African-American Islam Reborn

The early 1900s was a time of growth for the American Muslim community, due both to Muslim immigration and indigenous Islamic movements. In 1913, sectarian Islamic movements arose in the African-American community. These movements rejected the racism and economic deprivation supported by many white Christian movements in America and claimed an African history and culture identified with IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to.... African Muslims in early America were prevented by slave owners from formally practicing or establishing their faith; twentieth-century movements among African Americans endeavored to revive the religion of their enslaved ancestors.

The first of these movements was started by Timothy Drew, or Noble Drew Ali, who claimed that he had been sent by GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. to reclaim the stolen black identity. He established the Moorish Science TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in Newark, New Jersey, in 1913. He preached that black people were an ancient Asiatic race of Muslims that had once ruled MakkahMakkah (also spelled Mecca) is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the hub of the caravan trade in the Arabian Peninsula, and the site of the holy Ka’bah. After receiving the first revelations of the Qur’an on a mountain outside Makkah, Muhammad d... and inhabited Africa, Asia, and America. This message held special appeal to African Americans faced with hostility and continuing injustice decades after the abolition of slavery. Noble Drew Ali wrote a special scripture, fostered economic independence, and involved members of his temple in active social service. By 1928, the Moorish Science Temple was established in Chicago as an incorporated religious organization; however, the movement splintered after the death of Noble Drew Ali just one year later.

AhmadiyyahThe Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam was established in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He claimed to be the Messiah of this age, awaited by Muslims, Christians, and others. The missionary movement of his followers is now established in more than 144 coun... missionaries from India arrived in America in 1921 with literature and translations of the Qur’anThe word Qur’an literally means “recitation.” Revealed orally to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, he recited it to his followers. These recitations collected in written form are arranged in 114 surahs, generally from longest to shortest. Muslims consi..., gaining many African-American converts. The movement established its first mission headquarters in Chicago the same year. From 1924, ShaykhThe Arabic term “shaykh” literally means a gray-haired old man. The Persian term “pir” means “elder, master.” Both terms have become titles of respect for a leader with great authority or religious piety. In the context of Sufi orders, the sha... Daoud Faisal’s Islamic Mission of America emphasized both American allegiance and the Islamic roots of African Americans. The late 1920s and 1930s also saw the establishment of the African-American First Muslim MosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the First Cleveland Mosque.

The largest movement to reclaim Muslim identity among African Americans was the Lost-Found Nation of IslamThe Lost-Found Nation of Islam in America, begun by Wallace D. Fard in Detroit in the 1930’s, was developed by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad preached some Islamic principles, but his lessons about the superiority of the Black Man were c... in America. Established in Detroit in the early 1930s, the movement was initiated by Wallace D. Fard and developed by the Honorable ElijahElijah was a ninth century BCE Hebrew prophet and visionary. According to tradition, he did not die but was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2). Elijah’s periodic return to eart. has become part of the rabbinical and mystical Jewish traditi... MuhammadThe Prophet Muhammad, known as “the Seal of the Prophets,” was born in the city of Makkah on the Arabian peninsula in 570 C.E. At 40, he began to receive a series of revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. His small group of followers met with.... Emphasizing moral uprightness and cleanliness, discipline and education, the Nation developed businesses, schools, and a strong sense of national religious identity among African Americans. Elijah MuhammadElijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole, 1897; d.1975) became leader of the Nation of Islam after the founder, Wallace Fard, disappeared in 1934. Poole and others adopted African and Islamic names as a sign of their emancipation from the domination of whites a... preached some Islamic principles, but he alarmed orthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. Muslims with claims that Master Fard was an incarnation of GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities. and that he himself was a special messengerCalled “Rasul” in Arabic, the messenger is a special type of prophet commissioned to lead a community and often entrusted with a major revelation from God. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are examples of messengers in Islam. Other prophets (called nabi) int... of God. Furthermore, his elaborate origin stories that depicted “Black Man” as the Original Man, and “White Man” as the evil creation of a scientist named Yakub, were antithetical to Qur’anic teachings of racial equality.

Many of these groups were only nominally Islamic, with teachings that were often in contradiction to the Qur’an and SunnahSunnah, meaning “custom,” refers to the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, remembered by the early Muslim community and preserved in narrative accounts (hadith). Because Muhammad is considered to be the best example of how to live, his Sunnah ..., and are therefore alienated from the Muslim ummahUmmah means “community,” refering to the worldwide community of believers bound by their faith in Islam which, ideally, is seen as transcending ethnic, racial, and national differences.. However, many of these movements provided an initial contact with Islam for African Americans, the vast majority of whom now accept an Islam that is more rooted in the traditions of the Qu’ran. Indigenous Muslims of African-American heritage now comprise over 40 percent of the American Muslim population.


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