We can’t run away from our past. We may try to ignore it, bury it, and hide it, but as the saying goes, the past will eventually catch up to you. In many cases, the aftereffects of crimes committed in the past will continue for many years unless justice is served. And until justice is served, those affected by the crimes will continue to grieve until something is done about it.

Reparations to African Americans has been a topic of discussion in recent years as people have been demanding some sort of financial compensation for enslaving the ancestors of African Americans because even though the physical act of slavery was abolished in the United States, years of slavery placed the African American generations at very disadvantaged positions in society, and financial burdens prevented them from advancing in society. In addition to financial difficulties, the African American community had to face years and years of racism after slavery. Reports of unnecessary force against black Americans and loss of lives by police became evermore obvious in major US newspapers and news networks, which shed light to the severity of the existing racism in America. Even though racism had always existed in America for black Americans, the brutal murder of George Floyd sparked anger across the world because people began to actually see what was going on on a wider scale and actually internalize the pain.

Black lives matter became a slogan because people began to see the ongoing effects of racism in the present day. Crimes committed by people in power take an especially higher toll on people because we expect the very people in power to protect us. So when that power is abused, when instead of protecting us, those in power actually cause harm, and when such a phenomenon continues for centuries, be it subtle or obvious, people’s wound deepens and pain can no longer stay inside. People make sure they are heard. They are hurting, so they leave their houses, despite ongoing pandemics (in this case Covid-19) and despite the fear of getting caught by the police. They risk their lives to make sure those in power and those on the sidelines hear them loud and clear in the hope that change happens. The privileged may complain of all the noise and unrest and say that such cries only add to the chaos and don’t fix anything. But that is because they are not hurting. When you feel unheard in the event of injustice, you hurt. When you feel a lack of change, when innocent people are dying, you hurt. And when you hurt, you want to make sure that at least everyone is aware of the injustice.

The topic of cries against injustice was also very prevalent in Islamic history. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was born and raised among the people of Arabia. A people whom pre-Islamic times committed heinous crimes of burying girls alive, treating women as objects of pleasure without rights, instigating continuous tribal wars, and usurping others’ basic human rights. The people in that time lacked purpose and meaning for their sufferings. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was chosen by God to guide them towards the true path. The people had found hope and purpose for the first time. Together they were able to rebuild their society and strengthen their place in the world.

But shortly after the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), people began to forget, and Islamic values were undermined. Islamic rules began to change to fit the worldly desires of the rulers. Lady Fatimah (PBUH) saw the change and worried about the future of the Muslims. She began speaking and warning the people, as her father had before her. She reminded them of their digression. She warned them about being lost in worldly desires. She reminded them about their promise and oath to the Prophet. She wouldn’t stop. She used all that she had to defend Islam and make sure people are aware of the transgression that was taking place.

They threatened her. They broke her. Yet she continued. She would go by people’s doors and remind them of their oath. She used all that she had to fight the injustice and digression from the straight path that was taking place. Not only because of the time then, but because she saw what would become of now, because of us, so we would know the truth. So we would know that what we see today of Islam, the transgression, the extremisms, the injustices are not the pure form of Islam. So we would be guided.

In today’s world, it’s easy to hide behind excuses. We’re often too tired to think, let alone act. We bring an array of excuses often starting with, “but I’m too busy with….” or “how’s my voice going to change anything”. But what we can learn from looking into the life of Lady Fatimah (PBUH) is that to defend her faith she spoke up loud and clear. She made sure everyone heard her. She then took action in her society to defend her rights. And when those didn’t change the situation, she defended her faith with her life. Each year people commemorate the martyrdom of Lady Fatimah not just to mourn the events that occurred centuries ago, but because of the effects that those events placed on today.