Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Shaykh Amadou Bamba

Salaam alaikum,

Since this is Black History Month (and I won't get into the troubles with that), I decided for my own benefit to research and study important Muslims of African descent. This little study, if I can keep it up despite the school schedule, will compose of Muslims in African nations, Afro-Islamic culture, arts and architecture and the impact of Muslims of African descent in the "New World." This small entry is dedicated to a famous Senegalese sheikh named Amadou Bamba.

On the left is a picture of the Mosque of Touba in Touba, Senegal, and is the burial place of Shaykh Amadou Bamba. He is known for establishing the Mouride brotherhood though he was a devout adherent of the Qadiriyya tariqa. He was born in the village of Mbacke in 1850 and was the son of a Qadiriyya marabout. While he mainly spent his life dedicated to Qur'anic study, the French colonial government feared that his popularity could be used to wage war against them. Because of this, he was forced into exile to Gabon in 1893 and Mauritania in 1903. But the exiles worked to the French disadvantage as legends spread about his miraculous survival of torture and starvation. It wasn't until 1910 that the French realized that Bamba was not plotting war against them and they eventually let him return to his expanded community. In 1918, he won the French Legion of Honor for enlisting his followers in the First World War and the French allowed him to establish his community in Touba. He died in 1927.

Senegalese musician and pop sensation Youssou N'Dour wrote two songs in dedication to the shaykh and some of the lyrics are here. As N'Dour was exploring his Senegalese Islamic roots, he completed an album entitled Egypt. It's a series of songs dedicated to his homeland and the hold that Sufism still has in many West African nations.

Shukran Bamba

Praise God--I thank you, Lord
You who brought me to Shaykh Amadou Bamba
Had this man not shown up in Mbacke
Islam would have sunk with shame into oblivion
Since religious people were being
killed or deported by the colonialists
Their goal was to weaken Islam
Shaykh Amadou Bamba saw to it that they failed.

....Thank you so much. Thank you, Madou Bamba

Through him I discovered God and His Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)
he taught me to surrender to God
I followed him for all the very reasons we
call him the "Prophet's devotee" (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)
An empty calabash does not attract a goat
And empty words do not lead men
For a long time I drank deeply
from the well of Bamba's writings
never finding deviation
from the ways of the Man (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)

Bamba the Poet

Indeed, Modou Bamba should amaze any writer
Modou Bamba should astound any poet
Go around the Arab, the White and the Black countries,
and I swear you will find no match for Madou Bamba

Bamba astounds me
He started with the Koran
And wrote a book from each of its letters
No one has ever written as much as he
did he ever sleep, then?

Bamba Islam-al-Muridiyya Official Home Page

Friday, January 27, 2006

Liquor Store Dawah

Salaam alaikum,

These are just some thoughts about the latest protests against Muslim owned liquor stores in Oakland and how these establishments ruin the historically amiable relationship between Muslims and the African-American community.

Liquor Store Dawah, part 1

Liquor Store Dawah, part 2

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

an interview with ralston x

Gus Westcott's interview with Ralston X (Uthman Malik Abdal Hakim) was originally broadcast in December 1993 and consists of a brief discussion on the relation between the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X and Pan-Africanism, along with other related themes.

letter to an african muslim

Letter to An African Muslim by Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi ad-Darqawi is a large text (not just a few pages) which discusses Islam's potential role in freeing Africa from external control and improving the condition of African people. I wouldn't necessarily endorse everything in it. I have my own reservations about the author and some of the positions he adopts. But if you are interested in the subject, it might be worthwhile to at least take a look at what he has to say. But at the same time I would try to think: Are there other ways to understand the situation in Africa? Are there other models for Islam's role in addressing those problems? What are the non-religious factors play in African society? etc.

civic involvement and islam

From the I.M.A.N. (Inner-city Muslim Action Network) website: In Civic Involvement: An Islamic Imperative, Imam Zaid Shakir shares some comments about how Muslims can be of service to the community around them. And in particular, some of the positive projects which I.M.A.N is engaged are a Day Laborer Campaign and an Ex-Offender Campaign

in the ghetto

In the Ghetto...? by Jamshed Bokhari is a piece looking at how immigrant Muslim youth, especially from South Asia, want to immitate and participate in "gangsta" culture. It's a nice read, although in my opinion Bokhari only really scratches the surface. More could probably be said about the role of class, and racism (both from the immigrant community towards African-Americans, and from the larger mainstream society towards Muslim youths) and other factors which play a role in the decisions these kids are making.

aminah bevery mccloud

Exclusive Q & A With Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud, Professor, Islamic Studies in Religious Studies, DePaul University. An excellent interview. I've actually met her once. She's a trip in person. We need more people like her who are willing to speak their own minds.

Part One emphasizes the struggles faced by African-American scholars in the field of Islamic studies and academia in general.

Part Two deals more with modern negative portrayals of Islam, the sunni-shia split, other movements within the ummah, and the status of women.

see also the article:
aminah mccloud activist/scholar

interview between imam mustafa el-amin and cedric muhammad

Exclusive Q & A With Imam Mustafa El-Amin on: The American Society of Muslims, Theology, and The Role Of Blacks In Spreading Islam In The United States.

This is an extensive two part interview between Imam Mustafa El-Amin and Cedric Muhammad at Blackelctorate.com.

Part One ranges from discussions of El-Amin's time in the Nation of Islam, his research of Freemasonry, and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed's resignation as leader of the American Society of Muslims.

Part Two deals more with the future of ASM, Muhammad (saaws) as the last prophet and messenger, 9/11, African-American dawa, relations between the Nation of Islam and ASM, and future political/ economic developments in the organized African-American Muslim community.

interview with najee ali

Interview With Imam Najee Ali, Founder of Islamic H.O.P.E. on his reconcilliation with Russell Simmons, the future of the American Society of Muslims (ASM), unity with the NOI, and more broadly the future of Muslim political organizing.

see also:
najee ali and project islamic h.o.p.e.
an open letter to minister louis farrakhan
the mexican stamp controversy

by any means necessary

By Any Means Necessary: The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X is a brief talk given by Manning Marable at Metro State College, Denver, Colorado, February 21, 1992.

Monday, January 23, 2006

details for Saturday's Not in Our Name March

An effort to address the issue of Muslim-owned liquor stores and the general proliferation of alcohol outlets in poor communities. Well over 80% of the 350 liquor stores in Oakland are owned or operated by “Muslims.” This march and rally is a mobilization of our community to send a strong message that we are outraged by the destructive and misrepresentative actions of our coreligionists and that we join allies from other groups in the struggle to create healthy and enriching neighborhoods. It is one step of many that are being and will be taken to affect a long-term and lasting redress of this issue.

* Gather at 11:00am – Defremery Park in Oakland (1651 Adeline, between 17th &18th)

* March to Frank Ogawa Plaza/City Hall (in front of City Hall at 14th St. & Broadway)

* Prayer & Rally at 12:30pm at Frank Ogawa Plaza (bring your own prayer rug)

Imam Faheem Shuaibe, Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Imam Abu Qadir al-Amin, Dr. Mohammad Rajabally, & many others

Come out and support this effort to make a healthy contribution to the communities in which we live.

Organized and endorsed by a Coalition of Concerned Bay Area Muslims
For more information: call 510-868-8318, or email muslims4hc@emailus.org.
From: Cognizance

"muslim" owned liquor stores - not in our name

After the debacle late last year regarding the Muslim liquor stores in the SF Bay Area, the following flyer has been published as a collaborative effort between Zaytuna, Masjid Waritheen, East Bay and SF masjids and others to address the issue of Muslim stores owners in Oakland and surrounding areas. The flyer is being distributed in English and Arabic.

In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

“Muslim” Owned Liquor Stores: Not in Our Name

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said “Truly Allah has cursed khamr (alcohol) and the one who produces it, the one for whom it is produced, the one who drinks it, the one who serves it, the one who carries it, the one for whom it is carried, the one who sells it, the one who earns from the sale of it, the one who buys it, and the one for whom it is bought.” (al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud)

One of the most unfortunate problems facing Muslims today is the fact that in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, the majority of liquor store owners are Muslim. This has done immense damage to the image of Islam and Muslims, especially since these are the very communities that have historically been most receptive to the message of Islam.

The human cost is even greater. Alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of death in this country (over 85,000 deaths per year); it is a major factor in domestic and teen violence; and it is often the first drug for those whose lives are eventually destroyed by drugs. Many of these liquor stores are nexuses for other forms of destructive vices in the community such as drug peddling, pornography, gambling, and fencing (the buying and selling of stolen goods). Rarely found in more “affluent” neighborhoods, these stores, with their easy access to liquor, exacerbate the poverty, despair, immorality, and oppression that has lead to the destruction of legions of young lives in poor residential communities.

In Oakland, the animosity generated towards Muslims involved in this cursed trade recently lead to vigilante activity. While we do not condone such actions, this was a wake-up call for many concerned Muslims.

Now is the time to let the community know that Islam does not condone this filthy trade. Now is the time for us to join those who have been struggling for years to stop this exploitative business. Now is the time for action. We declare and affirm unequivocally that the religion of Islam categorically prohibits any Muslim from engaging in the sale of alcohol, without exception or compromise. We call on all Bay Area Muslims to join us in an effort to end this scourge that is destroying some of our most underprivileged neighborhoods. Our campaign begins with:

• Friday, January 20, 2006 - A Jumu’ah of Consciousness: We call on all Bay Area Masjids to address the issue of alcohol, its strong prohibition in Islam, and its social destructiveness.

• Saturday, January 28, 2006 - Taking It To the Streets: A march that mobilizes the community to send a strong message that we are outraged by the destructive, immoral and haram actions of our coreligionists, and that we join allies from other groups in their struggle to rid our communities of this exploitative institution.

• In the long term, we will be networking with community activists to help develop alternativemodels of economic development, dialoguing with liquor store owners to urge them to embrace these alternatives, appealing for changes in local and state policies and regulations in regard to liquor stores in poorer communities, assisting in community education and empowerment initiatives, and initiating other measures that are needed to affect a long-term and lasting redress of this issue.

To be effective we need your support, and the support of your Masjid and community. We may not be able to end all alcohol trading in our poorer communities. However, we can make a big difference, and we can declare to all that will listen that any trading in this cursed poison that does go on does not occur in our name, nor does it have our endorsement.

We invite you to join us.
Coalition of Concerned Bay Area Muslims
For more info or to add you endorsement, contact: 510-868-8318

From: Patholigical Indecision

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

islam's feminist appeal

Islam's Feminist Appeal is a piece from Delaware Online is more explicitly about gender, but it focuses on interviews with African-American Muslims (along with members of the Nation) in the Delaware area.

Friday, January 13, 2006

So-Called Compassionate Conservatives

See, this is what happens when you start thinking about the drivel of right-wing, "compassionate" conservatives.

From my blog...an entry on telling it like it is

"Racism today is no longer overt. While the occasional shouting of a racial slurs does happen in many parts the world, current society tells us that such things are unacceptable. Polite society does not allow for the use of ethnic slurs or obvious statements of racial superiority. Racism has evolved into a more discreet but nonetheless noxious form. It's when political ideologues muse about the abortion of young Black baby boys to reduce crime. It's when people compliment you on how well you speak your mother tongue and how well articulate your thoughts. It's when in the face of obvious injustices, such as the latest hurricane relief efforts, that they refuse to question or even entertain the idea that racism exists. It's just some thing of the 1960s. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is over. Move on....

There aren't enough glowing recommendations from professors,
or honors and accolades,
or straight As,
or strong work ethics,
or medals and plaques
or clean records or no prison histories,
no drugs in the urine tests,
or glowing words from other white employees
for people like O'Reilly, Coulter, Bennett, Hannity and all the other neocon-artists to see beyond the fact that they can't see past Blackness.

Third Resurrection on Yahoo!

Please join the Third Resurrection yahoo group.

Muslim Author Interivewed in S.F. Bay View Newspaper

Interview w/ Adisa Banjoko on Spirituality, Politics and Hip Hop

Who Are The Muslims In America?

"Who are the Muslims in America?" - "They are an amalgamation of races, ethnicities, classes and perhaps most importantly, histories, bound together by a common commitment to a set of basic religious/theological postulates and an ongoing exchange, in word and in deed, about what those religious and theological postulates mean, in the context for their desire for a dignified and self-respecting existence as Muslims in America." - Sherman Jackson.

Now that we know who we are can we get down to brass tax? Thanks. Marqas

Covering Islam and Muslims in America, Speech By Sherman Jackson

Sherman 'Abdul Hakim' Jackson gave a speech entitled, Covering Islam and Muslims in America, on November 6th, 2005. Originally posted on the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism, you can get info on it as well as download the file (153 MB) here. Keeping you up to date on the latest Sherman Jackson news, this is Marqas reporting from the Manrilla News Room.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Imam Zaid on Remarkable Current

You Must Listen to This!!!!

Imam Zaid Shakir speaking on Muslim-owned liquor stores and the growing Islamic hip-hop market. Click on the right hand button to hear the interview with Imam Zaid Shakir and Anas Coburn.

"You Talk White!"

Debunking the Myth of Acting White by Ras Baraka

Hat tip to Sister Aaminah for directing me to Brother Adisa's blog to find this amazing article.

I had to post it here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Muslims Selling Alcohol To Muslims - The Blow Up

Here's a small article I wrote about Muslims seling alcohol to Muslims.

Muslims Selling Alcohol To Muslims - The Blow Up

I know it seems shocking to many Muslims, especially those who are "new" to the religion that there are Muslims who would sell liquor to other Muslims or even sell liquor at all, but it's true. I went through this shocking revelation myself not long after I had taken shahadah. "How could another Muslim selling alcohol when s/he knows it's haram?" The question is not why would they (though, fairly, it is a good question) but rather, why do we put them, meaning foreign or ethnic Muslims, on such high pedestals? We, as American Muslims, and here I speak for those like me, converts, have had a long history of putting "ethnic" Muslims on very high pedestals - expecting great things from them, when in fact, they're not better or worse than any of us. The decisions that led them down the road to come to America, to hide out, or perhaps "sell out", is akin to what led us, American Muslims, to Islam. We all wanted a better life. But before I white wash this too much, let me get down to the nitty gritty.

In an article I recently read on MSN, it spoke of Muslim on Muslim violence over the selling of alcohol in Muslims neighborhoods. Specifically, Muslims attacking, vandalizing and striking out against other Muslims who are selling liquor in their neighborhoods. As I mentioned above, this is not a new phenomenon. In my thirteen going on fourteen years of being Muslim, I have prayed, sat next to and eaten with Muslims who have or still do sell liquor. We pray at the same masajid (mosques). We attend the same janaza' (funerals). We live and die with one another each day. As a matter of fact, many of the buildings that were used as masajid were funded by Muslims who sold liquor - they were the only Muslims with money; without them, many of the masajid may have closed down. I am by no means defending these people. Just looking at the story from all sides.

Being from Detroit, I am all too familiar with a liquor store on every corner and a church on the other. You can buy alcohol in most stores for cheaper than one could by any kind of food item. And if one does that math, it is a profitable enterprise, albeit at the cost of a community’s life. Black people in urban areas are surrounded by poison. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Fast food (should check cashing be thrown into this sycophantic group as well?). And that's the legal stuff. Not to mention drugs and prostitution. So when you have a group of people who come into these areas only to siphon off what little remains in terms of resources, yes, it is enraging. In the article, it states, "West Oakland, a predominantly black and poor section of the city where the vandalism took place, has 69 stores selling alcohol, 28 above the maximum number acceptable under a state standard that prescribes no more than one store for every 2,500 residents, according to anti-poverty group Urban Strategies Council." The anger of black peoples in these areas should be easily understood. Easy access to drugs and alcohol exacerbates an already epidemic problem of violence and abuse in our urban areas. So for many blacks, not just Muslims who are black, these foreigners are looked at as parasitic. But toss religion on the flames and it's a whole new fire.

Our contention with them is and should be a moral one. As moral people, we have every right to say, "this is wrong". "We do not want these kinds of poisons in our neighborhoods". We must take our cause to the source, in a moral and legal way. Vigilantism will solve nothing. The young men, in the aforementioned article, attacked a storeowner with lead pipes, destroying property in his store. This will do nothing to detour the man from selling liquor. Worse comes to worse, he'll just pick up stakes and move his shop and start over somewhere else. And while his insurance covers his damage the young men will be arrested and face possible jail time. More black youths in the penal system. A loose-loose situation.

My advice would be to work the legal channels. Boycott his stores. Try educating your people and your neighborhoods on the ills and the effects of alcohol. In other words, try some da'awah. Da'awah should not just entail Fire and Brimstone speeches about the Hellfire and Wrath of God, but "inviting to the good and forbidding of the evil". I feel their anger and frustration but going about it in a violent way will solve nothing. Wa Allahu 'alim.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On American Muslims and Blackness

Saraji Umm Zaid, queen blogger at Sunni Sister, wrote a timely piece about the racial tensions in our American umma and how Blackness is viewed in mainstream American culture.

It's a powerful read.

Blackness and Darkness in the Heart of the Muslim

Eid Mubarak!!!!!!!!!!!
Izzy Mo

Thursday, January 05, 2006

remembering (and forgetting) african muslims in the americas

Remembering (and forgetting) African Muslims in the Americas by J A Progler is an interesting discussion of the ways in which Islam was still manifested in the lives of Muslim slaves brought to the Americas. Starting with the Amistad Rebellion and the events of Alex Haley's Roots, this article also mentions that Makandal, a national hero who led a slave revolt in Haiti and was thought of as a "conjurer" was probably Muslim.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


OK. It's been over a year since the Indian Ocean Tsunami. A whole year since more than 200,000 people perished because of this natural disaster. Many of the victims were from the Asian subcontinent. In countries such as India, Sri Lanka, & Indonesia. These countries were badly ravaged, but what the media did not show is that thousands of people in Africa were affected by the Tsunami.

That's right. You heard me correctly, Africa. Somalia was badly affected, and the worst hit Somali community was on the peninsula of Hafun. Lives and livlihoods were lost. Most Somalis live off of the fishing industry, so this was a grave loss for them. When the tsunami struck it swept away boats, inundated plots and destroyed around 800 buildings. Across Somalia a total of 600 boats were lost, depriving whole communities of a means of earning their living.

While the entire world looked towards Asia, Africa suffered in silence (Again). I doubt that Somalia recieved much aid from red-cross or the U.S govt. It saddens me that racism still effects whether or not innocent people recieve help, or media attention.

See these links for more on Somalia's Loss
Somalia Hit by Tsunami
Recovery Slow in Somalia After Tsunami

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

the challenge of being both black and muslim

The Challenge Of Being Both Black And Muslim by Mark I PinskyFrom the Orlando Sentinel, by way of Blackelectorate.com

"9/11 was like being black twice"

Four African-American Muslims sit around a kitchen table discussing the intersection of race, religion and terrorism at Negrophile

in bleak projects, emerging culture.

A September article from the LA Times In Bleak Projects, Emerging Culture gives a glimpse of how African Muslims in France are defining a religious identity for themselves through hip-hop.

"I realized that my Islam of the ghetto was just a ghetto of Islam," Malik said. "There's a disconnect, a kind of phantasmagoria of Islam. The so-called reformers are trying to invent something in reaction to the West…. We have to put things in another context. Otherwise, we would be in the Middle Ages."

Last year, Malik published an autobiography titled "Allah Bless France!" It resembles to some extent "The Autobiography of Malcom X," a figure whose journey from crime to extremism to tolerance had a profound effect on Malik. The title offers an unabashedly patriotic response to a notorious extremist pamphlet titled "Allah Curse France."

"I'm black, I'm from the neighborhood, but I am French," Malik said. "And this is the country I love."

african-american muslims

By Maura Jane Farrelly
New York
12 August 2005

When reporting on Islam in America, the media often focus on immigrant communities, either from the Middle East or from Southeast Asia. But as many as 40% of the Muslims in this country were born here, and their families have been living in America for generations. By some estimates, African Americans are the largest single ethnic group within America's diverse Muslim population. And until recently, black Muslims felt somewhat alienated from their immigrant religious brethren.

It should be stated from the outset that the overwhelming majority of African-American Muslims are Sunni Muslims. They do not subscribe to the racist ideology of the Nation of Islam, which says white people were created by the Devil to test black people. It is a common misconception that all African-American Muslims belong to this controversial group, when in fact most practice a racially inclusive form of Islam that -- theologically, at least -- is just like the Islam practiced in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. That does not mean, though, that African-American Muslims are exactly like the immigrants with whom they share a faith.

"My generation of Islamic reverts came out of a social movement here in the United States, says Muhaimina Abdul-Hakim, who has belonged to the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, New York, sine 1972. "The Civil Rights movement and Black Nationalism. So we had a different political ideology about America in the first place."

Ms. Abdul-Hakim very consciously refers to herself as a "re-vert," rather than a "convert," because she sees her conversion to Islam as a return to the faith of her ancestors. The first Muslims in America were slaves, brought here from Africa in the 17th century. Like so many other black Muslims her age, she converted at a time of great social change in the United States. And because of this, there is still a strong desire within the African-American Muslim community to change America's socio-economic structure.

That desire is not necessarily shared by the immigrant Muslim community. According to , Richard Turner, who teaches Religious Studies at the University of Iowa the two groups come from different economic classes. "Immigrant Muslims, who came to the United States in their largest numbers after some very unfair immigration laws were rescinded around 1965 are, for the most part, very well educated," he says. "They are for the most part members of the middle class and the upper class. You know, they're not poor people. And certainly African-American Muslims have always had a social justice agenda."

That agenda that involves challenging the status quo-rather than simply working to succeed within it. It is this different attitude about life in America that has led to some tensions between the two different communities of Muslims. Many black Muslims believe their immigrant counterparts came to the United States with a negative impression of African-Americans, and that until very recently, they had little interest in changing that impression. "You know, what people basically know about each other is what they see on television," says Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, who oversees the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. "And many of the (19)70s and '80s television shows that project buffoon-like imagery, or 'pimp-daddy' type imagery of African-Americans -- those television programs are all overseas. So people, as far as they know, that's what African-Americans are like."

It is a problem that Imam Abdur-Rashid says was not always acknowledged on the immigrant side until after September 11th, 2001, when many innocent immigrant Muslims were targeted as terrorists, either by the U.S. government or by average, native-born citizens. Since then, immigrants have been turning to their African-American religious brethren for guidance, according to Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, a predominantly immigrant group. "Immigrant Muslims have learned a lot from the African-American experience," he says. "The struggle through [the] Civil Rights movement has given us a rich experience that African-Americans had in this country. And we are proud of that, and we are learning from that."

What many immigrant Muslims and their children are learning is that collective protest can be powerful. Recalling a rally he attended at an immigration center a couple of years ago, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid says he was struck by how familiar the speeches were. "I marveled as I stood listening to young people -- Muslims who are of Southern Asian and Arab descent -- they were giving speeches and what have you. And their cadence, their method of delivery was African-American," he says. "I watched a young lady of Pakistani descent who stood up and led the crowd in chants of 'No Justice, No Peace,' and yes, that only comes about as a result of this unique social dynamic."

Both Imam Talib Abur-Rashid and Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America say that 'unique social dynamic' between native-born and immigrant Muslims is creating a new, progressive, and multi-cultural American approach to Islam that is unlike anything found in the Middle East or Asia.

race, islam and terrorism

Most African-Caribbean men who become Muslims do so because it gives their lives hope and meaning

Robert Beckford
Tuesday August 16, 2005
The Guardian

I met a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo at a university function at the end of the summer term. A well-educated academic, he had escaped the civil war engulfing his country. In the middle of our conversation on the state of Africa, he reminded me that there were "many well-educated white males engaged in acts of terror" in his country.

He was not referring to suicide bombers but to middle-class corporate executives who fund warlords and low-rank politicians in exchange for access to diamonds and other precious minerals. Their act of terror was to be party to the ethnic cleansing, rape, child abduction and murder conducted by the renegades they financed. Conscious of the dangers of stereotyping, I replied: "Surely not all white males involved in business in Africa are bad? I'm certain many get involved in business with the best of intentions but are seduced by the lure of profits."

Introducing the subject of "race" into the analysis of any area of social conflict can enlighten or obscure the real causes of distress. And this perilous pathway has been followed in some of the news coverage of young black men and domestic terrorism.
The Jamaican origins of Jermaine Lindsay, one of the July 7 suicide bombers, has prompted some to ask why a disproportionate number of black males are attracted to extremism. Lindsay, 19, had spent the vast proportion of his life in England, which made tenuous the tabloid obsession with his place of birth. Intriguingly there was less of a clamour over the ethnicity of Richard Reid, the notorious "shoe bomber", who had a white mother and a black father. In the case of David Copeland, the white, racist, homophobic nail-bomber, there was no analysis of a potential relationship between ethnicity, extremism and terror.

Black men converting to Islam should be placed within the religious context of their communities, where religion still matters. African-Caribbean men and women continue to turn out in large numbers for religious activities. But Islam is able to do what the black church cannot - attract black men.

I have spent most of my working life in conversation with African-Caribbean converts to Islam. Two relationships stand out. I have an ongoing dialogue with an artist who converted in the mid-90s. His journey began when he listened to tapes of African-American Muslim preachers while at graduate school in America. The tapes made a clearcut link between a commitment to Allah and black liberation from poverty, drugs, gangs and meaninglessness. His first visit to a predominantly African-American mosque was life-changing. Hundreds of smartly dressed black men full of self-belief, black pride, purpose and respect immediately became role models.

This is still the case today. Many black men, including Reid and Lindsay, were impressed by Islam's African-centred preaching and positive association with blackness. After all, one of the most powerful icons of the 20th century, Malcolm X, made the journey from Christianity to Islam in search of black redemption. My artist friend says mainstream Islam provides him with a social awareness and commitment to justice that is mostly ignored in black churches.

I have a nephew who recently converted while serving a prison sentence. Spending an inordinate amount of time alone in his cell, he took to reading the Bible and the Qur'an to pass the time. Intrigued by the notion that Islam was the last testament, God's final revelation, he pursued his interest by attending lessons with the imam assigned to the prison chaplaincy. Convinced, he became a devotee.

It was clear to me that the daily regime of Islam provided him with the tools for personal discipline and an interest in intellectual thought. He gained qualifications while inside and, most importantly, became completely dissociated from criminal activity. Having left prison, he continues to live devoutly, and is employed in a management position.

Most African-Caribbean men converting to Islam do so because it is a religion with a capacity to give their lives hope and meaning. This is not a new idea. As long ago as 1888, the Caribbean educator Edward Wilmot Blyden argued that Islam was more respectful of black culture and easier to translate into Caribbean culture than Christianity.

There will always be a few captivated by extremist versions of Islam that exploit the continued disaffection and marginalisation of working-class black youth. After all, with as little potential for social mobility as their migrant grandparents, it is difficult to sell them the New Labour dream of living in a meritocratic "stakeholder" society.

As is the case with the white middle-class corporate executives who see no ethical boundaries preventing them from working for exploitative multinationals in Africa, which displace and destroy the lives of tens of thousands, there will always be a small number of impressionable converts, from the poorest communities, who are lured on to the paths of unrighteousness.

Robert Beckford is a lecturer in African diasporan religions and cultures at the University of Birmingham


islam and the race question

Islam and the Race Question is a brief academic paper by Paul Hardy (Abdul-Ghani) which argues that Islam is deeply egalitarian and anti-racist.

an africana view of progressive american islam

An Africana View of Progressive American Islam

by A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad

The humanist and multicultural battle for the soul of Islam

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Sudanese scholar and Emory University professor of law, puts it very clearly: the need for peace in the global community is a humanist message that Muslims must recover as a banner under which modernist tranformation can proceed (Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/13/2002).

For Muslim Americans, the events of 9/11 contributed to heightened focus on the age-old tensions and political struggles within Islam between the forces of puritanical reaction, non-imaginative orthodoxy, and entrenched tradition and the more liberating tendencies in Muslim philosophical theology, theosophy, and religious practice—historical tendencies that have all along had a contentious relationship with both extremist and conventional variants in Islam.

Yet black American Muslims have long formed a sturdy backbone of Islamic dissent.

Non-indigenous, newly arrived, or second generation Muslim public intellectuals have just been waking up, over the past twenty-odd years, to a critical consciousness of American realities. Black American Muslims have been well aware of them for a long time. (It's estimated that upwards of thirty percent of the Native Africans whose bodies and labor were stolen to build this country were in fact Muslims.)

Thus while Africana Muslim intellectuals with a progressive bent join with their non-black Muslim counterparts in advancing a liberationist project to get free of the control mechanisms of a reactionary and all too frequently puritanical Islamic hegemony, it must never be forgotten that black American Islamic dissent is a lot more than two decades old, and much deeper than a knee-jerk response to the aftermath of 9/11.

It is African-American Muslims who are historically situated as the moral voice of the voiceless and weak within the American system. It is this same cultural Islam that has been the vanguard of oppressed peoples' struggles for years—years in which Muslim immigrants in their collective and individual presence remained curiously quiet and reclusive, except when US policy positions affected their mother countries. Yet however early or late, progressive American Muslims as a group are now ascertaining how we can actively struggle against dangerous backwardness in religion using a history- and faith-informed methodology. Let me summarize this project below.

Toward a progressive reformation of faith

Progressive Islam:

* Understands that the Qur'anic message is essentially universalist regarding salvation, while it remains unitarian regarding the Oneness of God. The string of prophets mentioned in the Holy Qur'an up through Jesus and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) is a short list pointing toward thousands of others who have brought God's revelations to humankind. The divine message has remained essentially the same, with degrees of cosmetic modification fashioned for differing cultures, languages, needs, and times. And in the post-Muhammadan period, according to the experiential insights of the great illuminationist philosophers, Sufi saints, and mystics, God's infinite self-revealing continues in extra-scriptural forms.

* Distinguishes the unconditional faith in Allah's Oneness and the voluntary submission of self to God's sovereignty from historically- and politically-conditioned beliefs, and practices informed by such beliefs. These remain open to rational investigation and possible change in the context of hard-fought social struggles.

* Emphasizes free will as a gift to humankind from God, rather than fatalism in religion.

* Declares white supremacist ideology and its twin, Christian triumphalism, along with their strategies of violence-based domestic social control, imperialism, and militarism, as manifestations of spiritually darkened hearts in need of social and political repentance and a long process of religio-psychological rehabilitation. Reparations in some form are an essential element of this rehabilitation.

* Takes into thoughtful consideration the idea that religious experience has an ideological basis in material reality. The class-, race-, gender- and authority-based ideological underpinnings of all religions must constantly be exposed and assessed.

* Insists on a historically conscious praxis. For progressive African-American Muslim thinkers especially, it is never enough to merely project logically consistent religious thoughts, beautifully articulated in some abstract way. Critically informed and organized action is paramount for qualitative social change.

* Respects the Jeffersonian dictum of church-state separation as promoting religious pluralism, and liberal religious tolerance as in keeping with an authentic and liberative Qur'anic hermeneutic.

* Lifts up the meditative and theosophical Islamic sciences/practices. The works of the Muslim spiritual masters are voluminous and hold out much hope for religious universalism based on a grasp of the oneness of reality.

* Advocates nonviolent resistance to oppression as the morally superior equivalent of the militarist notion of jihad. Shaykh Amadou Bamba of Senegal and Abdul Ghaffar Khan of India have credentials equal to those of M. Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Malcolm X's politically righteous slogan of "by any means necessary" must be read in an ethically consistent way that does no violence to the exhortations and limits of sacred scripture.

* Advances the spirit of internationalism and regionalism by use of the ideas in human rights conventions.

* Enters into coalitions with other progressive religious and/or secular activists in support of civil liberties and qualitative social change.

* Uplifts Islamic philosophical inquiry and the unrestricted use of reason in the practice of ijtihad (personal judgment of religious matters). This point assumes that a narrowly conceived traditionalist orthodoxy is problematic.

Agenda: thinking outside the box

It follows from these principles that progressive Islamic thought must ever regard its doings in the world as tentative and subject to change. God's plan, and the guidance we receive as creatures of the Universal One, are not to be boxed into some neat and tidy or permanent explanation and practice. The only real and lasting thing is submission of self to divine guidance. This is unavoidable. All creation must, at some point in its journey or evolving, submit to its Creator's Will. But we, in our limitations, may not in this life ever comprehend that Will.

If this sounds heterodox, that's a function of history. Theological and jurisprudential orthodoxy in Islam were not established without protracted political and ideological struggles fairly similar to Christianity's own wars of establishment.. The only "Inquisition" in Islamic history was initiated, not by conservative traditionalists, but rather by "free-thinking" rationalists (the Mu'tazilah, encouraged by the 9th century caliph al-Ma'mun). However, at most other points in Islamic history it has been the puritans and/or traditionalists who have wielded the greater power. The brute social power of organized traditionalist schools of thought and their influence on particular Muslim rulers were used to compel discipline in the rank and file. Rebel movements too, such as the very early Kharijites, set themselves up as judges and executioners of other Muslims who disagreed with their ideas on right governance and the political succession to the Prophet. Spiritually intoxicated Sufi mystics and critical Islamic philosophers alike have been hounded and killed (and after their deaths, often celebrated) as the power of "orthodoxy" grew.

This association of religious orthodoxy with brute force and frequently the police power of the caliphs is informative. Medieval Islamic history demonstrates that Muslims who get obsessed with "being right" are not above employing compulsion in religion, no matter what the Qur'an may teach. If we want to take Qur'anic teaching seriously, we have first of all got to let compulsion go. And that means there can be no enforceable orthodoxy.

Secondly, Muslim women leaders, many of whom are highly engaged in academic and professional discourse, must not be consigned to a religious space exclusively reserved for mothers and children: their expert voices are needed in the public square. The decades-old movement among African-American Muslims to elevate women to public religious leadership roles is exemplary, yet still unheard of in most other sects and/or schools of Islamic thought. Elsewhere, at the popular religious level, there has been a long tradition of Sufi women saints being venerated equally with male saints. And the contemporary liberationist writings of Fatima Mernissi and Riffat Hassan, among many others, are impressive here as counters to male domination.

Thirdly, we would do well to follow the examples of leaders like Imam W.D. Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan: more interfaith dialogue with progressive partners in the other faith traditions is requisite for the success of our project.

Fourthly, we must embrace the findings of science, yet insist on its ethical and non-racist practice. An uncritical appropriation of modern science and technology would be a disaster for the faithful, who rely on Muslim thinkers to think and not merely react to Western gadgetry. Some forms of postmodern and deconstructionist philosophy are very well suited to progressive Muslim intellectual inquiry, while a deepened critical theory of the anti-democratic technocratic state, a là Herbert Marcuse and Jergen Habermas, also works well for the struggle to overcome the fetters of "scientifically generated forms of unfreedom."

Finally, more emphasis is due on the arts, music, poetry, sport, play—and the spirituality of cooperative physical work as a unifying, self-affirming, and economically productive strategy. Black jazz masters like Pharoah Saunders can put our minds and hearts into a reflective mode and draw us toward a deeper apprehension of the sublime. Here, again, the masters in Islamic theosophy, gnosticism, and mysticism can be called upon to demonstrate that there is a different way for us to be.

Jalaluddin Rumi said it: "Philosophers' legs are made of wood; legs of wood are infirm indeed."

The progressive Muslim movement ought to be able to dance.

A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Ph.D., is chair of the Africana Islamic Institute and co-chair of the Philadelphia Area Black Radical Congress. He is an ecumenist and longtime religio-political theorist, concerned about world peace and restorative justice. A former member of the executive committee of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, disarmament coordinator of Clergy and Laity Concerned, and peace activist within the Rainbow Coalition, Ibn-Ziyad is currently an adjunct professor of Islamic and Africana philosophy and criminal justice at Rutgers University's Camden, New Jersey campus, and a world history teacher at the high school level.

from Planet Grenada: two pieces on islam and american culture

muslim blues

The connections between Islam and African-American music go further back than many people realize.

In 2004, Jonathan Curiel wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle called Muslim Roots of American Blues which traces some of this history.

And then of course, many jazz musicians adopted Muslim names although not all of them were necessarily practicing the faith.

And in Dizzy Gillespie's autobiography "To Be, Or Not ... To Bop" there is an interesting passage discussing why so many African-American jazz musicians were converting to Islam.

a new breed

Here is an excerpt from The Forbidden Dialogues by Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison, the section is originally called "a new breed". This is probably the least analytical and most lyrical and moving passage in the book, although I'm not certain how I feel about the last paragraph. In certain respects it really parallels some of the ideas behind Third Resurrection. I took this from Planet Grenada

By now it should be clear that the purpose of this book is not to offer an alternative response to the dilemma of the black man in Europe and America who finds himself alienated from his African roots, but to give notice of an event. It announces the advent of a new breed who have overcome the diseased psychology of ressentiment and who have unearthed from beneath layers of deliberate distortion and concealment the hidden keys to the recovery of a complete and genuine Islam without whose vital contribution there can be no effective unlocking of our human predicament. These keys are the spiritual sciences of Tassawwuf which reveal the true human being, and the Madinan civic patterns which have revealed the politically explosive economics of open trade.

They have already begun to share these knowledges with those of their Muslim and non-Muslim counterparts across Europe, Africa and America and the message is invariably well received by those who have retained enough command over their intellectual integrity and independence not to have succumbed to the emotional prejudices and conditioning generated by the misleading dialectics of race and religion. So the fuse is lit and it is now simply a question of time.

Their deen does not belong to the category of corrupt Islamic regimes which terrorise the ordinary people caught in their grip, nor is it that of the young black men dressed according to Arab or Pakistani tradition or in the specially customised variations which have become common sights on the streets of New York and London. You will not find them haranguing passers-by on street corners. You will not find them gratuitously attacking their own people verbally or otherwise, Muslim or not.

Their purpose is to bring to bear by the best means at their disposal the benefits of the knowledge and the political significance of the spirituality they themselves have come to embody by virtue of their overcoming of the distortions and contradictions resulting from the historical departure of the inward spiritual path (tassawwuf) from the limits of outward behavior which had always contained it (the shari'ah). This has led to the dismissal of sufism by the shari'ah to the shari'ah's own detriment since it is left distorted and disabled by the rejection of it's most vital internal organ, while the sufis for their part recoil from what they see as this limping deformity which cannot possibly be what Islamic shari'ah is supposed to stand for.

These new men have emerged neither as devotees of an unrestrained sufi mysticism, nor as men of a shari'ah reduced to the rigid fundamentalism of mullahs and terrorists. Rather, they have emerged through a middle way resulting in a breed of men whose form is superior to both of the previous alternatives. They are men of Allah, men of pure deen, laughing lions who have sat with vigorous appetites at well laid tables where masters have served them with the best of Tassawwuf. They have eaten every dish and the essential nourishment, finally back where it belongs, has fed their hearts and suffused itself throughout their limbs, eliminating along the way any waste matter or useless residues.

Their demeanor is urbane and self-assured. They value intelligence, courtesy, trustworthiness, courage, loyalty, sincerity and generosity above all other personal qualities. They disdain all forms of vulgarity or whatever lacks dignity and they do not suffer patiently the prevarications of the fainthearted. The inner path of their deen takes them on a journey of genuine transformation by tasting of the inwardly hidden realities and knowledges which alone can bring true mastery over the self and freedom from fear and anxiety with respect to confronting the world and the powers that claim to govern it in defiance of the Power that is the origin of all power. This is the import of Tassawwuf when it lies at the heart of Islam and without which the results is the familiar hollowness of organised religion, a sad deformity, a body without a soul.

This new breed have surpassed the familiar melancholic song of the African Diaspora whose melody floats lost between Africa, the Americas and Europe. Historical destiny has taken them on two journeys and his delivered them to their appointed places. They have surpassed the values of survival and resistance, they are not concerned with that or with fighting for rights, and they have surpassed the politics of race and religion in favor of a life transaction based upon harmony with the natural order of the universe and the Lord of the Worlds. They are the songmasters of a new spirit and they sing to a score written and orchestrated since before endless time by the Unifier of existence. Their voice is the voice of Overman culture which sings of the transvaluation of values and the arrival of the heralds of a New Wave. From the heart of Europe and across the Americas they sing the will to power of Marcus Garvey, they sing the ultimate song of Hajj Malik al Shabazz, they sing the battle cries of Nietzsche, Wagner and Pound, and they sing the searching flights of John Coltrane for a Love Supreme. They sing the strains of spiritual home-coming.

the forgotten history of islam in america

This is a feature from In These Times, by Salim Muwakkil giving a brief but rather balanced overview of Islam's history in the US. He concludes by saying:

Deeply rooted in U.S. culture, Islam has proven its utility as an agent for change and a force for stability. Those who argue that the religion is atavistic or a product of postmodern nihilism must be more careful in their condemnation. Like other religious believers, Muslims often oscillate between precept and practice. But pluralistic cultural pressures are more likely to moderate the excesses of Islamist cults, like al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, than an endless war. The nation has not done enough to mine the wisdom of Muslims—particularly African-Americans—who have successfully reconciled the obligations of Islamic piety with pluralistic democracy. We are in desperate need of such insight.

also on: Planet Grenada

Monday, January 02, 2006

third resurrection

What does the term "Third Resurrection" refer to?

From Sherman Jackson's "Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection":

When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, his followers came to refer to the period before his death as the "First Resurrection," during which blacks were said to have been delivered from the darkness of their slave mentality into the light of their true Blackamerican selves. The period immediately after his death, under the divided leadership of Imam W.D. Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan, came to be known for a time as the "Second Resurrection." Under both of those "dispensations," it was the charismatic leader rather than any objective method of scriptural interpretation that made and unmade religious doctrine. .

Jackson goes on to say that:

Today, however, Blackamerican Islam is and for more than three decades has been in a state of transition. While Black Religion continues to influence the thinking and sensibilities of Blackamerican Muslims, it no longer enjoys the near monopoly it once did. [...] Rather than to Black Religion, it is to the sources and authorities of historical Islam that Blackamerican Muslims now appeal in order to authenticate their views and actions and earn these recognition as Islamic. This shift in the basis of authority in Blackamerican Islam constitutes a fundamental break with its past and marks the beginning of the "Third Resurrection".

Or to put it differently, the First Resurrection occured when African-Americans left mainstream Christian churches and joined proto-Islamic groups like the Nation of Islam or Moorish Science.

The Second Resurrection, occured after Elijah Muhammad passed away and, under the leadership of Warithudeen Muhammad, members of the Nation left behind many of the more extreme positions of the past (e.g. Allah came in the person of Fard Muhammad) and adopted more mainstream Islamic teachings (e.g. Following the five pillars). Still, in some respects this community still held onto some distinctive beliefs on minor matters, and was slightly insular.

The other members of the group blog should feel free to share their thoughts, but from my perspective the Third Resurrection is about the next step, the process of joining the larger world community of orthodox Islam, while at the same time speaking out with a distinctively Black (but non-racist) American voice which is appropriate to our contemporary situation.

Why this blog?

When I look around online for sites related to Islam and race, it is easy to see that the followers of Elijah Muhammad, namely the Nation(s) of Islam and the Five Percenters, definitely have a huge virtual presence, in spite of the fact that African-American Sunnis strongly outnumber them. Similarly, in Afrocentric bookstores, it is often much easier to find materials comming from the Nation than from a Sunni perspective. Somehow there is a vacuum. For whatever reason, it has been difficult for African-American orthodox Muslims post-Malcolm X to speak about race and racism with any kind of depth or detail and be heard or noticed in the mainstream.

So at least one purpose for this blog is to help fill that vacuum a little by gathering together the efforts of African-American orthodox Muslim bloggers to speak on contemporary (and historical) issues of relevance.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Book Review: Scattered Pictures

Coming soon--book review

Scattered Pictures: Reflection of An American Muslim by Imam Zaid Shakir

Community Activism: Yantaru

Salaam alaikum,

As one of the first but many entries for this blog, I interviewed the sisters of Yantaru. Yantaru is an organization founded on the life, scholarship and activism of a Nigerian scholar, poet, teacher and activist Nana Asma'u. Nana Asma'u 1793-1865 (may God have mercy on her) was the daughter of the Sokoto caliph Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio (may God have mercy on him). She was responsible for the all over education of the women in the newly found caliphate. Her family was linked to the tariqa of Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, or the Qadiriyya tariqa. Women found it very hard to study and learn the deen of Islam so Nana Asma'u created poetry to help facilate learning and created programs that educated women on their rights and duties in Islam. She left behind a vast corpus of work in Arabic, Fulfulde and Hausa. Today, the women of Yantaru have picked up from where Nana Asma'u left off.

For more information on Nana Asma'u, please read One Women's Jihad, Nana Asma'u Scholar and Scribe.

Could you tell our readers how Yantaru become the organization that it is today? How did you guys come up with this idea for a women's organization modeled after the life and example of Nana Asma'u?

Yan Taru was a word used in the Sokoto Caliphate, to refer to the women who were the backbone of an educational movement established by Nana Asma'u during the reign of her brother Caliph Muhammad Bello (1817 - 1837). The Sokoto Caliphate was established by Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio in 1804 spanned an area comparable in size to western Europe, in modern day terms it consisted of large part of Nigeria, parts of Togo, Benin republic, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. It remained in existence till it’s dismantlement in 1904 by the British. However the last Caliph appointed a successor (Sultan Muhammad Mai Wurno) before his death to make the hijra to Sudan, the present Sultan of Mairurno, Sultan AbuBakr is a descendent of this general.

The Yan Taru was a group of itinerant female student-teachers. Women and girls who left their homes and made the long arduous journey to Sokoto, primarily on foot. The women unable to make the journey to seek knowledge would send sadaqa, which would then be used to run the charitable works of Nana Asma'u. Today, hundreds of women from the countries of Nigeria and Niger continue to make this same journey, albeit, mostly by bus. The Yan Taru Foundation is just an extension of this system being applied to the American socio-cultural context. We incorporated as a non-profit foundation in April this year.

Yantaru places much of it's focus on women's education. Do you think that such educational initiatives are missing in our American Muslim community or do you see Yantaru simply taking the education of Muslim women to a new level?

Yes, unfortunately, there is a tremendous lack of educational initiatives not just for women but for Muslims as a whole in the United States. Traditionally Islam was spread around the world through the centuries by scholars, pious merchants and amirs, but in America, for the most part, our mosques and community centers are run by doctors , engineers and PhDs who do not have a solid foundation in traditional Islamic education, and hence our mosques do not impart this or make education a priority. The Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) was primarily a teacher and our mothers, Ummuhat ul-mu’mineen, were his closest students, and were teachers of his companions as well. Shaykh Uthman and Nana Asma’u stressed the importance of knowledge during their lives and this was a distinguishing feature of their community, and is what lead to their success. And if we are to have spiritually and materially thriving Muslim communities in the United States it must be based on a solid traditional education that is connected by a scholarly chain to the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him).

Ma sha Allah, their are small pockets of activity across America, last year their was a women’s deen intensive in California with several female teachers, just last month there was a Sisters' Two Day Weekend Program in Chicago with local female teachers (http://www.madrasaprogram.org) Shaykh Uthman said there should be a scholar in every city. Women are sometimes taken advantage of because of a lack of education (on the woman’s part and on the man’s) because they are unaware of their rights. And sometimes women violate the rights of others due to the lack of a solid traditional education. There was a beautiful piece of nasiha that Habib Ali gave to sisters of the Yan Taru in San Diego a few years back, it essentially addresses how true Islam gives men and women the guidance to develop healthy and balanced relationships based on obedience to their Creator; these basic things are necessary for us to know in order to be able to adequately prepare ourselves for the Day of Reckoning. In sha Allah, a transcript of this talk will be available shortly in the Yan Taru library www.yantaru.org/library.

Could you please talk to us about Nana Asma'u and why Yantaru chose her to be the role model for your group? Islam is filled with many exceptional women in it's history but what was it about Nana Asma'u that inspired the creation of Yantaru and its goals?

Jean Boyd (author of the Caliph’s Sister and co-author of One Woman’s jihad) wrote a short book introducing Nana Asma'u, it is available in our digital library and is a good start for a person who wants an overview of her life but in a nut shell Nana Asma’u was an Islamic leader, Scholar, Poet and social activist. As the daughter of Shaykh Uthman ibn Fodiyo, the leader of the Sokoto Caliphate, Asma'u was a role model and teacher for other Muslim women as well as an Islamic scholar, linguist and writer. She developed a method of bringing women to her for learning called the Yan Taru movement, which has continued to exist until the present. She taught women, old and young, through poetry. These poems contained the teachings of Islam, which they memorized and then returned home to teach. She left a large body of writing in Arabic, Fulfulde and Hausa. She was 72 when she died.

We didn’t really choose her, rather Allah ta’ala choose her for us. We are women who adhere to the community and methodology established almost 200 years ago by the great Islamic scholar Shaykh Uthman ibn Fodiyo and Nana Asma’u was one of his greatest students. Like you say there are great women throughout Muslim history, foremost of them being the Ummuhat ul-mu’mineen, Imam Suhaib Webb’s Mothers of the believers CD set is a great introduction to these remarkable women. The Imam not only mentions the obvious contributions, like teaching, but he also highlights the subtle things they did that made their communities strong, their powerful impact and their legacy linger.

Ma sha Allah, we are also blessed to have various great women in all regions of the world people like Fatima bin al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Daqqaq al-Qushayri, Karima al-Marwaziyya, Zaynab bint Sulayman, Fatima bint Abd al-Rahman, Umm al-Fath Amat as-Salam, Hafsa bint Ibn Sirin, 'Amra bin 'Abd al-Rahman, Umm al-Darda' 'Abida al-Madaniyya, 'Abda bin Bishr, Umm Umar al-Thaqafiyya, Nafisa bint al-Hasan ibn Ziyad, Khadija Umm Muhammad, 'Abda bint Abd al-Rahman, Sitt al-Wuzara, A'isha bin Abd al-Hadi, Sitt al-Arab and Daqiqa bint Murshid.
We also have women from lands whose women scholars are generally not cataloged in the biographies, lands like sub-Saharan Africa, East Africa, Malaysia, The Indian subcontinent, Europe, Central Asia and China to mention a few.

We look at the world she was in and it bears so many similarities to out world, although it was a different era (19th century) and a different geographical region (sub-Saharan Africa)
1. They were dealing with Muslim men who would not teach their womenfolk or let them seek knowledge elsewhere
2. They were a minority in the land, there were a great number of non-Muslims and nominal Muslims
3. They were dealing with new converts and how to properly integrate them into the society
4. They were dealing with inter religious marriage and the religious instruction of children who wouldn’t get any at home
5. They were dealing with some men who oppressed their womenfolk, men who capitalized on the fact that their womenfolk were ignorant of this great religion.
6. Another problem in their society was bori (a pre-Islamic spirit possession cult), which could be likened to neo-paganism, which is a problem in our society today.

Yantaru is currently sponsoring a poetry and a clothing design contest. How do the arts play a role in the aims of the Yantaru?

The arts are essential, especially in this age. We are living in an age where Muslims need to use art and culture as a vehicle for calling Muslims to the practice of the deen and inviting non-Muslims to this way of life. Dr. Umar Abdallah mentioned in one of his talks, how the arts really effect the way a person perceives him/herself and the effect popular culture, in particular film, has on a society. The Harlem Renaissance, was predominantly a cultural movement of change. Amir Suleiman, Native Deen, Mecca2Medina and M-team, are a few Muslim artists who effectively use the arts to inform and educate.

Our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) had poets around him, Nana Asma’u used poetry to teach, mainly because it is easier to memorize and the people of the land had a strong oral literary tradition, her father Shaykh Uthman used to recite poetry in the marketplace, hence using the arts to teach and covey the deen is by no means new. People have such a capacity to memorize, even little kids memorize lyrics, youth who might easily flunk a high school class, are able to memorize a tremendous amount of data in the form of musical lyrics and can compose a rap (freestyle) at a second notice, ma sha Allah the human being has an amazing ability to store, utilize and retrieve information.

Arts are usually categorized into performing and visual arts, we are attempting to address both, performing through our poetry contest and the visual arts via the design contest. The design contest is essentially an effort to recognize and highlight the creativity and talent of Muslim women. Fashion has a large impact so we would like to help facilitate a means for Muslim women to design and wear their own Islamic outfits. Through this contest we hope that talented designers are discovered, sisters have an opportunity to enjoy expressing their creativity, and we all realize that Islamic attire can be beautiful, diverse, and fashionable.

Do you have plans to start regional chapters throughout the United States. I noticed that there are some members located in California and Pennsylvania?

Our growth is organic, wherever there are students of our Shaykh (Sultan Abubakr, a descendant of Shaykh Uthman) you will find the Yan Taru, at the moment we have members in California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama and Georgia. We are going to expand our membership to include people who support our work or volunteer with us, this will be called “Friends of Yan Taru” and people can open these chapters anywhere, look for more information regarding this on our site in the up coming months.

Yantaru also offers programs and literature in Spanish. In your view, how do you see Yantaru addressing the growing current of Latino-American converts to Islam, who are looking for Spanish material and programs.

We are working on putting together folders filled with Dawah material, to make it into a convenient carry-around package for those who wish to learn more about Islam. We hope to work together with Latino Dawah Organizations to make Spanish material available wherever the need arises, and establish a team that will encourage the propogation of Islam. We hope to not only provide written information, but follow up and interact with the people who have asked for and received material. We want them to be able to ask questions and hopefully through our answering them, they will grow in love with the deen, and see that it is not only a religion, it is a way of life. Also, we are currently working on putting together "New Shahada" baskets that will Insha Allah contain all the basic necesities for a new Muslim. It will contain items such as Hijab/Kufi, Quran, prayer rug, and more, Insha'Allah.

Yantaru offers classes for spiritual health, such as fiqh and tasawuf, lectures on healthy diet and exercise and offers business expertise to Muslim women. Talk to us about the holistic aspect of Yantaru's educational outreach and why you decided to include all these areas of interest rather than just focusing on one?

Islam is a both a complete way of life and spiritual path so the Yan Taru Foundation tries to reflect this, we want women to have healthy bodies, pure hearts who are empowered economically, all these things are important in establishing strong families and communities and inviting non-Muslims to embrace Islam.

Finally, what are the future plans of Yantaru? What role do you see your organization playing with the American Muslim umma?

We hope with Allah’s permission to reource for women and children, Muslim and non-Muslim, locally and nationally, some of the services we plan to provide are as follows:
1. Provide distance learning courses and course packs
2. Publish audio, visual and other material for children.
3. Social welfare services for people in need in particular women and children by establishing a women’s centre, which would house an adult’s library, children’s library, mother and baby room, prayer area, kitchen, office space, gym, health resources centre and business resource centre.
4. Encouraging and facilitating entrepreneurship in women through seminars, publication and workshops and interest-free loans to budding entrepreneurs
5. Establishing a girls summer camp where girls can spend time immersed in activities that strengthen and nourish the mind body and soul.
In addition to our concern for the woman as a servant of Allah we are concerned with the woman’s social interactions as a sister, mother and wife. To this end we plan to publish books written by traditional male and female scholars on this insha Allah.

Please keep us in your du’as
For more info visit us online at www.yantaru.org or email us at info@yantaru.org