Layla Abdullah-Poulos had the opportunity to talk with Islamic scholar Ahmad Mubarak about his book Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles Among the Early Pious Muslims, which he co-authored with Dawud Walid. The book highlights Black Islamic history, a part of the faith’s rich heritage often ignored.
During the interview, Abdullah-Poulos and Mubarak discussed a number of issues reflecting Black Muslims experiences as well as those affecting the ummah.
Arabness and Blackness
Mubarak explains the history of Islamic scholarship addressing anti-Blackness in Arab culture and the separation of Arabs from Africa.
“This genre of dealing with Arabness and Blackness is nothing new. It’s new to us, in the West, probably because a lot of us don’t have access to the text, but it’s there.” – Ahmad Mubarak
When Islamic Scholarship is Anti Black
Mubarak explains the perfuse anti-Blackness in Muslim scholastic texts. Abdullah-Poulos asked Mubarak how does one come to terms with symbolically violent and demoralizing anti-Black text that affects their scholarship and faith.
“These texts are based on fabricated hadith demeaning Black people. Ibn Jawzee said anytime you see a hadith demeaning Black people, know that it’s fabricated. The Prophet (saws) never said this.” – Ahmad Mubarak
AA Muslim Skepticism
Layla Abdullah-Poulos and Ahmad Mubarak talk about the tradition of African American Muslim skepticism that discourages blind acceptance of subjective and problematic notions promoted by some Muslim scholarship.
“African American Muslims completely disassociated themselves from an entire faith (Christianity), not only because of the problem with the Trinity but because of the utter oppression that was used in the name of that faith.” – Layla Abdullah-Poulos
Erasure and Celebrating Muslim BlacknessAbdullah-Poulos and Mubarak reflect about exploring intersections of race and faith and the pushback Black Muslims receive.
“I don’t care if you’re a layperson or a scholar that’s been studying abroad for all of these years and you can speak fluent Arabic. If you’re telling me there’s something wrong with me exploring my Blackness and my faith, then that’s because you have a problem with my Blackness.” – Layla Abdullah-Poulos
Scholarship without Cultural Competence
Abdullah-Poulos and Mubarak discuss problems stemming from the lack of cultural competency among Muslim scholarship and leadership.
“I’m not going to hadith or fiqh scholar and ask him for advice on how to fix my car. Just because a person is an expert in one particular field, it doesn’t mean that person is an expert in everything.” Ahmad Mubarak
“They have this whole role of “The Imam,” [who] is supposed to know all about everything, and just simply don’t.” – Layla Abdullah-Poulos
Watch the full NbA Muslims Authors Speak interview with Ahmad Mubarak.
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