Exercising Spiritual Care as we work for Absolute Justice
Dear PAAMA USA Family Members:
Our hearts are pained and our minds challenged to witness another horrific killing of a Black person at the hands of the police in America. As PAAMA members and Black people, we have an obligation to be concerned, to be vocal and to be engaged.
We all want justice, not only for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, but also for all others who are victimized by police officers, private citizens or any form of systemic racism in our country. We know that these names are not just of those who have been victimized but represent family members – a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a friend or a companion. As Black people ourselves, PAAMA members are acutely aware that any one of us can become like one of these brothers and sisters. We can easily become enshrined in the book of those who have been tragically victimized by a racialized & unjust system. The sting of racism and injustice – the toll it takes on our psychology, on our communities, our neighborhoods and on our families – is a pain that we each carry every day.
We too know the suffocating feeling of being unable to “ breathe”.
We must honor these Black lives. First, to remember them, grieve their unwarranted deaths, and sympathize with their loved ones from whom they have been taken far too soon. They had lives that Allah declares sacred and inviolable. Lives that have been taken without just cause. We must honor their lives and memories, even after death
. In our pain and frustration, we should not forget that.
The riots across the country, though understandable expressions of pain, and desperate cries for change, are a symptom of systemic inaction. It is very difficult to maintain inner peace and decorum when we as a people are met with violence at every turn, but that only makes our work and engagement all the more important. After the riots, all that often remain are the memories of the emotion. Rarely do we get the complete and definite changes toward Absolute Justice that we seek.
As a spiritual community, instilled with the love of Allah and his messengers (peace be upon them all), we are uniquely positioned to work for and establish Absolute Justice. We know that we have a direct responsibility to dismantle racist structures and hierarchies, disrupt racist policies and procedures, and destroy racist ideologies. By Allah’s Grace, we can and will do all of these things. As a community under Khilafat we will further this real revolution without taking part in any riots or undignified expression of pain and anger.
What we must do – A PAAMA Program
Prayers. PAAMA members should lead the charge with their prayers. In the wake of our very special and distinct Ramadhan 2020, we should fill our nights with prayers and cry on our prayer rugs for the renewal of our nation. “Allah changes not the condition of a people until they change that which is in their hearts.” (13:12) Prayers can change hearts!
Each of us should write letters to our beloved Khalifa and invite our children and people to do so. He reminds us that, “Ahmadis have understood that prayer alone is the real ‘weapon’” (KMV Friday Sermon, April 1, 2011). Ask for solace and guidance. Pray for our nation and world to become more truly just. Continue our ongoing fasts and prayers. This is a key part of our work. Visualize a new America, one in which all citizens are equal before the law and all officials, law enforcement as well as others, are held accountable for the violent acts they perpetuate against Black citizens. Visualize an America in which police interactions, stops, and actions are transparent.
Circle talks. It is very dangerous to allow our feelings about these events to consume us; to weigh us down, and affect us at all times. Fixating on injustice can destroy our faith and our families. PAAMA members should adopt healthy practices, talk with each other about what is happening. Talk to our children, our friends and neighbors. Hold video conferences in small groups of 3 and 4. Inform ourselves by reading our jamaat books as well as other books written by those before us who’ve led the charge. Writings that help us to understand white supremacy and racism, and how to dismantle the structures upon which it is built. Racism is one of the key tools of the Dajjal (The Great Deceiver). To tackle the Dajjal we must understand his tactics and strategies. And then reinforce the work of the Messiah in dismantling this deception. I am asking all regional presidents to spearhead these small circle talks in their regions. Allow the youth, boys and girls (within their respective groups) to lead and have a voice. Invite individual friends and neighbors. Keep the groups small and intimate. And allow all voices to surface. Try not to preach or overshadow.
Peaceful Non-Violent Action. As individual PAAMA members, our Khalifatul Masih (may Allah strengthen him) has given us permission to join with any other group to effectuate change through peaceful and dignified means. Individual Ahmadis can attend rallies in designated areas and with our fellow citizens. There is nothing wrong with this. Huzur has repeatedly informed us “… do not participate in violent protests.” (KMV Friday Sermon, April 1, 2011). We should however be very clear. Our attendance at rallies or prayer vigils are based on personal and individual interest. We should never put ourselves or others in a position to violate the laws, block the thoroughfare, or destroy property and life. We are reminded in the Holy Qur’an: ‘…and Allah loves not disorder.’ (2:206). ‘Allah…forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and transgression’.In the current situation, we should not engage in protest during curfew hours. We should also remember that we are in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic. We must govern ourselves with wisdom and protect ourselves as well as loved ones. In keeping with our values, we should not visit protests with any intention except with the goal to raise our voices with dignity and for the love of Allah and our fellow brothers and sisters. We must also be mindful that many street-based protests run the risk of being co-opted, and we must maintain caution. We Ahmadis must never allow ourselves to become tools of any unrighteous agenda. We are servants of The Gracious God. And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’ (25:64).
We must also recognize that in these individual peaceful actions, we are never to speak in the name of the Jamaat or of PAAMA USA. In general we should not represent PAAMA USA without proper authorization.
Advocacy. Huzoor also directed us in the past to send letters to relevant authorities, officials etc to advocate for justice and fairness at all levels of society and to explain the Islamic concepts of justice and equality that can help to eradicate racism in our nation.
Witnessing. We can also be witnesses to these events. One of the reasons why many injustices are put before the public is because someone was there to witness it. As people who believe in the Imam of the Age, we are the most insightful and are the best witnesses to the machinations of white supremacy. As witnesses we must observe, document and truthfully share. Whether we be witnesses from our televisions, our social media feeds, or our local street corners – we too can observe and document.
In general, national officers should share their observations in ways that will help us as a PAAMA Family. Foster conversations and plan a strategy of spiritual reformation. This sharing and witnessing is the purpose for which our PAAMA WhatsApp groups were created. Please use them accordingly.
As we go through these trying times in our nation, please be mindful of our duty to Allah, to our fellow citizens and to ourselves. Regardless of whatever happens, as believing people, our choices must somehow balance these shared interests. We must confront racism. But we must preserve our faith and our humanity in this work.
With humble request for prayers
Dr. Basiyr D. Rodney
PanAfrican Ahmadiyya Muslim Association USA