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Islam in African American history

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Imam Mikal Saahir

There is no African American history without Islam, unless that is, you want to cheat our race and the world of a true history.

Alex Haley’s “Roots” was successful due to his rediscovery of the Muslim ancestor Kunta Kinte. Haley’s other great book occurred with his involvement with assisting with and completing the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.” It has been reported that it was because of Haley’s exposure to the message of the Nation of Islam from Malcolm X that Haley even became interested in directly reconnecting with his African family.

Any African American, if they pursue African American history via their family tree, they will come across a number of Muslims who practiced Islam in the same way as Kunta Kinte. They will find that Qur’anic Arabic (not the various colloquial forms of Arabic) was their common language of their ancestor, and there exist a great probability that this fore-parent prayed five times a day while facing the sacred precincts in Mecca, Arabia.

Islam is part and parcel of African American history and it runs deep within our African American soul and African American genetic recall. Chris Gardener of “Pursuit of Happyness”, although not a Muslim, calls this genetic resource our “spiritual genetics.”

There are numerous documented reports of slaves who had retained and practiced Islam, even while enslaved. Men such as “Prince” Abdur-Rahman of Natchez, Mississippi and Omar Sayyid of North Carolina, whose prayer book is still on display. When connecting Islam with African American history we must be exact. We can’t afford to see Islam as that which is displayed on the evening news by the major media as they give their daily dose of what is wrong in the Middle East. The Islam that or African fore parents had before coming to America is not that version of Islam. It was education and trade as demonstrated by the great 14th century African King of Timbuktu, Mansa Musa, and others.

Many writers have confirmed the Islamic connective-ness to African American and African history. The two can never be severed. Edward Blyden, the author of Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race clearly outlines not only a connection of Islam and African Americans but an edification of Africa’s children by Islam.

The great Islamic African American legacy, that somehow is strangely overlooked every February, is a strong and growing birthright. Even with the large number of churches that dominate America’s inner cities, still the historical achievements that connect Islam and African Americans are unmatched. Maybe under reported and disregarded by some, but nowhere near being matched.

What Marcus, Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X., Louis Farrakhan, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and other Islamic leaders have done to free the mind and souls of disenfranchised African Americans has not been matched mainly because of one major reason; they achieved it with an independent mind and heart that was free of outside influence. They gave all African Americans – whether you agreed with the strategy or not – they gave all African Americans a living model of how to be an independent and free African American.

Islam has done that and to this day continues that growth. This is not to disregard the great works of the founder of African Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Richard Allen. And surely this is not to slight the great and honorable achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, may Allah bless his soul. My closing point is that which Islam has achieved – and continues to achieve – is that sense of independence that every human soul must seek; an independence that allows every human being the right to be a personal friend and servant to G_d without interference from another man, race, or ethnicity.

Islam has done that and continues to do that for African Americans and any other race or ethnicity that finds peace in that way of life – called Islam.

NOTE: The spelling of G-d for “god” is used for when referencing or mentioning our Creator to avoid the spelling “God,” which in reverse spells “Dog.” We feel that it is disrespectful to have a spelling for our Creator that reminds the reader of a dog. Surely our Creator is GREATER!

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