Speaking from the heart and the mind, there is a khutbah from January 2010 that needs to be shared and analyzed so that a condition of our Ummah can be illuminated for what it truly is. The khutbah compelled a letter to be drafted to the Imam, which reads:
I have a great deal of love for the culture of those from the Diaspora of the Indian subcontinent. I love ‘dall and roti’, the briyani, and with the greatest level of respect and with the knowledge that Allah(SWT) is Watching and His Angels Recording; in general the sisters of this ethnic background are some of the most beautiful women on the earth. However, like with all other peoples, the cultural practices and notions do not always bring about the purest of Islamic outcomes. I feel wholeheartedly, that few, if any families would offer an equal level of trust or understanding from members outside of their tribal region, let alone a brother whose family originates from Europe and West Africa. Tribalism is very much a disease in the heart of the Muslim ummah, and it exists within the Diaspora of the Indian subcontinent. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago; it represents billions of people who speak different languages, have the entire of hue of skin complexions, and are incredibly diverse in relation to interpretations of Islam, etc . Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi; all of these terms, and there is no doubt that I am missing more than a few-all of these adjectives mean different things to different people, both inside and outside the Indo-Pak Diaspora…What it has meant for me as a convert is an unfortunate reality: the Muslim sisters of the Indo-Pak Diaspora are forbidden, indeed, culturally haram for Muslims such as myself. If I was of complete European descent, the doors could be opened, but having the blood of former American slaves makes it seemingly impossible and certainly arduous, to seek a wife from the MCMC community. Couple my ethnic background with my divorce and the fact that I do not have a Bachelor of Science degree and absolutely no plans to attend medical or law school, and that I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination; well, I have to be realistic about the world and era in which I live. I, feel, and Allah Knows Best that I am setting myself up for heartbreak and disappointment in making any attempt to marry within Muslim Center of Middlesex County. In Islam all Muslims are brothers, but within the various cultures with which Muslims are comprised, Muslims are placed on a social hierarchy of inequality when it comes to marriage…Inshallah, there are virtuous and beautiful sisters in this community, but in the 14 years I have been a Muslim, I have learned that these sisters are not for me because the society, era, and world in which we live views it as completely haram according to cultural notions and norms. Thus, even though the matrimonial service at the masjid is free, the emotional cost is too great for me even to make an attempt. And, as always, Allah Knows Best.
Essentially the letter to the Imam states that I am badnami-a person who would cause shame and ostracism to be brought upon the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi family that would dare to allow me to marry one of its daughters. It describes a sunna of the Muslims, which is in direct violation and diametrically opposed to that of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) and all for which Islam Commands. The Pakistani born Imam, Abdul Malik Mujahid, writes in an article entitled: Islam's Manifesto of Universal Brotherhood of Human Beings that The One True and Living God (SWT) Has Created all human beings into different groups. Mujahid writes a commentary on an Ayat of The Holy Qur’an (49:13) that:
This message is not just for Muslims only because God is addressing all of humanity. While Muslims are one brotherhood, this is part of a larger brotherhood of humanity. God is telling us that He has created us. Therefore He knows the best about us. He says that He created us from one man and one woman meaning then that we are all the same. It also means that all human beings are created through the same process, not in a manner in which some are created with a better mechanism than others. God is the One who made human beings into different groups and people. These differences are not wrong, rather a sign from God ("And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who know" [Quran 30:22]). Note that no word equivalent to race is used in this ayah or any other verse of the Quran. Islam, however, limits the purpose of these distinctions to differentiation and knowing each other. This is not meant to be a source of beating each other down with an attitude of ‘my group is better than your group' or false pride as is the case with tribalism, nationalism, colonialism, and racism. The only source of preference or greatness among human beings is not on a national or group level, but it is at the individual level. One individual who is (higher in Taqwa), more conscious of his Creator and is staying away from the bad and doing the good is better, no matter what nation, country or caste he is part of. Individual piety is the only thing that makes a person better and greater than the other one. However, the only criterion of preference, Taqwa, is not measurable by human beings. Indeed God is the One Who knows and is aware of everything so we should leave even this criterion to God to decide instead of human beings judging each other.
It is apparent from the behavior and attitudes of the brothers and sisters of the Indian subcontinent Diaspora (hereafter, India Proper) that Taqwa is a poor determining factor in who one allows to be his son-in-law. As Dr. Afaq Ahmed Qureshi writes, these attitudes are about the honor derived from one’s lineage, and are a ‘centuries old tradition borrowed from Hindus and now baptized to be included in our code of ethics as Islamic, they are not remotely related to any of the principles of Islam’. They are not only unrelated, but diametrically opposed to Islam, and yet practiced by the some 160 million Muslims of India Proper. The castes of Tiwana, Gujjar, and Sayyids are deemed superior by the India Proper societies, as compared to the Kummies, Lohars, and Jolahas. It is ironic that some 14 million Muslims of India Proper claim descendancy from our beloved prophet (SAAW), yet the impact of his decrees, injunctions, and warnings have not penetrated the hearts of Muslim India Proper society. This is a disease of the heart that some have challenged in its highlighting, such as Ali Anwar in his 2001 text, Masawat ki Jung (Crusade for Equality). Anwar writes on the plight of Muslims deemed as pariahs by the upper echelon of India Proper, including the Ulema who are supposed to defend the Sahih Principles of Islam, thereby rejecting the notion of the individual’s status based on tribe and caste. Dr. Qureshi confirms that when a young man and woman within Indian Proper dare to challenge the tribal caste system which permeates their lives, it is entirely common for either both, or simply the sister, to be killed by the men in their own families for bringing shame, dishonor-badnami. Understanding the history of the social and spiritual illness of India Proper, it has become clear that a father-in-law rejecting an African-American brother in Middlesex County, New Jersey is largely due to the ethnic inequality within the United States and said African-Americans placement on the social hierarchy. There are many good, Muslim brothers of ostensibly complete European descent, and we have seen their complete and total acceptance in the families of India Proper-Muslims here in the United States. Why? Islam Forbids the consumption of alcohol, but Muslims drink. Islam Commands that all human beings accept the Universality of Brotherhood and live by this principle, yet ethnocentric and racist ideology remain gods other than Allah, worshipped by Muslims. Love between a man and a woman who wish to marry for the sake of Allah are sacrificed on the altar of culture, convention, and tradition. Wallahi it is not just about wealth, for I have seen daughters of rich men married to the sons of India Proper with no money, no Green Card, and no college education. Money is an excuse, as identified in the letter to the Imam, to prevent African-American brothers from marrying the daughters of India Proper. It is easier to say: you are not rich enough, come back when you have $75,000 in the bank, and Inshallah, if my daughter is still available, we will talk, than to simply say: you black nigger.
In response to this arbitrary boundary placed between two Muslims, I speak directly to the sisters of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Before you begin asking me questions about what I do, I will really implore you to learn about me, as a man, as a father, as a potential husband, and ultimately as a Muslim. I am not perfect by any means. I have my sins, my triumphs, my hills, and my valleys; but ultimately, I am good man and father, and I have an ardent wish to find a sister to love for the Pleasure of Allah (SWT). Beyond the excitement of the engagement; the planning of the wedding; the negotiation of dowry; the magic and the romance of the Nikah ceremony itself; the first night: marriage is truly at times a very arduous endeavor for two people to perform. The real work begins after all that has been previously mentioned takes place, and then two people are compelled to deal with one another with justice, fairness, kindness, and a true, sincere, Islamic love, often in situations that can severely test one’s ability to do so. Make no mistake about it, marriage is work. It can be enjoyable work, but it is work nonetheless. While sexual intimacy is a tool by which a couple grows closer, it cannot be the only tool for the immutable fact that no couple can engage in a constant act of copulation. There must be mutual respect, adoration, compromise, and compassion, for no man and no woman is perfect as respective individuals; in order that a true, Islamic, sincere love can grow, mature, and be maintained.
I do not want to rule my wife. I do not wish to marry a future servant. I am not interested in having someone just to cook, clean, fetch tea and coffee, rear children, and remain silent. I do not want a woman of weakness, afraid to speak her mind. I expect her correct me if she sees me about to embark on something wrong, dangerous, or unhealthy for my spirit. She need not be light skinned, because I like my Indian sisters to look like Indian sisters. Please, you do not need to starve yourself into being a close to a size zero, because I love sisters with backsides and furthermore, I am not into a 30-year-old woman having the appearance of a 12-year-old boy. I want a dynamic woman who has a favorite sport whether it is cricket, soccer, or baseball. I want a woman that has something to say, some passion, and will not allow herself to be ruled. I do not wish to be ruled. I will not be ruled. I expect to be heard. I expect a woman strong enough to understand that she can be wrong, and is woman enough to listen to my thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes. In short, I marry because I wish to find a partner, a companion, and a best friend. Yes, it is true that I would like to marry a woman that wears hijab, performs the salat, and wants from herself the same, which she would demand of me; to be the best Muslim I can be. And yes, it is true that I look for a woman that I am attracted to physically, intellectually, spiritually, who performs her duties as a Muslimah beyond the Five Pillars. In the final analysis, I have been considered a nigger for the greater more of my life, so your family putting a new label of badnami means just about the same thing. I simply do not care, and I am and remain an imperfect, humble, often eccentric servant of The One True and Living God, and it is only He(SWT) that Can and Will Judge me.
Isma’il ibn Bilal