The African Roots and Transnational Nature of Islam
Abdul Karim Bangura

Most works dealing with Islam and Africa trace the roots of their connection to the first Hijra when two groups totaling more than 100 Muslims fled persecution in Mecca and arrived in the Kingdom of Axiom (modern-day Ethiopia) in 614 and 615 AD, respectively. A few works would begin with the story of Bilal ibn Rabah or Bilal al- Habashi, the former enslaved Ethiopian born in Mecca during the late 6th Century (sometime between 578 and 583 AD) and chosen by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the first Muezzin (High Priest, or Caller of the Faithful to prayer) of the Islamic faith. More recent sources would add the fact that the African/Black Saudi Arabian Sheikh Adil Kalbani is now the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca. This chronology misses the African roots of Islam: i.e. the story of the Egyptian Hagar or Hajar (in Arabic), the second wife of Abraham or Ibrahim (in Arabic). It also misses the fact that Luqman The Wise, who wrote the 31st Sura of the Qur’an, was an African. Today, Islam is practiced everywhere and has emerged as the fastest growing din (meaning in Arabic “way of life,” as Islam is more than just a religion) in the world. The African flavor to Islamic practices is evident in the Americas, the Caribbean, and many European countries with significant concentrations of African Muslims. Using Transnational Theory, this paper analyzes the challenges African-centered Muslims face in these majority-Christian states in terms of the concept of the sovereign state and the difficulties that this poses. Thus, the following aspects are examined: (a) defining new Africancentered Muslim actors, (b) modes of change African-centered Muslims encounter, (c) factors impacting success of African-centered Muslims, and (d) challenges for the role of the state in dealing with African-centered Muslims. Before doing all this, however, it makes sense to begin with a brief discussion of Transnational Theory, with its attendant concept transnationalism, and Africancentrism for the theoretical grounding of this essay.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jisc.v3n2a12