By Aïdah Aliyah Rasheed
I remember hearing Brother Ali end a radio freestyle reciting, “Laʾilahaʾilla-llah, Muhammadun rasulu-llah,” which translates in English: “There is no deity worthy of worship except God and [Prophet] Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” It is not a secret that many Hip-Hop artists have roots within the Muslim community, although everyone seems to display that connection differently. Brother Ali has been consistent when it comes to publicly sharing his journey as a student of Islamic theology, specifically under the tutelage of the late Imam WD Mohammed (may God be pleased with him & his family).
Ta’leef Collective, one of the leading non-profit institutions for Muslim converts in the United States, published an important documentation of Brother Ali discussing his journey to Al-Islam. Ali begins, “Hip Hop is what brought me to Al-Islam, and enslaved Africans and their trajectory and their sojourn, and their beautiful display of humanity, and love for the Divine is what brought me to Al-Islam; through music, and in my mind there is no way to disconnect them.”
One of the most profound connections Brother Ali mentions is the commonality of two “significant African American organizations that have ever existed,” the Nation of Islam and Motown Records Music Company. Ali states, “[Elijah Muhammad] came from Sandersville, Georgia, which is the same place as Berry Gordy (founder of Motown Record Label); and they both came around the same time from Sandersville to Detroit, and built empires.” There are several additional gems he drops about the history of Muslims in America, and I highly recommend watching the entire video.
Update: The video has been removed from YouTube, and is now accessible on Ta’leef Collective’s OnDemand platform. It’s free to register, and once you sign up you will have access to Brother Ali’s journey to Al-Islam, with an additional story about his journey to Mecca for the Hajj.