An American Islam
Wholly American, Wholly Muslim
What I found particularly great about this book is the conversion (or reversion) narratives of many of the contributors. It is always a treat for me, a Muslim raised in the faith, to learn how Islam comes into the lives of those converted into the faith. It makes me appreciate my faith that much more.
Adisa Banjoko, an author and journalist who explores the relationship between Islam and hip hop, discusses in his essay why he converted to Islam, then one day declared he no longer believed, and then how he came back to the faith: In a fateful meeting with another musician, he related how he felt many people treated Black issues like they were of little concern, and that he felt the Black Muslims he knew were trying too hard to emulate Arab Islam instead of finding their way as African-American Muslims.
The musician told him not to let people define his relationship with Allah, and that "Your relationship with God belongs to you." Writes Banjoko, "He saved my deen (religion). Imagine: a chance meeting on a rainy day at a rap convention saved my deen."
The men in this book are writers, politicians, activists, filmmakers, journalists, doctors, and poets. They are our neighbors and co-workers; teammates and public servants; golf buddies and friends. They are my brothers in faith and our brothers in country. And they all want to make this world a better place.
As Congressman Keith Ellison (one of two Muslims in the U.S. House of Representatives) writes in the Foreword: "It is my hope that each of you will emulate these writers. If you can make a movie, make one. If you can sing a song, sing it. If you can write a play, write it. If you want to run for office, run. But do something to make this world a better place." As these American Muslim men speak for themselves in this book, they take the reader on an amazing journey. Reading their stories has enriched me, and it will enrich you as well.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook.