Cover image for Black pilgrimage to Islam
Black pilgrimage to Islam
Dannin, Robert, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
x, 328 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP67.U6 D34 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book offers a comprehensive ethnographic study of African-American Muslims. Drawing on hundreds of interviews conducted over a period of several years, Dannin provides an unprecedented look inside the fascinating and little understood world of black Muslims. He discovers that thewell-known and cult-like Nation of Islam represents only a small part of the picture. Many more African-Americans are drawn to Islamic orthodoxy, with its strict adherence to the Qur'an. Dannin takes us to the First Cleveland Mosque, the oldest continuing Muslim institution in America, on to apermament Muslim village in Buffalo, and then inside New York's maximum-security prisons to hear testimony of the powerful attraction of Islam for individuals in desperate situations. He looks at the aftermath of the assassination of Malcolm X, and the ongoing warfare between the Nation of Islam andorthodox Muslims. Accessibly written, filled with gripping first-hand testimony, and featuring superb illustrations by photographer Jolie Stahl, this book will be the best available guide to the beliefs and culture of African-American Muslims.

Author Notes

Robert Dannin was formerly Adjunct Professor of Metropolitan Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at New York University.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The term black Muslim generally conjures up images of the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad. But the appeal of Islam dates back to slavery, when many Africans retained their religion, defying attempts to Christianize them. Dannin traces the evolution of the practice of Islam by blacks in the U.S. from slavery through the more orthodox, globalized Islam. The first half of the book recounts the history of Islam among American blacks, the linkage to secret lodge societies, and the rise of black nationalism. Islamic missionaries brought more formal pedagogy but often stirred conflict with their disregard for the historic context of Islam in an oppressed black America. In his conversion to orthodox Islam, El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, elevated the status of Islam as a powerful alternative to the spiritual monopoly of Christianity in liberating black Americans from the strictures of racism. The second half of this fascinating book recounts individual experiences of conversion and the difficulties of being a double minority in terms of race and religion. --Vanessa Bush

Choice Review

Curtis's Islam in America and Dannin's Black Pilgrimage to Islam represent the upsurge of intense scholarly interest in the growth of Islam among African Americans. Curtis's study is derived from his doctoral dissertation, which presents a fine reinterpretation of the views of Edward Blyden, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Warith Deen Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan on the relationship between race (black nationalism) and religion (Islamic tradition) from the point of view of postmodern criticism. Using the paradigm of "universalism" and "particularism," Curtis (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) explores the various ways in which each of these men gave priority either to the particularism of black nationalism or the universalism of the Islamic tradition. Although he does not introduce any new historical material relating to these figures, Curtis delineates their positions on religion and race, especially with regard to social change.Dannin (anthropology, New York Univ.), who includes more original material in his study, has broken new historical ground in uncovering the existence of several early African American Sunni Muslim communities in Cleveland and Buffalo. Using the ethnographic approach, he focuses largely on African Americans who have converted to Sunni Islam from the 1930s onward without going through the phase of black nationalism under Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. The chapters on Wali Akram and the First Cleveland Mosque and Muhammad Ezaldeen and the Muslim community in Buffalo and West Valley (Jabul Arabia) are the most valuable for a critical history of Sunni Islam among African Americans. The only flaw in this excellent study concerns Dannin's theory of "The Trail of the Red Fez," which is more mythological than historical. He doesn't provide sufficient evidence that Masonic lodges were centers of the "unchurched" in black communities. Dannin's wife and collaborator, Jolie Stall, has contributed outstanding photographs that add to the value of the historical materials.A more complete overview of the history of Islam among African Americans would incorporate the subject matter of both these books since, individually, one tends to ignore what the other covers. Both books are highly recommended for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. L. H. Mamiya Vassar College