“It is Allah Who sent His Messenger with the guidance and the way of life of The Truth so that He may uplift it over all ways of life, even if the ones who are polytheists disliked it.” (9:33)
The Black conscious community has an obsession with Islam because Black Muslims have an established track record of political, intellectual and social resistance against white supremacy. Black Muslims have been the pioneers who have contributed the most to black political thought in terms of the radical tradition. Hotep is not a shorthand in the black community the way Assalam Alaikum is. It never achieved that.
The Black conscious community focuses on Cultural Revolution. What is that? It’s not political revolution in that, you’re not changing structures and it’s not really an internal spiritual revolution. You’re talking about changing the way that you dress, changing your names, wearing certain kinds of jewelry and changing your rhetoric and your vernacular. But as far as any substantive transformation of the human being, they don’t possess that. And so a lot of the Afro-centrist and so called conscious members in the conscious community are actually hedonist.
As the Black Dawah Network previously discussed on why African-Americans should study the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is that we can see the difference between the Islamic revolution from the secular revolution whether Afrocentrism or Marxism. Islam is the revolution from the inside out. The Islamic prophetic revolution of Muhammad peace be upon him was ‘you change the person and then, from there, the thing that are outside of that person change.”
So you’re talking about returning to that primordial state of your being which is fitra or purity that which recognizes goodness. Returning to submission to God will inevitably result in a dissatisfaction with the world around you. Which will invariably lead to a desire to change your environment. And so that is where you get substantive change as opposed to just creating institutions that are supposed to change the individual when the people who created and are manning the institution haven’t undergone the change that they’re trying to affect. The institutions will simply succumb to their own state. The institutions are a reflection of ourselves, we are not simply a reflection of the institutions. So by changing the self, we change the institution.
The reason Islam grew in the states among African Americans is because it was seen as an effective framework for resisting white supremacy. This is true for even those who are not Muslim like Marcus Garvey, Edward Blyden, Martin Delany and Henry McNeal Turner. At one point there in the UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association), Marcus Garvey’s organization, there came up a resolution to make Islam the official religion of the UNIA. Now granted, Garvey rejected it. But the point of me bringing that up is that Garvey only rejected it after careful consideration. Why would he carefully consider making Islam the official religion of his organization when he himself was not Muslim? Then when you go throughout the UNIAs literature and you find all these sort of references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his biography.
There’s a pattern in what we see in terms of the Islamic slave revolts in Bahia, Brazil. There is a pattern in terms of what we see with Malcolm X. There’s a pattern in terms of what we see in Safiya Bukhari’s and Imam Jamil Al Amin’s struggle with white supremacy. There’s a pattern in what we see in Dhoruba al-Mujahid bin Wahad and Sekou Odinga. The Black Conscious Community has produced nothing that can compare with the Islamic struggle against White Supremacy.
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.