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Islam and Blackness

Jonathan A.C. Brown

It is commonly claimed that Islam is antiblack, even inherently bent on enslaving Black Africans. Western and African critics alike have contended that antiblack racism is in the faith’s very scriptural foundations and its traditions of law, spirituality, and theology. But what is the basis for this accusation?

Bestselling scholar Jonathan A.C. Brown examines Islamic scripture, law, Sufism, and history to comprehensively interrogate this claim and determine how and why it emerged. Locating its origins in conservative politics, modern Afrocentrism, and the old trope of Barbary enslavement, he explains how antiblackness arose in the Islamic world and became entangled with normative tradition. From the imagery of ‘blackened faces’ in the Quran to Shariah assessments of Black women as ‘undesirable’ and the assertion that Islam and Muslims are foreign to Africa, this work provides an in-depth study of the controversial knot that is Islam and Blackness, and identifies authoritative voices in Islam’s past that are crucial for combatting antiblack racism today.

  • Publication date: November 3, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861544844
  • RRP: £30.00
  • Pages: 416
  • Publication date: November 3, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861544851
  • RRP: £21.00
  • Pages: 416


‘[A] meticulous apologetic… Brown’s nuanced analysis highlights more egalitarian strands of the faith as well, suggesting that the Quran promotes the equality of all humans before God… Brown’s extensive scholarship on Muslim theological and legal thinkers is remarkable… Deeply researched and carefully reasoned, this is sure to spark spirited debate.’

Publishers Weekly

‘The question Brown seeks to answer is simple, “Is Islam antiblack?” His path to an answer, however, is a complex, meandering one through many historic, cultural, social, political and religious vistas. The result is a sensitive and nuanced distinguishing between lived reality and scriptural ideal… This engaging volume will prove to be a seminal work in this area of inquiry.’

Imam Zaid Shakir, Professor Emeritus, Zaytuna College

‘A phenomenal book on race and antiblackness in the Islamic tradition. Dr. Brown builds on the long scholarly tradition of documenting the achievements of Black African Muslims in history and skillfully addresses accusations that Islam is an antiblack religion.’

Habeeb Akande, author of Illuminating the Darkness

‘Written with awe-inspiring insight, erudition, and elegance, what I find most refreshing about this book is its unfailing honesty and bravery. Jonathan Brown’s treatment of this historically elusive topic is highly nuanced but eminently readable, and, at times, uncomfortably honest. Without a doubt, this is the most authoritative study written to date on the topic of Islam and Blackness.’

Khaled Abou El Fadl, Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

‘As expansive in scope as it is accessible, this daring book invites readers to join a highly relevant and hotly contested conversation. Brown asks incisive questions and follows them with erudite, creative, and sometimes provocative answers. Bound to spark debate, Islam & Blackness is invaluable for anyone seeking to understand both premodern conceptions of race and current realities of antiblack racism in a global context.’

Elizabeth Urban, Associate Professor of Islamic History, West Chester University

Jonathan A.C. Brown

Jonathan A.C. Brown is Professor and Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is the author of Slavery & IslamMisquoting Muhammad and Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, all of which are published by Oneworld. He lives in Virginia.

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