Jamillah Karim: Islamic Women, Islamic Feminism


Jamillah Karim: Islamic Women, Islamic Feminism

 By Dr. Ihsan Bagby

An interview of Dr. Jamillah Karim, exploring her life and her views on women in Islam.Jamillah Karim—where do I start?Armed with a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Duke University and a lifetime commitment to the faith, Jamillah moved quickly to her current role as an assistant professor of religion at Spelman College. Her teaching, writing, research, and ample public speaking centers around nothing less than Muslims in the U.S., immigration, race, class, religious spaces and communities, and Islamic feminism.She’s the author of several published articles including “To Be Black, Female, and Muslim: A Candid Conversation about Race in the American Ummah” and “Through Sunni Women’s Eyes: Black Feminism and the Nation of Islam.” As well, Jamillah contributes regularly to Azizah, an American Muslim women’s magazine.These days, Jamillah [is promoting] a book on how African American and South Asian immigrant Muslims relate to each other, specially focusing on women’s experiences.Here’s Jamillah:

As An Undergrad At Duke University, You Studied Electrical Engineering. How Did You Come To Be A Leading Islamic Studies Scholar, Focusing On Gender And Race?

Since high school, I have had a passion to teach Islam to the American public. Growing up in an African American Muslim community, I witnessed how Islam has had a positive impact on black communities in general, and especially on women. My mother, and the other women in my community who taught me, shared some of the same struggles as other black women, i.e., taking care of children while going to school and working, some of them divorced, some married. They were strong and God-fearing, and their faith and discipline helped them to achieve great things despite their humble beginnings. My mother, for instance, went back to school when the youngest of her four children was two years old. She’s divorced now, has never remarried because she hasn’t found a man worthy (it’s been 18 years), works as a project manager in an international consulting firm, and loves to do community work. My mother is an amazing role model.By my senior year in college, I realized that my passion was to teach and write about the amazing community of women that I grew up around. There were graduate students in Islamic Studies at Duke who exposed me to the possibility of graduate studies in Islam, and I thought, ‘I want to be like them.’ So I decided that I would complete my engineering degree but would pursue a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. With African American Muslims, especially women, as my main area of research, it was inevitable that I would become a scholar of religion, race, and gender.

As A Professor At A Historically Black Women’s College, Can You Talk About What Role Such A School Plays Today, Both In The Lives Of Young Black Women And In Higher Education Overall? What Has Your Experience Been Like As A Spelman College Professor?

I love Spelman! I’ve always wanted a profession in which I felt that I was making a difference. Spelman has an amazing legacy of producing black female scholars and leaders. My grandmother and aunt, both educators, attended Spelman. Spelman is important because we live in a world that does not take seriously the struggles of black women. We can thrive in many places, like I did at Duke. But we need places committed to the experiences and education of black women. Also, it is vital that black communities produce our own institutions because at the end of the day, we are responsible for our own future. Spelman is a model of the kinds of institutions we need to continue to build.I could teach anywhere; however, I feel that I truly make a difference at Spelman. Students at any institution do best when they can relate to the professor, when they feel excited and passionate about their courses. I believe that because I am a young, black woman, my students relate to me more than they might relate to other professors teaching Islam. I think that I offer a lot to Spelman; at the same time, Spelman offers me so much, allowing me to be a part of this amazing legacy of educating black women.

Can You Talk About The Significance Of Islam In Your Own Life?

Islam is at the center of my life. It is my pathway to becoming, what one great Muslim scholar, al-Ghazali, described as being god-like. He described this state as follows: it means that “one’s heart and aspiration be taken up with God—great and glorious, that he or she not look towards anything other than God nor pay attention to what is not God, that one neither implore nor fear anyone but God.” This means that whatever I do, including my scholarly work, I begin it with the intention to please and serve God.

You Investigate What It Means To Negotiate Islamic Ideals Of Community (Ummah) Against America’s Race And Class Divisions. What Have You Discovered?

Muslims in America are affected by race and class divides in the United States. The majority of converts to Islam are African Americans, and the majority of Muslim immigrants to the United States are of South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) and Arab descent. This means that the American ummah (Muslim community) is made up largely of African Americans and immigrants, although whites and Hispanics are steadily joining the American ummah. Immigrants tend to live in affluent white suburbs, and African American Muslims in black neighborhoods. As a result, African Americans tend to worship in mosques separately from South Asian and Arab immigrants. At the same time, I have found that there are a growing number of sites in which African American and immigrants come together because of their shared Muslim identity. This is happening especially on college campuses where African American and second-generation immigrant Muslims participate in Muslim student organizations and form lifelong friendships. Although Muslims are affected by the racialized residential patterns that I mentioned above (white vs. black neighborhoods), I believe that the Muslim community has a special potential to cross race and class boundaries and emerge as a model of cosmopolitan community.

How Do Women Fit Into The Historical Muslim Tradition?

Women have played a key role in the historical Muslim tradition. The first convert to Islam was a woman, the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah. She supported the Prophet financially and emotionally during the early part of his prophecy when the early Muslim community faced religious persecution. A later wife of the Prophet, ‘Aisha, played a pivotal role in the memorization and transmission of the Prophet’s words and traditions, peace be upon him. Without these traditions, there would be a great omission in Muslim thought and practice.Muslim women played an integral part of the community and the transmission of sacred knowledge in the early period (the 7th century). However, as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula into Persia, it was embraced by cultures in which women did not enjoy a prominent role, as was the case for many medieval cultures. Women’s contributions to the Muslim tradition became less dominant during this period, again, because of culture and not because of the precedent that the Prophet Muhammad set. Today, Muslim women across the globe are reclaiming the legacy of Muslim women’s contribution in Islam, and some are identifying themselves as Islamic feminists.

How Do Mosques Conflate As Both Religious And Cultural Spaces, And How Do Women Of Color Fit Into These Spaces?

At least two-thirds of mosques in the United States dominate in one ethnic group, either African American or South Asian. The remaining one-third tends to be a combination of Arab and South Asian Muslims. Mosques, therefore, function as cultural or ethnic spaces. Most women have no problem finding a mosque that fits their cultural or ethnic experience. However, immigrant mosques are more likely to have prayer spaces in which men and women are separated by a wall or curtain. Some women feel uncomfortable in these spaces, especially African American women, but also do first and second-generation immigrant women.

How Have African American Muslim Women Situated Themselves Within Black Feminism? How Has Feminism Been Influenced By Muslim Women? What Is Islamic Feminism?

Most African American women do not identify themselves as feminists because of the range of meanings that the term evokes, including the notion that feminism teaches women that they do not need men. Many African American Muslim women are independent, i.e., they are divorced; however, they believe in the ideal of strong families in which men function as leaders and financial supporters. When I write about African American Muslim women, I do situate much of their thought and practice within Black feminism, particularly the dimension of Black feminism that emphasizes feminism as resistance to all forms of injustice, not just gender inequalities. Like other black women, African American Muslim women experience gender discrimination that intersects with discrimination based on race and class. Also, Black feminism’s focus on family and elevating the entire community—women, men, and children—resonates with black Muslim women.Feminism has been influenced by Muslim women in much the same way that it has been influenced by nonwhite women. Muslim women, like other minority women, challenge narrow definitions of feminism. In particular, Muslim women prove that one can be committed to faith and still act as a feminist. Muslim women broaden feminism.Islamic feminism is feminist thought and practice derived within an Islamic framework. Muslim women do not have to look beyond their faith tradition to acquire gender consciousness and to fight against gender injustices. The Qur’an and the precedent of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, inspire and inform their feminist practice. This, however, does not mean that other forms of feminism do not influence Muslim women’s feminism. Rather, feminisms intersect to influence Muslim women’s activism.Islamic feminism also fights against other injustices that affect Muslim women, particularly anti-Muslim racism.Muslim women are hyper-mediated in the mainstream U.S. news cycle. Particularly, secluded women in hijabs were held up as the epitome of oppression that, in part, supposedly justified war a few years ago. Your work focuses on the gender roles of American Muslims. What’s your response to the political characterization of Muslim women overseas, and how does it compare to Muslim women in our own borders? I always make it clear that the characterization of Muslim women, especially overseas, is political. The way in which imperial feminists have supported the characterization of Muslim women as backwards to justify the occupation of Muslim lands partly explains why many Muslim women are suspicious of feminism and often choose not to use the label feminist. This is another reason why the qualifier ‘Islamic’ is so important because it distances Muslim women from imperial feminism.Certainly, there are gender inequalities in Muslim-majority countries; but many scholars have demonstrated that Muslim women have challenged these inequalities through indigenous feminist paradigms. Western feminists can never fully address the concerns and issues of Muslim women, especially those living overseas, because gender activism must always emerge from within the culture it addresses in order for it to be most effective.Muslim women’s experiences in American borders are certainly different from their experiences abroad. Many immigrant women are claiming their rights for the first time in the United States. However, some of the earliest and most effective Islamic feminist movements have occurred outside the United States. Also, Muslims live across diverse regions of the globe, so we must be careful not to lump Muslim women’s experiences overseas. Muslim women’s experiences in Ghana are drastically different from their experiences in Kuwait. But generally, Muslim women in the United States are highly educated and active in their communities, Muslim and non-Muslim.

In “To Be Black, Female, And Muslim: A Candid Conversation About Race In The American Ummah” You Wrote: “While Both African Americans And Immigrants Contribute To These Divides, This Article Shows How Immigrant Muslims Enjoy A Level Of Privilege And Power Over African American Muslims.” Can You Expand On This?

Muslim immigrants are socialized to respond to African Americans in ways that most immigrants to the United States are—that is, distancing themselves from African Americans, especially their neighborhoods, as part of assimilating into the dominant white culture. In the process, they become complicit in anti-black racism. Even though they don’t enjoy white privilege as whites do, they do acquire some benefits as they seek to claim whiteness. This is the major way that I see immigrant privilege. Also, immigrant Muslims come from multi-generation Muslim families and cultures, and, therefore, tend to imagine themselves as better Muslims over African Americans, who are largely a community of converts and their Muslim-born children. When African Americans have had negative experiences with immigrants, they tend to ascribe this bad behavior to all immigrants even though it does not represent them all.


“Challenges Facing American Muslim Women.” By Samer Hathout. Islam for Today.Azizah Magazine“These women produce a magazine that reflects the experiences and perspectives of Muslim women living in North American society. “Muslim Women’s League
“…a non-profit Muslim American organization working to implement the values of Islam and thereby reclaim the status of women as free, equal and vital contributors to society.”“The Feminist Movement and the Muslim Woman.” By Maryam Jameelah. Islam 101.

African American Muslim Leadership for the 21st Century


African American Muslim Leadership For The 21st Century

By Dr. Amir Al-Islam

One of the pressing issues facing the African American Muslim community is the development of leadership, and the greatest challenge is the development of a new approach to educating the next generation of leaders.

(Part 1: Introduction)

Amir Al-Islam

“You Have In The Character Of The Prophet Muhammad (S)The Perfect Model Of Conduct” (The Holy Qur’an: 33-21)
“We Have Sent You Muhammad (S)As A Mercy To All Creation”(The Holy Qur’an: 21-107)

The objective of this document is to inspire and provoke civil dialogue which focuses on preparing African American Muslim leaders for 21st century challenges in a post 9-11 milieu. I argue that African American Muslim leadership is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and I remain concerned that we have not grasped the urgency of the challenge that lies before us. It is crucial that in addition to strategies which are currently in use and have proven to be effective, we must devise new modalities and methodologies which reflect the best practices in leadership development. Personal attacks, un-warranted criticisms, and condemnations are neither the focus, nor the intended by-product of this endeavor. It is essential however, that we begin to engage in a constructive critique and analysis of our communities, leaders and institutions in order to lay the foundation for positive change and progress.The perspective that I posit here is not based on rigorous empirical research and I am not proposing answers to the myriad questions that I have raised. Rather, my intentions are to express my personal reflections in an effort to create public discourse which generates new thought and perspectives about American Muslim leadership It is evident that the foundational model of leadership that we seek is already outlined in the teachings and practices of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s), and is expressed in its most articulate form with the Rightly Guided Caliphs, his companions, and the Muslim scholars and leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership across the ages.However, we must build on this historical legacy to address the challenges of our time. I am convinced that the answers we seek are in the hearts and minds of Muslims and non-Muslims, in research materials, and archives waiting to be discovered and unearthed. My hope and prayer is that I can serve as a catalyst in this process. Finally, I believe that we are at a critical juncture in our history as a Muslim community and the future is upon us. The urgency is self evident. To paraphrase one of Hip Hop’s clarion calls: let’s get busy. All of the good which comes from this project is from Almighty Allah, and obviously, the mistakes are mine. May Allah guide us all.

Reflections Of AnAfrican American Muslim Activist


This booklet asserts that educating and training Muslim men and women leaders who are capable of effectively navigating the multi-ethnic and multi-religious terrain in America—particularly in the post 9-11 milieu—requires the development of an American Muslim educational paradigm which articulates a new critical Muslim pedagogy. This new pedagogy—centered in Islamic epistemology and ontology—should selectively appropriate the best of traditional Muslim educational paradigms and modalities used over time. However, it is crucial that the traditional Muslim model not be reified, but rather be subjected to a sharp critique which maintains the richness of its spiritual and intellectual legacy but totally rejects teachings and interpretations used to create false dichotomies resulting in binary constructs (us-them), particularly those which pit Muslims against the west. Further, the new critical Muslim pedagogy must facilitate the construction of new optics through which to view the contemporary world we live and interact in, locally and globally. Finally, the new critical Muslim pedagogy must embrace all of the best discursive practices (e.g., pedagogies of Freire and others) that engage us in a critical analysis of the way in which power and privilege, even in religious communities, operate to marginalize and suppress women, minorities and people of color. Thus, this article will place special emphasis on the experiences of African American Muslims (the largest population of Muslims in the U.S.) and how a new critical Muslim pedagogy would address the myriad challenges they face and effectively serve the needs, requirements, and interests of their communities.


Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with approximately 1.6 billion Muslims according to the United Nations Population Report of 2000. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Muslims are not Arabs, nor do they live in the Middle East. They are in Asia, in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Moreover, within the last 50 years, Islam has gained a significant presence in most western countries, with rapidly expanding Muslim populations in France, England and the United States, due primarily to substantial immigration from Muslim countries over the last century. It is the American landscape which provides the context for this document.Currently, it is reported that there are approximately 6 to 7 million Muslims in the United States (Council on American Islamic Relations-CAIR, 2004), comprised of immigrants from over 50 countries and a substantial population of converts to the faith, primarily African Americans. While there are considerable numbers of white Americans (one of the first documented Anglo-American converts to Islam was Muhammad Alexander Webb in 1887, from New York) and a significant population of Latinos who have embraced the faith, African Americans by far constitute the largest group of Muslims in America, nearly 40% of the total Muslim population and they also account for the majority of new converts. It is this population of African American Muslims—who are often overlooked and discounted in scholarly writings and research—upon which this paper places special emphasis.During the latter part of the 20th century, American Muslims, both immigrants and converts have established a formidable presence on the American religious, social, and political landscape. They are actively engaged in every sphere of American society and functioning as doctors, lawyers, judges, elected officials, teachers, law enforcement officers, and entrepreneurs. In addition, Muslims in America have established over 4,000 Islamic organizations and institutions, including thousands of Muslim students associations on most university campuses, intellectual and professional organizations, civil rights and political advocacy groups, social service agencies, over 1,500 mosques, and 500 schools in every major city in America. Muslims have also established 6 national umbrella organizations to coordinate their activities and, in varying degrees, to promote Islamic understanding.However, the exponential development of Muslim institutions and organizations in the U.S. has not included the establishment of Islamic institutions of higher learning. While there have been a few modest but noteworthy efforts by Muslims to establish Islamic colleges and advanced studies programs within the last few years, (e.g., American Islamic College in Chicago, Islamic Internet University, Hartford Seminary’s Muslim Chaplains Program), currently, there are no accredited Islamic colleges, universities, or seminaries, which focus on educating and training American Muslim leaders.Thus, it can be asserted that the present system of educating and training American Muslim leaders (the aforementioned initiatives not withstanding) is woefully inadequate, and does not address the contemporary challenges facing Muslims in 21st century post 9-11 America. And admittedly, while there are a number of American Muslims functioning effectively in leadership positions within Islamic organizations, this is insufficient, and if programs are not developed which articulate new approaches and methodologies to training American Muslim leaders, the community will continue to suffer from a leadership crisis which will only grow progressively worse over time. It is encouraging to note that presently there are some American Muslim scholars who are already in dialogue and debate about the critical need for a new educational paradigm to train American Muslim leaders and have already initiated several projects. But, it is argued that this task calls for a much more comprehensive strategy and approach and should include African American Muslim scholars and intellectuals and as well as collaborations and partnerships with other scholars and educators (non-Muslims).This project, it is argued, requires no less than a radical shift in the way in which Muslims have traditionally approached “Islamic” education, curriculum development, teaching methodologies and pedagogy within the last century. Here, it is significant to note that the on-going debate on the definition of “Islamic” education and the problematic associated with the use and misuse of the term Islamic, while relevant to the premise of this article, is not, however central to its thesis, and therefore beyond its scope. (Sardar, 1989, Iqbal, 1996 Daud, 1998, Ali, 2000, Panjwani, 2004, Douglas and Shaikh, 2004). However, I do agree with the argument that there is a tendency to misapply the expression Islamic by using it in its adjectival form (Islamic knowledge, Islamic terrorism etc.) This term is a signifier which should only apply to the faith and its doctrine as an ideal, and should not be used to ascribe divinity to actions and activities that fall squarely within the realm of human agency. This perspective is reflected in this project by a concerted effort to use the terminology in an appropriate fashion, (e.g., critical Muslim pedagogy rather than critical Islamic pedagogy). The development of a new critical Muslim pedagogy is admittedly daunting, challenging and complex, and raises a number of essential questions:

  • What is a traditional “Islamic” education? What is “Islamic” knowledge and what makes it Islamic? What are its limits and parameters? (this notion continues to be debated)
  • What should be the criteria for American Muslim leadership and how do you educate and train American Muslim leaders for the 21st century?
  • What should a critical Muslim pedagogy consist of (i.e. its philosophical approach and conceptual framework etc.) particularly in a post 9-11 environment that is often hostile to Islam and Muslims?
  • What teaching and learning modalities and methodologies should be employed in the critical Muslim pedagogy (research, curriculum, texts etc.)
  • Should approaches to training and educating immigrant Muslim leaders be developed differently from African American Muslim leaders?

Surely, this article does not claim to answer the myriad questions raised by this engaging premise. In fact, by interrogating the complexities and problematics involved in developing a critical Muslim pedagogy, more questions will be raised than answers and more challenges proposed than solutions. The initial objective is therefore to track the contours of American Muslim leadership development in order to identify complexities, raise questions and challenge propositions, which, hopefully, will open new lines of scholarly inquiry and thought. Additionally, articulating the challenges confronting African American Muslim leaders give voice to a community often silenced and adds a perspective often overlooked in the discourse. But before a new critical American Muslim pedagogy can be explored, it is necessary to understand the historical development and functionality of American Muslim leadership and the context in which it evolved.So, the primary objectives of this article are: to accentuate the urgent need for the development of this new pedagogy; to highlight some of the critical issues that should be considered in the process of its development; and finally, to add an African American Muslim voice and perspective to the discourse. But before a new critical Muslim pedagogy can be explored, it is necessary to understand the context of its implementation. Therefore, a brief overview of Islam in America will prove useful.

Contributions of Enslaved African Muslims


Contributions Of Enslaved African Muslims

By Dr. Ihsan Bagby

Enslaved African Muslims made great contributions to many aspects of American life and culture, including the areas of technology, folklore and music.

Ihsan Bagby

African Muslims brought their culture with them to the shores of America, and they influenced many aspects of American and African American culture, including the technology, music, folklore, religion and many other aspects. The racist notion that Africans brought nothing to America has been rejected and the theory that the brutality of American chattel slavery did not allow the survival of African culture among African Americans has also been largely rejected. Both these theories lead to the conclusion that African American culture was totally re-made by the unique American experience. Today it is accepted that aspects of African culture did survive the middle passage and the crucible of slavery but the questions remain: to what extent did African culture survive and in what ways did it contribute to and influence American and African American culture? African Muslims, along with their African compatriots, retained elements of their culture despite the destructive brutality of American chattel slavery and in so doing they contributed to the formation of a new hybrid African American culture.

Rice and Related Technologies

Recent scholarship has established that enslaved Africans made important technological contributions in the development of rice cultivation.

[1]  European settlers did not have experience in rice cultivation but many Africans, primarily Senegambians, did.  In 1648 an observer in Virginia wrote, “We perceive the ground and climate is [sic] very proper for it [rice cultivation] as our Negroes affirme which in their Country is most of their food.”

[2]  Most scholars today would agree with the French historian in his saying, “In effect, a whole material civilization, including nutritional practices, was implanted in tropical America….It was an imported African material civilization.”

[3] Rice was cultivated by many African peoples in the Senegambia, Sierra Leone and the middle Niger region, the same areas that are the main sources of African Muslims.  Rice cultivation, which used a native type of rice (oryza) as opposed to the Asian variety (glabervima) was cultivated first in African in the middle Niger regions possibly as early as 2000 years ago.  Muslim travelers in the 15th and 16th century mention the abundant presence of rice and the cultivation and trade of rice in the Mali and Songhay empires.

The Mali Empire was the primary instrument in the spread of rice in Senegambia and Sierra Leone.  Mandingo traders exposed new peoples to rice through their trade, and possibly more importantly rice cultivation followed the migration of Mandingos and other Mande-speaking peoples in the period of the Mali Empire and its breakup.

[4]  The expansion of rice cultivation in West Africa, therefore, followed the same pattern as the expansion of Islam.  African peoples who are rice cultivators include the Mandingo, Fula, Songhay, Soninke and Serer, all Islamized or partially Islamized peoples.  The Fula, Salih Bilali, who was from the middle Niger, mentions rice as a main staple.  The daughter of Bilali, who was also Fula, and other African Muslims on the Georgia coast were remembered to make a special sweet rice cake, called saraka, for special occasions.

[5]  The same rice balls are made by Mandingos in West Africa.

[6]  In Turner’s Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, seven African words are listed in reference to rice, and five of these words come from the languages of African Muslims.

i) Daf—rice flour, rice cake (Hausa, Vai)

ii) Kafu (gafa)—rice (Hausa)

iii) Malo—rice (Mandingo, Wolof, Bambara)

iv) Sari—boiled rice (Mandingo, Songhay, Bambara)

v) Sarika—boiled rice pounded and served in

vi) Leaves (Bambara; but Turner acknowledges

vii) That this probably the same as saraka,

viii) The rice ball made the Muslims in Georgia)

ix) Other words for rice were

x) Kala—uncooked rice (Vai)

xi) Mo’liku—rice (Fon)

Since there seemed to be few Hausa in the Georgia coast area, the many Hausa words mentioned by Turner are most likely Fula and Mandingo words that had their origin in Hausa or visa versa.

Senegambian peoples, many of whom were Muslims, were some of the first enslaved Africans brought to America.  Many of these Senegambians were familiar with rice cultivation and as European settlers experimented with rice in the 17th century, these Senegambians passed on their knowledge, thus shaping the development of rice cultivation in America.  Thereafter, planters in South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana preferred enslaved Africans from Senegambia because of their experience in rice cultivation.  This would explain in part why Americans imported a relatively large proportion of Senegambians.  In French Louisiana, a captain was instructed “to try to purchase several blacks who know how to cultivate rice.”

[7]The African imprint on rice cultivation is manifest in virtually all aspects of the way fields were used and rice was sowed, weeded, processed and cooked.  Some of the practices that have been identified as Senegambian are pressing a hole with the heel and covering the seeds with the front; hoeing in unison to work songs,

[8] using women for the sowing of rice,

[9] the early use of cattle along with rice cultivation (the Fula brought their cattle into harvested rice fields and thus helped fertilize the fields

[10] (Black Rice ???), the original system of floodgates,

[11] processing rice by use of mortar and pestle,

[12] winnowing of rice by means of special baskets,

[13] cooking techniques such as the method of cooling rice, which reduces the clumping of rice, and the cooking of rice without animal fat, which is typical of rice preparation only in Africa.

[14]  All of these techniques are of Senegambian origin.

The winnowing baskets produced by African Americans since the slave era until today have as their likely ancestor basket making in Senegambia.  In an exhaustive comparative study of South Carolina baskets and African baskets, Dale Rosengarten concluded: “There is a reasonable candidate for the single-source theory, and that is Senegambia—not Sierra Leone or the Ivory Coast or other rice-growing areas, but Senegambia, where rice and millet are winnowed in baskets that look just like low country [South Carolina] fanners.”

[15]Examples of Senegambian baskets include baskets made by the Wolof, Serer, Mandingo and Fula.  In fact she cites the example of a Fula basket maker, “using a tool, a nail with the point flattened—like the one Mt. Pleasant basket makers give their children who are learning to sew.”



Throughout West Africa Muslim marabouts and mu’allams (teachers) were well-known and respected as producers of amulets or gris-gris,

[17] which usually consisted of verses of Quran placed within a pouch and worn on various parts of the body in order to protect the wearer from harm.  According to Hall, gris gris is a Mande word gerregerys. In his travel among the Mandingos in the 17th century, Richard Jobson calls the amulets “gregories” which are made by “Mary-bucks,” Jobson’s word for marabouts.

[18]  The power of the amulet was located in the sanctity of the holy work written by a spiritually adept.  The traveler Mungo Park wrote, “I did not meet with a man, whether a Bushreen [Muslim] or kafir [non-Muslim], who was not fully persuaded of the powerful efficacy of these amulets.”

[19] Marabouts were in demand throughout West Africa for these amulets.

In the nineteenth century functions of the literate Muslims at the Asante court [Ghana] included the writing of charms for the King and his courtiers and the making of talismans to protect his soldiers in combat.  The superiority of Islamic magic and the awe in which Arabic characters were—and are—held made Muslims much in demand at the courts of the chiefs in Akanland.

[20] In the biography of Mahammad Gardo Baquaqua, his brother was a Muslim scholar and a producer of amulets in non-Muslim Benin.

[21] In South America, Mandingos were associated with amulets.  In Brazil the word for amulet means Mandingo purse and in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Mexico, mandingo means sorcery.

[22]  In Bahia, Brazil Muslim amulets were very popular, and one observer remarked that Bahian blacks considered Muslims to be “wizards familiar with high magical processes.”

[23] References to amulets abound in the eyewitness accounts of Africans in America.  A French colonial official in Louisiana wrote that “they [slaves] are very superstitious and attracted to their prejudices and to charms which they call ‘gris-gris.’”

[24]  “Old Friday” in South Carolina in 1843 remembered as a youth praying to Allah, but “several of the missionaries noted that ‘Old Friday’ and other Africans of the Beaufort area were affected by ‘Gree Gree’ worship.’”

[25] A Southern writer in 1937, commenting on “how a Mohammedan influence had touched the lives of our darkies” told of Mama Julia who “always wore tied about her neck, with a string, a small cloth bag in which reposed a small copper plate on which were untranslatable letters.  It was her most prized, most carefully guarded possession, because she knew that it protected her and her family from evil.”

[26]  Cornelius Bailey, a descendent of Bilali and a current resident of Sapelo Island, recounted how her grandfather wore a pouch around his waist, containing verses from the Bible.

[27] Undoubtedly African Muslims in America engaged in writing amulets.  The many small pieces of Arabic written by Omar bin Said are decorated with designs that remind one of an amulet.  During his stay on the North Carolina plantation, Omar would write Qur’anic passages on paper and place them about the farm in order to ward off evil.

[28]  Some of the African slaves in one report called Omar a “pray God to the King” which meant “a priest or learned man, who offered up prayers for the King.”

[29]  In other words Omar was viewed as a marabout whose prayers and amulets were welcomed in royal courts.

The Muslim presence in magical practices can be seen in the description of the making of a charm in the testimony of a maroon leader in Louisiana in 1758, who planned to use the charms in a plot to take over the colony.  The charm consisted of various substances but after the substances were mixed the maker was supposed to pronounce the words “Allah Allah” and then invoke the Christian God and Lord Jesus Christ.[30]  The name of the charm, wanga, suggested a central African origin but the invocation of the God of Islam demonstrated the important presence of Muslims, possibly in the revolt.

The nine words that Turner listed as Gullah words referring to conjure, four are from African Muslim languages.  Among these words are hoodoo, juju, and mojo which are common words referring to conjuring.

i) Hudu—to cause bad luck (Hausa)

ii) Juju—magic (Hausa) [Mandingo also]

iii) Kafa—charm (Hausa)

iv) Moco—witchcraft (Fula)  Moco becomes mojo.

The African marabouts who made gris-gris were also engaged in fortune telling and herbalogy—they were the conjurers and root doctors of Africa.  Enslaved African Muslims undoubtedly were part of the development of conjure culture in America.  The echo of African Muslim conjure can easily be heard in DuBois’s explanation of the black preacher as a link between Africa and the new black Christian church:

He early appeared on the plantation and found his function as the healer of the sick, the interpreter of the Unknown, the comforter of the sorrowing, the supernatural avenger of wrong…thus, as bard, physician, judge and priest rose the black preacher. (Souls Black Folk, in Roberts, Black Music p. 67)

The word hoodoo has been used to refer to “a system of magic, divination and herbalism” which is somewhat distinct from voodoo which is more associated with polytheism.

[31]  Turner states that hoodoo is a Hausa word which was most probably used by the many Fula and Mandingos on the Georgia coast.

It is interesting to speculate that the difference between hoodoo and voodoo is the influence of the traditionalist African Muslim conjuring which would not admit a role for gods and possession by gods.  Voodoo did not take hold in African American culture for a variety of reasons, such as strong Protestant influences which discounted saint worship, the main vehicle for voodoo expression in other parts of the Americas, and the fact that African Americans did not live as isolated from their white masters as they did in Caribbean and Brazilian culture.  Another possible reason for the absence of voodoo was the presence of African Muslims who practiced a more Islamized conjuring.  A more monotheistic-based view of the African spiritual world would also be pre-adapted to the Protestant objections to voodoo.  Most researchers argue that voodoo cults in Louisiana grew as a result of the influence of Africans from Saint-Domingo

,[32] and did not emerge earlier among the largely Senegambian slave community in Louisiana.  If voodoo were to take root in America, then the slave communities along the Carolina and Georgia coast would be the logical candidates, but it did not happen, possibly in part because African Muslims were a significant presence in the area.


Tracing the lineage of African American folk stories is difficult and fraught with different theories, as witness the various opinions about the origins of the tar baby story—claims include that it is from India, Gold Coast, Angola, Native Americans, Spain or the Hausa.

[33]  Nevertheless some scholars point to the significant contribution of the various African Muslim peoples to the wealth of African American folklore.  Of the 185 Uncle Remus stories, 14 were identified by Florence Baer as being of Hausa origins and two stories were identified as Wolof.  In two of the Uncle Remus stories, an origin in the Muslim world is hypothesized: “this tale entered the African tradition and was probably brought to this country by slaves from Africa.”

[34] A.S. Johnston, who studied Hausa folk stories, has argued for the Hausa origin of many of the Uncle Remus stories as collected by Joel Chandler Harris.  In particular he points to strikingly similar character of the Hausa trickster hare, Zano, and Brer Rabbit.  He contrasts the other African tricksters.  “Whereas the spider is malevolently cunning and the jackal sagaciously cunning, the hare is simply mischievously cunning.  Zano, the Hausa hare, is unquestionably one of Brer Rabbit’s grandfathers.”

[35]  Supporting his argument is the fact that the Gold Coast trickster, Anansi, the spider, is not as prominent in African American folk stories as compared to the Caribbean where Anansi is the main character in folk stories.  Brer Rabbit takes the place of Anansi in the United States.  Possibly early Senegambians established Brer Rabbit as the main trickster and as other African peoples arrived, Anansi stories were transformed into Brer Rabbit stories.

The Hausa origins might be better explained as a result of cultural transference across the Savannah stretching from Hausa land westward to the coast following in the same footsteps as the spread of Islam.  Thus the tales of the hare and the hyena, who became Brer Wolf in America, are also widespread among the Fula, Mandingo and Wolof.

[36]  (Holloway XXIII)  Hausa stories would move eastward and the stories of the Mandingo, Fula and Wolof would move westward towards the Hausa.  According to one scholar, Joseph Holloway, the Mandingo in particular would have been the main conduits of folk stories in Africa as well as America.

[37]  (Holloway XXIII)  An indication of Mandingo influence is the word Brer, which is a translation of elder brother, which is used before animal names in Mandingo stories.

[38]  (Holloway 138)


Just as African Muslims brought their religion, technology and folk tales, they also brought their music.  Jobson in the 17th century and Park in the 18th century remarked on the widespread presence of music in their travels among the Wolof, Mandingo and Fula.  African instruments described by Jobson and Park included one-string fiddles, various types of lutes, flutes, harps, a xylophone (the bala), bowstrings (the string is blown on and struck with a stick—this is the American diddly bow), various drums and the clapping of hands, which appeared to constitute a necessary part of the chorus.

[39]  Virtually every village had a jilli (griot) who sang extempore songs in praise of chiefs and the ancestors as well as songs concerning important historical events.  Other musicians were described as a class of devout Muslims who traveled throughout the land singing religious songs and performing religious ceremonies.

[40]  Some of these traveling musicians were actually Muslim traders who simply brought their music with them wherever they traveled.

[41] Senegambian/sahelian music like their counterpart in the Muslim world was a mixture of an old African tradition and a newly inherited Islamic-Arabic musical tradition, producing a new cultural manifestation that possessed elements of both.  Influence went both ways because the Moors adopted many African elements as witnessed in the uniqueness of North African music, Southern Spanish music and traditional Portuguese music like the fado.

In trying to identify African influence in African American music, especially the blues, many scholars have come to agree with Paul Oliver’s early contention that “the blues was a product of acculturation, of the meeting of African (notably Senegambian) musical traditions with Euro-American (notably British) ones.”[42]  (Oliver 125, see also Kubah, Coolen)  By Senegambia, Oliver and others refer to the shared musical tradition of the Sahel crescent zone that stretches from Senegal/Gambia across Mali to Northern Nigerian and Hausa land.

[43]  The main elements of their argument that the main African influence on the blues stems from the Senegambia are as follows:

  1. The ensemble of musical instrument in the Senegambia and the Sahel crescent, which consists of the long-neck lute, one-string fiddles and bones/rattles/tapping on a calabash, is remarkably similar to the fiddle, banjo and tambourines which dominated African American music from the 17th to 19th century.  Various plucked lutes were prominent instruments among the Wolof, Mandingo, Fula, Soninke and Hausa.  These instruments whether the five-strong halam of the Wolof, the three-string koonting of the Mandingo or the Hausa komo were most likely the grandfather of the banjo.
  2. [44]  An early colonial slave song says that “Negro Sambo play fine banger, make his fingers go like handsaw.”  (???)  This Fula, Mandingo or Wolof Sambo was obviously an early master of the banjo.

3. [45]  (Kubah and Oliver, 57)  A runaway slave notice mentions a Sambo who is an expert with the fiddle. (?) African fiddles whether the riti of the Wolof, the gogi or the Hausa or the gogeru of the Fula were common instruments in the Sahel crescent.  The European fiddle was the most common instrument in the antebellum era and an African American who was familiar with the African fiddle would have been highly motivated in the acquisition of prestige and time-off to pick up the new European fiddle and master it.

The typical early black musical group of the Caribbean and South America included drums and gongs, scraps and voices which would correspond to an ensemble of the West African rain forest.  “The early blues bands by contrast consisted very often of fiddle, guitars and sometimes homemade percussion, which would easily accommodate techniques learned in the savannah groups with their bowed goge, lutes and rattles.


  1. The blues tradition and much of other black musical forms which revolves around a solo performer accompanied by a plucked-string instrument does not have a parallel in the cultures of the West African rain forest and the Congo, but it does in the Sahel crescent.  Griots and other traveling musicians of the Sahel performed like the blues men “in the midst of an active and noisy crowd that constantly comments on and dances to their music.
  2. [47]  “Musicologists generally agree that Africa’s black bluesmen have, in essence, reinstituted the high art of the African griot.” (?)
  3. African American field hollers (a few melancholy, lonesome lines sung individually by a worker) and work songs are widely considered to be one of the predecessors of the blues.  Hollers and work songs are rare among the people of the rain forest but plentiful in the Sahel crescent.  A researcher found a match for a Mississippi prison holler performed by a man nick named Tangle Eye with a recording from Senegal.  “When we intercut these two pieces on a tape, it sounded as if Tangle Eye and the Senegalese were answering each other, phase by phase.  As one listens to this musical union, spawning thousands of miles and hundreds of years, the conviction grows that Tangle Eye’s forebears [sic] must have come from Senegal bringing this song style with them.[48]
  4. Scholars have found unique similarities between American work songs and work songs among the Hausa and cattle herding Fula,[49] so much so that some feel the field holler originated with African cattle herders.[50]
  5. The blues and jazz style of bending notes, melisma (ornamental phrasing of several notes in one syllable which is typical of the Muslim call to prayer), slurs, and raspy voices are all characteristics of music in the Sahel zone.  These aspects of Sahel music are undoubtedly a direct influence of Arab/Islamic music.  Billy Holiday was master of this style.

As sung by her [Billy Holiday] a note may (in the words of Glen Coutler) begin ‘slightly under pitch, absolutely without vibrato, and gradually be forced up to dead center from where the vibrato shakes free, or it may trail off mournfully; or at final cadences, the note is a whole step above the written one and must be pressed slowly down to where it belongs.’  Coincidence or not, all these features are found in Islamic African music and hardly at all in other styles.[51]

  1. The absence of polyrhythm and asymmetric time-lines and the presence of emphasis instead of off-beats in blues and early jazz are also characteristic of Sahel music.  On the other hand, the music of the rain forest and the Congo with its heavy emphasis on drumming is characterized by polyrhythms and asymmetric time-lines and its influence is reflected in the black music of the Caribbean and South America.[52]  Arguments that the drum was prohibited in the U.S. and that enslaved Africans lived in closer proximity to whites are not persuasive because drums are not the only means to express polyrhythms and the cultural impulse for polyrhythm would not have been totally stifled by the influence of white culture.  A more plausible answer is the influence of Sahel culture in the development of African American music.[53]
  2. Like the blues, Sahel music typically uses pentatonic scales that allows inflections and shadings of notes (the blues notes) as well as the use of a central tone reference, often a drone stroke which renders it “out of turn” around which the melody revolves.[54]  The blues tonality is not found in rain forest and Congo music or in Latin American music.

In 1968 he [the Mali musician Ali Farka Toure] heard a recording of John Lee Hooker and was entranced.  Initially he thought Hooker was playing music derived from Mali.  Several Malian song forms—including musical traditions of the Bambara, Songhay and Fulani ethnic groups—rely on minor pentatonics (five note) scales which are similar to the blues scales.[55]

While discounting the Islamic influence on the blues, musicologists Gunther Schuller does note with interest that three of the six principal modes in Indo-Pakistani music “are nothing but blues scales.”[56]  The conclusion that the blues and Indo/Pakistani scales might have a common ancestor, namely classical Islamic/Arab music, seems to elude him.

  1. There are also numerous playing techniques that are common to blues and Sahel music including fingering techniques, combined interweaving of melodic-rhythmic lines, and the cupping of the ear while playing the blues harmonica which is prominent in the Sahel and throughout the Muslim world.[57]
  2.   The repetitive structure of the blues resembles the Senegambian musical structure called the fodet, which is a musical phrase of a fixed number of 6-24 beats, which is repeated in cyclic form.

More important, fodets parallel blues structure in the organization of their tonal character.  Like the blues, different phrases of the fodet are marked off through the use of different tonal centers.  Normally centering on a tonic path (danne), most fodets contain at least one phrase that centers on a secondary tonal center.[58]

Senegambians and other African Muslims were not the only enslaved Africans so why did their influence predominate over other groups, especially the peoples from the West African rain forest and Central Africa who were in fact numerically larger.  A possible answer is that Senegambians arrived early and “they found a musical culture, which, instead of suppressing their own inflected practice, actually sustained and reinforced it” in that European musical instruments better matched the experience of Senegambian, and that British and especially Scottish music had similarities in the tonal sensibilities of Sahel music.[59]  Like basket weaving, Senegambians, as early arrivals, established the first forms of blues music and later arrivals simply adopted the practice.

The African musicologist, Grehart Kubik, who actually specializes in music of the rain forest peoples, concludes:

Many traits that have been considered unusual, strange and difficult to interpret by earlier blues researchers can now be better understood as a thoroughly processed and transformed Arabic-Islamic stylistic component.  What makes the blues different from African American music in the Caribbean and in South America is, after all, its Arabic-Islamic stylistic ingredients.[60]


According to Robert F. Thompson, many African American quilt makers exhibit an influence of the “Mande country cloth tradition.”[61]  (Thompson 207-208)  Mandingos, as the largest group of Mande-speaking peoples, would be a vital part of this tradition.  The Mande style is to place together narrow strips of textiles but staggering the strips to accentuate and contrast the colors and accents.  Comparing this decorative art to music, Thompson observes that the Mande-styled textiles are similar to the “off-beat phrasing of melodic accents” which is typical of African American music.

The narrow-strip weaving originated among Mande-speaking people and spread west to Senegambia, where the Fula adopted it, and east to the Songhay of Niger, and then south by means of the Muslim traders.  The Muslim trading centers of Kong and Bonduku in Ivory Coast were important dispersion points for this style of cloth into Ghana, Togo and Benin.

[62]  (Thompson 208)

The influence of Mande narrow-strip textiles can be seen most strongly in the strip blankets of Luiza Combs who produced her blankets around 1890 in Kentucky.

[63] (Thompson 220)  Later African American quilt makers exhibit traces of the Mande style in their randomizing the traditional European block design.

[64]  (Thompson 221)

[1] See Judith A. Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Wood, Black Majority Negroes; and Littlefield, Rice and Slaves.

[2] Littlefield, 100.

[3] Carney, 76.

[4] Ibid., 40-41.

[5] Drums and Shadows, 162 and 167.

[6] Diouf, 65.

[7] Hall, 59.

[8] Wood, 61.

[9] Carney, 110.

[10] Ibid., 85.

[11] Ibid., 95-96.

[12] Wood, 61.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Carney, 114-116.

[15] Dale Rosengarten, Social Origins of the African-American Low Country Basket (Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, May 1997), 226.

[16] Ibid., 229.

[17] Hall, 163.

[18] Richard Jobson, The Golden Trade, 1623 (London: Penguin, 1932), 63.

[19] Park, 92.

[20] Weeks, 1:20.

[21] Austin, African Muslims Transatlantic Stories, 162.

[22] Diouf, 130.

[23] Joao Jose Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, translated by Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1993), 98-99.

[24] Hall, 163.

[25] Lawrence S. Rowland, George C. Rogers, Jr. and Alexander Moore, History of Beauford, S.C. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), 355.

[26] Marion V. Kumar, Negro Folklore (MS of 9 typed pages, dated January 22, 1937), 1-2.

[27] Cornelius Bailey, Interview July 20, 1996.

[28] Thomas C. Parramore “Muslim Slave Aristocrats in North Carolina, The North Carolina Historical Review Vol. LXXVII No. 2 (April 2000): 137.

[29] Ibid., 139.

[30] Hall, 164-165.

[31] Albert Rabeteau, Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South 1978 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 80.

[32] Ibid., 75.

[33] Florence E. Baer, Sources and Analogues of the Uncle Remus Tales (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedenkatemia, Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1980), 29-31.

[34] Florence E. Baer, 146 and see also 133.

[35] H.A.S. Johnston, A Selection of Hausa Stories (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 39.

[36] Holloway, “Origins of African-American Culture,” XXIII.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Holloway and Vass (?), 138.

[39] Park, 250.

[40] Ibid., 251.

[41] Gerhard Kubik, Africa and the Blues (Jackson, MS; University Press of Mississippi, 1999), 8.

[42] Paul Oliver, “Savannah Syncopators: African Retentions in the Blues,” in Yonder Comes the Blues: the Evolution of a Genre, ed. Paul Oliver, Tony Russell, Robert M.W. Dixon, John Godrich, and Howard Rye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 125; see also Kubik, Coolen

[43] Kubik, 63.

[44] Kubik, 8; Michael Theodore Coolen, “Senegambian Archtypes for the American Folk Banjo,” Western Folklore Vol. XLIII No. 2 (April 1984), 117.

[45] Oliver, 57.

[46] John Storm Roberts, Black Music of Two Worlds (New York: Wm Morrow and Co., 1974), 185.

[47] Alan Lomax, The Land Where the Blues Began (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993), 357.

[48] Ibid., 276.

[49] Oliver, 144; Lomax, 234.

[50] Kubik, 66.

[51] Roberts, 213.

[52] Kubik, 56.

[53] Kubik, 59 and 63.

[54] Kubik, 70; Oliver, 102.

[55] Christopher John Farley, “Ali Farka Toure: Sound Travels, in Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey, ed Peter Guralnick, Robert Santell, Holly George-Warren, and Christopher John Farley (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), 94.

[56] Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 61.

[57] Kubik, 89; Roberts, 185-186; Oliver, 52, 100, 102.

[58] Michael Theodore Coolen, “The Fodet: A Senegambian Origin for the Blues?” Black Perspective in Music 10:1,  77.

[59] Kubik, 121 citing William Tallmadge.

[60] Kubik, 94.

[61] Thompson 207-208.

[62] Ibid., 208.

[63] Ibid., 220.

[64] Ibid., 221.

The Pew Study and African American Muslims


The Pew Study And African American Muslims

By Dr. Ihsan Bagby The latest Pew study of the American Muslim Community highlights interesting facts about African American Muslims.

Ihsan Bagby

Pew Research Center recently released a major study entitled “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.” This article highlights some of the findings of this study with special reference to African American Muslims. Overall African American Muslims along with the age group of 18-29 (the second generation) distinguish themselves from other American Muslims by greater religiosity, more unhappiness with America and its policies, stronger Muslim identity and greater unwillingness to assimilate. The full report can be downloaded at pdf


The Pew study estimates that African American Muslims are 20% of the total U.S. Muslim population. This estimate seems low. For example, the 2000 study, “The American Mosque: a National Portrait” found that 30% of mosque goers in America are African Americans. Since the Pew study found that African American Muslims tend to attend masjids more than immigrant Muslims, it is reasonable that the percentage of African Americans in the total Muslim population is lower than 30%–but how much lower. The problem might lie in Pew’s methodology in conducting the study. A portion of the Pew sample was generated by selecting Muslim sounding names from a large list. Pew admitted that few African American Muslims were on this list but it is unclear how Pew compensated for this deficiency.

American Muslim PopulationValue
Foreign Born65%
African American20%
Native Born15%

Almost one-fourth (23%) of the entire American Muslim population are converts. Of all the converts, 59% are African American and 34% are white Americans. Undoubtedly the percentage of white American converts has been increasing over the past decades.

African Americans59%
White Americans34%
Other (Hispanic)7%

Almost half of the converts chose Islam when they were 21 years or younger. More than a third converted between the ages of 21-35. In general most people convert when they are young. This should inform our efforts to call people to Islam.

Age at Time of ConversionValue
Less than 21349%
36 +17%


A problematic statistic, which has been the focus of some media attention, is that among American Muslims, African American Muslims have the highest favorable rating for al-Qaedah and the least unfavorable rating for al-Qaedah. Actually only 9% of African Americans view al-Qaedah favorably and 61% view al-Qaedah unfavorably (30% didn’t know or didn’t respond).

View Of Al-Qaedah

FavorableSomewhatVeryDon’t KnowUnfavorableRefuse
African Americans9%25%36%30%
All American Muslims5%10%58%27%

So, the reality is that a very small minority of African American Muslims think favorably of al-Qaedah. In my own opinion, this response is not an endorsement of al-Qaedah but the residue of the sympathy that African Americans in general and African American Muslims in particular feel for those who struggle against the “man,” “the powers that be,” just as African Americans had to struggle against the dominant white power structure for their own rights. Nevertheless, the vast majority of African American Muslims recognize that al-Qaedah’s struggle entails terrorist tactics that are misguided, immoral and un-Islamic.


African Americans and the age group 18-29 overall have a higher rate of religiosity than the average American Muslim. Only Pakistanis have a higher religiosity rate.More than half (54%) of African American Muslims attend a masjid weekly or more. About 37% of immigrant Muslims attends a masjid weekly or more. More than one-fourth (27%) of African American Muslims never or seldom attend a masjid.

Masjid Attendance

WeeklyLess OftenSeldomOr Moreor Never
African Americans54%20%27%
All American Muslims40%26%34%
Foreign Born37%27%36%


African American Muslims also score high in giving priority to their Muslim identity over their American identify. In response to the question of whether the respondent considers themselves as American first or Muslim first, 58% of African American Muslims responded that they are Muslim first as compared to 47% of all American Muslims. Only Muslims aged 18-29 scored higher—60% said that they are Muslim first.In the same vein, about half of all African American Muslims said that Muslims should remain distinct from American society as opposed to adopting American customs. About one-fourth (26%) of all American Muslims felt that Muslims should remain distinct. This particular question is somewhat unfair, because Muslims might interpret the question differently, but nevertheless African American Muslims are clearly in favor of retaiing the distinctiveness of their deen as opposed to assimilating and losing their identity in the American mainstream.


An interesting finding is that African American Muslims reported that in the post 9/11 environment they experience more instances of discrimination and intolerance due to their Islam than other Muslims. African American Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims to feel that anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims. In certain regards, the 9/11 tragedy did not affect African American Muslims directly, but these findings demonstrate that African American Muslims are enough more impacted than other Muslims.

Devotional Practice: Month Of Dhu Al-Hijjah


Devotional Practice: Month Of Dhu Al-Hijjah

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The first ten days of Dhul-Hijja are blessed days, which we frequently neglect. The Noble Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God be upon him, said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds done during them are more beloved to God than these days,” referring to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijja.During these blessed days we should try to exert ourselves in worship, for the ‘Ulama’ mention that the virtue of these days surpass even the virtue of the days of Ramadan.


Among the indications of the distinction of these days is the special mention made of them as a group or individually in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In the Qur’an, God says, “I swear by the Dawn, the Ten Nights, the Even and the Odd.”Bearing these and many other virtues of these days in mind, we should be especially diligent in increasing our righteous acts during them. The following acts are especially recommended:

  • We should try to fast as many of the first nine days as possible. We should make an extra effort to fast the Day of ‘Arafah. It is related in Sahih Muslim that the Noble Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God be upon him, said, “I anticipate that Fasting the Day of ‘Arafah will atone for the sins of the previous and coming year.”
  • We should carefully monitor our speech, what we listen to, and what we allow our gaze to fall on during these days, again, especially on the Day of ‘Arafah. The Noble Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God be upon him, said, “[Concerning] the Day of ‘Arafah, whoever controls his hearing, gaze, and speech on that day, he will be forgiven.”
  • We should be excessive in repeating the declaration of Tawhid, with special emphasis on the phrase, “La ilaha ilallah, Wahdahu La Sharika lah, Lahul Mulk, wa lahul Hamd, biyadihi Khayr, wa Huwa ‘ala kulli Shayin Qadir: There is no God but Allah. He is alone without partners. His is the dominion, and unto Him is all praise. With Him is all good, and He over all things has power.” Imam Tirmidhi relates that this was the supplication the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God be upon him, repeated more than any other on the Day of ‘Arafah.
  • We should pray for forgiveness and liberation from the Hellfire during these days, especially the Day of ‘Arafah. Imam ‘Ali, May God be pleased with him, related, “God liberates people from the Hellfire everyday. And there is no day when more people are liberated from the Hellfire than the Day of ‘Arafah.”

During this blessed season, let us all strive to renew our commitment to our faith. May each year when these blessed days return find you all in the very best of states. May your life be dominated by the remembrance of God. In all that we do, May He be glorified. Source: New Islamic Directions

MANA Celebrates and Acknowledges

PIL Faculty Director, Professor Intisar Rabb, was recently appointed Special Adviser on Islamic Law to the International Criminal Court. Professor Rabb was appointed as one of 17 experts selected to serve as Special Advisers to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan QC. The appointments were drawn from across the world to “bring on-board rich expertise and experiences from different legal systems and specializations.” Prosecutor Khan appointed this group of experts to “reinforce the Office’s capabilities to effectively and efficiently discharge its mandate under the Statute, and to strengthen specialization on a wide range of issues.” In a recent press release, Prosecutor Khan stated “I am delighted to welcome such an outstanding group of experts and I am grateful for their willingness to serve as my Special Advisers. I have no doubt that with their enormous experience and hugely impressive credentials, they will significantly contribute to the work of the Office and the cause of international criminal justice. I very much look forward to working with and learning from them.” A meeting will soon be convened to discuss what lays ahead and to coordinate between the Special Adviser’s respective mandates and portfolios.

Ref: https://pil.law.harvard.edu/professor-intisar-rabb-appointed-special-advisor-to-the-icc/

Title Goes Here


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 to testify that there is no god except the One and Only God, Lord, and Creator


To establish the five daily prayers


To pay the annual charity to assist the less fortunate and those in need


To observe fasting throughout the Month of Ramadan


To make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime

Assad Koshul

Assad Koshul is originally from Pakistan and grew up in New York Metro area.

He Is an Accounting/Finance, Organizational Development, Change Management, Leadership and Human Capital Development Professional with experience in diverse industries in developed and emerging markets.

He has been a community activist since an early age and has worked with diverse groups for social justice causes. He is a board member of Challenge Foundation, Inc., a member of the Advisory Board for The Humanity Project Orphanage in Haiti, President of ICW Toastmasters, and served as President of Rutgers University MSA.

He has been involved in several projects to benefit his ancestral home of Pakistan, including: East West Consulting and Training Lead Facilitator In Pakistan, Lahore Women’s College and University Workshop and Training Sessions for professors and department heads, and the Ansar Management Corporation, where he developed a financial model for the largest low income housing development projects in Pakistan.

His diverse professional experience and cross cultural competency equips him to create intellectual and emotional alignment in diverse environments and situations.

His current work focuses on knowledge integration, concept and framework development for professionals and activists. He also focuses on bridging the gap between academia and industry for young professionals as well as curriculum and workshop development for diverse audiences.

He is a graduate of Rutgers University, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and PROSCI Change Management Certified.

Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir was born in Berkeley, California, in 1956, one of seven siblings. He was raised in Atlanta, Georgia and New Britain, Connecticut. During his school years he was active in sports, focusing on football and track. He converted to Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force.

Even before converting to Islam, he was concerned about communal change, leading him to briefly embrace communism and working on the cases of Joan Little and the Wilmington Ten. His desire to effect meaningful change after converting led to his assisting in founding three masjids in New Brunswick, New Jersey, New Haven, Connecticut, and Oakland, California, as well as other organizations such as the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee and the Tri-State Muslim Educational Initiative.

Imam Zaid is a spiritual philosopher, aligns different intellectual traditions and creates intellectual frameworks, with which to harmonize individuals, families, and societies. He is a visionary leader who is a change agent who places emphasis on spiritual, mental and physical health.

He is a graduate of the US Air Force Supervisory Training Program, ESL Teacher’s Training Program, American University, and Rutgers University Graduate School, where he obtained a Masters Degree (MA) in Political Science.

Imam Zaid is passionate about education and writing, having authored four books and a plethora of articles dealing with various subjects. He is a cofounder of Zaytuna College, the country’s first accredited Muslim College liberal Arts college.

He is a signatory of a declaration in support of the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and authored the Muslim response to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change, Laudato si’. He is an urban gardener as well as an artist and poet. His goal is to see a strong and viable Muslim community, whose roots are firmly planted in the soil tilled by the African Muslims whose sacrifices were so instrumental in building this country, and whose branches provide shade for the entire community in all of its diversity.


Hamza Abdul Malik

Imam Hamzah was born and raised Muslim in New Haven, Connecticut and has a passion for maintaining the intergenerational continuity of Islam.

He is al Azhar graduate who has studied and taught Islam for over 15 years. He has memorized the Holy Quran, and served as a teacher for Islamic schools and Masjids in Georgia, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and in the Middle East. He also obtained a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies and Leadership from Bayan Claremont.

He founded Miraaj Academy in 2017 to teach Qur’an, and leadership skills to Muslim American youth within an American context. He conveys knowledge and religious teaching through experiential learning with focus on internalization of concepts learned. Experiential learning projects include urban gardens, food pantry, Youth Leadership Institute and Islamic Studies Curriculum Development.

He also co-founded Midtown Mosque in 2015 as an effort to revitalized blighted areas in Memphis, Tennessee and with the aspiration of creating a model of spiritual-based activism, in which sacred knowledge and application are cultivated and harmonized.

Imam Hamzah is also a founder of UMMAH (United Masjids Making American History) which is a national collaborative of Imams from inner-city masjids that collaborate to uplift grassroots communities. He is currently the President of Mirage Academy and Imam of Midtown Mosque in Memphis, Tennessee.