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At the start of each new school year, there was something I could always count on. On the first day of school, during the role call, as my teachers went through all the Johnsons and Jacksons, stumbled over a few Quays and unique accents (“it’s La’Tasha, not Latasha”), I could expect to hear this:

“Shu … Shu-he-duh, Muh-ham-med?”

Like many Black students, I had become accustomed to teachers mispronouncing my name for at least the first week or so of school. Adding to this, was also my last name. “How do you say your last name, Moo-hamma?” I remember being asked by a classmate. It was instances like this I had come to expect. This was usually followed by: “Are you Mooz-lum?”, “Do you believe in Jesus?”, “Why does your mom wear that on her head?”, “You believe in Ola (Allah)?”, etc. But after a couple probes and bean pie jokes at the lunchroom table, it was all good.

Also, this was balanced out by the fact that I grew up in a city with a large African-American Muslim community and history. Where it’s not uncommon to see Black women wearing head scarves or fully covered wearing a niqab (face veil) and jilbab (over garment), or to see men in traditional throbes and kufis. Just about everyone had at least one person in their family that was Muslim or maybe looked like it (i.e: the infamous Freeway beard). And you can find Muslim businesses and vendors in every corner of the city. That’s just Philly for ya. The Faith is embedded into the city’s culture, and for me it was always clear that Islam was very much a part of Black culture and history.

Yet, I don’t see this reflected in the media, academic discourse or Black cultural and entertainment outlets. As Arielle Loren pointed out in an recent article, our stories are often told from a Christian perspective. In addition, Islam has been largely portrayed as men being oppressive to women. You don’t find too many positives stories relating to Muslim women unless it falls under American ideas of liberation. And equally, if not more sparse, are the perspectives and stories of Black women within this religious community.

Through this article series, I hope to highlight the perspectives of positive, young African-American Muslim women and shed light on their lifestyles and experiences.They are professionals: doctors, hair stylists, teachers, and more. They are some of the most talented, fashionable and ambitious women I know. They are mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. Unique, diverse and they have a voice. A voice that is often missing.

Malikah X Saunders, Nurse, 26
“My family thought I was crazy when I accepted Islam. I grew up in the Baptist church. My father was a Pastor and I was in the choir, Bible Study–the whole nine. When I went to school, I took a course on Malcolm X and from there my interest grew. The belief in One God, the principles, it just all clicked to me. I think there is an idea that African-American should equal Christian, and it’s not necessarily true. Most of our ancestors were Muslim when they came to this country. Sometimes I do wonder why that’s not reflected in popular culture, but I guess it takes time.”

Amirah Al-Nisa, Student, 22
“When I see the portrayal of Islam in the news and the stereotypes that are being perpetuated, I try not to let it bother me because I know it’s not true. I was raised Muslim. My mother is a strong, beautiful Black women and I grew up with two loving parents that nurtured me into the person I am today. I’ve never looked at being Muslim as weird, it’s who I am. Some people may try to label it in a negative way, but the best way to negate that is being a good representation of what you believe in.”

Jameelah Muhammad, Entrepreneur, 28
“When a lot of people think of Muslim women, they think oppressed or very submissive, but that’s not what I’ve experienced. That is a reality in some countries and cultures, but that has more to do with cultural traditions than the religion itself. As a young Black woman, Islam has taught me to love and respect myself, to respects others, to be charitable and keep God at the center of my life. I wish there were more stories like mine put out there.”

Next, in part 2, the dress code, the significance, and their views.

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  • They have nothing to loose. Most of their husband are dead.

  • Girl

    “Most of our ancestors were Muslim when they came to this country. ”

    This person is ignorant. Same way Christianity was forced on slaves by whites, Islam was forced on people by the Arabs. Ancestors were iinto traditional/nature worship. Girl needs to get a clue.

  • firstman5555

    bluebird, Thanks keep it going, I love It, Black power! P.S. Islam was here before the White Arabs and/or Prophet Mohammed(PBUH). HOTEP!

    • bluebird

      Firstman5555, where is the evidence of “Islam” before the 7th century C.E., if Mohammad was the so called “last prophet”? It’s not about black power, but the truth. Black women in Islam can’t even face their own leaders about their own images and perspective.

  • Aisha

    Bluebird, all of the authentic hadiths I have read about slaves and darker-skinned people were congruent to the noble character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Any hadiths (records of the sayings and actions of the Prophet (PBUH) that contradict the peaceful, dignified religion of Islam that has in fact united millions, could probably be unauthentic and/or tampered, taken out of context, etc. One of the most revered companions of the Prophet (PBUH) was Bilal a black slave, the first Muslim to make the Call to Prayer, that so many Muslims of all colours and nationalities hear 5 times a day. The Prophet (PBUH) saved Bilal from his abusive “master” and befriended him. Not to mention, the many other slaves that the Prophet assisted and eased their suffering. Please see the history of Islam from all different sides before making a comment. I know you said you have studying Islam, but be aware of the constant friction between civilizations that has been transfered to our generation. Islam has been vilified for a reason, the same reason that Africans, blacks, have been told for centuries that they have no history.

    Also, it is essential to realize that slavery has been found in all civilizations, since the dawn of the advancement of technology starting from the Stone Age. Islam is not to blame, in fact, Islam has rules on the rights and privileges of slaves that were highly violated during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

    I find it unfortunate that you have not seen the beauty of Islam, which is much stronger of the ugliness that has been brought on by cultural contaminations into a way of life that teaches acceptance, tolerance, love, peace and brother/sisterhood.

    Allah/God knows best of all things in the heavens and in the earth.

    • bluebird

      @ Aisha

      According to you, the Hadith’s posted by non-muslims “contradict the peaceful, dignified religion of Islam that has in fact united millions, could probably be unauthentic and/or tampered, taken out of context, etc.”. When are muslims going to prove the Hadith’s I posted were erroneous? Simply post the correct Hadith’s to correct my error. I will wait. In the meantime, Black women in Islam are scared to address this issue in your own ummah and caliph. The so called unity in Islam is an illusion. Black muslims need the West to validate them more than the East they pray to? smh @ religious romanticism based on illusions.

      Before I debunk Bilal, I will wait for a black muslim such as yourself to present accurate verses from the Hadith on Islam’s views blacks, especially black women.

      Are your seriously trying to diverted attention to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that originated in 1492 C.E by deflecting and evading Arab Islam-African Slave Trade originated in 650 C.E. One of the most brutal, dehumanizing, oppressive, unrepentant, arrogant, absolutely demonic enslavement of Africans is part of the African Diaspora, and there is nothing Islam can do to censor the truth anymore. I don’t care how many black muslims (slave catchers) Arab/nonmuslims send attempting to dissuade the truth from being revealed. And I’ve already made points about slavery existing in other civilizations earlier in this thread.

      Satan really comes as an “angel of light” if you think that Islam is “beautiful”. No such thing when Islam’s history of war is covered in innocent blood. I’ve seen the “beauty of Islam” when black non-muslims are raped in Africa, S.E. Asia, Europe, and as much as muslims love to hide those facts, the stats are extremely DISGUSTING. I’ve read and seen quite a few men, women & children getting the brakes beat off them because they didn’t “see the beauty of Islam”. Please explain to me where is the “brotherhood of Islam” when ABED is used? Raisin head? BIISHA? Where is the “brotherhood” when Orthodox muslims don’t “recognize” black muslims in the U.S.? Where is the ‘brotherhood’ where Shia/Sunni muslims kill each other in the Middle East and Africa? Or that sisterhood when ex-muslimah’s expose the horrific ugliness of Islam? Muslims view of “beauty” is a distortion of reality.

      Selling snake oil.

      allah is the arab pagan moon god, NOT The Most High universal God of all creation, of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus. That can be proven through historical data.

  • raisin head

    Black muslimahs are so naive. Prophet Mo. never married not one Black woman. Mary the Copt slave was white, the child of a Greek man and a Berber woman. She was a slave of Mo.’s wife sawad. she was pregnant by a slave boy, not Mo. Mo was impotent, as he had no kids by any of his many young wives. Black women were created to be slaves to whites and then go to helfire.Tabari 11:11-26 A sign of a bad disease Hadith 9:162.3. black women are stupid Tabari 1:280.