Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Ka’ba, the Qur’an and the Black God of Kemet: Part I

By Wesley Muhammad, PhD. 



1. Fruits of the Same Tree

Baba Rafiq Bilal (d. November 28, 2008) and Thomas Goodwin's 1987 publication, Egyptian Sacred Science in Islam: The Sacred Science of Ancient Egypt as revealed in Al-Islam,” was groundbreaking.  Professor Dr Wade Nobles, who wrote the forward to the book, called the work a “thoroughly supported bridge between Islam and the Ancient Kemetic understanding of the most Holy of Holies.” Egyptian Sacred Science in Islam was certainly a trailblazer not unlike Dr Yosef Ben Yochannan’s, The African Origin of the Major ‘Western’ Religions. According to Bilal and Goodwin’s research, “a serious study of the ancient religion of Egypt and the religion of al-Islam reveals the two to actually be different expressions of the same truths”.[1] The study of these two traditions convinced Bilal and Goodwin that:

“God Almighty presented essentially the same truths to the pre-historic Egyptians who built the fabulous civilization upon the principles of the Sacred Revelation, as He presented thousands of years later to Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah in the Holy Qur’an. Holy Qur’an is the purification and refinement of this ancient system of knowledge. The truth from God is one truth. In order to convey the body of knowledge which they received, the ancient Egyptians developed the most elaborate educational system in the history of man. Prophet Muhammad, the unlettered Prophet (the Umi Prophet) received and transmitted the same body of knowledge through revelation many thousands of years later…”

Bilal and Goodwin set out to document the nexus between the Qur’anic lexicon and historiography and Kemetic Sacred Science, arguing that:

“Within the pages of the Holy Qur’an, wrapped in the ancient Arabic language are preserved the following aspects of Egyptian history and sacred science (among others): 1: Concept of God, Nature and Knowledge [etc.]…”

I fully concur with Bilal and Goodwin. A close examination of the religious literature of ancient Egypt and Qur’anic/Islamic tradition confirms that the two traditions (Kemetic and Islamic) share a basic understanding of God. This concurrence of Kemetic and Islamic theology goes a long way in demonstrating that Ma’at and Islam are cognate traditions and spring from the same African Tree of Spirituality.    

2. The Ka’ba and the Black God of Kemet

Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop had already pointed out some of the parallels between Kemetic and Islamic traditions.[2] These were primarily ritual parallels: the Muslim ablution, the ritual prayers, the 30-day fast, the abstention from pork, all find precedent in ancient Egypt.[3] To this list may be added the seven-fold circumambulation around the sacred temple.[4]






But the theologies implied behind these rituals were equally similar. Diop hints at this fact:

“It is remarkable that many Arabic religious terms can be obtained by a simple combination of the three Egyptian ontological notions, Ba, Ra, Ka. As examples we can cite:

KABAR (a) = The action of raising the arms in prayer
RAKA         = The action of placing the forehead on the ground
KAABA      = The holy place of Mecca”[5]

Our focus here will be on the last point: Islam’s most sacred “house of God” and also its central religious symbol (i.e. the Black Stone or Al-Hajar Al-Aswad) housed therein are both called Ka’ba. In order to fully understand and appreciate this verbal assonance between Kemetic ontological notions and Islamic religious terminology and sacred architecture – and thus appreciate Diop’s insight - we must have a clear understanding of the relevant Kemetic concepts.

2.1.  Ancient Egyptian Ontology

Kemetic ontology recognized different aspects or modes (upwards of nine) of divine and human “being-ness,” usually identified by such terms as: khat, ab, ren, ka, ba, shut, akh, sahu. However, regarding the gods the emphasis was clearly on but three of these:

“Your ba is in the sky
Your body (khat) is in the netherworld
Your statue (=ka) is in the temple”

This recurrent tripartite theme has been elucidated by Egyptologist Jan Assmann.[6] The ba, theka, and the khat of the gods were often the focus of the theologians of Kemet. The Khat was the mortal body of the god, liable to decay and thus becoming a corpse and a mummy (sahu). Theka, on the other hand, was the immortal body of the god. It is a perfect replica of the khat or mortal body, without the mortality of it. In a famous depiction, the god Khnum who created humans on his potter’s wheel is shown creating the khat and its twin ka simultaneously.  Contrary to popular Western notions, the ka was not the immaterial “soul” or “spirit” of man/gods. It was as much a spiritual-material mode of being as the khat was, but it was a more transcendent mode of being. It is identified with the cult statue of the god in the temple, which itself was understood to be the divine body of the god on earth.



Khnum on his Potter's Wheel


The ba, often described as the “soul,” is better described as the Kemetic notion of vital force or the essence of the gods. According to Eberhard Otto, in humans the ba represented the embodiment of his/her vital forces and in the gods the embodiment of divine powers.[7]  It was this vital force/power that was ritualistically called down by the Egyptian priests to inhabit (!) and thus enliven the cult statute. As Prof Emily Teeter of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago explains:  
  
“The divine statue was provided as a physical form (ka) in which the ba could reside so that human beings could communicate with it…Once filled with and enlivened by the ba of the god, the cult statue became the ka, or physical form of the god.”[8] 

How does this relate to the Islamic Ka’ba (=Ka + Ba)? The Black Stone in pre-Islamic Arabia served the same purpose as the cult statue did in Kemet.

“A principal sacred object in Arabian religion was the stone. . . . Such stones were thought to be the residence of a god hence the term applied to them by Byzantine Christian writers of the fifth and sixth centuries: 'baetyl', from bet'el, 'the house of god'.”

Like the ka-statue of the Kemetic deities a baetyl was regarded as “the container of the god.”[9] And as Warwick Ball points out, this characteristically Arabian/Semitic tradition of the cultic stone finds its great expression today in the Ka’ba of Mecca:  

“Abstract representations of deity in the form of a square or cube was common throughout the (Pre-Hellenic) Semitic Near East…This was the baetyl, or stone cult object, the focal point of
so many temples not subject to Classicising influences…Indeed, the ancient Semitic idea of the sacred cube reaches culmination in the center of Semitic worship today: the Kaba…at Mecca.”[10]

Tremendous light was shed on the Arabian/Islamic Ka’ba and thus on its similarities with the Kemetic ka-statue by Prof Hildegard Lewy (d. 1969), Romanian Jew from Klausenburg and Semitics scholar and Assyriologist from Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. In her exceptionally important article “Origin And Significance of the Magen Dawid: A Comparative Study in the Ancient Religions of Jerusalem and Mecca,”[11] Lewy documented an ancient Semitic tradition – out of which the cults of Jerusalem and Mecca evolved – centered on a black stone that was considered to be both an embodiment of the primordial waters and a piece of the body of a deity, the divine body being made from those dark waters.  Lewy noted:

“the Black Stone…was thought to be…a part of the body of a great god…(I)n the form of a black meteorite a piece of the deity’s astral body was visible to the congregation at all times…”[12]

This stone, through which the deity was worshipped, was anciently housed in a cubed temple or shrine covered in black curtains. The ‘blackness’ of this pre-Islamic Arabian/Semitic deity and his cult inspired associations with the astral deity Saturn, the ‘Black Planet,”[13] whose temple was also made of black stone, draped with black curtains, and featured a black stone representing the deity or an anthropomorphic statue of the deity made from black stone. Both al-Masudi (d. 956) and al-Dimasq(d. 1327)578 report identifications of the Meccan Kaba with the cult of the black deity Saturn, as did the Dabistān –i Mazāhib.

The black stone of the Meccan Kaba, Lewy has well argued, must be understood against the backdrop of the broader Semitic cult of stones. While the shrine or temple itself was feminized and therefore identified with a goddess, the stone inside the shrine is identified with the male god, Allāh. This point is explicitly made in a Muslim tradition according to which al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwām (d. 656), famous companion of the Prophet Muhammad, was digging in al-Hijr while rebuilding the Kaba and found a stone on which was written: innānī AllāDhū Bakka, “I am Allāh, Lord of Bekka (=Mecca).”[14]

We have every reason to believe that the cult of the Kaba had the same significance for the prophet Muhammad that it did for the ancient Arabians: it was the cult center of the Black God, Allāh. As Lewy well argues in her study of the cult of the Black God in Mecca and Jerusalem:

“the Black Stone…was thought to be…a part of the body of a great god…(I)n the form of a black meteorite a piece of the deity’s astral body was visible to the congregation at all times…It was…no break with the ancient religion of Mecca when Mohammed…set up the Hajar al-aswad  (Black Stone) in a place where it was accessible to the eyes and the lips of the worshipers…It is…pertinent to recall that, before designating…the Kaba as the qibla… Mohammed ordered his followers to turn their faces in prayer toward the sacred rock in Jerusalem. The significance of this command becomes apparent if it is kept in mind that the qibla is an outgrowth of the belief…that man can address his prayers only to a being visible to the eyes[15]…when praying…the worshipper turned his eyes either to the heavenly body itself or, in it absence, to the stone or statue representing it on earth. If, however, he was not present in the town where a sacred stone, assumed to be a part of the deity’s astral body, was visible to the congregation, he still turned his eyes in the direction of this sanctuary, it being supposed that, having visited and inspected the deity’s body on the occasion of the annual pilgrimage, he could visualize it and thus address his prayer to it even from a distant point or locality.”

While Muhammad, upon conquering Mecca, destroyed most of the 360 pre-Islamic idols that had been housed in the Ka’ba, he not only kept this pre-Islamic idol, i.e. the Black Stone, but he made it the center of Islamic ritual. Muhammad’s reported interaction with Al-Hajar al-Aswad or the Black Stone is equally suggestive. He is known to have circumambulated the Kaba on camelback while pointing to the Black Stone with a staff exclaiming, Allāhu Akbar (Allāh is the greatest).[16] He was observed touching the stone with a stick and then kissing the stick. According to ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar, son of the second caliph, Muhammad would touch the Black Stone, kiss it, and weep for a long time. He reportedly said to Umar: “O Umar, this is the place where one should shed tears.” It is not made clear why interacting with the Black Stone was a source of such sadness, but that the Prophet made some intimate, deeply emotional association between the stone and Allāh is quite evident from these reports. In this regard, a famous hadith of the Prophet is relevant:

“The Kaba (stone) is the Right Hand of Allāh and with it He shakes the hands of His servants as a man shakes the hand of His friend.”[17]

“Right Hand” here seems to be synecdoche (a part of something standing for the whole). In the history of religious symbolism the Hand symbolized a transmitter of spiritual and physical energy.[18] This is an apt description of the black body that the creator-god made for himself in order to be able to transmit his divine luminosity to earth without scorching it. As the Indian Islamic scholar Muhammad Hamidullah summed up the meaning of the Black Stone: “The right hand of the invisible God must be visible symbolically. And that is the al-Hajar al-Aswad, the Black Stone in the Ka'bah.”  

Diop’s insight is thus well-founded: Islam’s Ka’ba is the Kemetic ka and ba, the ka or divine body/cult statue in which resides the ba or divine essence of the god, Allah.  


Ma'atic Islam, or No Islam At All




Notes


[1] Rafiq Bilal and Thomas Goodwin, Egyptian Sacred Science in Islam: The Sacred Science of Ancient Egypt as revealed in Al-Islam (n.p.: n.p., 1987)147.

[2] Cheikh Anta Diop, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991); The African Origin of Civilization (Westport: Lawrence Hill & Company, 1967); The Cultural Unity of Black Africa (1963/1989).  

[3] See also Emily Teeter, Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Serǵe Sauneron, The Priests of Ancient Egypt, New Edition (1957; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).

[4] See Heinrich Brugsch, Religion und Mythologie der alten Aegypter (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrich’sche Buchhandlung, 1891) 346; Hugo Greßmann, “Tod und Auferstehung des Osiris nach seiner Festbräuchen und Umzügen,” Der Alt Orient 23 (1923): 23.

[5] Diop, Cultural Unity of Black Africa, 89.

[6] The Search for God in Ancient Egypt (Cornell University Press, 2001).

[7]  E. Otto, "Die Anschauung vom B3 nach Coffin Texts Sp. 99-104," Miscellanea Gregoriana(1941), 151-60. For more recent discussions see Louis Vico Zabkar,  A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts (University of Chicago Press, 1968); R.B. Finnestad, “On transposingSoul and Body into a monistic conception of Being. An example from Ancient Egypt”, Religion 16 (1986): 359-373.

[8] Teeter, Religion and Ritual, 44.

[9] Healey, Religion of the Nabataeans, 157.

[10] Warwick Ball, Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire (Routledge, 2000) 379-380.

[11] Hildegard Lewy, “Origin And Significance of the Magen Dawid: A Comparative Study in the Ancient Religions of Jerusalem and Mecca,” ArOr 18 (1950): 330-365.


[12] Lewy, “Origin and Significance,” 345. 348, 349.

[13] The Babylonians called Saturn Mi “The Black”. See Robert Brown, The Great Dionysiak Myth (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1878) 329. According to the Dabistān –i Mazāhib or “Schools of Religions” Saturn’s temple was constructed out of black stone as was his statue that stood there. In addition, Saturn’s officiating ministers were all black complexioned persons, Ethiopians, etc. The Dabistán or School of Manners, trans. David Shea and Anthony Troyer (New York and London: M. Walter Dunne, 1901) 22.

[14] Al-Azraqi, Kitab Akhbar Makkaapud Die Chroniken der Stadt Mecca, ed. Ferdinand Wüstenfeld (Leipzig, 1858-61) 42-3; Tabari, Tafsir (Cairo ed.) III:61.

[15] We are here reminded of the famous “Hadīth of Jibrīl” in which Muhammad defines ihsan as “to worship God as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, then indeed He sees you."

[16] Bukharī, SahihII, 697.

[17] Ibn Qutayba, Ta' wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith (1972) 215 (=1995 ed; p. 198, 262); Al-Qurtubi,al-Asna fi Sharh Asma' Allah al-Husna, II:90-91.

[18] Jack Tressidder, Symbols and Their Meanings (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006) 22.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Surat al-Ikhlas [112], Allah and the Black God of Ancient Kemet (Egypt)

 
Qul: huwa llāhu āhad
Allāhu s-samad
Lam yalid wa-lam yulad
Wa-lam yakun lahu kufu’an āhad

1 Say: He Allah is One
2 Allah is the Eternal (as-samad)
3 He begets not, nor is He begotten
4 And none is equal to Him.

I.                   Say: He Allah is One

Rafiq Bilal and Thomas Goodwin, Egyptian Sacred Science in Islam (1987):

“An examination of the earliest religious writings known to man, indicates that the original concept of monotheism was the Egyptian ‘Neter of Neter’ or ‘Great Principle’ or ‘Great God’…In the earliest of texts, the archaic Egyptians give tribute to ‘the Great God’ from which all creation emanated.”

Albert Churchward, The Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man:  

“At the same time we must not forget that all of these different names of gods (in Egypt) were simply the attributes of the One God.  In the 17th chapter of the (Egyptian) Ritual it says: ‘His names together compose the cycle of the gods’…In the 17th chapter of ‘The Book of the Dead‘ it is said: ‘I am the Great God-self created, that is to say, who made his names’ - ‘the company of the gods of God.’”

The Book of Knowing the Evolutions of Ra:

“I am he who came into being in the form of Khepera, I was (or became) the creator of what came into being, the creator of what came into being all; after my coming into being many [were] the things which came into being coming forth from my mouth. Heaven existed not, nor existed earth, nor had been created the things of the earth, (i.e., plants) and creeping things in place that; I raised them up from out of Nu (i.e. the primeval abyss of water) from a state of inactivity... I laid a foundation in Maā [and] I made every attribute. I was alone, [for] I had not spit in the form of Shu, neither had I emitted Tefnut, nor existed another who worked with me. I made a foundation in my heart my own (or, by means of my own will) [and] there came into being the multitudes of things which came into being of the things which came into being from out of the things which came into being of births, from out of the things which came into being of their births.”

II.                Allah is The Eternal

Rafiq Bilal and Thomas Goodwin, Egyptian Sacred Science in Islam (1987):

“In the principle (neter) of Amon, the hidden, we have an important aspect of monotheism which is retained in…al-Islam, the unseeable, non-depictable character of the Almighty, The validity of the principle is further illustrated by the name Amen in Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers. At the end of each prayer, we pronounce the name of this principle when we say: Amen.”

Albert Churchward, The Origin and Evolution of Religion (1924)”

“Amen, which was another name for Atum…In the hymns to Atem-Ra he is adored as one and the same as Atum, which shows that Amen is a later name for Atum; and he is represented as ‘the hidden god’ of Amenta, or ‘the secret earth.’” “Amen is the one god who is always depicted in human form…Amen…was the only deity in all Egypt who was expressly worshipped by the title of ‘Ankhu,’ the ever-living one eternal God. ”

III.             He begets not, nor is He begotten

He Begets Not:

William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation (2010):

“Unlike the theogonic pairs in Mesopotamian creation, Atum is a single parent, like Israel’s God YHWH.”

Utterance 600 of the Pyramid Texts as translated by R.O. Faulkner:

“O Atum-Kheprer, you became high on the height, you rose up as the bnbn-stone in the Mansion of the bn-bird in On, you SPAT OUT  (ishish) Shu, you SPIT OUT (tfnt) Tefnut, and you set your arms about them as the arms of a ka-symbol, that your essence might be in them.... 

Thus creation for Atum was not a literal begetting of the Gods.

Not Begotten:

J. Zandee, “The Birth-Giving Creator God in Ancient Egypt” (1992):  

“Atum is ‘complete’ as an androgynous god. He unites within himself masculinity and femininity. He possesses all conditions to bring forth the all out of him. He was a Monad and made himself millions of creatures which he contained potentially in himself. He was the one who came into being of himself (hpr ds.f), who was the creator of his own existence, the causa sui [cause of itself].”

From Theb. Tomb 157

“O [Atum-]Re who gave birth to righteousness, sovereign who created all this, who built his limbs, who modeled his body, who created himself, who gave birth to himself.”

Hieratic Coffin Text 714:

“I (Atum) created my body in my glory; I am he who made Myself; I formed Myself according to my will and according to my heart.”

IV.             And none is equal to Him.

Albert Churchward, The Origin and Evolution of Religion (1924):

“Atum-Ra declares that he is the One God, the one just or righteous God, the one living God…He is Unicus, the sole and only one (Rit., Chaps. 2, 17) beside whom there is none other…”

 Khonsu Cosmogony:

“Words spoken by Amen-Ra, King of the Gods…Amun in that name of his called Ptah created the egg (atom) that came forth from Nun (the primordial abyss).”

Leiden Hymn to Amun Re

“All gods are three:Amun, Re, Ptah, they have no equal.His name is hidden as Amun,he is Re in the face,and his body is Ptah.”

 Ma’atic Islam, or no Islam at all 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Mukasa Afrika Ma’at: Beautiful Brother, Bad Historian of Islam

By Wesley Muhammad, PhD

In December 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland I had the wonderful opportunity to engage my Brother Mukasa Afrika Ma’at in a public discussion on the subject “Ma’at and Islam: Two Distinct African Spiritual Traditions, or Not?” That historic discussion is now a matter of public record and is available in its entirety here:


I personally invited Bro Mukasa to this discussion after reading his book, The Redemption of Afrikan Spirituality: An Afrikan-Centered Historical Critique of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Considering his academic credentials, I thought then and I believe now that he was an excellent discussion partner for this topic at the time. Bro Mukasa agreed and the rest is history. I am proud of the discussion we had in Baltimore and the way we conducted it.

My discussion with Bro Mukasa was the third such live, public discussion I had with members of the so-called Afrocentrist community on this subject. While Bro Mukasa from the beginning wanted to make our discussion a ‘traveling’ discussion with episodes in different cities, I ultimately decided against this idea and decided that there is no more real value at all in debating Afrocentric ideologues over the subject of Islam’s Africanity.

My work on the African Origin of Islam has, among other things, exposed just how poor some of the current Afrocentric scholarship is with regards to Islam as an historical tradition, and just how dogmatically ideological many circles within the Afrocentric/Africa-Centered movement are.  I grew up looking to Afrocentrism as the standard of Black Intellectuality especially over and against the stifling religious foolery that characterized so much Black religiosity. How disappointed I am now to find that Afrocentrism itself has currently fallen into the same religious foolery (not all, but too much it).      

As wonderful a brother as Mukasa Africa Ma’at is, he right now exemplifies contemporary Afrocentrism’s poor scholarship on Islam and its zealously ideological nature. He would like another debate with me on the subject of Islam and Africa, but I have clearly stated my reasons why there will not be a FOURTH debate with Afrocentric deniers of plain facts. See here:


Bro Mukasa, like most Afrocentrists who engage in this particular discourse, is in total and obvious denial. His arguments, like the others, are just a reciting of the same ‘ol talking-points from the days of the Afrocentrist Crusades against Islam. He comes with nothing new himself and his approach to the wealth of relevant new data that I and others have brought to the table is to simply ignore it all. My brother is currently on a zealous, dogmatic campaign against Islam, but in doing so he exposes just how poor his “Islamic scholarship” is and why I can no longer take him serious as a relevant participant in the general discourse about Islam and Africa. Two examples will suffice.

In his blog entitled, “Islamic Invasion of Africa” (see http://afrikan-resistance.blogspot.com/2011/08/islamic-invasion-of-afrika-by-mukasa.html) Bro Mukasa makes the following comment:

“General ‘Amr who led in the capture of Alexandria, Egypt did not value knowledge as did the others, for he is historically quoted as saying, ‘If the library contains what is not in the Koran, it is false. If it contains what is already in the Koran, then it is superfluous. Burn it’ (Browder, 174). The Arabs destroyed statues, temples and pyramids and used the stones and limestones to build mosques and palaces.”

Here we find our Brother shamelessly quoting a long disproved piece of Christian anti-Islam propaganda. The fact that he cites as his authority for this claim our brother-scholar Anthony Browder only emphasizes how shallow Bro Mukasa’s knowledge is of Islam. While Anthony Browder is a wonderful author and educator, he is no historian of Islam and he simply got it wrong here. There were much more relevant sources that Bro Mukasa could have available himself of. See for example:

Robert Goldston, The Sword of the Prophet: A History of the Arab World From the Time of Mohammed to the Present Day (New York: Dial Press, 1979) 53-56:

“For many centuries it was said that Caliph Omar had ordered the destruction of the great library in Alexandria because ‘either its books conflicted with the Koran and therefore ought to be burned, or they agreed with the Koran and were therefore superfluous.’ In actual fact the famous library at Alexandria had been destroyed much earlier-in the third century A.D. during a civil war in the time of the Roman Emperor Aurelian. The myth that the Arabs destroyed it was a lie invented by thirteenth-century Christian propagandists.”

David L. Lewis, God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008) 83:


“But (Umar) never ordered the destruction of the…library, for the very good reason that that terrible result had been all but accomplished in the last decade of the fourth century by fanatical Alexandrian Christians who travestied Emperor Theodosius’s decree against paganism.”

A.R. Doi, “The Arab Concept of Ifriqiya and the Planting of Islam in Africa,” Africa Quarterly 12 (1972) 204-205:

“In connection with the expansion of Islam in Egypt, a story is concocted that by the Caliph’s order Amr for six long months fed the numerous bath-furnaces of the city with the volumes of Alexandrian library… ‘(It) is one of those tales that make good fiction but bad history. The great Ptloemaic Library was burnt as early as 48 BC by Julius Caesar. A later one, referred to as the Daughter Library, was destroyed about AD 389 as a result of an edict by Emperor Theodosius. At the time of the Arab conquest, therefore, no library of importance existed in Alexandria and no contemporary writer ever brought the charge against Amr or ‘Umar.”

This blatant scholarly faux pas – relying on long-discredited Christian anti-Islamic myth to make a point against Islam – exemplifies much of Bro Mukasa’s approach to the subject of Islam. Thus, it is no surprise that he relies so much (in writings and at our discussion) on Dr. John Alembillah Azumah, who is now a scholar of Christian mission and Islamic studies at Columbia Theological Seminary faculty. He is Associate Professor of World Christianity and an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Azumah did evangelical work in northern Ghana and established 18 churches in three years. Dr. Azumah’s book, The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa, while not totally valueless, is a more sophisticated piece of Christian anti-Islamic polemic, one that Bro Mukasa’s enjoys employing.

This second example of my Brother’s over-zealous and poor scholarship on Islam has to do with the Arab-Muslim Slave-Trade. In his blog entitled “Arab Slave Trade” (http://afrikan-resistance.blogspot.com/2011/08/arab-slave-trade-by-mukasa-afrika-maat.html), Mukasa opens with this image and claim:


    
The death toll from the Muslim slave trade, Mukasa claims, was over 112 million! He then says:

“The Arab slave trade has been just as extensive, or more so, when compared to the European slave trade in both numbers and sheer brutality”

These claims of Brother Mukasa are simply bogus, pure propaganda. The Eastern Ma’afa or the East African Slave Trade was overall a horrific and condemnable crime against African humanity, and no Muslim should allow themselves to be an apologist for it. It did not, however, compare in numbers or brutality to the West African Slave Trade. Mukasa’s ‘112 million’ figure is deception by numbers.

Edward A. Alpers, The East African Slave Trade (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967) 4:

“No historian of Africa will dispute the assertion that slaves have been exported from East Africa for as long as (two thousand years)…But just as we draw a distinction between the incidental trade in slaves which trickled across the Sahara from West to North Africa as long ago as the days of the Roman Empire, on the one hand, and the phenomenon which we call the West African slave trade, on the other, so we must draw a similar distinction for East Africa…It is very clear that the East African slave trade as a factor of continuing historical significance traces its roots back no further than the first half of the eighteenth century. [The] argument that it was of continuing importance from the earliest contacts with Asia simply cannot be substantiated. The slave trade as a factor in modern history of East Africa does not trace its roots back thousands of years.” “the old stereotyped idea that most slaves were seized by marauding bands of Arab and Swahili traders is just another one of the myths which have grown up around the East African slave trade…The horrors of the slave trade were … most pronounced during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.”

The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, ed. Junius P. Rodriquez (2 vols.; Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1997) 1: 13, 14 s.v. Africa by Frank A. Salamone:

“From 650 to 1600, approximately 3.5 million to 10 million people were removed from Africa by the (East African) slave trade…These figures should be contrasted with numbers taken from 1650 to the end of the Atlantic slave trade where estimates range from just over 11 million to more than 20 million.”

Thus, 3.5 -10 million over 1000 years (East African), versus 11-20 million over 200 years (West African). How is it that Bro Mukasa or anyone can say with a straight fact that the East African Slave trade rivaled the Western in numbers? And where did Bro Mukasa get his “112 million” figure from? Murray Gordon, in his Slavery in the Arab World, gives us a hint of where Mukasa might have gotten this figure from:

“the lack of documents, personal accounts, and reliable data on the number of blacks who were enslaved (have discouraged historians from inquiring into the slave trade and slavery in the Muslim world)…What records there are from official and commercial sources are spotty and their reliability uncertain. Reports of consular officials from Zanzibar, Tripoli, and Sur, which provide the basis for some of the estimates of the volume of the trade in the area, are incomplete and have been criticized as reflecting abolitionist tendencies of inflating figures in order to justify the adoption of stronger measure to crack down on slavers.” “The spotty information available about the export of slaves from Africa to the Arab world makes any assessments of the volume of this traffic and the time period it covered subject to a considerable margin of error. Not surprisingly, this narrow factual base has become a broad launching pad for exaggerated claims about the number of slaves shipped out of Africa and the time frame in which the trade ran. This is particularly true of the traffic that came out of East Africa…”

Mukasa’s “112 million figure” is certainly a grossly exaggerated claim made possible by the extremely narrow factual base currently available and made necessary by the ideology that drives his scholarship on Islam.

One final example: Bro Mukasa recently posted a video to Facebook on the damnable practice of male castration in some Islamic lands. Brother Mukasa presents this video as “Islam Exposed”. While the horrific practice of castrating Africans would become a very notable practice in some medieval Islamic lands, to claim that this is a characteristic feature of Islam is pure propaganda. In Ronald Segal’s important work, Islam’s Black Slaves (2001), which Mukasa himself quotes in his writings, this myth is exposed:

“In ancient Arabia, castration seems to have had no place; and when it subsequently did acquire one, the practice was roundly condemned by early Muslims. Mutilation was forbidden by Muslim law, and a specific ban on castration was invested with the authority of the Prophet by a hadith: ‘Whoever cuts off the nose of a slave, his nose shall be cut off; and whoever castrates a slave, him also shall we castrate.’ But the wealth acquired by conquest and the influence of cultures encompassed in the advance of Islam – eunuchs were employed for various purposes in both the Persian and Byzantine empires - proved more potent than precept.” 
    
Thus, there is nothing Arab or Islamic about the practice. This was a non-Arab and non-Islamic practice that was imported into Islam through the corrupting Aryanizing process that Islam later underwent. Mukasa and the ideologues like him simply refuse to deal with the fact that Islam, prior to its Aryanization, was distinctly and profoundly different from the later Aryanized Islam. It is no more just to judge Islam on the basis of the Aryanized corruption than it is just to judge Ma’at on the basis of the Ptolemaic corruptions of later times.  

I could go on, but I only wanted to show here how ideological our Brother’s claims are regarding Islam and why I decided that there is no value in a follow-up debate/discussion with him (or any other Afrocentric ideologue). Bro Mukasa is a beautiful Brother, with a good heart and spirit. I have tremendous respect and admiration for him as a Black Man, as a Father, and as a lover of African people. My respect for him as a participant in this particular discourse on Islam, however, has significantly diminished since our discussion in Baltimore. I wish my brother the best in all his righteous endeavors.  






The “Allah Derived From Allat” Myth, Poor Scholarship, And The Ideological Critique of Islam

By Wesley Muhammad, PhD

It is popular in many Afrocentric circles, largely due to the suggestion by Dr. Yusef ben Yochannan, to claim that the Islamic deity Allah derived from the pre-Islamic female deity Allat. I have demonstrated that this claim, and the suggestion by Dr. Ben, is completely foundationless and contradicted by the linguistic, epigraphic and historical evidence. See my Note

“Allāh Derived From Allāt? Exposing Another Afrocentrist Anti-Islam Myth”



What was not pointed out there is the profoundly poor scholarly method that is at the root of this disproven claim that still has some currency in some Afrocentric circles. It appears that the origin of this claim is with American feminist and knitting expert Barbara G. Walker. Walker is famous for her knitting books, though she studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania. However, as a feminist and atheist thinker, she wrote books on religion and myth and was an exponent of the “Matriarchal Mother Goddess” myth, even though as an atheist she did not believe it to be true. One such book of hers is The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983). It was in this work that we find the claim that Allah is the “Late Islamic masculinization of the Arabian Goddess, Al-Lat or Al-Ilat.”[1] She further claims that:

“It has been shown that ‘Allah of Islam’ was a male transformation of the primitive lunar deity of Arabia.’”

Where did this knitting expert moon-lighting as an Historian of Religion get this information from, that Allah is a male transformation of Allat? She quotes and cites one source: Robert Briffault’s book, The Mothers: The Matriarchal Theory of Social Origins (1927).[2]

Briffault, born in Nice in 1873, studied medicine at Dunedin University and received an MD and Ch.B in 1901, 1905. After working in private practice for a while, he caught the fever to write on issues of anthropology (for which he had no expertise) and comparative religion (for which he had no expertise). His magnum opus was The Mothers. Here, Briffault sought to prove that a primitive matriarchy (woman rule) universally preceded patriarchy; that families are a feature only of later patriarchies; and that there was a universal worship of a Goddess. As an arm-chair anthropologist Briffault’s work is dismissed by most scholars. But even his scholarly supporters recognize that, while there is important information in this mammoth three volume work, it is fraught with methodological and factual errors, and its main thesis has been disproven by more recent archaeological and anthropological data. Gordon Rattray Taylor, who sees the continuing value of The Mothers, yet admits:

“the advance of archaeology went far towards confirming (the skepticism of Briffault’s critics). It was observed that agricultural peoples, driven by pressures out of Asia Minor into the steppe country, became pastoral - which is just the contrary of what Briffault asserts to be the normal process…Briffault did himself much disservice by claiming too much: it was in the nature of the man to prefer the sweeping generalization, and he loved to shock the unimaginative out of their preconceptions. His data do not justify him in making the assertion that matriarchy always and everywhere preceded patriarchy…It must be concluded that he is open to criticism in matters of detail. He not infrequently contradicts himself, and sometimes uses a fact to prove one thing at one stage and support an equally plausible but quite different view at a later point. He is sometimes guilty of selecting his references to prove his point and glossing over those which are incompatible with it.”[3]      

And these are the words of one of the few modern day supporters of the work! Thus, we have a “scholarly” claim made in Afrocentric circles that derives from a trained journalist but expert knitter who only moon-lighted in religious studies, who herself claimed to have gotten the information from an armchair anthropologist and fellow religious studies moonlighter, whose relevant work is known to be methodologically and factual flawed. But if this was not bad enough, Walker’s claim to have derived her information from Briffault’s work turns out to be false!

Walker quotes and cites page 106 of the third volume of Briffault’s work. However, no such claim is made by Briffault or his sources. Compare Briffault and Walker’s use of Briffault:

Walker’s claim:

“Allah: Late Islamic maculinization of the Arabian Goddess, Al-Lat or Al-Ilat-the Allatu of the Babylonians-formerly worshipped at the Kaaba in Mecca.  It has been shown that ‘the Allah of Islam’ was a male transformation of ‘the primitive lunar deity of Arabia.’ [see Briffault 3, 106] Her ancient symbol the crescent moon still appears on Islamic flags, even though modern Moslems no longer admit any feminine symbolism whatever connected with the wholly patriarchal Allah.”

The bolds signify Walker’s direct quoting of Briffault. Now let’s see the original passage cited and quoted by Walker in its full context:

“ ‘In the faith of ancient Arabia,’ remarks Prince Teano, ‘in the cult of the moon, regarded as the supreme male deity, conceived as a cause to which all worship refers, there lies manifestly the germ of monotheism, although only the Jews first, in Judaism and in Christianity, and Muhammad afterwards in Islam, attained a clear enunciation of the monotheistic formula.’ The great Yahwistic movement which resulted in Jewish monotheism was conducted by many political circumstances, and owed its triumph in great measure to its nationalistic character. But from the religious point of view it was essentially much what it claimed to be, a return to ‘the faith of our fathers,’ a purging of Jewish cult from accretions which, if not exactly ‘foreign,’ were at any rate extraneous in many of their aspects to the primitive conceptions and cult of the Hebrew people. ‘There are abundant indications,’ observes again Prince Teano, ‘which seem to demonstrate that the Jehovah of the Hebrews and the Allah of Islam are merely transformations of the primitive lunar deity of Arabia.’”[4]   

We note first that the direct quote that Walker lifts from Briffault is of a third author, himself quoted by Briffault -  Prince Teano. We note further that Prince Teano’s quote says the exact opposite of what Walker makes it say. Prince Teano claims that the supreme MALE lunar deity of ancient Arabia was transformed into “the Allah of Islam.” Nowhere is the claim made that a FEMALE lunar deity was transformed into a MALE Allah. Now, I have demonstrated that even this claim that Allah derived from a moon-god is out-dated and wrong. See

Allah No Moon-God (Exposing the Christian and Afrocentrist Myth)”



But what is most important here is that Walker completely twists her source and makes it say what it nowhere says. In fact, Briffault speaks correctly on this point in his book (though he will err on other points). He says rightly:

“Al-Ilat is the feminine form of Ilu, or Allah, and may be rendered Goddess.”[5]

In other words, Walker completely made up the claim of Allah’s derivation from Allat.

Barbara Walker’s bona fides as an expert knitter is unassailable, so we happily defer to her in matters of the needle. We absolutely must NOT defer to her in matters of religious studies, however, for she has proven to be not only unqualified in that area, but blatantly dishonest in her treatment of her sources as well. Yet, she likely authored the claim that is still current in some Afrocentric circles that the male God Allah derived from the female Goddess Allat. This beyond all shadow of a doubt indicates just how ideological and non-scholarly much of the Afrocentric critique of Islam really is.  


[1] Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 22.
[2] Robert Briffault, The Mothers: The Matriarchal Theory of Social Origins (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927).
[3] Gordon Rattray Taylor, “Introduction,” in Robert Briffault, The Mothers: The Matriarchal Theory of Social Origins, Edited, with an Introduction by Cordon Rattray Taylor (New York: Howard Fertig, 1993) 13, 14, 19.
[4] Briffault, Mothers, 106.
[5] Briffault, Mothers, 80.