The song that will not stop haunting me

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Islam, United States Of America Views: 3117

I recently came across a song by Muslim singer Dawud Wharnsby Ali entitled, "Ya Ummati (O My Nation)." It has not stopped haunting me since. The song is about the cries of Muslim children to the deaf ears of their brothers and sisters. The verses that gripped me the most were these: "Come listen to her story with me/In a world of opportunity/A little girl has lots to say/But everyone's so far away...Her tiny life and tiny hands shake/Ashamed of her unknown mistake/A child's hopes and tears in vain/She believes she is to blame...Ya Ummati (O my nation) answer me/ Why am I suffering this way?/Ummati (My nation) I am so afraid/Don't I have the right to learn and play?"

Why has this song haunted me so? Because Islam places a very heavy emphasis on unity, brotherhood, and sisterhood. The Qur'an states: "Verily the believers are but a single Brotherhood" (49:10) and "Hold fast onto the rope of God and be not divided" (3:103). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, "The Muslim nation is like one body; if one part is injured, the whole body is in pain." Whenever I see or read about the suffering of Muslims, whether it is in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kashmir, or Afghanistan, my heart aches with pain and guilt. I feel pain at their suffering; I feel guilt for the putrid failure of my brotherhood.

Whenever I hear that song, I envision countless little eyes glaring at me and burning a hole into my being. I can almost hear them say to me, "My nation I am so afraid. Don't I have the right to learn and play?" I answer back, "Yes, you do," and feel totally ashamed. I have been blessed with being an American, being born and raised in the best country in the world. Here, I don't have to dodge bullets on my way to work. I do not fear for my life when I go to buy groceries. I do not have to worry about my children starving to death or dying from malnutrition. I have been blessed, and thus I am ashamed at my failure to help my little brothers and sisters live better lives.

That failure, alas, rests solely upon the shoulders of Muslims. It is easy to blame others for our predicaments. After all, it is the United States who supports and maintains the economic sanctions that are starving the children of Iraq. It is the United States who undyingly supports Israel and her brutal occupation of Palestinian land. It is the United States, I constantly hear, who supports many of the brutal dictatorships of the Muslim world. Thus, the story goes, the United States is to blame. Hogwash.

The United States, like any other country on earth, is only after what it perceives to be its national interest. The onus falls upon American Muslims to become politically active and work toward a more just and equitable foreign policy. This is the least American Muslims must do. In the Day of Judgment, God will ask us about how we used our time and wealth to help alleviate the suffering of Muslims throughout the world. Sure, Muslims can donate to international relief agencies; there are many to choose from. That is neither enough nor a permanent solution, however. Even if Muslims could donate $1 billion per day to relief organizations, a better approach would be to work towards ending the conflicts that generate the hardship, suffering, and misery of the millions of Muslims worldwide.

Yet, Muslims cannot stop there. In spike Lee's film, Malcolm X, there was a scene in which Malcolm X was taunted by being told, "Muslims talk a good game, but they never do anything...unless somebody bothers Muslims." Unfortunately, this is true of Muslims today. We now, rightfully so, decry and bemoan the profiling of Muslim Americans. Yet, I did not remember our condemnation of the racial profiling of African-Americans and Hispanics by police to be as loud or as forceful. This is wrong.

The Qur'an demands that Muslims fight against injustice perpetrated against anyone, Muslim or not: "O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor" (4:135) The Prophet Muhammad, prior to his ministry, was a party to the Fudul Alliance, in which every member agreed to fight injustice perpetrated against anyone, regardless of tribe or social station. He mentioned that had a similar alliance been formed after his becoming Prophet, he would join it. There are millions of people around the world, who are not Muslim, that are suffering as well, and it should be American Muslims' duty, through their political activism, to help them also. Just as we forcefully spoke out against the genocide that was perpetrated in the Balkans, we should have spoken out with as much vigor, force, and enthusiasm against the genocide that took place in Rwanda or against the war in the Congo. What's more, we do not have to look far at all to find little children calling out, "My nation, I am so afraid." There are thousands, if not millions, of battered, abused, hungry, and homeless children right here in the United States. They also have the right to learn and play, and we should be fighting for them as well.

I would be delighted to see a Muslim relief agency (call it, Crescent Relief-USA) formed that would concentrate on providing disaster relief within the United States. I have lost count of the number of Muslim international relief organizations currently in operation, which is great. Yet, there are thousands of victims here in the United States who urgently need help. What better way to be neighborly than to provide food, medicine, and shelter to victims of a flood in Texas, or a tornado in Oklahoma, or a hurricane in Florida. There would be no strings attached, no lectures or pamphlets about Islam; just a helping hand, warm bread, and a hot bowl of soup. It is such a Muslim thing to do, and frankly, the time has come for American Muslims to take up this work, for the betterment of the land they call home.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for He is author of "Why I love the Ten Commandments," which will appear in the forthcoming book Taking Back Islam, due to be released by Rodale in October 2002.

  Category: Americas, Life & Society
  Topics: Islam, United States Of America
Views: 3117

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Older Comments:
i am very touched by your article...though i have 1 question....i wud like 2 hear this nasheed/islamic song where did u hear it? id be grateful if i cud have da name of the tape by dawud warnsby?

I am not an educated man in the subject of starting relief organisations but if you have any in formation on how to i would be more than willing to do something i have always wanted to do my part and i have always dreamed of starting such an organization and by allah's will you have provided me with the inspiration to do so i was
driven to tears when i read your article on the tings you hear about everyday but never give though to and for that i thank you for opening my eye's so if you have any info. let me know and in the mean time i'll do my own research . again i thank you for your heart felt words and may allah bless you with jenna.


The Zakat Foundation does already provide assistance to people in the USA.

From food distribution in the US to assistance to the homeless, the Zakat Foundation has always incorporated in its mandate domestic relief alongside international work.

Please see for more details and to donate online.

The few pointer that you have made are really good ones. I have not heard the song yet. Should be sent worldwide.

This is a very logical argument. Jazaka Allah Khairan. We badly need these reminders to make us wake up from our long sleep. But we are more in need of leaders to guide Muslims, and this is part of the Sunnah, and this is what someone has to do here in the US as well as in other Muslim countries.

Great article. Inspiring and thought-provoking.
I especially liked the suggested solutions to a problem that has been identified many-a-times before. It's about time that Muslims all over do something in our homelands as well, which for many are countries like the US and Canada.

Jazaakumallahu Khayran

I feel that the brother had some very good points about the duty of a muslim. But we should also remember that our duty is to give dawaa and to spread the word of Islam. Yes, we should be giving a helping hand but we should also be conveying a message at the same time. The message of what Islam is about and what it means to be a muslim. Becuase one without the other is only half of what our responsibility is.

Your article has nothing but contridictions. At times you say United States is the best country in the world but in other paragraphs you claim that US is one who abuses other countries because of its power.

I am a muslim so don't think its a christian writing anyways I think America will never suceed because its an evil empire!!!!!


Dear Hesham Hassaballa,
Thank you very much for these inspiring words. I will surely lay to heart your wake-up call. More so called muslims should be acting like muslims. But I believe more and more muslims are starting to realize this fact. Instead behaving like we are helpless victims we should start believing in the power of our souls.For love conquers hate.

Very good article, but unfortunetly only a handful of Muslims are bleeding in their hearts for the conditions of todays Ummah. The rest here is what Allah (swt) says:

What! is he whose heart Allah has opened for Islam so that he is in a light from his Lord (like the hard-hearted)? Nay, woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah; those are in clear error.

az-Zumar (39-22).

Arab Muslims were suppose to lead the Muslims, but sadly oil money and materialism have corrupted their hearts so deep and he is what Allah (swt) says:

The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things),
Until you come to the graves.
But nay, ye soon shall know (the reality).
Again, ye soon shall know!
Nay, were ye to know with certainty of mind, (ye would beware!)
Ye shall certainly see Hell-Fire!
Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight!
Then, shall ye be questioned that Day about the joy (ye indulged in!).

at-Takathur (102)


Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri RA narrated: A man asked the Prophet SAS:"Who is the best of people?" The
Prophet SAS replied:"A believer who fights in the Cause of Allah with his life and property."...
In the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed SAS, one or more Jews had violated the honor & sanctity of a Muslim lady in Yathrib. The Response? An army was sent to take care of this injustice done to her. The Prophet Mohammed SAS once said:A time will come when a lady will travel long distance all by herself (from a far away town to some far away town in Yemen). Such a time has already come. Allah SWT granted them peace and security. Muslim Ummah, as a whole, is reponsible- not just American Muslims. We should not lose hope in Allah SWT. What we need to do is to repair our relationship with Allah SWT-i.e. being obedient to Allah SWT and following the Sunnah.

Ibne Abbas RA narrated that Rasulullah SAS said:"One who is too weak to bear the strain of keeping awake at night(in the worship of Almighty Allah),is too miserly tospend his wealth in the path of Allah, and is too cowardly to take part in Jihaad, is advised to do Zikr of Allah SWT in abundance." (REF: Fadaile A'amaal-Virtues of Zikr-Chapter I:Ahaadith on Zikr-Hadith # 14).
In times of adversity, we should hold to the Quran and Sunnah.
There is no need to be ashamed of our failure-rather we should turn toward Allah SWT & seek His help through patience & salat.We should try to pray 5 times-initially one or two prayers in Musjid with the goal of eventually praying 4 or 5 times in Musjid.
Another Hadith from Fada'le Aamaal: Best among you are those who learn and teach Holy Quran.
Regarding 10 commandments from Torah, there is a
similar counterpart in the Holy Quran which contains upto 14 commandments (Ref: Suratul Asra
#17:23-39). When Umar RA brought some pages from
ancient Jewish scriptures to show him SAS, the
face of Prophet Mohammed SAS became red & he
said: I have brought comprehensive/clear Message

Another commentor mentioned that the song by Dawud was based on slaying of a child in a Pakistani home in Canada. That is certainly shamefull. But it is not part of the bigger picture. There will always be, even among muslims, murderers, thieves, and sodomites. Allah made us as a individuals and not every soul born to a muslim adheres to the dictates of Allah. Yes, we do have to look into our own social structures and do some inner healing. Yet, we live in a Western world rife with bad behaviors. The bigger picture is developing the UMMAH.

I think the writer, Hesham, is too absorbed in this un-Islamic country. America is my country and land too. I can go back 9 generations in my family to North Carolina. But I believe in the UMMAH. Our muslim nation. That is the nation within the hearts and sentiments of all muslims. We are one people made differently so that we may know each other. It is time to love each other and stand up. We have been sitting too long.

The idea of helping in relif efforts here in the US is absurd. Our connection is to Al Hejaz. Not Saudi Arabia, not Indonesia, nor even Palestine. We face Mecca as one nation every day. Does that not say something to your heart?



Hassaballa's article is fine but calling it 'hogwash' if we blame the US for our predicament, is a little too idealistic.

He confesses that he is blessed in living a peaceful life in the US and as such he is far removed from the plight of those who suffer as a direct result of such US intervention. Innocent and weak people have no way of fighting their powerful and oppressive dictators. Often those who peacefully object are locked up in prison and abused. I know because I have had direct experience.

Self-righteuosness is fine but life at the coal face is hard if you are a Palestinian, Afghani or even an objector in any Gulf state.

Is it any wonder that in the last 20 years we have seen a huge surge in migration by those very Muslims to Western countries. That is precisely because life has become unbearable for them in their own home countries. Countries which have had a US finger in it one way or another during my 50+ years.

There will be more suffering unless the masses mobilise but without true leadership, honourable intentions and unity our miserable plight will continue.

Still we do what we can at grass roots and leave the rest to the Almighty.

Ahmed Asgher

The author states "I would be delighted to see a Muslim relief agency (call it, Crescent Relief-USA) formed that would concentrate on providing disaster relief within the United States."

i cannot believe he has said this. yes we should provide help for such a cause, However as muslims aren't we obliged to see if our brothers and sisters are in a situation that is more deserving and desperate. we have an obligation to do that which is best for our fellow muslims and when they are fine we can offer help to other victins.the level of desperation beetween the two sides cannot be compared and it doesnt matter how many of the international funds there is if it still remains that millions of muslims are starving.

the end fact is these people that the author states would receive the funds will receive them from their own government.
i cannot bvelieve this

I agree with your article 100%. I thank you for writing.

Br. Dawud wrote that song when a Muslim girl was killed in Toronto (during Ramadan!) by her fasting step-mother and father. They beat her to death, cut her body into pieces, wrapped the pieces in garbage bags and tried to hide them in a city park. The non-Muslim papers delved into the story, and found out that her birth mother in Pakistan hadn't been allowed to have any contact with her.

The point of the song, which we all seem so eager to get away from, is that before we complain about the international and political problems of the Ummah we have to look at our social relationships. "Islamic law", "family honour", "respect for parents" and other sacred cows are being shamelessly used as covers for the most heinous crimes against small children, women, minorities (ethnic/racial, sectarian, religious), and even the elderly in Muslim countries and communities across the globe. Every so often a horrible crime like this happens, Muslims become embarrassed by all the media attention, but when it fades away we sigh in relief and take no steps to be sure it doesn't happen next time. If we don't value the lives of our own, who else will?