AFRICAN MUSLIMS IN AMERICA – Part Two - Slave

By: Hajj
Haroon

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This paper was delivered during the First Conference of the Ahle Baite, held in Tehran Iran in 1990.

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Perhaps one of the most learned of the Muslim slaves we have on record was Ayyuub Ibn Suleiman Ibrahima Diallo.  The name Diallo clearly identifies him as a Fulani from Futa Djallo sometimes spelled Jalloh or Jallon.  There are several Futa’s or “Homelands” of the Fulani, the largest being Futa Toro. According to his biography he was born in 1701 or 1702 in the Kingdom of Futa Jallon near the Gambia River. (9)

The biography records that Ayyub was sent to the coast by his father to trade with the English, he was captured in the year 1730 by other Africans and sold to the very ships Captain with whom he was supposed to trade.  Those of you who are familiar with Alex Hailey’s book “Roots” will find a strong similarity.

The ship sailed for America and Ayyub landed in the State of Maryland where he worked on tobacco plantations until he escaped and was eventually jailed. As his misfortune became known, offers of help poured in.

His passage to England was arranged, and there, as in America he favorably impressed everyone he met by his excellent appearance, dignity, and learning. He was a Hafiz of The Quran, and as such he had memorized the Qur`an in its entirety in his youth.  His biography reveals that he wrote out three copies of the Qur`an while enroute to England without once looking at a copy. There are some scholars who claim that the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. owns one of the copies. The biography goes on to state that while he was in England Ayyub met with royalty and had even met with the Royal family.

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Among Ayyub’s acquaintances was the collector and physician Sir Hans Sloane, who was the president of The Royal Society for whom Ayyub translated Arabic inscriptions of several types that had been obtained during the Crusades.

Ayyub finally arrived at his African home in 1735 or 1736; he eventually turned to commerce, having suggested to the English that he could supply them directly with the gum Arabic they were buying from the French.

This is but one of many accounts of African Muslim captives in America. One Black American Scholar, Mr. Allen D. Austin deserves special recognition for his most excellent book: African Muslims in Ante Bellum America, in which he gives an account of many African Muslims and their experiences as captives in the America’s. (10)

According to Mr. Austin, despite the laws in America that forbade the practice of African religions and the practice of strict separation of Muslim captives, a few Muslims were able to maintain contact with each other.

As a matter of fact in most instances the slave masters would keep any two Africans that spoke the same language separate and apart from one another. It was customary to pair groups of Africans together who did not speak the same language thereby minimizing communication and the exchange of information.  As I had mentioned in the introduction, drums were also forbidden to the African captive. (11)

One Islamic scholar has commented recently that in light of his extensive research into the history of slavery in Islam that: “Successful slavery depends on the total destruction and redirection of the Nafs, (desires, wishes, hopes, dreams –or soul, spirit, mind or consciousness, depending on the context).  To deny the slave every human consideration, and to render him totally helpless and dependant” (12)

The accusation by the West, that Islam was spread by the sword and bathed in blood has an element of truth in it – but it is however a projection of their own history. All one has to do is to take a close look at the history of the Ottoman Empire (Othmaniyyah) and the damage that was done worldwide by the Turks, with their lack of compassion and gross misuse of the Institution of The Caliphate. The damage that they and their predecessors the Bani Umayyah (Umayyad Dynasty) has done in the name of Islam is still reverberating throughout the world. The claims made by the Armenian Community and much of what we are witnessing in the Balkans including Serbia & Bosnia is undeniable evidence of what far-reaching effects can be brought about by a tyrannical government.

It was no accident that the Turkish Empire fell in 1918. The so-called history of Islam, which now exceeds fourteen hundred years has been for the most part made up of decadent leaders and corrupt non-Islamic governments. This history should not be held to be representative of the pure Islam as taught by the Holy prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him and his family), nor should the few cultural and scientific achievements gained during the Ottoman period be confused with the period of Islamic History called “The Golden Age Of Islam”, which preceded the Ottomans by several centuries.

After close scrutiny the so-called Golden Age of islam was not so Golden after all, once you take into consideration the tyranny and cruelty exhibited by the Caliph Haroon al-Rashid, Mamoon, and the successors of the throne of Baghdad toward the general Muslim populace of the period. (13)

What took the Turks six hundred years to achieve during their reign of terror under the banner of a greatly diluted Islam, is comparable in many ways to what the European adventurers and their successors accomplished in the 400 years between the march of the Conquistadors to the end of the American Civil War to both the indigenous peoples of the Americas (Indians) and the African.

Here is a brief summation: The complete and total annihilation of several races of people in Central and South America. Coupled with the forced migration and cultural annihilation of countless millions of Africans – and the ongoing genocide of the Native American Indian.

History will one day record how the perpetrators of these crimes were dealt with.

With the arrival of our long awaited savior Al Mahdi, (Imam Zaman), Insha-Allah all wrongs will be righted.

America has been unable to reverse the trends that were set in motion during its inception, and as we have seen demonstrated year after year how these trends have gained momentum. All of this materialistic madness under the banner of Manifest Destiny, now known as “The New World Order”.

The insatiable desire to possess and control the vast untamed lands of the Americas and the seas beyond, have ultimately led the American Government to unleash a flood tide of carnage and empty promises worldwide. This supposedly God-Inspired rationale (manifest destiny) has inspired many American leaders in the past, and in the present to unlicensed barbarism on the world, particularly those areas that have been designated as “underdeveloped”.

By wielding the SWORD of political and social oppression over the heads of the people of color world wide, they have caused untold damage to the collective psyche of the greater portion of mankind.  Democracy has promised much and delivered little that could possibly heal and restore the millions of broken hearts, damaged souls, and defective memories that abound in the world today. (14)

The result of this psychological terrorism has produced what I have come to call The Amnesiac, the subject of my third category.

The definition of Amnesia is: “partial or total loss of memory caused by brain injury or by shock or repression”. Unfortunately this condition is experienced by many (if not most) of our Black and Red brothers and sisters in America.

They have no conscious memory of their original culture.

One of the key indicators of this loss is the almost total lack of positive direction in their lives. They have no expectations or visions of a future. A people with no vision or no dreams are both blind and lost.  Culture serves as a positive force in ones life – it provides the Direction (compass) and the Balance (gyroscope) one needs to move forward and progress.

Since 1862 and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Black folks have been led around in circles. A Civil War was already under way the year before and the Proclamation was part of a strategy that was devised to solve two of the main problems that the Federal Government (Northern) America was faced with. (1.) The eradication of slavery which had become a nagging humiliation, particularly in light of England’s earlier ban on slavery in 1807.  (2.) A plan that would greatly immobilize the Southern war machine and the economy of the Confederacy, both of which were dependent on the institution of slavery.

The slave had served as a pawn in the hands of both the North and the south, but after the War Between the States ended he became a guinea pig for the north and a scapegoat for the South in Americas bungling attempts at Reconstruction.  In trying to figure out what to do with the Black man, the government began to develop programs to “rehabilitate” the former slave –many of these programs encouraged the former slaves to pursue unattainable goals –both Integration and Civil Rights have proven to have been a great waste of the peoples time.  They were in fact the carrots that were dangled in front of the Black mans face to entice him to walk for one hundred and thirty years down a long road that ended nowhere.

The Civil Rights struggle of the 1960’s has been dubbed “The Second Reconstruction” and the third attempt at Reconstruction has now been under way since the Viet Nam conflict, and yet we see more and more casualties lost on the battlefields of urban and rural America.

Amnesia also manifests as a loss of direction and a loss of equilibrium both brought by shock and depression.

There happens to be more Black men in the prisons of America than any other ethnic group. Black on Black crime by definition describes a self-destruct situation. A turning inward, very much like a malignant cancer cell, devouring itself and everything in its immediate environment.

As a result of this Black genocide, many social scientists have prophesized that the Black male is a dying species, and some have classified him as an “Endangered Species.”

Alcoholism and drug addiction have devastated the Black Community as well as the Indian reservation. Both alcohol and drugs have brought about a moral and social disintegration in what were traditionally morally balanced communities.

Having mentioned all of this extreme negativity one might think that the case for the Black Man in America is hopeless.  It would appear that nothing could lift him out of this impossible situation, but strangely enough in the midst of this madness a unique phenomenon had been taking place slowly, gradually –almost imperceptibly, and this was the re-awakening of the African memory. As Allah has promised in the Qur`an: “And after constriction and hardship comes ease”!

Although African-American studies were introduced in most American Universities during the hectic Civil Rights days of the 1960’s to pacify the roar of unhappy Blacks searching for a positive identity, you began to see the introduction of African clothes particularly the “Dashiki” and the “Afro” hairstyle were becoming ever more visible in the Black Community. But we should not be misled by these outer trappings into thinking that this apparent awakening was a phenomenon of the sixties – a close study of activities in the Black Community since the turn of the century will reveal an ongoing surge toward the reclamation of African identity, particularly the re-introduction of Islam.

Contrary to accepted public opinion there has always been a movement (movements) among the Black in America to re-connect with Africa. All through the slavery experience there were those who advocated a return to African traditions. Although former slaves like Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington did not identify with Africa, and actually discouraged the use of the word African to identify the Black in America. They discouraged African identity in preference for a Negro identity – they argued persistently that they were no longer Africans they were American Negroes.

Men like Cinque of The Amistad Mutiny, Ayyub Diallo, Martin Delaney, Nat Turner and many others dedicated their lives to the pursuit of freedom and a return to Mother Africa. They knew too well the value of freedom and culture and became self-styled adaptations of the compass and the gyroscope providing direction and balance for those who would follow.

A greater resurgence of African cultural awareness increased in America at the turn of the century during the early days of the 20th century with the appearance of W. E. B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey and Noble Drew Ali the founder of the Moorish Science Temple.

Pan-Africanism took into consideration all aspects of the African experience, and as books and lecturers became available in the Black Community people began to gravitate intuitively to “What felt Right” for them.

This resurgence of African awareness spread throughout the world and with it we have seen an increase in the conversion rate of Blacks and Whites to Islam and traditional African belief systems. An intuitive gravitation towards spiritual light, while in the midst of social darkness.

This phenomenon is not based solely on the presence of an amorphous Muslim Memory. The African Memory needed a catalyst to jar it loose from the quiescent confines of oblivion and the Pan African leadership served that purpose well.

But there is another side to this picture and the other side reveals the little know fact that Islam in the context of a viable Muslim Community was never completely eradicated in the midst of the developing African/American Negro community in the south.

During the Great Depression (1929-1942) the United States Government initiated a program called The Works Progress Administration, (WPA). As part of this program groups of unemployed writers and historians (many academic disciplines) were sent out into the urban areas of this country to gather census data, and to accumulate information about American folklore that had been deposited by the ongoing surge of immigrants, and had been overlooked in the past due primarily because of the remoteness of the regions.

In 1938 and 1939 The Savannah Unit of the Georgia Writers (WPA) visited the coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolina’s including the Sea Islands and uncovered the descendants of African Muslims. It was discovered that many Muslim families had survived intact from the early days of slavery well into the twentieth century due primarily to the inaccessibility of these islands from the mainland, and the remoteness of these communities. (15)

These families were the descendants of slave parents and had lived in virtual isolation for most of their lives. As a result of this discovery several hypotheses have been drawn: 

  1. That Islam has been present in America for as long as Africans have sojourned there, and Islam has remained intact (in one form or another) for that length of time.

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  3. That Noble Drew Ali the founder of The Moorish Science Temple who was born in the Carolina’s around 1866 could have been a product of this original Muslim community, either directly or indirectly. (16)

  4.  

  5. That Elijah Mohammad the founder of The Nation of Islam in America, who was born in Georgia at the turn of the Century could have also been a product directly or indirectly of this early Muslim Community. (17)

  1.  

  2. There is a possibility that Mr. Fard Muhammad; the mysterious teacher of Elijah Muhammad may have also evolved from this original community. (18)

The deeper we probe into the questions concerning the survival of Africanism’s in America the more we uncover.

I hope that many of you in attendance today will retain an interest in this rather obscure aspect of the Muslim Ummat.  It was the purpose of this paper to inform the Muslim World via this conference of the existence of millions of African Muslims in America, and to provide an overview of their history.

We are reminded that less than fourteen percent (14%) of the total African population taken away forcefully were brought to the North America, the question should automatically be asked about the remaining eighty six percent. And of course the answer to that question is the Caribbean including Central and South America, and beyond.

Since it is important to our paper to theorize about the percentage of captives who were Muslim and now that we have established the whereabouts of the missing eighty five percent, the prospects increase for uncovering a myriad of extant Muslims.

I will conclude by sharing with you a story I heard as a young boy some sixty years ago in Boston. A story whose evolvement I have witnessed first hand.

The story concerns Juj wa Juj (Gog and Magog) it can be found in Chapter eighteen of the Qur`an entitled Al Kahf (The Cave). (19)

The Ahmadiyyah scholar Maulana Mohammad Ali, who had also translated the Qur`an into English, wrote the particular version of this story that I heard and then read many times as a young boy.

Who or what were Juj wa Juj? This has been a point of conjecture in the Muslim as well as the Christian world for some time. According to Maulana Mohammad Ali, the story of Juj wa Juj involved a prophecy of things to come. World events that were developing during the time of his writing (1920’s & 30’s). He interpreted them as being symbolic of Russia and the United States.

Juj wa Juj were twins that were born to a mother that comes to be symbolic of both Europe and Christendom. One statue in London depicting Gog and Magog resembles the famous statue of Remus and Romulus being suckled by a mother wolf.

The twins grew to be great giants, which eventually became separated by a great body of water (Atlantic/Pacific?). In time, Gog and Magog began to threaten each other across this great body of water –raising quite a commotion worldwide. While this arguing was going on in a thunderous fashion – Islam would begin to wake up from its long slumber and eventually rise up between these two giants for a final confrontation.

As the fragmented Muslim World began to wake up and unite – Gog and Magog would do likewise. It was also mentioned in this story that a strange phenomenon would precede this final confrontation between Gog and Magog and Islam, and that was The Sun of Islam Would Rise in The West. (20)

As mentioned earlier, I have seen the emergence of the Muslim countries, one by one. I saw each nation emerge as if out of a very deep sleep, and as I watched the liberation of each country I celebrated their fleeting moments of glory –only to see them relapse into a semi-state of consciousness, which was the result of updated versions of contemporary colonialism.

Nations emerged, but Islam did not. Countries have been liberated, but Islam remains the worlds best kept secret – Islam remains a prisoner.  Oddly enough The Muslim World has now become its own captive.

Through some trick of fate we find the Muslim World in a situation quite similar in many ways to the Africans under discussion, some free, some slave, and many more amnesiac.

The Ummat is now experiencing the long dark night that precedes the dawn of a new era, in anticipation of the inevitable Final Confrontation. And as this final confrontation looms heavily on the horizon, the Ummat is encountering turmoil never experienced before. Continuous genocide, bolstered by economic sanctions and ethnic cleansing. The constant repetition of betrayal within the ranks, including the defection of many educated and skilled Muslims to the lands of the enemies, are all signs of the terrible times predicted in the Qur`an and the books of Hadith.

But in light of the information that I have provided in this very brief paper, I would like to remind all of you that with the advent of the Pan Africanist’s that I have mentioned earlier, which included Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad and our first universally recognized African/American Muslim Martyr: El Hajj Malik al Shabazz (Malcolm X) it is apparent to all that have eyes, that The Sun of Islam has already begun to rise in the West.

The most popular person in the WORLD in 2002 is an American Muslim by the name of Mohammad Ali.

It is also apparent that the final confrontation will be one between the forces of evil and the forces of good, which is inclusive of ALL of the good people on the earth which includes many non-Muslims, and the masses of innocent and oppressed people of the world (Mostadafan).

I remind you as I remind myself that Allah (Subhanna hu wata Allah) speaks to us in the Qur`an – reminding US that we have a duty to the oppressed people of the world.

It is on this thought that I bring my talk to a close. Thank you and Assallamo Aleikum!