On Brotherhood and Sisterhood: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

I heard a voice call the words which were whispered
into my ears on the day I became Ameera.
I washed my feet,
under a tap of marble and gold.
And I watched hundreds more do the same.
I knelt in the sun, between women
the wind turning my face as blue as the sky above me.
Above us.

I heard a voice call the words which wander through
the windows of the street that I grew up on
five times a day.
Now they wander in my mind
like pilgrims
each word stopping to kick through the sand
for water.
I am parched
but not barren.
There is an oasis of hope within me.

I pressed my head to the ground
more times than I could count
to ask for one thing.
The journey is difficult when minds are barren
and vast
as desert plains.
But truly there must be an oasis on the horizon.
Let us sit in these sands
and dig our heels
until a fountain springs forth to shower us
and quench our thirst for understanding.
Let us stand side by side
in this our most glorious hour of hope.

The desert is immeasurable
if walked in isolation.
Now is the time to walk this immense distance



This year I became actively engaged in what is called the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement at the University of Cape Town – the movement, in essence, highlighted the need for transformation within the university structures and curriculum. As a poet, I penned and performed my works in order to garner some level of understanding from some members of the white community within the university who seemed unable to grasp the notion of what this Neo-Black Consciousness movement called for. Black Power as an ideology attracted a lot of hate and negativity because of what it might mean for a country like South Africa, which has a very particular and very raw history of racial violence.

I went to Istanbul in the middle of the highest point of tension between the students and the institution and had the incredible honour of being able to perform Jumu’ah Salaah in the courtyard of the Eyup Sultan Mosque with hundreds of other people. This reminded me of Malcolm X’s interaction with the Hajj, in that he saw the true Islam – the Islam of peace, unity and togetherness. It was a truly life altering moment for me, and really a moment in which I fell in love with Islam all over again. This kind of thing, especially for someone like me who lives in South Africa and is therefore quite removed from the Middle East, makes me hungry to travel again and to learn more about Islam through experiences like this one.

Written by Ameera Conrad