The Relevance of the Prophetic Biography to Black America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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