By Wesley Muhammad, Phd
The Prophet Noble Drew Ali and, more thoroughly, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, succeeded in completely indigenizing Islam among Blacks in America. Elijah’s call to Blacks to accept Islam was articulated thusly: “Accept Your Own (Islam) and Be Yourself (Muslim).” As a result of this success, for a long time Islam was understood to be an organic part of the Black cultural identity. Early ‘Afrocentric’ scholarship added an air of academic legitimacy to the organic relationship between Islam and Blackness by rightly pointing out that Prophet Muhammad of Arabia was black, a claim made also by Elijah Muhammad (Parker, 1918; Rogers, 1968; ben-Yochannan, 1970; Muhammad, 2010). However, this convergence of the claims of black Muslims and Afrocentric scholarship gave way in the 1970’s to a radical divergence, a process that was for all intents and purposes initiated by the 1974 publication of Dr. Chancellor Williams’ seminal work, The Destruction of Black Civilization. Dr. Williams stressed the historical role of Islam and Arabs, whom he (mis)identifies as whites (Caucasians), in the process of the enslavement of Africans and the overall ‘destruction’ of Black civilization. It can be safely said that since its publication The Destruction defined and continues to define the Afrocentric perspective on Islam and its relation to the Black world. The Destructioninitiated, in the words of sociologist Yusuf Nuriddin, the ‘Afrocentric Crusades’ against Islam (including Black American Islam) (Nurridin, 2000). Haki Madhubuti, whose Third World Press obtained publishing rights to the work, suggested in his own book, Enemies: the clash of races , that Islam was part of a global ‘white supremacist ideology’. Professor Molefi Asanti, who coined the term ‘Afrocentricity’ and defined its parameters in 1980, proclaimed that Islam was in fact “contradictory” to Afrocentricity (Asanti, 1980). But it was certainly the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke who most successfully continued Chancellor Williams’ approach to the subject (Clarke, u.d.; Clarke, 1992) and has become the voice of the Afrocentric Crusaders against Islam.
The public discussion of Islam’s historical relationship to Africa and African peoples initiated by the publication of Williams’ The Destruction has thrown important light on the issue of race, racism, and slavery in the Muslim world. Indeed, following the ‘Conversion Letter’ which Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) sent back from Mecca in 1964, a particular myth has gained currency according to which the worlds of European Christianity and Arab Islam differed in that the latter was free of the racial preoccupations and anti-black racism characteristic of the former. However, this post-1974 Afrocentric scholarship, in agreement with some Western studies on Islam, has completely ‘busted’ this myth. The East African Slave Trade, in the hands of Muslims, is shown to have preceded the European Transatlantic Slave Trade and to have been no less deleterious to the continent. Black or African American Muslims can now romanticize about Islam only by remaining ignorant of or indifferent to these facts. In this regard the Afrocentric ‘critique’ of Islam has made a very important and positive contribution to the public discourse on Islam and Africa.
In other regards, however, it has made a very negative and counterproductive contribution. From its putative beginnings in 1974 the Afrocentric ‘critique’ was as much ideological as it was academic. It is this ideological underpinning that enabled the critique to morph into an all out ‘Crusade’ seemingly aimed at nothing less than uprooting Islam from the Black community. The critique, and the heavy-handed manner in which it was often conducted, gave rise to an anti-Islam ideology that is built upon a number of Afrocentric ‘myths’ about Islam.
- Islam is a non-African, white Arab religion (Williams, 1974; Asanti, 1980; Africa, 2008) whose only relation to African spiritual tradition is that whites from Arabia stole or plagiarized elements of African spirituality to make their fundamentally anti-African religion.
- Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is ultimately derived from Kemet, whose spiritual practices were borrowed, stole, or plagiarized by invading Arabs. Blacks who are Muslim are thus guilty of embracing a ‘bastardized’ version of indigenous African spirituality (ben-Jochannan, 1970; Clarke, 1990).
- As far as Africans are concerned Islam is a slave-religion, not unlike American Christianity, which was imposed on enslaved Africans by non-African slave-masters (ben-Jochannan, 1970; Williams, 1974)
- Through the agency of white Arabs Islam invaded Egypt the Black Land, which is the darling of Afrocentrists (and rightly so). After replacing the oppressive Roman colonizers there, these white Arabs became the new oppressive colonizers. The claim that white Arab Muslims dealt the final death-blow to this crown-jewel of African global civilization powerfully makes the ideological point: Islam in non- and anti-African.
These myths are frequently presented as reasons Blacks should shun Islam and as the justification for suggesting to black Muslims that their acceptance of Islam is inherently a rejection of their authentic African self. As we would expect, a number of black or African American Muslims have tried to answer the Afrocentrists on their own terms, with scholarship rather than simply dogma (Kazi-Ferrouillet, 1993; Mohammed, 1994; Jackson, 2005). These efforts were/are laudable. Ultimately, however, they failed to stem the tide of ideological Afrocentricsm because they failed to deconstruct these particular Afrocentric myths which sustain this anti-Islam ideology. The era of the successful (persuasive) Afrocentric Crusading against Islam will end only when these foundation myths are exposed for what they are: myths (in the popular sense of that word).
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I must announce that this era is now coming to a close. By Allah’s grace, I have through lectures, debates and, most importantly, the publication of two books (Muhammad, 2009; Muhammad, 2010) demonstrated irrefutably the erroneousness of these Afrocentric Crusader myths. That is to say, I have proved with the relevant evidences that Islam was created and spread by Afro-Arabs, that is to say black Africans who indigenized in Arabia. ‘White Arabs’ entered the religion in any significant numbers much latter. The claim that Islam or its elementsderived from Kemet is unsupported and unsupportable. The similarities between Islam and Maatic practices and principles of ancient Kemet are not evidence of one tradition borrowing from the other, but of the common African ethnic source shared by those who established Maat in the Nile Valley and proto-Islam in Arabia. In other words, both Maat and Islam are fruits from the same African spiritual tree. It was these Afro-Arabians who carried Islam to Egypt and the African mainland. These Afro-Arabian Muslims overthrew the oppressive white Roman colonizers, thereby liberating their African Coptic kith and kin. Though some of these Afro-Arabian imperialists got beside themselves and tried to go into black Nubia, getting repulsed twice, they were not oppressive to the Copts of Egypt or Christians of Nubia. It was only with the fall of the Black Muslim dynasty, the Umayyad Dynasty, and the rise of Turkic power in the land that Muslim Egypt became truly oppressive. And while in the 19th century (the most significant and devastating period in terms of the East African Slave Trade) some Africans were converted to Islam as a consequence of and to facilitate their enslavement, the gross majority of the Africans on the mainland who embraced Islam encountered the religion in peaceful contexts (like commerce) which had nothing at all to do with slavery. It simply cannot be said that Islam is a slave religion: Africans created it and Africans spread it to other African societies. The fact that some Africans were enslaved by some Muslims no more makes Islam a slave religion than does the FACT that some practitioners of Maat in Kemet enslaved some Nubians makes Maat a slave-religion!
The myths that are the foundation of the Afrocentric anti-Islam ideology can now be proven to be myths. As a result, the days of Afrocentrists intellectually man-handling black Muslims or ‘Islam’ must end. I have demonstrated, by Allah’s grace, that Islam is our ‘other Stolen Legacy’, and for supposed Afrocentrists to continue to Crusade against ALL forms of Islam, rather than against that Aryanized (whiten-ized racist) form, exposes them as being no true Afrocentrists at all. Because they cannot impugn the overwhelming evidence that I present, some of these ideologues have resorted to a vicious campaign of ad hominem attacks against my person. That is typical of those defeated in argument. But we will not stand down. We will continue to present the evidence; we will continue to debate with those qualified to debate the subject; and we will continue as ‘myth-busters’ to expose the baseless ideological foundation of this Afrocentrist Crusade against Islam. A new era must now begin.
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