African Muslims in America
This paper was delivered during the First Conference of the Ahle Baite, held in Tehran Iran in 1990. It was originally written in 1967 as a Sociology term paper while I was enrolled as a student at The Borough of Manhattan Community College and was originally titled Black Muslims in America 1500-1900?
It has been rewritten several times. The first revision came about as a result of an invitation to attend the First Conference of The Ahle Baite, which took place in Tehran, Iran in 1990. The second revision came about at the request of an old friend Professor Charlotte (Charshee) McIntyre, PhD, now deceased. And the third revision came about at the suggestion of Sheikh Rashid Hassan, PhD, Anthropologist and BBC (Somali) News Broadcaster.
A vintage pre-Civil War Abolitionist article, circa: 1815 was added as an appendix. It will not be included in this version that has been specially prepared for the Nuradeen website. It may however be included in the near future.
This paper was dedicated to the memory of Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali National Poet, Musician, Philosopher and Educator (1861-1941). Author GITANJALI (Song Offerings) in 1913. For which he (the first non-European) won the Nobel Prize in 1913.
Many years ago, as a young boy, copies of The Bustan and The Gullistan of Sheikh Saadi of Shiraz came into my possession, and as a result of this early exposure to the wisdom and imagery of Ancient Persia I began to develop the idea of the writer as a witness, a Shahid.
Saadi’s image of the wreath of grass hanging over the gateway to the city –watching everything and everyone that passed in and out of the city. A simple, plain bunch of twisted grass, bearing witness to the passage of caravans and kings, armies and beggars, wise men and fools. I had come to realize that the historian is not only required to be an objective witness to events that are selected from the continuum, but to also render an interpretation of these events that are being strung together as so many pieces in a colorful puzzle.
The paper that I have prepared for this occasion will serve a multiple purpose – of unveiling many unknown facts concerning the early history and development of Islam in America. It is primarily a brief historical glimpse of the African people, who were unwillingly transported to the so-called New World to serve as slaves to build what we know now as North and South America.
This paper is important because it brings to light the painful sojourn of a much-maligned segment of The Muslim World. Not only abused by the non-Muslim Europeans during their periods of global expansion, but have also been the traditional recipients of a rather heavy-handedness by the so-called Muslims who have lived at the center of traditional Islam. A point which lies at the center of the great circle of Dar al Islam –which has been based for the most part on the primacy of the Arabic language and Arab culture.
An attempt has been made to approach this brief history of African Muslims by including the biographical as well as the anecdotal. In hopes of providing an overview of the past fifty some odd years from the standpoint of my own personal experience as a Muslim witness in America.
I was born and raised as a young boy in the City of Boston during the Great depression in the year 1934, and although my parents were not Muslims I had the good fortune to have been exposed to Islam at a very early age. My father had befriended several Somali Seamen who had defected and had “jumped ship” in Boston Harbor.
In my fathers house these men found safe harbor and friendship, and as a result, Islam and meaningful fragments of its culture entered our lives as the natural consequence of this unique exchange. This included not only the lives of these men but the Revolution that they had dedicated their lives to support. It was in my father’s house, in the kitchen that I first heard the strains of “Dhu-Kayaga”, the anthem of the Fighters of Somali Liberation.
“Dhu-Kayaga” roughly translates as: “This is My Home!” Unknowingly my family and I had been drafted into the service of The Somali Freedom-Fighters, and as a result I became a child of Revolution.
One of these men became my adopted Uncle; his name is Hussein Ali Bin Musa. He was from the tribe called Adam-Madoba, a branch of the great Somali people who were spread over a large portion of Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Arabia. My family adopted him and it was under his influence and tutelage that I came to know and to love Islam. Islam, by osmosis, so to speak. And how appropriate to the title of this paper.
In the America of the 1940’s there were few Muslims actively and openly practicing Islam. Few were involved in the work of proselytizing the religion with the exception of Elijah Muhammad who went on to found The Nation of Islam In America, and Noble Drew Ali the founder of The Moorish Science Temple. The Ahmadiyyah Movement (Qadiani’s) had made inroads in some of the larger cities.
There were also a few immigrant Muslim enclaves in places like Detroit and Lansing Michigan, and New York City, which were mainly Arabs and Middle Easterners. These small enclaves had come into being after the United States opened its doors to Eastern European and Mediterranean immigration shortly after World War I. Many of these immigrants came from the remnants of the recently dismembered Ottoman Empire. Most of them were classified as Syrians, but came from such diverse areas as Albania, Lebanon, Bosnia, Palestine, Turkey and Armenia. All former states of the Ottoman Empire.
As a young Muslim I watched the development of Islam in America from a unique vantage point. On the one hand I saw the rebirth of Islam within the African Community, which for some was the reclamation of a belief system that had been lost due to the ravages of enslavement and cultural dispossession. But for many more it was a welcome conversion after decades of segregation and marginal survival status on the outer fringes of a dominant so-called Christian nation.
The close domestic view that I have described, is comparable to a look through a microscope at what might be considered tiny fragments of the Muslim world that were close at hand, but quite diffuse.
The long view however, was comparable to looking through the microscope in reverse, the telescope, and includes a view of the outgoing League of Nations and its successor the infantile United Nations, and the gradual emergence of the African and Middle Eastern nations from the yoke of European Colonialism. The first sigh of relief, after a long and debilitating oppression.
I had begun my search for the Muslims, in both the inner and outer worlds of my experience –and the nagging questions were always there: “Where are They? Why can’t I find them?” Once I began to study history intensely, travel about and ask questions – I began to see through the fog and mist of what one scholar appropriately used in the title of his well known book: “The Mis-Education of The Negro”, this title could also apply to most Americans of all ethnicities.
No sooner than I began to train my eyes to use new tools of analysis and observation, the world picture began to come into focus, my understanding began to grow –and the Muslims began to emerge. I watched as each country was released from its colonial constraints, and emerge as groggy butterflies in the chill of a Cold War atmosphere. Although fascinated by the long view, my attention was always drawn back to the domestic situation in America. And the question always repeated itself: “Where are the Muslims?”
The close view exposed a unique American phenomenon that led me back to the origins of the Muslim Community via a rigorous Graduate study of American History, particularly the Colonial Era. Some early fragments were found of the original Muslim community in America are traceable to periods preceding European exploration and the Spanish conquests of the Caribbean.
The Africans both Muslim and non-Muslim alike have shared a shadowy but quite remarkably dynamic role in the development of American history. Both of them have felt the lash of hatred and denial – both literally and figuratively, but in the case of the Black African who was also a Muslim, the lash became a two- headed monster.
All Africans shared the sting of European effrontery, and it manifested as a constant assault on his African-“ness”, his Black-“ness”. All slaves no matter what tribal or cultural background were all deemed both savage and heathen –which resulted in a fanatically zealous attempt to eradicate African belief systems, and in the process produce a culturally vampirized black automaton capable only of unquestioned service to the master.
The one additional burden the African Muslim had to bear was the inherited historical animosity that European Christians held toward the “Saracen” and “The Turk”. The centuries long buildup of resentment that was a result of the European failure to defeat the armies of Islam during the Crusades. Technically the African was not a Saracen, but he was a Muslim and that qualified him as a scapegoat to vent a centuries old animosity.
It must be born in mind that the African captive became the object of the Europeans absolute fascination for things exotic, and their abhorrence for of things both black and non-European. Africans were both exotic and strange, and to many Europeans they were both handsome and ugly. The African came to represent Black Gold. Ebony liquid assets, that were readily obtainable, easily transportable and quickly replaceable.
All Africans had one thing in common, whether they were free or slave in America, and that commonality hinged around their blackness. The stigma of that original status has followed the African into the twentieth century and continues to be the source of much unrest today on both sides of the Atlantic.
History is fascinating and unpredictable. One is quite unprepared for the identity changes that occur as one turns the pages of the text.
They were Africans while they were in Africa, but once made captives and transported – on arrival in the New World they were shocked to learn that they were no longer Africans, they were now Negroes and Niggers, who would be required not only to adopt a new identity, but to also adopt a new role in life as chattel.
NEGRO was a strange new name for many. Legislation was enacted that made it a crime for these people to speak their native languages, practice their religions – and in many parts of the American colonies the drum was also forbidden, All access to communication had been legislated against.
Consequently the African found himself under the most extreme form of duress, stripped of all that is meaningful including the freedom to worship his God.
The transition from African to Negro entailed a lengthy process of de-africanization, which usually began by being “Broken”, tamed, and then gradually reconditioned and trained like a horse to accept the harness and then the plough.
What we have inherited as Muslim histories are in many cases great tragedies, very similar in fact to the accepted “Islamic History”. These tragedies, as we shall see were perpetuated to a great extent by the so-called Muslims themselves. By their inability to put this simple religion into practice as prescribed by the Qur`an. This is a hard fact to accept, but if the Muslims continue to ignore their mutual and collective histories and continue along separate ethnic and national tracks they are doomed to continued domination by outside forces. Nothing will change much but the heaviness of the foot that stands on their heads.
Without some sort of internal revision and reassessment, the body of Islam (the Ummat) will suffer the same baneful diseases that have plagued the Ummat for centuries. This discussion of the development of Islam in America via the African experience will teach us all very important lessons: 1. Africa – five hundred years ago, 2. India – four hundred years ago, 3. The Middle East – a hundred years ago, and the list goes on. We must be aware of the fact that certain powers are intent on controlling the world and enslaving the various populations under what might appear to be different banners, Democracy, Communism, Socialism, etc. But these divisive forces are actually one. The spiritual seeker is aware of this, and acts accordingly.
It is a historical fact that the Jews have gone on record as having vowed to never let the world forget the Holocaust. And they are using all of their resources and a great deal of ours to keep this memory alive. They will never let the world forget: “Never Again!” They say, and they say this repeatedly.
The Muslim world which includes most of the so-called Third world, must not allow itself to forget the many holocausts that have occurred in history –and are still occurring under the guise of freedom. This paper reveals just one of those genocidal holocausts that passed right by the eyes of the world –and very little was done.
It is not a case of who had the greater casualties in this mad scenario of man’s inhumanity to man. But there is an appreciable difference when one has to weigh the estimated 4 to 7 million Jews purported to have been annihilated during Hitler’s regime against the estimated 40 to 70 million Africans lost as a result of the slave trade. It has been estimated that between 35 to 45 percent of the Africans taken out of Africa to the New World and beyond were Muslims. This is a staggering statistic that should bring shame to the heart at the center of ‘Dar Al Islam’ (The traditional home of Islam).
After poring through countless texts and traveling to many Muslim lands I have detected an interesting phenomenon that might serve to measure Muslim sensitivity, or in this case insensitivity.
I have found a shadowy silence, and an almost total lack of empathy and concern in various centers of Islamic learning concerning the events of the African/American Diaspora. This makes me wonder if there is a relationship between this lack of concern and the current frenzy of ethnic cleansing we are witnessing in different parts of the Muslim world. My point is, I see Muslims standing by –all over the world, watching these veritable horror stories unravel before their very eyes on the TV and through the media and for some strange reason they do nothing. Both ethnic cleansing and unconcern seems to have become endemic to the so-called Muslim condition.
And if such is the case, it pinpoints a condition that must at all costs be remedied before it gains too much cyclical momentum – and then becomes the spinning cyclone that tears to shreds the already tattered fabric of what is left of the Ummat (Muslim Community worldwide).
Part One ‘Free’
As the title of the paper implies, all three categories of African Muslims have existed historically in America. The first category (free) applies to the early Muslim visitors to the Americas. Most of them were in the employ of the Spanish and Portuguese governments, and accompanied the explorers (Conquistadors) during the early years of the 15th and 16th centuries. One outstanding example is given in the case of a Moor of that period who is known simply as Estevanico. (1.)
Estevanico was a Moor in the service of the Spanish explorer Captain Pamfilo de Narvaez who sailed from Spain to the Americas on June 17, 1527. De Narvaez had received a commission from the Spanish King to assume the position as Governor of Florida. The ship met with disaster enroute, and Estevanico became separated from the main party, but with the assistance of a few members of the crew Estevanico went on to discover the legendary Seven Lost Cities of The Zuni Indians, and he is also credited with the discovery of the territory now known as the State of New Mexico.
Several historians have credited Estevanico with having preached Islam to the native Indians, and rendered medical services to many people during his travels. Estevanico is but one of a myriad of early Muslim travelers who were Free to travel and explore, but the tragedy that follows in the wake of the achievements of these early Muslim heroes is the fact that their deeds have been overshadowed by the history of the governments that employed them.
I have in my hands an article that reports that a Muslim Navigator by the name of Kashkhash sailed across the Atlantic Ocean as early as 889 A.D. In February of 999 A.D. another Muslim navigator by the name of Ibn Farukh landed in the Grand Canary Islands, and in the year 1324 the brother of Mansa Musa the renowned Mandinka monarch whose name was King Abubakari II successfully navigated to present day Brazil. Because I do not have the proper bibliographical documentation for these exploits I have mentioned these early incidents that predate Estevanico as probable inclusions for future research. I have however written to the author of the article for her data. (2.)
Authors Note: (Since several years have elapsed since this article was first written, I have been unable to contact the author. I have photocopied the article as it was originally published in Mahjubah Magazine and have included it in a collection of articles which will be available on the Nuradeen website in the near future.)
For the sake of establishing a historic time perspective for the reader, it might be wise to note that the Spanish Nasirid Dynasty, whose capital was in Granada, fell to the Christians in 1492 the same year that Christopher Columbus made his historic voyage to the “New World”. This happened a mere thirty-five years prior to the journey of Estevanico.
It is a good idea to remember the mistake that Christopher Columbus made in thinking he had landed in the East Indies, which are in the Pacific Ocean, and mistakenly named the natives he ‘found’ on the shores of the Atlantic in the so-called New World INDIANS, a name that they have carried to this day. (3.)
The year 1501 marks one of the earliest references in American history to Blacks coming from Spain to America. (4.)
Most of them were Moors from Morocco that were part of the remnant communities of the Nasirid and earlier dynasties that had fallen to the Christians prior to 1492. The official date for the arrival of Blacks in America from Africa is commonly accepted as August 1619, although there is much recent research data that would argue the point from a multitude of academic disciplines. This ‘official’ landing took place at Jamestown, Virginia and the status of these original twenty Africans has been the topic of much speculation as to whether they were free, slave, or indentured servants. (5.)
From the year 1619 until the final measures were taken in 1865 to abolish slavery in the United States, we find America feverishly involved in the importation of Africans for the sole purpose of using slaves. History uncovers two hundred and forty six years of the forced migration of Africans to the shores of North and South America, and as we shall soon discover the introduction of Muslims into the fabric of America. This forced migration has come to be called in African American History as: The African Diaspora. All of these Africans were not Muslims, but modern research has proven that a great many of them were. (6.)
During the three centuries following the exploration and conquest of the Americas we see the forced migration of an estimated 50 to 100 million Africans. Estimates vary but the fact remains that the figures are very high whether you accept the highest or the lowest. Several African Scholars have opted for the high end because of the present day statistics that show large land areas in West Africa whose male populations had been decimated by the ravages of slavery to an extent that to this day (2002) many former Countries, States, Towns and Villages simply collapsed because of the lack of manpower. These statistics also support current Economic theories that suggest the possible reasons for most, if not all of the West African nations being classified as “Under-Developed”. Interesting, is it not?
It is a sad blemish on the record of Muslim leadership during those times to have allowed such crimes against humanity to have occurred, particularly to their “Own Brethren”.
There are many scholars and educators throughout the world that harbor much resentment toward the Africans both Muslim and non-Muslim who participated in this trade. But particular resentment has been directed to the Arabs for their role and their acquiescence during the time in question.
Many ethnic groups have claimed reparations in the last few years for injustices done to them, and I suggest that the Muslim world take a close look at their hands (historically) to see if they might be stained with the blood of their brothers and sisters in faith.
We all need to seriously reflect upon this fact and act accordingly. American Indians in some states (instances) have successfully sued the United States Government and received financial remuneration for past injustices. The Japanese community in the United States has also been successful in gaining financial reparations from the government as a result of their internment during the early years of World War II.
Instead of being brought before an international tribunal to be further humiliated I would advise those of you who have a knowledge of these matters to persuade your governments to set an example and volunteer to make amends somehow (even as an apology) to the African community in the Americas and in any other areas that have been the recipients of African slave cargo.
Recently the Southern Christian Coalition, a traditionally White dominated religious group has openly asked for forgiveness for the centuries of racial segregation and racial strife they supported during the days of slavery in the United States – which included their open and rigorous support for the former institution of slavery.
It is of interest to note some of the many West African tribes that were uprooted during the heyday of slavery. I will cite a few and hopefully you will grasp the underlying immensity of this cultural epic-tragedy. Puhle, sometimes spelled Pullo have a special place in this paper primarily because they constituted one of the largest Muslim tribes south of the Sahara at that time. They inhabited a territory that ran from the Atlantic Ocean in the West from the Senegal River and Futa Toro, to the Red Sea and the farthest reaches of the African Continent to the East. The Greater Sudan as it was known then. This tribe consists of five or six basic groups who are linked by a common language (Pule) but have marked physical differences such as skin color. Some are very dark, ranging from what I would call an eggplant purple to a very light beige, to variations of deep brown.
Unfortunately these people for some unknown reasons have been called by the Arabs Fulan or Fulani, an Arabic word that translates roughly as “them”, or “those people over there”. It is usually used when the proper name is not known, or intentionally disregarded. Reminiscent in some ways to the Columbus incident with the Indians.
The Mandingo, Woloff, Serer, Serakole, Twi, Fang, Ashanti, Kru, Yoruba, Ibo, Dahomey, and Congo peoples –the Bambara, Baule, Dogon, Malinke, Benin, Susu, Mossi, and many others too numerous to list in this paper were all part of the Great African Diaspora. They came from many different parts of the African continent, but for the most part the vast majority came from the countries in the West of Africa.
Let us return to Puhle for a moment. The Puhle, because of their affinity for the nomadic style of life are found living in most African countries but seem to proliferate in the area, which we have described as the greater Sudan. Recent studies done by the late Puhle scholar, anthropologist and historian Dr. Sheikh Anta Djiop of Senegal has traced the Puhle linguistically to the hieroglyphic culture of the Nile Basin and to pre-dynastic Egypt. Thereby creating a link with the so-called Nilotic peoples such as the Somali, Sudani, and the Habashiyah (Abyssinian).
The point of my digression is to suggest to the learned audience that by an investigation of the historical background of one African tribe we would hopefully uncover a multitude of possibilities in terms of historical and cultural linkage –and also serve to dispel a few long standing myths concerning African people. One such myth claims that the Africans who were captured and brought to the “New world” had no history prior to their enslavement, thereby creating a Negro bereft of history, culture and tradition. Having classified the transplanted African as a non-entity who began his sojourn on the world stage as a creature spawned from the womb of colonialism, his new parents. Remarkably, this myth still persists today.
Suffice it to say that aside from the Puhle nation, who in my haste I avoided to mention were 90% Muslim, we also have to take into consideration many of the other tribes that I have mentioned, all of which suffered great losses during the rape of Africa, and that many of them had sizeable Muslim populations.
Many ‘Slave Narratives’ have survived the ravages of time, and the perceptive researcher can detect a common theme that rings clear in all of them: 1. Homesickness, and 2. Liberation. A few of these Africans won their freedom and returned to their homeland to recount their stories. But most remained to contribute their blood and their skills to a burgeoning America. Each new day lengthening the distance between the past and the present.
The accumulated images and memories of their ancient past was pushed deeper and deeper into the safe womblike realms of the subconscious mind, to come bubbling back to the surface again when time and circumstance prevailed. One particular African-American scholar of note has labeled this cache of data “The Muslim Memory”. (7.)
Idris, the great grandson of Imam Hassan, who was the grandson of the prophet Muhammad by his daughter Fatimah and Imam Ali (Amir al Mumineen) – was forced into exile from the city of Madina, Arabia and migrated to the Maghreb (Morocco) and eventually established the first Shiah Dynasty in Africa (The Idrisid).
Once we examine the wives of Idris we find little doubt in the Fulani’s claim of kinship through the prophet Muhammad’s great grandson.
I mention this point for two reasons, the first being the fact that Muslims enslaved Muslims (Arab Traders), and my second point is that neither tribe nor lineage exempted anyone from the slavers chains. (8.)
It is interesting to note that many of the Ethiopian and Somali tribes trace their origins to the historic meeting of Suleiman (King Solomon) and (Balquis) The Queen of Sheba, which is also mentioned in detail in our beloved Qur`an.
My point is that nothing interfered with the choice of captives that would be sold as slaves; all Africans were fair game and viewed as saleable commodities. I have chosen the Pule (Fulani) as examples because they substantiate my assertion that many of the Africans brought to the new World were Muslims, and to validate the statement of the late El Hajj malik al Shabazz, when he said: “We are not converts to Islam, we are Reverts”. And to finally re-emphasize the fact that Africans did have extensive histories and noble cultures prior to their capture and enslavement in the Americas.
At this time I would like to direct your attention to the second category of African Muslim mentioned in the title: SLAVE.
Part Two ‘Slave’
Perhaps one of the most learned of the Muslim slaves we have on record was Ayyuub Ibn Suleiman Ibrahima Diallo. The name Diallo clearly identifies him as a Fulani from Futa Djallo sometimes spelled Jalloh or Jallon. There are several Futa’s or “Homelands” of the Fulani, the largest being Futa Toro. According to his biography he was born in 1701 or 1702 in the Kingdom of Futa Jallon near the Gambia River. (9)
The biography records that Ayyub was sent to the coast by his father to trade with the English, he was captured in the year 1730 by other Africans and sold to the very ships Captain with whom he was supposed to trade. Those of you who are familiar with Alex Hailey’s book “Roots” will find a strong similarity.
The ship sailed for America and Ayyub landed in the State of Maryland where he worked on tobacco plantations until he escaped and was eventually jailed. As his misfortune became known, offers of help poured in.
His passage to England was arranged, and there, as in America he favorably impressed everyone he met by his excellent appearance, dignity, and learning. He was a Hafiz of The Quran, and as such he had memorized the Qur`an in its entirety in his youth. His biography reveals that he wrote out three copies of the Qur`an while enroute to England without once looking at a copy. There are some scholars who claim that the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. owns one of the copies.
The biography goes on to state that while he was in England Ayyub met with royalty and had even met with the Royal family.
Among Ayyub’s acquaintances was the collector and physician Sir Hans Sloane, who was the president of The Royal Society for whom Ayyub translated Arabic inscriptions of several types that had been obtained during the Crusades.
Ayyub finally arrived at his African home in 1735 or 1736; he eventually turned to commerce, having suggested to the English that he could supply them directly with the gum Arabic they were buying from the French.
This is but one of many accounts of African Muslim captives in America. One Black American Scholar, Mr. Allen D. Austin deserves special recognition for his most excellent book: African Muslims in Ante Bellum America, in which he gives an account of many African Muslims and their experiences as captives in the America’s. (10)
According to Mr. Austin, despite the laws in America that forbade the practice of African religions and the practice of strict separation of Muslim captives, a few Muslims were able to maintain contact with each other.
As a matter of fact in most instances the slave masters would keep any two Africans that spoke the same language separate and apart from one another. It was customary to pair groups of Africans together who did not speak the same language thereby minimizing communication and the exchange of information. As I had mentioned in the introduction, drums were also forbidden to the African captive. (11)
One Islamic scholar has commented recently that in light of his extensive research into the history of slavery in Islam that: “Successful slavery depends on the total destruction and redirection of the Nafs, (desires, wishes, hopes, dreams –or soul, spirit, mind or consciousness, depending on the context). To deny the slave every human consideration, and to render him totally helpless and dependant” (12)
The accusation by the West, that Islam was spread by the sword and bathed in blood has an element of truth in it – but it is however a projection of their own history. All one has to do is to take a close look at the history of the Ottoman Empire (Othmaniyyah) and the damage that was done worldwide by the Turks, with their lack of compassion and gross misuse of the Institution of The Caliphate. The damage that they and their predecessors the Bani Umayyah (Umayyad Dynasty) has done in the name of Islam is still reverberating throughout the world. The claims made by the Armenian Community and much of what we are witnessing in the Balkans including Serbia & Bosnia is undeniable evidence of what far-reaching effects can be brought about by a tyrannical government.
It was no accident that the Turkish Empire fell in 1918. The so-called history of Islam, which now exceeds fourteen hundred years has been for the most part made up of decadent leaders and corrupt non-Islamic governments. This history should not be held to be representative of the pure Islam as taught by the Holy prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him and his family), nor should the few cultural and scientific achievements gained during the Ottoman period be confused with the period of Islamic History called “The Golden Age Of Islam”, which preceded the Ottomans by several centuries.
After close scrutiny the so-called Golden Age of islam was not so Golden after all, once you take into consideration the tyranny and cruelty exhibited by the Caliph Haroon al-Rashid, Mamoon, and the successors of the throne of Baghdad toward the general Muslim populace of the period. (13)
What took the Turks six hundred years to achieve during their reign of terror under the banner of a greatly diluted Islam, is comparable in many ways to what the European adventurers and their successors accomplished in the 400 years between the march of the Conquistadors to the end of the American Civil War to both the indigenous peoples of the Americas (Indians) and the African.
Here is a brief summation: The complete and total annihilation of several races of people in Central and South America. Coupled with the forced migration and cultural annihilation of countless millions of Africans – and the ongoing genocide of the Native American Indian.
History will one day record how the perpetrators of these crimes were dealt with.
With the arrival of our long awaited savior Al Mahdi, (Imam Zaman), Insha-Allah all wrongs will be righted.
America has been unable to reverse the trends that were set in motion during its inception, and as we have seen demonstrated year after year how these trends have gained momentum. All of this materialistic madness under the banner of Manifest Destiny, now known as “The New World Order”.
The insatiable desire to possess and control the vast untamed lands of the Americas and the seas beyond, have ultimately led the American Government to unleash a flood tide of carnage and empty promises worldwide. This supposedly God-Inspired rationale (manifest destiny) has inspired many American leaders in the past, and in the present to unlicensed barbarism on the world, particularly those areas that have been designated as “underdeveloped”.
By wielding the SWORD of political and social oppression over the heads of the people of color world wide, they have caused untold damage to the collective psyche of the greater portion of mankind. Democracy has promised much and delivered little that could possibly heal and restore the millions of broken hearts, damaged souls, and defective memories that abound in the world today. (14)
The result of this psychological terrorism has produced what I have come to call The Amnesiac, the subject of my third category.
Part Three ‘Amnesiac’
The definition of Amnesia is: “partial or total loss of memory caused by brain injury or by shock or repression”. Unfortunately this condition is experienced by many (if not most) of our Black and Red brothers and sisters in America.
They have no conscious memory of their original culture.
One of the key indicators of this loss is the almost total lack of positive direction in their lives. They have no expectations or visions of a future. A people with no vision or no dreams are both blind and lost. Culture serves as a positive force in ones life – it provides the Direction (compass) and the Balance (gyroscope) one needs to move forward and progress.Since 1862 and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Black folks have been led around in circles. A Civil War was already under way the year before and the Proclamation was part of a strategy that was devised to solve two of the main problems that the Federal Government (Northern) America was faced with. (1.) The eradication of slavery which had become a nagging humiliation, particularly in light of England’s earlier ban on slavery in 1807. (2.) A plan that would greatly immobilize the Southern war machine and the economy of the Confederacy, both of which were dependent on the institution of slavery.
The slave had served as a pawn in the hands of both the North and the south, but after the War Between the States ended he became a guinea pig for the north and a scapegoat for the South in Americas bungling attempts at Reconstruction. In trying to figure out what to do with the Black man, the government began to develop programs to “rehabilitate” the former slave –many of these programs encouraged the former slaves to pursue unattainable goals –both Integration and Civil Rights have proven to have been a great waste of the peoples time. They were in fact the carrots that were dangled in front of the Black mans face to entice him to walk for one hundred and thirty years down a long road that ended nowhere.
The Civil Rights struggle of the 1960’s has been dubbed “The Second Reconstruction” and the third attempt at Reconstruction has now been under way since the Viet Nam conflict, and yet we see more and more casualties lost on the battlefields of urban and rural America.
Amnesia also manifests as a loss of direction and a loss of equilibrium both brought by shock and depression.
There happens to be more Black men in the prisons of America than any other ethnic group. Black on Black crime by definition describes a self-destruct situation. A turning inward, very much like a malignant cancer cell, devouring itself and everything in its immediate environment.
As a result of this Black genocide, many social scientists have prophesized that the Black male is a dying species, and some have classified him as an “Endangered Species.”
Alcoholism and drug addiction have devastated the Black Community as well as the Indian reservation. Both alcohol and drugs have brought about a moral and social disintegration in what were traditionally morally balanced communities.
Having mentioned all of this extreme negativity one might think that the case for the Black Man in America is hopeless. It would appear that nothing could lift him out of this impossible situation, but strangely enough in the midst of this madness a unique phenomenon had been taking place slowly, gradually –almost imperceptibly, and this was the re-awakening of the African memory. As Allah has promised in the Qur`an: “And after constriction and hardship comes ease”!
Although African-American studies were introduced in most American Universities during the hectic Civil Rights days of the 1960’s to pacify the roar of unhappy Blacks searching for a positive identity, you began to see the introduction of African clothes particularly the “Dashiki” and the “Afro” hairstyle were becoming ever more visible in the Black Community. But we should not be misled by these outer trappings into thinking that this apparent awakening was a phenomenon of the sixties – a close study of activities in the Black Community since the turn of the century will reveal an ongoing surge toward the reclamation of African identity, particularly the re-introduction of Islam.
Contrary to accepted public opinion there has always been a movement (movements) among the Black in America to re-connect with Africa. All through the slavery experience there were those who advocated a return to African traditions. Although former slaves like Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington did not identify with Africa, and actually discouraged the use of the word African to identify the Black in America. They discouraged African identity in preference for a Negro identity – they argued persistently that they were no longer Africans they were American Negroes.
Men like Cinque of The Amistad Mutiny, Ayyub Diallo, Martin Delaney, Nat Turner and many others dedicated their lives to the pursuit of freedom and a return to Mother Africa. They knew too well the value of freedom and culture and became self-styled adaptations of the compass and the gyroscope providing direction and balance for those who would follow.
A greater resurgence of African cultural awareness increased in America at the turn of the century during the early days of the 20th century with the appearance of W. E. B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey and Noble Drew Ali the founder of the Moorish Science Temple.
Pan-Africanism took into consideration all aspects of the African experience, and as books and lecturers became available in the Black Community people began to gravitate intuitively to “What felt Right” for them.
This resurgence of African awareness spread throughout the world and with it we have seen an increase in the conversion rate of Blacks and Whites to Islam and traditional African belief systems. An intuitive gravitation towards spiritual light, while in the midst of social darkness.
This phenomenon is not based solely on the presence of an amorphous Muslim Memory. The African Memory needed a catalyst to jar it loose from the quiescent confines of oblivion and the Pan African leadership served that purpose well.
But there is another side to this picture and the other side reveals the little know fact that Islam in the context of a viable Muslim Community was never completely eradicated in the midst of the developing African/American Negro community in the south.
During the Great Depression (1929-1942) the United States Government initiated a program called The Works Progress Administration, (WPA). As part of this program groups of unemployed writers and historians (many academic disciplines) were sent out into the urban areas of this country to gather census data, and to accumulate information about American folklore that had been deposited by the ongoing surge of immigrants, and had been overlooked in the past due primarily because of the remoteness of the regions.
In 1938 and 1939 The Savannah Unit of the Georgia Writers (WPA) visited the coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolina’s including the Sea Islands and uncovered the descendants of African Muslims. It was discovered that many Muslim families had survived intact from the early days of slavery well into the twentieth century due primarily to the inaccessibility of these islands from the mainland, and the remoteness of these communities. (15)
These families were the descendants of slave parents and had lived in virtual isolation for most of their lives. As a result of this discovery several hypotheses have been drawn:
That Islam has been present in America for as long as Africans have sojourned there, and Islam has remained intact (in one form or another) for that length of time.
That Noble Drew Ali the founder of The Moorish Science Temple who was born in the Carolina’s around 1866 could have been a product of this original Muslim community, either directly or indirectly. (16)
That Elijah Mohammad the founder of The Nation of Islam in America, who was born in Georgia at the turn of the Century could have also been a product directly or indirectly of this early Muslim Community. (17)
There is a possibility that Mr. Fard Muhammad; the mysterious teacher of Elijah Muhammad may have also evolved from this original community. (18)
The deeper we probe into the questions concerning the survival of Africanism’s in America the more we uncover.
I hope that many of you in attendance today will retain an interest in this rather obscure aspect of the Muslim Ummat. It was the purpose of this paper to inform the Muslim World via this conference of the existence of millions of African Muslims in America, and to provide an overview of their history.
We are reminded that less than fourteen percent (14%) of the total African population taken away forcefully were brought to the North America, the question should automatically be asked about the remaining eighty six percent. And of course the answer to that question is the Caribbean including Central and South America, and beyond.
Since it is important to our paper to theorize about the percentage of captives who were Muslim and now that we have established the whereabouts of the missing eighty five percent, the prospects increase for uncovering a myriad of extant Muslims.
I will conclude by sharing with you a story I heard as a young boy some sixty years ago in Boston. A story whose evolvement I have witnessed first hand.
The story concerns Juj wa Juj (Gog and Magog) it can be found in Chapter eighteen of the Qur`an entitled Al Kahf (The Cave). (19)
The Ahmadiyyah scholar Maulana Mohammad Ali, who had also translated the Qur`an into English, wrote the particular version of this story that I heard and then read many times as a young boy.
Who or what were Juj wa Juj? This has been a point of conjecture in the Muslim as well as the Christian world for some time. According to Maulana Mohammad Ali, the story of Juj wa Juj involved a prophecy of things to come. World events that were developing during the time of his writing (1920’s & 30’s). He interpreted them as being symbolic of Russia and the United States.
Juj wa Juj were twins that were born to a mother that comes to be symbolic of both Europe and Christendom. One statue in London depicting Gog and Magog resembles the famous statue of Remus and Romulus being suckled by a mother wolf. The twins grew to be great giants, which eventually became separated by a great body of water (Atlantic/Pacific?). In time, Gog and Magog began to threaten each other across this great body of water –raising quite a commotion worldwide. While this arguing was going on in a thunderous fashion – Islam would begin to wake up from its long slumber and eventually rise up between these two giants for a final confrontation.
As the fragmented Muslim World began to wake up and unite – Gog and Magog would do likewise. It was also mentioned in this story that a strange phenomenon would precede this final confrontation between Gog and Magog and Islam, and that was The Sun of Islam Would Rise in The West. (20)
As mentioned earlier, I have seen the emergence of the Muslim countries, one by one. I saw each nation emerge as if out of a very deep sleep, and as I watched the liberation of each country I celebrated their fleeting moments of glory –only to see them relapse into a semi-state of consciousness, which was the result of updated versions of contemporary colonialism.
Nations emerged, but Islam did not. Countries have been liberated, but Islam remains the worlds best kept secret – Islam remains a prisoner. Oddly enough The Muslim World has now become its own captive. Through some trick of fate we find the Muslim World in a situation quite similar in many ways to the Africans under discussion, some free, some slave, and many more amnesiac.
The Ummat is now experiencing the long dark night that precedes the dawn of a new era, in anticipation of the inevitable Final Confrontation. And as this final confrontation looms heavily on the horizon, the Ummat is encountering turmoil never experienced before. Continuous genocide, bolstered by economic sanctions and ethnic cleansing. The constant repetition of betrayal within the ranks, including the defection of many educated and skilled Muslims to the lands of the enemies, are all signs of the terrible times predicted in the Qur`an and the books of Hadith.
But in light of the information that I have provided in this very brief paper, I would like to remind all of you that with the advent of the Pan Africanist’s that I have mentioned earlier, which included Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad and our first universally recognized African/American Muslim Martyr: El Hajj Malik al Shabazz (Malcolm X) it is apparent to all that have eyes, that The Sun of Islam has already begun to rise in the West.
The most popular person in the WORLD in 2002 is an American Muslim by the name of Mohammad Ali.
It is also apparent that the final confrontation will be one between the forces of evil and the forces of good, which is inclusive of ALL of the good people on the earth which includes many non-Muslims, and the masses of innocent and oppressed people of the world (Mostadafan).
I remind you as I remind myself that Allah (Subhanna hu wata Allah) speaks to us in the Qur`an – reminding US that we have a duty to the oppressed people of the world.
It is on this thought that I bring my talk to a close.
Thank you and Assallamo Aleikum!
1. Richard Wright – “Negro Companions of the Spanish Explorers”. American Anthropologist. (American Anthropological Association) IV, No.2, (1902)
2. Laila Hasib – “Muslims from Africa Reached the ‘New World’ Six Centuries before Columbus”. Mahjubah Magazine, No.109, Tehran, Iran. (June 1993).
3. Current, Williams, Freidel, & Brinkley – American History a Survey. 2. Vol I to 1877, pp.217-228.
4. Sir Arthur Helps, Spanish Conquest in America, I, Pg.360.
5. Ibid -American History a Survey, pg33. (II.) Charshee C. L. McIntyre, “Free Blacks, A Troublesome and Dangerous Population”, Doctoral Thesis – State University of New York at Stoneybrook, (1984) unpublished. (III) Houston Chronicle,) “Largest human Sacrifice”, Article concerning a proposed monument to be erected on Goree island, Senegal. A tribute to the victims of the 19th Century African Slave Trade. (Oct. 6, 1988). (IV) Ali A. Mazrui, “The Africans, a Triple Heritage”, Praeger Publ. (1986).
6. Allen D. Austin, “African Muslims in Ante Bellum America” A Source Book. Garland Press, NYC (1980).
7. C. Eric Lincoln, “The American Muslim Mission In Context of American Social History”, an article contained in The Muslim Community in North America, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, University of Alberta Press, pg. 450 (1983).
8. Phillip K. Hitti, “The History of the Arabs”, (London), Macmillan Press, pg.450, (1970).
9. B. O. Oloruntimehin, “The Segu Tukalor Empire”, Ibadan History Series, N.Y. Humanities Press, (1972). Describes the history of the Fulani and their impact on the history of West Africa. (II) Terry Alford, “A Prince Among Slaves,” Macmillan Press, London. A full documentary of the life and times of ‘Ibrahima Diallo’. There is an interesting copy of a painting done of ‘Ibrahima’ in this book, and the caption of the painting is written in his hand and identifies himself in Arabic as: Ismi Abdurahman, meaning, my name is Abdurahman.
10. ………Ibid, Austin.
11. Hajji D.A. Haroon, “Towards an understanding of African/American Music and Culture”, Directed particularly to those Muslims who believe music is forbidden by Islam and should be forbidden in all forms. The paper attempts to construct a defense for the basic spirituality inherent in all African creativity, particularly in music.
12. A discussion held with Professor Abdul-Aziz Sachedina, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. This talk took place in Dr. Sachedina’s office, while on a visit to the University, (September 1990). (II) This phenomenon is also discussed at length by Prof. David Elkins in his book entitled Slavery.
13. … Ibid, Hitti, The History of The Arabs, pp.541. (II) Please note that in the same book, mention is made of The Murabit Dynasty in Spain (1090-1147) an interesting statement is made concerning this dynasty: “this dynasty as was expected, was short lived. It fulfilled the fated cycle of Asiatic and African monarchies with rapidity. A generation of efficient militarism followed by sloth and corruption leading to disintegration and fall. …. Hitti, pp.545. (III) On the same note we find that according to Historian/Sociologist Ibn Khaldun: “all dynastic history moves in cycles, as it draws nearer to decay and disintegration, the dynasty shrinks inward under pressure of the challenging outsider and his group until it finally collapses. Then the new dynasty proceeds upon the path of power, only to suffer the fate of his predecessor”. Muqaddimah, Rosenthal translation, pg X11, Introduction, Bolingen series (1967).
14. Dee Brown, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, An Indian history of The American West. ‘Painful, shocking reading –which conveys not how the West was won, but how the West was lost’. N.Y. Bantam Books, (1972). (II) Vine Deloria Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins, Indian Manifesto, N.Y. Avon Books (1969).
15. Works Progress Administration, (WPA), Georgia Writers, Savannah Unit, “Drums and Shadows”, Survival Studies Among the Georgia Negroes. University of Georgia press, (1940). (II) Y. N. Kly, “The African-American Muslim Minority: 1776-1900”, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 10:1, 1/1989, UK, (1974). (III) Two interesting films, one called “Daughters of The Dust”, by Ms Julia Dash which depicts the family and descendents of the African Patriarch Bilali Muhammad, a legendary Sapelo Island survivor. And “Sankofa”, a film made by Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima, which also depicts slave rebellion in the Antilles –several of the main characters have Muslim names.
16. Arthur H. Faucet, “Moorish Science Temple of America”, an article published in Religion, Society, and The Individual, N.Y. Macmillan Co. (1957).
17. C. Erik Lincoln, “The Black Muslims in America”, Boston: Beacon Press, revised edition (1973). A definitive study of the development of The Nation of Islam under the leadership of Elijah Mohammad. (A published Doctoral Thesis.)
18. ………IBID, Kly.
19. Gog and Magog appear in the New Testament as two nations that make war on the Kingdom of Christ after being deceived by Satan (Rev. 20:8). However in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 38-39) Gog is a prince of the land of magog who leads the barbarian hordes of the North in an assault on Israel. Some scholars think that Gog was Gynges, a King of Lydia in the 600’s B.C. (II) In Genesis 10:2, Magog is a son of Japheth, and one of the peoples that lived in Armenia or Turkey. Two famous statues in London are called Gog and Magog. They were erected in the 1400’s and were replaced in 1708, and again after WWII. (World Book Encyclopedia, 1982)
20. Hajj D. A. Haroon, “The Sun of Islam Shall Rise In the West”, unpublished anthology of articles related to the development of Islam in America. A Postage stamp issued by the Iranian Government which depicts Al Hajj Malik al Shabazz (Malcolm X) one hand raised to his ear, calling the Adhan against a background of the Prophets Mosque in Medina –a multi colored aura emanating from his body symbolic of the various colors of mankind is on the cover –clearly showing a Muslim son of the West that rose and was extinguished. The same stamp is used on the cover of the present edition in your hands.
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