I recently received review copies of two superb new books by established writers who have bona fide roots in the greater Lowcountry area. Their diverse books are epic in literary presentations because they tell unique and bold stories that will hold your attention to the very last page.
One of the books is entitled “Or Does It Explode” by Ridgeville, South Carolina, resident Horace Mungin. The other is “Bilali Muhammad’s Meditations” by former Charlestonian, Muhammed Al-Ahari.
Mr. Mungin’s gripping book is a powerful historical novel with dynamic characters that details, with the author’s penetrating personal views, about the countless numbers of killings of Black men over the tragic decades. The author, a renowned and established poet, who has penned written nine books about things that have weighed heavily on his mind during his seventy-five years of existence, and with this current offering of “Or Does It Explode,” he’s delivered another absolute winner.
This 188 page tour-du-force reader is a comprehensive flow from this thoughtful writer’s point of view of what it means to be Black while living in a world that’s dominated by White folk. His intellectual novel is a suspenseful ride in bygone thought provoking arenas and an escape through relevant contemporary scenarios making Black people think about the present day realities that face them in their daily lives.
Mr. Mungin, who was born in Hollywood, South Carolina, but grew up and live in New York until his retirement in 1989 from the New York Transit Authority after a long career, said, “I wrote this book to make Black people think seriously about the extreme danger of retaliatory killings of police officers, and for the Black community to not be thoughtlessly provoked.
“I also wrote my latest book to serve as a U-turn sign post away from our current direction back toward positive change in the way Black people are viewed and treated by the police, and the way policemen are trained to deal with Black folk. Hopefully, my book will encourage Black folk to give the authorities a reasonable amount of time to enact that change that (ultimately) must come.”
Muhammed Al-Ahari’s book is a scholarly gem, especially considering how little is know, or is factually written, about the Islamic presence among the captured and enslaved Africans who were Muslims here in this country. This pertinent book is a must have if one truly wants to know about the legitimacy of Islam in the United Staes of America from an African perspective.
Mr. Al-Ahari, a Muslim American, now calling Chicago home, with a vast writing and publishing resume to his credit, has written extensively about Islam in America, slave narratives, Balkan Islam and about the topic of Sufism. His latest is an academic masterpiece totaling only 180 pages of pedagogic joy.
“Bilali Muhammad’s Meditations” is a translation of the unique work on Islamic Law and Beliefs by the famous Bilali Muhammad (1770s-1857) of Sapelo Island, Georgia. Mr. Al-Ahari’s name, in Islamic academic research circles, is synonymous with genuine scholarly precision, and “Bilali Muhammad’s Meditations” certainly fits that category.
This authoritative treatise includes a biography of Bilali Muhammad, a translation of his writings, a list of words from the Gullah dialect of English from him and early Muslims, a description of the education system he studied under and the texts he studied, and a discussion placing Bilali’s work in the context of Islam in the West and the effects of the slave trade upon enslaved Africans. This is a thoroughly researched and well written book, complete with rare and intuitive photos.
It’s to be noted that Muhammed Al-Ahari, 52, has a Masters in English and Secondary Education from Northeastern Illinois University, and he’s completing a Masters in Islamic Theology from the American College in Chicago. Mr. Al-Ahari, a schoolteacher with almost twenty plus years of teaching experience in private schools and the Chicago Public School systems, also is completing a Doctorate in Education Leadership.
As a longtime book reviewer for “The Chronicle,” it was a discerning pleasure to have read “Or Does It Explode” and “Bilali Muhammad’ Meditations.” They both served as thoughtful stimulants for me to never forget that “our” stories from the slave ships from hell on earth of yesteryear to the dangerously turbulent and scary now of modernity are still poignantly relevant and extremely necessary to study and learn.
As Mr. Mungin related to me, “When our society can confirm that Black Lives Matter, it will also be affirming that “all” lives matter.” Mr. Al-Ahari said, “It’s very important to know, educate and teach about what the early African Muslims in this era of slavery had to endure and were able to control in their diets, language, and clothing, along with other subtle things. Few people, if any, really know anything about the importance of the Muslim backgrounds of many of the enslaved Africans who professed Islam as their traditional faith.”
Both of the aforementioned literary pieces are AAA+ in my opinion, and I frankly believe that if you are culturally aware and desirous of achieving further intriguing knowledge, then these two bracing books deserve to be in your reading arsenal. Copies of “Or Does It Explode” may be purchased at www.horacemunginbooks.com and “Bilali Muhammad’s Meditations” can purchased at Magribine Press, 5333 W. Rosedale Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60646.