Providing a window into the “experiences and significant contributions of Muslim women” is how Jamillah Karim defined the motivation for writing the book, published in 2014, that she co-authored with Dawn-Marie Gibson. It’s titled “Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam.”
“I definitely hope that African American scholars, activists, everyday people [by reading the book] will be able to see the diversity of Muslim women, our achievements, our talents. Just a better understanding of who we are,” said Karim, who is a former professor of religious students at Spelman College in Atlanta.
The book is actually a dialogue between female members of the Nation of Islam and women who were followers of Imam Warith Deen Mohammad, who had embraced “Sunni Islam” and who in many cases, were first introduced to the religion as members of the Nation. During the dialogue, a discussion of the pros and cons of Elijah Muhammad, his son, Imam Warith Deen Mohammad, and Minister Louis Farrakhan’s contribution to the development of women takes place.
At the core of that discussion is the MGT/GCC or Muslim Girls Training & General Civilization Class. This class, according to the book, “gave us sisterhood.” In fact, the comments concerning sisterhood that developed, as a result of that class, “revealed that MGT was more than simply a militaristic forum in which women could be disciplined. Indeed, in many instances women felt empowered by MGT classes and recall feeling a sense of unity with women from very different backgrounds.”
MGT is actually the “name given to the training of women and girls.” The “Girl” in MGT, as explained to this author, simply means that you come to “God as a girl,” or daughter, seeking the assistance of the creator for help in revealing and developing the “hidden potential that we are all born with.”
Overseeing each class is the MGT captain. In Philadelphia, the former MGT captain Intisar Shareef gives much credit to Minister Jeremiah Shabazz, the former Muhammad Speaks correspondent turned leader of Mosque #12.
Shareef, who had been an administrator at Temple University’s Afro Asian Institute (it pre-dated Temple’s African American Studies program) in her narrative concerning the MGT said, “We had a sisterhood that was enlightened, and we had varied individuals, and we had an open and accepting attitude about what we did as women because we found strength in a lot of different places.”
“I was working and rubbing shoulders with brothers and sisters who had been incarcerated for murder, sisters who had been in jail for prostitution, but we all rolled up our sleeves because we were working for a common cause, and there wasn’t any sense of one being better than the other, and I would never have experienced or learned that if I had not been in the Nation of Islam.”
Karim agreed that the book was only a small sample of the contributions of Muslim women. She said there were many women that they could have included.
A Philadelphia-based family physician and daughter of Jeremiah Shabazz, Dr. Safiyya Shabazz comes to mind.
During a phone interview, the owner of Fountain Medical Associates said many Muslims have gotten away from the healthy dietary practices performed in the kitchens of Muslims that were members of the Nation of Islam. Dr. Shabazz, who can be heard Sunday mornings on WDAS-FM 105.3 giving health tips, said the importance of the MGT class is the fact that “the class trained mothers with basic skills that would help solidify the family and protect the health and well being of the family.”
She said some may say that the class is “antiquated, but when I observe in the community so many of us lacking basic training skills, including how to cook a healthy and nutritious meal and how to properly raise our children, I see the class as much needed.”
Read more Jehron Muhammad here.