Muslim Conditions in Philly

This is because Allah has never changed a favor which He has conferred upon a people until they change their own condition; and because Allah is Hearing, Knowing
Quran 8:53

Maybe it is a reflection of the times, but our community has become self destructive, in other words the Muslims, as a community, is its own worst oppressor. This is especially the case in Philly where there are only a few small pockets where a thinking Muslim can have some semblance of individuality. With so many Muslims, you’d think there would be more opportunities to develop some sense of fellowship. Philadelphia Muslims seem to undermine whatever community building and personal development and put in its place factionalism, polemics, and self-righteousness. Only a few communities offer a ray of light offering some hope that we can climb our way out of pathology. Even grassroots Muslim leaders begin to wonder if there is hope for our people. And when I mean people, I am talking about Black people. And by hope, I mean the transformative power of Islam in cleaning up people’s lives and offering them dignity.

Before I moved out here, a sister told me Philadelphia has some of the craziest Muslims. My husband recently saw a young man working at a Dunkin Donuts with a tattoo on his face, all over his arms, and even on his knuckles. Funny thing is, he had a very Muslim name. And we don’t mean the typical Arabic or Swahili names that Black folks picked up like Malik or Jamal. Naw, his name meant the perfection of faith. And there he was, all tatted up, molesting his co-worker, only to get a bit nervous when he saw my husband in his obviously Muslim attire.

Philly’s the only place where I’ve seen a hijab wearing Muslim smoke cigarettes in the day time during Ramadan. Maybe she wasn’t fasting at the time, but why would she still smoke in plain sight. This is the only city where I heard of three niqab wearing Muslim sisters jumping another woman in a Walmart parking lot in day light hours during Ramadan. It is probably the only place where similarly pious sisters will scrap in front of their children’s school and masjid, then return the next day bringing their non-Muslim family members to back them up in a fight.

I am saddened that there are others who try to discredit my husband by spreading rumors he’s shi’a because he once used the title “Imam” in front of Ali and prays with his arms down following the Maliki school. Philadelphia Muslims quibble about a whole lot, and they seem to have lost the forest for the trees. They will argue about ‘aqeedah, not being on the right minhaj, not following the right sheikh, but nobody is going to address sexual abuse, slander, and criminal activity in the community.

But I see rays of hope in my young students, as I read their journals and they write about their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Sometimes I am heart broken because the apathy that is so widespread in the Black community has also infected so many of them. I am hopeful when I see institutions like Quba Institute producing young Muslims who have Islamic literacy and are engaged with their society. Islam is not some cultural identity, but rather a vehicle for character building and a means to getting towards our ultimate goal, which is to meet our Lord.

I hope this next generation gets it right, or at least better than us. I know I’ve made many mistakes, fell off, and faltered a number of times. But once our youths step away from their X-bosses and take out their ear plugs, I know that they will have the vigor and the skill set to set this ship on its right course.