African Americans in Islam

49:13 O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).(Y. Ali translation)

Surveys vary, but between 24-40 percent of American Muslims are American born African Americans. Islam is not only recognized as the fasting growing religion in the world, the same holds true for its growth in America and also in the African American community. In Indianapolis there are many third generation African American Muslim families.

The recent CNN special, “Unwelcome Muslims Next Door,” totally misses – maybe intentionally – the large, long established, African American Muslim community. Oddly, when most major media outlets report on Islam in America, repeatedly they omit the largest single racial/ethnic group; African American Muslims.

The African American Muslim represents an integral American-Islamic link with roots that extend back almost 100 years into America’s history. Islam, properly called “Al-Islam” is well entrenched into the African American psyche. Adding to this the undeniable fact that Islam and African Americans have a strong pre-slavery connection only strengthens our American-Islamic bond. Another factor that African Americans are well grounded in Islam is because our pre-slavery parents in Africa also were well grounded in Islam.

For many African Americans, converting (or returning) to Islam is their way of reconnecting the Islamic link that was broken by slavery. As early as the 1900s many efforts, some quite unorthodox, were implemented in the ghettos of America to reconnect African Americans with a “lost Islamic heritage.” Due to these early efforts, today around America there are many budding and thriving Islamic African American communities, mosques and schools.

Today, many Muslim African Americans, in addition to reconnecting with an Islamic past they have also reconciled their Islamic life with a full American life. Using an Indianapolis paradigm we’ll see a similar pattern of African American Islamic development that is common in all major cities around America.