A completed Juneteenth mural in West Hartford will be unveiled at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Performances and speeches will be followed. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Making Juneteenth a federal holiday was a step in the right direction long overdue. It’s our nation’s oldest commemoration of what’s supposed to be slavery’s end in the United States 156 years ago. June 19 memorializes the final freeing of slaves in Texas who unwittingly remained in slavery two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln.

As a member of the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim Community whose pioneers in America were African Americans, I honor and advocate for the release of innocent captives held in bondage. Simply put, it’s justice, yet this act is rewarded as the giving charity in the Holy Quran as well as with the raising one’s moral stature 90:14. Allah proclaims this is what charity should actually be collected for. The Holy Prophet Muhammad himself and his devotees effectively did this and abolished slavery from the grassroots 1400 years ago. Within the 23 years of his revolutionary mission he personally freed slaves and prisoners of war and inspired their mass liberation and just as importantly integrated them into society. He went further and made ways for their empowerment as leaders. The Abyssinian Bilal, the first and foremost Announcer of Prayer, and Zaid bin Haritha, the Military Commander, are just a few well known examples. The only slaves in Islam are those of God, not man. Prophet Muhammad reminded us that he himself was the slave of Allah and His Messenger.

While iron shackles of slavery might have been removed, we still have to face the increasingly destructive climate of it’s systemic and historic ramifications. Racism hurts us and takes our lives. We’re supposed to be “indivisible” but much reformation, equity, and equality, particularly in opportunity, remains to be had before we can truly be united.

Zahir Muhammad Mannan is the Outreach Secretary Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque.