Hip Hop and Islam summit Baby Muslims at Rich Mix, East London 15 October 2008

Hip Hop and Islam summit Baby Muslims at Rich Mix, East London 15 October 2008

Arts & Islam Hip Hop Debate official website

The official Arts & Islam Hip Hop Debate is launched. Articles, discussion and debate will take place on the topic of Hip Hop in Islam.

To kick off the debate we have two specially written articles from well known figures from the British Muslim hip hop scene. One from
Shaykh Michael Mumisa, and one from Rakin of Mecca2Medina.

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Saturday, 14 June 2008

Rooted in Our Lives

by Rakin Fetuga of Mecca2Medina

The relationship between Islam and Hip-Hop is not a new phenomenon.

It is something that has been there since the beginning of the rap movement and possibly before. Rap is a way of speaking in rhythm and using rhyme it can be said it is a form of poetry. Rap is part of the Hip-Hop culture along with graffiti, break-dancing and body-popping.

When you go back to the period before rap started in the sixties and early seventies the first poets using this style in the US were The Last Poets. They were a group of political poets who used their poetry to talk about social issues, they were also Sunni Muslims. They are known as the Godfathers of the spoken word movement and heavily influenced the emergence of rap culture.

With the rise of the civil rights and Black Power Movements in The United States during the fifties and sixties a number of spin off Islamic sects were cultivated. One famous group of ‘Black Muslims’ that have quite a strong presence in rap are The Nation of Islam (NOI). Public Enemy who were the biggest selling Hip Hop band of its time in the eighties, were members of NOI. Their lyrics and stage performances often reflected their commitment to the African American struggle and their membership to this sect. Ice Cube who was in a Hip Hop group called NWA (Niggers With Attitude) later went solo, is now better known as a film actor and director also used to be a member of The Nation of Islam but later left the sect.

The Nation of Gods and Earths, also known as the Five Percent Nation of Islam or simply as the Five Percenters (FP), represents another side of the Black identity movement that mixes aspects of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and other beliefs. These forms of Islam have always had links with rap in the early days and still today you have members of FP who are rap artists such as groups like Wu-Tang, Rakim, Brand Nubians, Nas, Big Daddy Kane and Poor Righteous Teachers are all part of this movement. Some of their lyrics would use Islamic related rhetoric.

Sunni Muslims who are the largest group of Muslims in the world constituting of about 90% of all Muslims, differ on the issue of music. There are three main camps of jurisprudent belief when it comes to the acceptance or rejection of music.

The first camp states that Music is Horam (forbidden). The second group argue that music is fine as long as you talk about the religion and God. The third camp say that certain instruments are not allowed but as long as you don’t use those particular instruments you are okay to use rap to express your Islamic belief.

Because of this confusion Islamic rap in the Sunni communities took a long time to develop, but now with groups like Native Deen, Mecca 2 Medina, Hasan Salam, Miss Undastood Poetic Pilgrimage and The Blind Alphabets things are starting to change. For the first time you are seeing young men and women that follow the mainstream teaching of Islam picking up the microphone and talking about their faith.

The Hip hop movement was a unifying movement in America. It helped to unite the Porto Ricans and the African Americans and later the white middle classes. It helped the white middle classes understand a life that they would never lead. It helped others get a view into the mind of the poor in society, the helpless and the voiceless. Rap assisted these impoverished communities to get a voice. It also managed to unite the poor and downtrodden. The hip hop movement also spread the message of peace and unity.

Although in present times hip-hop has become extremely commercialised with some expressions of vulgarity, glamorisations of gangster life and promiscuity, now as an opposite reaction to this Muslim youth all over the world are picking up the microphone and spitting rhymes.

Some use their genuine talent not to rap about their clothes, big chains, cars and women. They are talking about Allah, The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and their experience about being Muslim.

People always ask me why Muslim kids are using rap to express themselves. Well rap is the music of the youth. As urban music has become the largest selling music form in the world, rap which is a part of that has become ever more dominant in the ears of the young.

Rap has now also become the voice of the Muslim youth. I think this is a really positive development because at the same time we have radical clerics with distorted teachings going around trying to radicalize the youth, now there is an alternative mode of expression for young men and women to air their frustrations to write powerful poems and raps to entertain educate and inform the listener about their feelings.

It is often asked “Can rap really be put into Islam?” My answer is yes because rap is poetry with rhythm and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had his own official poet, Hasan B. Thabit who used to stand in the mosque and recite poetry. He also used to defend the Prophet against lies and slanders made against him by other poets that were against the rise of Islam.


Ibrahim Hanif said...

the NOI must not be associated with Islam and nor the 5%ers as they deny the base aspect of Islam. I personally enjoy M2M hip hop and specially rakin's rapping but it was a wrong thing to link Islam and Hip hop via the FP or NOI.
as far as usage of music is concerned, it's permitted!

questfortherightone.blogspot.com said...


Indeed, and many Muslim reverts especially negotiate their entrance to Islam via the poetry in rap and hip hop, something Arab communities, for instance, cannot really offer to reverts from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Regarding Jurisprudence, it gets quiet tangled up between "Fiqh" and cultural Islam, or the traditions and lifestyles that Muslims born into Islam tend to cling onto.

In the end, I say if poetry/hip hop/rap/karaoke/country or whatevah gets people to understand themselves better, and to know the secrets of their hearts better, then I can't see how this is unislamic practice...

peace, again,