Category Archives: State of Islam in Black America.

Black Muslims Unlocking the Revolutionary Potential of the Prophetic Biography

(This is part of a transcript between Professor Shareef Muhammad and Hakeem Muhammad on the Black Dawah Network in the discussion titled “Looking Towards the Prophetic Biography for Black Liberation.)

The Prophetic biography is the story of an orphan child who was brought up in a harsh and volatile environment, who belonged to a people who were negligible in the eyes of the world and through a spiritual revolution transformed his people into leaders in the world. The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) success was connected to his obedience to the Creator. It was power in piety, not piety in power. He did not lean on ‘might makes right’, but rather being right that which is in obedience to the creator who is the sought of all might, might one mighty.

The Prophet Muhammad, (pbuh) showed us how to do religion so that it improves the society in which you live. He showed us how to balance responsibility to one’s people, without becoming a hostage to their shortcomings. We saw that spirituality was something that was practical, that it’s not something that you are but something that you do, and we can be kind, compassionate, chivalrous, and charitable and firm also, in a world of immense cruelty and imbalance.The Prophet Muhammad pbuh was husband, father, statesman, general and activist; all those things.

When one studies his theory, one notices parallels between the Arabs of pre-Islamic times, known as Jahiliyyah or the age of ignorance, and African-Americans: they were a nation without an actual nation. The Arabs would: they lived in anarchy, they didn’t have a head of state; before Islam they didn’t have a government. They were a collection of tribes that in many ways functioned like gangs. They policed themselves through custom and reinforce their rules through vendetta and the threat of ostracism. Your honor, your reputation meant everything. They were giving to fighting, drinking, using drugs, idolatry, which today is sort of mimicked by materialism; the fetish we have for consumables is sort of a new kind of postmodern idolatry.

The pride that pre-Islamic Arabs took in their poetry and the subject matter of that poetry is eerily similar to Hip Hop, which is sort of the trademark of our Jahiliyyah. The Suspended odes, which hung on the Kaaba when it was filled with idols, these were considered the source of Arabic poetry and they valorized the physical prowess, the sexual exploits, they glorified gambling and violence. The things that were written by Antarah and some of the other pre-Islamic poets mirrored in varied ways some of the contents you find in Rick Ross, to be perfectly honest.

So, the theory based on what we just talked about, about the parallels on the Arabs in pre-Islamic times and African-Americans, the theory is that if the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him transformed his people from a people steeped in vice, uneducated and without political power, then following his prophetical example could transform black folk into moral leaders, lovers of learning and acquirers of political sovereignty. In other words, there’s revolutionary potential in his prophetic model.

From the Black Dawah Network comic series “The Inescapable Muslim roots of Black Radical Tradition.”

The idea of using the life of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him as a model for which to achieve black liberation was first uttered by Marcus Garvey, who said in a speech, quote: “Muhammad suffered many defeats at certain times but Muhammad stuck to his faith and ultimately triumphed and Muhammadism was given to the world”. In a publication of Garvey’s UNIA -I think it’s the Champion Magazine- March issue, 1917, it wrote: “The negro is crying for a Muhammad to come forward and give him the Quran of economic and intellectual welfare. Where is he?” In the flagship newspaper of the UNIA, The Negro World, it read: “The prophet of Allah, concentrating his inexhaustible, incandescent energy on the spiritual, material liberation of his people and the herald of the new dawn”, Garvey, stressing with equal view the material, spiritual redemption of his race.

So the life of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was social, political transformation of an entire people and amon the early pan-Africanists and black nationalist nationalists; that’s what it was seen as. And the Prophetic biography had capital in black political thought. We need to unlock the revolutionary potential that is within this religion, which inspired or attracted our forefathers to come to it.

The prophetic revolution contrast with the Marxist revolution is that the Islamic revolution of the prophet pbuh was a revolution that occurred from the inside out, whereas the Marxian revolution was one that sought to take place from the outside-in. So, where the Marxian revolution took the position of ‘change the structures, you change the people’, the Islamic prophetic revolution of Muhammad peace be upon him was ‘you change the person and then, from there, the thing that are outside of that person change’.

The application of the prophetic model of Muhammad (pbuh)  will cause a lot of people to lose a lot of money and the resurrection of the black man and the black woman will cause a lot of people to lose a lot of money.

Take drugs, for example, narcotics; it veils the intellect, it impairs ones judgment. Well, people take narcotics in part to cope with their condition, with their situation. So that prevents them from becoming 100% dissatisfied and uncomfortable with their condition so that Allah will then per his promise, change their condition. So the narcotic, the drug gets in the way of that first step towards a people’s social, political and economic transformation. That’s why the drug dealer is the most counterrevolutionary agent in the black community.

The Qu’ran teaches that Allah would change your condition if you change what it is in yourself. This mean means that you have to purge yourself of the affection that you have towards the very magnet that’s arresting your development. that blunts their attempts or blocks their attempt to change what is in their hearts

You study the Sahaba and you can see… they may remind you of people in your neighborhood. And the people in your neighborhood who have not reached their potential, you may look at them differently when you study the Sahaba because you see that the Sahaba reached their potential and why not the person down the block.

Muhammad(pbuh) who was the greatest alchemist in the metaphorical sense of the word in which he would take something that was rust and turn it into gold; we’re talking about character here, we’re talking about once he would take somebody who metaphorically was rust and sort of transformed them into this gold.

The other thing to sort of contrast the life of Muhammad peace be upon him and the Islamic revolution with that of the Marxian model is that Marx talked about the lumpenproletariat, and, what did he say about the lumpenproletariat? That the Marxian revolution, the communist revolution would happen when capitalism would exhaust itself and the workers would overthrow those who own the means of capitalist production and take over the economy and it would end up in a sort of cooperative commonwealth in which the workers would share equally in the means of production and the product, have access to the product. He said that the lumpenproletariat –these were your criminals, your prostitutes, drug dealers, thieves, etc.-, these people would not only be apart of the revolution but they are in many ways a danger or a threat to the revolution. And so he completely excluded the downfall of the lumpenproletariat from this great transformation that would occur. While Islam, particularly in black America, centered its revolution or its idea of revolution on those very people.

So Malcolm X, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was what Marx would’ve considered lumpen, and yet it is from him, from Malcolm that we get this sort of push in this direction towards revolutionary change or transformation, this revolutionary event in religion and thought through the religion of Islam. So the Marxian revolution is a revolution from the outside-in, which excludes the social outcast, where Islam is a revolution from the inside out that not only incorporates those people that Marxists excluded but in many ways can center the change on those very people.

This is why Islam is liberation; it is the solution, the remedy and the answer to what ails oppressed Black communities.

Professor Shareef Muhammad has taught history at Georgia State University and Islamic studies at Spelman University.  He has a masters in history at Kent State University with his thesis on The Cultural Jihad in the antelbellum South: How Muslim slaves preserved their religious/cultural identity during slavery.

The Islam of Black Revolutionaries

“You don’t have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it.” — Malcolm X Speech at the Congress for Racial Equality in Detroit, Apr. 12, 1964

The Islam of Black revolutionaries rejects the domestication of Islam within the US Empire and instead roots Islam as the spiritual center of larger Pan-African struggles. The Islam of Black revolutionaries was born from African resistance to the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism and global white supremacy. The Islam of Black revolutionaries does not concern itself with the white gaze nor appeasing white fears about Islam. Its MX cartoonprimary focus is the liberation, concerns and aspiration of Black people. A return to Black revolutionary Islam necessitates the end of apolitical khutbas; gives spiritual guidance informed by Black political thought; and seeks to continue the unfinished theological project of Malcolm X via the production of Islamic content for oppressed Black communities.

The Islam of Black revolutionaries is exemplified by Pacifico Licutan (hereafter Licutan), one of the suspected masterminds of the 1835 Islamic slave revolt in Bahia, Brazil. During his trial for conspiring to revolt, in February 1835, when the judge asked his name, court documents revealed that he continuously referred to himself as Bilal in honor of Bilal ibn Rabah, the famous Black companion of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)[1]. By linking himself to Bilal ibn Rabah, Licutan affirmed the right of Black people to be freed from the judicial system of white supremacy.

Although Licutan was flogged for his contributions to the revolt, the mantle of Black revolutionary Islam continued. For example, through Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown) who, upon being brought to court on trumped up charges (a government backlash for his involvement in the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s to 1970s), refused to grant the court legitimacy and used it for a dawah opportunity. Imam Jamil Al-Amin told the jury and judges, “I invite you to Islam. Be Muslim and receive two rewards.” Like Licutan, Imam Jamil Al-Amin refused to submit to the judicial system of white supremacy.

Even as we sought to escape from slavery, we as Black people sought to maintain our salah (obligatory prayers). Detailing his escape from slavery, Omar Ibn Said stated, “I fled from the hand of Johnson and after a month came to a place called Fayd-il. There I saw some great houses. On the new moon I went into a church to pray.” As a fugitive fleeing bondage, Omar ibn Said strived to maintain his salah even though he could be captured at any time.

A Return to Black Revolutionary Islam

“It’s undeniable that Muhammad [pbuh] was a revolutionary who turned a society upside down.” — Pan-Africanist, Thomas Sankara

Rooted in Islamic critiques of neoliberal economics and its usage of interest banking, the Islam of Black revolutionaries necessitates struggling against the International Monetary Fund’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs that has created and sustained poverty and destruction in Africa.

Similarly, the Islam of Black revolutionaries vehemently opposes the white supremacist capitalist economic system that has led to racial wealth disparities that are so large it would take over 200 years for Black families to have wealth equal to white Americans. The Islam of Black revolutionaries seeks to turn global white supremacy upside down and eradicate it from the face of the planet.

The Islam of Black revolutionaries does not oppose the travel ban because “Muslim immigrants deserve the American dream,” but because we are under no obligation to respect the arbitrary borders of European settler-colonialists on land usurped from indigenous First Nations. Nor do we believe that these borders inhibit refugees who are fleeing the United States government’s imperialistic wars.

Furthermore, the Islam of Black revolutionaries recognizes Saudi Arabia for what it is: a white supremacist proxy state. It problematizes the Islamic institutions where Blacks went to study the deen for detaching Islam from the Black liberation struggle. Black revolutionary Islam centers disenfranchised Black communities at the center of global Islamic revival.

The Islam of Black revolutionaries is reflected within Safiya Bukhari’s pivotal chapter “Islam and Revolution Is Not a Contradiction,” from The War Before where she provides an analysis for the bankruptcy of the political system of the United States to address Black suffering.

The Islam of Black revolutionaries recognizes that just as Allah enabled Moses to overcome Pharaoh and all the oppressive structures he laid out, Allah can enable them to overcome modern Pharaohs and all the oppressive structures that they lay out.

This is true whether the Pharaoh be Nixon who initiated the war on drugs on Black ghettos; Reagan whose neoliberal “trickle down economics” devastated Black communities; Bill Clinton who cut back on social services to the Black poor and expanded Black mass incarceration; George W. Bush who presided over mass Black death during Hurricane Katrina; Barack Obama who represented white power in a Black face; or Donald J. Trump who has promised to bring back stop and frisk and a litany of other social policies working to oppress Black people.

Malcolm X, a student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, embodies what this worldview of belief in God can do. He said, “the religion of Islam had reached down into the mud to lift me up, to save me from being what I inevitably would have been: a dead criminal in a grave.”

[1] Reis, João José. Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia. Trans Arthur Brakel. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993, p. 131-132.

The Sad Saga of the Negro Imam!

More than an individual, the Negro Imam reflects and represents a mindset; a way of thinking and thus, acting. Once you know the characteristics of the Negro Imam, which is highlighted most blatantly by his consistent, sometimes exclusive engagement of, concern for and service to and for institutions and organizations whose agenda is most often indifferent to the best interest of his people, the disenfranchised Black masses, and it is easy to identify just who embodies those traits; and how dangerous he, the Negro Imam as well as those he influences is to the independence and self-determination of the Muslim Black man and women, and Islam in America in general.

Just as Malcolm X once explained about the House Negro and the Field Negro, the Negro Imam,(Just like the Negro preacher that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said was his worse enemy and critic) protects and promotes the agenda and objectives of his “boss”, at the expense of his own community, in the same way the House Negro did for his master on the plantation. The evidence surrounds us and does not lie.

As Muslims, we firmly believe in the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. Our problem with the institutions which Immigrant Muslims have established is not based on the fact  that they consist of Immigrant Muslims. Our problem is that the institutions which Immigrant Muslims have established in America instead of allying themselves with the Black Muslim tradition of a holy-protest against white supremacy, more often than not, they acquiesce to it.

 “The Negro Imam”  affiliated with said institutions will be completely  devoid of an agenda to advance Islam in Black America  with a consistent engagement with disenfranchised Black communities. Whereas, Malcolm X upon being leaving prison went up and down Detroit’s Black ghettos to speak with drug traffickers, gang members, and other disenfranchised Black folks about Islam,  “the Negro Imam” is comfortable being a token in immigrant Muslim institutions which have at best, abysmal engagement with Black communities.

 When Black Muslims organize for their own self determination, Black Muslims are accused of being “nationalistic” or “separatists” and have to endure the tongue lashing and false narrative of “there is no Black or white” or “racism in Islam.”   In contrast, Immigrant Muslims get away with their separatism because “The Negro Imam” is with them. Thus, this gives the illusion that their organization “serve all Muslims” when in reality their agenda is diametrically opposed to the necessary steps Black Muslims must undertake to advance Islam in Black America.

   We Must Eradicate the Mentality Of the Negro Imam!

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