Why Centering Muslims Who Were 'Black' in Early Islamic History Matters

I’ve been writing for over a year now about a very important issue relating to "Black" personalities among the Sahabah, Tab’ieen and Ahl al-Bayt. The reasons why I have focused more attention on writing on this topic as well as discussing these personalities in lectures are twofold.

The first reason is that history should be recounted from the authentic sources as it was actually narrated. In mentioning this history, it is clear that "Blackness" as it relates to phenotype and "Arabness" were historically never mutually exclusive 14 centuries ago, just as they are not so even today. That some people get offended that physical descriptions of some Arab Sahabah having dark skin and/or kinky hair speaks to an underlying anti-black sentiment which has infiltrated our community. Much, but not all of this, has to do with colonized Muslim minds that possess a type of Stockholm Syndrome of feeling closer and even implicitly viewing former oppressors as the standard of worldly success. I strongly believe that such internalized oppression has to be broken among us for our spiritual health as well as for us to be more unified as an Ummah to confront all of the challenges which face us today, Islamophobia being one of them.

Perhaps more importantly, many Muslims who are Black have been made to feel as if black people don't have real interpretative authority within Islam or can speak on behalf of our faith. This in part may be due to an unconscious omission to even deliberate white-washing of the early period of Islamic civilization. To be frank, darker skin among many Muslims is subtly, but sometimes even overtly, viewed as inferior to or not as beautiful as lighter skin. Exposing Muslim children, youth and adults to great personalities such as Sa'id bin Jubayr and Uways al-Qarani to Hashemites like Musa al-Kathim and mentioning their physical traits may serve in getting rid of inferiority complexes and boosting the morale of Muslims who are routinely subjected to anti-blackness.

This in no way is promoting tribalism nor reverse supremacy as many charge the Nation of Islam with having done. We should discuss our history as it was written about, including how great scholars such Ibn al-Jawzi and as-Suyuti wrote about the physical traits of noble Muslims which included specific texts that centered blackness. Colonialism damaged the Muslim psyche in profound ways. It is my hope that my writings which include my scheduled upcoming book, “Centering the Black Narrative in Early Islamic History”, will aid in the process of undoing the internalized oppression and inferiority complexes among us.