Life Goes On - AIDS in Muslim Communities
Tarajee A. Rahman
“We will most certainly try you with something of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; but give good news to the patient.” Qur’an 2:155
Assalaamu Alaikum. My name is Tarajee and I am the founder of JIHAD WA TAUHEED, a volunteer organization that publishes a bi-monthly newsletter that deals openly with AIDS/HIV in the Muslim communities. Its purpose is to create an awareness within the Muslim community by disbursing relevant information regarding the AIDS epidemic, and to facilitate support services for Muslims who are HIV infected/affected, insha’ Allah.
I am representative of the growing number of Black Muslim women who are recipient of HIV. I was never an IV drug user, and was in a long-term monogamous relationship for 18 years, yet I am recipient of HIV. I thought I’d never get this virus, because not only do “these things happen to other people,” but “Muslims don’t get HIV.”
Along our spiritual journey we’ve encountered many trials, and HIV is just one more. Yet, we feel shut out because we have not released our attachment to the way things were (before HIV) or the way we wanted them to be. But know this: ALLAH is guiding this thing, not us. So our best bet is to follow His lead, and see where He wants us to go.
The Prophet ( ) said that disaster continues to fall upon a believing man (or woman) in his life, property or issue, till he meets Allah. We must not become or remain passive recipients of this virus, but we should continue to be active individuals who strive in ALLAH’s cause, right up until He calls each of us back to Him.
As Muslims, we should never say when something befalls us: “Had I done this, it would have been such and such.” This sort of attitude only courts despair and remorse. What we should be saying with firm conviction is that ALLAH has ordained this. He has done what He wills. What ALLAH has decreed must come to pass. When we don’t accept that view, the end result is bitter remorse and loss of tranquility.
“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying ‘We believe,’ and not be tried?” Qur’an 29:2
If we profess to be believers, then we will invariably be put to hard tests in this world, but, these trials keep us always engaged in the remembrance of ALLAH.
Life in this world is short; therefore happiness and sadness, adversity and ease, pain and punishment are also for short periods and, in the midst of these calamities, ALLAH has given us all countless occasions to remember Him. In the midst of disasters and calamities, He is best remembered and called.
For those of us who are infected with HIV, our lives must shine forth in order to set lessons to others in the world: we do have something to offer, and we must give something back.
As Muslims infected/affected with HIV, we need ways of expressing and processing our feelings, with consideration given to our religious differences as well as cultural issues. There are few services available for Muslims that consider Islamic values and beliefs, but then that is for us, as Muslims, to implement. We should be active participants in the entire process that takes place within the structure of a support system, because it is the process that occurs in a group setting that is empowering, not just the information being provided.
In spite of HIV, we as Muslims are still representative of the Islamic Brotherhood which is “fortified by the strength and the concerned cooperation of its individual members.” That fellow feeling should be a binding cord amongst us. We need each others support!
“Hold fast to the rope of ALLAH united, and be not disunited and remember the favor of ALLAH on you when you were enemies. Then He united your hearts and by His favor, you became brethren.” Qur’an 3: 102
The entire Muslim Brotherhood is like a building composed of bricks, and the fall of each brick means the fall of the entire building. As long as we are still breathing air, the building still stands, alhamdulillah.
We must stand firm in our religious convictions and fearless of everything except ALLAH during this time of our lives. Those of us who are HIV Seropositive must show our uninfected bothers and sisters that if we are hurting, then they too are hurting. The Prophet Muhammad ( ) said, “The believers are like a single body, if its eye complains its whole body complains.” Those of us who are HIV seropositive should not fear reproach or reprisal from others. We all must reinforce what is taught by Islam: fellow-feeling and mutual love and that there is no distinction in this Brotherhood.
Our Masjids must not only provide a place for worship, but must also act as service providers to the needs of their communities, insha’Allah. The uninfected brother and sister must be reminded that no man is free from faults except the Holy Prophet ( ). They must be reminded that “a Muslim is a mirror of an individual,” (3:78) and they must know that those of us who are infected need their strength and support in order to be motivated to seek out our inner strength, in sha’ Allah.
Perhaps we are all being given a chance to get our own spiritual acts together—- ALLAH knows best, but this is a Jihad, and the joy of victory can be enjoyed through a hard fight. Remember: This world is simply a harvest ground for the next world.
As Muslims, we learn to let go and let ALLAH. When we call upon the source of all things and let Him work through us, we then tap into the very Power Who created the universe. And just think how much more can be accomplished with this Force as an Ally.
“Nay, Allah is your Protector, and He is the Best of Helpers.” Qur’an 3:150.
Now is the time for us to release our fears and move forward. It’s time to take that first step into a new way of life. We must allow ALLAH’s Wisdom to direct and guide our way. When we let ALLAH guide us, everything works out. It’s not about “my” will, but “Thy” will being done. We must surrender our wills to ALLAH, and ask Him what He wants us to do, because only then will we be blessed with the realization that He nurtures and supports us at all times and in all places.
Consider this: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly. ALLAHU AKBAR!
The American Muslim
Originally published in the Winter 1994 print edition of