Halimat Shode of TBMT-UK sat down to speak with published author Habeeb Akande, whose debut book, Illuminating the Darkness, focuses on the contribution of Blacks and North Africans in the history of Islam.
Habeeb has continued to publish a range of other non-fiction titles including 'A taste of honey' that discusses erotology in Islam and 'Illuminating the Blackness ' which looks at the Black and African Muslims of Brazil.
His upcoming projects include an upcoming documentary about Muslims in Brazil, a podcast called The Mandingo Way soon to be released on SoundCloud and YouTube, and a book to be published this year titled Kunyaza: The secret to female pleasure.
H: Many thanks for speaking me for TBMT-UK. Can you introduce yourself to our audience?
H: My name is Habeeb Akande. I am a British-born Muslim of Nigerian ancestry. Professionally I am a chartered accountant in London and I have also published five books covering race, Islamic history, erotology, also known as sexology, and I’m also working on a documentary about being Black and Muslim in Brazil.
H: Your first book, Illuminating the Darkness, was focused on the contribution of Blacks and North Africans in Islam as well as prejudices and discrimination that were faced. What was the inspiration for writing the book and making that your area of focus?
H: After graduating from University in 2006, I went to study at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Whilst I was there, I noticed that number of Egyptians discriminated against darker-skinned brothers and made fun of Black people. My cousin who lived in Egypt at the time, said that his children would come to him complaining about racism they were suffering from with other children. They were called “chocolate” in a derogatory sense and “Aswad" - Father of darkness. When we complained to the imam and asked him to address it in the khutbah, he said it wasn’t a problem ! I was quite surprised by his reaction as it was both children and adults experiencing the racism.
I noticed that this situation was beginning to affect the Iman of the brothers that reverted to Islam and build an inferiority complex. As a born Muslim I also experienced racism in the U.K from Asian Muslims and it didn’t affect my Iman but I knew it was a topic that needed to be addressed. I was quite surprised that a number of Muslim scholars and da’ees weren’t addressing this issue back in 2009.
Then I came across a book written by Ibn Al Jawzi, a famous renowned scholar of Iraqi descent in the 16th century. He wrote a book called “Illuminating the Darkness regarding the virtues of Black people and Abyssinians.” A number of Muslim Abyssinians had come to him to complain that Allah had cursed them because of their complexion. So he wrote this to raise their self-esteem and show that Black people contributed a lot to history. Initially I wanted to just translate but then I found that were topics that he didn’t address such as interracial marriage.
My end goal was never to be a scholar or da’ee. It was about learning the religion for myself and my family and then go back to a 9-5. But I realised I had this knowledge and access to the Arabic language, so it became my duty to translate it make it available to the English-speaking wider public who weren’t aware of these positions.
H: Is the racism the brothers encounter in Egypt still worth them continuing to study there?
H: I would encourage them to still study there. Due to the people, culture and access to Islamic values I would still encourage people to go to Egypt or Saudi to study Islam but just to be aware especially for converts/reverts that just because you enter Islam it’s not a loving utopia.
H: Your follow up book, A Taste of Honey, is about erotology in Islam. Considering the lack of conversation on sex education in Muslim communities, what was the reception to your book?
H: It’s a sensitive topic looking at the history of erotology and sexuality from an Islamic perspective and looking at the tradition of erotic literature in Muslim history, which is now seen as very taboo, especially with conservative Muslims.
I knew not everyone was going to be able to stomach it which I understand, it’s not for everyone. It’s a part of history which not many people are aware of.
My own personal criticism is that as it is written from a male perspective that is problematic and for a woman reading it it can come across as objectifying women.
H: Do you believe sex education should be part of a Muslim’s education?
H: Most definitely. The title itself is derived from an Arabic expression which the Prophet Muhammad (saw) used in a hadith where a woman came to the prophet seeking a divorce from her husband because he was not able to satisfy her and wanted to go back to her previous husband. He asked her “Did you taste his honey?” meaning did you consummate the marriage and I have narrated this hadith in the book and it is also in Sahih Al Bukhari and Muslim, that she gestured with her hands that he had small manhood. The prophet’s (saw) reaction was to smile as he knew what she meant and he explained that the Islamic law if a man divorces his wife three times, that man can’t marry her again unless she marries someone else and consummates the marriage. The reason was because the women would be abused during the iddah (divorce) period by being taken back during this period by their husbands.That hadith was the inspiration behind the book.
Their attitude towards sexual matters was very different to Muslims now. Conservative Muslims now are seen as ultra-pious, puritans and prudish, but if you look at the past Muslim community they had modesty, but it was a serious situation; she wanted to seek divorce and she was well within her right Islamically to seek divorce.
H: With all of the books you have written, has there always been one common goal that has inspired you to write them?
H: Ultimately the main thing is enlightening people, as you can tell from the first word of my titles, “Illuminating”. The more you travel and the more life experiences you have, the more wisdom you gain and you realise that you come across different things.
Also I’m trying to encourage other aspiring Black writers to put their words on paper and online, have published work and put yourself out there.
You shouldn’t have this idea that you’re not worthy enough or not qualified because you didn’t go to a certain university.
I’m also thinking about generations to come and those who will be after me. We analyse and review the words of people from two or three hundred years ago, but the times we’re living in now are very interesting, so why shouldn't it be documented? People can benefit from that, and the fact that we’ve got social media and things that are relatively inexpensive to produce I just feel like there’s no excuse.
H: What writing advice do you have ?
H: I think as Black people, we feel that our stories or projects aren’t worthy to others but the wonderful thing about the internet and social media is that you’ll be surprised who you can reach with your projects.
Put yourself out there and be prepared to have a thick skin because you’re not going to be for everyone.
If you’re looking for applause and people to pat you on the back, then that’s problematic. Be sincere in what you’re producing.
Don’t be afraid to self-promote as generally writers aren’t good at self-promotion. You have to be entrepreneurial.
If you’ve identified a gap in the market, then there’s no excuse because you’ve identified the niche and the need for your unique voice.
If you’re passionate about something, and sincere in your writing you can enjoy it. Don’t think about yourself, think about how others can benefit from your writing.
As writers and creatives, it’s important to understand your target audience, how you can reach them and deliver your message.
People respond to different mediums, whether its’s photos, quotes or other means so it’s important to make use of these tools to get your message across and stick to your lane.
To purchase Habeeb's books visit : www.rabbah.com
Follow him on twitter and instagram @Habeeb_Akande and follow the facebook page : Illuminating the Darkness for all updates.