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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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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

What kind of world do we live in when 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

AFRICA, RELIGION AND SLAVERY

A New Lens on Africa and Religion

Owen Alik Shahadah
'Alik Shahadah (01/2011)
 

    Holocaust
During the capture, when the slave raiders were grabbing people and destroying villages. A village may have been Mandinka, another village Fon. At what point did that fact come to bear when the gun fire cleared? In the dungeons where we lay, in our own excrement, uncertain of our destiny, in Goree, in El-Mina, some where Orisha, some where Muslim, some were Asante, some were Igbo, at what point did those definitions spare the inhumanity? On the ship when they were throwing our people overboard, some cried in the night to Allah, others to Alusi and others to Olodumare. Some where from Sokoto, some where from Gambia. At what point did any of this give us an advantages during the dark voyage, infected with disease and death? Holocaust
  Holocaust
Holocaust
Holocaust Maafa | African Holocaust
Holocaust

There is not one major indigenous African faith that had an issue with slavery, not one African native religion had principles that denounced slavery.

Between the most aggressive slavers in West Africa such as Oyo, Benin, Igala, Kaabu, Asanteman, Dahomey, the Aro Confederacyl – none of them Christian or Muslim.

None of them with principle objections to slavery. Therefore, the challenge which is posed to Islam and Christianity for having a tolerance for slavery is also true for the religions native to Africa. The only true difference between Islam and Christianity and indigenious faith is power. They had more power to destroy and had the added side-effect of carrying the culture of the conquering party: may that party be Arab, European, or another African group (see Songhai and Mali).

And today the old urban legend of religion and oppression is invalid. The new tools of oppression hide themselves in western democracy. And that trojan horse contains the soldiers of the free market, globalization and debt. False focus is a death sentence when worrying about a spider when a lion is about to pounce.


   
‎I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won't let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion
 
El Hajj Malik Shabazz

Islam, Christianity, and what became known as Vodun all fell prey to human greed. All were used to enhance the position of the slavers. So in native African faith based societies (Dahmoney especially) the rituals which were set-up for purity and celebrating the deities became an opportunity to acquire more captives.

Life is beautiful and ugly too, but always diverse enough to respect the good in something while cursing the bad. Rome was a tyrant where Africa was concerned. But it doesn't mean every last thing in Rome was vile. Our world is far too sophisticated for such simplistic deductions. Ships carried every African from the Motherland to Africa (America?), do we curse the ship? Surely without ships there could never have been slavery. Planes were used to drop poison on Ethiopia, do we curse the plane?


Ironically no one seems more ignorant of his history today as the Muslim. Muslims, like others, certainly know that whoever controls the past controls the future. But what they don't seem to wake up to is the corollary, whoever controls the present, too often, controls the past.

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This is not simply to explain why they remain ignorant of their past but to make them appreciate the fact that those who control their present will not easily give up their past. As Muslims did (or are still doing) with their freedom and independence, they may have to do with their past, indeed their past is an important component of that freedom, for it gives them their identity and therefore the freedom to be what they are. For, as history itself testifies, freedom is never given on the platter of gold. But without it no nation, or indeed individual, makes any meaningful progress.

Our past gives us not only our identity and our worth, but also our bearings and our goals. It presents to us our role models and show us the things worth fighting for. Our future therefore is in discovering our past. This journey of discovery is taking us to some of the forgotten lands of Islam, the region of West Africa which had been an integral part of the Muslim world for over a millennium and which today holds over half of Africa's Muslim population. We are visiting one of the greatest Muslim figures of this region, Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio.

What in the message of Jesus said "Go to African and get as many Africans as you can?", Where in the Qur'an does it say "Where ever you find a Black make him a slave"? Democracy right now is making a job and a half of creating new colonies, this does not invalidate the principles of democracy just because of Obama and Bush's misuse.


African Kings African Kings African Kings
     



   
Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals
 
Martin Luther King

If these mainstream religions are the principle agent of mentally enslaving people why is there the same problems existing in countries that do not have the influence of these faiths? Does Benin have some superiority claim over Ethiopia? But if the argument was correct then we should see this. We should see more agency in Benin than in Islamic-Christian Ethiopia. Because if these Abrahamic faiths, as separate elements, are enslaving people then how do you explain Ethiopia's rich and power history? In treating a prostate cancer it is usually a good idea not to cut out the bladder and leave the prostate. Mis- identifying religion is a detrimental to Africa; it is only convenient for people who do not want to waddle through the complexities of the Africa's problem. And the language of "destruction and domination" is political language, not historical langauage. The script destroyed oral tradition, the car destroyed the donkey, the cd destroyed the record, and the turntable destroyed the musical instrument. It is no different with culture and religion anywhere.

Many religion or spritual systems, for hundreds of years, in West Africa practised, and still practise, Trokosi: The giving of virgin girls to the gods for services or religious attonment. Similar practices were also found in the royal court of the Kingdom of Dahomey (in what is now Benin), in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wives, slaves, and in fact all persons connected with the royal palace of Dahomey were called "ahosi", from "aho" meaning "king", and "si" meaning "dependent" or "subordinate." In traditional Efik societies It is believed that Abassi gave certain tribesmen the ability to heal the sick through necromancy. If the witch doctor was unable to heal the ill person, they were thrown on a fire because it was believed that Abassi did not want them to be healed. So we must understand the "flaws" of sprituality and religion are not exclusive to the Abrahamic faiths. And with the coming of Islam many of these harmful practises were destroyed. Islam was not selective and some serious aspects of culture were also washed away with its rise. And this must be considered in a holistic understanding in presenting valid arguments regardless of our position on religion and Africa.

Organized mainstream religions are spiritual technologies responsible for the backbone of civilized societies. Out of these organized rituals came vehicles for perpetuating culture, law, justice and morality. However, religion has been fingered time and time again as being the inspiration and agent of slavery and brainwashing. Mass religion is a big soft target since most people are members of a religious group it is easy to say it was this religious factor, above all others, which is responsible for any and all negative behavior. Anti-religious Russia and China witnessed some of the most barbaric regimes, pure inhumanity and severe oppression-- Yet no religion. So the argument about religion as an agent for dividing people is equally true for politics, race, color, nationality if not more so.
religion and Slavery in Africa

More wars are caused over land and resources than God. The largest wars in human history had nothing to do with religion. Even during the crusades (which were supposed to be a Muslim-Christian conflict), the crusaders killed many non-Western Christians. However, far more emphasis has to be placed on greed, wealth disparity, and its effect on the human condition. In the absence of religion, slavery would have taken place. In the absences of democracy and communism, wars would have taken place. If we look at the most ruthless dictators most of them do not kill in the name of religion, (Mao for example said religion was poison). The problem with Mao et al was religion competed with him as a god-head. The biggest wars in history are not really in the name of religion; even the crusades were about Europeans acquisition of trade routes, which Muslims controlled. Outside of Islam and Christianity slavery existed, the largest slavers on the continent were neither Muslim nor Christian. All arguments support that religion is not the primary agent in the oppression of Africa, now or then.

It might not be right, but one thing we need to swallow is that all "advances" and "civilization" is the product of degrees of imperialism and conquest: Take a look at Ethiopian history. Kmt in her brutal conquest of Nubia, and Nubia's conquest of Kemet? Or the bloody Mfecane of Shaka Zulu as he forcible united the Ngoni people. If our primary issue is with conquest, then the only thing to celebrate is hunter-gatherer societies. There is a profit from conquest which every society of technological sophistication has inherited, and we must deal with this. The human challenge is therefore how to advance without exploitation.

Terms like "Islamic Invasion" and "foreign religions" are painted all over African history as if this was the only process by which Christianity and Islam came into Africa. Islam has been a native part of the African landscape for 1418 years, Christianity for 2000 and Judaism for far longer. Yet history paints Christianity in Europe as if it was fundamentally a European institution. Europe Europeanized Christianity just like how they paint Buddhism in China as if its origins where Chinese. So the notion of Christianity being a European project needs to be challenged. They were Churches in Africa long before the Vatican.

Anthropologists seek to extract religion from reality and make Africa the perpetual victim of invading Arabs and Europeans. Afrocentric history on one page vilifies these religions but then on the next page tries to score racial points by claiming the glories of the Islamic and Christian contributions such as Mali, Aksum and Songhai. However, Aksum was not a victim when it chose out of its rights as a sovereign self-determined super-power to accept Christianity as a state religion. Nor was Ancient Ghana when it accepted Islam as the state religion. These were super powers under African influences that made these choices, just as Rome did when it accepted Christianity. And in Africa’s recent history some of the greatest minds of liberation were both Muslim and Christian: Garvey, Malcolm, Martin Luther King,  etc.

Arabian Slavery
Before there was a Church of England there was an Ethiopian Orthodox state in Ethiopia, before Islam was ever heard of in Iran and Iraq or Syria or Medina it was being practiced on the African continent; these religions are traditional African religions. The unique African expression within these faiths is not homologous but in Ethiopia and West Africa, the African traditions are distinctively African. This is because the process of acceptance had Africans as agents of their destiny and hence Africanized these religions as opposed to be victims of other people’s interpretations.

This does not mean that the alteration to culture was not destructive at times, but to use these terms are very loaded. In the case of Eurocentric Christianity, it was partnered with a holocaust and thus was extremely destructive because its primary modus operand was to enslave and destroy. With all these religions, the problem of undue cultural influence became an issue where to be Islamic or Christian meant taking on the cultural attributes of the dominant practitioners of these faiths, may they be Arab or European. So this is a cultural challenge not serviced by throwing the baby out with the bath water. If Muslims and Christians are sensitive to this they will select African Muslim names, as opposed to Arab names, they will seek out African interpretations, which speak to their reality, and the same for Christianity. But religion is part of human globalize culture and cross-fertilization is an aspect of human history and it is in this context that religion should be looked at in Africa and indeed world history.

The question to all those that seek to re-divide up Africa by being anti-Islamic or anti-Christian is what, in practical terms, do they want Africans to do? Beyond the rhetoric, what is their plan to fix what they see as a conflict? Should the Ancient Churches and Mosque of Lalibella and Sankore be burnt? Are you going to rip the Islam from the corpse of Malcolm X and see what is left? Do they expect 1 billion people to mass exit these two religions? In addition, what religion are they bringing as an alternative? Will this native African religion work in the 21st century? Today many so-called native faiths have very harmful practices such as the Muti in South Africa and other faiths which are highly superstitious.
Muslims in Africa
It is not like removing European clothing and wearing African clothing. So practically, it is a futile endeavor to attempt to mass convert a continent in which the fastest growing religion is Islam, followed by Christianity. It would be far better to Africanize these faiths and make them service the people and the culture at the same time.
Holocaust TransAtlantic

So practically, it is a futile endeavor to attempt to mass convert a continent in which the fastest growing religion is Islam, followed by Christianity. It would be far better to Africanize these faiths and make them service the people and the culture at the same time. It would be more sincere to unite all these poeple around common moral core. And as Karenga said speak the ethics of the religion.

So in the America's we see Christianity being used as part of the making of a slave by transplanted Eurocentric values. In Africa we see Islam, or lack of Islam, being used as justification for enslaving people.

We also see how selective interpretations were used in both Islam and Christianity (Curse of Ham, etc) to sustain slaving. However, when slavery became a liability due to the numerous revolts and the industrial changes the same religious institutions, which formally sanctioned became vocal in the abolition of slavery. The sincere question regarding the role of religion in Slavery has to be looked at from the perspective of 1st came the greed and 2nd came the justification. Religion, like political systems (communism, democracy, etc), offer the justifications for the greed of man and all three world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been used in this way, as well as indigenous religious systems.

African Holocaust

Europeans and Arabs did not walk into Africa to enslave Africans because of a deep hatred for dark skinned people: The primary motive was profit. South African apartheid was the same. It was a system, which protected European privilege and opportunities. Race was used as a justification to secure this privilege and most found justification in the Bible, the same Bible that Martin Luther King and Nat Turner used for liberation.

If someone's religion informs their lives to be righteous, care for the sick, to feed the poor and stand up against oppression and inequity, to speak truth in the face of lies, to seek social advancement, to feel guilt when in error, to be critical of self, to have honor in the face of challenges, to treat others with respect and dignity, to be equitable in business, to be fair in all dealings and to do the work necessary for progressive advancement of humanity; then that is a good religion. It makes no difference what you call that religion or where it comes from if it does not function in cultivating a better human being.

 

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