Black Muslim Freedom Dreams: Islamic Education, Transnational Migration, and Mobility

Samiha Rahman, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines the imaginative possibilities and potential of classical Islamic education in Senegal for African American Muslims from the U.S. Focusing on a multi-generational community whose daughters and sons study in Medina Baye, Senegal, this study asks: (1) How do youth and families articulate the value, relevance, and purpose of religious educational migration? (2) What types of formal and informal learning take place in the immersive Black, Muslim, Sufi environment of Medina Baye? (3) How do classical Islamic education and transnational migration shape young people’s religious and racial subject formation and imagined life trajectories? Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Medina Baye, as well as additional fieldwork in New York City, Atlanta, Detroit, and Washington D.C., this study employs participant-observation, classroom observations, and interviews and focus groups with youth, parents, teachers, administrators, alumni, and community members. This research shows that Islamic education abroad has an impact on these African American Muslim youths’ notions of leadership and communal responsibility, inculcating within them a commitment to improve the material, moral, and educational conditions of Black and Muslim communities in the urban U.S. This research therefore shows how Islamic education becomes actualized through spiritual and social practices that are linked to the political economic, historical, racial, and religious dynamics of the places that transnational Muslim students travel between. This study also demonstrates how educational migration facilitates long-term diasporic exchange with contemporary African societies. In so doing, it elucidates how Islam remakes political and cultural links across the Black Atlantic and argues that membership in a transnational Muslim community gives rise to new forms of economic and social reciprocity between African and African American Muslims.

Subject Area

African American Studies|African Studies|Islamic Studies|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Rahman, Samiha, "Black Muslim Freedom Dreams: Islamic Education, Transnational Migration, and Mobility" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27959910.