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By Jehron Muhammad

“A Nation Can Rise No Higher Than Its Women: African American Muslim Women in the Movement for Black Self Determination” is the name of Philadelphia-born Bayyinah S. Jeffries’ recent book. The title not only suggests the important contribution of black Muslim women to the advent of Islam in American society, but also the struggle to forge an identity for themselves in the process.

In some ways their plight reflects that of Muslim women during the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). After his death it was Muslim women’s “testimony,” according to Leila Ahmed’s book, “Women And Gender In Islam,” to the words and deeds of Muhammad that helped preserve the accuracy of the faith. “Aisha, as Muhammad’s favorite wife,” writes Ahmed, had a special knowledge of Muhammad’s “ways, saying, and character, she (and others) was consulted on his sunnah, or practice and gave decisions on sacred laws and customs.”

Muslim women have historically faced challenges based on the culture of Middle Eastern nations and sexism. These challenges existed prior to the advent of Muhammad and resurfaced after his passing. Many gains under Prophet Muhammad were reversed, bearing witness to his warning that “Three generations after me, will not be of me.” He meant some of those who came later would have the name Islam but would deviate from his path. [Read more…]