Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mothers and Sunday Soul

In Islam mothers are revered with no exceptions.  My favorite stories in Islam are always the ones about mothers.

It is said that Islam's last prophet, may he rest in peace until that day, was asked who the most important person in anyone's life is and he reportedly said "your mother".  The question was asked about the second most important person and he replied "your mother again" and the third time again.

The place of mothers in Islam is uncontested.  They are vital and second to none.  No man can turn his back on his mother no matter what.

But it goes further.  And so it must.

Women are more complex than just motherhood.  And being a mother does not just mean giving birth.

The larger story is one of respect for all women (girls included).  This is why there is an entire chapter in the Qur'an that presses the equality of women toward fairness, unfettered inclusion, and unquestioned relevance to our humanity.  (All women, not just Muslim women.  All mothers, not just your mother.)

I don't want to hear from the racist anti-Muslim naysayers who know my religion better than me so save your ass the trouble of commenting.

I grew up in a household full of strong willed women who carried our revolution and did so without the guiding hand of any man.

I learned to pray behind my mother.  She taught me what I know and it is still so today.

I remember when a contingent of black African teenage boys who wanted to become Muslim approached her, not my father.

Those teenagers were turned away by the Malay/coloured religious 'leaders' (men) who carry the religion with the same sense of style that informs them to wear dresses.

My mother saw beyond the racist predilection to push the kids to the margins in a time when black African life was about servitude only (even to Malay/Indian/coloured folk so don't get twisted here ... and in many contexts it remains so making white racists hardly alone in their ongoing oppression).

Yet I remember a Canadian white man who came to live in our community as a converted (reverted) Muslim.  He was carried around like a trophy and not a word was spoken after he defrauded the community and disappeared.

Those young men who came to our house were consistent.  They were respectful.  Playful.  And loving.  They came to learn and she taught them in our house and around our kitchen table without any interference from my father.

Even today you will find them, grown men now, coming to visit their mother with their wives and kids in tow.  And from time to time they help her to change light bulbs and talk about the sellout ANC too.  That household has remained consistently black conscious/Pan-African throughout the many decades that have passed. (Onward! ne :0)

And so there I was this morning thinking about my mother and her distance from me.  I remembered how through decades of being away from her she was always there for me.  How her words never left me.

And I remembered how proud my father was of her.  A woman who could and still can teach you complex political theory and then tell you about the consistency of dough to make the best koeksisters or roti.

When my father was stumped he would say "ask your mother she reads more than me".  And he loved to tell people that "we sent Ridwan to study but it is Fatima who is the professor of political science in this house."

It is not often that women in Muslim communities are given the props they deserve for many reasons.  A major reason is this racist and anti-Islamic time we live in.  Both from inside and outside (self-hate versus hate from the oppressors).

Too many of my bruthaz and male elders have just handed the vehement outside the evidence they need to call us and our revolutionary religion "barbaric".

I watch many of these f*ckers on the regular and I am ashamed of their oppressive hands.  So ashamed I refuse to pray alongside many of them.

Instead of standing by our mothers, sisters, and sistaz, we have capitulated our religion into an apolitical mimicry that is more worried about getting into heaven than fighting for justice.

The last Prophet cannot be happy.  He died because of wounds from battle for the ideals of justice for all.  And none of the other Prophets and those outside of Islam too can be happy.  (May they all rest in peace)

How many of our bruthaz will want to join that battle the Prophet waged if it was ongoing today?  How many could forgo the material they crave to exist and sleep on floors eating to survive until the next battle?

How many will fight in equal terms next to mothers, sisters, and sistaz?  And never let their eye feel anything more than the respect the Qur'an demands.

I walk alone because those kind of bruthaz are a rarity and in South Africa they are almost non-existent.

You won't see my ass at a gathering of this or that Islamic organization until those fools let go of their pious delusions and sit next to women inside the mosques and teach everyone how to defend themselves in word and deed.

Forget your tasbeeg (prayer beads) and pick up your rifle before it is too late to defend your religion and yourself is my thinking.

The biggest problem is not what the vehement outside tells us is wrong with us.  That battle has been going on longer than the West and its attachments have even been able to write.

Our biggest problem is the manner in which self-appointed clergy have reduced revolutionary Islam to an apolitical farce.  And in these terms we have turned our back on the very politics that brought the last one to us.  To perfect the long road traveled toward our emancipation from antiquated ideas that keep women locked in invisibility, privilege men, and obscure our divine purpose on earth.

If we are to recover we will have to forgo the long beards and pious sh*t and limp handshakes and turn to the revolution that was handed to us.

Forget going on hajj (pilgrimage) unless you go there in resistance to the Saud machine that is part of our oppression. 

Say that to those oppressors and you will not get close to completing your five commandments but you will be forgiven.  If the last one was among us he would ride into that fortress and fight to emancipate our religion from those who have reduced us to mere "things" in the western imagination.

Your role does not have to be big or profound or even remembered.  Just please stop asking me for my duas (prayers) until you raise your mother, sisters, and sistaz to the equality the Qur'an demands.

These thoughts run through my head this Sunday.  It is not about calling for violence or instigating anything.  We are more human and profound than the racist stereotypes they use to describe us. (And I do not support violence against innocents like Obama or Osama.)

But sadly, we are co-oppressors when our own mothers are subjected to our oppressive hands.

Islam belongs to everyone.  Women, men, children, the unborn and the dead.  It also belongs to non-Muslims who live in harmony and understanding.  The Qur'an calls on Muslims to respect all belief systems (only God judges in any terms).

Those who call our religion into question and seek to make us what the Qur'an never intended call us into battle.  It is so written so prepare yourself instead of wearing dresses and pants hovering over your ankles and scaly ass feet.  Buy some Vaseline moisturizer pious fool and forget that rug burn you have pressed onto your forehead ... it means very little when the chips are down and you have no rifle, metaphoric or not.

In these terms I have no compulsion not to follow the religion my mother taught me and to follow her and other Muslim women into preserving what was meant.  That is jihad and it starts as a defense and aims to sustain peace not the war and turmoil we live under now.

What will you be doing until that day? 


The Spinners are one of my favorite old skool soul groups.  "Sadie" is a loving anthem to all mothers.  Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or not ... all mothers.

Filled with her load of glory
We learned the Holy story
She'll always have her dreams
Despite the things this troubled world can bring

Oh, Sadie
Don't you know we love you
Sweet Sadie
Place no one above you

"... If there's a heaven up above
I know she's teaching angels how to love ..."


Kweli said...

I haven't thought of or even eaten roti in years. Thanks for the reminder.

Just this week I was trying out some choice words to describe my mother, but I kept getting stuck. I'm glad I read your rendition of yours here. You are blessed to have her for a mother and teacher and friend.

This post makes me think about the "Indian flight" at my nursery and primary schools. The Brits really worked us good in Kenya...oppressed both Indians and Afros and then set us against each other house-nigg*r vs. field-nigg*r style. My parents knew one radical Indian family in town -- and that family got it hard within the Indian community.

My closest Indian friends are those here in the states: born here or came here straight from India. It seems Kenya has this colonial ghost that pits us against each other still.

I got enlightened when Maxine Case from SA came to town and while we were talking (at a writer's event), she identified herself as black (hinting that apartheid created a dual race construct of black and nonblack). That whole conversation was so different from my whole life experience in Kenya. Even before that conversation I knew that blackness is diverse (and I'm not implying one can't be black and Indian), but I'd never heard that from an Indian sista from the motherland.

A luta continua!

Ridwan said...

Hey Kweli:

When I was Kenya I saw some of what you are pointing to. A separation between African and Indian.

It saddened me that the racial baggage is hardly absent 6 decades after.

In South Africa Indians have been involved in the struggle and can be found across the liberation movements.

But these folks are a very small minority and an exception to the rule of Indians and Malays and to a lesser extent coloureds who lived with apartheid separate from black African struggle.

I am ashamed of that part of our history and ashamed to have grown up and lived inside communities who could barely raise their voices in protest.

And today I remind those sellouts and their attachments of their collusion without fail.

Many of my fathers family (almost all in fact) disowned him for his politics and instead lived comfortably like leeches off the body of black Africans ... just like almost all whites!

My blackness is a political blackness not a racial one. It is an important distinction that riles whites to no end.

What does that mean? You sound racial.

Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) moved beyond the multiracial crap of the ANC by creating bonds of resistance between oppressed people and in these contexts you found Indians who identify as black.

In the US this was a great source of confusion for YT and others who needed to see a version of Sambo.

At PSU a few questions about my blackness was raised by folks who wanted to raise doubts about my sincerity when I said I was black.

I remember a student leader who stood up in a public meeting and declared in front of the faculty and dean that I was the blackest brother in the Black Studies Department.

But here it is not convenient to be black unless it is for Affirmative Action quotas. Few if any Indian/Malay/coloured and a whole grip of Africans identify as black.

It is the ANC's fault. They racialized blackness whereas for us in the BCM it was a political blackness ... a vanguard of struggle.

No rainbows and no delusions.

It is a complex conversation but one that is very neglected and very misunderstood by those who want to paint black consciousness folk as reactionary racists.

As for the Muslim community in the apartheid struggle - for these, my own, I harbor the greatest shame.

They did, except for a few like Imam Haroon and Imam Cassiem, were totally tools of the apartheid system.

They (Asian Muslims) sold their souls to the apartheid system and cheapened our revolutionary religion.

Onward! my brother.

Ridwan said...

Kweli I forgot to tell you thanks for your words about me moms.

Just got off the phone with her. My daily without fail 8pm call.

I told her I was missing her and I heard her voice grow soft.

A love for a mother is second to none.

I look forward to reading about your moms. Your post on your dad was very powerful. Stirring.

They must be very proud of you my brother.

Peace to you and your family,

Kweli said...

I couldn't agree more. Blackness is more a mind state, a political orientation against white supremacy and Empire.

You wouldn't believe how many times people I know hold these inquisitions to question/ascertain someone's blackness solely on the color of their skin. I, for one, get accused of leaving the borders of blackness too porous...for conceptualizing blackness primarily in terms of one's positionality in the struggle instead of basing it solely on one's phenotype.

Strange, but these inquisitions don't strip people of blackness because said people aren't radical, but rather because those people allegedly aren't "acting" black -- in a manner that defines "acting black" in very apolitical terms.

Enough said.