“I can’t breathe,” was the cry heard around the world by George Floyd on May 25, 2020, when police officer, Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department, pressed his knee on George’s neck for 8 minutes and 42 seconds. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng applied pressure to his body with their knees, while officer Tou Thao.
Stating ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a truth and for this reason, we cannot stay silent any longer. We are taught in Islam to speak against tyranny. Hussain ibn Ali taught, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves”. He not only spoke these words but died practicing it. Imam Hussain saw the powerful Caliph at the time subjugate the people and rule with debauchery and corruption. When the Caliph attempted to place the Imam under his domination, Imam Hussain refused to give his allegiance, which became a stance against oppression. Thereafter, he was martyred defending righteousness and justice. Along with him in defending the values of truth, was John, a black Christian ex-slave. He, with his own accord, was on the side of Imam Hussain and achieved martyrdom.
What is more, the Holy Quran teaches us that the color of one’s skin has no inherent value, but it is the character of the individual that determines loftiness: Chapter 49, verse 13 affirms: “People, We have created you all male and female and have made you nations and tribes so that you would recognize each other. The most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most pious of you. God is All-knowing and All-aware.”
Unfortunately, many communities are still plagued by the Anti-Black prejudices regardless of their religious teaching. The history of Islam itself is replete with prominent individuals of African heritage. These individuals were close companions of the Prophet and the Infallible Leaders who succeeded after him.
The Holy Prophet (p) gave Bilal, a black ex-slave, the honor of being the first Muezzin in Islam (the one who calls others to prayer). The Prophet (p) commanded him to go onto the rooftop of the Holy House of God, the Kaaba, and summon the Adhan. Lady Fizza was another African slave who had come to Arabia from Abyssinia (what is present-day Ethiopia) and was freed by the Holy Prophet. She worked in the household of Lady Fatimah and willingly accompanied Imam Hussain and his family to Karbala; thereafter, to Sham (present-day Damascus) where the ladies and children were imprisoned. Lady Fizza was like a mother to Lady Zaynab as she raised her and called her Amma Fizza. She acted as a shield for Lady Zaynab when she was brought to the Caliph’s court in chains and raised her voice against the injustice. Hence, about 1400 years ago Lady Fizza was part of a movement empowering blacks to oppose oppression. What is more, Lady Fizza gained an enormous amount of knowledge from the Prophet’s household that for twenty years she spoke quoting verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Furthermore, several of the Imams themselves were of African heritage. Five of the twelve Imams had African mothers. Therefore, we must understand systemic racism to oversee a better society for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Subsequently, We rise against oppression and affirm our solidarity.