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Timbuktu to Tennessee, Exploring the Muslim Roots of Black America

The Great Mosque Of Djenne

February is Black History month in the United States ( it’s in October in the UK ) and to mark it, we have a selection of films for you to watch on Alchemiya. 

Black Muslims make up about a fifth of the American Muslim population. The vast majority of the Black American population can trace its ancestry back to either Central or West Africa. Their history, stories and culture have been disregarded by the wider Muslim population and Alchemiya is committed to presenting you with drama, movies and documentaries that celebrate and recognise this important part of the global Muslim community, not just for Black History Month, but everyday.

By Ibraheem Ali

Islam’s legacy as both a cultural and spiritual force speaks for itself. Its impact spans continents and echoes through generations. Yet as Muslims, when discussing our shared heritage we tend to box ourselves into the same few instances, the same eras. If it’s not about the Golden Age of Baghdad, or the rise of the Ottomans, then we don’t show the same kind of interest, if any at all. The mark of Islam is not limited by geography. Our faith’s impression is very much global, and to ignore so much of this grand legacy beyond its historical heartlands is an injustice. There are sagas of epic proportions to be found all over the Muslim world and throughout time, a few of which can be seen in the annals of West African history.

You might have heard the story of the richest king in history, or the scholarly general who became a Caliph, or maybe even the intrepid escapades of the Moorish traveler, but how much have we personally invested into finding out more about this distinct part of the Muslim world?
Here are 3 documentaries on Islam in West Africa streaming now on Alchemiya.

Djenne & the Dogon- A Thousand Years to Tombouctou

Djenne & The Dogon A Thousand Years To Tombouctou

The first of two a two-part documentary from director Onuora Abuah, this film takes us on a road trip through both space and time. As Abuah treks across Mali’s dusty roads to the city of scholars, stopping off at Djenne to witness its breathtaking Grand Mosque, he also takes us on a journey over a millennium of West African history. We learn of the different people groups that make up the region, the shift of power between the Songhai and Fulani, and the eventual rise of the Malian empire under the Mansas; kings of almost mythic wealth and esteem. The second part of the documentary, entitled The Rise of Islam in Mali is also available on Alchemiya.

The Life of Omar Bin Said

The Life Of Omar Ibn - Said

Watch now on Alchemiya

Possibly the most thematically abstract of our collection, this student film from the US is based upon the acquisition of a historical manuscript; the autobiography of Omar Bin Said.

A Senegalese scholar kidnapped and sold in the Atlantic Slave Trade, Omar Bin Said’s autobiography is the earliest known first-person account of life as a slave in the American South. The film is a glimpse into the methods of Historical research and the importance of preserving the voices of the enslaved.

Ismael: The Last Guardian of an Ancient Library

Historic Site Ishmael Last Library

Returning to the mythic Malian city of Timbuktu, this documentary follows Ismael Diadié, the caretaker and custodian to one of the city’s ancient libraries. Facing the threat of an insurgency, Ismael flees to Granada in Spain, in an effort to preserve the library’s remaining manuscripts. Ironically it was from Granada that his ancestors had themselves left for Timbuktu, 500 years before.
In his journey to Spain, Ismael reflects upon the intolerance of the inquisition and its parallels with the violence driving him away from his own home. The film weaves together a potent allegory with the threads of time, a powerful and tragic reflection on how history so often repeats itself.

'Circling the House of God' is an amazing documentary interviewing renowned writer and scholar Dr. Martin Lings (1909-2005) about his pilgrimages to Mecca in 1948 and 1976, interspersed with incredible archive material of the Hajj from the early twentieth century.
'Circling the House of God' is an amazing documentary interviewing renowned writer and scholar Dr. Martin Lings (1909-2005) about his pilgrimages to Mecca in 1948 and 1976, interspersed with incredible archive material of the Hajj from the early twentieth century.

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