Friday, October 14, 2005

review of islam and the blackamerican

Here is one blogger's recent review of Sherman Jackson's Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection. It is a really good description of at least one future trajectory for African-American Islam

Here is the meat of the review:
I was in Atlanta in 1991 when I heard a Louis Farakhan tape in which he said something like, “We did not stop riding the back of the bus to get on the back of the camel!” And, later, around that time frame, I remember reading a line condemning African Muslim hujjaj (pilgrims to Makka) passing the bones of their ancestors to worship at Arab shrines. (I think it was from Molefi Asante’s book Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change.) Lastly, I remember reading an article by Louis Brenner about the manner in which a scholar taught the attributes of God to common people in West Africa. And Dr. Jackson wrote a book which brought together all of these experiences for me.

The existence of a large group of indigenous Muslims in the United States is not duplicated in other countries ruled by Europeans and their descendants, in the Americas, western Europe, the Republic of South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. Dr. Jackson sets out to explain why this developed in the United States and not elsewhere, and at the same time project a path that Blackamerican Muslims must tread if they hope to preserve their Islam and succeed in overthrowing white supremacy. As it turns out, giving up the goal of overthrowing white supremacy would in fact end Islam among the Blackamericans.

A confluence of factors allowed Blackamericans to own Islam. The first was the imperative of Black Religion, a primordial, fitra-like belief in a just God who would not tolerate His people’s abuse and Who would Punish their oppressors. The second was that fact that their oppressors identified themselves as Christians, not Muslims. The third was that Muslim immigrants to the United States and white American converts were too few to define Islam in the United States. The fourth was the leadership of the proto-Islamists such as Noble Drew Ali and The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who allowed their Muslim followers to appropriate White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) values without identifying their oppressors as the source of those values. The fifth was an early twentieth century crisis in Blackamerican Christianity, which inculcated those WASP values yet could not articulate them without surrendering moral supremacy to whiteness. The sixth was features in Islam which met Blackamericans’ needs. These were Islam’s theology, which is simple relative to that of Christianity, Islam’s Protestant-like absence of institutionalized ecclesiastical authority and the Qur’an’s frequent references to the God’s aiding the believers against their unbelieving oppressors.

Elijah Muhammad used the term “resurrection” to describe his movement’s impact on the Blackamerican. Dr. Jackson borrows this term and identifies Elijah Muhammad’s period as the First Resurrection. Blackamericans’ embrace of Sunni Islam since the 1970s is the Second Resurrection. And the challenges facing Blackamerican Muslims today require a Third Resurrection.

The Blackamerican Muslim today has lost control of the definition of Islam to Immigrant Islam in the United States, not because immigrant Muslims and their descendants practice a “purer” Islam but because of their relative affluence, their ideological self-assuredness and weaknesses in Black Religion. I would add to this list the foreign policy imperatives of the United States as it embarks on the re-colonization of the Muslim world. Immigrant Islam, by devaluing “the West”, prevents Blackamerican Muslims from contributing positively to Blackamericans’ struggle against white supremacy. The psychological dislocation of abandoning theirs own selves in exchange for a foreign, identity-based Islam leaves Blackamerican Muslims ineffective in both the secular and religious spheres.

The Third Resurrection of the Blackamerican Muslim must center on personal piety, mastery of usul al-fiqh, the bases of jurisprudence, to derive judgments on what is permissible and forbidden for Blackamerican Muslims, and an unwavering commitment to fight white supremacy. The Blackamerican Muslim will at that point be self-authenticating, needing the approval of neither white supremacists nor other Muslims. Blackamericans would be in the position of the African teacher and his pupils whom Louis Brenner described for me, neither colonizing nor colonized, with knowledge of this religion being treated as a public good and not a personal inheritance.

I’ve summarized in just a few paragraphs a densely written book, and of course I recommend reading it to understand Dr. Jackson’s arguments for why this is necessary.

2 comments:

Sharks said...

" African Muslim hujjaj (pilgrims to Makka) passing the bones of their ancestors to worship at Arab shrines"!!!!!!.....who des that supposed to make sense?!...i w'd really wann know!...

Abdul-Halim V. said...

I think the idea is that African people had religions of "their own" even before Christianity and Islam. And so the claim is that by becoming Muslim and going on hajj, African Muslims were rejecting the religions of their ancestors to follow an "Arab" religion.

And my response would basically be that there is certainly enough of a Black presence in the Muslim world, and a Muslim presence in the Black world for the argument to be silly. I mean, Islam has been in Africa long enough to contribute to whole African civilizations, and form new African languages like Swahili, so I don't think Black Muslims should feel like they are betraying their ancestors by going on hajj.