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Erasing Race: Problems with our Islamic History

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Here’s a little exercise. Try naming 5 prominent Muslims of African origin from the history of Islam. Pick from any period right from the early Makkan period to the last few decades. Aside from Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who else do you have on the list? I’m going to be presumptive and say that there aren’t many of us who’ve managed to get to 5.

How is that possible? There were quite a few Sahaaba of African origin, and not just a token one. Islam had spread to the African continent properly during the lifetime of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself – in fact, even before it reached Madinah. Within a generation of the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passing, a significant part of Africa was under Islamic rule and has stayed Muslim ever since. So why is so little known about prominent African Muslims?

muslim-map

The sad thing is that I could replace “African” with pretty much every major Muslim ethnicity or region. Whether it be the South East Asian Archipelago (with almost as many Muslims as there are in the Middle East), the Central Asian Republics, or the Turkic tribes in the Caucasus regions – the dearth of knowledge about our Islamic heritage is noticeable.

Islamic history is too often the history of the Arabs. Sure, the Ottomans get a cameo appearance, but that is partially because their history became intertwined with that of the Arab heartlands. The rest of the history of Islam beyond the Middle East seems to be relegated to the footnotes of dry academic works. Actually, they often don’t even make it to the footnotes.

Some commentators like Will Kymlicka make a case for Arab ethnic chauvinism as an explanation for the lack of a multicultural history. While there may be some truth to this, there is little evidence to show that there is a concerted campaign to suppress non-Arab Islamic history. It seems more likely that this neglect is a consequence of a variety of factors including the lingering effects of the brutal colonization of most of the non-Arab world over the last few centuries and the pathetic socio-economic situation that they have been mired in ever since.

The resulting selective Arab-centric view of history is unfortunate in a Muslim world that largely lies outside the the Middle East and has been significantly shaped by non-Arabs. It has had many unintended and profound consequences, some of which I will discuss below:

When your history is largely devoid of characters and role models that you can relate to, you will become detached from it. The average Muslim seeking to enhance their knowledge of the faith often prioritises sciences such as tafsir, hadith studies, fiqh, tajweed – anything but Islamic history. This relative indifference is reflected also at the societal level where non-Arab Muslims are rarely inspired by historical figures or incidents that would potentially be easier for them to relate to. The few times that we are able to break this trend (e.g. Malcolm X in America or Imam Shamil in the Caucuses), we are rewarded with transformative figures that capture the imaginations of generation after generation of their countrymen.

When your history is geographically and ethnically restricted, your worldview will be limited and parochial. One of the unique attributes of the spread of Islam was its ability to enhance existing cultures rather than dissolve them into a worldwide mono-culture. Knowledge of the historical perspectives of Muslims from other parts of the world helps guard against narrow-mindedness – a particularly virulent feature of the modern Muslim world. Indeed, one of the life-changing aspects of the Hajj is to witness the unity of purpose despite the lack of uniformity of views, cultures or experiences of the pilgrims from every corner of the globe.

When your history fails to acknowledge the contributions and legacies of other races, you make it easier to dehumanise them. This may sound like an extrapolation too far, but many historians including Gerda Lerner (in her seminal work “Why history matters”) have convincingly shown how glossing over the positive contribution of other races and ethnicities is a political strategy used to perpetuate injustice. This selective reading of history explains how the slave trade flourished in many Muslim lands and still does in the form of modern indentured labour in parts of the Middle East. Racism, nationalism or sectarianism rarely coexist in the same space with cultural and historical awareness.

There can be no denying that Islam was born in the Arab world, but it is telling that the most diverse and multicultural period that most people are likely to read about in Islamic history is Madinah during the lifetime of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Shining a spotlight on the contributions and legacies of non-Arab Muslims and cultures would connect many more Muslims to their history in a meaningful way, expand our horizons, and guard against oppression of one group by another. Most importantly, it would enhance the appreciation of traditional Islamic history by making it part of a larger, more intricate historical universe. That’s something – inshaAllah – that we can all look forward to.

Image credits:
Featured image: Askia Muhammad by Leo Dillon
Muslim world image: Der spiegel online

 

WAJiD Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Avatar

    John Howard

    January 19, 2016 at 7:04 PM

    Interesting ! Does this mean that the bias toward Arabic culture and leadership have racist leanings. It appears that as the Islamic drive to suppress other peoples beliefs to convert to Islam has demanded that the Arab people be the dominant force. Put this together with the fact that many Muslims on this site have complained of the fact that they are denied equality from other sections of their faith because of their ethnicity as well as being denied sanctuary from the conflicts currently raging in the Middle East show that the west is not as bad as often portrayed by Muslims ? It appears Racism exists in Islam even though the the “holier than thou ” attitude of Muslims looking down on non believers would say otherwise.

    • WAJiD

      WAJiD

      January 20, 2016 at 3:06 AM

      Hi John,

      The bias towards Arabic culture is more complex than racism – although that may play a part and racism has always existed to varying levels in Islamic history… just as it has in the rest of human kind. It would be more accurate to put it down to the origins of the faith being in the Arab world, the lingua Franca of the Muslim world being Arabic and the lighter colonial footprint in that region.

      To put it simply, racism does not exist in Islam. No other faith has its founder being as explicit on this point and creating as multicultural a state in his own lifetime. But Muslims are human and wherever there are humans, you will have sins.

      In my opinion, the way Islam treats racism is a more honest appraisal than most. Racism is a disease of thinking and behaviour to be fought constantly, not a concept that can be overcome with mere legislation and consigned to history.

      • Avatar

        John Howard

        January 20, 2016 at 4:40 AM

        Your comment racism does not exist in Islam is a little hard to take! Firstly it is often thrown at critics of the religion that they are “racist” when they make these criticisms. Attacks on non Muslims in Syria Iraq Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East can certainly be construed as racist as well. The fact that in a number of Islamic countries dictate death to those who leave your religion can also be construed as Racism if you apply the same criteria if you apply the same princiles. Finally as i understand the ritual is conducted in Arabic in the mosque ( I am open to be contradicted on that point) but having watched the Grand Mufti in Australia on TV while over there still talk only in Arabic to all Australians is if not racist at the very least an arrogant disdain for the majority of people of the country he has lived in for over 20 Years! Especially as he claims to represent Muslims to government and the Australian population.
        Christianity purports to be non racist either, Of course in its history it has been but today and by the way I am not a Christian, it certainly extols equality and recognition of all colours classes and creeds. My late cousin’s funeral in a Catholic Church was conducted by a black African Priest. Without black clergy there would be a great strain on the church to function. But to say that either faith is not racist because it is not in the “book” doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. What the books may say may be great in theory but in practice it isn’t necessarily fact

      • Avatar

        Rayford Adams

        March 4, 2016 at 11:42 AM

        Very well said
        I agree that Islam is not racist; but many so-called Muslims are. and that racism has been preserved.
        Preserved by cultural interest and political
        influences.

    • Avatar

      Kirana

      January 20, 2016 at 3:19 AM

      I do not believe so. In the Middle Ages it is common for scholars from Africa and Arabia to travel to each other and learn. The travelogue of ibn Battuta (and actually even those of Europe in earlier ages) describe skin colour of people in countries visited in largely neutral terms. There has always been an Arab chauvinism otherwise the Prophet need not have called his companions out for it. But I think it is far more likely that the broken connections as a result of colonisation of nearly all non Arab muslim lands, which came with the suppression of native history of self mastery, and the replacement of Arabic with colonial languages (meaning surviving scripts of history and academic texts became inaccesible until present day translation efforts to the new dominant languages like english) inadvertently left the Arab narrative the sole one left standing.

      To say that praying in Arabic is the problem is like saying standardising to metric means whoever uses imperial won’t ever be able to gain respectable stature in the knowledge field.

      • Avatar

        George

        January 20, 2016 at 5:34 AM

        It’s clearly stated in your Koran do not come to prayer if you DONOT understand what you are saying

        When Muslims were intoxicated while praying this surah came

        So how come most Muslims who today arenon Arab keep praying in a foreign language?

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      January 20, 2016 at 10:40 AM

      Mr. John, America is the racist place. Blacks have fought for equality in America for 500 years. Yet today, the racism goes on and is even embedded into a major political party. Islam and Arabs are not synonymous. There are Christian Arabs. As your Bible says, please take the huge log out of your own eye first.

      • Avatar

        Kristy

        January 26, 2016 at 6:19 PM

        GregAbdul- Please name me any other country in the world with the ethnic, cultural, religious, racial, language and everything-else diversity of the United States where the overwhelming majority live in peace and harmony with each other.
        Until *any* islamic country can outnumber the US in diversity with such peace and harmony, your comment is silly and uninformed.

      • Avatar

        Nancy

        January 27, 2016 at 1:56 PM

        Islam allows slavery. Even today islam has slaves in some nations. How many slaves did mohammed own,many.

      • Avatar

        GregAbdul

        January 30, 2016 at 2:41 PM

        you want to post a clip of Kate Smith singing God Bless America? America is a racist place and the reason the racism remains after 500 years are answers like yours. No one wants to confront it. Black children literally tortured and ruined solely because they are black and your answer is start pointing fingers at others….sad really sad, that sadism built into such an answer.

    • Avatar

      Alaa

      January 28, 2016 at 3:02 PM

      John, are you hear to learn to accommodate your bigoted beliefs? Why don’t you go troll somewhere else. BTW, in the modern era one is a Arab if his/her’s mother tongue is Arab. I am an Arab from a North African country even though I have Turkish Ancestry. Arabs historically mix with all races, that’s why you find us in all shapes, color’s and sizes. Go evangelize somewhere else.

      • Avatar

        John Howard

        January 28, 2016 at 5:02 PM

        Interesting you have not addressed the original article that started this debate nor any of the statements that I have made. Instead you attack me because I am not Muslim. I have a real interest for a number of very good reasons. Firstly my mother was born in Egypt and I still have family in that country. They are of European origin but there are at least 4 generations of them there and now they are leaving because of the rise of anti Christian racism by Islamists. As a Brit I am seeing the huge invasion here in the UK and Europe of people from Syria and the rest of the Muslim world- Arabs who are demanding that we accommodate them, feed them and pay them when their fellow Arabs offer them mosques! Bigot? Again an interesting comment funny how people who won’t answer the questions they are unable to start squealing about bigots and racism. Isn’t that what started the debate in the first place?

      • Avatar

        Dagan

        June 18, 2016 at 9:47 AM

        Alaa with all do respect you know that light skinned Arabs do not mix with dark skin ones. Recently there was an article circulating in Facebook about Tunisia and how back children (dark skin arabs) cannot be in the same space as light skin Arabs. Let’s not sugar code the problems the Arab culture needs a long way to address the issue.

  2. Avatar

    George

    January 19, 2016 at 8:09 PM

    As long as non Arabs keep praying in Arabic Arabs will rule over all Muslims and Muslim heroes at their Friday sermons will be Arabs

    • Avatar

      Ali

      January 19, 2016 at 9:14 PM

      Despite the fact that they pray in Arabic, many non Arabs do have non Arab Muslim heroes. What the writer is pointing out is that many of these heroes don’t end up making it on to the international Islamic imagination, or become well known outside their local areas.

      • Avatar

        George

        January 19, 2016 at 9:33 PM

        Really? Well, then why aren’t those non arab heroes celebrated at Friday sermons all over the world?

      • Avatar

        Ali

        January 21, 2016 at 3:29 PM

        Are we talking about local khutbas, in the languages of those actual heroes themselves, or are we talking about international recognition?

        If the former, than there most certainly are such famed figures and such sermons and local recognition. Go to any Turkish speaking, somali speaking, or Urdu speaking mosque; and I’m quite sure that you will listen to glorification and overglorification of a lot of local heroes and religious figures.
        If the latter, than I think that that is what the author is pointing at. However, the use of Arabic by non Arabs has nothing to do with it. The use of Arabic does not explain why a Turkish person (and I am Turkish) may never have heard of imam Ahmed Gurey, And why your average Albanian doesn’t know much about Babur.

    • Avatar

      Horizonwalker

      January 20, 2016 at 2:56 AM

      Just looking at history this is already completely false.

      If with Arab you mean ‘those born into the bloodline of the Arabs from the Arabian peninsula’, then this is already not true. Many local political leaders were from their own geography and the Ottomans ruling the Muslims were primarily Turkish.

      If with Arab you mean ‘anyone who fluently speaks Arabic’, then this is true simply for the fact that the original Islamic knowledge is in Arabic. So to master it at a high level, Arabic is necessary.

      If with rule we mean political rule this can even be further dissected. For the office of the Caliph, if I am not mistaken, it is highly desired that the person should be from the tribe of the Quraish. I am not an Islamic scholar though. However it is clear that this has been historically the case.
      If with rule we mean true political power and influence, then we see that historically the Caliph did not always have absolute power, but it was in fact the provincial governors who held the true power. The Caliph being more a figurehead. These governors were not always Arabs (by bloodline). Turks and Persians have of course been highly influential in the Middle-Eastern region for centuries. Saladin had a Kurdish bloodline for example.
      If with rule we mean any form of financial, military, political, religious, social power and influence, then it is completely false to say that these fields would necessarily be dominated by Arabs (by bloodline). Many of the greatest Muslim scholars, warriors and rulers were not Arab. Imam Bukhari who wrote the Sahih Al-Bukhari hadith compilation was (a Sunni) Persian. The first warriors to beat the Mongol hordes (in the East) were the Mamluks of Egypt. Many of them were from Eastern European and Central Asian decent. Although officially classified as slaves, as a warrior caste their political status and power was above that of freeborn Muslims. They eventually also seized total control of the government.

      If we look at the situation of the Muslims now, it is obvious that politically the non-Arabs are not ruled by Arabs.

      The greatest guidance is the Quran and the greatest role models are in the Quran. If we look at the Quran, we see that the majority of the role models are not Arab. Many are from the Children of Israel, but many even precede those tribes. We can deeply relate to them, not because of their ethnicity, but because of their purpose, struggle and identity. Which was those who only worship One God, Muslims.

      But besides that, we do also need living role models now. People we can look up to, and who can help us navigate the present. Talking with many Muslims, I see that besides the great historical Muslim heroes of the past in the Quran and from the Sahabah, their role models usually are people very close to them. Their parents, their local scholar or Imam, a close friend. And for non-Islamic issues people also have non-Muslim role models they look up to of course. Take good from where ever you find it, and leave the bad.

      Between the great universal role models in the Quran and our cherished close living role models, there is an opportunity for us to rediscover and become our own great historical local Muslim heroes.

      • WAJiD

        WAJiD

        January 20, 2016 at 3:09 AM

        Walaikum asalaam,

        Perhaps you misunderstood the premise of my article. I am not saying that such non-Arab historical figures did not exist. I am saying that (on the whole) they are not well known and their histories are largely in the margins, which is a great shame.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      January 20, 2016 at 10:43 AM

      Mr. George, please using Islamicfinder.org to find a mosque near you and learn Islam. Right now you are displaying that you have not bothered to learn us or our faith. We are not impressed that you have a bias against Arabs.

      • Avatar

        Khatam

        January 28, 2016 at 4:19 AM

        Mr. Abdul, he is stating an opinion. You may disagree as is your right, but possibly there may have been alack of sermons which haven’t focused on non Arab heroes.

      • Avatar

        GregAbdul

        January 30, 2016 at 2:43 PM

        His opinion is a Christian apologists answer taught to him by whites. He is black, but he is taught to use racism to defend racism in America. Very convoluted, but effective trick: black racism.

  3. Avatar

    Omar

    January 20, 2016 at 2:30 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum

    Well known African Muslims:
    AlJahiz – الجاحظ a poet, writer, philosopher
    Mansa Musa – wealthy African ruler
    Abu al-Misk Kafur Al-Ikhshidi – كافور الاخشيدي – ruler of Egypt, well known for being the subject of Mutanabbi’s poetry
    Ahmad Baba of Timbuktu – Islamic Scholar

    As for nonArabs, they are easy to find in Islamic history, e.g. Bukhari, Abu Hanifa, Saladin, Tariq Ibn Ziyad, Qutuz, Mehmet the conqueror.

  4. Avatar

    Kirana

    January 20, 2016 at 4:13 AM

    Arguably the mechanisms are similar to what led to the popular assumption today in the western Christian world, that Jesus Christ was fair and somewhat blonde.

    • Avatar

      George

      January 20, 2016 at 7:44 AM

      Arabs are generally the most egotistical, uneducated, racist and vengeful people I have seen who use their religion over non arabs and keep nonarabs from praying in the language non arabs think and speak in.

      You can talk all day and night about nonarab heroes etc, but come Friday sermon its always Arab heroes and role models its always prayer in Arabic to be prayed 5 times a day…that is the reality today.

      Everything is about their Arabness in their religion. Which is why Islam and Muslims are in the situation they are in today.

      • WAJiD

        WAJiD

        January 20, 2016 at 8:31 AM

        Dear George,

        I think your comment says a lot more about you than it does about Arabs.

        Do not mistake an article calling for a wider view of history as a denigration of the Arab race. Racism is unacceptable, whether it is by Arabs or against them and as such any further comments by you in a similar vein will not be posted.

        • Avatar

          George

          January 20, 2016 at 8:43 AM

          That’s fine Wajid. Reality and the truth today is bitter that’s something you and your readers may not be able to digest

      • Avatar

        Khatam

        January 28, 2016 at 4:24 AM

        Your comments are quite rude and no need for it. You have an opinion do it nicely. It is for those who undertake sermons to ensure they cover a variety of issues to discuss and relate it to any Islamic historical persons Arab or not. This should also apply to modern society whereby those of today are also highlighted for our younger generation.
        If I’m correct the author’s point was suggesting how particular histories are either lost, lacking and not hugely identified. This may be due to several reasons and is for authors/publishers/scholars to highlight them more. No doubt they existed and should be more promoted on their contributions.

    • Avatar

      Kristy

      January 20, 2016 at 9:21 PM

      Hi, Kirana-
      No, it is not the “popular assumption today in the Christian world that Jesus Christ was fair and somewhat blonde”. Actually, Islam describes Him as “A well-built man of medium/moderate/average height and stature with a broad chest. Straight, lank, slightly curly, long hair that fell between his shoulders. A moderate, fair complexion of red or finest brown.” Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:462, 4:55:607–608, 4:55:647–650, 4:55:649–650, Sahih Muslim, 1:316, 1:321, 1:325, 1:328, 41:7023

      The only verse in the Holy Bible describing Him says “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
      If you research artists depictions of Jesus around the world, He is often portrayed as He would look were He a member of any one’s ethnicity. And so He really is in reality.

  5. Avatar

    Rosalinda Wijks

    January 20, 2016 at 8:10 AM

    A VERY good, important and needed article. In many books, articles and publications of Western scholars and Arabs alike, Islam/Muslims=Arabs.

    Which ofcourse is NOT true, since Arabs form only 15%-20% of all Muslims. The overwhelming majority of Muslims is not Arab, and there are quite some few Arabs who are not Muslim, but Jewish or Christian.

    The two biggest Muslim countries are Indonesia and Pakistan.

    Regarding your challenge: With a bit of thinking, I could come up with more then 5 important black Muslims, but to be honest, I have been reading a lot about this issue lately.

    But just for the fun of it: Amina Wadud, Nana Asma’u, Dawud Walid, Abdullah Quick, Khaled Yasin, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, Usman dan Fodio, Dhu al Nun Al Misri, Zayd b. Haritha, Umm Ayman, Ziryab, Bilal Philips, Imam Daayiee Abdullah, Al Jawzi, , Holyness Jennings, Omar B. Said, Aisha Al Adaweya, Tayyibah Taylor, Saleemah Abdul Ghafur, the Mahdi of Sudan, Waris Dirie, Maryam Abdulbasir, Gwendolynah Zoharah Simmons, Kunta Kinte, Mansa Musa. (And yes, all by heart :P )

    So yes, there are many black Muslims worldwide, but we are often overlooked because of Arabo-centrism and anti-black racism by both non-black Arabs as Western scholars.

    • Avatar

      Khatam

      January 28, 2016 at 4:32 AM

      I can understand where your point comes from. Generally those of non Arab descent or region are overlooked but play and have played a hugely important part in Islamic history and to date. On a general level black Arabs are not highlighted as those of fair skin. Those not Arab have been failed by historians both Muslim and non Muslim as focus primarily was on Arabs with particular looks. Islam in itself as many religions doesn’t advocate racism but humans do be they Muslim or not. It is our own set of perceptions we need to change.

  6. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    January 20, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    as salaam alaikum,

    This is an emotional issue for me. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Islam demands we spend our lives seeking the middle path. It’s pretty easy to become engrossed with your people and look down on others and this is not limited solely to my Arab brothers and sisters. The easiest manifestation of this cultural jingoism is khutbahs or public talks and usually, the cultural Muslims I see most exposing their doctrine of cultural preference are my black American brothers.

    “We need to be in charge of Islam in America and not the immigrants,” is what they say. “You don’t let someone come to your house and take over.” It’s serious. There are Muslims today who refuse to speak to me over these ideas. Whenever any of us communicates we are simultaneously making decisions about how personal we should be and how much information and how culturally specific the information should be. How much Arabic we should use when we speak with fellow Muslms?

    Our Book is the Quran and it is written in Arabic, so a proper Muslim fights constantly to master the language of the Quran. But speaking Arabic fluently is not the same as letting the Quran into your heart. The Quran, I think, makes the heart soft. It makes us live in awe of our Creator and forces us to strive to have high compassion for all of Allah’s creation. A sheikh told me in class, “you have the nerve to hate the thing Allah has placed in front of you? You hate the puppet, instead of seeing the one pulling the strings?” Allah is over ever one of us and Allah, glory be to Him, is no bigot.

    As individuals, we have a responsibility to know how Islam got to us and that is usually going to mean you know the early converts from your culture who embraced Islam. If I think too hard about Brother Malcolm this time of year, I cry. God sent me this man and when the time was right, Allah, Mercy beyond any human comprehension, took Malcolm from the living, knowing that millions of souls would embrace Islam as a result. Allah has let me into knowledge of His presence and he did not ban me because I have dark skin or a bad temper or the low status of my family. How big a fool would I be after such mercy, to think I am now to look down on anyone else He has created?

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      January 21, 2016 at 11:18 AM

      my last word here on this, insha Allah is to give credit. I thought maybe not because I hate calling people out, but Shaikh Yacoubi is unbelievable his followers love him extremely and after I sat with him, I saw why. He is the one who taught me that a shallow person looks at the puppet and lacks the ability to see the strings and the One who pulls them.

  7. Avatar

    cliveey

    January 20, 2016 at 2:15 PM

    There is no doubt that Arabs had a fundamental role in the slave trade from early times.
    This included the invasion by Saracens pinching young blond girls from the south west of England.
    Christians are told not to judge others but to adress their own faults first.
    Today I was offered ready help by a really decent young Muslim froma local mosque schhol who was
    passing as I had problems with my car. And that has so often been the case.
    My experience of Islam has been otherwise.
    It seems to me to be a religion that spread by conquest.
    Yes people went to war misusing Jesus name. but whereas Islam grew by conquest Jesus role model was
    that of a suffering humble servant who said “People who live by teh sword will die by the sword” .
    The challenge for me as a failing Christian is to haveas kind a heart as the better among the Muslims I know.
    That is how The Almighty will judge us not by the rituals or fasts we keep to. Unless the change is within it means little.
    As for Equality we are reminded that “All have fallen short of the Glory of God” so none of us has cause to be pompous.
    Good luck in your quest to be genuinely guided by Gods Holy Spirit my Muslim friends.
    As Jesus said “Seek and You Will Find”.
    Hope I make it too.

    • Avatar

      George

      January 20, 2016 at 2:40 PM

      Well said Cliveey

      I welcome and love muslims who have seen the error of their forefathers and accept it and are ready to move on as good humans and be good neighbors and citizens and appreciate the cultures, traditions and value of their non muslim societies who have given them as a right – protection, respect and dignity and opportunity to be equal amongst them…as they flee from their muslim homelands they have been fleeing for generations.

      I detest muslims who call their muslim arab invaders and occupiers and destroyers of non muslim societies and nations their heroes, and I pray to almighty, ungrateful, self righteous and pompous muslims mend their ways or else face a terrible reckoning from those of us in the west who now fully understand and comprehend this clear and present danger. Amen!

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      January 20, 2016 at 3:19 PM

      Mr. Clive, this is interesting. This is a Muslim website. You really think we don’t know our history? What you don’t know is, we know yours.

      The white man loaded Africans on ships, none of whom believed in Jesus, until after they were beaten raped tortured and murdered into an understanding that whatever master says goes. First believing that blacks were animals and denying them any right to pray and then later, when it suited the furthering of the white American slave trade, is when master went into the slave quarters with the Bible and most black Americans today are so devoid of historical knowledge that that same slave religion remains in the black community today. I get so tired of the black line against Arabs that displays so little knowledge.

      The short version of what I do my best to say humbly to you is, Arabs did NOT bring us to America in slave ships. The ones who did that you spend your life rushing to serve: masters’ ancestors. Our ancestors, before the whip were African Muslims…by choice.

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        George

        January 20, 2016 at 3:52 PM

        Well said Gregabdul.

        The white man has acknowledged and accepted the errors and sins of their forefathers, and is hand in hand with you at every level determined to eradicate racism from our western society…electing a first black president of the United States of America was a big first step towards that. Lets join hands and build upon it…

        The African slave trade was first initiated and established for centuries by Arabs way before America was discovered. Please read up on history and inform yourself. The only difference from Arab slave trader/owner was that the Arab enslaved everyone regardless of race and the White man created and fiercely guarded institution of race based slavery and justified it by the Bible.

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        George

        January 20, 2016 at 3:57 PM

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      GregAbdul

      January 21, 2016 at 2:01 AM

      Ya Allah! Guide me.

      What we have here, Friedrich Nietzsche called, the intolerance of the slave. Black people know better. The white man can hold 1,000 meetings and put 1,000 liquor stores in the black community and the same people who have all day to go and sit in front of the corner store, know to not go try to sit down with advanced white people. You know your place. But then when you don’t see the white man, then you can rush up in my face with the foolishness. You know, like “Arabs invented slavery.” And you serious too. Sad.

      This site is a Muslim site. We discuss issues pertaining to Islam. Praise be to Allah, we are relatively troll free. Now if you really wish to participate in discussions here, I think, a rudimentary knowledge of Islam would be helpful. None of us is sitting at our computers waiting for you to teach us about evil Arabs. I state again: please use Islamicfinder.org, to find the mosque in your community. Sit down with the Muslims and let them educate you about us and our faith. Then by all means, get back to us and tell us about your experience. Now the white man does not give you permission to do that, so maybe like the meetings held at City Hall, you will make sure you stay in your place and don’t go where master has not given you his permission for you to go. You have been taught Christianity passed down to your from your ancestors after they were forced to take Jesus as a god during their enslavement. It sounds like that is all you know and that is your right. Ignorance is a right in America.

      Clive you have got to be kidding. The white man has NOT accepted his error. There are no reparations for black America. You have shuffled your feet and accepted him not apologizing. Obama is the drop of water over the damn, while the actual Martin Luther King struggle has spent the last 50 years going backwards. You have a lot of work to do before master is fixed, if he is ever fixed.
      We welcome you to chat with Muslims, but please don’t be an internet scholar on Islam or even Arabs. Tell us about your study at your local mosque and what you learned there.

      Are you brave enough to learn something master says you should not learn? Please do not assume to teach Muslims on a Muslim website, when you have never set foot in a mosque. I am pretty sure; slavery was invented by Africans.

  8. Avatar

    Aafia

    January 20, 2016 at 11:22 PM

    Has Anyone read “the companion of Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid?There are about 13 Books on Islamic history worth reading:http://islamhashtag.com/a-list-of-books-on-islamic-history/

  9. Avatar

    Abdulhameed

    January 21, 2016 at 2:51 PM

    Assalaam Alaikum Brother Wajid,
    I appreciate your article, but I think the premise and conclusion you have drawn are skewed. Muslim chroniclers past and present have written extensively about Muslims everywhere with no restriction to geographical location. Particularly about how Islam spread to new areas, the growth of Muslim societies, and Islamic scholarship. The real issue in my opinion is the absence of the intellectual and historical heritage of Islam in the English language. Indeed much has been written in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish about Muslims and Islamic civilization in Africa. (Please note that much of the Muslim lands in sub-Saharan Africa are often referred to as Western Sudan in antiquity.)

    In fact Muslim chroniclers have viewed societies and political leadership in Africa as critical to Islamic civilization. One well known example being the movement of Al Murabitun (Almorveds). Another being the advance scholarship that existed in Timbuktu (Mali) or in Shanqit (Mauritania) historically is almost unrivaled.

    Furthermore the contribution of Muslims in Africa is even more apparent with regards to the Quran. The majority of the Muslim world recite in Qira’a of Hafs An Asim. Yet the most diversity and preservation of Qira’at exists in today in Africa. For example:

    -In Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia the Qira’a of Warsh An Nafi is read almost exclusively.
    -In Libya the Qira’a of Qalun An Nafi’.
    -In Sudan and much of West Africa the Qira’a Duri An Abu ‘Amr is the traditional way of recitation.
    -In Somalia the Qira’a of Duri An Kisa’I is the traditional way of recitation.

    I offer that the Arab-centric view of Islamic history is unfortunate consequence of colonialism. After the colonial period many intellectuals of these countries, in effort to redevelop an independent identity, have decided to focus inward for historical reference and growth. This is contrary to their Islamic legacy. However this is changing. Two scholars who discuss this issue among others are Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick and Dr. Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif.

    Finally I give you my list of names below (ten total). I would conclude that all Muslims should make a greater effort to explore the entirety of our Islamic heritage. Our predecessors have left a wealth of information, much of which is not available in English yet. It is vast and quite a worthwhile legacy for us all. Wassalaam Alaikum

    Mansa Musa (Musa I, Mali)
    Askia Muhammad (Muhammad Toure, Mali)
    Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim Al Ghazi (Kingdom of Adal, modern day Somalia)
    Amadou Bamba (Senegal)
    Ahmad Baba Al Massufi (Scholar of Timbuktu, from an area then known as Western Sudan)
    Mohammed Bagayogo (Mali)
    Usman Dan Fodio (Nigeria)
    Seku Amadu (Mali)
    Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (Somalia)
    Umar Al Futi (Born in Senegal)

    • Avatar

      Sani

      March 15, 2016 at 7:11 AM

      Very interesting analysis brother. The amount of Islamic scholarship that exist in Nigeria is unprecedented. The likes of Imam Dokoro, Musa Adam, late Jafar Adam etc are established scholars that really play a important role in the spread of Islam among muslims and revival of the dean

  10. Avatar

    Ali

    January 21, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    Mansa Musa, Ahmed Gurey, sheikh Usman dan Fodio, Tariq ibn Ziyad, Um Ayman, Bilal ibn Rabah, Al-Najashi, Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali are some names that come to mind from Africa.
    I think people generally concentrate on famed figures from there own history. Many non Arabs who have never been in contact with Arabs are unlikely to know about figures outside of their own history out side of the Sahaba, Hasan al Basri, the four imams and a couple of others. Those of us who in the west are a little more conscious of this, but it does take a concerted effort to educate yourself.

  11. Avatar

    UM Ibraheem

    January 29, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    Great article but it would’ve been great if it went on to name more african, or non Arab prominent leaders besides the most famous ones such as Malcome, Bilal etc. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t longer.

  12. Avatar

    Sani

    March 15, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    I have many non Arab hereos such as El Kanemi of Borno , Mai Idris Alooma, Sheik Usman ibn Folio, Muhammad Bello and Sheik Jafar Adam. All of these people lived between the middle ages and modern time. I read Islamic history and historiography and I like it

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#Life

Jannah Wall Art | MuslimKidsMatter

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Assalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

Jannah Wall Art

We thought long and hard about what to focus on this Ramadan. We decided it would be motivation! The desire to do pray has to spring from motivation. Being obedient to parents has to spring from motivation. Racing to do any good deed has to spring from motivation. Children love rewards and what better reward and motivator to focus on, than Jannah itself, the best and ultimate reward.

Each day in Ramadan, the challenge is to read a description or two of Jannah, cut out a petal, and write the description in a few words on the petal. Children then need to stick the petals next to each other to make a flower. By the end of Ramadan, the children will have made a beautiful flower containing the descriptions of Jannah to hang up on their walls to remind them why they need to pray, be good to their parents, give charity and accumulate as many good deeds as possible.

Everything has been provided for you including the descriptions of Jannah, the petal template, a sample of what the flower should look like and step by step instructions. You just need to print and execute!

GET YOUR FREE RESOURCE NOW

https://ilmburst.lpages.co/ilm-burst-ramadan-treat

May Allah allow us all to witness Ramadan and make us from those who excel in worship throughout the blessed month.

Wassalam Alaykum
The Ilmburst Family

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Culture

Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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