Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Was Aisha bint Abu Bakr A Six-Year-Old Bride? The Ancient Myth Exposed

By T.O. Shanavas
(T.O. Shanavas is a physician based in Michigan. This article first appeared in The Minaret in March 1999.)

A Christian friend asked me once, “Will you marry your six year old daughter to a fifty year old man?” I kept my silence. He continued, “If you would not, how can you approve the marriage of an innocent seven year old, Ayesha, with your Prophet?”

I told him, “I don’t have an answer to your question at this time.”

My friend smiled and left me with a thorn in the heart of my faith. Most Muslims answer that such marriages were accepted in those days. Otherwise, people would have objected to Prophet’s marriage with Ayesha.

However, such an explanation would be gullible only for those who are naive enough to believe it. But unfortunately, I was not satisfied with the answer.

The Prophet was an exemplary man. All his actions were most virtuous so that we, Muslims, can emulate them. However, most people in our Islamic Center of Toledo, including me, would not think of betrothing our seven years daughter to a fifty-two year-old man. If a parent agrees to such a wedding, most people, if not all, would look down upon the father and the old husband.

So, I believed, without solid evidence other than my reverence to my Prophet, that the stories of the marriage of seven-year-old Ayesha to 50-year-old Prophet are only myths. However, my long pursuit in search of the truth on this matter proved my intuition correct. My Prophet was a gentleman. And he did not marry an innocent seven or nine year old girl.The age of Ayesha has been erroneously reported in the hadith literature.

Furthermore, I think that the narratives reporting this event are highly unreliable.Some of the hadith (traditions of the Prophet) regarding Ayesha’s age at the time of her wedding with prophet are problematic.

I present the following evidences against the acceptance of the fictitious story by Hisham ibn ‘Urwah and to clear the name of my Prophet as an irresponsible old man preying on an innocent little girl.

EVIDENCE #1: Reliability of Source

Most of the narratives printed in the books of hadith are reported only by Hisham ibn `Urwah, who was reporting on the authority of his father. First of all, more people than just one, two or three should logically have reported. It is strange that no one from Medina, where Hisham ibn `Urwah lived the first 71 years of his life narrated the event, despite the fact that his Medinan pupils included the well-respected Malik ibn Anas. The origins of the report of the narratives of this event are people from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to have shifted after living in Medina for most of his life.

Tehzibu’l-Tehzib, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet, reports that according to Yaqub ibn Shaibah: “He [Hisham] is highly reliable, his narratives are acceptable, except what he narrated after moving over to Iraq” (Tehzi’bu’l-tehzi’b, Ibn Hajar Al-`asqala’ni, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, 15th century. Vol 11, p. 50).

It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those narratives of Hisham which were reported through people in Iraq: “I have been told that Malik objected on those narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq” (Tehzi’b u’l-tehzi’b, Ibn Hajar Al-`asqala’ni, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, Vol.11, p. 50).

Mizanu’l-ai`tidal, another book on the life sketches of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet reports: “When he was old, Hisham’s memory suffered quite badly” (Mizanu’l-ai`tidal, Al-Zahbi, Al-Maktabatu’l-athriyyah, Sheikhupura, Pakistan, Vol. 4, p. 301).

CONCLUSION:Based on these references, Hisham’s memory was failing and his narratives while in Iraq were unreliable. So, his narrative of Ayesha’s marriage and age are unreliable.

CHRONOLOGY: It is vital also to keep in mind some of the pertinent dates in the history of Islam:

o pre-610 CE: Jahiliya (pre-Islamic age) before revelation
o 610 CE: First revelation
o 610 CE: AbuBakr accepts Islam
o 613 CE: Prophet Muhammad begins preaching publicly.
o 615 CE: Emigration to Abyssinia
o 616 CE: Umar bin al Khattab accepts Islam
o 620 CE: Generally accepted betrothal of Ayesha to the Prophet
o 622 CE: Hijrah (emigation to Yathrib, later renamed Medina)
o 623/624 CE: Generally accepted year of Ayesha living with the Prophet

EVIDENCE #2: The Betrothal

According to Tabari (also according to Hisham ibn ‘Urwah, Ibn Hunbal and Ibn Sad), Ayesha was betrothed at seven years of age and began to cohabit with the Prophet at the age of nine years.

However, in another work, Al-Tabari says: “All four of his [Abu Bakr’s] children were born of his two wives during the pre-Islamic period” (Tarikhu’l-umam wa’l-mamlu’k, Al-Tabari (died 922), Vol. 4, p. 50, Arabic, Dara’l-fikr, Beirut, 1979).

If Ayesha was betrothed in 620 CE (at the age of six) and started to live with the Prophet in 624 CE (at the age of nine), that would indicate that she was born in 613 CE and was nine when she began living with the Prophet.

Therefore, based on one account of Al-Tabari, the numbers show that Ayesha must have born in 613 CE, three years after the beginning of revelation (610 CE). Tabari also states that Ayesha was born in the pre-Islamic era (in Jahiliya).

If she was born before 610 CE, she would have been at least 14 years old when she began living with the Prophet. Essentially, Tabari contradicts himself.

CONCLUSION:Al-Tabari is unreliable in the matter of determining Ayesha’s age.
EVIDENCE # 3: The Age of Ayesha in Relation to the Age of Fatima

According to Ibn Hajar, “Fatima was born at the time the Ka`bah was rebuilt, when the Prophet was 35 years old... she was five years older that Ayesha” (Al-isabah fi tamyizi’l-sahabah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Vol. 4, p. 377, Maktabatu’l-Riyadh al-haditha, al-Riyadh, 1978).

If Ibn Hajar’s statement is factual, Ayesha was born when the Prophet was 40 years old. If Ayesha was married to the Prophet when he was 52 years old, Ayesha’s age at marriage would be 12 years.

CONCLUSION:Ibn Hajar, Tabari an Ibn Hisham and Ibn Humbal contradict each other. So, the marriage of Ayesha at six years of age is a myth.

EVIDENCE #4: Ayesha’s Age in relation to Asma’s Age

According to Abda’l-Rahman ibn abi zanna’d: “Asma was 10 years older than Ayesha (Siyar A`la’ma’l-nubala’, Al-Zahabi, Vol. 2, p. 289, Arabic, Mu’assasatu’l-risalah, Beirut, 1992).

According to Ibn Kathir: “She [Asma] was elder to her sister [Ayesha] by 10 years” (Al-Bidayah wa’l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol. 8, p. 371, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933).

According to Ibn Kathir: “She [Asma] saw the killing of her son during that year [73 AH], as we have already mentioned, and five days later she herself died. According to other narratives, she died not after five days but 10 or 20, or a few days over 20, or 100 days later.

The most well known narrative is that of 100 days later. At the time of her death, she was 100 years old.” (Al-Bidayah wa’l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol. 8, p. 372, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)

According to Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani: “She [Asma] lived a hundred years and died in 73 or 74 AH.” (Taqribu’l-tehzib, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, p. 654, Arabic, Bab fi’l-nisa’, al-harfu’l-alif, Lucknow).
According to almost all the historians, Asma, the elder sister of Ayesha was 10 years older than Ayesha. If Asma was 100 years old in 73 AH, she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of the hijrah.

If Asma was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah, Ayesha should have been 17 or 18 years old. Thus, Ayesha, being 17 or 18 years of at the time of Hijra, she started to cohabit with the Prophet between at either 19 to 20 years of age.

Based on Hajar, Ibn Katir, and Abda’l-Rahman ibn abi zanna’d, Ayesha’s age at the time she began living with the Prophet would be 19 or 20. In Evidence # 3, Ibn Hajar suggests that Ayesha was 12 years old and in Evidence #4 he contradicts himself with a 17 or 18-year-old Ayesha. What is the correct age, twelve or eighteen?

CONCLUSION: Ibn Hajar is an unreliable source for Ayesha’s age.

EVIDENCE #5: The Battles of Badr and Uhud

A narrative regarding Ayesha’s participation in Badr is given in the hadith of Muslim, (Kitabu’l-jihad wa’l-siyar, Bab karahiyati’l-isti`anah fi’l-ghazwi bikafir). Ayesha, while narrating the journey to Badr and one of the important events that took place in that journey, says:

“when we reached Shajarah”. Obviously, Ayesha was with the group travelling towards Badr. A narrative regarding Ayesha’s participation in the Battle of Uhud is given in Bukhari (Kitabu’l-jihad wa’l-siyar, Bab Ghazwi’l-nisa’ wa qitalihinna ma`a’lrijal):

“Anas reports that on the day of Uhud, people could not stand their ground around the Prophet. [On that day,] I saw Ayesha and Umm-i-Sulaim, they had pulled their dress up from their feet[to avoid any hindrance in their movement].”

Again, this indicates that Ayesha was present in the Battles of Uhud and Badr.

It is narrated in Bukhari (Kitabu’l-maghazi, Bab Ghazwati’l-khandaq wa hiya’l-ahza’b): “Ibn `Umar states that the Prophet did not permit me to participate in Uhud, as at that time, I was 14 years old. But on the day of Khandaq, when I was 15 years old, the Prophet permitted my participation.”

Based on the above narratives, (a) the children below 15 years were sent back and were not allowed to participate in the Battle of Uhud, and (b) Ayesha participated in the Battles of Badr and Uhud

CONCLUSION:Ayesha’s participation in the Battles of Badr and Uhud clearly indicates that she was not nine years old but at least 15 years old. After all, women used to accompany men to the battlefields to help them, not to be a burden on them. This account is another contradiction regarding Ayesha’s age.

EVIDENCE #6: Surat al-Qamar (The Moon)

According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha was born about eight years before hijrah. But according to another narrative in Bukhari, Ayesha is reported to have said:

“I was a young girl (jariyah in Arabic)” when Surah Al-Qamar was revealed (Sahih Bukhari, kitabu’l-tafsir, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu Maw`iduhum wa’l-sa`atu adha’ wa amarr).

Chapter 54 of the Quran was revealed eight years before hijrah (The Bounteous Koran, M.M. Khatib, 1985), indicating that it was revealed in 614 CE.

If Ayesha started living with the Prophet at the age of nine in 623 CE or 624 CE, she was a newborn infant (sibyah in Arabic) at the time that Surah Al-Qamar (The Moon) was revealed. According to the above tradition, Ayesha was actually a young girl, not an infant in the year of revelation of Al-Qamar. Jariyah means young playful girl (Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon).

So, Ayesha, being a jariyah not a sibyah (infant), must be somewhere between 6-13 years old at the time of revelation of Al-Qamar, and therefore must have been 14-21 years at the time she married the Prophet.

CONCLUSION: This tradition also contradicts the marriage of Ayesha at the age of nine.

EVIDENCE #7: Arabic Terminology

According to a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of the Prophet’s first wife Khadijah, when Khaulah came to the Prophet advising him to marry again, the Prophet asked her regarding the choices she had in mind. Khaulah said:“You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who has already been married (thayyib)”. When the Prophet asked the identity of the bikr (virgin), Khaulah mentioned Ayesha’s name.

All those who know the Arabic language are aware that the word bikr in the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine-year-old girl. The correct word for a young playful girl, as stated earlier, is jariyah.

Bikr on the other hand, is used for an unmarried lady without conjugal experience prior to marriage, as we understand the word “virgin” in English. Therefore, obviously a nine-year-old girl is not a “lady” (bikr) (Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 6, p. .210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi, Beirut).

CONCLUSION:The literal meaning of the word, bikr (virgin), in the above hadith is “adult woman with no sexual experience prior to marriage.” Therefore, Ayesha was an adult woman at the time of her marriage.

EVIDENCE #8. The Qur’anic Text

All Muslims agree that the Quran is the book of guidance. So, we need to seek the guidance from the Quran to clear the smoke and confusion created by the eminent men of the classical period of Islam in the matter of Ayesha’s age at her marriage. Does the Quran allow or disallow marriage of an immature child of seven years of age?
There are no verses that explicitly allow such marriage. There is a verse, however, that guides Muslims in their duty to raise an orphaned child. The Quran’s guidance on the topic of raising orphans is also valid in the case of our own children. The verse states:“And make not over your property (property of the orphan), which Allah had made a (means of) support for you, to the weak of understanding, and maintain them out of it, clothe them and give them good education. And test them until they reach the age of marriage. Then if you find them maturity of intellect, make over them their property...” (Quran, 4:5-6).

In the matter of children who have lost a parent, a Muslim is ordered to (a) feed them, (b) clothe them, (c) educate them, and (d) test them for maturity “until the age of marriage” before entrusting them with management of finances.

Here the Quranic verse demands meticulous proof of their intellectual and physical maturity by objective test results before the age of marriage in order to entrust their property to them.
In light of the above verses, no responsible Muslim would hand over financial management to a seven- or nine-year-old immature girl. If we cannot trust a seven-year-old to manage financial matters, she cannot be intellectually or physically fit for marriage.

Ibn Hambal (Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, vol.6, p. 33 and 99) claims that nine-year-old Ayesha was rather more interested in playing with toy-horses than taking up the responsible task of a wife.

It is difficult to believe, therefore, that AbuBakr, a great believer among Muslims, would betroth his immature six-year-old daughter to the 50-year-old Prophet.

Equally difficult to imagine is that the Prophet would marry an immature six-year-old girl.

Another important duty demanded from the guardian of a child is to educate them. Let us ask the question, “How many of us believe that we can educate our children satisfactorily before they reach the age of seven or nine years?”

The answer is none.

Logically, it is an impossible task to educate a child satisfactorily before the child attains the age of seven. Then, how can we believe that Ayesha was educated satisfactorily at the claimed age of six at the time of her marriage?

AbuBakr was a more judicious man than all of us. So, he definitely would have judged that Ayesha was a child at heart and was not satisfactorily educated as demanded by the Quran. He would not have married her to anyone. If a proposal of marrying the immature and yet to be educated six-year-old Ayesha came to the Prophet, he would have rejected it outright because neither the Prophet nor AbuBakr would violate any clause in the Quran.

CONCLUSION:The marriage of Ayesha at the age of six years would violate the maturity clause or requirement of the Quran. Therefore, the story of the marriage of the six-year-old immature Ayesha is a myth.

EVIDENCE #9: Consent in Marriage

A women must be consulted and must agree in order to make a marriage valid (Mishakat al Masabiah, translation by James Robson, Vol. I, p. 665).

Islamically, credible permission from women is a prerequisite for a marriage to be valid.

By any stretch of the imagination, the permission given by an immature six-year-old girl cannot be valid authorization for marriage.

It is inconceivable that AbuBakr, an intelligent man, would take seriously the permission of a seven-year-old girl to marry a 50-year-old man.

Similarly, the Prophet would not have accepted the permission given by a girl who, according to the hadith of Muslim, took her toys with her when she went live with Prophet.

CONCLUSION:The Prophet did not marry a six-year-old Ayesha because it would have violated the requirement of the valid permission clause of the Islamic Marriage Decree. Therefore, the Prophet married an intellectually and physically mature lady Ayesha.

It was neither an Arab tradition to give away girls in marriage at an age as young as six or nine years, nor did the Prophet marry Ayesha at such a young age. The people of Arabia did not object to this marriage because it never happened in the manner it has been narrated.

Obviously, the narrative of the marriage of nine-year-old Ayesha by Hisham ibn `Urwah cannot be held true when it is contradicted by many other reported narratives. Moreover, there is absolutely no reason to accept the narrative of Hisham ibn `Urwah as true when other scholars, including Malik ibn Anas, view his narrative while in Iraq, as unreliable.

The quotations from Tabari, Bukhari and Muslim show they contradict each other regarding Ayesha’s age.

Furthermore, many of these scholars contradict themselves in their own records. Thus, the narrative of Ayesha’s age at the time of the marriage is not reliable due to the clear contradictions seen in the works of classical scholars of Islam.

Therefore, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the information on Ayesha’s age is accepted as true when there are adequate grounds to reject it as myth. Moreover, the Quran rejects the marriage of immature girls and boys as well as entrusting them with responsibilities.

T.O. Shanavas is a physician based in Michigan. This article first appeared in The Minaret in March 1999.
© 2001 Minaret

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Black Jesus and Black Muhammad Welcomed in Black Africa

It has been our experience here in America that any discussion of the ethnicity of the Prophet Muhammad, especially that he may have been a black-skinned man, is frowned upon by traditional African American Muslims (Sunni, Shiite, followers of Imam W.D. Mohammed, etc.). More often than not these Muslims will even refuse to entertain the discussion, claiming that Islam doesn’t “do” race. The evidence now available that the Holy Prophet from Arabia was a black-skinned man (asmar/abyad) like the original Arabs, including his own tribal clan the Banu Hashim, is not even countenanced by most African Americans Muslims; not because there is a problem with the information, but because it allegedly does not matter what the color of Allah’s last prophet was.

We had a very different experience in Africa. We, members of the Allah Team, spent five days in Johannesburg, South Africa (August 10-15, 2011). The brothers and sisters with whom we discussed these matters accepted, some excitedly, this revelation. Our first experience was at Masjid Ur-Rahmanah in Emmarentia, where we went to make Salat ul-Jumah. It appears that this was mainly an Indian Muslim masjid. There was a small scatter of Black African Muslims there, but they seem to have been largely menial workers at the Masjid from places other than South Africa, primarily Malawi.  After salat we took the opportunity to meet the imam, Imam Buhaan Mia, who was Indian. We also, and firstly, met several Malawi Muslims, including Bro Omar and Bro Isa. We discussed their reasons for being in Johannesburg – extreme poverty back in Malawi – and the issue of race in the South African ummah. When I shared with the brothers my research into the African context of the early ummah and the fact that the Prophet likely looked more like them than like the conventional white-skinned image, there were no protests offered. They seemed genuinely pleased to hear this. I gave the brothers copies of my book, “God’s Black Prophets: Deconstructing the Myth of the White Muhammad of Arabia and Jesus of Jerusalem.” They seemed very pleased to receive it. In fact, Bro Isa, who was the elder among and the voice for a group of about five Malawi Muslims, urged us to come to Malawi and establish a masjid for the people.

In Hillbrow we met a Muslim brother from Mali, West Africa, who very excitedly received the news and the book.

Our guide around Johannesburg for the last two days of our trip was an African Christian brother, Tshishiwa. We had a great time with him and got the opportunity to meet his beautiful wife. As we were in his cab for hours, we had a lot of good discussion. We learned a great deal from him about Black life in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa, as he was there in 1994 when Apartheid was officially ended. When our discussion got to religion and I shared with him the data indicating that his Jesus was not a White man, but a black-skinned man, probably like him, it was almost like a fire was set in his soul. He very happily received the news. I gave him a copy of my book, which he and his wife began reading immediately. In fact, Tshishiwa would at times sit in his cab reading the book as Wakeel and I were out exploring the land.     

Aryanized Islam and Europeanized Christianity have had a devastating impact on Africa and her children, on the continent as well as in the Diaspora. They have caused social, spiritual, psychological, political, economic and physical devastation.  There is no clearer example of the type of psychological devastation Aryanized Islam has caused than the report from the Canadian anthropologist Janice Boddy from the University of Toronto. In her ethnographic study of women in the Sudan entitled, “Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men, and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan,” Prof Boddy reports:

“Hofriyati (i.e. Sudanese villagers) are especially conscious of skin color. White skin is clean, beautiful, and a mark of potential holiness. I, being a Caucasian, was repeated told that my chances of getting into heaven – should I choose to become Muslim – were far greater than those of the average Sudani. This is because the Prophet Mohammed was white, and all white-skinned peoples are in the favored position of belonging to his tribal group.”  

The equally fictitious ‘White Jesus’ has had an equally negative impact on the minds and souls of our people in Africa. While looking through a bookstand owned by a white South African in Hillbrow – the infamous ‘hood’ of Joburg – I was not surprised to see on the table an illustrated copy of the Bible: all whites gracing the cover, the central figure of course being the white Jesus (see image above). SMH.

The white-skinned Muhammad and white-skinned Jesus have been and remain the chief agents of the psychological genocide of African peoples.   They are both figments of the White imagination and bear no resemblance to the historical prophets Muhammad and Jesus, as I have demonstrated. I do not believe that Africa and her children – continental and diasporan – can ever truly be free and/or psychologically/spiritually healthy until we bury these white (im)pious fictions.

What are we to make of the different receptions of this information in the African and African American communities? The fact that this information is more welcomed in Africa than in African America no doubt speaks to the impact of the “seasoning” or “breaking” process that Africans underwent here in the western hemisphere. This process of “seasoning” – breaking a proud African population down in order to reconstitute them as non-threatening and useful slaves in the America’s – wiped out our collective sense of self-love and self-respect, and replaced these with a deep and abiding self-hatred. We can thus understand why a black-skinned  Muhammad and a black-skinned Jesus would be as offensive to many Black Americans as it is for most White Americans. Africa experienced the indignity and devastation of colonialism and neo-colonialism and apartheid; she has and continues to experience exploitation and rape, of her people and resources. But Africa herself has not experienced the ‘peculiar’ institution of American-style slavery and its ‘seasoning’ processes. We here in the West have a deeper mental pathology to deal with.


Bro Wesley Muhammad  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Allah and Amun-Ra: Slave Gods?

By Dr Wesley Muhammad (c) 2011


              Chancellor Williams and Yusef Ben Jochannan, among other Africentrist scholars, have insisted in the past that Islam is, viz-a- viz African Peoples, a slave religion. The claim is generally that African peoples are Muslims today primarily because Arab Muslims were deeply involved in the African slave-trade. While the latter point is certainly true and of great significance, it is not the case that Islam was first encountered by African peoples through the Arab slave-trade. First, as was demonstrated, African peoples originated Islam in Arabia and brought it back to Africa in the 7th century. Secondly, there was relatively minimal forced conversion to Islam of Africans on the mainland before the 19th century.  Before then the religion - apart from the empire – spread throughout Africa rather peacefully.  

The institution of slavery is found throughout the ancient world and existed in traditional African society from antiquity to the modern world. It thus comes as no surprise that it is found in North East Africa, i.e. Arabia, at the time of Muhammad. The Qur’an assumes its existence and does not ban it outright.  Apparently like Ma'at of ancient Egypt, Islam was not deemed incompatible with the institution. Instead, like the Egyptian ‘Negative Confessions’ which stipulated proper 'Maatic' behavior with regard to (among other things) slaves, the Qur’an does "enunciate precepts and injunctions aimed at mitigating the condition and encouraging manumission."  The early Muslims therefore did, like other Africans, participate in the institution. But there is something very important regarding this early Muslim practice of slavery which often goes unnoticed: the preferred slaves for these African (Black Muslims) were whites. As Dana Marniche explains:

¼people that were fair-skinned were recognized by Arabs as descendants of subject peoples and slaves¼ the idea of blacks in Africa being the predominant slaves of the Arabs comes from not knowing the history of the peninsula or in fact not being able to read Arabic, otherwise it would have been recognized that the Arabs were usually designated as "black" and "dark brown"¼ We know the Arabs were so predominantly black in color that even the term "white" in earlier days, according to Arabic linguistic specialists ¼ meant a black man with a clear skin¼ On the other hand many black Africans have been brought into Arabia as slaves more recently in the last several centuries. Many of the people that were taking black slaves from Africa were in fact not Arabs in the strict sense of the word but rather Muslim Iranians, Iraqis, [Turks], "white" Syrians and other "Arabized" settlers or inhabitants in the Near East, Arabia and North Africa¼Most slaves¼before the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 15th century were "whites" coming from the north and mixing with the very dark-skinned black and near black groups of people known as "Arabs" in Spain, North Africa and the Near East. ¼thus, many Arabic speaking historians asserted up until the 14th century that the Arabs equated slave origins with fair skin or vice versa.”

The Muslim slave trade from Africa, to the extent that it happened in the early period, "involved a steady but relatively small flow over a millennium." The more the Islamic world was Aryanized, however, the more the newly introduced anti-black sentiments shaped the institution of slavery in the Muslim world, until eventually (by the seventeenth century) the term 'slave', ‘abid, came to mean 'Black person'. The horrible 'East African Holocaust,' as the East African Slave Trade in the hands of Muslims has been called, was dominated by those 'Arabized' whites noted by Marniche, such as the notorious Omani ruler Sayyid Said b. Sultan (d. 1856) who controlled the East African trade from Zanzibar in the 19th century. The East African Holocaust, therefore, was not the result of the Islamization of Africa, but of the Aryanization of Islam.

While some pro-Black ‘Black Arabs’ were involved in the enslavement of other Africans, I have in the past noted that this should be seen in the context of the broader phenomenon of the indigenous African institution of slavery that goes as far back as ancient Kemet. I have documented that ancient Black Egyptians (Kemetians) enslaved other Africans (e.g. Nubians) in the name of Amun-Ra (see ). My point is not to apologize for the institution of slavery, either Muslim or Yoruba or Kemetic. My point is to highlight the double standard and self-contradiction of a pillar of the Afrocentrist critique of Islam.   

Recently a good brother who does, as far as I can tell, very responsible Afrocentric scholarship, offered the following challenge to my argument. His challenge was actually to the case I made in the following video clips:

I post my Brother’s challenge here and my response:


“there is a definite critique that could be laid in the original lecture which I think many understand intuitively, but cannot articulate intellectually.  The primary critique that many African-Centered individuals have against the Abrahamic faiths is that slavery is promoted and sanctioned by the Creator (God) or the primary prophets of those traditions. Given the quote in the lecture in the first link by Pharoah Thutmose III, one couldn't argue, given the data presented at the lecture, that Amen-Ra sanctions or approves such activities. The dialogue in the text is given by Thutmose, not Amen-Ra. So the response would be, well that's Thutmose speaking; who said that he was "the" representative of Amen-Ra (Amandla in many African languages)? In other words, this could be argued to be the speech of an individual (not of a spiritual tradition) who invokes the name of God during a time of war.  Thutmose III is not presented as a priest, but an Army general and political leader. This is expected language from a leader of a military during a time of war. So for the equation to be balanced, one would have to find primary Egyptian texts in which God (imn-ra, Hrw-Wr, Wsr/jsr, mA'a.t, etc.) sanctions or commands such actions. 

So while there was definitely Black African on Black African war and atrocities, one can't argue that the promotion of one's religion was the reason for the actions. This is at the heart of the debate. Because if people feel compelled to murder, war, loot, pillage, etc., because "God" said so, what recourse do you have against God? How do you make God responsible for giving the order?  It's different to charge an individual up like Hitler. We understand that Hitler acted alone, although he invoked God often. However, one would be hard pressed to argue God commanded Hitler to commit genocide. That's not the case Biblically speaking, for example, and it is this which is the issue; not whether Blacks kill other Blacks.”

My Response:

Peace Brother. I appreciate your comments. I absolutely agree with you when you admit that “untrained methods such as (Shaka Ndugu Kemet’s) gives Afrocentricity a bad name.” Afrocentric scholarship – and I like to think that I am a contributor to this – must be more sound and critical in its methodologies. Even some conclusions of such luminaries as Dr Clarke and Dr Ben must be reconsidered and revised in as much as they were founded on quite unsound methodological principles. What the likes of such E-scholars like Shaka and others do makes a mockery of what those men (i.e. Dr Ben, Dr Clarke, etc.) have done and contributed. But true Afrocentric scholars need to speak up (as you have) and disown these people and their ‘scholarship’. As a Muslim scholar (as well), I make a point to disclaim the dogmatic Muslim ‘scholarship’ that is out there – both Black Muslim and so-called Orthodox scholarship. It too is more often than not completely lacking in sound methodology.

While I understand your critique of the points I made in my lecture and appreciate you addressing what I actually said rather than a twisted sound-bite, I respectfully disagree with your critique. I believe it inadequately and unfairly represents both the so-called ‘Abrahamic traditions’, in particular the Qur’an’s and Muhammad’s position, as well as the ‘Ma’atic’ tradition.       

You say Beloved:

“The primary critique that many African-Centered individuals have against the Abrahamic faiths is that slavery is promoted and sanctioned by the Creator (God) or the primary prophets of those traditions. Given the quote in the lecture in the first link by Pharoah Thutmose III, one couldn't argue, given the data presented at the lecture, that Amen-Ra sanctions or approves such activities. The dialogue in the text is given by Thutmose, not Amen-Ra. So the response would be, well that's Thutmose speaking; who said that he was "the" representative of Amen-Ra (Amandla in many African languages)? In other words, this could be argued to be the speech of an individual (not of a spiritual tradition) who invokes the name of God during a time of war.”

There are a number of problems with this critique.

1.] It unjustly insinuates that the Qur’an and Muhammad promote and sanction the enslavement of Black people, which was the point of my talk. Nowhere in the Qur’an is the enslavement of Black people “promoted and sanctioned”. Yes, it tacitly approves the general institution of slavery by stipulating well-treatment of slaves; but so does Ma’at. In the Papyrus of Nu, one who enters the Hall of Ma’at must declare his innocence of a number of sins, including confessing: “I have not vilified a slave to his master”. Here, like in the Qur’an, the legitimate existence of the institution is assumed, and only improper treatment of slaves is proscribed. But nowhere in the Qur’an is there the slightest advocacy of the enslavement of Black people. Regarding statements put in the mouth of Muhammad via hadith, both positions are attributed to him: there are those racist statements advocating enslaving Blacks attributed to him by slave making Muslims of the medieval period. There are also anti-racist, pro-black statements attribute to him. Each statement must be critically analyzed on its own terms to trace its origin and determine its authenticity. But the conflicting positions and ambivalence precludes our making the claim that Muhammad “promoted and sanctioned” the enslavement of African people. The Qur’an never did.

2.] The distinction you draw between the alleged position of “the Creator (God) or the primary prophets” on the one hand and the actions and statements of the Egyptian Pharoah on the other, is methodologically flawed. Firstly, from a strictly historical-critical perspective, the Qur’an and the Ma’atic texts of Kemet are of the same nature: they are the both alleged ‘Divine Words’ written by men (and women?) who believe in the God(s). Thus, critically speaking, the Qur’an as we have it cannot be said to be the articulated position of “the Creator (God),” only the position attributed to God by recorders and transmitters of the messages Muhammad believed he received from God. This, again, narrows the differential gap between the Qur’an and, for example, the Pyramid Texts. Both are, ultimately, the words of men in the name of the gods.

Second, the pharaoh is not less but more of a representative of Ma’at and the Gods, e.g. Ra/Heru, than Muhammad is a representative of Allah. The Pharoah, as the very House of God and God incarnate, is a representative of the will of the gods in a way Muhammad is only claimed to be much later in the development of Islam when, under the influence of mystical hagiographies, he becomes an exaggerated saint. Thus, what the Phoroahs do in the name of the Gods is much more indicative – from the Ma’atic perspective – of the will of the Gods than what you suggest Beloved. Statements and activities of Tuthmose III in the name of Amen-Ra is even more relevant to the discussion I initiated than is the statements and activities of later Muslims, mainly (though not exclusively) white converts to the religion. Now, as you correctly pointed out in a footnote to your comment, in my lecture I quote the statement of Djhty, one of Thutmose III’s generals, rather than the words of the Pharoah himself. In this case your words here may have some force: “In other words, this could be argued to be the speech of an individual (not of a spiritual tradition) who invokes the name of God during a time of war.” 

However, this ideology of Amun-Ra as the real conqueror and enslaver of Nubia was very poetically articulated by the pharaoh himself on the walls of the Great Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnack. The Poetic Stela of Thutmose III, a black granite stela now in the Cairo Museum, celebrates and gives context to Thutmose III’s conquests. The god Amun-Ra is presented affirming to the king that his military successes are all the work of the God, including the brutal slaying of the conquered peoples. The Pharoah (God incarnate) declares:   

This ideology of Amun-Ra as the real conqueror and enslaver of Nubia was very poetically laid out on the walls of the Great Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnack. The Poetic Stela of Thutmose III, a black granite stela now in the Cairo Museum, celebrates and gives context to Thutmose III’s conquests. The god Amun-Ra is presented affirming to the king that his military successes are all the work of the god, including the brutal slaying of the conquered peoples:

“Thus speaks Amun-Ra, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands…
“My son, my defender, Men-Kheper-Ra (prenomen of Thutmose III)…
I shall establish your power and the awe of you in all the nations…
The nobles of every foreign land will be united in your fist…
I shall shackle the Nubian archers by ten thousands of thousands.
And the men of the North by hundreds of thousands of captives…
I have come to empower you to crush the eastern lands:
You will tread down those who dwell in the regions of God’s Land (Ta-Neter)…
I have come to empower you to crush the bowmen (of Nubia); Nubia as far as Shat in your possession.”

Here, the words of the God himself are inscribed in his holy temple, and he is empowering the Pharoah Tuthmose to crush and enslave Nubians. Where are there similar words of Allah? Not in the Qur’an. In what Masjid will we find Allah’s words inscribed empowering a caliph to crush and enslave the Sudan? Nowhere.  

Not only do we have these inscribed divine words of the God Amun-Ra, we have pictorial depictions of the God receiving slaves. In a XII Dynasty mural from Medinet Habu, Thebes, Pharoah Ramesses III is depicted presenting to Amun-Ra Libyan and Levantine prisoners of war to be used a slaves on temple grounds and elsewhere (See photo). It must be emphasized that these were mainly Black captives, as the Levant was still a Black land at this time. Where is there a similar depiction of Allah receiving black slaves from a caliph or sultan?

There were times when the Temple of Amun  became the seat of oppression in Nubia. A decree of the Pepy I (c. 2325 BCE), the third pharaoh of the VI Dynasty, prohibited Nubians from entering the temples. On the Shrine Stella of Ineny (c. 1350), mayor of Thebes under the XVIII Dynasty king Thutmose I, Ineny mentions seeing Nubian captives given “to the endowment of Amun at the time when wretched Kush was overthrown.”

Also informative is the Semna Inscription of the viceroy Merimose of the XVIII Dynasty, under Amenhotep III (1402-1364 BCE), speaking of a campaign into Nubia that resulted in slaughter and enslavement, all in the name of Amun and Heru:

“The might of Nibmatre took them in one day, in one hour, making a great slaughter … not one of them escaped; each one of them was brought … The might of Amenhotep took them; the barbarians among them, male as well as female, were not separated; by the plan of Horus, Lord of the Two Lands, King Nibmatre, mighty bull, strong in might. Ibhet had been haughty, great things were in their hearts, (but) the fierce-eyed lion, this ruler, he slew them by command of Amun-Atum, his august father; it was he who led him in might and victory.”

There is then listed an inventory of spoils from this military campaign COMMANDED by Amun-Atum and planed by Heru, Lord of the Two Lands:

“List of the captivity which his majesty took in the land of Ibhet, the wretched:

Living Kushites 150 heads
Archers 110 heads
Kushite women 250 heads
Servants of the Kushites 55 heads
Their children 175 heads
Total 740 living heads
Hands thereof 312
United with the living heads 105242”

You say Brother:

“So while there was definitely Black African on Black African war and atrocities, one can't argue that the promotion of one's religion was the reason for the actions. This is at the heart of the debate. Because if people feel compelled to murder, war, loot, pillage, etc., because "God" said so, what recourse do you have against God? How do you make God responsible for giving the order?”

Nowhere in the Qur’an does God (or the human speakers for him) gives such an order. We do find, however, Persian Muslim literature of the 10-11th centuries that claims that Allah wants Blacks dead, for they/we are the enemies of God and Islam. But we cannot say on this basis that “Creator (God) and primary prophets” of Islam “promotes and sanctions” the enslavement of Black Africans. We have much more authoritative Kemetic sources explicitly depicting Amun-Ra “compelling murder, war, loot, pillage, etc,” than we have in Islam. So, a much stronger case can be made for Amun-Ra as a slave God, than can be made for Allah. However, I don’t make either claim. This is the claim I made:

Just as the Church in the American South and the Masjid in Zanzibar were centers of African slavery and seats of oppression, so too were the Temples of Amun both in Nubia and in Kemet. In these texts and images the god Amun-Ra is directly linked to the enslavement and slaughter of African peoples (Nubians), in much the same way Christ Jesus will be in the hands of the European traffickers in enslaved Africans and justifiers of the practice. If anyone can be called a ‘slave-god,’ it is certainly this god! Yet, that would be a very irresponsible position to hold. Because murderers invoked the god does not mean the god himself is a murderer! This logic will no doubt immediately resonate with most people. However, when it comes to Islam and Allah, the logic is inoperative with much of these same people. Allah is held responsible for all of the evil deeds of those that say they believe in him. This is a double standard that must be exposed and done away with. If Ma’at and Amun-Ra should not be judged on the basis of the anti-African, murderous and enslaving policies of Tutankhamun, then Allah and Islam should not be judged on the basis of the slaving practices of Sayyid Said b. Sultan, the notorious Omani Arab who controlled the “East African Holocaust,” i.e 19th century CE slave trade based in Zanzibar.”