Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam
Illuminating the Darkness critically addresses the issue of racial discrimination and colour prejudice in religious history. Tackling common misconceptions, the author seeks to elevate the status of blacks and North Africans in Islam. The book is divided into two sections: Part l of the book explores the concept of race, 'blackness', slavery, interracial marriage and racism in Islam in the light of the Qur'an, Hadith and early historical sources. Part ll of the book consists of a compilation of short biographies of noble black and North African Muslim men and women in Islamic history including Prophets, Companions of the Prophet and more recent historical figures.
Following in the tradition of revered scholars of Islam such as al-Jahiz, Ibn al-Jawzi and al-Suyuti who wrote about this topic, Illuminating the Darkness is structured according to a similar monographic arrangement.
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A really interesting and thorough examination of the controversial topic of racism and Islam. The author investigates the topic of racism and prejudice towards Black people and Africans in this study. The book is concise yet compelling. I found the book easy to read and very insightful.
The author drew upon the Bible and Qur'an for his well written exposition.
I thoroughly enjoyed Akande's work and would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the issue or race, racism and prejudice in religions particularly the Abrahamic faiths.
Habeeb Akande’s ‘Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam’ is a rich piece of work which explores the often neglected subject of Race in Islam. The book offers a range of related topics which include ideological understandings of the concept of ‘Race’. The historical references to slavery, tribalism and social hierarchy during the period of the Prophet (PBUH) also serve as a window into the development of racism in Arabia and how this was addressed by the Messenger (PBUH).
My journey through the book started during a family road-trip to Normandy, which ironically coincided with what we have always experienced or witnessed during visits to France: racism. It soon became an appropriate but also very enjoyable family read. Though Akande explains that his work does not extend to being a sociological study of “the institutionalised racism within contemporary Muslim societies,” it certainly motivated many interesting discussions amongst my family and friends regarding issues of race within our faith community.
More importantly, ‘Illuminating the Darkness’ introduces us to the numerous and diverse Black warriors, martyrs, scholars, and companions of the Prophet (PBUH), who have all contributed to our history, as well as the important role of Abyssinia throughout the development of Islam. Particularly as an African Muslim woman, I was left empowered by the many biographic references to strong Black women, such as Nigerian-born Nana Asma’u. This inspiring woman, who was very knowledgeable in Islamic sciences, had not only served as a writer and teacher for her community, but also as an activist and advocate for women’s social progress and education. Others worth mentioning include Queen Amina Sukhera, a warrior from what is now known as Zaria, and Llala Fadhma N’Soumer, an Algerian Berber who organised and led her fellow Kabyles into battle against French invasion in the late 1800s. The book therefore also successfully includes gender aspects and highlights the contribution made by women of African descent throughout Islamic history. In addition to countering false myths, these references may even serve as reminders for some of the problems faced by our communities, including internalised forms of racism and the sickness of shadism as the measure of a woman’s beauty/worth - though these should not be disconnected from the issues of Western-led colonialism, slavery and orientalism historically faced by the Global South from where the majority of the Diasporas originate.
The writer presents an in-depth investigation and understanding of the complex subject that is Race in Islam by also applying the support of credible historical literature which has already delved into the area as well as referencing relevant parts of the Qur’an and numerous Hadith. The quality of this extensive research is evident throughout the book, yet the detail is coherently translated in such a way that the writer avoids isolating even the lay-reader. Akande’s modest tone and style give the feeling that the reader is being invited to continue on his journey into a better understanding of Islam’s message and the historical events which took place during and after the Prophet’s (PBUH) time.
Akande ends his introduction with the hope that Afrophobia and negative representations of blackness are dismantled. In my opinion, this book does much more: it celebrates the extensive and multicultural African and Black contributions to the social and historical development of Islam. Those who read the book will find themselves feeling armed with empowering knowledge and inspired to pursue their own research into the extensive history of Islam and the Prophet’s (PBUH) life. ‘Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam’ is highly recommended as a source of information for all, particularly during this important month of Black History.
Malia Bouattia, National Students Union's National Executive Council Black Students Rep