If these streets could speak

Curious. Nervous. Tense.

While on a tour of various neighborhoods and schools in Flint, Michigan, during the 2014 HIRA Intensive, a lady living in one of the houses peered from her window across the street.

Slowly, she approached, curious about why a group of young Muslims were taking a stroll through her neighborhood. We explained to her that we were trying to take in the reality of this city’s situation, studying the corrupt system that plagued her hometown and discussing what role we played in the situation and trying to figure out different ways we could make a difference.

This neighborhood–her neighborhood–is filled with drug addicts, drunks and gangs.

She’s seen hostages and deaths, seen family after family get thrown out of their homes and watched houses across the street be demolished.

In that moment and under these circumstances, she could have complained. She could have voiced her anger at the neglect she had seen her family suffer through. She could have pointed fingers and ridiculed our generation for not caring enough, not doing enough.

She could have criticized, cursed, cried.

Instead, she apologized.

She apologized for what was happening to the countries “where we’re from,” speaking of the countries whose citizens are being slaughtered overseas. She apologized for the hate our religion received from politicians, apologized for the struggles we had to face by identifying as Muslim.

She was here, living in her very own war zone, but her heart refused to die. In a time when many had shut their doors in the face of her tragedies, she kept hers wide open, willing to embrace the pain of others despite swimming in struggles herself.

And so we were reminded:

The prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, said to a man who was sharpening his knife in the presence of an animal he was about to slaughter, “Do you intend inflicting death on the animal twice – once by sharpening the knife within its sight, and once by cutting its throat?”

As Muslims, our Rasool warned us to ensure that we didn’t let even animals suffer. Yet, in today’s day and age, we let our own neighbors at home endure their pain alone.

We choose to remain ignorant instead of adamant in the face of injustice. We fail to recognize our privilege, blaming residents for their conditions rather than realizing that there is a systematic oppression at play that prevents people from opportunities to succeed.

We kill them twice. We watch them suffer and then do nothing about it.

It’s time that we, as Muslims, acted as a mercy to all of mankind the way our prophet peace be upon him was to the world. It’s time that we, as Americans, took note and fought for those suffering in our own backyards the way we fight for our brothers and sisters overseas.

It’s time that we, as humans, kept our hearts alive.

Verily, with every hardship comes ease, and may Allah grant those suffering here at home and overseas His mercy and victory soon.

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