The Call of Bilal (2014)

Book review written by Marina Davis

The purpose of this book is to document Islam in the African diaspora globally and the many ways Islam is expressed by African descendants. The name of the book comes from one of the first converts to Islam, Bilal ibn Rabah, an enslaved African descendant in Mecca. He was freed by another of Mohamad’s early followers and was both a trusted companion of the prophet and the person tasked with calling the prophet and his followers to prayer, known as the Adhan. Bilal is an important figure in the inquiry of Islam in the African diaspora as his existence shows the African presence in Islam since the inception of the religion. The fact that he was a slave who had to be freed to even follow Islam connects to the contemporary Black experiences of African-Americans in a post-emancipation context. 

The different sects of Islam throughout Africa and its Diaspora vary. There are the Ghawarna of Jordan and the Siddis of Pakistan and India, for example, who illustrate the links between ancestry and Islam. This book explores how ancestry can create legitimacy for groups within Islamic traditions. 

Throughout the book, many topics are examined academically, such as the different experiences between those born into the religion and those who convert.  It confronts ethnic and racial prejudice within the religion over time and the role Islam has played in shaping Black liberation around the globe. 

This book casts a wide net over the African diaspora and many of the ways Islam has intersected with world history.

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