This post was written by guest contributor Maheen Nusrat.
People often think that faith is for the weak, for those who fail to engage rational thinking. I disagree; faith is also for the strong, for those who strive for justice, for those who trust, for those who strive for betterment and for those who believe.
The day of the Zimmerman Trial verdict this past weekend was a tragic day in the American history – a day of mourning for people of rationality and of faith. It will be known as the day when an innocent child’s life was lost in vain to a failed justice system.
George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch vigilante, had been accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February of last year. Martin was returning after buying a can of iced tea and skittles as he walked through a gated community. Martin, a young black man, was wearing a hoodie at the time. This led Zimmerman to be suspicious of him as a possible vandal. He called 911 and then followed Martin, despite the 911 dispatcher’s warnings not to do so. Zimmerman then confronted Martin, and when Martin reacted to his threat, Zimmerman shot the young man, leading to his death. Zimmerman did this in what he claims to be self-defense; he was not arrested that night and walked home with the weapon.
Since the day the story became public, it has brought to surface the ugly face of racism and racial profiling that exists in American society today. This case has proven to many people that being a young black man in America is still considered a threat enough to arouse suspicion from self-appointed vigilantes with recorded histories of racist and violent behavior. On July 13, the jury reached a verdict that found Zimmerman “not guilty” on all counts, and he walked away a free man. Meanwhile, Trayvon’s parents and many other parents of black children slept without peace and with unease at this despicable show of injustice and an even more alarming message that in post-racial America, it is still okay to shoot a black teenager if you suspect him to be a threat. Many in the media did everything to discredit Trayvon and as a result, it was Trayvon who was on trial in his death for his suspected “thug” life style, instead of Zimmerman – the real killer. Imagine the pangs of hurt his parents must feel.
When I heard that Trayvon Martin’s killer has walked free, everything in my body ached. My eyes wept, my heart ached, my tongue spoke with anger – because my mind couldn’t comprehend how injustice of this magnitude could prevail. Nothing I said, read, wrote, or did make any sense. It was a simple case of injustice – of wrong winning over right, where the colour of your skin still determined whether you lived and/or walked free.
After spending an entire day of crying and being angry, at the end of the day when I broke my fast, the only thing I kept thinking was the pain of the family – and I uttered a prayer for Trayvon and his family. I prayed for his family to find peace, I prayed for justice to prevail and I prayed for every mother out there to have a world where her children can be safe. When my heart couldn’t bear the burden of the injustice at the hands of the worldly authority, it was in that moment that I realized that there was an authority greater than the ones on this earth. I submitted the weight of my heavy heart in Sajdah (prostration) to the Almighty and I prayed. I prayed so mothers everywhere can hope to see their children alive and thrive. I prayed to the Lord in whose hand is my life and to the One who says:
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that who has At-Taqwa [i.e. God-consciousness, mindfulness and piety]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Quran: 49:13)
So, in the state of God-consciousness, mindfulness and empathy for those against whom injustice has prevailed, I surrender myself to the Will of Allah and ask for justice from Him. He, who says: “But how (will they fare) when we gather them together against a day about which there is no doubt, and each soul will be paid out just what it has earned, without (favour or) injustice?” (Quran 3:25).
It is my faith that has carried me through – my faith in knowing that life does not end here, that there is judgment that transcends all judgment. For those who are placed with the trust and responsibility of justice, He commands us: “judge in equity between them; for Allah loves those who judge in equity” (Quran 5:42). It is my faith that tells me to stand firm with my fellow human beings who have been wronged. It is my faith that dictates I stand up against oppression.
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing 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, Acquainted.” (Quran 4: 135)
Even though I feel dejected at the decision of Zimmerman’s acquittal, I surrender myself to the will of the Almighty, and stand firm with the Trayvons of the world, to not let oppression take us by silence. I stand for justice. I cannot bring Trayvon Martin back, but I can work hard to fight the racism/sexism/classism that is rampant in our society. I can check my own biases and change the way I think about systemic and systematic biases. I also pray to the Almighty to give me strength to keep on fighting the good fight, to never bow down to oppression, and to never become an oppressor.
During this glorious month of Ramadan, the news of injustice has made me reflect and ponder on my existence. During my study of the Quran, I have been reassured that justice will be served. In this world of hatred, I am reminded of the last sermon of the beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said:
“O people, Your God is One God and your father is one father, for you are all descendants of Adam, and Adam was created from clay. The most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay.”
I am humbled that I am created from clay; I am reminded that I am no better than another human being, that every life is precious and worth fighting for, and justice is something you must stand and fight for. But until justice is established on this earth, I must surrender to the power of prayer. I will continue to fight and pray. I will pray for all the Trayvons of our time to be safe and under His protection, and for a world where you don’t get killed simply because of the colour of your skin.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.