Black History Month and the contributions of Islam

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: History, Islam Channel: Opinion Views: 7369

Celebrating Black History month in February is an excellent opportunity to learn about the struggle and achievement of African Americans, and their creativity and  contribution to human civilization, and also to reaffirm the struggle and determination to fight prejudice and racism.

The Quran says: "O people, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into tribes and nations so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most righteous of you." (Quran 49:13)

Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States; the majority of the populations embracing Islam are African Americans. 

Why are African Americans embracing Islam in such large numbers? Is it because of Malcolm X's pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca or the intrinsic nature of Islamic human equality.   

When people think of Africa they think of blacks, civil wars and the AIDS epidemic. The intellectual discourse on topics like African history in the Islamic context is inadequate and absent from the history books. 

Today more than 50 percent of the people in Africa are Muslims. And of the Africans brought over to America in the slave trade, many came from Muslim families.

With this spirit in mind, Bilal Ibne Rabah, an Ethiopian slave living in Mecca, became a leading companion of Prophet Muhammad. Very little is known of Bilal. 

Bilal was a slave freed by Prophet Muhammad. Who at the time of slavery in Arabia used to buy slaves and then free them? Bilal is associated with a very important decision taken by the Prophet Muhammad concerning the issue of race and color. 

Prophet Muhammad chose a black man to perform the Azan -- the call of the faithful to prayers. His decision was based on the Quranic teaching against racial discrimination, which explains the rationale behind God's creation of humanity in different tribes, color, religion and race, so that we know each other.

Prophet Muhammad chose Bilal to be the first Muezzin (caller to prayer) not because of his racial lineage nor his power or wealth, but because Bilal possessed neither.

He was chosen because of his piety, character and honor even though his pronunciation of Arabic was not accurate. Bilal was to become one of the greatest people in the history of Islam. His name adorns the pages of Islamic history as a reminder to all those who incite discord and disunity among people, races and nations -- but especially to Muslims -- not to transgress the will of God in their behavior and thinking.

Sadly, as we reflect on the current religious practices and social conditions of so many Muslim communities in the United States, we find them divided along artificial lines of nationality, families, ethnic identity and culture. 

In celebrating Black History Month, we should be able to include that rich Islamic history that has been hidden from us in the midst of Islamophobia that has marked out Muslims and Islam as "medieval and uncivilized."

American Muslims need to know that in these times of deliberate misrepresentation and spin, Islamic scholars were the inheritors, keepers and developers of Roman and Greek learning.

Islamic learning and culture first illuminated the Dark Ages in Europe. 

Africa and Islam have more in common than we think. Islam entered Africa 100 years before Columbus. The ancient and renowned city of Timbuktu in modern Mali was the crossroads of West African and Islamic civilization and learning. 

Timbuktu was a city where Muslim scholars would travel to acquire knowledge. African Americans have been in America for a long time, not as takers but as contributors, and it is worth celebrating this rich heritage, and as an American Muslim, I hold dear to my heart to enlighten both young and old, the black and non-black toward the truth and social justice and pursue the vision of making America not red or blue or black or white states, but rather a better place to live with equal opportunity for all. 

Mohammed Khaku is past president of Al Ahad Islamic Center in Allentown.


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  10 Comments   Comment

  1. DALHATU IDRIS from babadady media production

    PLEASE TAKE CURRECTION WRITE PROPHATE MUHAMMAD S.A.W OR PROPHATE MUHAMMAD SALLALLAHU ALAIHM WA SALLAM OR PROPHATE MUHAMMAD PEACE BE UPON HIM INSTEAD OF MUHHAMMAD ONLY, PLEASE RESPECT HIM HE IS GREAT HOUNOR IN ISLAM TAKE CURRECTION, Surely, we Muslims love Muhammad (S.A.W) more than our life because he is loved by Almighty a lot. imminent THANKS

  2. Jaabir Abdul-Lateef from United States

    Wa salaam, I'm quite intrigued by the article. It has immense substance from an African-American perspective. It also quells many of the misinformation about ISLAM and The Africans. Shukran, jazakallaah.

  3. Stanley Jones (Jibril al Hamisi) from USA

    Salam, This such an interesting dialogue. I do aree with Abu Khalil yes the Prophet(pbuh)did send followers to Abssynnia(Ethiopia)which is a part of eastern Africa however , let's not forget that the whole Arabian pennusla was populated by Hamitic people of our Race and is considered Africa, and not the European version of the Middle East.If you talk to any of the brothers of that region and if they ate being really honest they we tell you Oh, you are from our land. Yes our land. Now that's a lot of respect that I have not heard from any American. Our Land don't that sound strong too you.

  4. Sister Dee from Canada

    Dear Brother, I applaud your initiative. As a scholar and student of Islam in Africa, I would like to let you know that there are many books written on the history of Islam in Africa and on the African American experience of Islam. Authors such as Louis Brenner, Sulayman Niang, John Hunwick, and the classic works by Spencer Trimingham, David Robinson, Mervyn Hyskett, and Levtzion are also excellent sources on Islam in Africa. About Islam among African Americans, please see Beverly McCloud, and in particular Sylviane Diouf's Servants of Allah.

    Best wishes and as-salaam alaikum.

    For anyone who may be interested.

  5. GEORGE JOHNSON ( AKA) GT MUSTAFA from USA

    AS A AFRICAN AMERICAN, WE BELIVE IN THE WORLD OF GOD, ALLAH, AND THE TRUTH WILL BRING PEOPLE TO ISLAM, NOT OUR BRO. MALCOLM.

  6. Imran from USA

    Excellent article even if some facts needed to be vetted first.

    Remember those who enter ALLAH (SWT)'s religion should be grateful to HIM for the Blessing, for it is a blessing indeed.

    However the one thing those who don't wish Black Americans prosper want is for them to be over possessed with Black History month and not worry about drugs, violence, sex, rap music, and gang warfare that is destroying future generations.

    Time for Black Americans to show real leadership.

    Use the inherent beauty of the ISLAMIC way of life to teach positively.

  7. Wissem from USA

    Assalaamu Alaikum and bless you all I agree with this article. Embracing Islam makes the religon a bigger community and if we do so it will end Islamophobia. Thank Allah for everything

  8. Stanley Jones ( Jibril al Hamisi) from United States of America

    Dear Brother, remember that we help conquer Spain so we were in Europe and Muslims well before Columbus. We rule parts of Europe for well over 700 hundred years and correct me if I'm wrong. I like to use the term reverted to Islam because I do believed that 30 % or more of the Africans that was brought to this land were of the religion of Islam. I tell people that and they are so munipalated by today's society it's pathetic however, I'm over joyed because "ALLAH " has choosen me to be a Muslim and I'm proud of it.It took 35 years but I'm here..

  9. Muhammad Tukur from nIGERIA

    Salam,your article makes an interesting reading.I believe that one of the reasons why more African-Americans are converting to Islam is because Christianity have failed to solve the problems they are facing.They found that it is only Islam that will get them out of that bondage,hence the massive conversion to Islam.

  10. Abu Khalil from Norway

    Assalaamu Alaikum! Great article. However, the writer says, "Islam entered Africa 100 years before Columbus." Did he mean to say "America"? Islam actually entered Africa during the very ealy days of the Prophet's (saw)Da'wa in Makka when a small band of the first Muslims migrated to seek refuge in Abyssinia (Ethiopia)from persecution in Makka. It was as a result of this that An-Najashi (Negus), the then king of Abyssinia described by the Prophet (saw) himself as a just, non-oppressive ruler became Muslim. Was-Salaam.