Courage to name ourselves.
A look at Bilal through a Muslim African American (Bilalian) eyes.
Who is Bilal? Who are we?
A people in search, in need of a dignified identity.
Bilal ibn Rabah (Bilal, Son of Rabah) was an Abbysinian (modern day Ethiopia) slave in 6th century Arabia.
At that time, slaves, among others, were on the lowest rungs of the social ladder; having no voice and no choice in how to conduct their lives. Their very existence was arbitrarily decided by their masters.
The Arabs in 6th century Arabia were pagans who worshipped hundreds of gods which they fashioned from wood, clay and stone. They were a people steeped in superstition and unbridled race and class prejudice.
But, a movement was taking place. A call was being made. It was a call to the unity of G'd, the oneness of mankind and the rights of the oppressed, downtrodden, despised and neglected of society.
Muhammed, the Prophet, was proclaiming this call and Bilal heard it. And, it touched him deeply.
Despite the torture he endured at the hands of his master for even thinking of accepting a belief which his master opposed, Bilal held firm. Ahad, Ahad (One G'd, One G'd) He uttered while lying on the burning sand with the blazing sun overhead and a heavy stone upon his chest.
But, Bilal's master would not have the last say. Just as the torture grew nearly unbearable and Bilal's utterance became only a whisper a close companion of Muhammed paid for Bilal's freedom.
When the five daily prayers that Muslims observe was instituted, there was the issue of how the people should be summoned to gather. Several options were considered. And, finally it was decided. The human voice would be the medium by which the believers would be called to assemble.
Who was the first man considered for this great responsibility? It was Bilal. He is the first muedhin, (caller to prayer) in Islam. Whenever and wherever the call is made for Muslims to gather for prayer it is in essence the echo of Bilal's voice that is heard. It is his voice that for over 1400 years people have rushed to acknowledge and affirm the unity of G'd and the oneness and brotherhood of humanity.
Bilal. An African. A former slave. A lover of G'd and freedom and justice and equality.
Historical note, the Imam of Al-Islam, Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this name and term (BILALIAN) in 1975 for the misnamed people of the Western Hemisphere.
Chief of Staff for the Muslim American Ministry for Human Salvation,
Lari Hayat Dawan