Wesley Muhammad, PhD 2011.
This is only the Intoduction. To see the full, 22-page response go to:
- Determined to Defend White Supremacy in Islam
Waqar Akbar Cheema from Pakistan and Gabriel Keresztes Abdul Rahman the Romanian have written what they believe is a refutation of my and other’s documentation that the Arab prophet Muhammad was black-skinned, contrary to popular representations in both the Muslim and non-Muslim world according to which the last prophet of Islam was ruddy-white. Their “refutation” may be found here:
Cheema and Keresztes believe, or try to make their reading audience believe that their motivation is non-racial/racist; that their concern is only to deal with the “racist theology” of the NOI which supposedly has no place in the Islam that they are urgently trying to protect. The simple claim that Prophet Muhammad was black-skinned rather than white-skinned is seen as “racist”:
“Mr. Wesley Muhammad in his article tries hard to ‘prove’ that Prophet Muhammad may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was black in complexion. The racism within him prompts him to come up with such ‘interesting research’.”
Yet, Cheema and Keresztes unequivocally declare themselves that “In fact (Muhammad’s) complexion was white but not extremely white.” I maintain that it is in fact the racism deep within them – their terrified disdain for the thought that their Beloved Prophet was black - that prompted this amateurish attempt at a refutation which seeks to reassure for all readers that the Holy Prophet was not one of ‘them’, but one of ‘us’. Cheema and Keresztes claim:
“Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not venerated or worshiped (except by deviant-ignorant), nor is his color important to the ideology or practice of Islam. It is true that scholars have written books and composed poetry on the physical characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but never has such an issue become a theological one.”
But the hegemony of this fabricated white-skinned Muhammad has had profound theological consequences, for white and black peoples. Anthropologist Prof Janice Boddy reveals in her study of black women in a Northern Sudanese village:
“Hofriyati (village women) are especially conscious of skin color. White skin is clean, beautiful, and a mark of potential holiness. I, being Caucasian, was repeatedly told that my chances of getting into heaven-should I chose to become Muslim-were far greater than those of the average Sudani. This is because the Prophet Mohammed was white, and all white-skinned peoples are in a favored position of belonging to his tribal group.”
The fabricated white-skinned Muhammad has been the license for racism - theological and practical - in Islam throughout the ages. All of Cheema and Keresztes’s efforts in this so-called refutation were to preserve and protect this chimera of White Supremacy against the deconstructing force of the available evidence.
Cheema and Keresztes try to demonstrate that I have misrepresented the meaning of the Arabic termabyaḍ as it relates to Prophet Muhammad. The term normally signifies the whiteness of such objects as milk, teeth, ect. However, Classical Arabic has a linguistic phenomenon called al-addad, which we call antiphrasis, in which in certain contexts a word signifies its lexical opposite. In Classical Arabic the term abyaḍ when applied to human complexion rarely means ‘white-skinned’. For that, the term aḥmar– lit. “red” – was used. As an Arab self-description abyaḍ normally denoted a clear, blemish-free blackcomplexion. This is the crux of the issue with Cheema and Keresztes and myself, as well as between them and Tariq Berry, author of The Unknown Arabs (2002). Cheema and Keresztes want to insist that the descriptions of the Prophet in the Classical Arabic literature that describe him as abyaḍ intend to describe him as white-skinned. In this Part I of my response to Cheema and Keresztes I will address this issue.
Before I begin, a caveat: reading through some of the exchange between Cheema and Keresztes and Tariq Berry compels to me make this point. Tariq Berry is my Brother whom I respect and admire. We travel in two different lanes though. While we have numerous fundamental agreements and are both (along with some others) trying to get the information of the historical blackness of the early Arabs and Muhammad out to a critical mass, it is also the case that I take positions with which he fundamentally disagrees and he takes positions with which I fundamentally disagree. Thus, he or anyone else should not be saddled with or called upon to answer for my positions. Tariq can answer for Tariq, and Wesley can answer for Wesley.
 Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men, and the Zār Cult in Northern Sudan(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989) 64.