Strategies for Progress
by Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Deputy Amir, MANA
“…He named you Muslims before in prior scriptures and in this (Qur’an),
so that the Messenger might be a witness for you and you be witnesses for humanity.”
(Holy Qur'an, 22:78)
Over the centuries, Muslims have contributed significantly to the growth and development of the United States of America. The slave labor force of captive Africans who built the very foundations of the nation is said to have been at least 25% percent Muslim. The knowledge of Muslim women from the Senegambian region of Western Africa, skilled in the rice-growing techniques of their native land, greatly benefitted the Early American Southern-based economy.
Muslims have fought in America’s wars from the American Revolution through Iraq. Muslim contributions from within the ranks of those struggling for both civil and human rights in America have been inspirational and substantial. Wherever American citizens are found working for progress in the land, Muslims are amongst them, both visible and invisible. The challenge now in the 21st century, is for us to develop and execute strategies for mobilization of the Muslim masses, which benefit both our faith community and the broad American society.
MANA believes and Allah knows best, that two such strategies to be considered by both indigenous Muslims and our leaders, are those of productive visibility and constructive engagement. The first calls for open, organized activity in the spirit of the Qur’an and Sunna. The second encourages interaction with others based upon mutual need and common interests.
In America’s inner cities, the open spirit of Muslim self-determined activism prevalent in decades past, has waned over the years. Stifling conditions, limited resources and the advance of years have drained Muslim urban communities of their enthusiasm for change oriented work and activity. Muslim youth born of these communities have succumbed to either “mosque flight” for want of progressive and energized activity, or what Dr. Naim Akbar once referred to as “the chains of psychological enslavement” of their people.
In many instances, the communities surrounding inner city masjids are wondering “What happened to the Muslims?”, even as they miss the contributions that the worshippers of Allah brought to the quality of community life. The productive visibility of organized Muslim deeds – neighborhood beautification projects, work with youth, community organization, and human service and reclamation activities rooted in both our houses of worship, and their extended organizations, would benefit ourselves and others insha’Allah.
Productive visibility would restore indigenous American Muslims’ past and well-earned national reputation for activism, generate activity for the young, act as an opportunity for da’wah (propagation of the faith), and serve as a point of linkage between Muslim generations. The proof of this assertion is manifested daily by those Muslim communities and organizations that are doing these things across the country, as featured in MANA’s monthly online newsletters.
By the same token, constructive engagement with our neighbors, people of good-will, and local and national government would aid our efforts at self-empowerment, relevant progress in this day and time, and establishment of the Islamic way of life in the midst of America’s pluralistic society. But we must think self-determined.
America’s indigenous Muslim must strive for an Islamic understanding that affirms our just claim on social, political, historical, psychological, religious, and spiritual territory, in what the late Imam W.D. Muhammad (May Allah forgive his sins, have mercy on him, and reward him with jannat, amin) called “the shared freedom space” of life in America. We must end both our own self-isolation, and that imposed upon us by others, and upgrade our work as Muslims, for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and the future Muslim generations.