by Eaman Elhadri
If you ask any five year old who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is, you’ll be sure to get a correct response. Why? Because the focal point of Black History Month, in most schools around the world, is on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And while it’s very important to study about Dr. King and how he called for peace and equality, it’s time we move beyond Dr King. Although our children should be taught about Rosa Parks, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois among others, the Muslim Ummah seems to be forgetting about the un-sung heroes – African Muslims in Early America.
The Un-Sung Heroes – African Muslims in Early America
If you live in the west, it’s not entirely your fault that you didn’t know about Muslims in Early America.
Anyone who went to public school in the west, like I did, has never experienced learning about African Muslims in Early America, as this was never taught in school!
If you ask any American Muslim to tell you about African Muslims in Early America, the usual response is a quizzical expression, followed by, “Hmm, maybe.”
Black History is also Islamic History!
This is the sad truth. – We don’t understand most of Islamic History, let alone Islamic history in America.
Islam has been a piece of the American religious fabric since the first settlers arrived in North America
There are clues in legal doctrines, slaveholder’ documents, and existing cultural and religious tradition that African Muslims were enslaved and transported to the ‘New World’.
“I knew several [people] who must have been, from what I have since learned, Mohamedans (Muslims); though at that time, I had never heard of the religion of Mohamed. There was one man on this plantation… who prayed five times every day, always turning his face to the east, when in the performance of his devotion.Charles Ball 1837, Smithsonian Institute
Our children should know that African Muslims were an integral part of creating America from mapping its borders to fighting against British rule.
Our children should know that despite significant obstacles, enslaved Muslims used Islam and their Arabic to build community, resist slavery, and pursue freedom.
Tips to teach your child about Black Muslim History
Tip #1 – Don’t Shy Away From Hard Truths
Explain to your child that a long time ago, people were separated by the color of their skin, and this included Muslims.
Tip #2 – Use Literature
As with all subjects, children learn best through hands-on experiences and literature. Scour for books about Muslim African Slaves and Black Muslim History.
Below are a few examples of what we’ve read. –
Jannah Jewels, Adventure in America by Umm Nura
A great book that hits this topic on the nose, is Jannah Jewels, Book 8, Adventure in America, by Umm Nura. In Book 8 of the Jannah Jewels Adventure Series, they travel back in time to Natchez, Mississippi. There, they meet Prince Ibrahima Abdur Rahman, a Muslim West African prince who was captured and lived most of his life as a slave in America.
You can purchase Jannah Jewels here or by clicking on the image below.
Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, by Sylviane A. Diouf
Islam flourished during slavery on a large scale. I appreciate how the author, Sylviane A. Diouf, details how, even while enslaved, many Muslims managed to follow most of the precepts of their religion.
From the description of the book:
Literate, urban, and well-traveled, they (Muslim Slaves) drew on their organization, solidarity and the strength of their beliefs to play a major part in the most well-known slave uprisings. But for all their accomplishments and contributions to the history and cultures of the African Diaspora, the Muslims have been largely ignored. Servants of Allah a Choice 1999 Outstanding Academic Title illuminates the role of Islam in the lives of both individual practitioners and communities, and shows that though the religion did not survive in the Americas in its orthodox form, its mark can be found in certain religions, traditions, and artistic creations of people of African descent.
Click here or on the image below to purchase Servants of Allah.
Tip #3 – Purchase books by Black Muslim Authors
Don’t stop there. Purchase books by a Black Muslim author or illustrator and make it a part of your child’s permanent collection.
Here are some great examples:
Little Brother For Sale, by Rahma Ridwaan
Bashirah and The Amazing Bean Pie: A Celebration of African American Muslim Culture by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins
My Kufi by Adil Ismaaeel and Yaqiyn Abdul-Zahir
Hind’s Hands by Umm Juwayriyah and Juwayriah Ayed
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Tip #4 – Use Black History Month as a Starting Point
Use Black History Month as a Starting Point to introduce your child to more books that reflect other cultures and ethnicities, but celebrate Black Muslim history and cultural diversity all year long!
Video – Sister Iram’s Field Trip
The last thing you need to know about teaching Black History to your child
- Teaching your child Black History is teaching them Islamic History!
- Use children’s literature as a base to teach Black History.
- Continue teaching Black History and all history all year long!
- New to homeschooling? Read our Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling for Muslim Families and watch the LIVE VIDEO – Hey New Muslim Homeschooling Mama! I Can See You From a Mile Away!
- Want to know what products you need for homeschooling? Read about why you don’t need much to homeschool!
- Are you homeschooling a kindergartner? Read about sister Eaman’s Kindergarten Resources and watch her LIVE VIDEO about Gentle Kindergarten Resources!