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Why Only African-American Muslims Can Lead African-American Muslims to Our Destiny

September 2021

An Urban Missiology Interview with Imam Michael “Mikal” Saahir:


I want to thank you very much for granting this interview. In addition to serving on the Urban Missiology (UM) board, you are also the resident Imam of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center and the author of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad: The Man Behind the Men. I listened only to the last portion of the radio call-in show “WORDS-MAKE-PEOPLE” on Sunday, July 25, 2021, from 1-3 p.m. EST. The topic was "Why Only African-American Muslims Can Lead African-American Muslims to Our Destiny," and the conversation was robust. I found it most interesting and am pleased that you are willing to share your thoughts with us today.


1. UM: What is the essence of your radio topic, and what prompted this statement (your theme) at this time in US history?


Imam Saahir: The essence (heart and soul) of this topic, "Only African American Muslims Can Lead African American Muslims to Our Destiny," can be found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. "If the Negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own Emancipation Proclamation." The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said the same thing, using an economy of words, when he said, "Do for Self." He followed up with action by establishing nationwide schools, businesses, Temples/mosques, and the seeds for complete Islamic community life.


One sad fact that also drives this topic is the conversion of some African American Muslims to Islam from Euro-centric expressions of Christianity only to adopt foreign-influenced versions of "Islam." Such "conversions" are un-Islamic and not supported by the Qur'an or the teachings of Prophet Muhammed (who lived 1,400 years ago). Muslim American leader, the late Imam Wallace (Warith) Deen Mohammed said, “We’re living in the conclusion of things. I believe that we are living in what I call the conclusion of all major issues for human life on the planet earth.”


I garner from this that we are living in the conclusion of understanding revelation and understanding that the unity of the human family is where we all are not just welcomed to the table; we also helped construct the table.


Remember the popular cliché; “If you are not at the table, then you’re on the menu.” Well, that was the predicament of our brother in the 2017 movie - Get Out! The main character “Chris” was led by “Rose” – HE DID NOT LEAD HIMSELF!


2. UM: How does your statement impact the diversity of African American Muslims and the global Islamic community?


Imam Saahir: Chapter 49:13 says that Allah “made you tribes and nations, so you can get to know and acknowledge each other.” Chapter 2:148 says, “To each is a goal to which Allah turns him…”

True “unity,” while respecting each individual and culture holistically, is based on a common goal that is bigger or more important because it improves the life, collectively, for everyone involved. This type of unity rejects assimilation, whether it is a conscious or unconscious act. Assimilation is replaced by celebrating the uniqueness within and among the unity, especially the cultural contributions that each participant brings to the table.


Hopefully, the "impact" of this topic will strike a nerve; disturb a sleeping conscious that exist in some African American Muslims who are satisfied just eating the crumbs from another person's culture, tafsirs (exegeses), or watered-down education. Our Islamic diversity is our strength where we can "get to know each other," not imitate one another.


3. UM: Why is your message important, and how was it received yesterday?


Imam Saahir: The topic, “Only African American Muslims Can Lead African American Muslims to Our Destiny,” is very important because of the comments expressed beforehand. This topic is well received, especially by the Students of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. The overall acceptance or application of this message by non-African American Muslims, or non-Muslims, in general, may depend on their attachment to Euro-centric values or how much they have adopted Middle Eastern values. Exponentially, the stronger they are hinged onto another people’s life experiences – stuck on admiring other people’s achievements – will be another factor that can deter how they perceive this message. “The white man’s ice is colder, right?”


The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught that "Dissatisfaction brings about a change." Well, too many of the children of Africa who are now establishing a life in America – too many of us are satisfied with less. Maybe that explains why our mother Harriet Tubman (according to some reports) said, "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."


Whether Mother Harriet actually said that is inconsequential because the principle is true. Until African Americans – across the spectrum – become dissatisfied with the tendency to imitate another people's reality, Allah will not allow us to see our own true reality.


In closing, I recently received a lot of support for posting the following on Facebook. “American-born Muslims should be very careful about joining movements associated with Islam, especially movements that originated outside of your reality. Yes, be careful of jumping on another people's moving train. Their destination may not be your G_d-given destiny.”


4. UM: Imam Michael, your theme is an important one, especially given how diverse our nation is and the divisive conversations that are, or are not, taking place on the issue of race or ethnicity. Whereas you have declared and taken a stance on this topic of African American diversity and religious community, as African American Presbyterians, some are still raising the question, "Are we African American Christians or Christian African Americans?"


Imam, I have one last question, and it has to do with the news of what's taking place in Afghanistan and the Afghan refugees who will resettle in America. I know that you can't predict the future, but how do you see them fitting into our society, and what contribution do you think they will make to Islam in America? Ever since the governor of Georgia announced that Afghani refugees would be resettling in the metro Atlanta area, people are strongly divided on the issue, and that's why I am raising the question.


The conversation continued over several days by phone and email. Marsha Snulligan Haney and Imam Saahir discussed issues such as

  • the need to discern what's going on and the source of our news;

  • the topic of refugees, including the definition of the word refugee itself and how the word once applied to the victims of Katrina;

  • religious injustice around the world;

  • the role of the African American Intelligentsia as presented by the late Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, and;

  • how immigrant groups, as Isabell Wilkerson has illuminated in her book "Caste: The Origin of our Discontents, " must negotiate and find their social place within the US between those ethnically located at the top of the US society and those located at the bottom.

Related to this later concern and the inquiry as to how those at the bottom of humanity will be treated given this new reality, Imam Saahir shared these final words, “The Afghans will treat us the same way WE HAVE LET others treat us. A large portion (not all) of the onus of how we are treated and mistreated is ON-US!!”


UM:Again, thank you very much for this interview, Imam. If interested, the original radio program is accessible with this link -- https://www.blogtalkradio.com/station-iwdm/2021/07/25/only-african-american-muslims-can-lead-african-american-muslims-to-our-destiny.

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