Black Dawah Network: Lessons from the life of Lady Fidda For Oppressed Black Communities

(During this Black History month, we will look at important Black Muslim historical figures and what we can learn from their lives to improve our community)

Lady Fidda, an Ethiopian Muslim was once on a three day fast with other companions of the Prophet  Muhammad, pbuh. Yet, each day when she and the others sat down to break their fast, a poor person would come to the door to ask for food. Laddy Fidda and the other companions of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh would provide them with their food to eat and break their fast with only water. In laudation of this act of kindness, Allah revealed “They give away food, out of love for Allah to the poor and the orphan and the captive, saying “we feed you only for the sake of Allah, we do not want anything from you, even thanks.”– Qu’ran 76:8

The emergence of  urban food deserts— with limited access to healthy  food sources, high levels of racial segregation and compounded income inequality—emphasizes the critical importance of learning from a  beautiful Ethiopian Muslim woman, Lady Fidda.

In a U.N report titled Structural Racialization and Food Insecurity in the United States, structural racism in American society has resulted in many African-American households being disproportionately food insecure.  One in four African-American households is fact food insecure. Consequently,  many African-Americans throughout depleted urban areas live in communities that have designated as food deserts to to the lack of quality nutrition options. Poverty is a contributing factor to the food insecurity of African-American households in depleted urban areas. 27.4 of African-American households are in poverty which is higher than any other racial or ethnic group.

Throughout the food desserts of the Black ghetto, it is imperative to implement  this ethic of helping to provide food to the poor. We most work to implement acts of kindness looking out for our neighbor. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be up him, stated “A man is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbour is hungry.'” We must keep this in mind. Whether it be a struggling Black single mother struggling to provide food  for her children or it be the homeless black brother on the streets, let’s look out for our neighbor and help provide them with meals.

The Inextricable Anti-blackness of the American Muslim Community

Logo for CAIR

The mainstream American Muslim community is inextricably anti-black. This anti-blackness of the American Muslim goes beyond the casual references to Black people as abeed(slaves) among Arabs. It goes beyond Asian and Arab Muslim not wanting to pray near Black people. It goes beyond the lack of Black Muslim representation on speaking panels at major Islamic conferences.

The entire mainstream American Muslim community is actively upholding political positions and practices that actively perpetuates the oppression of Black people. By mainstream American Muslim establishment I am specifically referring to the agglomeration of institutions that have significant influence in determining Islamic discourse in America. This includes but is not limited to CAIR, ICNA, Zaytuna Institute and ISNA.

CAIR Honors White Politician Who Supported Apartheid South Africa. 

On August, 25th, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR ) which claims to be “largest Muslim advocacy and civil rights organization” published a statement in honor of  John McCain.

CAIR’s national executive director Nihad Awad asserted “The American Muslim community joins all Americans in mourning the death of Sen. McCain, a man of principle who served our nation with honor and dignity for so many decades.”

Former senator John McCain voted on six different occasions against placing sanctions on Apartheid, South Africa.  McCain actively supported U.S firms who were doing  business with the racist apartheid regime of South Africa. Simply put, McCain was a white oppressor who deserves no praise or honors from Muslims. CAIR engages in the lauding of this white oppressor as a “man of principle” because their focus is not in aligning with black people in the struggle against white supremacy but they seek to make Muslims more palatable to the white dominant class.

Did Bilal Ibn Rabah mourn over the death of  Umayyah ibn Khalaf and eulogize his former slave master as a “man of principle”?

The Leader of the First Accredited Muslim College Disrespects the Black Struggle 

The mainstream American Muslim establishment actively appoints for leaders in the Muslim community white racists like Hamza Yusuf who has disrespected the struggle of Black Americans on numerous occasions.  This purported “Islamic Scholar” asserted the true problem facing Black Americans is not institutional racism but the break down of the Black family. Consequently, in response to Black people being brutalized by police officers Hamza Yusuf merely asserted that not all police officers are racist.  Hamza Yusuf who actively obfuscates the oppression of Black people leads Zaytuna Institute which is the first accredited American Muslim college. 

 The anti-Black political stances of ICNA 

In a lecture titled A Proud, Patriotic Sharia Practicing Muslim given at an ICNA conference, prominent Muslim leader Yasir Qadhi asserted that “It is obligatory for Muslims to be patriotic in whatever land they live in.”  The question is: how does this political stance account for Muslims who are the descendants of enslaved Africans who were forcibly brought to America against their will?   Yasir Qadhi calling Muslims to be “proud American patriots” stands in sharp contrast to Black Muslim revolutionary Safiya Bukhari and Sekou Odinga who believed in the creation of the Republic of New Africa.

Indeed, it stands in sharp contradiction to Malcolm X who told Black people “You are not an American. You are a victim of America.” 

The fundamental reality is that Black people are not nor have they ever been part of mainstream American society. In the Political Economy of the Black Ghetto by political scientist William K. Tab, the author explains that the Black ghettos have a relationship with America that is similar to   a colonial power to its colony. Since Black people are not part of mainstream American society, Black people can never truly be part of the “American Muslim establishment.” Moreover, Black people have no business being patriotic towards a country that has oppressed them for centuries.

The American Muslim Establishment: An Affront to the Legacy of Malcolm X

The entire mainstream American Muslim establishment is an absolute affront to everything that Malcolm X stood for. The masjids and institutions of the mainstream American Muslim establishment  are more concerned about getting white folks to like Muslims than they are continuing about Malcolm X’s focus of an Islamic commitment to uplifting disenfranchised Black communities.

Our focus as  Muslims should not be seeking to make Islam more palatable to white oppressors. It should be to focus on Islamic outreach and liberation of oppressed Black communities. I invite all Muslims to support these initiatives focused on Islamic liberation  of oppressed Black communities instead of seeking to appease the white ruling class.


The Unmet Challenge of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

At a local Masjid I attended recently, I told some brothers that they could greatly benefit from listening to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. They loathed the idea, bemoaning theological differences between the Nation of Islam and Sunni Islam. However, I contend that the Third Resurrection of Islam in Black America, as Dr. Sherman Jackson called for in his book, Islam and the BlackAmerican:  Looking Toward the Third Resurrection, will only occur when the Black Muslim community has a better understanding of Minister Farrakhan.

In a story narrated by Minister Farrakhan, he shared an experience when he was overseas and was told by some Islamic scholars, “you really need to learn the religion of Islam a little better”. In response, Minister Farrakhan stated he would like like to meet the scholars of Islam in Mecca.  In the meeting was several Islamic scholars but of particular note is Muhammad Qutb, the younger brother of Sayyid Qutb, the chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most influential Islamic revivalist organization of the 20th century. ( Muhammad Qutb’s writings influenced many Black socialists in the Black Panther Party to embrace Islam)

The next day, Shaykh Zindani, a leading scholar of Islam told Minister Farrakhan that he could not sleep all that night. The chief scholar of the meeting  Muhammad Qutb, was asked by the group to speak in refutation of Minister Farrakhan. However, in a display of humility, Qutb responded, “I did not come to speak. I came to listen and to learn, and I have both listened and learned.” I say it is about time that the Ummah did more listening and learning from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.”

What about Black Muslims?  Is it time we started listening and learning from Minister Farrakhan?

In “Islam and The BlackAmerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection,” Dr. Jackson writes that the departure of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the mass conversion of African-Americans to Sunni Islam under Imam  W. D. Muhammad coincided with the massive influx of immigrant Muslims who “introduced theological, juridical, and revivalist discourses that effectively banished native Black American instincts and understandings to the periphery. ”

What is noteworthy is that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan whom Dr. Sherman Jackson states during this time was the only Black muslim leader who, “refused to recognize immigrant and overseas authority” articulates during this time a profound critique of the inability of the shaykhs of Sunni Islam to grapple with the theological issues emerging from the Black experience of transatlantic  slavery in a manner that quenches the spiritual thirst of Black people and inspires in them a way to address their socio economic political conditions, a critique of how Islam became a tool of Arab cultural imperialism over black people, and of course the ubiquitous anti-Blackness in the Muslim writ large. In other words, what immigrant Muslims brought to America did very little to address the needs and concerns of Black Muslims and in some regards further oppressed Black Muslims with Arab and South Asian anti Black cultural imperialism.

During Louis Farrakhan’s rebuilding of the Nation of Islam, he frequently cited the inability of eastern Islamic scholars to teach Black folks Islam in a manner that would encourage them to continue to struggle for their liberation.  “They were satisfied only if you said your prayers and read the Qu’ran in Arabic, they didn’t know what to make of you Black people other than that. But Islam is not just to make you an Arabic reader of the Qu’ran, it is to bring you back to what you were.”

Black Muslims learned the rituals of the faith and the Arabic language but very little if anything to change the social, political, and economic conditions of Black people.  Farrakhan asks the following question,”You’re in the Mosque by yourself. You learned Arabic, you can say the prayers perfectly but what are you doing today for yourself? ” Black Muslims walk past the worst conditions our people suffer to get to a masjid, say prayers, and keep going.  We can do better.

Whereas most theories of Islamic revival are predicated upon geo-political changes in the “Middle-East,”, Minister Farrakhan is the only Muslim who has posited a theory of Islamic revival centered upon oppressed inner-city Black communities.  He tells another story when he traveled to the Gulf States and several Muslims told him that despite growing up in the Muslim world, they never really practiced their faith or cared for their faith until they came to America and observed the zeal for which Black Muslims practiced Islam.

From this, Minister Farrakhan gleans that by making our communities the finest Muslim community in the world, the faith of the entire Ummah can potentially be reawakened, “We are going to be made that which will make the Islamic world admire us and become revived by the Islam that comes out of the hearts of those classified as dead.” The outcome of this theory of Islamic revival leads to the Black community’s engagement by the Nation of Islam that is frankly unrivaled by other Muslim communities. They manifest this in conflict resolution efforts, drug rehabilitation programs, schools, businesses, a newspaper and other community services.

As to his critics, Minister Farrakhan states bluntly, “If you have the proper tawheed and the proper aqeedah, you got to have the proper actions that bares witness to your aqeedah.”  It is a daily challenge and struggle to actually use Qu’ran and Sunnah to uplift Black communities instead of embracing reactionary American assimilationist politics that ignore the fact that Blacks are outside of mainstream America.   Black Sunni Masjids unfortunately have been driven to complete irrelevancy in many Black communities due to their lack of engagement. How can we meet the challenge to save our people?

When one looks at the Black Sunni intelligentsia who have positions of influence in the “American Muslim”  community they largely take political positions that are not in the best interest of Black People.

I believe, and Allah knows best, Islam in Black America will never thrive until the unity of Black Muslims includes Minister Farrakhan and together we work to give our people Quran and Sunnah in a manner that quenches their spiritual thirst and inspires them to address their socio economic and political conditions.

Black Heroes

As Black people continue to suffer psychologically, economically, and socially under the confines of an anti-black  society, there has always emerged strong black heroes who resist white supremacy and tirelessly work to inculcate within blacks a sense of pride and dignity, and to correct the Eurocentric distortions that masquerade as truth

The song, “Black Heroes” by Alia Sharrief featuring Aminah Bell, is a notable tribute to such courageous individuals who have been at the forefront in the battle against white supremacy, seeking to liberate the minds of Black men and women from the shackles of mental slavery, and spread useful knowledge about the true history of black people.

 Alia Sharrief,  from Sacramento California, raps upon a platform of modesty—something she refuses to compromise due to her strongly held Islamic  beliefs. “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his messenger” she joyfully exclaims on twitter. Alia Sharrieff epitomizes lyrical piety and her modesty does not at all take away from the strength of her vocal denunciation of white supremacy but only enhances it.

Like her black foremother Nana Asmau, who once stated in a  poem “knowledge enables you to follow God and the Prophet”, the lyrics of Alia Sharrief  stays true to a trans generational theme within  the black-Islamic  tradition which emphasizes the importance of knowledge.With a black power fist held high in the air, Alia Sharrief proclaims, “We come here with knowledge which is power.”

Mansa Musa of West Africa.

The imagery in the Black Heroes video is laced with Afrocentric Islamic themes conveying a spiritual message of Black love, an authentic depiction of black history removed from Eurocentric delusions, and an adamant rejection of white supremacy and its value system.  Through this powerful video,  iconic images of black figures display throughout different epoch’s world history, from Sister Souljah to Mansa Musa, from Malcolm X to H. Rap Brown, from Muhammad Ali to Assata Shakur.


Aiyana Jones assassinated by white police officers.

Furthermore, Alia Sharrief unabashedly indicts white racism and its destruction of black lives. “Every 28 hours a Black man is assassinated” she informs her listeners.  Some of these victims of  assassination include Emmit Till, Travyon Martin, Amdala Dailou, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Micheal Brown,Aiyana Jones,  Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.  This  powerful line from Alia Sharrief confirms that in the eyes of white America, black life has no value or worth, and that the killings of blacks are not accidental, but intentional, political in nature, designed to maintain the white supremacist status quo.

In addition to the physical impacts of white supremacy, their are also psychological ways in which  the system seeks to instill within the psyches of blacks that they are inferior, animalistic, and barbaric. The naps in the hair of black people to their well-defined lips, and their black skin, it is these attributes that have come to serve as a scarlet letter to white society denoting ugliness and filth.

White supremacy has caused many blacks to internalize anti-blackness leading to self-hatred. This is painfudolltestlly shown in a study in which a young black girl is asked whether she prefers a white doll or a black doll. The black child prefers the white doll, lauding it as “pretty”, and the black doll, she debases as “ugly”,  yet, when asked what doll most looks like herself, she painfully points to the  black doll.

To combat this self-hatred, Alia Sharrief embraces her blackness  calling upon prophetic traditions to do so, “I’m black like the first man who called the Adhan.” Alia Sharrief  proudly calls upon the black companion of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, Bilal Ibn Rabah, who called believers to prayer.  She draws upon this black history to spiritually fortify her self against  self-hatred.  For when it comes to oppression,   Alia Sharrief says,”black heroes won’’t stand for it.”

Alia Sharrief  sends a powerful message through her poetry. We should all strive to be black heroes of our own by enjoining the good of black love  and forbidding the evil  of white oppression,  being firm in fighting anti-blackness even if it be perpetrated by black themselves who have internalized this self-hatred (we see you Charles Barkley ), and vigilantly challenging racism and classism by  calling for justice  regardless of whether an individual is white and rich or black and poor.   Though Willie Lynch sought to rewrite history and instill within blacks hatred of themselves, black heroes must not swerve nor falter  in their battle against  white supremacy, for Allah is well acquainted with what we do.