During this engaging interview, Dr. Abdul Khabeer shares her own relationship with hip hop and reminisces about the songs she grew up on, such as “Top Billin’” by Audio Two, and discussing their collective impact on her personal development. For example, she shares how hip hop artist Jean Grae’s cathartic storytelling offers a pathway to explore the art of lyricism outside of a masculine paradigm. In addition, she shares how both cultural and religious identities have formed her perspective. In particular, Abdul Khabeer credits her travel outside of the United States as the impetus for her to explore religious, racial and cultural identities among American Muslim communities through hip hop.
Imagine the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and you will undoubtedly picture a man wearing a cap embroidered with a large star and crescent. This month’s post features Dr. Shakeela Hassan, the maker of those iconic caps. In this video interview with Sapelo Square Editor in Chief, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Dr. Hassan explains how she came up with the design alongside Elijah Muhammad at his dinner table. Her story reveals that the caps, like the Nation of Islam itself, were as much products of local, homegrown enterprise as they were of global Muslim networks.
Dr. Hassan’s story is a striking example of what Professor Sally Howell calls “Old Islam” — the theologically inclusive, ethnically diverse and explicitly indigenizing Muslim communities that arose primarily in the Midwest before America’s immigration reform of 1965. Both she and her husband, Zia Hassan, found a spiritual home in the Nation of Islam as well as close friendship with the Muhammad family upon arriving in Chicago from Pakistan in the 1950s. Indeed, as she tells elsewhere, Clara Muhammad was “nothing short of a mother to me.” Their relationship was born during an era that defied current divisions between ‘immigrant and indigenous’ Muslims in the United States. The story of these caps provides a rare glimpse into not only the personality of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but also a bygone era that still has much to teach us.
Sapelo Square Politics Editor, Kamilah A. Pickett, talks with Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Board Chair of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, about Black Muslim civic engagement, “righteous apathy”, voter suppression, and using the vote as a tool in the struggle for self-determination.
In a 2015 post for Al Jazeera, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar narrates his journey to Islam and how Black identity is central to his conversion story. Like many, Abdul-Jabbar was deeply moved by The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Abdul-Jabbar recalls how he was transformed by Malcom’s journey and the impact it had on his life: “I was riveted by Malcolm’s story of how he came to realize that he was the victim of institutional racism that had imprisoned him long before he landed in an actual prison. That’s exactly how I felt: imprisoned by an image of who I was supposed to be.”
Inspired by Malcolm, Abdul-Jabbar sought his own freedom, and his path of self-realization led to Islam. Islam responded to his desire to connect with his African heritage and also provided a means to meet the racial challenges of the 1960s and 1970s.
Islam responded to his desire to connect with his African heritage and also provided a means to meet the racial challenges of the 1960s and 1970s.
Yet, his personal transformation did not come without its costs. He dealt with strained family relationships and also disappointment from his fan base who wanted him to be “a clean-cut example of racial equality” that proved racial progress when he knew the truth was quite different.
His conversion was a private declaration of faith that happened to take place on a very public stage; yet, his move from an identity he was given to one that he chose for himself is a path worn by many who are Black and Muslim in the United States.