by Akil Fahd
In this Facebook Live video stream, Akil Fahd, an independent researcher formerly based in Detroit, Mich., discusses the life of Professor Muhammad Ezzeldeen, founder of prominent Black Sunni organization in the 1940s, the Addeynu Allahe Universal Arabic Association (AAUAA). Professor Ezzeldeen is perhaps the most underappreciated Black Muslim leader of the twentieth century. His life intersects with the founding of the Moorish Science Temple of America, the rise of the Nation of Islam and the organization of a Black Sunni leadership across the Northeast and Midwest. He is likewise responsible for founding two Black Muslim settlements: Jabul Arabiyya in New York and Ezzeldeen Village in New Jersey.
Ezzeldeen began his career as James Lomax Bey, governor of the Moorish Science Temple’s Detroit branch. However, his interactions with other Muslim organizations in the city’s Black Bottom neighborhood — most notably Dusé Mohamed Ali’s Universal Islamic Association — led him on an international pursuit of knowledge to Turkey and Egypt. He returned to the United States in 1936 after six years of study abroad and founded the AAUAA.
Professor Ezzeldeen’s life provides several important lessons for students of Black American Muslim history. It reiterates the fact that Black Sunni communities in the United States are just as old, and have been just as active, as their counterparts in the Nation of Islam, Moorish Science Temple, and Five Percent Nation. Moreover, his emphasis on do-for-self economics, nationalist politics and Black Hamitic identity demonstrates that Black Sunnis partook of a worldview that is supposed to have been particular to “heterodox” movements. Rather, Mr. Fahd’s research further confirms trends that recent publications like Sally Howell’s Old Islam in Detroit suggest: that Black Muslims of all denominations lived together and often worked toward common goals despite their theological differences.
Akil Fahd is a researcher on the history of Islam in America. He participated in the Building Islam In Detroit project, an interdisciplinary research project that explores the development of mosques and other Muslim institutions in Detroit during the twentieth century. Mr. Fahd has written and lectured on the intersection of Islam and Pan-Africanism in the West, highlighting the narratives of influential Black Muslim thinkers and organizers whose histories are often overlooked. Mr. Fahd currently lives in Atlanta, Ga., where he continues to promote Muslim community building and historical preservation.