I’m new at this blogging thing and am really enjoying myself, didn’t know it could be so addictive. I was fiddling around trying to see how stuff works and discovered the ‘tag surfer’. I added a few tags (I see I have much to learn I thought this feature was like the ‘google alerts’, but I now see that it categorized my blog) and the surfer picked up on a topic that I recently commented on in my comments on my Racist In Laws, post.

There is a blogger of mixed race (Black Father/White Mother), who purely identifies herself as ‘black’, she doesn’t see herself any other way and refuses to identify as ‘biracial’. She brings up an interesting topic on her blog, ruminationsofaracialrealist Said:

While African Americans generally consider themselves as “black” and are considered by “non-blacks” as black, in fact, virtually all African Americans are “multiracial” to some extent; most have some European heritage and/ or Native American heritage. What impact does this have on their racial identity? For example, how do they reconcile their black identity with their multiracial heritage? Also, if one got their European blood through rape, that’s obviously disconcerting; on the other hand people have noted how their lighter skin has meant they are treated better in the African American community – it’s certainly a complex area!

It most certainly is! Add to the mix, your African American Muslim Convert! Please allow me to answer the question, on the impact of racial identification, from the viewpoint of an AA Muslim. I live in Saudi Arabia. It is a given that when you meet someone, particularly from the Muslim world, one of the first questions they will ask you is, “what is your nationality?” After telling them you are American, this is usually followed up with a look of confusion and another question,”where are you from?” You could of course insist that you are FROM America or you could educate them in a brief history lesson on Slavery in the Americas.

In legal use, Muslims are identified by their name, followed by their paternal lineage, such as Muhammad son of Abdullah son of ‘Abdul Mutallib. Many Muslims can recite their personal genealogy back through to the Prophet Muhammad from memory. Can you see where I’m going? Do you see the impact this can have on an AA convert to Islam?

In Saudi, most legal documents require that you give at least four names. I only know my lineage as far as my grandparents, so that is only three names (my first name, my father’s first name, and my paternal grandfather’s first name. Keep in mind if you are born out of wedlock then you do not take on your paternal lineage and should use your mother’s lineage). I could use my family name as my last name, but that too is a problem. I have three different family names:
1. My father’s original family name (on my original birth certificate)
2. My father’s new Muslim last name (he converted before I was born to the NOI but didn’t choose a Muslim name to replace his ‘X’ until I was around 4yrs old)
3. The Muslim last name my mother renamed everyone (legally) after she divorced my father (this name is on my birth certificate, social security, passport, etc.)

Alhamduillah, my children do not have to go through this. They can fill out four names with no problem and even more, because their father is a white American and can tell you where he is from on both sides of the family (and that includes great grandparents that migrated  to America from different countries). However, we do have a funny naming problem with my first born. She was the only one of my children born in America and we gave her my husband’s Muslim name as her second name. My other two children carry his birth name as their second name, because here the name must be exactly like the father’s name is on his documents. In America they do not care. This is why it looks like I had children my two brothers (because the third and fourth names are the same) and this is why my own legal name is so embarrassing (I have a female middle name, so it appears that I am a bastard, try explaining that your middle name isn’t even a real person or at least not your mother!).

I would love to be able to trace my ancestry, but to be honest I wouldn’t know where to start. Genealogy information about African American ancestors is often difficult to locate and I really don’t have much to go off of. According to the Islamic Naming System

Islam places great emphasis on the clear identification of family relationships. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Learn enough about your lineage to know your blood relatives and treat them accordingly.” (At-Tirmidhi)

That is, family lines should be known well enough to prevent marriages within the forbidden degrees and to determine blood and family obligations.

Although it is the duty of the Islamic state to take care of its citizens, the primary responsibility lies first and foremost on family members. Therefore, according to Islamic law, blood relationships should be clearly defined and any tampering with them is strictly forbidden. This is clearly stressed in the Islamic naming system in which each name and its sequences imply a specific genealogical relationship

This is actually a serious, rarely discussed, issue in the AA Muslim community. The most I’ve read othe subject are rulings giving about the permissibilty of changing your name if you had a ‘slave’ name. Nobody ever goes any further than that and encourages AA Muslims to take advantage of the modern technology that we have at our disposal. If anyone is actually interested in tracing your roots, here are some links I have saved in my favorites and insha’Allah will take a look at:

Beginners Guide To African American Genealogy

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet