the world. Should we fail they will become a disgrace to the way of life that has given world civilization a model of excellence and inclusion unrivaled in history.
It is our choice and the time is now to invest in the NEW SHAHADAHs, their parents, their children and their communities.