Buildin with a Blue-Eyed Devil: Conversing with Michael Muhammad Knight
Jul 17th, 2009
There is a little known fact about the role that Islam has played within the Hip-Hop community. In his essay from DJ Spooky’s recent anthologySound Unbound, Naeem Mohaiemen states that “Islam is hip-hop’s unofficial religion.” Noting this correlation, there is a definite need for properly putting Islam, Hip-Hop, and their interrelationship into some sort of historical context.
Mohaiemen writes, “According to research presented by the American Muslim Council, in 1992, between 5 to 8 million Americans followed some variation of the Islamic faith.” Interestingly, the organization found that the largest group of Muslims in the U.S. are not Arab but African American, at 42 percent. Only “12 percent of American Muslims are of Arab descent (the majority of Arab Americans being Christian),” contrary to the perception held by many in America today.
Though most Muslims tend to align with the Sunni denomination, there are many different takes on the Islamic faith. There is the Shi’ite sect, the Isma’ili tradition, the Ahmadiyya path – and let us not forget the Sufis. A predominant form of Islam that comes up when talking about African-American Muslims is the Nation of Islam. Founded by W.D. Fard in the early 1930s, the doctrines were brought to the public eye through the works of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Branching off from Fard’s teachings is an Islamic group known as The Five Percenters, a belief system that grew out from Harlem New York during the 1960s.