Tuesday, February 28, 2006

islam and afrocentrism

A version of this post is at Planet Grenada, but I figured that this would be appropriate to place here as well:

Over at Garvey's Ghost, Sondjata wrote a piece called afrocentricity and islam which was a response to a Grenada entry: islam and the african people. Unfortunately, comments don't seem to be working at Garvey's Ghost or else I would probably make my points over there. But what I would respectfully argue is that in at least a few a cases Sondjata is mistaken in his attempts to refute the original article (For example, some comments he attributes to Uthman Dan Fodio really were made by Cheikh Anta Diop). And in any case, the larger point is basically untouched: that various major Afrocentric scholars mentioned really did have a number of positive things to say regarding Islam's role in African history. And I would add that the best argument (at least, the best argument I can easily make right now) in favor of the fact that a strong Black and African identity is totally compatible with Islam is just the Third Resurrection blog and all the articles posted over there. Islam's roots in the Black world are just too deep to give the Black Orientalist position too much credibility. Islam has had links to Africa and Black people from the very beginning and it is sily to argue that it is unAfrican.

Moreover, this whole discussion seems to have lost sight of the most important consideration: the truth. I mean, if we can agree that there is a God or some Higher Power. And we can accept that God sends human messengers to communicate His will, then the exact "packaging" is going to be up to God. If he wanted to, God could have made his final messenger to humanity Chinese. What would the Afrocentrist do then? Accept the truth in the form God gave it, or reject the truth because of the skin its in?

Monday, February 27, 2006

ibn-khaldun on african blacks

The following is a good argument for why Blackamerican Muslims need to be careful to distinguish between what Islam necessarily teaches as a part of the Quran and Sunnah on the one hand, and things which are merely the opinion of certain Muslim scholars on the other. InshaAllah I or one of the group blog members can follow-up with more information about Ibn Khaldun's opinions and how to better contextualize them.
Blogger Abdusalaam al-Hindi on Ibn Khaldun on African Blacks

For somebody who is considered to be the father of sociology, Ibn Khaldun's--for lack of a better word--"racial" characterizations are so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Especially of Negroes and Bedouins. Read the following passage on blacks and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Ibn Khaldun says:

"We have seen that Negroes are in general characterized by levity[Defined as: behaviour intended to be amusing and not being serious], excitability, and great emotionalism. They are found eager to dance whenever they hear a melody. They are everywhere described as stupid." [pp 63]

He expresses similar views elsewhere but the above excerpt is a good example.

What's even funnier is his explanation to why it is so. Following is a continuation of the same passage.

"The real reason for these opinions is that, as has been shown by philosophers in the proper place, joy and gladness are due to expansion and diffusion of the animal spirit. [...] A drunken person experiences inexpressible joy and gladness because the vapour of the spirit in his heart is pervaded by natural heat, which the power of the wine generates in his spirit. The spirit, as a result, expands, and there is joy." [pp 63]

That explanation needs an explanation because it made no friggin sense to me.

Even though his views on blacks seem to be so, ah... politically incorrect, to say the least. It seems they are based on a stereotypical observation and not on some sort of racial bias against blacks. And the reason why I say that is because at other places he is actually arguing against the conventionally held racist beliefs of his time about blacks. Here is what I'm talking about:

"Genealogists who had no knowledge of the true nature of things imagined that Negroes were the children of Ham, the son of Noah, and that they were singled out to be black as the result of Noah's curse, which produced Ham's color and the slavery of God inflicted upon his descendants. It is mentioned in the Torah that Noah cursed his son Ham. No reference is made there to blackness. The curse included no more than that Ham's descendants should be the slaves of his brothers' descendants. To attribute the blackness of the Negroes to Ham, reveals disregard of the true nature of heat and cold and of the influence they exercise upon the climate and upon the creatures that come into being in it." [ pp 59]

You notice the same thing when it comes to other groups. At one place he is making outrageously prejudicial claims about a particular group and later in the book he is also admiring them. Bedouins of present day Saudia are another example.

So that's it on this topic. Hope to come across more similarly fascinating stuff as I read further into the book.

manifest liberation: virtue vs. vice

I recently saw Amir Sulaiman perform some of his poetry so he's been on my mind. And since I've already blogged on him before, I thought it would make sense to share a larger sampling of some of his thinking. The following is from a piece of his called virtue vs. vice.

Freedom is in the soul, heart and mind. It is also in the limbs, land and wealth. The most important part of liberation is in the soul, hearts and minds of the people. Of lesser importance is the limbs, land and wealth of the people. If the limbs are free to move about as they like and money is available but the soul, heart and mind are still property of the oppressor then there is no hope for true manifest liberation. On the other hand, if the limbs are chained and the wealth is confiscated but the soul, heart and mind know and long for freedom then there is still hope for full manifest liberation. The freedom fighter needs only to fight to be free. Victory in any traditional sense of the term may come but is not necessary. The first gesture of revolt is a sufficient indication that the soul and heart are free from the system that oppresses. As all change, revolution begins in the soul as aimless nameless restlessness. Its energy works up until freedom condenses onto the walls of the mind. The intellect crystallizes it into the language of the people and all together like a mountain avalanche they come crashing down upon the gates of Empire.

It is faulty to think that the oppressed people of the world will enjoy manifest liberation by way of songs, poems, and letters to congressmen. The empire will not fall by way of hemp bracelets and long hair. The yokes will not be lifted by way of slogans and pamphlets. Manifest liberation will not be voted into office. Are we to think that simply because an oppressor received less votes than another that he will simply relinquish his power? The reason an oppressor is an oppressor is that he does not care for the beliefs and opinions of the people only the labor and wealth of the people. In the psyche of an oppressor, there is absolutely no occasion when he will willingly surrender his power. Throughout history, tyrants surrender not at the end of an open forum discussion but at the hot end of a rifle. They give back what they have taken only under the supervision of a sharp sword with its promise of retribution hovering above their neck.

It is equally faulty to think that the oppressed people of the world will enjoy manifest liberation only by way of bullets, Molotov cocktails and car bombs. Even if the people burned the White House to the ground tomorrow, the ills of society will not be rendered aright. Are we to think that a righteous society will be established by those with wicked ways? If the oppressed do not purify themselves of dishonesty, greed, lust, jealously, fear, envy and the other vices that plague the human family then there can be no real success. There may be a change of flag and a change of leadership but oppression will still loom over the heads of the powerless.

Often the oppressed adopt the maliciousness of the oppressor. When the oppressed do so, they help proliferate the oppressor’s agenda. The oppressed who have accepted the diseased ways of the tyrants spread the virus of mischief and corruption like a contagion. In a strange yet common twist of fate, the oppressed are infected with oppression by the oppressors and inevitably the oppressed oppress. Then those who are oppressed by the oppressed oppressors, once infected with the virus of oppression, seek out others to oppress. What this creates is an endless wheel of coercion that cannot be broken except with an individual, independent commitment to prefer virtue to vice and justice to tyranny. Very few will have the foresight and courage to do such a thing but they will do so because that is their destiny. These brave virtuous souls are what constitute a true liberation front. They are the precious invaluable vanguard of righteousness. This group is rare but always arises. Just as sure as oppression will raise its ugly head this vanguard of purified souls will be there to smite it off. These souls inspire other souls towards success as that is their reason for being. Once the people purify their ranks, even if they number few, they can expect triumph.

No matter the battle strategy and no matter the weaponry the unjust will not and cannot establish justice. No matter the leadership and no matter the number of followers those given to vice will not and cannot establish virtue. This is the irresistible, irrefutable reality of universal law. To try to transcend it is futile and to ignore it is foolish. There will be no freedom for the oppressed one who oppresses others. There is no dignity for the humiliated one who humiliates others. With virtue comes liberation as with vice comes oppression. This is the only way. This is not a new method; this is true way since the first to come from the loins of Adam and it will be the true way until vice is wiped from the planet Earth.

Liberation will come by way of the spirited songs and sharpened swords. It will come by way of the scholar’s ink and the martyr’s blood. It will come by the way of the righteous soul and the firm hand. For the one who truly fights for Truth and Justice, firstly and forevermore must know that high virtue is what promises victory and lowly vice is what assures defeat.

Amir Sulaiman's myspace blog
more amir sulaiman
the four gates
Manifest Liberation

timbuktu: africanity and islam

The Dual Legacy of Classical Timbuktu: Africanity and Islam by Ali A. Mazrui

Keynote address at symposium on the theme, “Bridging to Connect: African Roots in Islam and History,” sponsored by the Timbuktu Education Foundation, and held in Hayward (near San Francisco), California, Saturday, November 6, 2004.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

african american muslim women: an invisible group

The article African American Muslim women: an invisible group was written by Karen Fraser and originally published in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. The article is very general, but looks at why African-American women choose to convert to orthodox Islam or join the Nation of Islam.

hispanic and african-american jihad

The article Hispanic or African-American Jihad? by Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a bit old (from 2002) but is still of some interest. And its concluding paragraph is still timely:

Still, with the arrest of Muhajir (Jose Padilla), many African-American Muslims are frankly worried that this could cast greater suspicion on them, or worse yet ignite a disastrous witch hunt agains of the terrorists is to sow rancor, discord and suspicion among Americans; in short, to turn Americans against each other. If we allow that to happen, dirty bomb or no dirty bomb, they've attained their objectivet Muslims, and that includes African-American and Hispanic Muslims. Let's remember, that a major aim of the terrorists is to sow rancor, discord and suspicion among Americans; in short, to turn Americans against each other. If we allow that to happen, dirty bomb or no dirty bomb, they've attained their objective.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

El-Hajj Malik as-Shabazz

Brother Malcolm

Malcolm X. org

Ossie Davis' eulogy


"Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world."

"I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color."

"I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action."

"Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today."

"There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time."

We miss you, Brother Malcolm, but we know that God's mercy is with you and your wife. May you both dream of Jennah and rest in peace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

america's "other" muslims

The Wilson Quarterly article America's Other Muslims by Peter Skerry is an interesting piece which hits on a lot of the core issues behind Third Resurrection. It deals with the ministry of W.D. Mohammed and the relations among Blackamerican Muslims, Immigrant Muslim, the Nation of Islam and the larger society. I'll post an abridged version but urge folks to click on the above link and read the entire article as they have time. I should say that the excerpts will over-emphasize the comparisons and contrasts between different groups and won't give a a representative picture of the amount of unity which exists in reality.

Tensions over religion clearly poison political relations between African-American and immigrant Muslims. As Abdul Karim Hasan, imam at the Bilal Islamic Center, told The Los Angeles Times, “We share the faith with immigrant Muslims, but not much else. . . . They think we don’t know as much about religion as they do.” The low point was reached during the closing weeks of the 2000 presidential campaign, when immigrant Muslim organizations, claiming to speak for all Muslim Americans, endorsed George W. Bush—without acknowledging African-American Muslim objections to that endorsement. Things did not improve much after 9/11, when immigrant Muslims experienced what to them was Bush’s betrayal, and many of their African-American brothers and sisters could not resist saying, “We told you so.”

There are African-American Muslims who express fewer complaints about immigrant Muslims. Scattered among the 44 percent of predominantly African-Amer­ican mosques not affiliated with W. D. Mohammed’s organization, they encompass many different sectarian tendencies and do not constitute a cohesive group. But they do share a longstanding orientation, going back to the 1930s and 1940s, toward Sunni Islam. They have therefore been designated “historically Sunni African-American Muslims” HSAAM, for short—by Professor Bagby. As African Americans, these particular Muslims tend to make Islam the basis of a reformulated critique—even a condemnation—of the American mainstream. One of the most visible leaders in this disparate group is Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the former H. Rap Brown. Al-Amin, whose Atlanta-based organization is called the National Community, converted to Islam while in jail during the 1970s.

Imam Al-Amin and other HSAAM Muslims do not necessarily call for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Rather, they seek to withdraw from what they regard as a corrupt, immoral society and build separate institutions and communities as defenses against it. For such Muslims, whether African-American or not, this goal has meant a rejection of involvement in American politics—a position that has found support among the Saudis. In the words of Steven Barboza, an American journalist who has written about his own conversion to Islam, “While H. Rap Brown would have enjoined listeners to bear and tear down, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin says discipline yourselves through prayer, fasting, charity, and steadfastness, so that you will be organized and prepared when Allah tears the system down.”

Despite (some would say because of) his radical views and relatively small following, Imam Al-Amin has been recognized, even championed, by immigrant Muslim leaders and organizations. His perspective is broadly typical of HSAAM Muslims, whose views in some respects resemble those of immigrant Muslims more than they do those of W. D. Mohammed and his followers. This can be stated with some confidence, thanks again to Professor Bagby’s Mosque Study Project 2000. His data indicate that three-fourths of all predominantly African-American mosques have been founded since 1970; their number continues to increase, though not so fast as the number of immigrant mosques. And at least since the 1980s, the number of HSAAM mosques has increased faster than the number of W. D. Mohammed mosques.

HSAAM mosques are also much stricter and more literal than W. D. Mohammed affiliates in interpreting the Qur’an. This is signaled by the mosques’ treatment of women. Bagby’s data indicate that somewhat greater numbers of women are involved in W. D. Moham­med mosques than in HSAAM or immigrant mosques. Only 16 percent of W. D. Mohammed mosques make women pray behind a curtain or in another room, while 45 percent of HSAAM mosques—and 81 percent of immigrant mosques—do. (That fashion show at the Chicago convention would definitely not go over well with these other Muslims.) Finally, there is the question of whether Muslim women can serve on a mosque’s governing board. Ninety-three percent of W. D. Mohammed affiliates allow women on their boards, as compared with only 60 percent of HSAAM mosques and 66 percent of immigrant mosques.

As for the ever-present pull of group pride and race consciousness, the differences between these two groups are notable. Asked how well they try to preserve their ethnic or national heritage, 29 percent of W. D. Mohammed affiliates said “very well,” while only six percent of HSAAM mosques did. This is to be expected, since HSAAM mosques are oriented more toward traditional Islam, which de-emphasizes racial and ethnic differences in favor of the umma—the worldwide community of all Muslims.

From the perspective of the non-Muslim majority, perhaps the most striking divergence between these two groups of African-American Muslims concerns how open they are to American society. Bagby’s data indicate that HSAAM Muslims are much more critical of America than are the followers of W. D. Mohammed. Ninety-three percent of his affiliates strongly agree that Muslims should be involved in American society, while only 49 percent of HSAAM mosques do. Even more striking is the divergence of views about involvement in American politics: 90 percent of W. D. Mohammed mosques—but only 37 percent of HSAAM mosques—strongly agree that Muslims should participate in the political process. And while 33 percent of W. D. Mohammed mosques believe that America is hostile to Islam, fully 74 percent of HSAAM mosques do. Finally, and most compellingly, the data indicate that only 18 percent of W. D. Mohammed affiliates and 24 percent of immigrant mosques strongly agree that “America is an immoral, corrupt society.” The figure for HSAAM mosques is 66 percent.

The irony is that W. D. Mohammed and his followers are more open to American society but also more intent on holding on to their African-American heritage than their HSAAM brothers and sisters. As Bagby reminds us, the pull of black culture and group identity is a fact of life for most African Americans. Their culture and group identity are, in fact, constitutive of their identity as Americans. A leader such as Imam Mohammed is not likely to ignore this, but neither will a rival such as Farrakhan let him forget it.

Peter Skerry, a former Wilson Center fellow, teaches political science at Boston College and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is at work on a book titled Joining the Fray: The Political Future of Muslims in America. Devin Fernandes assisted in the research and preparation of this article.

Monday, February 20, 2006

mosques are struggling

The St. Louis Dispatch yesterday ran an interesting article on African-American mosques:

The African-American Muslim experience is a mystery to most Americans, black and white. When they think about African-American Islam at all, many people think immediately of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. What they don't think much about are the thousands (some claim millions) of black Americans, most in inner cities, who practice the more mainstream, traditional Sunni Islam followed by nearly a billion people throughout the world.

Islam has been a presence in the city for at least a century. Like many U.S. cities today, St. Louis presents several different faces of Islam - Bosnian, south Asian, Arab - and even within the African-American Muslim experience there have been many strains of Islam, some more faithful to its teachings than others.

But black Muslims in the United States are struggling. According to the most recent national study of Muslim houses of prayer, done in 2000, African-American mosques are in more dire financial straits than their immigrant neighbors, with 71 percent saying they were having some financial problems, compared with 45 percent of south Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi) mosques and 43 percent of Arab mosques.

And while many immigrant and African-American Muslims agree that they are all part of the umma - or world-wide community of Muslim believers - others say that ideal is unlike the reality, in which class and race divide the two communities.
The full story is available here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Four Muslims of African Descent

Salaam alaikum,

Okay, okay. I'm trying to play catch up. My bad, but I've been under the weather.

Uthman dan Fodio

Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (Arabic: عثمان بن فودي ، عثمان دان فوديو) (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio or Shehu Usman dan Fodio, 1754 - 1817) was a writer and Islamic reformer. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa city-states in what is today northern Nigeria. He lived in the city-state of Gobir.

Dan Fodio was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn 'Umar argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society, free from oppression and vice. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town.

However, in 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio's students, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands where they turned to help from the local Fulani nomads. Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread Jihad.

Yunfa proved right and dan Fodio was proclaimed Amirul Momineen or Leader of the Faithful. This, in effect made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a military conquest, raising an army and becoming its commander. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers.

After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government, one grounded in Islamic law. Already aged at the beginning of the war, dan Fodio retired in 1815 passing the title of Sultan of Sokoto to his son Muhammed Bello.

Another fact about the Shaykh, may God bless him, is that he was a strong advocate against female genital mutilation.

An Interview with Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick on his PhD on Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio

Islam Online.com article

Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick

Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick Ph.D. has travelled to more than 34 countries on lecture and educational tours. He embraced Islam in 1970 and thereafter pursued his studies at the Islamic University of Madinah, where he completed a BA from the College of Da'wah and Usul al-Din. He later read for his Masters degree and completed his PhD on the History of Islam in Africa at the University of Toronto, Canada. The focus of his thesis was the life of the great mujaddid of the 18th century, Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fudi (Usman dan Fodio), the Amir of the Sokoto Caliphate. Shaykh Ibn Fudi succeeded in combining the best of fiqh, theology and spirituality, and successfully developed an Islamic State.

Shaykh Abdullah Hakim has served as Imam, teacher and counselor in the USA, Canada and the West Indies. For three years he contributed to the religious page of Canada's leading newspaper. He is presently a Senior Lecturer at the Dar-ul-Arqam Islamic Institute and Director of the Da'wah Department of the Muslim Judicial Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

Article from Abdullah Hakim Quick

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad

It’s probably safe to say there aren’t many 25-year-olds who have been responsible for organizing a Harvard-wide conference on a hot topic (Islam in America), creating their own publishing company, and discovering an important scholarly treasure, the 1873 autobiography of an African Muslim ex-slave who spent the last years of his life starting schools for black children in Alabama. Yet a Harvard Divinity School student has done all this recently and more.

“Frustration leads to creation,” explains Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, a second-year masters of theological studies (MTS) student who impressively embodies her own adage. A third-generation African American Muslim, Muhammad has long been frustrated by the dearth of historical information and adequate coverage of Islam in America in academic circles as well as in the media, especially in regard to Islam and the African American experience.

The fourth Muslim is coming up but I have to prepare a proper journal entry for him. It's El-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz, our brother Malcolm X.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Leila Aboulela--a Sudanese Muslima writer

Leila Aboulela was born in 1964 and grew up in Khartoum, learning English at an American primary school and later at The Sisters' School, a private Catholic school. She took a degree in Economics at the University of Khartoum and then travelled to Britain to study for an M.Sc. in Statistics at the London School of Economics.

In 1990 she moved to Scotland with her husband and their three children. She started writing in 1992 while lecturing in Statistics and working as a part-time Research Assistant. Her first stories were broadcast on BBC Radio and an anthology Coloured Lights was published by Polygon in 2001. The Translator was first published to critical acclaim in 1999. It was long-listed for the Orange Prize 2000 and also long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards 2001. Leila Aboulela won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2000 for 'The Museum', published in Heinemann's short-story collection, Opening Spaces.

Small blurb about Minaret

Leila Aboulela's American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman -- once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London -- gradually embracing her orthodox faith. With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, she finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love. Written with directness and force, Minaret is a lyric and insightful novel about Islam and an alluring glimpse into a culture Westerners are only just beginning to understand.

Halal Fiction

Contemporary Africa Database

A Conversation with Leila Aboulela by Susan Miller

Big little breakthroughs

Keep the faith: Award-winning novelist Leila Aboulela tells Anita Sethi why her religious identity is more important to her than her nationality

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shaykh Hasaan Cisse and Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse

Today, we feature the works of a grandson and his grandfather.

Bio taken from Tijaniyya.com

Shaykh Hassan Cisse, son of Sayyidi Ali Cisse and Sayyidah Fatimatou Zahra Niasse and grandson and spirtual heir of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, is Chief Imam of the Grand Mosque in Madina Kaolack, Senegal and one of the eminent leaders of the Tariqa Tijaniyya, a Sufi brotherhood based exclusively on Qur'an and Hadith. Shaykh Hassan brought the Tariqa to the United States in 1976, introducing it to Muslims in America for the very first time. The Shaykh is the Founder and Chairman of The African American Islamic Institute, Inc., a tax exempt, international humanitarian organization.

Shaykh Hassan Cisse was born in Kaolack, Senegal in December, 1945, the first grandson of Shaykh Al-Islam Al Hajj Ibraham Niasse (RA), who illuminated the essence of Islam throughout West Africa. After memorizing the Holy Qur'an at ten years of age, Shaykh Hassan completed his elementary and post elementary studies in Senegal. Educated in Senegal, Mauritania, Egypt, England and the United States, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies and Arabic Literature from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, a Diploma in French Language, a Certificate in English Language and a Master of Philosophy from the University of London.
While engaged in research toward a Ph.D in Islamic Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, his father, Sayyidi Ali Cisse(RA), passed away and he was recalled to Senegal to assume the inspired work that has given direction and meaning to millions of seekers of Truth in Africa, Asia, Europe and, especially, in the United States.

Since the Shaykh first came to America in 1976, he has been teaching, guiding, inspiring Muslims to fear Allah and love Prophet Muhammad(sallalahu alayhi wa salaam), always reminding us to do what Allah ta'ala says do and stop where Allah ta'ala says stop. Over the past twenty years, the Shaykh has traveled to various U.S cities, many of which have honored him as a distinguised Islamic scholar and religious leader and for the work of The African American Islamic Institute, Inc. Shaykh Hassan Cisse has been awarded the Key to the City of Cleveland, OH, Washington, DC, where June 16, 1986 was proclaimed Shaykh Hassan Cisse Day, Detroit, MI and Memphis, TN, which honored him as an Honorary Citizen of Memphis and was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the City of New Orleans, which proclaimed October 2, 1996 Shaykh Hassan Cisse Day.

Internationally, Shaykh Hassan Cisse has been recognized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) as a respected Islamic scholar and leader for his outstanding work and cooperation with the UNPFA towards achieving the goals set forth during the Cairo and Bejing conferences regarding human rights, to include family planning, the status of women, the education of girls, protection of children and the prevention of drug abuse. He has been recognized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for his scholarship, leadership, cooperation and advocacy regarding the issues vital to the health, education and well being of children. The Shaykh has spoken extensively on these issues, giving an enlightened Islamic perspective on human rights, womens rights, marriage, alcohol and other drugs and children during his annual International Islamic Conference in Senegal and The Gambia. As a result of his active involvement in human rights issues, Shaykh Hassan Cisse has participated in United Nations conferences for NGOs and is frequently invited guest speaker at UNICEF and other UN-sponsored events.

As the Founder and Chairman of the Board of The African American Islamic Institute, Inc., (An Institute of Nasrul Ilm, i.e., Helping Knowledge), Shaykh Hassan Cisse has directed the guidelines for the Institute's humanitarian activities in keeping with the teachings of Islam, to wit: feed the hungry, care for the sick, teach the unlettered, protect the interests of women and children, pursue knowledge and foster peace and understanding among mankind.

Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse: Revivalist of the Sunnah

Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse was born in Senegal on October 17, 1902 (15 Rajab, 1320 A.H.) and died on July 26, 1975 (15 Rajab 1395 A.H.) He was the son of al‑Hajj Abdullahi Niasse and grandson of Muhammad Niasse, both of them well-known members of the Mama of Senegal. Growing up in an intellectual environment strengthened his grasp of the Islamic sciences. His father taught him Qur'an with its tafsir and Hadith with their shark (explanation). He also taught him fiqh and the science of tasawwuf from the well-known books in use among the majalisu-l-'ilm in Senegal, those circles in which students gather around the shaykhs in search of knowledge.

As a boy, the Shaykh was highly intelligent, showing signs of great potential and blessed with good character. These characteristics once prompted his father to say, "You do not need to travel as your brothers do. If you but sit, people will come to you. It is the duty of a river to be full. If the neighboring cows do not come to drink, those who are from afar will." In reference to his educational background and achievements, Shaykh Ibrahim said, "I learned Qur'an and Hadith first from my shaykh, my father, and he, from his father. I received an 'ijaza (diploma from the majalis al-'ilm) first from my father in both Qur'an and Hadith, then from Abdur-Rahman b. al­Hajj-1-'Alawi and another 'ijaza from Shaykh Ahmad Sukayrij who, himself, had earned some six hundred 'ijazas from six hundred dif­ferent shaykhs whose names are mentioned in his book' where he writes, `The first one to whom I gave authorization in all these chains of transmission was the Khalifa al-Hajj Ibrahim Niasse.' "

When Shaykh Ibrahim entered upon the Sufi path, he took the Tari­qa Tijaniyya from his father. The step was momentous, for it was within this tariqa that he was to play a major role. It was, in fact, a role without parallel since Shaykh Umar Tal al-Futi's earlier role in the spread of the Tijaniyya. Starting with his father, Shaykh Ibrahim received many appointments as muqaddam in the Tijaniyya. Before dying, his father in­structed Shaykh Muhammad Mahmoud ash-Shinghity of Mauritania to appoint his son a muqaddam. Shaykh ash-Shinghity, however, told Shaykh Ibrahim, "You have no need for an 'ijaza from a creature because you have your appointment from the Creator." 2 He had additional appointments from al-Hajj Abdullah b. al-Hajj al-Alawi of Mauritania and the master Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Tijani of Egypt as well as Shaykh Ahmad Sukayrij of Morocco, the closest link to Ahmad al-Tijani in silsilah. He certified that Shaykh Ibrahim was khalifa of the Tariqa's initiator, Ahmad al-Tijani. Of himself, Shaykh Ibrahim once said, "What I have in the way of `ijaza and muqaddam authorizations would indeed fill a book." Although he was the youngest of his father's children, shortly after his father's death in 1922, he became the most outstanding among them. He became, in fact, the most important marabout within his father's house and throughout the area. His importance is reflected in Notes Et Etudes Sur L'islam En Afrique Noir where we find the statement, "El Hajji Ibrahim Niasse est incontestablement la personalite religieuse la plus marquante de Itidjanisme senegalais dans toute la region du Sine­Saloum ou la famine marboutique des masse."
For the first time since the epoch of the founder, Shaykh Ahmas Al-Tijani (died in 1815), we find within the Tariqa an international grouping of Muslim peoples.

Shaykh Ibrahim was a staunch advocate of restoring the proper ritual observances of the Prophet's pure Sunnah. Some had become careless and begun to omit some of the recommended practices of the Prophet This was particularly true with reference to the Muslim canonical prayer (salat). In Africa the problem was especially acute. Basing himself on the prophetic tradition "Pray in the way you see me pray," the Shaykh focused his efforts on the most frequent omissions from the prayer ritual. They were: Qabdur, the placing the hands upon the breast with the right one over the left; the recitation of the formula bismillahir-rahmanir-rahim aloud before the recitation of the opening chapter (Suratul-Fatiha) and the Qur'anic lection when the prayer was said aloud and silently when it was said silently; and the raising of the hands before bowing (ruku), and after bowing. The latter practice was based on the hadith, "Everything has its beauty and the beauty of salat is the raising of the hands." The Shaykh also wrote a book entitled Raf'ul malam 'an man rafa'a wa qabada iqtida an bi sayyidil anam substantiating his claims with pro­ofs drawn from the Qur'an and Hadith. In them, he attacked a false doctrine of blind taqlid and advocated a true doctrine of taqlid which must in all cases be based upon the Prophet's pure Sunnah. The changes advocated by the Shaykh caused quite a stir in many com­munities who believed that what they were doing was the authentic Maliki practice. It was, therefore, difficult for them to break habits that seemed to them confirmed by being passed from one generation to the next. But in time a large segment of the Muslim population abandoned what they had been wont to do and adopted the establish­ed wont of the Prophet which Shaykh Ibrahim had champion­ed. This, in fact, was the beginning of the Reformed Tijaniyya as it has been called in John Paden's excellent book, Religion and Political Culture in Kano.

As a spiritual guide in tasawwuf, Shaykh Ibrahim wrote many books explaining Sufism and the possibility of spiritual perfection in the modern age. Perhaps the most famous and widely read was Kashiful-Albas or "The Removal of the Confusion." It was written in Arabic and explains the real meaning of Sufism. In it, the Shaykh states that tasawwuf possesses a definition, subject, matter, name, compilers, sources, laws, problems, attributes, and results. Everyone who takes up its study should be familiar with these ten points. Tasawwuf is to adopt every worthy form of behavior and to eschew unworthy forms of action. It is to adopt, in fact, the character of the Qur'an and Sunnah. One must give himself entirely over to Allah, the Exalted, in whatever He wills, just as He wills. A certain poet once said, "Sufism is not to wear wollen garments or affect worn out clothing. It is good behavior and good manners (adab)." Another said, "Sufism is not to wear a woolen coat and patch it, nor to weep when the singer sings. It is not to cry out, nor to dance and make merry. It is not to feign fainting as if one is mad. Rather, tasawwuf is being pure without defilement and following the truth of Qur'an and the religion."

Read rest of the bio here


African American Islamic Institute

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Abubakari II--the Great African Explorer

Seek knowledge unto the grave! Seek as far as China or even America?

Abubakari II was a prince of the Mali Empire, the successor of Mohammed ibn Gao and predecessor of Kankan Musa I. Abubakari II appears to have abdicated his throne in order to explore "the limits of the ocean"; however, his expedition never returned. Malian scholar Gaoussou Diawara has argued that he reached the Americas some time in the early 14th century, but these claims have not been widely accepted.

BBC article on Abubakari II and the debate amongst academia over his travels to the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus.

Who Came Before Columbus? By Hisham Aidi

A grandson of a daughter of the great ruler Sundiata (reigned 1230-1255), the founder of the Keita dynasty, Mansa (emperor) Abubakari became ruler of Mali in 1300. His younger half brother was Kankan Musa, who later became the famous Mansa Musa. As ruler of one of the largest empires in the world at that time, Abubakari sought to increase the power and influence of Mali even further. While his brother was interested in extending the borders of the empire to the east, toward Cairo, Abubakari apparently focused on westward expansion by exploring the waters to the west of his kingdom. Unlike most medieval Europeans, Muslim geographers such as Abu Zaid, al-Masudi, al-Idrisi, al-Istakhri, and Albufeda had concluded that the Atlantic Ocean was not the western edge of the world, and their ideas may have come to Abubakari through scholars at the great Muslim university in Timbuktu.

According to oral tradition, Abubakari gathered shipbuilders and watermen from all over his empire. He is said to have had different boat designs built so that if one failed, another might succeed. Al-Umari recorded the story Mansa Musa told in Egypt in 1324:

The monarch who preceded me would not believe that it was impossible to discover the limits of the neighboring sea. He wished to know. He persisted in his plan. He caused the equipping of two hundred ships and filled them with men, and of each such number that were filled with gold, water, and food for two years. He said to the commanders: Do not return until you have reached the end of the ocean, or when you have exhausted your food and water.

According to al-Umari, only one ship returned. Its captain reported to Abubakari that he had watched as the other ships sailed on, entered a broad current in the midst of the ocean, and disappeared. Instead of following them, he turned around and returned home.

Abubakari then decided to build a fleet of two thousand boats and to command it himself. He conferred power on Musa, specifying that if he did not return after a reasonable amount of time, Musa should inherit the throne. In 1311 Abubakari set out with his fleet down the Senegal River and headed west in the Atlantic. He never returned to Mali, and his brother became Mansa Musa in 1312.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Yarrow Mamout and Idris Alooma

Today, we feature a slave, Yarrow Mamout, and the sultan of Bornu, Idris Alooma.

Yarrow Mamout's portrait and small bio.

All that is known of Yarrow Mamout, an enslaved African who died a free man at a very old age, comes from the diary of the man who painted his striking portrait. Charles William Peale was an American portrait painter who established a museum in Philadelphia. Dedicated to American history and natural history, the museum's exhibits ranged from presidential portraits to the bones of a mastodon that Peale had unearthed.

In 1819, Peale (whose son Raphaelle had painted Absalom Jones in 1810) went to Washington to record the likenesses of distinguished Americans; while there he heard about an old African man, Yarrow Mamout, who lived in Georgetown. Peale was most likely intrigued by Mamout's great age, reputedly 134 years at the time, and the fact that he was a practicing Muslim -- supposedly a rarity in 19th century America, though that question is still open to scholarly debate.

A Former Slave, Mamout Lived Freely by Nafisa Syeed

The Man in the Knit Cap

Idris Alooma

For two centuries before Idris Alooma became Mai (sultan) or Bornu, Kanem was a separate land whose people had been driven out by their nomadic cousins, the Bulala. It took one of Africa's most extraordinary rulers to reunite the two kingdoms.

Idris Alooma was a devout Muslim. He replaced tribal law with Shari'a, and early in his reign, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. But the trip had as much military as religious significance, for he returned with Turkish firearms and later commanded an incredibly strong army. They marched swiftly and attacked suddenly, crushing hostile tribes in annual campaigns. Finally Idris conquered the Bulala, establishing dominion over the Kanem-Bornu empire and a peace lasting half a century.

Catching up on Bios

Salaam alaikum,

I know I'm three days late on this so I will be adding four biographies on Notable Muslims of African descent.

Nana Asma'u (1793-1864)

Nana Asma’u came from an illustrious and pious Muslim family and was the daughter of Usman dan Fodiyo. She was born in what is known today as Northwest Nigeria. Her father, Usman dan Fodiyo was the caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate. During 1804-1830, her father launched a campaign to purify Islam from cultural deviances. She was fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamachek. She was also quite knowledgeable in the Sunnah, Hadith literature and had committed the Qur’an to memory. Her family belonged to the Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani (may God be pleased with him) tariqa or Qadiriyya tariqa. Because her father was the head of the community, the responsibility of educating the women rested upon her shoulders. She was their leader and promoted literacy by teaching Hausa women the Qur’an and writing important Islamic concepts in Hausa and Tamachek. She was named after that wonderful daughter of one of the rightly-guided caliphs, Abu Bakr al-Siddique (may God be pleased with them).

You can read more about her on my blog.

The Essential Nana pdf file from Yantaru.org

Yantaru--a Muslim women's group established in the spirit of Nana Asma'u own class of women students. And their interview on Living Tradition.

One Woman's Jihad: Nana Asma'u, Scholar and Scribe by Beverly Mack and Jean Boyd

Umar Tal (1797-1864)

While doing this research, I've run into Black Orientalism and plain old Orientalism. I can say that you should proceed with caution.

Tokolar War of Umar Tal

The war of 'Umar Tal... The third major western African war of the 19th century was that of al-Hajj 'Umar Tal (c. 1797-1864), a Tukulor scholar from the Fouta-Toro.

About 1838 'Umar arrived home in the Fouta-Toro, where he quickly became estranged from the local scholar. In 1848 he moved away with such followers as he had to Dinguiraye, on the borders of the Fouta Djallon. There he built up a community of his own, attracting and training military and commercial adventurers as well as religious reformers. His community traded with the Upper Guinea coast for firearms and was consciously conceived as the nucleus for a new state. In 1852 the Dinguiraye community came into conflict with the adjacent Bambara chiefs. A militant expedition was launched northward through the gold-bearing valleys across the upper Sénégal, where in 1854 the Bambara kingdom of Kaarta fell.

'Umar then turned west down the Sénégal toward his own homeland and the French trading posts. But he was repulsed by the French, and after 1859 he sought to join with the Fulani of Macina in the conquest of the more powerful Bambara kingdom of Segu. The Macina Fulani were opposed to the idea of a Tijani power advancing into their own Qadiri zone in the Niger valley and even gave some aid to Segu. After 'Umar's forces had conquered Segu in 1861, they continued eastward, and, finding that Ahmadu's somewhat autocratic and intolerant regime had estranged the longer established Muslim communities, they established 'Umar's hegemony as far as Timbuktu (1863). In less than 10 years al-Hajj 'Umar's armies had conquered an empire almost as large as that of the Sokoto Fulani.

The founder of the empire, al-Hajj 'Umar (c. 1795-1864), was a Tukulor scholar of the austere Tijaniyah tariqa who about 1848 moved with his followers to Dinguiraye (now in Guinea), on the borders of the Fouta Djallon region, to prepare to found a new state that would conform to the stringent moral requirements of his order. He thus set about training an elite corps in which religious, military, and commercial considerations were combined. Equipped with European firearms, this force was ready by about 1850 to embark on a war against his neighbours. It first came into conflict with the Bambara chiefdoms to the north, then two years later moved northward again across the upper Sénégal River to conquer the Bambara kingdom of Kaarta. Checked by the French in their westward return down the Sénégal River, the Tukulor quickly overran the Bambara kingdom of Segu (1861) and thereafter conquered Macina. They then extended their dominion as far north as Timbuktu (now in Mali).

The other two bios are coming soon.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Authority Crisis: Who's On First?

In watching a recent speech by Dr. Sherman Jackson, it was interesting to note his pointing out of the authority crisis with American Muslims. This is also a topic that he has pointed out in his book, Islam and the BlackAmerican as well as in other speeches he's given. It would seem that this is indeed one of the most important topics relating to Islam here in the "West". As American Muslims strive to gain their own voices, part of that struggle will entail determining how and who has authority to speak on religion. Check out the article here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

El Hajja Bahiyah Betty Shabazz

Salaam alaikum,

Today's prominent Muslim of African descent is Sister and Shahida Betty Shabazz (may God bless her). Shaykh Hamza Yusuf pointed out in one of his lectures that Sister Betty died the death of a martyr because she was burned alive. So not only was she married to a martyr, El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, but she died as a martyr as well. May both of their graves radiate with light and expand for them.

Bio taken from Wikipedia

Shabazz was born in Detroit, Michigan as Betty Sanders. Shabazz was an illegitimate child and had scattered childhood. Young Betty Shabazz was taken in by foster parents after her troubled childhood and grew up with them in a fairly sheltered, loving, middle-class household in Detroit. Throughout her life, Shabazz devoted her life to black community affairs in the areas of childcare, health and education.

After high school, Shabazz left the comfortable home of her adoptive parents in Detroit to study at the Tuskegee Institute(now Tuskegee University), a well-known historically black college in Alabama. It was at Alabama that she encountered her first racial hostilities. She did not understand the causes for the racial issues, and her parents refused to acknowledge these issues. She moved to New York City to escape Southern racism. Shabazz went to study nursing at the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing in New York. While in New York, Shabazz's friend invited her to hear Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam speak at an Islamic temple (Temple No. 7 in Harlem).

When this friend said she would arrange for them to be introduced after Malcolm X's speech, Shabazz related to Essence Magazine in 1992 that initially, her reaction to the proposition of the introduction, was "big deal". "But then," she continued, I looked over and saw this man on the extreme right aisle sort of galloping to the podium. He was tall, he was thin, and the way he was galloping it looked as though he was going someplace much more important than the podium...Well, he got to the podium and I sat up straight. I was impressed with him. They discussed about the racism she encountered in Alabama, and she began to understand its causes, pervasiveness, and effects. Soon, Betty was attending all of Malcolm's lectures. By the time she graduated from nursing school in 1958, she was a member of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad bestowed of his followers the last name "X", representing the African family name they would never know. She changed her name to "Betty X" a result of her Nation of Islam influence.

In 1958, after she had completed nursing school, Malcolm X, who was traveling the country at the time, called her from Detroit and proposed marriage. Before the week was out, Betty aged 23 and Malcolm aged 32 were married. After their split from Elijah Muhammad in 1964, Malcolm and Betty X adopted the last name, Shabazz. Together, they had six daughters — Atillah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah and twins Malaak and Malikah (born seven months after Malcolm X's death).

In February of 1965, due to Malcolm X's activism, their family survived the firebombing of their home in Queens, New York. On February 21, 1965, Shabazz and her four young children witnessed the assassination of Malcolm X in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. It was reported that Shabazz was in the audience and covered her girls with her own body on the ballroom floor as the assassins' bullets flew. Shabazz left the Nation of Islam. She performed the Hajj in Mecca and considered herself a Sunni Muslim.

When Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, the couple had four daughters. Shabazz was pregnant with twins at the time of his assassination. She was a certified nurse, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing in 1958. She continued her education by enrolling in Jersey City State College. Shabazz was determined to provide for her family and serve as a role model for her children. She received a Bachelor of Arts in public health education from Jersey City State College. She returned to pursue her Master of Arts in public health education from Jersey City State College in 1970. In 1975, she received her Ph.D. in education administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Betty Shabazz demonstrated her resiliency and determination as a single mother in raising and educating her six daughters, Attallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, and twins Malikah and Malaak upon Malcolm X's assassination. Shabazz raised her family in the Islamic faith. In 1976, Shabazz worked at New York's Medgar Evers College as an assistant professor. She taught health sciences and then became head of public relations at Medgar Evers College. She traveled widely, speaking on topics such as civil rights and racial tolerance. She became a great advocate for the goal of self-determination for African Americans. She also served on many boards, including the African-American Foundation, the Women's Service League and the Day Care Council of Westchester County, New York.

On June 1, 1997, Betty Shabazz's grandson, Malcolm, set fire to her apartment. Malcolm Shabazz was living with Shabazz for a few months. It was reported that he was unhappy he had been sent to live with his grandmother in Yonkers and that he had wanted to re-join his mother Qubilah in Texas. Shabazz suffered burns over 80% of her body and remained in intensive care for three weeks at the Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York. She underwent five skin-replacement operations as doctors struggled to replace damaged skin and save her life. At the time, doctors had forewarned that patients with her severity of injuries usually had less than a 10 percent chance of survival. Shabazz died of third degree burns on June 23, 1997, at the age of 61.

More than 2,000 mourners attended a memorial service for Shabazz at New York City's Riverside Church. Many prominent leaders including Coretta Scott King (widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.), Myrlie Evers-Williams (widow of Medgar Evers), poet Maya Angelou, actor-activist Ossie Davis, four New York City mayors—Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, Edward Koch and Abraham Beame; U.S. Representative Maxine Waters and New York Governor George Pataki were present for her memorial service. U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman delivered a tribute from President Bill Clinton. In a statement released after Shabazz's death, black civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said, She never stopped giving and she never became cynical. She leaves today the legacy of one who epitomized hope and healing.

Shabazz's funeral service was held at the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City. Her wake was at the Unity Funeral Home in Harlem, (the same location where Malcolm X's wake was held 32 years before). Betty Shabazz was buried next to her husband, Malcolm X at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

There is a major mosque in Harlem named after Shabazz.

Dr. Betty Shabazz Health Center

Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow, dies at 61: CNN News

Betty Shabazz

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali

Mansa (Mandinka: King) Kankan Musa

Taken from the History Channel

In 1312 Mansa Moussa, the most legendary of the Malian kings, came to the throne. Mansa Moussa was a devout Muslim who built magnificent mosques throughout his empire in order to spread the influences of Islam. During his reign, Timbuktu became one of the major cultural centers of not only Africa but of the entire Islamic world. When Mansa Moussa came to power, the Mali Empire already had firm control of the trade routes to the southern lands of gold and the northern lands of salt. Under Moussa's reign, the gold-salt trade across the Sahara came to focus ever more closely on Timbuktu. The city's wealth, like that of many towns involved in the trans-Saharan trade route, was based largely on the trade of gold, salt, ivory, kola nuts, and slaves. Mansa Moussa expanded Mali's influence across Africa by bringing more lands under the empire's control, including the city of Timbuktu, and by enclosing a large portion of the western Sudan within a single system of trade and law. This was a huge political feat that made Moussa one of the greatest statesmen in the history of Africa. Under Moussa's patronage, the city of Timbuktu grew in wealth and prestige, and became a meeting place of the finest poets, scholars, and artists of Africa and the Middle East.

Mansa Moussa brought the Mali Empire to the attention of the rest of the Muslim world with his famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. He arrived in Cairo at the head of a huge caravan, which included 60,000 people and 80 camels carrying more than two tons of gold to be distributed among the poor. Of the 12,000 servants who accompanied the caravan, 500 carried staffs of pure gold. Moussa spent lavishly in Egypt, giving away so many gold gifts—and making gold so plentiful—that its value fell in Cairo and did not recover for a number of years! In Cairo, the Sultan of Egypt received Moussa with great respect, as a fellow Muslim. The splendor of his caravan caused a sensation and brought Mansa Moussa and the Mali Empire fame throughout the Arab world. Mali had become so famous by the fourteenth century that it began to draw the attention of European mapmakers. In one map, produced in 1375, Moussa is shown seated on a throne in the center of West Africa, holding a nugget of gold in his right hand.

After visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on his pilgrimage, Moussa set out to build great mosques, vast libraries, and madrasas (Islamic universities) throughout his kingdom. Many Arab scholars, including the poet and architect, Abu-Ishaq Ibrahim-es-Saheli, who helped turn Timbuktu into a famous city of Islamic scholarship, returned with him. Moussa had always encouraged the development of learning and the expansion of Islam. In the early years of his reign, Moussa had sent Sudanese scholars to study at Moroccan universities. By the end of his reign, Sudanese scholars were setting up their own centers of learning in Timbuktu. He commissioned Abu-Ishaq Ibrahim-es-Saheli to construct his royal palace and a great mosque, the Djingareyber Mosque, at Timbuktu. Still standing today, the Djingareyber Mosque consists of nine rows of square pillars and provides prayer space for 2,000 people. Es-Saheli introduced the use of burnt brick and mud as a building material to this region. The Djingareyber's mud construction established a 660-year-old tradition that still persists: each year before the torrential rains fall in the summer, Timbuktu's residents replaster the mosque's high walls and flat roof with mud. The Djingareyber Mosque immediately became the central mosque of the city, and it dominates Timbuktu to this day. During Moussa's reign Timbuktu thrived as a commercial center and flourished into a hub of Islamic learning. Even after the Mali Empire lost control over the region in the fifteenth century, Timbuktu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa.

Wikipedia: Mansa Musa

A fictional account of Mansa Musa's life for children with colorful illustrations

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sulayman Nyang

His Bio: an Islamic scholar of Gambian descent

Sulayman Nyang teaches at Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he serves as Professor of African Studies. From 1975 to 1978 he served as Deputy Ambassador and Head of Chancery of the Gambia Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Following his diplomatic stint, he immigrated to the United States and returned to academic life at Howard University, where he later assumed the position of department chair from 1986 to 1993. He also serves as co-director of Muslims in the American Public Square, a research project funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Professor Nyang has served as consultant to several national and international agencies. He has served on the boards of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. He is listed on the editorial boards of several national and international scholarly journals. He has lectured on college campuses in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Professor Nyang has written extensively on Islamic, African and Middle Eastern affairs. His latest book, Islam in America, is scheduled to appear this fall. His best known works are Islam, Christianity and African Identity (1984), A Line in the Sand: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the Gulf War (1995), co-authored with Evan Heindricks, and Religious Plurality in Africa, co-edited with Jacob Olupona. Professor Nyang has also contributed over a dozen chapters in books edited by colleagues writing on Islamic, African and Middle Eastern subjects. His numerous scholarly pieces have appeared in African, American, European and Asian journals.

Islam in Africa: Video by Sulayman Nyang

Islam in Spain: Video by Sulayman Nyang

Islam in India and South East Asia and Islam Then and Now

Imam Zaid Shakir

Well, I ran into so more player haters on the imam but he's today's Notable Muslim of African Descent.

Bio taken from Zaytuna Website.

Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Muslim scholars in the West. Born in Berkeley, California, the second of seven children he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He then obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University, where he emerged as an active leader in campus activities, helping to revive the Muslim Student Association, co-leading a successful South Africa divestment campaign, and co-founding a local Islamic center, Masjid al-Huda.

After a year in Cairo, Egypt, studying Arabic, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his tireless community activism, co-founding Masjid al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he speared-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort in the local neighborhood, and taught as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University until his departure for Syria to further his studies in the traditional Islamic Sciences.

For seven years in Syria and briefly in Morocco he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and Islamic spirituality with some of the top Muslim scholars of our age. In 2001, he graduated from Syria's prestigious Abu Noor University and returned to Connecticut to continue his work with the Muslim community in America. Teaching regularly as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, writing numerous articles for various magazines, journals, and newspapers, and lecturing frequently at many of America’s largest Muslim conferences and conventions, he soon emerged as one of the most popular and sought after American Muslim leaders.

Amongst several works that he has translated from Arabic into English, his translation of “The Heirs of the Prophets” was published by Starlatch Press in 2001. In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California with his family to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute where he now teaches regular courses on Arabic, Islamic Law, History, and Islamic Spirituality. He has since lectured at many of the Bay Area’s top universities, including Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, and is a frequent speaker at local Muslim events. He is widely regarded as an articulate voice on Islam and African-American issues and as a visionary leader in the emergence of an Islamic community and tradition and that is indigenous to America. He just recently published a selection of essays and autobiography entitled Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim

We are all collateral damage by Imam Zaid Shakir

New Islamic Directions

Zaid Shakir on Being Muslim in America

The Changing Face of Secularism and the Islamic Response

Fitz Disses the Brothas

How's about a dose of some really pretentious, know-it-all, racist Orientalism?

Hugh Fitzgerald of Dhimmi Watch discusses the strangeness of the phenomenon of black Americans converting to Islam. Hmm, not so strange if you believe in La ilaha ill Allah.

And our Brutha Indigo Jo serves up a nice juicy rebuttal.

Blogging for the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)

Blogging for the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)

In Honor of the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam)In these controversial times when Muslims are feeling quite helpless, I think there's one person in particular that we need to reflect on. Who else knows more about trials, suffering, pressure, stress and tribulations other than our Messenger (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam). In the face of crises, he never lost his serenity. While being attacked and maligned, he prayed for his enemies. It's time to cultivate such qualities in ourselves instead of falling into the traps of violence and slander.

Umm Zee and Baraka are hosting blog carnivals. I've decided to host one, too. Brother Aiman came up with the idea of an artistic response. The Islamic Artists Society is representing an artistic response to this latest controversy. We will avoid reactionism and focus on Habib Allah (peace and blessings upon him). February 19th, 2005, two weeks from now, is the deadline for any creative expression in praise and honor of the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam). We have every right as Muslims and as human beings to defend ourselves.

A mosque was bombed in Tennessee. We have to defend our right to existance and to our religion. We shouldn't suffer for the actions of a few. Every other religious and ethnic group has this privilege accept us. And while we still have power to speak, we should take advantage of it because it is common to spill our blood with no remorse.

We must fight back, but not with violence, not with vigilantism or oppression towards innocent people. We don't deserve the help of Allah ta'ala if we are willing to trangress His laws for the sake of temporal justice. Our justice is ultimately in the afterlife, if it's a life of fear and awe of Him. Please turn in any essays, artwork, online short films, graphic design, poetry, etc. to mosaicsmag (@) gmail.com. or if you have my personal email address, you can use that, too. If it's okay with UZ, Abdul-Halim and Altaf, we can use the Progressive Muslims blog, the Living Tradition blog and 3rd Resurrection for this purpose. Consider it as a way of reflecting on his life to help us get through post 9-11 society. If you want, you can turn posts written on your blog from the past. It doesn't have to be new. Link this event on your blogs if you want.


Kelly Izdihar

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Askia Muhammad Toure (1493-1528)

Askia Muhammad Toure--The Great King of Songhai

After the reign of Sunni Ali, Askia Muhammad Toure captured the throne. Sunni Ali was a great military king who conquered Timbuktu and Djenne, the great cities of Sahel. Askia Muhammad was Sunni Ali's former general and overthrew the reign of Sonni Ali's son, Sunni Baru. Askia Muhammad would continue the expansionist policies of Sunni Ali by conquering the oases of the Sahara, Mali and the Hausaland. Under his reign, Songhai would achieve the height of greatness as the mightest empire of all of Africa.

Askia Muhammad Touré further centralized the government by creating a large and elaborate bureaucracy to oversee his extensive empire. He was also the first to standardize weights, measures, and currency, so culture throughout the Songhai began to homogenize. Muhammad Touré was also a fervent Muslim; he replaced native Songhay administrators with Arab Muslims in order to "Islamicize" Songhai society. He also appointed Muslim judges, called qadis , to run the legal system under Islamic legal principles. These programs of conquest, centralization, and standardization were the most ambitious and far-reaching in sub-Saharan history until the colonization of the continent by Europeans.

Under the leadership of Askia Mohammed, Timbuktu once again became a prosperous commercial city, reaching a population of 100,000 people. Merchants and traders traveled from Asia, the Middle East and Europe to exchange their exotic wares for the gold of Songhay. Timbuctu gained fame as an intellectual center rivaling many others in the Muslim world. Students from various parts of the world came to Timbuktu's famous University of Sankore to study Law and Medicine. Medieval Europe sent emissaries to the University of Sankore to witness its excellent libraries with manuscripts and to consult with the learned mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, and jurists whose intellectual endeavors were said to be paid for out of the king's own treasury.

And while Islam was the official religion of the state, particularly in the urban centers, most people followed traditional African beliefs or a hybrid of traditional African beliefs and Islam.

Songhai: Africa's Largest Empire

Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu

Thursday, February 02, 2006

sherman jackson blog

Marqas was apparently too shy to promote it himself but here is his Sherman Jackson blog.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj

The Imam of Bedford-Stuyvesant

When I started doing internet searches on the imam, well, let's just say that there's a lot of player haters out there. But I found some nice links. Here's a small excerpt all about the good imam. The whole article is from Saudi Aramco World.

"There’s no trace, these days, of the more than a dozen crack houses whose denizens threatened residents, business owners and worshippers alike on these streets in the 1980’s. In those days pedestrians rushed rather than strolled, and shopkeepers either left or took cover behind bulletproof glass.

One man, Siraj Wahhaj, has led this transformation. He is Masjid at-Taqwa’s founder and imam, or spiritual leader. Praised as one of the most dynamic and charismatic Muslim leaders in the United States, Wahhaj travels widely, lecturing and preaching at Islamic centers, conventions, fundraisers and universities. In 1991, he became the first Muslim to lead a prayer before the us Congress."

And here's a small bio of one of our great American Muslim figures.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj, currently the Imam of Masjid Al-Taqwa in Brookyn, New York, accepted Islam in 1969. He received Imam training at Ummul Qura University of Makkah in 1978 and has gone on to become a national and international speaker on Islam. Imam Wahhaj has been Vice President of ISNA U.S. since 1997 and has served on Majlis Ash-Shura since 1987. He is a past member of ISNA's Planning Committee and has served as a member of the Board of Advisors for NAIT from 1989-1993. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for the American Muslim Council.

Imam Wahhaj has appeared on several national television talk shows and interviews especially about his anti-drug campaigns. He received high praises from the media and NYPD for initiating anti-drug patrol in Brooklyn, New York in 1988.

Sakeena interviews the "Shaykh of Dawah in the West."

Some online lectures from Siraj Wahhaj

I chose him for the obvious reasons. He's a devout Muslim, a social justice advocate and esteemed member of the American Muslim community. He's a reflection of the 3rd Resurrection as more African-American Muslims move toward Islamic orthodoxy. May Allah ta'ala reward his efforts.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Abdur Rahman Ibrahima 1762-1869

Abdur Rahman Ibrahima ibn Sori

He was a young Fula prince who was captured and sold in slavery in 1788. He was born in the Timbo village of Guinea. He was brought to Mississippi in Natchez. He became quite famous in New Orleans for his eloquent speeches and petitions to free himself, his wife and his children.

Here's a more detailed description of his life.

"Abdur Rahman Ibrahima ibn Sori (1762-1829) was born in a village in Timbo Guinea. A Fulani prince and captain in his father’s army, he was kidnapped in 1788, at the age of 26, and sold to British slavers in the Gambia. Eventually sold to a Thomas Foster in Natchez, Mississippi, Abdur Rahman, who was fluent and literate in Arabic due to his royal Fulani upbringing, wrote to his family in 1826.

Sen. Thomas Reed received a copy of the letter from a journalist and forwarded it to the U.S. consul in Morocco. The sultan read it and requested Abdur Rahman’s release from John Quincy Adams, who in turn put pressure on Foster. Abdur Rahman eventually was freed at the age of 60. He promptly raised enough money to purchase the freedom of his wife, Isabella, and conducted a speaking tour until they could afford to return to Africa. Six weeks after arriving in his home continent, Abdur Rahman died from cholera. When Thomas Foster died in 1830, the American Colonization Project purchased two of Abdur Rahman’s children and five of his grandchildren, reuniting them with Isabella in Liberia. The Anacostia Museum exhibit includes an original hand-written autobiographical note and the al-Fatiha (opening of the Qur’an) in English and Arabic by Abdur Rahman.

Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford

A short movie trailer for the upcoming documentary on PBS

Unity Productions Foundation: synopsis of Ibrahima film

Drowned history of New Orleans--Islamonline article featuring the Muslim presence in the deep South and some mention of Abdur Rahman Ibrahima.

Early Islamic Influence in Louisiana