Indianapolis, IN — Three-dimensional images of a Fruit of Islam uniform and Muslim Girls Training headwear from the 1970s are just a few of the thousand-plus unique items in the Indianapolis Imam Warith Deen Muhammad Community digital archive now available to anyone with an internet connection.
Curated by the IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship, the archive brings to life the contributions of an African American Muslim community that has been part of Indianapolis since the 1950s. Established as “Muhammad’s Mosque” on Indiana Avenue, the community was first aligned with the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and then after 1975, with Elijah Muhammad’s son and heir, Warith Deen Muhammad, also known as W. Deen Mohammed. Now called the Nur Allah [Light of God] Islamic Center, the community is one of a dozen or so Sunni Islamic congregations in central Indiana.
“The biggest joy for me is that we are writing our own narrative,” said Michael “Mikal” Saahir, the imam of the congregation. “We are telling our own stories about the struggles and successes of our Muslim American journey.”
The archive features hundreds of photographs, including historically significant pictures of Muhammad Ali campaigning for Julia Carson, who won her 1996 run for the U.S. Congress. A few of the photos reveal a young André Carson, who succeeded his Christian grandmother as the second Muslim elected to Congress in 2008. But most images spotlight less well-known Muslims participating in parent appreciation banquets, lectures, weddings, funerals, and interfaith events. One series of photographs documents a 1982 “walk” in downtown Indianapolis conducted by the congregation’s local chapter of the Committee to Remove All Images of the Divine [from places of worship]. Invaluable sources for scholarly research also include 47 issues of the congregation’s newsletter published between 1979 and 1983.
“This open-access digital archive represents a major contribution to understanding Islam in the United States and the civic contributions of Muslims to Indiana,” according to Edward Curtis, the IUPUI religious studies professor who proposed and funded the archive. “I am proud to be a part of it, but most of the credit goes to members of Nur Allah Islamic Center, who were willing to share their personal photos and documents; community leaders Imam Michael Saahir and Judge David Shaheed; and to the staff at IUPUI’s Center for Digital Scholarship, who spent countless hours creating the archive.” The archive can be accessed at https://ulib.iupui.edu/collections/IWDC.