Parents; Grandma Raheemah; University of Iowa; Harvard University; University of California, Riverside
"Building Community through History"
EDUCATE • INSPIRE • EMPOWER
PRECIOUS RASHEEDA MUHAMMAD—author, award-winning speaker, historian, poet, publisher, and Harvard-trained researcher—is nationally known for her ability to educate, inspire, and empower live audiences and readers of diverse racial, religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds about the growth and development of Islam in America and the full diversity of the American Muslim experience.
THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT PRECIOUS
The preeminent Publishers Weekly, “widely recognized as the [publishing] industry’s publication of record,” describes Precious Rasheeda Muhammad’s chapter, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, American, Muslim, And Woman,” in the book Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, as one of the “best” and “most absorbing essays” … in an anthology that “opens the door for other writers to explore the important and understudied topic of Muslim American women.” Precious’s research, articles, essays, and spoken word have appeared in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), the African American National Biography (Oxford University Press), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press), the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (Greenwood Press), Journal of Africana Religions, Azizah magazine, Upscale magazine, the Muslim Journal, on Beliefnet.Com, LitHub.Com, TheRumpus.Net, Patheos.Com (which hosted her now-retired blog: Muslim History Detective), Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, CNN.Com, The Virginian Pilot, and the channel formerly know as the WB, to name just a few. Additionally, some of her writings have been used in courses at diverse universities such as Harvard, Emory, the University of Michigan, and Spelman. Exhibits Precious curated and/or advised on have been covered in publications such as the New York Times and debuted at the U.S. Department of State.
Her 80-plus page paper “Muslims and the Making of America,” commissioned and published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), was distributed to hundreds of policymakers and change-makers in Washington,D.C., including members of the United States Congress and White House officials.
From vibrant audiences at the Smithsonian, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Harvard Club of New York to the classrooms of Harvard, Yale and Wellesley to the museums, historical societies, and seminaries of places such as Portland, Maine, Dallas, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan, to locations in between and beyond–including Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and a maximum-security prison in Warren, Maine–Precious skillfully educates her audiences. At times, she has shared the stage with internationally respected religious leaders, nationally acclaimed scholars, and respected heads of leading organizations within the American Muslim community such as Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, the late Imam W.D. Mohammed, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson.
BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH HISTORY
Frustrated with the paucity of scholarship on Islam in America, Precious founded and spearheaded the Islam in America conferences at Harvard from 2000 to 2001 to educate the Harvard community and general public about the growth and development of Islam in America and to promote tolerance, fellowship and understanding. The “first-rate” conference gained international recognition and motivated many scholars, practitioners and religious leaders to organize similar events. For more than three years after Precious’s graduation, students at Harvard worked together with various departments, organizations, faculty, and staff at Harvard to carry on the conference, an example of Precious’s ability to educate, inspire and empower that did not go unnoticed by the school and her peers: in April 2017, she will be honored as one of Harvard Divinity School's six bicentennial Peter J. Gomes STB '68 Memorial honorees.
While completing her graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School, Precious, who friends and family affectionately call “the history detective,” also founded an educational publishing company (Journal of Islam in America Press), dedicated to publishing a broad range of titles on the growth and development of Islam in America. During that same time, she rescued from literary obscurity, edited, and introduced The Autobiography of Nicholas Said: A Native of Bornou, Eastern Soudan, Central Africa, a narrative about the Muslim ex-slave, learned African, and distinguished Civil War Veteran named Nicholas Said.
For her consistent ability to promote tolerance, fellowship, and understanding with regard to Islam in America and the American Muslim experience, the WB television station in Boston, Massachusetts, did a feature on Precious’s life and awarded her a 2002 Unsung Hero Award on air.
From July to October 2005, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., featured her work on the learned African and distinguished Civil War veteran Nicholas Said, as a part of an exhibit titled “Forgotten Roots: African American Muslims in Early America” that launched the “first phase” of a “multi-year initiative to document family and community life among African American Muslims.”
Precious had a significant role in planning the historic 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne, Australia—the largest interfaith gathering in the world. Her program planning work included helping with management of 500+ programs/sessions across seven days for more than 6, 000 participants from around the world. She also helped manage—during the planning process and on the ground in Australia—all aspects of the Muslim programs and Muslim speakers from around the world including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States, Turkey, Egypt, Australia, and more.
In 2010, Coe College invited Precious to give the Baccalaureate address, a first for a Muslim woman at Coe. The next day, during Commencement, Coe awarded Precious an Honorary Doctorate for her international work to build community across seemingly intractable religious and cultural divides. In that same year, Precious became an alumna of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI).
In 2011, Precious gifted the U.S. Department of State with a unique historical timeline of Islam in America, focusing on presidential engagement with Muslim communities, which was publicly recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Farah Pandith, the Department of State Special Representative to Muslim Communities.
In 2015, Precious served as an advisor for the Children's Museum of Manhattan's "America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far" exhibit—which will be open to the public from February 13, 2016 - December 31, 2017, in New York City. She also curated a case featured in the exhibit that received mention in the Wall Street Journal.
Precious has held diverse positions in service, through the years, from a congressional intern on Capitol Hill to a hospital chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to a city coordinator for a Day of Dignity event in Houston; studied and lived in Morocco and France; and has traveled to the England, Egypt, Jordan, and Jerusalem. Precious earned a BA in Religion with honors from The University of Iowa, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside (Palm Desert). She also studied Arabic at Middlebury College's renowned summer language institute.
Precious is currently working on a number of community-building history projects, as well as two books: a novel and a work of nonfiction, both with subjects related to the rich history of Islam in America. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and niece in Hampton Roads and has been taking the time to live in and engage the “real” world before pursuing a doctorate, which she finds herself now itching to go back to school and achieve. For now, she will continue to tell people that invite her to speak to stop calling her “Dr. Muhammad,” which can be quite embarrassing at times, especially when it is announced as such right before she reaches the podium.