The Black Dawah Network is an Islamic outreach network that seeks to introduce Islam to African-Americans, particularly in depressed urban areas. We also seek to reinvigorate the Black Muslim tradition. What is the Black Muslim tradition? It is the legacy of fighting to bring justice for the oppressed descendants of slaves who have inherited the racial disparity in socio-economics here in the United States and also to repair the cultural damage brought about by the violent process of slavery. We reject the color-blind, post-racial theoretical Ummah that has constituted the contemporary myth of modern Western Muslim community. The example set for us by the Prophet Muhammad (saws) is a socially intelligent paradigm for intracommunal Islam. One in which the communitarian politics affirms the distinct needs of all of the tribes and nations that make up the Ummah.
Islam has the distinction in history of being indigenized while Islamizing the very societies to which it came. The expression of Islam in Nigeria looks different from Islam in Senegal while both differ from the expression of the religion in Turkey. This has not made any of these ethnic groups less Islamic or their societies less native. We here at that Black Dawah Network see African-Americans as a new-modern tribe. A people. A nation within a nation. We have specific needs produced by our collective experience in the New World and we assert that we have the same latitude as every other member of this august Ummah to apply Islam to address the conditions of our African-American people. When each tribe and nation within the mosaic of the Ummah pursues their own rectitude, cultural and racial chauvinism will fade and then we will realize the holy words of surah al-Hujurat ayot 13 where Allah says:
يا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْناكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَ أُنْثى وَ جَعَلْناكُمْ شُعُوباً وَ قَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبير
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
Islam came to this country with West African Muslims (our ancestors). It was immediately applied to the oppression that they confronted. Thus, Islam in America began with the black experience with Islam providing a countervailing force to the existential threat of anti-black racism that violently expressed itself through the institutions and social habits of this country. Islam was always a justice movement but in America, we became acutely aware of this fact. At the core of this movement were ayots that had new resonance such as: “Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people until first the people change what is in their hearts.” (13:11). This verses and other transfers agency on the oppressed to transform their external circumstance by first polishing their rusted hearts and changing their thinking and ways. Unlike the secular movements that were present and in full force during the mid-half of the twentieth century where change starts from the outside-in the Islamic revolution occurs from the inside-out. We found in the prophetic example of the Muhammad (saws) freedom from the compartmentalized and even dichotomous thinking of secular versus spiritual, politics versus religion. In Islam the spiritual is political and the praxis that so many other oppressed peoples’ movements have tried to exercise while contending with its own internal conflict was absent in Islam. In Islam justice is the greatest social virtue, oppression the greatest evil, and resistance to oppression is apotheosized. This is the Black Muslim tradition that we here at the Black Dawah Network seeks to resurrect.
There are several objectives for achieving our goal of seeing African-Americans learn about how Islam addresses their plight and restoring an African-American Muslim philosophy for functioning with political, social, and cultural intelligence in America:
- We want to restore Islam’s reputation in black America as a justice movement. This requires highlighting what Islam (Quran and a sunnah) say about oppression. This includes bringing awareness to the people about how institutional and structural racism operates which will introduce them to statistics and historical context to current events and our social ills. We should know how slavery damaged black people socially, culturally, psychologically and economically. We should know how Black Codes, Racial Etiquette, Jim Crow, lynching, Red Lining, etc. have served to maintain black people as a permanent underclass. Knowing that the Islamic social order explicitly forbids racial oppression and such practices is necessary for articulating the Islamic ethos of justice.
- We want to increase Islamic education and emphasizing learning the Arabic language. There is no Islam without the Islamic sciences and Arabic. Knowing Arabic will not only enable us to read and understand the Quran and sunnah but historical works related to African people’s history which is preserved in Arabic. Muslims must know their faith in order to practice it and teach it. The goal is not to reduce Islam to a political or social religion but a complete way of life that connects the soul to its Lord. We will teach our people the Qu’ran and the Prophetic Biography.
- We want to teach the significance of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz). Malcolm was the last great pan-African and black nationalist thinker who was formulating an African-American Muslim political philosophy that would integrate the universal message of Islamic brother and sisterhood with addressing the black predicament. Malcolm x is a crucial figure in orthodox black Muslim thought because he is at the intersection of black nationalism, pan-Africanism, pan-Islamism, and the heterodox religious movements of the early 20th We study how he integrated these into his African-American Muslim identity and political agenda. His contributions raised the profile and credibility of Islam in black America.
- We want to produce dawah material that addresses Islamic solutions to problems within the African-American communities. These will be articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, online classes, copies of the Autobiography of Malcolm X, etc. that deal with topic related to Islam and the black existence.
- Black Muslim Apologetics. We want to address the most stubborn critics and their criticisms of Islam and it’s historical role in Africa. This is a particular section of dawah that will deal specifically with Afrocentric and “conscious-community” attacks on the faith tradition in Africa.
After creating a plethora of material and introducing these ideas (which are not new) to conferences and forum. Our next stage is to host our own conferences and forums where concrete solutions will be implemented. The Black Dawah Network is interested in working with all Muslims and members of the black community with whom there is overlapping consensus. This work will take us beyond the inner-city to other parts of the diaspora and Africa.
Our goal is to encourage African-American Muslims to be practicing Muslims who see Islam as the way to liberation. Islamization for us is post-slavery reconstruction.