Inspired by the book “It is not necessary to breathe!” by Ali Ben Jaber Alfaifi
We are in Minneapolis, in the United States of America; the land of dreams. The sounds of auto machines, horns, traffic and the hustle and bustle of life inspire a degree of progress for those living in this part of the universe. A few steps away, we are facing a security check, a team seeking to establish security and defuse the chaos in Minnesota. We have stopped to check the details of what is going on.
To our shock, we see a policeman pressing down his pointed knee on the neck of a black citizen called George Floyd. We can hear the breath of George weakening as the knee presses on his neck. The tough men surrounding him suspect that George carried a fake $20 bill. So they decided to lay him on the ground and deal with him violently.
So as long as these policemen carry on with their duty, let’s go back in time about 1,400 years. Here in front of us is Bilal bin Rabah, a black-skinned man previously an owned slave, who obtained freedom through the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), Abu Bakr al Siddiq.
The Prophet tasked Bilal to a mission with a very distinct character. This was to become the first caller to the Muslim prayer. We see Bilal is very grieved, heading to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and complaining about the behavior of Abu Dhar, another companion that mocked him due to the color of his skin, insulting him with the words, “O Son of A Black Woman.”
Bilal knew very well that the religion of Islam abhors those who determine the characteristics of others, solely on the basis of their color or their race. For this reason, he went to the Prophet Muhammad right away to resolve this problem.
“Is a person’s skin color related to the rights and obligations upon them? Is there a criterion other than piety that can determine whether a person has more privilege than others in the religion of Islam?” he asked.
Such questions were swirling in the head of Bilal, who had similar features to those of George Floyd.
Blood rushed to the face of the Prophet when listening to the grounds of the dispute. Indeed, the peripheral issues of the dispute quickly disappeared, and only the phrase, “O son of A Black Woman” echoed in the head of the Prophet.
So the Prophet looked at Abu Dhar and boldly reprimanded him by saying “Did you mock him because of the color of his mother? You are a man who still possesses ignorance?”
This is how Islam combated racist rhetoric.
Let us return to Minnesota to look at our friend George. A whine-like sound emanates from him. He says, pleading to the policeman who is keen to “protect” security with the power of his two knees, “I can not breathe . . . . I can not breathe!”
Some look at George and think, “Don’t you know that the policeman has another perspective, which is “it is not necessary to breathe! No disaster will happen if you cannot breathe, George. So why do you need to breathe? ”
So long as George still breathes, even if it is a weak breath, let’s return back to go see Bilal and update ourselves on his situation. We are now in the city of Makkah. People are crowded around the Prophet. Among them are those with glowing white faces, waiting for an order from him. But the Prophet searches with his pure eyes for another person, a non-Arab and a non-white being, someone who even has a past in slavery. Perhaps you know who he is. He is Bilal bin Rabah.
But this time, there is no problem. Rather, the issue is related to an order that he will direct towards the “son of a black woman.” This task is to climb up to the greatest monument in the world with his black feet. The Prophet commanded him to go up on the Kaba and to raise the call to prayer (God is Great. God is Great.)
God is greater than the false and deceitful civilizations, God is greater than the lies of oppressive advancement, God is greater than the recklessness of racism and bigotry!
The Prophet wanted to tell history that Islam is a faith that does not give importance to race; whether you are Arab or Ethiopian, white or black. It’s all about what’s in your heart and your dedication to humanity.
Let’s return to George and see what is the latest with his situation.
The policeman has lifted his knee. But to our surprise, George is not breathing anymore. His lifeless body is taken away on a stretcher and George is no more.
The policeman actually killed him.
So long as this matter is still under investigation, we can take one final look at Bilal. He walks in the city of Madinah, and those of pure Arab stock stretch their necks to look at him. Omar, a great companion of the Prophet looks at the Black Bilal with admiration and honor. He looks at him and utters a statement worthy of being written in gold, “Bilal is our Master.”
It’s very heartbreaking to see hundreds of years have passed since the Prophet Muhammad championed racial equality –– to see all of his efforts and the efforts of many other great activists turned to dust.
Let’s endeavor to remove our biases, respect one and all regardless of their religion, culture, race and gender. Let’s become champions of humanity, keys to goodness and locks to evil.
RIP George Floyd and the many souls before him who unjustly had their lives ended. RIP to those who continuously lose their precious lives to injustice, until humanity reforms itself to the best. May we see that day soon.
Much love and stay blessed.
Imam Mazhar Mahmood serves as the Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria and can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.