America, What have you done?
America, what have you done?
The words echoed in my mind as my eyes began to open at Fajr time, alarmed at the news my husband just told me, the thoughts and feelings racing and colliding within me. Racing and colliding. Expanding and immersing and falling and rising all at once like a firework bursting into a million particles across the dark horizon and falling into oblivion.
As a student of Quran, we are always told to hold the situations that come to us with dignity, grace. Calmness. That there is a purpose we cannot see, a wisdom we do not yet know of. That we fall only to become stronger. We tumble only to get back up, and to get back up, and to get back up. And rise. Yet when situtations come upon us, we are often left speechless and dumbfounded. We need medicine for our hearts. Ya Allah I thought.
I needed to calm my heart as du’aas tumbled out of my lips for my family, for my community, for all those who struggled so hard to let their stories be entwined in the American tapestry of “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” only to have one man come and tear their stories by the seams with words of “you do not belong” and “go home.”
This is a tale we weren’t prepared for.
“SubhanAllah,” I whispered, trying to calm my racing heart, as I reached over to my phone on the bedside table, fumbling to talk to my family to tell them to be careful today. Be safe today. Be extra vigilant today. Though we alhamdulillah have the luxury of living in a land where the soil knows and accepts and loves the feet of immigrants, my family in the Midwest, in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio face a different tale.
Before moving to Canada, I was the girl who was known in my high school as “the girl with the headscarf”, as my school was 99% white Republican American. Much of my schooling was spent defending who I am, what I stand for, what Islam means versus the vile misrepresentations we see on the news. I wanted them so badly to see, so badly to know that my hijab was not a cloth of oppression but a badge of honor for me.
When Senator Barack Hussain Obama became President, I felt there was a new wave washing over the land. Muslims and African Americans and Latin Americans and minority Americans could stand a little taller, knowing that someone “among them” who sang their stories rose and made it, and the bullies were silenced.
We became used to that America.
Yet this November 9th, we were unprepared for the tale of the victor being on the side of the ones who tell us we do not belong. We are the ‘others.’ The unsung.
This reminded me of when our beloved Prophet (S) faced the horrors of Makkah. The tragedies and sorrows he had to endure just for saying “La ilaha illa Allah.” If he could do it, if the heroes of our past died for us to live our deen, we cannot do anything but be strong. To be dignified. To not cower. But be gentle and unapologetic for our deen. For Allah’s sake.
America. The soil beneath them holds the stains and of many who fought for the name of the “freedom” and yet the ones living now have to do the same–with their kindness, their gentle words, their hope, their convictions, and to somehow stay strong through it all.
And I know they will be strong. They have no choice but to.
Yes, I’m afraid for them. Afraid for the sort of country they have to live in. How the malice and hatred and contempt of people is not only manifested but applauded, encouraged. Celebrated. Celebrated in chants like “We hate Muslims! We hate blacks! We want our country back!” Celebrated in demeaning words against women, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, the disabled, etcetera.
Etcetera: this word that represents the “others” are my family, my friends, me.
Our life is made up of choices of which side of “history” we choose to be on. The Qur’an talks about the Bani Israel, the people of Firawn, the people of Nuh, the people of Saleh, the people of Lut. These are not just characters in stories, two-dimensional people for us to read about and be entertained by and close the Book. It is for us to refect. To ponder. That their choices allowed their tale to be preserved until the end of time. Our choices, too, have a ripple effect on the universe. Our choices, too, determine what side of history we chose to be on. The side we gawk and shake our heads at in history class while thinking “How could they? Were they even human? Did they have a heart?” are people, afterall.
People who slept and ate and laughed and loved and hated and breathed. People.
Who are we? How is our heart? Do we begin to question ourselves as an Ummah—where we stand amidst the political chaos?
How is our heart?
Allah is the best of planners. Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli haal. There is a plan. We have to trust it and rise above the malice. Light always overcomes darkness. Always.
America, yes–the world watches you in amazement and sorrow and pity. But you must prove somehow that you can rise above the darkness.
Fee Iman Allah.
This man is just one man. Just one man. Yes, the ripple effect of his hatred is what is manifested in the fear in our children, fear in those who have to face a continuous battle with their visible identities.
Our perceptions are our sanity. Trust God. Stay hopeful.
When I spoke to my mother, she said, “We don’t fear Trump, God is big. We will still do what we were doing before.”
Friends, we can still trump hatred with love. Be proactive in efforts of peace. And as Ustaza Farhat Hashimi advised us, don’t be shaken. Be steadfast. Trust His plan.
“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (2:216)
Don’t let your fear cripple you and diminish your light, let it make you rise higher above the turbulence, above the darkness.
Smile more. Give more. Pray more. Love more.
In a time where people are afraid of your Islam, be evermore Muslim.
About the Author
Mariam is a teacher by profession, a journalist and fiction writer, and an artist. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a BA in Middle Childhood Education and an English Literature minor, with a specialization in Creative Writing Fiction. Currently, she is a student of Taleem al Qur’an at Al Huda Institute,Canada.