Islamic Studies Hip-Hop and Islam
Kamaludeen Nasir
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0297


Hip-hop culture is distinguished by several component elements, such as rapping, which is also called MCing; deejaying or turntabling; breakdancing, referred to as b-boying; and graffiti art. However, it is rap that has largely captured the imagination of Muslim hip-hoppers all over the world. Its global appeal can be attributed to the ability of rap to be utilized as a tool to express powerful messages and emotions, combined with the way the genre has been used to capture the social realities of marginalized groups throughout its history. Islam and hip-hop have been intertwined since the founding of the musical genre in the early 1970s. The relationship was so apparent that hip-hop journalist Harry Allen called Islam the unofficial religion of hip-hop. The initial relationship between Islam and hip-hop was through the theologies of black American social movements, the Nation of Islam, and the Five Percenters, the latter also known as the Nation of Gods and Earth. Muslim migration further gave rise to a diversity of Islamic orientations in the United States, from Sufism to Salafism, which in turn influence the production of hip-hop. Since its founding in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop has also interacted with mainstream Islam as Muslims all over the world harness the potency of the genre and in particular its ability to articulate social and global concerns in unambiguous terms. Contemporary Muslim hip-hop is unique in several aspects. First, Muslim religious identity has been increasingly securitized in the aftermath of September 11. This is carried out to an extent that results in a conflation of religious identity with diverse ethnic and national identities. Second, in appropriating the genre, young Muslims have engaged in an Islamization of hip-hop culture. This ranges from the fusing of Islamic iconographies in their music to engaging in a particular form of bodily discipline. Third, youth activism and promotion of hip-hop as a craft come at a time of unprecedented social media penetration. This allows hip-hop to flourish in many urban cities and thrive across the various governmental spectrums—from liberal to authoritarian regimes. Hip-hop culture provides an important framework of social identity and offers the space to form ethnic, generational, and transnational solidarities. The emergence of young Muslims, at times dubbed as the new blacks, drives them to appropriate hip-hop, albeit with some tensions, to gain legitimacy in mainstream society. Hip-hop has since come full circle. In the beginning, through black theological movements, hip-hoppers harnessed the potency of Islam to advance the civil rights of African Americans. Today, globalized Muslim youth draw strength from the African American experience and practice hip-hop in creative ways to articulate both local and transnational issues. This, in turn, influences both the consumption and production of hip-hop as the seat of influence of Muslim hip-hop is increasingly decentered from the United States.

General Overviews

There are a number of books and studies that examine the relationship between Islam and hip-hop from a broad perspective and across different themes, such as authenticity, human rights, state management, and gender (Aidi 2014, Kamaludeen 2020, Davis 2010). The most important and basic question concerns the permissibility of music in Islam. The religious fatwa on the status of music in Islam is diverse and ranges from a total prohibition of music to allowing musical instruments as long as the song complies with Islamic precepts such as the prohibition against uttering profanities. Rantakallio 2013, a study of Muslim hip-hop identities on the website, records the quandary facing Muslims who produce and consume Islamic hip-hop while having to rethink their identities on various fronts. Another prevalent theme is the universality of Muslim hip-hop, discussing the social network solidarities formed between hip-hop producers and consumers (Alim 2005, Daulatzai 2012).

  • Aidi, Hisham. Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture. New York: Pantheon, 2014.

    Sharing the title of an MTV series that examines how young people from all over the world appropriate music to engineer a brighter future for themselves and their communities, Aidi’s book shows the multiple ways young Muslims are experimenting with music to create social change. Aidi’s contribution not only has hip-hop as a subject but also discusses rock, blues, and jazz, among other musical genres.

  • Alim, H. Samy. “A New Research Agenda: Exploring the Transglobal Hip Hop Umma.” In Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop. Edited by miriam cooke and Bruce B. Lawrence, 264–274. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

    The article advances the idea of a transglobal hip-hop ummah and discusses the international social networks fostered within and across the hip-hop community. It includes interviews with hip-hop artists Mos Def and JT the Bigga Figga.

  • Allen, Harry. “Righteous Indignation: Rappers Talk about the Strength of Hip-Hop and Islam.” The Source 48 (1991): 48–53.

    Article in a hip-hop magazine that talks about the intimate relationship between Islam and the musical genre and cites Islam as the unofficial religion of hip-hop.

  • Daulatzai, Sohail. Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816675852.001.0001

    The book examines how black culture interacts with the Muslim world through popular culture such as literature, music, and cinema. Daulatzai’s book shows how the call for solidarity feeds the Nation of Islam’s reorienting of blackness as Asiatic in origin and Malcolm X’s linking of the experiences of African Americans as similar to that of colonization in the Third World. The thread of Islam then becomes an unbreakable cord that African Americans can trace all the way to Africa and Asia.

  • Davis, Mustafa, dir. Deen Tight. Documentary. Cinemotion Media, 2010.

    This documentary highlights how hip-hop is appropriated to articulate discontent against the balance of power in international politics, the treatment by governments of their Muslim populace, and the predicament of being marginalized as part of a minority population. At the same time, Muslim hip-hoppers also face challenges within the Muslim community by virtue of being young and artistic, with females having even greater objections to overcome.

  • Kamaludeen, Mohamed Nasir. Representing Islam: Hip-Hop of the September 11 Generation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020.

    This book takes a global perspective on the engagement of young Muslims with hip-hop culture. Spanning various continents, the author shows the globalized and localized forms of these engagements through using various themes such as authenticity, gender, human rights, and state management as axes of analyses.

  • Khan, Khatija. “Gangsta Tales, Culture, Christianity, American Islam and the Re-formation of Muslim Identities in Black American Hip-Hop Music: Scarface.” Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa 10, Suppl. 1 (2013): 94–106.

    DOI: 10.1080/18125980.2013.852747

    Through analyzing the works of Scarface, the article examines the relationship between black identities, Islam, Christianity, and hip-hop music. This creative hybridization seeks to recreate communal and aspirational values while at the same time challenging societal norms of what constitute the American dream.

  • Lohlker, Rüdiger. “Hip Hop and Islam: An Exploration into Music, Technology, Religion, and Marginality.” Wiener Zeitschrift Für Die Kunde Des Morgenlandes 104 (2014): 115–135.

    This article documents the broad appeal of hip-hop across the Muslim world, which not only traverses geographical borders and Islamic orientations, but also enjoys a large presence in virtual space.

  • Rantakallio, Inka. “ Constructing Muslim Hip Hop Identities on the Internet.” CyberOrient 7.2 (2013).

    DOI: 10.1002/j.cyo2.20130702.0002

    Rantakallio studies Muslim hip-hop identities on the website and records the quandary facing Muslims who produce and consume Islamic hip-hop and have to rethink their identities on various fronts.

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