It’s Black History Month and naturally we must discuss and reflect upon Black Muslim History which is an untold and forgotten chapter in world history and in the Islamic world.
As Islamic history grows in popularity due to the Muslim presence in the West and the global Muslim population ever increasing, the demographics and movement of Muslim ethnic groups is of contemporary interest. We want to know the history behind us – But still we find Black Muslim History ignorantly and systematically neglected by non Muslims and Muslims alike; even among those who would consider themselves well informed.
Is this due to a lack of accessibility or a lack of interest?
I would say – both. Undeniably there is a clear division and lack of understanding in our community between non-black and black Muslims.
In the UK Black Muslims are not widely accepted into the communities of predominantly British Asians.
With Black Muslims often sidelined from the community, unwelcome and voiceless in many ways this mentality has also affected what Islamic institutions consider important to teach within the subject of Islamic History. The alienation of anything related to black within our community has affected our perception of Black Muslims, along with a dismissal of their heritage and rich history. It bothers me that as Asian Muslims we can identify with Arab History (namely the Palestinian case), Indigenous history (such as the history of indigenous Americans), South Asian colonial history (British colonialism) but have this attitude that Muslim Black History is one isolated case; the story of Bilal (R). Some of us might even extend this subject as far as King Negus, The Abyssinian King. But further than that – Muslim Black History doesn’t exist in our conversations.
In reality Black History and Islamic History go hand in hand. We as Muslims (despite ethnic background) should be at the forefront of bringing to light the successes of Black Muslim History, celebrating the Black and Islamic elements in these stories as one.
If we know of the great centers of learning in Andalusia we should also know about those in Timbuktu.
If we can passionately love our Muslim heroes of light complexion we can love those of black skin.
Let’s start to show some respect and admiration for Black Muslim History and take the time to teach our children Black History is important. Maybe then we can create a community where it doesn’t feel like ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Photo Credit: Hiba Jama