by Minister of Information JR
Islam is a very prominent faith in the Black communities of Amerikkka, and during Ramadan the SF Bay View thinks that it is important for us to have the best possible understanding of the different cultures among us so that organizing can be facilitated against a common foe, the organized bodies that are oppressing us.
Islam, just like most other ways of life, has tenets that a follower must follow to be considered a part of the fold. In this article and the corresponding article with Qadriyyah Abdullah, our attempt is to give our readership two perspectives from young Black followers of Islam.
Siraj Fowler, a male perspective
M.O.I. JR: How long have been involved in Islam? How did you come into it?
Siraj: I’ve been in Islam for 14 years. I converted to Islam after seeing the difference the spiritual discipline made in my father’s life. We attended a masjid (place of worship) in North Carolina and were introduced to some of the best people I’ve ever met practicing the best way of life I’d ever seen. Islam brought love and structure to a life that had become chaotic.
M.O.I. JR: Most Muslims say that Islam is a way of life and not a religion. Do you believe that? What does that mean?
Siraj: Islam is a way of life because it goes beyond a set of rituals and a Sabbath day. Islam includes an entire set of mannerisms that build the individual and the community’s relationship with Allah (Arabic for God). Muslims constantly remember Allah within everything we do from running a government to drinking a glass of water.
We have five daily prayers which, if observed, ensure that the believer remembers Allah throughout his or her day and night. We greet one another with the same blessings of peace given by the prophets of scripture in both the Bible and the Qur’an (Muslim Book of Scriptural Revelation). Islam is more than just what you believe; it’s what you do.
M.O.I. JR: Right now Muslims across the world are celebrating Ramadan. When is it? What is its significance? And how is it practiced?
Siraj: Ramadan begins at the sighting of the new moon which began Aug. 22 this year. The holy month of Ramadan is sacred because it is within this month that the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammed, the last prophet of God according to Islam. Ramadan is practiced by abstaining from food, drink and one’s lower desires during the daylight hours.
Muslims wake up early before sunrise and eat a small meal, followed by prayer. The fast is broken at sunset usually with dates, followed by a full meal called iftar. It is a time when friends and family host gatherings at one another’s houses to break fast and make prayer. The experience of Ramadan strengthens the individual and the community, by connecting you to those who are starving around the world and don’t have the luxury of choosing when they can and cannot eat.
M.O.I. JR: In masjids that primarily consist of Black people born in the United States, is Islam practiced different than it is in say masjids in Saudi Arabia or Palestine?
Siraj: Islam is practiced the same in most countries except for those who confuse their cultural hangups with the religion. The Qur’an tells us to take the best thereof – meaning that whatever your culture contains that can be used as tool towards building a God-conscious community, take that and use it.
I was in an Islamic university in Damascus, Syria, with students from all over the world. Each of us had different cultures, but Islam brought out the best in our cultures and created a positive medium of exchange for us to learn about one another as human beings of faith. I found that we were very different, yet very much the same. When we approached that prayer line, we had to put our cultural differences aside to collectively worship the Most High as humble servants.
M.O.I. JR: The basis of Islam is the Five Pillars, what are they?
Siraj: 1. Shahadah: bearing witness that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his servant and messenger
2. Salat: prayer five times a day
3. Zakat: charity or alms given to Allah, which goes to help the poor or maintains the masjid (place of worship)
4. Ramadan: fasting during the holy month.
5.Hajj: making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime if able
M.O.I. JR: Do you have any last words that you want to offer the non-Muslim readers that can better help them to understand Islam?
Siraj: Islam is a belief system that promotes peace and community life. It is the fastest growing religion for a reason. People want a better quality of life that allows their spiritual reality to grow without forgetting to build their material reality. Islam provides a balanced diet of intellect and faith for the overall health of one’s soul. Educate yourself. It can never hurt to have more information.