Preface to “Illuminating the Darkness” by Habeeb Akande

This is a timely work. With black people in the US beginning finally to emerge from the centuries of degrading slavery and the false start of the Civil Rights movement, and with Africa itself increasingly looking to be the continent of the future for Islam, nothing written in this area is without politics. Thus, it has been vital for orientalists, themselves often faithful servants of powerful oligarchic elements in world finance and corporatism, to back-project modern racism and the horrific history of Judaeo-Christian slavery into Islam. But make no mistake about it, this is entirely a political issue, or rather we should say an economic one, since today academia serves politics which in turn serves economics.

One should not, in defending against this attack, resort to a rose-tinted and romantic view of the history of the Muslims, for, unsurprisingly, Muslims have had their tyrants, murderers, adulterers, drunks and thieves just as have others. And Muslim culture itself has suffered tremendous low-points in its cyclical history, a history which comprises an initial exuberant bursting forth, a high point with its cultural achievements, gradual decline into decadence, followed by renewal, a cycle best exemplified by Mad?nah al-Munawwarah itself and often but not exclusively illustrated by the Islam of the West and Africa in particular, of which this book has splendid examples.

The reader needs no other discrimination while reading this book than the one the author strives to make clear throughout: the d?n of Islam is not only free of racism but is utterly opposed to it as the most aberrant form of j?hiliyyah. This is clear in the Qur’?n, the Sunnah and in the extensive hadith literature. Indeed, Muslims today are themselves surprisingly free of the gross racism that the average American lives with as his quotidian reality, as people like Malcolm X found. Anyone who has travelled in the Middle East cannot have failed to observe the indissoluble mixing of races and colours that has produced the inextricably multi-racial Muslims of today.

Leaving aside this zone of contention, where the book is utterly fascinating is in its vignettes of whole African civilisations and ‘empires’ – one uses that term advisedly – that rose and sank, and the fierce resistance mounted against colonialism and its imperial projects, and also of the luminous scholars from an often forgotten tradition that sustained that history. This is a revelation of a kind for those who think of Islamic history exclusively in terms of the great Arab ‘empires’ of the Middle East and their long decline into decadence and and finally extinction. Perhaps few things are more damaging for Muslims’ sense of identity today than this spurious identification of Islamic history with that of the Arabs, who are, after all, only a small percentage of the Muslims, neglecting in the process the sultanates of the Far East such as in Nusantara (Indonesia and Malaysia), the Mughals of the Indian Sub-Continent, the numerous Turkic Stans that were absorbed into the USSR, the glorious Osmanli dawlah, and the huge and inadequately explored history of Islamic Africa. The book’s extensive bibliography contains enough pointers for the reader to pursue that line of enquiry.

Just as the constituency of modern Muslim societies is clear evidence of the absence of racialism and colourism from Muslim hearts at their best, it contains then a sign for the future. As globalisation increasingly mixes peoples up all over the earth, and once-subject peoples impoverished and often made refugees by it flee to the West whose own subject peoples, its indigenous peoples, are bewildered by the modern age and, misled by the media servants of high oligarchic finance, allow their rage to be deflected from the usurious monetary order of the age onto the flood of the bereft from the once-Third World, it is only Islam that offers a multi-racial brotherhood for the people of the future. Indeed, it is only Islam that has successfully allowed peoples of different races and religions to live together, as in Andalus and the Osmanli dawlah. When the Muslims themselves wake up from their slumbers and emerge from ghettoes, both physical and intellectual, they have foolishly allowed themselves to inhabit, they will have to take their place as generous hosts of humanity in an increasingly alien and predatory age. In having given us resources for that, the author has done us a tremendous service.

 

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Abdassamad Clarke is from Ulster and was formally educated at Edinburgh University in Mathematics and Physics, and in Cairo in Arabic and tajwid and other Islamic sciences. He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi in 1973. In the 80s he was secretary to the imam of the Dublin Mosque, and in the early 90s imam khatib of the Norwich Mosque, where he is currently an imam and teacher. He has translated the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (jointly with Muhammad Abdarrahman), which was published by Turath Publishing at the end of July 2004 and a number of other works from Arabic: al-Qawl al-mu'tamad fi mashru'iyyat adh-dhikr bi'l-ism al-mufrad by Shaykh al-Alawi on the standing in Shari’ah of using the divine name in dhikr, which was published by Diwan Press as first part of The Two Invocations and since republished by Madinah Press, The History of the Khalifahs (the chapters on the Khulafa ar-Rashidun from as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa), the Complete Forty Hadith (translation of Imam an-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith along with the Imam’s explanation of their fiqh and linquistic usages) and Kitab al-Jami’ by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (published as A Madinan View), Rijal – narrators of the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad, all published by Ta-Ha Publishers of London, Kitab al-athar by Imam Abu Hanifah and transmitted by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (Turath Publishing 2006), The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom (a translation of Jami' al-'ulum wa'l-hikam by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, published by Turath Publishing 2007). In addition he has edited Aisha Bewley's translation of Ibn Hajar's abridgement of at-Targhib wa't-Tarhib, Ibn Taymiyyah's al-Kalim at-Tayyib both published by the UK Islamic Academy, Dr Asadullah Yate's translation of al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, published by Ta-Ha Publishing and a number of other works. He is currently engaged with Suád Østergaard on a translation of the Qur’an into Danish, the first volume of which translated in collaboration with Jakob Werdelin, comprising Surat al-Fatihah, Surat al-Baqarah and Surah Ali ‘Imran, was recently published as Den gavmilde Qur’an: en fremlægning of de tre første suraer by Havens Forlag of Copenhagen. Translations yet to be published include Traditions of the Sunnah (Athar as-sunan) by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Ali an-Nimawi (jointly with Mawlana In'amuddin), to be published by Turath Publishing Ltd. Among his unpublished translations are the Sciences of Tafsir comprising portions of Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Qur’anic commentary at-Tashil li ‘ulum at-tanzil, in particular his introductory sections on the essential elements of the sciences necessary for tafsir. He is author of a number of children’s books, The Year of the Elephant, The Great Victory and The Last Battle all of which are on the sirah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as well as The Story of Stories about the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, in which he drew a great deal on the commentary of Ibn Juzayy, may Allah be merciful to him. He has also a poem God is Dead published in the Minaret journal of Stockholm, Sweden, and an as-yet unpublished collection of short stories called Tales Are Like That, and a novel called The Wings of the Butterfly. Abdassamad is a teacher of both adults and children in Qur’an recitation (tajwid) and meanings, Arabic language and the deen in general, most recently having organised and taken part in a conference under the auspices of Islamic Events of London on the History of the Islamic Khalifate, and having given discourses in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Jena, Weimar, Copenhagen and the Midlands. 18 April, 2007 0:03

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1 Comment

  1. “Perhaps few things are more damaging for Muslims’ sense of identity today than this spurious identification of Islamic history with that of the Arabs, who are, after all, only a small percentage of the Muslims, neglecting in the process the sultanates of the Far East such as in Nusantara (Indonesia and Malaysia), the Mughals of the Indian Sub-Continent, the numerous Turkic Stans that were absorbed into the USSR, the glorious Osmanli dawlah, and the huge and inadequately explored history of Islamic Africa.”

    As-Salaamu Alaykum.

    Thank you for this part, Sidi. I always find it hurtful when somebody says “Islam is for Arabs” or “Islam is Arab culture”, astaghfirullah. It just shows their vast ignorance about the Deen and its history. Jazakallah khair.

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