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The African-American’s Journey to Al-Islam
Today, in the Western world, when we hear the word “Muslim” or “Islam”, many American people tend to think terrorists or people from the Middle East (the uneducated one). As of 2017, there are at least 3 to 3.5 million American Muslims living in the United States of America. The majority ethnic group that makes up this population is the African American people. Yet, the question “How does this come about?” arise If you want to know about the history of Muslims in America and its vast spread, one cannot talk about this subject without mentioning the African or should we say African American’s journey to Al-Islam.
In the Trans-Atlantic slave trade there were approximately 15 to 20 million enslaved Africans and of these slaves there were between 2% to 4% African Muslims. These Muslims were from the Mandinka, Fulani, Wolof, Soninke, Songhai, Ashanti, Taureg, Nupi, Yoruba, Susa, Kanuri, Mandara and Vai tribes. We are all familiar with and learned from Alex Haley’s book (and film) Roots, which was a story about an enslaved African Muslim, named Kunta Kinte, living in a small town in West Africa, practiced Islam, was a student. of Arabic and lived his daily African rituals. He was captured and brought to America as a slave, sold and given the name Toby. He tried to escape from exile countless times, and married a house cook named Bell where they had a daughter named Kizzy who had many children. There is also documentation and stories where you can find information about other enslaved African Muslims, such as; S’Quash, The Moor, Phillip The Fula, Sambo, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, Lamine Kebe, Lamine Ndiaye, Yarrow Mamout, Charles Larten, William Rainesford, and many more who were all well educated and literate in Mathematics, Arabic, Science, and different spoken languages. Throughout the years of slavery, the African people were oppressed and their cultural and religious practices were suppressed. Slaves adopted names after their slave masters as identity of one’s property and forced Christianity upon them. Generation after generation, Al-Islam eventually disappeared.
In the 20th century between 1900 and 1975, there were many African American civil rights activists and leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Father Divine, Noble Drew Ali and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad who brought different teachings and ideologies to African American communities to make blacks more self-aware, self-sufficient, and to better themselves socially and economically within these communities. Since the topic is “The African-Americans Journey to Al-Islam”, Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Movement were one of the first and earliest movements to bring Al-Islam back to the African-American people. Ali’s teachings were not from the Holy Quran, nor did the Moorish Science Temple follow any practices of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), but his claim was to teach Islam or “Islamism”. The Moorish Science Temple practices had some correlation with mainstream Al-Islam. For example, followers stood east during prayers, their religious service and prayer was on Friday, gender segregation in seating, women instructed to wear a headscarf or turban, men to wear a red fez at all times and dress modestly pull. Noble Drew Ali also wrote his own Quran and called it “Circle 7 of Quran”.
The number of Moorish Science followers today is not specifically known, but it has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 spread across 15 different cities in the United States. In the middle of this movement follows Allah Temple of Islam, started in 1930 by Fard Muhammad; the name would change to the Lost-Found Nation of Islam where Minister Elijah Muhammad would succeed Fard Muhammad as leader and eventually lead the Nation of Islam. As time went on, he assumed the title of Prophet and Messenger of Allah, and Fard clearly identified as Allah or incarnation of Allah. This is not what Muslims believe. Muslims believe that there is only one Gd and he alone has no partners, no partners, nor was he born, nor will he die or have any born children and that Muhammad (pbuh) is the seal of all prophets and that he is the last messenger. . The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught the knowledge of Gd, self and to be self independent. In 1960, the Nation of Islam had 69 temples spread over 27 states, and membership believed to have reached as high as 100,000.
Two years later, some estimates put the membership of the NOI at 250,000 and at its peak 1 million members. The NOI was also extremely active in promoting African-American economics and established a number of successful businesses in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, the NOI owned grocery stores, bakeries, clothing stores, restaurants, department stores and numerous establishments providing various services. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was a mentor to Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had 7 children and out of those seven children was Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, born Wallace Delaney Muhammad. His name was chosen for him by Fard Muhammad who predicted that the newborn would one day succeed Elijah Muhammad as the leader of the Nation of Islam. Wallace was only about 12 years old when he first became aware of the differences between the message of the Koran and the teachings of his father. Because of his refusal to be drafted into the army, he was sentenced to three years in prison in 1961. He had time to study the Koran and when he returned to the Nation of Islam, he hoped to transform it into a true Islamic movement.
After the death of his father on February 25, 1975, Wallace became the Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam and immediately began a process of change that would lead to the largest conversion of people to Al-Islam in the history of America. In 1976 he changed the name of the Nation of Islam to the World Community of Al-Islam in the West and changed his own name to Warith Deen Mohammed. He led a systematic and mass movement of his followers into the fold of orthodox Al-Islam. He taught the five obligatory prayers, Ramadan, Zakat and encouraged to make Hajj. In 1992, Imam Muhammad became the first Muslim to lead the morning prayers in the United States Senate. Today, Imam Muhammad’s teachings continue to serve as a spiritual and religious guide for approximately 2.5 million Muslims in America. It is likely that he was influential in converting more people to Al-Islam than any other Muslim in the world today.
To conclude, the journey to Al-Islam for the African American people has been a long yet successful struggle. Coincidentally, there were approximately 3 to 6 million African Muslim slaves in the slave trade and today there are approximately 2 million African American Muslims in the United States of America. It just so happens that even non-Muslim African Americans have Muslim names such as: Ahmad, Rasheed, Jamal, Kamal, Aisha, Jamela, Tariq, Shakur, Jaleel, Malik, Malika, Khadijah and Amina, to name a few. Even though Al-Islam came to the African-American communities in a corrupting way, these pioneers were “stepping stones” for the African-American people to come into the light of the Holy Qur’an and the practices of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). to follow. If Gd wills it then it will be.
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