Qur’an — “For We assuredly sent amongst every People an apostle, (with the Command), “Serve Allah, and eschew Evil”: of the People were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied (the Truth).” Sura (chapter) 16:36 (Yusuf Ali translation)
African American greatness is well rooted in soil that has been tilled and refined by the hands of many great leaders who had our best interest in mind as we, by the Will of G_d — expressed in scripture and nature — rose up as a new people from the nadir of the worse slavery in the known history of mankind.
American slavery was a peculiar form of slavery that failed to reach its goal of total annihilation of our human essence; but it was successful in robbing us of our African-ness and humanity, making our racial and ethnic group a new people on Earth. To begin speaking about contributions to African American greatness, we have to remind ourselves of the depth from which we rise, or as Dr. Maya Angelou prosed, “And Still I Rise!”
One of the greatest achievements of Africans, pre-American slavery, was our Islamic lives on the Motherland. The kingdoms of Mali, Timbuktu, Songhai and other Islamic communities earned the nicknames “City of Books” and “Cities of Gold.” This is a snippet of our African Islamic greatness before being enslaved by a European version of Christianity that had very little regard for the human value of the children of Africa.
Our sojourn, as a stolen people who are trying to find their way back to the human excellence that we were created for, has been a dignified struggle. But as Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, taught, “No son of Adam enjoyed a meal better than the meal he prepared with his own two hands.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reflected this same message when he declared, “No Lincolnian Emancipation Proclamation can do this for us. … If the Negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation.”
This is where Islam (properly called Al-Islam) shines as a major contributor to the rebuilding of our African American greatness as a new people in creation.
We still have the physical expression of the strong African phenotype: our beautiful broad noses, full lips and warm brown to black skin; however, internally we’re a brand new people on Mother Earth. Mentally, morally and spiritually we don’t think, talk, act or feel like any other racial or ethnic group on earth — and that also includes Africans. We don’t think, talk and act like Africans anymore.
If you are a descendant of America’s chattel slavery, you are a member of a race of people who were emptied of all of our African past. We had to start over again, with the help of Allah, because America’s form of slavery robbed us of our family ties. However, this process prepared us to be the best vessel for Allah to use in the making of a new people in creation.
How do you make a “new people”? You make a new people by giving them a new mind, by feeding them knowledge that had a virgin birth. Words that have a virgin birth are words that did not come from the thinking of man, especially words that came from the same man that enslaved your fore-parents.
The reconnection of the children of Africa with the meaning of the words in the Qur’an has been a major contribution to giving African Americans an independent intellect. Chapter 55 of the Qur’an that reads, “The Merciful Benefactor, taught the Qur’an — thus, creating the human being and gave them intelligent speech.”
Among the children of Africa — who are now in America — it has been those of the Islamic faith who have given the most in the making and directing African Americans into a new people with a new mind, with a new way of doing almost every aspect of life; and we thank Allah for this miracle-blessing.
Michael “Mikal” Saahir is the resident Imam of Nur-Allah Islamic Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 317-753-3754.