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ISLAM AND AFRICA: This site serves two aims: to provide information about Islam in the global African world (Continent and Americas) and as a guide to African Muslims globally identity in the context of culture and personality. This site is a cultural and historical site on progressive Pan-African Islam

 

     
     

     

 
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AFRICAN HOLOCAUST ARTICLES

Until lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter

African Proverb

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will

– Frederick Douglass

The most pathetic thing is for a slave who doesn't know that he is a slave

– Malcolm X

Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions.

– Ancient Egypt

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right.

– Dr. Martin L. King, Jr

How can the views of the oppressed are expressed at the convenience of the rich?

– Owen 'Alik Shahadah

We are not Africans because we are born in Africa, we are Africans because Africa is born in us.

– Chester Higgins Jr.

Leave no brother or sister behind the enemy line of poverty.

– Harriet Tubman

AFRICAN CONTRIBUTIONS

To The Rise of Islam

By Adib Rashad | 2005


Holocaust     Holocaust
You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom Holocaust
  Holocaust
Holocaust Holocaust
Holocaust Malcolm X
Holocaust

 

Since the beginning of the revelation of the Qur'an that inspired and motivated Prophet Muhammad in 670 C. E., Africans have been pivotal figures in the development of Islam. Never in the history of Islam were Africans severed or dissociated from its glorious advent.

Washington Irving , in his book, Life of Mohamet, and Abu Uthman Amr Ibn Bahr Al-Jahiz, in his The Book of The Glory of The Black Race , state that Prophet Muhammad was reared by Barakah, an African woman, after the Prophet's mother died. D. S. Margoliouth, in his Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, and Al-Jahiz say of the sons of Abd Al-Muttalib, Prophet Muhammad's grandfather, that All ten sons were of massive build and dark colour.


ABOUT ISLAM AND AFRICA: This site intends to serve two aims:

(a) to provide information about Islam in Africa (the continent and Americas); and (b) to offer a guide to the African Muslim’s global identity in the context of culture and personality.

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AFRICAN EVOLUTIONIST BEFORE DARWIN

Centries before Darwin's theories Al-Jahiz wrote: "Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."

An early exponent of the zoological and anthropological sciences, al-Jahiz discovered and recognized the effect of environmental factors on animal life; and he also observed the transformation of animal species under different factors. Furthermore, in several passages of his book, he also described the concept, usually attributed to Charles Darwin, of natural selection.

Al-Jahiz's concept of natural selection was something new in the history of science. Although Greek philosophers like Empedocles and Aristotle spoke of change in plants and animals, they never made the first steps towards developing a comprehensive theory. To them change, was only a concept of simple change and motion and nothing more than that. 

 

Eighty-seven folios of the Book of Animals (about one-tenth of the original text by al-Jahiz) are preserved in the Ambrosiana Library in Milan. This collection (a copy of the original) dates from the 14th century and bears the name of the last owner, 'Abd al-Rahman al-Maghribi, and the year 1615. These folios of the Book of Animalscontain more than 30 illustrations in miniature.


D. S. Margoliouth, in his Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, and Al-Jahiz say of the sons of Abd Al-Muttalib, Prophet Muhammad's grandfather, that All ten sons were of massive build and dark colour.The earliest converts and disciples of Prophet Muhammad were Africans, including Zayd bin Harith, the Prophet's adopted son and one of his generals. Another pioneer noted in Islamic history was Abu Talib, uncle of the Prophet and father of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph. Al-Jahiz writes the following: The family of Abu Talib were the most noble of men, and they were Black with Black skins.Dr. Akbar Muhammad, noted Islamic scholar, and son of the late leader of the Nation of Islam, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, informs us that not only were the Prophet's ancestors (members of the Quraish tribe as well) of African descent, but many Africans were among his earliest followers, among them Barakah Um Ayman, the wetnurse of the Prophet, whom he called my mother after my mother, and Mitjar the first martyr at the Battle of Badr. Two of the Prophet's wives were Africans, Umm Habiba and Maryam, an Egyptian Copt. A number of Africans who were companions of the Prophet and participated notably in the earliest advancement of Islam were slaves freed Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr, the first Caliph. Examples are Umm Ayman, Zinnira, and Abu Anjashah al-Habashi, a former slave who became the trusting caretaker of the Prophet's family.In the year 615 C. E., the Muslims were experiencing such severe persecution that the Prophet commanded a small group to flee from Mecca. He advised them to seek refuge in Abyssinia ( Ethiopia ), with the Christian king, al-Najashi; this migration is known as the first Hijra, or flight. This is a strong testament to the respect Africans had for Islam and the admiration and respect the Muslims had for Africans

The African king protected the Muslims and eventually accepted Islam; he later sent a delegation, which included his son, to study under the Prophet in Medina.Another African was Wahshi, the assassin of Hamzah, paternal uncle of the Prophet. Very few studies mention the fact that after Wahshi was freed and received numerous rewards for his dastardly deed, including Hind's hand in marriage, she commissioned Wahshi to assassinate Hamzah, he continued to reside in Mecca . Most importantly, years later he embraced Islam, and the Prophet pardoned him for his crime.After the death of Prophet Muhammad, a large number of Muslims perished in a war with an enemy of Islam, Musaylimah of Najd. Wahshi succeeded in killing Musaylimah, and felt vindicated. He is reported to have said: I had killed one of the best Muslims, Hamzah; now for killing one of the worst enemies of God, God will perhaps pardon me for my former crime. Later, Wahshi participated in the wars against the Byzantine empire; he settled in Syria, where he died at an advanced age.The most celebrated African in Islamic history was/is Bilal Ibn Rabah, the first caller to prayer (Mu'adhdhin) and treasurer of the early Islamic State. He was an Abyssinian slave in bondage to a cruel master who mistreated him for accepting Islam. He became an early follower of Prophet Muhammad in Mecca . Abu Bakr, saw Bilal being mistreated and freed him.When the Muslims entered Mecca in triumph, in the year 9 A. H./630 C. E., Bilal made the call to prayer from the top of the Ka'bah. Bilal remained a trusted companion of the Prophet and of the caliphs. He eventually traveled to Syria where became governor, he is said to be buried there.Early Africans were known narrators and teachers of Hadith. Even non-Muslim Africans contributed to the culture of Islam. For example, there was the poet Antar, who was an Ethiopic Arabian, so dark that his nickname was Gharab (the crow).J. A. Rogers, in his World's Great Men of Color, Volume One and Dr. Carter G. Woodson's African Heroes and Heroines, point out that Antar accomplished great feats as a warrior and poet in pre-Islamic Arabia.

One of Antar's poems was accorded the highest honor possible for an African-Arabian writer. Antar's works hangs among the seven poems at the entrance of the Mosque at Mecca . This collection of seven poems, known as the Muallakat, is cherished by Muslims around the world.Dhul Nun was a great ninth century C. E. philosopher/mystic. A Nubian who was born a slave, he nevertheless became one of the finest scholars of his day, noted throughout the Islamic world for his wisdom and accomplishments in such diverse fields as law, alchemy, and Egyptian history and hieroglyphics. Among Sufis, he is considered one of the greater mystics. Dr. Muhammad argues quite persuasively that religious scripture has not eradicated ethnocentrism; therefore, after the death of the Prophet, scripes and scriptural translators infused their biases into their translations. Thus racism and the willful neglect of other people's contributions to the broad multicultural significance of Islam are still quite prevalent. These biases hold firm insofar as African Muslims and their contributions to Islam are concerned. According to Dr. Muhammad, the root words denoting Blackness occur ten times in the Qur'an; three times they have the meaning of Lordship (Al-Siyadah). Blackness, referring to darkness or cloudiness, occurs five times as a description of a spiritual condition or state rather than an inherent characteristic or color of countenance. The two remaining words refer to the landscape and nightfall. Hence, there is no negative connotation to Black as a color, or to Africans as a people, in the Holy Qur'an (or the Bible for that matter).

A similar view is stated by Idris Shah:The Kaaba (cubic temple, Holy of Holiest) in Mecca is draped in Black, esoterically interpreted as a play on words of the FHM sound in Arabic, alternatively meaning Black or Wise, understanding. The word sayed (prince) is connected with another root for Black, the SWD root. The original banner of the Prophet Mohammed was Black, collectively standing for wisdom, lordship.By 690,the Muslims were firmly established in Egypt and Tunisia , ready to advance onto the Iberian Peninsula . The so-called Berbers, who initially offered considerable resistance to the advancing Muslim armies, eventually became great advocates and propagators of Islam. They successfully crossed into Europe in 713,under Berber/Moorish general Tariq Ibn Ziyad, from whose name the word Gibraltar is derived (Jabil Tariq, the mountain of Tariq ). The advance into Europe did not stop until 732,when Charles Martel defeated the Muslim forces at the battle of Poitiers ( Tours ), in France.Most of us are not aware that the peoples whom the classical Greek and Roman historians called Berber were Black and affiliated with the then contemporary peoples of East African areas. The word Berber in fact was used to refer to peoples of the Red Sea area in Africa as well as North Africa...It was such populations that in large measure comprised the Moorish people, but because of the attribute of Blackness which sharply distinguished them from the bulk of the European people, the word came to be generally used by Europeans to describe persons of Black complexion in general.The word Moor was used for people basically Berber in origin but then came to include, during the Islamic period, the early Arabians. Both of these populations belonged to a physical type or types of men commonly referred to by early scholars as Hamitic, brown or brown Mediterranean .

Throughout the Middle Ages and previous to the Atlantic slave trade other men of Black or nearly Black pigmentation, particularly Muslim, came to be commonly referred to as Moors.(See Ivan Van Sertima's The Golden Age of the Moors, p. 143)The Moorish contributions to European civilization have been documented by numerous historians and is not disputed. The Moors were considered the light of Europe during the Dark Ages which followed the collapse of the Roman Empire . Moorish Spain became the academic source and foundation for the rise and success of Western European universities in the Middle Ages. Stanley Lane Pool provides the following description:Cordova was the wonderful city of the tenth century; the streets were well paved and there were raised sidewalks for pedestrians. At night one could walk for ten miles by light of lamps, flanked by uninterrupted extent of buildings. All this was hundreds of years before there was a paved street in Paris or a street lamp in London . Its public baths numbered into the hundreds, when bathing in the rest of Europe was frowned upon as a diabolical custom, avoided by all good Christians. Moorish monarchs dwelt in sumptuous palaces, while the crowned heads in England , France and Germany lived in big barns, lacking both windows and chimneys and with only a hole in the roof for the exit of smoke. Education was universal in Moslem Spain, being given to the most humble, while in Christian Europe 99 percent of the populace was illiterate, and even kings could neither read nor write. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, public libraries in Christian Europe were conspicuous by their absence, while Moslem Spain could boast of more than seventy, of which the one in Cordova housed 600,000 manuscripts.

Christian Europe contained only two universities of any consequence, while in Spain there were seventeen outstanding universities. The finest were those located in Almeria , Cordova, Granada , Jaen , Malaga , Serville, and Toledo . Scientific progress in astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography, and philology in Moslem Spain reached a high level of development. Scholars and artists formed associations to promote their particular studies, and scientific congresses were organized to promote research and facilitate the spread of knowledge.As mentioned earlier, the Berbers/Moors of North Africa initially resisted Islam and fought the Muslim armies before they accepted the religion and became its most ardent caliphs, generals and scholars. By contrast, the flow of Islam into Sub-Sahara Africa took a completely different form.Inner Africa experienced no Arab conquests and Islam was to spread through the peaceful work of African itinerant traders and peripatetic local Ulama (teachers and scholars). Islam filtered across the Sahara into West Africa through the agency of Islamized Berber/Moorish traders who frequented Bilad Ed-Sudan (Lands of the Blacks). Their first converts were their West African counterparts, the Mande traders known as the Djula, and court officials. A class of local Ulama (also known as Marabouts) emerged and towns such as Timbuktu , Jenne and Walata became renowned centers of Islamic studies. In the eighteenth century, the Qadiriyya Sufi brotherhood became one of the most important agents of Islamization in the area... On the other hand, the seeds of Islam were sown in the Horn of Africa and the East African Coast by Arab migrants and traders from Southern Arabia (many of these Arabs were dark in complexion). In time, a cadre of Ulama of local origin also emerged in these areas.

These Ulama opened schools that produced scores of teachers who in turn opened Quranic schools in their localities.Ghana was the first great kingdoms to emerge in western Africa after the spread of Islam. This kingdom reached its height about 1000 C. E., when it covered parts of what are now Mali and Mauritania.By the beginning of the tenth century the Muslim influence from the East was present. Kumbi Saleh (the city) had a native and an Arab section, and the people were gradually adopting the religion of Islam. The prosperity that came in the wake of Arabian infiltration increased the power of Ghana , and its influence was extended in all directions. In the eleventh century, when the king had become a Muslim, Ghana could boast of a large army and a lucrative trade across the desert. From Muslim countries came wheat, fruit, and sugar. From across the desert came caravans laden with textiles, brass, pearls, and salt. Ghana exchanged ivory, slaves, and gold from Bambuhu for these commodities.Among fourteenth century Africans, none is more renowned than Mansa Musa (1312-37), the great leader of the Mali Empire. In 1324 C. E., he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca in such a fashion that his fame was proclaimed from Andalusia to Khurasan, and the names of Mansa Musa and Mali made their appearance on fourteenth century maps.

During the fifteenth century, the Songhai Empire, founded by Sunni Ali Ber, spread forth from the capital city of Goa, on the Niger River, 200 miles south of Timbuktu. This Muslim civilization is acknowledged by historians as one of the greatest in history.During the fifteenth century, in East Africa , the majority of Sudanese Muslims became linked through their religious leaders (Imams), with either the Qadiriyya or Tijaniyya Sufi order. The propagation of Islam in Africa cannot be understood without considering this attachment of the leaders to one or another of these orders. The Tariqas (another Sufi order) in the Sudan operated on two different levels: among Muslims, they sought converts to Sufism, while among non-Muslims, they sought converts to Islam. Despite their spiritual roots, they had a profound impact on the social, political, and economic life in the area.During the late 1440s and 1500s, Europeans began to establish trading posts in Africa . While the spread of Christianity motivated sincere Christians to establish numerous missions, gold and slaves eventually became the primary interest of the Europeans interlopers.Ironically, the more that non-Muslim Africans saw of Europeans, the more they gravitated to Islam. In the early days of European control there were few Muslims in the coastal towns. Today none are without their Muslim quarter.

The population of Lagos , for instance, is about 50 percent Muslim; in Dakar the proportion of Muslims is steadily increasing. In Sierra Leone Colony in 1891 Muslims formed 10 percent, in 1931 they numbered 25,350 out of 95,558 or 26.2 percent....During the eighteenth century, Islamic militancy increased as the European presence became more pervasive.Unjust rule, heavy uncanonical taxation, bida or innovations foreign to Islam, immoral practices, mixing Islam with traditional customs and subordination of Muslims to non-Islamic rule prevailed throughout the region. Above all, European invaders, the infidels, identified as the terrible Gog and Magog, were thrusting dagger deep in the heart of Muslim Africa. The Dajjals were everywhere in the area in the form of despotic and corrupt rulers.The conditions were ripe for revolution. The West African Jihadists capitalized on them. Usman Dan Fodio founded a theocratic state in Northern Nigeria; Seku Ahmadu established the Hamadullah Calphate in Masina (republic of Mali); and Al-Hajj Umar Tall carved out an Islamic Empire in the Senegambia.During the nineteenth century, resistance by African Muslims to European occupation was relentless. The Mahdi of Sudan, Muhammad Ahmad (1848-85) led a remarkable holy war against the British; his forces defeated General Gordon and took over Khartoum in 1885. Muhammad Abdullah Hasan, the Mahdi of Somalia, fought the forces of occupation from 1889 until he died of influenza in 1920. Mahdist uprisings against European encroachment were so frequent in other parts of Africa that, writing on Nigeria in 1906,Lord Lugard stated, I do not think a year has passed since 1900 without one or more Mahdist movement.Ahmadu Bamba (1850-1927) founded the Murid brotherhood in 1886.

It was/is a branch of the Qadiriyya Sufi Order and it attracted oppressed Africans that were uprooted by the French occupation of Senegal . Bamba's followers make their Hajj not to Mecca , but in Touba, where Bamba is buried.*=====Adib Rashad (RashadM@aol.com) is an education consultant, educationprogram director, author, and historian. He has lived and taught in West Africa and South East Asia.*

 

FURTHER READING

Abdul-Rauf, Muhammad.  Bilal Ibn Rabah: A Leading Companion of the Prophet Muhammad. n.p.: American Trust Publications, 1977.

Cerulli, E.  "Ethiopia's Relations with the Muslim World." Chapter in UNESCO General History of Africa. Vol. 3, Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. Edited by M. El Fasi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988: 575-85.

Drake, J.G. St. Clair.  "The Black Experience in the Muslim World." Section in Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History and Anthropology, Vol. 2. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies, UCLA, 1990: 77-184.
 
Fleming, Beatrice J., and Marion J. Pryde.  "Antar of Arabia." Chapter in Distinguished Negroes Abroad. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1946: 10-20.

Fleming, Beatrice J., and Marion J. Pryde.  "Bilal, Black Muezzin." Distinguished Negroes Abroad. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1946: 21-30.

Hakim, Musa Abdul.  "Diop on Cultural Kinship between Arabs and Africans." The Challenger 24, No. 6 (1988): 15.

Hayes, John R., ed.  The Genius of Arab Civilization: Source of Renaissance. Second Edition. Foreword by Bayly Winder. Introduction by John Stothoff Badeau. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1983.

Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs from the Earliest Times to the Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970.

Houston, Drusilla Dunjee.  The Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire. 1926; rpt. Introduction by W. Paul Coates. Afterword by Asa G. Hilliard III.  Commentary by James Spady. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1985.

Hunwick, J.O.  "Black Africans in the Islamic World: An Understudied Dimension of the Black Diaspora." Tarikh 20 (1978): 20-40.
 
Irwin, Graham W., ed.  Africans Abroad: A Documentary History of the Black Diaspora in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean During the Age of Slavery. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

al-Jahiz, Uthman Amr Ibn Bahr.  The Book of the Glory of the Black Race. Translated by Vincent J. Cornell. Los Angeles: Preston, 1981.

Keith, Arthur, and M. Krogman.  "The Racial Character of the Southern Arabs." Chapter in Arabia Felix, by Bertram Thomas. London: Jonathan Cape, 1932.
 
Khalidi, Omar.  "African Diaspora in India: The Case of the Habashis of the Dakan." Islamic Culture 53, Nos. 1-2 (1989): 85-107.

Lewis, Bernard.  Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

al-Mansour, Khailid Abdullah Tariq.  The Destruction of Western Civilization as Seen through Islam, Christianity and Judaism. San Francisco: First African Arabian Press, 1982.

al-Mansour, Khalid Abdullah Tariq.  Seven African Arabian Wonders of the World: The Black Man's Guide to the Middle East. San Francisco: First African Arabian Press, 1991.

al-Mansour, Khalid Abdullah Tariq.  The Lost Books of Africa Rediscovered: We Charge Genocide. San Francisco: First African Arabian, 1995.

Mekasha, Getachew.  "Ancient Ethiopia. Pt. 3, Islam and Ethiopia." Ethiopia Review 1, No. 3 (1991): 18-22.

Pellat, Charles, trans. and ed.  The Life and Works of Jahiz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.
 
Rao, Vasant D.  "The Habshis: India's Unknown Africans." Africa Report 18, No. 5 (1973): 35-38.

Rao, Vasant D.  "Siddis: African Dynasty in India." Black World (Aug 1975): 78-80.

Rao, Vasant D.  "Unknown African Dynasty in India." India News, 24, Apr 1978: 6.

Rashidi, Runoko, and Ivan Van Sertima, eds.  African Presence in Early Asia. New Brunswick: Transaction Press, 1995.

AFROCENTRICITY, ISLAM

 


 

Afrocentricity, Islam,


by K. Kazi-Ferrouillet


 


There are two hopeful, exciting trends among young African Americans today, especially on the college campuses. These two trends are Afrocentricity and a resurgent interest in El Hajji Malik Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X--especially so on the heels of Spike Lee's epic film. This article is an attempt to analyze the connection between these trends and how they inform and impact our understanding of African and African-American history.

Dr. Molefi Asante, chairman of the Temple University Department of African American Studies and considered by many to be a leading figure in the Afrocentrism movement, writes in his book, Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge that: "Afrocentricity, as an aspect of centrism, is groundedness which allows the student of human culture investigating African phenomena to view the world from the standpoint of the African."

This means that African people, i.e., people of African descent, have the right and the responsibility to view the world through their own eyes, to interpret the world via their own analysis, to study and teach world history from their viewpoint as subjects and not objects of history, and to approach the study of history as makers of history, not victims of history.

According to Dr. Asante, "Multiculturalism in education is derived from several cultural perspectives; Afrocentricity is one of those perspectives, and it is one of the simplest and fastest growing ideas to have been developed in the African-American intellectual community. If you are African American, placing yourself in the center of your analysis so that you are grounded in an historical and cultural context is to be Afrocentric. Without Afrocentricity, African Americans would not have a voice to add to multiculturalism."

The view of ourselves as helpless victims of circumstances beyond our control must end. I believe that we must replace this view with the conviction that we are members of Allah's greatest creation, humankind, submissive to but one entity--the will of Allah. We must become proactive strugglers for what we believe is right and good. Continued growth and tempering our analyses of our world's condition using the yardstick of truth and righteousness are the major lessons that we can learn from the life of El Hajji Malik Shabazz. This is the legacy he left for us.

The history of African people is as old as time and as wide as the planet. The African man and woman are considered by numerous authorities to be the mother and father of all humankind. The research of countless archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians point to Africa as the birthplace of the common ancestor of all humankind.

Within this understanding, all people on the planet are children of Father and Mother Africa. And if we share the same mother and father, then surely we are all brothers and sisters.

The Holy Qur'an, Sura 49, verse 13, reads: "O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into Nations and Tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you."

That understanding places Afrocentricity in a special framework. Afrocentricity is not the end point of our study and struggle; rather, it is a necessary, crucial step along the path to universal brotherhood. Afrocentricity is crucial in that effort because we, as a people, must know and love ourselves before we can truly know and love others--on both an individual/personal level and on a collective level. Also, Afrocentricity is crucial because others must know us in order to fully know themselves. All of our destinies are interconnected; we all share the same planet.

But, our true story, a truthful history of Africa and the continent's many diverse and dispersed sons and daughters, has yet to be taught and studied by the masses of our people or by the masses of other people. We're only beginning to scratch the surface of the great and glorious African past that is impacting our lives today and will tomorrow.

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, linguist, anthropologist, and professor of African Studies at Rutgers University, author of They Came Before Columbus, and considered to be one of the world's preeminent authorities on African and African-American civilizations, documents in his books and lectures many outstanding accomplishments of African people, many of them often hidden and unknown to most of us.

For example, Dr. Van Sertima tells of the Banyoro surgeons in East Africa who were performing Cesarean sections with a 100 percent success rate back in the1800s. Yet, in the mid 19th century, in Europe, whenever the Cesarean section was performed, the mother almost invariably died. The British learned of the Banyoro surgeons and sent a team of doctors under a Dr. Felkin to study how the African surgeons performed the operation. To the British's surprise, they found that these Banyoro surgeons had superior antiseptic solutions to what was being used in Europe. They found that the Africans could seal off bleeding points with minor tissue damage with the use of hot iron. They studied how the Banyoro surgeons collapsed the abdominal wall and drew the stitches. After this encounter, the C section was performed with much greater success in Europe and in other parts of the world.

Dr. Van Sertima lectures about the Dogon people who live in the mountains in the area of Africa that is now called the Sahel, about 200 miles from Timbuktu. A Frenchman, Marcel Griaule, encountered the Dogon and found that for 500 years the Dogon had plotted and ceremoniously danced the orbit of a star that is now called Sirius B. This star is impossible to see with the naked eye. NASA only found out about its existence within the last decade or so.

The Dogon pointed out that there was an object flashing and darkening in space near Sirius B. NASA only discovered this six years ago. The object turned out to be a dwarf nova, only recently discovered by the NASA Einstein orbiting satellite. The Dogon said it was an extremely heavy star. It has since been found that it is the heaviest type of star in our galaxy. The Dogon said that the star had an elliptical orbit of 50 years around its parent star Sirius A. NASA has only recently confirmed that orbit as accurate.

I wonder how many of us, when we study astronomy at the world's prestigious centers of learning, get to study the Dogon people, or even hear about the Dogon.

These are only a couple of examples of the kind of legacy that Africa has bequeathed to the world. The list is endless.

Yet Noah Webster, the great dictionary maker, wrote in 1843 that: "of the wooly haired Africans who constitute the principal part of the inhabitants of Africa, there is no history and there can be none. That race has remained in barbarism from the first ages of the world.'' Poor Mr. Webster. Surely, this is a classic case of willful ignorance.

But, unless we continue to struggle to lift the veil of ignorance, which forces us to view ourselves as "minorities," as bit players in the world's drama, as mere victims of circumstances beyond our control, we will forever ride on the back of the bus of history.

Also, on another level, Afrocentricity may have some other benefits for us.

Kwabena Faheem Ashanti, a staff psychologist and researcher at North Carolina State University, conducted a study to determine the possible impact of an Afrocentric curriculum on African- American students. Black Issues in Higher Education reported on the study in December 1990. The report states:"Struggling Black students who enrolled in an Afrocentric study program improved their college average by almost a full grade point.... In one of the largest Afrocentric studies to date, 147 students at NC State participated in a Black history and culture program for at least one full year. After a year in the program, students raised their grade point average from 1.8 to 2.6, and 40 percent earned grade point averages of 3.0 or better....While Black scholars have touted Afrocentric studies for some time, the research at North Carolina may be the most revealing yet about the potential effectiveness of such a curriculum."

So, the move toward Afrocentricity is good, is liberating, and, when addressed honestly, can lead us along the path to the goal of universal brotherhood. But, there are dangers along the path.

There are negative critics of the Afrocentric movement who imply that Afrocentrists merely plan to substitute a dishonest "Afrocentric" version of history to replace European history. They fear that Afrocentrists will attempt to erase the European contribution to world history, just as the Eurocentrists did to much of African history.

As Dr. Molefi Asante has said, "Afrocentricity is not about valorizing your position and degrading other people. Whites must not be seen as above anyone; but by the same token they've got to be seen alongside everyone."

Dr. Vesta Daniel, associate professor in the Department of Art History at The Ohio State University, writing in Baraza, the newsletter of the Black Cultural Center, notes: ''Unlike the pervasive Eurocentrism, which is monocular and teaches that all contributions of value to the history of the world are European based, Afrocentrism encourages the side by side placement and interweaving of all cultural and/or ethnic groups in the construction of world history and culture."

Another danger along the path is the possibility of an "Afrocentric backlash," if you will. Last year, Emerge magazine termed it "melanin madness."

There's a growing rumbling of Afrocentricity being characterized as anti-whiteness, which seems to attach a hierarchy of acceptability among our people based upon the amount of melanin in the skin. This madness tries to intimate that skin melanin has neurological and spiritual properties that elevates Black-skinned men and women above the less Black-skinned. This, I believe, is a dangerous step backwards that makes no sense.

If skin melanin is the criterion for judging African acceptability, then how does one justify El Hajji Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), a true African champion, who was red-skinned, with light-colored eyes and red hair? Despite Spike Lee's. choice of Denzel Washington to portray Malik Shabazz in his film, the truth is Malik Shabazz would probably fall near the "bottom" end of the melanin scale.

Emerge, in its February 1992 issue, profiles the controversial Dr. Leonard Jeffries, of the Black Studies Department at City College of New York, who is considered by many as a leading figure in the Afrocentric movement.

Dr. Jeffries, in one of his classroom lectures is quoted as saying: "This course is for people of African descent only [my emphasis]. And if you're a light-skinned Black person, be prepared to fight for your rights and prove your ancestry [my emphasis]."

Since when is knowledge the exclusive property of just one segment of the population? That sounds like what we're fighting against now. Besides, the average African American, dark, light, or in between, can't trace his or her ancestry back past his or her great grandparents. In fact, our lack of knowledge of family lineage is one of the continuing, cruel by products of the slave trade that perhaps, may never be fixed--the complete severing of family lineage beyond the Middle Passage.

The late Alex Haley, the author of Roots and collaborator with Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) on his autobiography, is one of the blessed few to have been able to trace his family lineage back to Africa.

Maybe one day science and technology, perhaps through advanced DNA analysis, will allow us to discover these lost connections. Otherwise or until then, millions and millions of people of African descent may never be able to "pave their ancestry."

If I would dare to be so bold, I would ask Dr. Jeffries one question: What great ancient African civilization had families with the last name of Jeffries?

Another danger along the path is the failure of many of the proponents of Afrocentricity to acknowledge the pervasive, positive, and enlightening impact and influence of the religion of Islam on our African personality, culture, and history.

Imam W. D. Mohammed, who is known as the Muslim American spokesman for Human Salvation, son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, in the December 20, 1991 issue of Muslim Journal is quoted as saying: "Afrocentricity minus Islam is a cheat."

W. D. Mohammed (known in the mid '70s as "Wallace" Muhammad) is the man who was chosen to assume leadership of the old Nation of Islam when his father passed away in 1975. El Hajji Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) in his autobiography tells of how, after his break with the Nation of Islam, he was contemplating learning more about the religion of Islam, of how he was thinking about making the Hajji (pilgrimage) to Mecca, the once-in-a- lifetime duty of every able-bodied Muslim.

Malik Shabazz said: "Once in a conversation I broached this subject with Wallace Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad's son. He said yes, certainly, a Muslim should seek to learn all that he could about Islam. I had always had a high opinion of Wallace Muhammad."

And now, Imam W. D. Mohammed writes: "There is a new influence being promoted in the African family of people, especially here in America, called 'Afrocentricity.' I am not against Afrocentricity, if it is honest and straight... ''[Afrocentricity's] promoters say we should make Africa the center, and all of us of the African family should look to Africa as the center. But their Afrocentricity ignores Islam that has become the center and has been the center for that continent for many centuries...Evidence of mighty people, mighty civilizations influenced by Islam and that were Islamic civilizations, is the history of Africa."

Many of the great historians and Afrocentrists bubble over with pride at some of the great rich civilizations and empires of our African past. They speak of the magnificent Ghana, Songhay, and Mali empires and some of the great leaders and statesmen like Askia Mohammed Toure' (Askia the Great), Mansa Mussa, Sundiata Keita, among others. This magnificent flowering of civilization in Africa was Muslim, was Islamic.

They speak and write about that great centers of learning and scholarship like the University of Sankore at Timbuktu, and some of the groat scholars like Ahmed Baba and Ibn Khaldun. These men were Muslims. The University of Sankore at Timbuktu was an Islamic center of learning.

Dr. A.S. Toure, in his magnificent book, The African Intelligentsia of Timbuktu, documents beautifully Islam's pervasive and positive influence on science, the arts, architecture, and scholarship in Africa and other parts of the world.

For nearly a thousand years before the European colonialists entered Africa, Islam was an intricate and irresistible part of the fabric of African life and culture. Islam has been at the center of far too much of African life for far too long to be dismissed or ignored.

Don't be fooled into thinking that Islam is just an "Arab thing." Arab people make up only about 18 percent of the world's Muslims, according to the Saudi Arabian Embassy. The Saudi Arabian Embassy publishes and distributes a booklet entitled Understanding Islam and the Muslims. It informs us that Africa as a whole makes up almost one fourth of all the Muslims in the world. Nearly 30 percent of Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent, 17 percent in Southeast Asia, 10 percent in the former Soviet Union and China, 10 percent in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. There are significant Muslim populations in Latin America, Australia, the Caribbean, and in Europe. And, there are some six million Muslims in the United States--42 percent of whom are African American.

Dr. Allan Austin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has written an exciting book entitled African Muslims in Antebellum America, published by Garland Publishing. It offers undeniable documentation that a large portion (some sources say almost 50 percent) of the Africans who were captured and sold as slaves and brought to America were Muslims and that their peoples and families had been Muslims for centuries prior to the Atlantic slave trade.

In Dr. Austin's preface to his book he states: "This volume is the result of a quite specific attempt to better understand the Old and New Worlds of Kunta Kinte, the hero of Alex Haley's novel Roots...[In 1977 and 1978] I began to gather notes on historical Africans who had left behind stories of lives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Fragments of such stories, those of Job Ben Solomon, Abdul Rahaman--two men who had sailed from the Gambia River as had Kunta Kinte Venture, Omar ibn Said, and Olauda Equiano (called Gustavus Vassa in the West) were already familiar...But I found that their lives had not yet been related to one another nor to fascinating fragments of information about similar lives...As the overwhelming majority of the lengthier pieces told of Africans who were, like Kunta Kinte, Muslims, and as the Islamic part of the African diaspora had clearly been neglected by scholars, and as, finally, the Africaness of most of these men had been disputed, the scope of my inquiry had been settled.''

Dr. Austin's book tells how many African Muslims, in slavery, were forced to sublimate their true religion, Islam, or give it up altogether and forced to accept instead the slave master's religion, which was for the most part Christianity.

Islam was frowned upon by the slavemasters because one of the major directives and obligations of Muslims is to free slaves and fight against oppression.

But some African Muslims who were enslaved secretly maintained their religion. And there is evidence to suggest that it was African Muslims who were often at the forefront of the slave revolts and insurrections.

Dennis Walker in his work, Black Islamic Slave Revolts of South America writes: "Brazil was shaken by a series of Islamic uprisings amongst the Black slaves in 1801, 1809, 1813, 1826, 1827, 1830, and culminating in the great Bahia uprising of 1835.

''Black discontent in Brazil had been channelled by the underground Islamic movements into an organized and widespread challenge to the whole social, religious, and economic foundations of the racist system of slavery.

"The Black man registered by armed revolution his refusal to accept either the whip or the Christianity of white Western culture.

"The clarity and beauty of Islam (and the Muslims' ) religious- political consciousness, their qualities and skills fitted them to take the role of leadership, to which the oppressed masses of Black people, determined to smash their chains, eagerly responded."

Historian and author, Clyde-Ahmad Winters, a former professor of African and Islamic Studies at Iowa State University, in his manuscript, "Afro-American Muslims--From Slavery to Freedom," concurs. He writes: "Many of the earliest slave 'revolts'/jihads in the Americas, even when they involved both Africans and Indians, were led by Muslims from Senegal. In 1531, the Spanish declared that the Wolof [Senegalese] were 'haughty, disobedient, rebellious, and incorrigible.' From 1753 to 1757, Mackandal, an imam or religious leader of Haiti, led numerous raids against the plantation owners."

Islam, as a liberating force for Africans in the diaspora, is very much a part of our history, very much a part of our Afrocentric reality.

Malik Shabazz, via his Hajji and conversion to Islam, has taken us full circle back to a key aspect of our true ancient African reality. As a student of our history and as a spokesman for our future, he was constantly growing; he was always eager to add on new knowledge.

Malik Shabazz was a self-taught genius. He didn't have diplomas and degrees, but he could hold his own in debate with anybody. He was a "no sell out'' fighter for the rights of his people, and he was both a Pan- Africanist and an Internationalist.

Malik Shabazz was a sterling example of African-American manhood. He was unafraid to speak his mind, unafraid to die for what he believed in. He was clean, articulate, strong, no-nonsense. He had a sense of humor-- he smiled easily and often.

Malik Shabazz was a husband, father, and family man. He didn't drink liquor, eat pork, or chase women. He believed in one God, Allah, and he prayed five times a day.

Malik Shabazz could talk to the bloods on the corner as well as the academicians in the universities. He was, as Ossie Davis eulogized him, "Our Black Shining Prince."

On February 16, 1965, just five days before his death, in a speech at the Corn Hill Methodist Church in Rochester, NY, he made clear his position. He said: "I'm a Muslim, which only means that my religion is Islam. I believe in God, the Supreme Being, the creator of the universe. This is a very simple form of religion, easy to understand. I believe in one God. It's just a whole lot better...I believe that God had one religion, has one religion, always will have one religion. And that God taught all the prophets the same religion, so there is no argument about who was greater or who was better: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or some of the others. All of them were prophets who came from one God. They had one doctrine, and that doctrine was designed to give clarification to humanity, so that all of humanity would see that it was one and have some kind of brotherhood that would be practiced here on earth. I believe in that."

He goes on to further state: "We don't judge a man because of the color of his skin. We don't judge you because you're white; we don't judge you because you're black; we don't judge you because you're brown. We judge you because of what you do and what you practice. And as long as you practice evil, we're against you. And for us, the worst form of evil is the evil that's based on judging a man because of the color of his skin. And I don't think anybody here can deny that we're living in a society that just doesn't judge a man according to his talents, according to his know-how, according to his possibility... This society judges a man solely upon the color of his skin. If you're white, you can go forward, and if you're black, you have to fight your way every step of the way, and still don't go forward.''

In his autobiography, Malik Shabazz wrote: ''On the American racial level, we have to approach the Black man's struggle against the white man's racism as a human problem, we had to forget hypocritical politics and propaganda.... Both races, as human beings, had the obligation, the responsibility, of helping to correct America' s human problem . The well- meaning white people...had to combat, actively and directly, the racism in other white people. And the Black people had to build within themselves much greater awareness that along with equal rights there had to be the bearing of equal responsibilities.

"I've had enough of someone else's propaganda. I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such, I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."

 

 

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