Dear Chapman Family and Friends,
I share with you today words of profound challenge and hope offered to us at a recent Vigil for Victims of Racism and Call to Action from Shaykh Jibreel Speight, Director of Muslim Life at Chapman University – Dean Gail Stearns
Good morning to each and every last one of you today. I am someone that is of two worlds. I’m a Muslim and an American of African descent, probably from slaves. Some historians have concluded that 30% of African slaves were Muslim. Some were judges, many were highly educated in their lands and they were brought over here. The next few moments will be an exercise in me taking God’s reality as conveyed by Abraham and successive prophets and messengers of God, my religious ancestors, and using my biological ancestors as role models while addressing you. The Quran, which is considered a scripture for 1.5 billion people about the world and God’s unadulterated Word, has for 15 centuries old been memorized by dark and pale people by heart in Arabic. It informs us that some humans receive material advantages such as, but not restricted to, socio-economic advantages, education, and power as a test for how they will utilize them. And there is a verse that after talking about this and informing us, it asks one question, will you stand fast? Will you stand fast?
“It is He who made you successors on the earth and raises some of you above others in rank, to test you through what He gives you.” The Holy Qur’an 6:165.
And what’s the meaning of standing fast? Well, standing fast refers to intelligent people looking at our diverse languages and colors as signs of how extraordinary creation is. For us at Chapman University, this should not be a difficult thing. What primarily makes people and nations seem different is, from the Quranic language, language and culture.
The amazement of a person’s color is a sign of intelligence. Let me say that again. The amazement of a person’s color is a sign of intelligence. Hostility towards it in the form of micro- and macro-aggressions is an indication that a person would rather be ignorant than intelligent. Preferring ignorance over intelligence causes corruption, my beloved brothers and sisters. And like a weed, it then spreads and leads society to a state challenging to overcome.
Standing fast also means being a witness to humanity in the sight of God. Again, I’m coming from drawing from the Quranic words, as well as from the religious as well as biological ancestors, so stay with me. It means saying things to people that may not bring comfort. A system exists, where in certain people can exert their power and will on others who were, count with me, please: driving, jogging, sleeping, yelling, parking, selling CDs, selling cigarettes, walking at night, carrying a phone, wearing a hoodie while carrying Skittles, babysitting, opening the door, holding a toy gun, being homeless, having a broken tail light, exercising, shopping at Walmart, eating ice cream, grilling, or even birdwatching. Twenty! And that’s just the minimum! So, I bear witness that this system, fellow Panthers and Americans in general, in front of you is rotten to its core.
You may think this system bears tasty fruit. However, the fruit may look healthy on the outside, but its inside is deadly. It has exploited and killed countless people in this country, especially people of African and Native American descent. The Quran informs us that killing one person unjustly is like killing all of humanity. So, what do you think unjust killings of millions of people amount to?
To those of you of European descent, ask yourself, your family, friends, and colleagues. What kind of country do you want? For those of you of European descent, listen to me very carefully. It is important for you to ask yourself, your family and friends and colleagues. What kind of country do you want? Do you understand the true meaning of power and privilege? And you understand the responsibility of being a member of this power and privilege. After the dust settles, will you still enjoy this rotten system?
And so those of you of African descent, it is time you ask yourself, your family, your friends, and your colleagues. Do you know who your enemy is? Do you understand the difference between a European and European colonialism? I bring that up to say that many of our African freedom fighters throughout Africa have made this very clear, that it’s not the people per se, it’s the system that’s the issue. So it’s going to be a struggle if you want to struggle. So I am at ease. Drawing upon again, the Quranic lessons, I am at ease with the recent events. Now that may sound shocking to some of you, because it is a manifestation of a 400-year old disease.
Beginning with the legacy of Prophet Abraham and those that came up to him ending with Prophet Muhammad, he said to his followers, “You need to help your brother and sister, whether that person is oppressed or the oppressor.” They were shocked. Somebody said, “Okay, well, I understand helping the oppressed. What about the oppressor? How do I go about helping this person?” It was answered by the prophet, “By preventing that person from oppressing others, that is how you would help the oppressor.”
How is that done? It is done by another prophetic teaching. Whoever sees an evil, then let that person change it with their hands. It is physical. And if that person is not able to do so, then let that person change it with their tongue. That can also be by the pen or by the phone call. Often times, we fail to think that we’re not able to do anything. But I believe that we have the ability to do more. I believe we have the ability to do much more. The question is do you believe in yourself to do such a thing?
The great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, said: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation are [people] who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one. It may be a physical one. It may be both, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.’
This is my hope, and I have hope in humanity. I just told my neighbor this. He’s a European American. …He asked me, “How are you doing?” I said, “I’ve got hope in humanity,” and he was shocked. I said, “Do you know why?” He said, no. I said, “Because you actually came to me and you asked me, how am I doing? Even though we see each other all the time. So there is hope.” With that being said, my beloved brothers and sisters, I’d like for you to think about these things, the necessity to take these steps, and to act.