As the month of Ramadan begins, many millions of Muslims around the world are joining in a collective fast intended to help purify their souls. But for the more than half a million African-American Muslims, many of whom descend from former slaves, Ramadan has a special meaning – a link between the African-American experience and the Islamic tradition of spiritual freedom.
More than 500 African-American Muslims worship at the Masjid Muhammad in Washington, home to the oldest African-American Muslim community in the United States.
Talib Shareef, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, is the new Imam at Masjid Muhammad. He says the experience of black Muslims in the United States is different from that of most other Muslims.
“Most of the African Americans in America come from the church experience,” Shareef said. “We became Muslims in America just a little differently here and because we are Muslim most of our family members are not aware of Islam, so we have to explain a lot of things. We have to share a lot of our life with those around us because it’s a minority in terms of religion.”
(Watch the video.)