Dr. Bilal Ware eloquently takes us through the inception, cultivation, and fruition of Islam in West Africa, on a timeline as far back as the early 9th century to the present day. Navigating historical events and figures, Dr. Ware undoubtedly exposes the brilliance of West African Islamic scholarship that was and still is entrenched in the region. He illustrates the systems of education, which could be anywhere from communal size to transnational. People from all over the world sojourn to these regions, and in many cases stay for the invaluable knowledge.


One major parallel I had noticed was the beautiful resemblance of the similarities between West African Islamic pedagogy and Traditional Afro-American pedagogy (one of the words I learned!), where both methods emphasized the elevation of spiritual status through obtaining knowledge. In a book I recently read, Young, Gifted, and Black, one of the authors, Theresa Perry, discusses the timeless value of Traditional Afro-American pedagogy. Obtaining higher education during slavery, despite the risk of mutilation or even death, was the only thing that would elevate you in your rank. The motto “Freedom through Literacy, Literacy through Freedom” showcases the transcendent nature of this absolute truth from the West African coast all the way to the American South, Alhamdulilah!


We see brave figures embody this absolute truth and live by it in the book. We see European slavers and colonizers baffled at their core by the devotion of African Muslims to expel the filth of the dunya (world) and their nafs (egos). So much so, that all measures of intricate, intentional, and lethal actions are taken to ensure the Transatlantic Slave Enterprise and the colonization that would follow after.

Dr. Ware flawlessly demonstrates the lengths these same slavers and colonizers would go to devalue and disenfranchise the Islamic history of West Africa. One tactic is infantilizing West African Muslims and their actions by strictly attributing Islam to their Arab (“baydan”) counterparts, due to their lighter skin. In the same pace, the Europeans would employ any means necessary to stop West African clerics and students from pulling their “dunya-infested” kings and brethren back into the oxygen of taqwa (God-consciousness).


This book holds a mirror up to the current state of affairs for many Black/African Muslims today, where they are not given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their place in Islam. Dr. Ware has done the Ummah a serious justice by exposing the timeless framework that has, and continues to enrich our communities; Muslim and Non-Muslim alike.



Sister Daijah is an Afro-American Muslim who came to Islam in March of 2018. Having to navigate what a “Muslim identity” is for her, she is putting in time and effort into knowing more about her Afro-American Islamic Heritage. She is now dedicated to spreading the knowledge to everyone she can, especially Black/African Muslims. She has a background in Finance and Banking, but is now pursuing her passion to be a teacher, inshaAllah.