African American Muslims; Making Hard Choices That Will Change Our Condition

There is nothing we can do to change the past beloveds, but we have an opportunity before us for a better future. However, it requires that we submit wholeheartedly to the moral and liturgical principles of Islam. Changing the condition begins with the self. If there was ever a place to begin then I suggest that we begin with the salat. The family that prays together is way more likely to stay together than those who don’t; and that’s a choice. Brothers who attend the Masaajid for the salat tend to be more spiritually enlightened that those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who are married with problems, but choose to patiently endure, instead of opting out of the marriage simply because they are not happy that day, or that week, or that month, are much more stable in the long run than those who don’t; that’s a choice.


Indigenous African Americans have been converting to Islam for decades; however, the phenomena of massive and continuous conversion amongst African-Americans to Islam has not evolved generationally into indigenous American Muslim families, extended families or home-grown institutions that serve our faith needs, reflect our faith and it’s principles, and serve our overall best interests from a religious and spiritual perspective. Granted, we are all American Muslims, and brother and sisters in Islam. However, if we take a closer look, it is evident that there are clearly two, distinctly different, Muslim Americas. One comprised primarily by immigrants from Muslim countries, and their children, and the other from American Muslim converts. As immigrant communities are growing, thriving, and blanketing the landscape with multi-million dollar masaajid, schools, and cultural institutions. African-American Muslim communities are struggling, lack physical resources, lack influence, and are very small in comparison.

Here are the facts; 80% of American Muslim converts are African-American, and African-Americans are dead last in virtually every socio-economic category that measures well-being; unemployment, access to health care, illiteracy, education, single parent households, broken families, incarceration rates, diabetes, hypertension, home ownership, and infant mortality, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, African-Americans are about 33% of the American Muslim demographic. This reality comes at a time of great spiritual, economic and civilizational decline, as we are entering into the time of the Dajjaal (anti-Christ), and the coming of Jesus, son of Mary (AS).

The post conversion reality that is played out in Muslim America is important because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims (emphasis on practicing) evolves,  not just as individuals, but as a family unit, the moral and religious beliefs and values of Islam takes root, are reinforced within the family and upbringing, and becomes part of the lifestyle.  Once that occurs, these values are passed on to the extended family, and onto ensuing Muslim generations.  Thus, one of the most important institutions that we must care for and strengthen, is the family, after that, it is the religious communities (jamaa’at), because without the critical mass of common purpose and support, it is very difficult erect and maintain religious based institutions. Therefore, we have to be very careful in the marriage and divorce decisions we make, in the decisions we make about community and Masjid participation, and in the decisions we make about child rearing, and Islamic education because these decisions will affect us, our families and our children for a long time to come.

As African-American Muslims, our civilization is in a near shambles. We are fighting and arguing in many of our masaajid, the numbers of full-time, affordable Islamic schools that serve the needs of African-American Muslim children are down, most of us are without leadership, and considering our numbers there are very few real congregations left in the country that serve our needs. Most of our children are being raised in single parent households, many of our sons are in the criminal justice system in some way or another, and many of our daughters are being courted by the non-Muslims, and have children out-of-wedlock. Drug and alcohol abuse is very high (no pun intended) in the African-American Muslim community, and African-American Muslims are less educated and less affluent than our immigrant counterparts, and our communities do not have adequate material resources.  However, we do have choices, and these choices contribute to our betterment or detriment.

There is nothing we can do to change the past beloveds, but we have an opportunity before us for a better future. However, it requires that we submit wholeheartedly to the moral and liturgical principles of Islam. Changing the condition begins with the self. If there was ever a place to begin then I suggest that we begin with the salat. The family that prays together is way more likely to stay together than those who don’t; and that’s a choice. Brothers who attend the Masaajid for the salat tend to be more spiritually enlightened that those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who are married with problems, but choose to patiently endure, instead of opting out of the marriage simply because they are not happy that day, or that week, or that month, are much more stable in the long run than those who don’t; that’s a choice.

Brothers who work and spend money to support their families are better men in a key area of manhood, than those who don’t, and try to live off of their wives; and that’s a choice. Sisters who are obedient and dutiful to their husbands (in what is right) tend to be much more spiritually stable than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who take the time out to learn a little something of their religion instead of sitting in front of the television all day, playing a wii, or seeking to be entertained all the time, tend to be more religiously intuitive than those who don’t; that’s a choice People who make their hereafter a priority and realize that it often requires sacrifice tend to have a better gauge about what’s important in life then those who don’t; that’s a choice.

People who love thug culture and try to live according to jaahiliyyah codes of life, tend not to be as steadfast in their religion than those who follow the Quran and the sunna; that’ a choice. People, who smoke weed, use drugs, drink alcohol or abuse prescription drugs tend to be more mentally unstable than those who don’t; and that’s a choice.  People who do the boyfriend/girlfriend, relationship thing, are less chaste than those who get married and are faithful to their spouses; and that’s a choice.

People who are part of religious congregations (jamaa’aat) tend to stay in the religion in higher numbers than those who aren’t; and that’s a choice. People, who have imams or Amirs, and have reciprocal accountability between leaders and followers, tend to be stronger Muslims than floaters, who are not committed to anything; and that’s a choice. Muslims who backbite, treat people badly, and are always engaged in some sort of fitna or another cause more destruction and severance of personal and communal relationships than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People, who know how to love and forgive for the sake of Allah, are better and more lasting friends than people who are consumed by hate and not inclined to forgive; and that’s a choice. People who give sincere advice the ummah, to the imams, and to their leaders tend to be more sincere to our cause than those who don’t; that’s a choice.  We have an abundance of resources available to us, inherent in the choices we make individually and as a Muslim people. In fact, Allah has given us all that we need in order to be successful and to build strong communities and institutions, however, by and large, too many of us have chosen otherwise. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is an American born Muslim and a full time clasically trained Imam of a Masjid and community  in Northern California. He can be reached @ imamabulaith@yahoo.com

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13 thoughts on “African American Muslims; Making Hard Choices That Will Change Our Condition”

  1. The slavery experience of the African-American people and it’s relevancy to Imam W.Deen Mohammed and the clarification of Quran and older scriptural teachings i.e. gospel and Torah he brought to the African Americans through the reverted Islamic community in America.

    I see him as a fulfillment of some divine prophecy as one coming to being the salvation of the African-American people through the clarification of divine scriptural understanding and what if any relevancy does slavery play in these people being blessed with the presence of a Jesus or Christ or Mudiddid or whatever the correct title may be. Can anyone speak to this in or from any realistic and quranic or scriptural supported perspective.

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    1. Imam Warith D. Muhammad (may Allah have mercy upon him), did a great service to the ummah in transitioning his community from the Nation of Islam to Sunni orthodoxy. I wouldn’t say that he was the fulfillment of any divine prophesy, and I wouldn’t characterize him as the salvation of African American Muslims nor was he divine in any shape or form. The only divine is Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala. Imam Muhammad was to my knowledge, a tireless and dutiful leader of Muslims and did great service to our religion. He was not my imam, and I didn’t come from that community. Many Muslims were following the sunna and proper islamic aqeedah and orthodoxy long before the Imam came into leadership. However he was a legitimate Muslim Imam, and had the ability to speak to the enslaved Negro mindset, and I respect Imam Muhammad and make du’aa for him as I respect and make du’aa for any of our muslim leaders who serve this ummah. He had flaws and shortcomings just as any leader has, and we pray to Allah ta’ala that any of those are forgiven and expiated by Allah’s mercy, his good deeds, our du’aa and his service to Muslims. Nevertheless, he has left this world, and his imamate has passed. What is unfortunate regarding Imam Muhammad is that no one was chosen to be his successor. As Muslims, we do not and cannot follow dead persons, imams or otherwise; they cannot lead us in prayer, and they cannot handle our affairs. We can only take from the good of their example, benefit from any sound knowledge they left behind, learn from their mistakes and make du’aa for them as we want someone to make du’aa for us after our passing. Wal Allahul Musta’aan. Imam Luqman Ahmad

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  2. Salam Alaykum Sh. Luqman,

    Very straightforward post. May Allah reward you. From an educational standpoint, what is your opinion about sending some of our children to Islamic universities to be a part of the overall solution?

    My second question: do you think “immigrant” ideas (such as the tabligi-ikhwani-salafi stuff) had something to do with the regression of African-American Muslims?

    Third question: we find some of our indigenous Muslims making “hijrah” as a solution? What are your thoughts on this?

    May Allah bless you and keep up the good work. I will pray for you when I go to al-Masjid al-Haram.

    Jibreel Speight
    Grad. Student – Usul al-Fiqh
    Umm al-Qura
    Mecca, KSA

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  3. Assalaamu alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakaatuh,
    When we start to look at the solutions to the problems of a majority convert community like the American Muslims the majority of whom are African Americans, then we should approach it from a foundational aspect if for no other reason, we are a new community, a new chain of religious lineage, culture and civilization. Converts by default have a different type of spiritual intuitiveness simply because they are converts who chose the religion instead of inheriting it. “Whoever Allah wishes to guide them, He opens up his heart to Islam”.
    To answer your questions;
    1. Sending our youths to Islamic Universities abroad has had some benefit. However, many of them have returned tainted by the pathological moral dysfunction that exists in some Muslim societies and within some areas of learning. Legitimate and beneficial scholarship is one thing; dysfunctional and misplaced dogma, masquerading as morality, is something else. As a student of usool, you are well aware that applicative law requires a thorough understanding of situational context, and that takes time for a young graduate to understand, especially if he is a first generation convert to Islam. This is a well known principle of usool ul fiqh [sadd atharee’ah] It tends to take less time for for those who were already raised as Muslim in America, and then go abroad for study; especially if they were raised right and are morally grounded in the first place. Still, that is only a small part of the solution because the root causes of many of our issues here in the United States is not that knowledge is not available; it’s that there is so much knowledge, so many different opinions, influence and meddling from this sheikh, this group, this tariqa, this group, that people don’t know which medicine to take. It’s like walking into a pharmacy where all of the medicine is good medicine, but there is no accurate diagnosis based on the actual condition of the patient and the patient begins to indiscriminately taking pills and medication off the shelf. This leads me to your second question.
    2. The many spheres of religious influence have overall been counterproductive for American Muslims; especially the Salafi issue. Modern Salafiyyism is almost entirely baseless from a scholarly or knowledge perspective. This there are no traditional scholars in history who ran around calling themselves Salafi. Sam’aani in his ‘Kitaabul Nisba’ only cited one person who called himself salafi, and even then it wasn’t sure whether it was Abdullah as-Salafi or Abdullah as-Sulfi (the name of a village). The jamaa’atul Tabligh had a lot of benefit because it was limited to inside the masaajid and it centered around strong principles of deen (worship, service, brotherhood, adab and respect to elders), sufiyism has some benfit as well with respect to the need for tazkiyyah etc… With respect to the Salafis; they do bring a dimension of awareness regarding the sunna, attention to hadith, and general interest in hadith methodology, and creed, which are important disciplines. There is no group, or sphere of foreign influence that is all bad or all good, just like there are hardly any individuals who are all bad or all good. Still, none of the foreign based extensions of Islam can be construed as Islam itself, and no subsidiary manifestation of Islam, can replicate wahy or the poignancy of the prophetic message of Rasoolillah (SAWS) in its entirety. Islam as a religion and way of life is larger and broader than any of the individual expressions of islamic thought or practice like Salafiyyism, Tablighi, ikhwaani or Sufism. Since we as American Muslims come from a free thinking, free expression, innovative, and educated society, we have to reserve our right to employ all of the Quran and all of the sunna, with emphasis upon any parts of the two that is needed most for the time. For example, the average American does not engage in theological polemics on the street corners so why was there a need to introduce to the rank and file of our community, complex theological issues of Islamic creed, so average people, some of whom had not even gotten a high school diploma, can argue back and forth about the Mu’tazila, the Jahamees, the Zanaadiq, the Qaadiriyya, and so on? This was complete insanity, considering that we as Americans don’t even have a background in polytheism. We are a free and independent people and have no business volunteering ourselves to be a religious colony of some foreign entity, where only they can bestow upon us legitimacy as Muslims.
    3. As for your third question. Individuals making hijra to Muslim countries may be a personal solution for that family and for those individuals, but we are talking about millions of American Muslims. Our place of birth is here, our livelihood is here, and most of us will die here and be buried here. Mass hijra is not even on option on the table! Hijra to where? Who will welcome us? Will we be second class or third class citizens? After all, many of us are African American. Who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to buy the plane tickets, the boat tickets, and the food and medicine along the way? Who’s going to provide housing, jobs, food, clothing, land, expertise and all of the things that people need to thrive. The idea of a mass hijra to some Muslim promise land is an absolute fantasy in my opinion.
    I hope that this answered your question. I was very touched and moved, when you said you would pray for me at the Haram, and I ask that you make du’aa for me and my family when you visit Allah’s sacred house, and I encourage you to be steadfast in your prayers and in your studies, and may Allah make you and others like you a benefit for us who are here in the United States. Ameen.

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    1. Ameen…

      And thank you for your reply. As a young brother, I ask you to consider sending me brotherly advice (privately) as you are my elder and I have a lot of respect for you. I pray that Allah blesses us to meet each other one day in this life.

      In addition, I look forward to your next post.

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  4. AsSalamu Aliakum,

    Dear Imaam Ahmad. It has been a long time beloved, and it is great to see you active since our time together at MANA. I was moved by both your initial post, and your responses to my dear friend’s (Jibreel) query. I, in fact, have a few reactions/ questions for you as well. I, too, am frightened about the conditions in which we African Americans find ourselves. At times when you wrote, it was as though you were describing elements of my own family. Until now, however, I have not seen any evidence that African Americans Muslims are any worse off than African Americans as a general group. Even with this though, it is quite rare to find African American Imaams doing very much to address the problems of the African American community as a whole. If it can be said that any African American Muslim leaders are actually doing that–ostensibly anyway–then it would be NOI leaders. And despite all mentioned in the post, there are even greater challenges our community faces. For one, the visions, urges and even activities for liberation of Black people that conjoined that ever-potent protest spirit of 1950’s thru the 1970’s are not gone. In other words, young African American Muslims may still be resistant to, for example, embracing traditional institutions such as higher education–exuding protest–yet, there is no alturistic vision coupled with this protest as it was for their parents/grandparents. Two, the consumerist/capitalist society has completely anesthetized the African American community. I worry that they are primarily concerned about greater accessibility and financial security, and have unconsciously moved away from their uniqueness as a people. I hope to push you a bit further by asking the following questions:

    1- If there is no reason for any of us to believe that there will be a dramatic turnaround for African American Muslims and if we have moved beyond the era of great African American leadership, what can we realistically expect moving forward? In other words, how do you forsee this change coming about?

    2- In my own experience, many African American Muslim leaders themselves need help. They are in no position to lead, and many of their communities are reflections of, well, their leadership. Given that the leadership may not be well positioned to help, to whom should the masses turn?

    3 – Even the Muslims leaders who do understand our contextual issues, themselves do not have a way or means to operationalize their ideals or understandings. They are what we academicians call ‘arm chair’ theorists or radicals because, as we’d say in Detroit, “well, they talk a good game, but ain’t did nuthin’! What is the actual process–not theoritically, but practically–through which we operationalize some of our ideals of reform? Are there any models out there that you can share with us?

    Khalifa

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  5. This is a very factial post. I’ve been saying this for years. As African-American Muslims we need to see ourselves in reality but many of us have been duped into an illusion. We can praise the Imams, sheikh’s and scholars but our condition’s have not changed. First we must change ourselves. Many of us reverted to al-Islam from Chrisrtianity [or ] street life and have brought many of the haram effect’s of society into our personal life while masking ourselves as being sunni Muslims [ or whatever ] title.

    Many African American Muslims today dont take the seriousness of learning and applying the knowledge. For some going to the masjid is like going to the church. They come to masjid
    and then go back out and do their thing. Im not saying all are like this but it does exist, and the imams, scholars, and teachers need to reach out and emphasize the importance of living an Islamic life. We as Muslims just cant go out and live any kind of lifestyle.

    Our lifestyle should be reflective of Islamic principals, morals, and ethics. The Khutbah’s should include way’s to improve our condition in the times we live in today. Many things have changed since the time of the Prophet [ s.a.a.w.]. Allah put us in these times today and no
    savior , ancestor, king or queen can change our collective condition. Allah tells us in Qu’ran that every person will be blessed or punished on their own deeds and merit’s.

    Many of the immigrant’s have their issues as well but it also depends on where they are from.
    Generally many from the Asian countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, are economically better off. They come here and go off to college , graduate and start making
    a decent or even high wage income and still attend the masjid and are often active. In our
    so called black community many African-American Muslims, dont seek higher education or dont finish college and so they dont get the higher paying jobs. I’ve seen many of our youth
    immitating the hip-hop culture . I witnessed in Alabama at one masjid , that after iftar [ during
    ramadan] a scholar was giving an inspiring lecture. All the immigrant Muslim men and women had their children inside listening to the lecture while all the African-American youth were out-
    side shooting basketball, and playing around. How are we going to be equal or compete with those who are serious about learning? Not equal are those who learn and those who play.

    Another thing a lot of brothers want a number of wife’s when most of their intent is really more of a player, pimp, or just to get some sex. Some women have the same intent. I know
    of some Muslim men and women who go out and cheat, drink, go to bars, clubs, smoke, and some may be even gay . Allah Akbar! This of course is the dunya lifestyle that has to be corrected in and out of the masjid and it start’s with oneself to correct self. In my opinion
    the reason’s why many African-American Muslims have not progressed is we still have lot’s
    of the baggage of Christianity, Slavery, self-hatred, racism, envy, jealousy, ignorance and free sex lifestyle’s. All of this is un-Islamic and haram. It is not the Sunnah and until we
    overcome and overthrow these shackle’s of iblis we will not be successful.

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  6. Assalaamu alaikum,

    I tend to agree with many things brother Khalifa said. I am very disgusted with the Afican American Muslim communities. Many of the leadership themselves are corrupt, going thru multiple divorces, abusing polygyny, abusing women, practicing a good ole boy network, and not taking Islam seriously. If the leadership is corrupt, what can you expect from the followers. These days I am basically a hermit because I just can’t take the hypocrisy and crap any longer.

    I do respect and appreciate that you are dealing with these real issues in our communities and hopefully it will inspire and motivate us to make serious changes, insha Allah.

    May Allah reward you, aameen.

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    1. I appreciate your comment. Jazaaka Allahu khairan. However, I don’t think that you can pin the source of our problems on the leaders. There have been many successful communities, and even nations, that have had less than adequate leaders. There have been churches whose leaders have been convicted of major crimes and still went on to be successful communities providing the needs for their constituents. African American Muslims tend to want their leaders to be angelic, almost Jesus like, and that’s just not a realistic expectation. Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘It is better for people to endure 100 years under a tyrannical leader than to endure one night without having a leader’. It is impossible to establish viable communities without having a leader, be it an Imam, an Amir, a Qaa’id, a President, a Minister, a Pastor, a Shepherd, a Haakim, or whatever you want to call it. People need to have leaders, plain and simple. Whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, leaders are a necessary component of civilization and to have order. From the Muslim standpoint, it is an Islamic necessity, daroorah shar’iyyah. One of the problems of the African American Muslim community is that too many people are under the delusion that religious people, do not need leaders, and that jamaa’aat (congregations) are not necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. I agree that we have to do better with our leaders. However, we cannot blame the leaders for our condition except that I concur that Imams should uphold certain standards of conduct and proficiency. Still, there were prophets who had terrible followers and even prophets who had few followers.
      There have been corrupt leaders since the time of the Prophet ﷺ, and that will probably never change. As for African American Muslims, the problem is not the just the leaders; the problem is the jaahiliyyah lifestyle, and foreign ideological influence more than anything else. Anytime you have a situation where people are still using drugs and alcohol, going to jail for major and minor crimes, having children out of wedlock, not parenting your children, not establishing Muslim families, shacking up and having illegal relationships, not getting married at all for no good reason, and breaking off from communities simply because you don’t like something that the Imam did or said, or choosing to stay away from the masaajid for any reason other than threat of bodily harm, then we will have massive moral, social and spiritual dysfunction in our communities. Add to that a dependency on foreign leaders to tell you how to make everyday decisions, and you will have utter chaos.

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      1. Assalaamu alaikum,

        I’m sorry but I do blame some of these leaders for many of the problems since many brothers tend to follow their Imams blindly. Not expecting angels but too many things going on in the African American communities is just not right. I don’t follow the foreign leaders or communities either.

        It is said one of the signs of the last days is the worst people will be leaders. [Of course this is not every leader. [‘m sorry but a religious leader should have character and not be acting like a pimp].
        I have seen some Christians with better character and marriages. Sometime I have wondered if I’m in the right religion. I will continue to stay away from these communities since I have no more patience or temperament for the pimping, backstabbing, slandering, blind following of some of these ego driven [more then Allah fearing] Muslim leaders. Dawah begin at home.

        Again may Allah reward you for dealing with these important issues and all the other good you do, aameen.

        .

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      2. Assalaamu alaikum, unfortunately, I’m afraid I have to agree with you about the pimping issue, and the reckless disregard for moral standards amongst some Imams. It is true that some deep stuff goes on in our communities. My community is only about 40% African American, and I have seen troubling things from both sides. However, some of the issues coming from the African American side, goes way over the top. You are in the right religion but I understand what you said about the Christians. It bothers me too when I see people of other faiths, adhering to high standards of decency, family responsibility, commitment, and honor, and then see Muslim families who disregard all of the above. I just posted something to that effect on my Facebook page. Still, we have to get to the root of the problem which I believe is the jaahiliyyah lifestyle that people bring into Islam. Many Muslims act as if they believe that decency, honor, family values, are corny or (un-cool) aspirations. I still believe that it starts with men, and women, taking care of their families, raising their children right, staying away from drugs, alcohol,and fornication, and honoring marriage vows (not cheating). If we could do just that, we would go a long way. And Allah knows best. Thanks for your comments, but don’t give up.

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      3. Assalaamu alaikum. still, it is essential that people follow their Imams in what is right. If an Imam is unrighteous in his personal life, people will still be rewarded for the good that they do under his leadership. But having millions of African American Muslims, living as individuals outside of congregations, having no Imam, no Amir, no spiritual leader, and no group of people with shared values and belief, and no working together for a common good, can never be a good thing. There is no possible way that African American Muslims can build any institutions that serve their needs without having congregations, and you cannot have a congregation without some form of leadership.

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