ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



  Children loved Dhu’l Nun so much that when he left the Mosque

 after Prayer to sit beneath a tree, there could always be found one of

them in his lap. Never was there any fear in the heart of the Child’s

mother when their Child was with with Dhu’l Nun.



An Account of Dhu’l Nun

In the Name Of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

By Amin Sharif


What the Tongue has spoken the Eye has seen. But the Sons and Daughters of Adam have been granted two Eyes. One which discerns the Outer World of corporeal forms and another that perceives the Inner World of the Spirit. One Eye opens at our physical birth. The other opens upon our spiritual rebirth. But whether these Eyes open at our birth or rebirth, the Light by which we see comes from God–who is Great and Glorious.

There are times when God looks upon a Nation of People lost in the Darkness of Sin and sends them a Great Light. These Great Lights are the Prophets of Old—May God Be Pleased with Them. The Greatest and Last of these Lights was our Master Muhammad, May Peace Be Upon Him, who was veiled in the Attribute of Hadi, the Guide of Humankind.

It was Muhammad who completed the Architecture of Prophecy—So that all 124,000 prior Prophets could dwell in the completed Mosque of Revelation. And to ensure that Humankind would never again fall into Darkness, save by their own neglect; Muhammad was given the Light of the Holy Koran which was added to the Light of his own existence. Thus it was written in the pages of the Holy Book, “Light unto Light.”

Muhammad was one of God’s blessings on Earth. But the Holy Prophet wore the Cloak of Flesh and Bone bestowed upon every man. And so to ease the fears of Humankind that there would be no Light among them after the Prophet’s Death, God in His Mercy created Lesser Lights. These Lesser Lights are called the Saints of Allah. Among these Saints was one called Dhu’l Nun. He is the subject of this discourse and those which shall follow.

                   Muhammad is the Seal of Prophethood

                   And God’s true Friend,

                   Without God’s Breathe of Mercy

                   This World would surely end.

                   So every righteous Soul is found

                   to Plead,

                   And stand before its Lord

                   unworthy and in Need.

I first gazed upon Dhu’l Nun as he entered my town, in North Africa, some thirty years ago. He was tall. His Blackness bespoke that he was a Nubian. And to me his Blackness would always remind me of another Dark Servant of God—Bilal, the Companion of our Master Muhammad.

The Nubian gave no evidence that he was different from any other man. Yet Children seemed to be attached to him. Often they could be found running after him upon their small legs, seeking to touch his cloak or place their small hands upon his wooly hair. Sometimes, a Child, as is their custom, would ask Dhu’l who had given this hair to him. Dhu’l Nun would smile and say, “It comes from God, Great and Glorious. He is the Giver of Life and Light to all things.”

And then he would place his own Black hand upon their small heads and give them each a Blessing. Children loved Dhu’l Nun so much that when he left the Mosque after Prayer to sit beneath a tree, there could always be found one of them in his lap. Never was there any fear in the heart of the Child’s mother when their Child was with with Dhu’l Nun. For it was said and written that to give anything to Dhu’l Nun was to place it in the hands of Muhammad, May Peace and Blessings be Upon Him. All things given to the Prophet rested in the Shade of Divine Trust and were therefore secure.

Some said that Dhu’l Nun was the Son of Bilal. And indeed I looked upon him as such. This was because the Nubian’s reputation as a Singer of the Holy Koran, like Bilal, was known throughout the Land of Believers. It is said that the Black skinned Children of Adam are endowed with the most beautiful voices of all Humankind. And that they will be chosen to sing God’s Praises with the Angels in Paradise. If this be so, Dhu’l Nun shall surely stand among them.

For I have often heard the Nubian sing the Sura Fattah at Prayer in a manner that seemed to transport me to the very Gates of Paradise. Often during the Saint’s reciting of the Opening Sura, a poor Soul would enter among us declaring that an Angel had told him to come to our Mosque. And in that instant, this Soul would bear witness that “There is no God but Allah. And Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Many times that Soul would add to his Holy Declaration that “Dhu’l Nun is the Saint of God.”

Once I asked Dhu’l Nun what was the meaning of these incidents. He replied that the Souls that were beckoned by the Angels are those who declared that Allah was their Lord in Pre-Eternity. I call these Souls to Remember their Lord and bring them through the Darkness of Disbelief to the Light of Faith. The Words of the Holy Koran are a Bridge between Paradise and Hellfire. When I sing the Sura Fattah the Bridge appears and an Angel tells the Soul of the Sinner to cross.

I have said that Dhu’l Nun was the Companion of All Children. But he held little Patience for the Rulers of this World. Often he would stand before some Pasha or Sharif, a Jurist, or Imam awaiting punishment for something he said at Mosque or in the Streets. I have seen Dhu’l Nun severely beaten for his Admonishments to the Rulers of some far off Land. At other times, I have seen these Rulers with downcast heads, shedding tears at the Words of Dhu’l Nun. I asked him once why one Ruler would act to punish him; while another felt punished by him?

In answer, the Saint declared, “Some rulers are made for the Fire, others stumble into it.” Those who beat me and those who my Words punish are Brothers in the Family of Pharaohs. But each Pharaoh is different. One opposed Moses. While another placed Yusef (Joseph) on the Throne of Egypt. One accepted God’s Mercy on Earth. The Other was arrogant. I have come to tell the Pharaohs of this Age that they must be Merciful lest they be pulled from their High Places. I am here to warn them of the Weight of their Scales. Those who weep know that they are in peril. Those who beat me wish only that I would leave them to dwell in the Palace of their Illusions. Such were the Words of Dhu’l Nun!

Perhaps the most touching memory I have of Dhu’l Nun took place within those first few days that I cast my Eyes upon him. I saw him standing outside of the house of a woman who had borne in this world a child who was severely crippled. No one in our town could gaze upon the lad without having the Well of their Heart filled with the deepest Sympathy. And the condition of the Mother and Child was made even more desperate by the absence of the Father whom Allah had called to His Judgment.

There, at the door way, of this woman’s house stood Dhu’l Nun. Upon his Lips was the Declaration: “God is Great.” He repeated his Declaration with such force that flecks of foam appeared upon his Lips and perspiration soon drenched his Body.

Out of Fear, some of the townspeople sent for the Physician thinking that Dhu’l Nun had gone mad. Upon his arrival, the Physician, who was a learned man, recognized the Nubian’s State. He calmed the people and waited for the State to pass. Then he conveyed the Saint to his home and washed Dhu’l Nun’s face with his own Hands.

Patiently the Doctor waited upon the Nubian until he felt that Dhu’l Nun was ready to speak. Then he listened. Dhu’l Nun Praised God for bringing him to our town and giving him the privilege to look upon the boy. The Saint declared the lad was a great blessing to us. God, the Nubian declared, had placed this infirmed creature in our midst so that we might perform Acts of Mercy. For, Dhu’l Nun stated, whomever bestowed Love and Alms upon this lad would find that God would bestow His Mercy and Blessings upon them.

When those in town heard what the Nubian had proclaimed, each sought to outdo the Other in providing the lad and his mother with all they needed. The Physician was the first to open his purse. He paid for Doctors of the Law to teach the lad the Higher Sciences. Other fed and clothed the humble Family. These Acts of Mercy brought the town renown. Everywhere in the Land of Believers people spoke of the Generosity of its inhabitants.

In the Fullness of Time, a Great Mosque and Hospital was built in the center of our town. And, each Day a beautiful Voice was heard to Call the Faithful to Prayer. Each Night, the Doors of the Mosque were opened and the Koran was recited for all to hear. The Voice that Called the Faithful and the Hafiz who recited the Koran was One and the Same. For they both belonged to the crippled lad who had grown to Manhood by the Grace of Allah.

But, by this time, the Nubian Saint had long left our town. And, I had rolled up my own Prayer Carpet and taken to the road as his Companion.   

*  *  *  *  *

Note: Dhu ‘l-Nun—180/796-246/861)—His full name was Abu ‘l-Fayd Thawban b. Ibrahim Dhu ‘l-Nun al-Misri. An important Egyptian sufi, he edited the Commentary on the Qur’an written by Ja’far al-Sadiq. Dhu ‘l-Nun was imprisoned and persecuted by Mu’tazila for his belief that the Qur’an was uncreated. Dhu ‘l-Nun, whose Arabic name means “the holder (or possessor) of the fish,” gained a considerable reputation as an alchemist. Although none of his mystical writings have survived, he is created with being the first to provide a systematic exposition of tasawwuf (spiritual development) and its doctrines. It may also be noted here that the prophet Jonah, called in Arabic Yunus, is also sometimes called Dhu ‘l-Nun for obvious reasons.

Dhu’l-Nun al-Misri, born in Upper Egypt near Sudan, is regarded as the founder of Sufism.  Muslim Saints and Mystics : A. J. Arberry (Translator)

*   *   *   *   *

Africans in the Arabian Gulf—Well, one interesting indicator of that is names.  You have people who are identifying themselves as affixed to tribes.  They have Bedouin tribal names, and in some ways this parallels the way that, for example, a slave in the United States would have the name of the family that owned him.  Washington.  Jefferson.  These are the names of African Americans today.  They reflect the fact that their origins were those slave-holding families.  You have similar relationships and nomenclature in the Gulf, names that I heard and asked people about, who were obviously of African stock.  I’d say, “This is obviously a Nejdi Tribal name, and yet you would appear to be not have Bedouin origin, but of African origin, or some combination.”  So he would say, “No, my family goes back a long way as clients of that tribe.”  “Clients” denotes a range of relationships to a patriarchy that has included slaves and indentured servants.  So I’m certain that that could have happened in the 19th century, but it also could have happened much earlier as well.

In general—and this is a broad generalization—I think it is fair to say that in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, a large number of African ethnics who are nationals in those countries are lower on the socioeconomic ladder.  That said, there are notable exceptions, including senior people in politics and government in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.  When you have conversations with Gulf nationals of African origin, they are not necessarily acculturated to welcoming discussions of family genealogy and African roots, or asking the sorts of questions that might help situate their particular family history in the context of broader histories of cultures and peoples in Africa.  So it is not necessarily common to find people who’ll wax poetic on their family origin, and their odyssey from Africa, and in some circles it’s kind of a taboo topic as well.  People don’t like to dwell on the slave history of the country. AfroPop

*   *   *   *   *

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)


*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

*   *   *   *   *


The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). —Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters 

Edited by Michael G. Long

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the Civil Rights Movement, a master strategist and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a deeply influential figure in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters  are his words shining through a collection of more than 150 of Rustin’s letters. His correspondents include major figures of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. “I have file boxes full of Rustin’s letters that I tracked down in archives across the country,” said book editor Michael G. Long.

“The time it took to complete the research was much longer than I had predicted, not just because of the number of letters I had in hand, but also especially because for their high quality. It was incredibly difficult to weed out those letters I really liked but that did not serve the purpose of putting together a publishable narrative of letters. And there are quite a few of those that are topically fascinating but not easily fitting for a narrative.”—phillytrib

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *







1 June 2012




Home  Amin Sharif

Related files: Dhu’l Nun  The Three Alis   Luqman   The Name of Allah Be Round About Us  The Ways of Women   Merchant of Baghdad  Isaac in Heaven: An Interview

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.