Enayet and Rahmat are inspired by actual historical figures: Their real-life counterparts were held in jail for a year, and only released after agreeing to purge some concepts from their tracts. After their release, they found strong hostility toward their proselytizing from white Christian churches, leading them to turn their attention to the black neighborhoods of Chicago and other urban northeast areas—opening the way for African American embrace of Islam.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1.How would an unfamiliar religion like Islam have been perceived by Americans in the 1940s? What role  might the idea of "foreignness" have played in the reactions of those encountering it? 

  2. 2.Why would the response of African American communities have been different from those of largely  white communities?

  3. 3.The story highlights a conflict between two individuals, one who advocates action (even violence), and  the other who advocates patience and peaceful measures. If you were in their situation, which of these  strategies would you have pursued? Which do you think would be more effective in preserving the goal  of sharing their religion? Discuss rationales for both positions, and identify parallel circumstances in  other movements, notably the American struggle for civil rights.


Top to Bottom:  1. Enayet and Rahman (right and left) in NO EXIT 2. The man whom history has recorded as the first Muslim missionary to America, Dr. Mufti Muhammad  Sadiq; an Ahmadiyya believer from India, he boarded a ship from England on  January 24, 1920 to the U.S.; while traveling, he converted six Chinese fellow  passsengers to Ahmadiyya Islam. 

No Exit, pg. 89

Story by: Naeem Mohaiemen; Art by: Glenn Urieta

“No Exit” is a fantastical reimagining of the arrival of Islam to America, inspired by the historical missions to the U.S. of Indian Muslim preachers, primarily from areas that, since the 1947 partition of India, have become Bangladesh and Pakistan. These preachers were of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, a revivalist branch of Islam whose overseas missionary activities began as early as the 1920s; for many modern world communities, Ahmadiyya missions represented a first encounter with the Muslim faith. Ahmadiyya was particularly influential among African Americans, helping to shape beliefs shared by early civil rights activists, as well as later members of the Black Power movement. It is important to note that Ahmadiyya believers were proponents of the peaceful nature of Islam and rejected violence as a tool for its spread.

In the story, the street preachers Enayet and Rahmat have been jailed under suspicion of fomenting unrest, though the words of their captors makes it clear that their arrest is primarily due to xenophobia and fear of their "foreign" appearance and ethnicity. They are awaiting a court appearance, but differ on whether they are likely to receive justice. Enayet is younger and hotheaded; he advocates action, even if that action requires using their secret superhuman powers. In part, this is due to his overhearing a guard calling the two men by an obvious slur, which he relates to the term "kaffir," a term the pair heard used against blacks in South Africa; of course, the term has a different meaning in Arabic—infidel— among the deadliest of insults. Rahmat, older and wiser, counsels patience, and forcibly restrains his partner.