One of the most bizarre
manifestations of African-American pride is the contemporary identification with
Islam. Like Kwanzaa, however, Islam has a far shorter and less memorable
history in Black America than most realize.
The story goes that in 1930
Allah appeared to the people of Detroit in the form of a mysterious man named
“Fard.” Allah’s human form seemed to be of African and Arab descent and
claimed to have been born in Mecca, a descendent of the prophet Muhammad.
He preached a message of racial identity and claimed that Islam was the true
religion of the black people of America before they were robbed of it by the
White Man. (Ironically, the prophet Muhammad was described as a
by those who knew him).
In fact, Fard was
really just a small-time con-man named Wallace Dodd
Ford, who had served three years in San Quentin for drug-dealing. He drifted
into Detroit at a time when many African-Americans were beginning to form racial
identity groups around charismatic personalities such as Marcus Garvey. Of
course, racial consciousness was hardly just “a black thing” at the time, as the
1920’s were also when Ku Klux Klan influence peaked in America.
Interestingly, Ford was
neither of African or Arab descent, as he claimed. He was a mix of
European and Polynesian. But he did recognize an opportunity when he saw
one, and the street preacher soon built up quite a following among those who
could appreciate an overtly racist theology that persists to this day in spite
of its zaniness.
According to Ford, and his
Nation of Islam, Africans were the original and only people of the world (divine
and uncorrupted) before whites were invented by an evil scientist named Yakub in
a malicious experiment with tragic consequences. Islam is the true
religion, and, at some point, a spaceship will be sent by Allah to
eliminate the white people from the earth. (The Quran actually says that
black people became that way because they lived closer to the rising place of
the sun - which wouldn't be possible unless the earth were flat).
Although it may be difficult
to imagine such a crackpot being given the time of day in this progressive age,
in fact much more than that is awarded to Louis Farrakhan every time he plans
one of his narcissistic “Million Man” marches. Prominent political figures such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton never fail to line up behind the leader of
an organization that openly espouses a message of racial superiority. In
2005, even Bill Clinton lent his endorsement to the event – of course, he’s
supposed to be our first Black President (at least for the black people who
managed to survive his unwillingness to stop genocide in Liberia, Sierra Leone,
the Sudan, Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda – as Clinton’s eight years in office saw
more Africans lose their lives in wars than were ever brought to America in
It’s only fitting that the
nation’s largest and most accepted racial hate organization got its start
through false and fatuous circumstances. Ford was not just an imaginative
preacher of hate, but a skillful con artist as well. He charged the
nation's poorest people $10 (in the middle of the Depression) to divine their
“original” Muslim name for them, and he had affairs with several women. In
1933 (and again in 1934) he was asked to leave town by the police following a
ritual killing committed by a devoted follower. The second time around he
managed to disappear so effectively that many believe he was killed by his heir,
Like Ford, Elijah Muhammad
was also a fraud. He fathered several children from illegitimate
relationships and disillusioned several of his followers in the process.
One of these was Malcolm X,
who traveled to Mecca for the Hajj at about the same time and came away with
even more reasons to be disenchanted by the Nation of Islam. Traditional
Islam may be an artificial religion designed under very harsh conditions in the
century, but at least there isn’t talk of UFOs or evil scientists, and neither
is it racially exclusive. Malcolm was impressed to see people of all races
circling the black rock together and he broke away from the Nation of Islam.
Shortly thereafter, he was killed for his principles by followers of Elijah
The modern Nation of Islam
is led by Louis Farrakhan, who broke away from Elijah Muhammad’s son in 1977,
after the latter began moving the organization toward traditional Sunni
practices. Today, most Black Muslims observe mainstream Islam with a
slight racial tinge, rather than the cultic heritage of Wallace Dodd Ford and
Elijah Muhammad. This includes teaching directly from the Qur'an and
stressing the Five Pillars of Islam.
The legacy of the NOI,
however, is that many African-Americans are drawn to Islam out of racial pride,
thinking that there is some sort of association with Africa. Muslim
evangelicals in the black communities and in prisons often play this up in an
attempt to persuade the gullible into rejecting Christianity as the “white man’s
There is terrible irony
to this romanticism. In the first place,
Christianity in Africa predates Islam. Christian missionaries were on the
continent within two decades of the Crucifixion. Secondly, unlike
Christianity, Islam had no interest in missionary hospitals or the poor.
Arab contact with Black Africa was for one purpose only, plain and simple:
The awful truth is that
Arabs ravaged Africa for almost a thousand years before Europeans ever began to
export black slaves. In fact, it was the foundation of slave procurement
and trading established by the Muslims (usually through Jihad) that enabled the
Far more Africans were
swallowed up in the fourteen hundred years of Islamic slave trading than in the
three centuries of European practice. An estimated 17 to 20 million
Africans were exported from their native land to the Muslim world, but this
isn't the whole story. With a transport survival rate of less than 1 in 3,
Dr. John Alembellah Azumah estimates that perhaps 50 to 80 million more died in
Here is a quote from an
observer in Zanzibar that sheds light on the harsh conditions of Islamic
"As they filed past, we
noticed many chained together by the neck... The women, who were as numerous as
the men, carried babies on their backs in addition to a tusk of ivory or other
burden on their heads... It is difficult to adequately describe the filthy state
of their bodies; in many instances not only scarred by [the whip], but feet and
shoulders were a mass of open sores... half-starved ill-treated creatures who,
weary and friendless must have longed for death."
The text (quoted from Dr.
The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa) goes on to describe the fate of
those who became too ill or too weak to continue the journey - as related by a
"Spear them at once!
For, if we did not, others would pretend they are ill in order to avoid carrying
their loads. No! We never leave them alive on the road; they all
know this custom."
When asked who carries the
ivory when a mother gets too tired to carry both her baby and the ivory, the
herdsman replied, "She does! We cannot leave valuable ivory on the
road. We spear the child and make her burden lighter."
After Muhammad's companions
overthrew the Christians in Egypt shortly after his death, they began demanding
slaves from the Nubians to the south. For over 600 years, the black
African kingdom was forced to send a tribute of slaves to Cairo on a regular
Although the Qur'an does not
distinguish between races, there is a strong legacy of racism against people of
African descent in early Islam.
According to the Quran itself,
blackness is a product of being too close to where the sun sets and
rises (Muhammad thought that the earth flat and the Africans lived
along the edge). Islamic scholar Ibn Qutaybah described black
people as "ugly and misshapen because they live in a hot country
where the heat overcooks them in the womb and curls their hair."
Again quoting from
The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa, Dr. Azumah provides several examples
of Islam's early attitude toward blackness:
The hadith in which an
Ethiopian woman laments her racial inferiority to Muhammad, who consoles her
by saying, "In Paradise, the whiteness of the Ethiopian will be seen over
the stretch of a thousand years."
The Muslim Arab and
Persian literature which depicts blacks as "stupid, untruthful, vicious,
sexually unbridled, ugly and distorted, excessively merry and easily
affected by music and drink."
Nasir al-Din Tusi, the
famous Muslim scholar said of blacks: "The ape is more capable of being
trained than the Negro."
Ibn Khaldun, an early
Muslim thinker, writes that blacks are "only humans who are closer to
dumb animals than to rational beings." He also insisted that
"the only people who accept slavery are the Negroes, owing to their low
degree of humanity and proximity to the animal stage." (In
truth, over 500,000 Africans in Basra overthrew their Arab-Islamic masters
in the largest slave uprising in history in what is known as the Zanj
Classical Islamic law
allows a light-skinned Muslim man to marry a black woman, but a black Muslim
man is restricted from marrying a light-skinned woman. As the
literature of the time put it, "only a whore prefers blacks; the good
woman will welcome death rather than being touched by a black man."
Another hadith quotes
Muhammad: "Do not bring black into your pedigree."
The famous Muslim historian, al-Mas'udi
describes the African slaves as, "Kinky hair, thin eyebrows, broad
noses, thick lips, sharp teeth, malodorous skin, dark pupils, clefty hands
and feet, elongated penises and excessive merriment." He goes on
to add that the "the dark complexion person (al-aswad) is overwhelmed by
merriment due to the imperfection (fasad) of his brain; therefore, his
intellect is weak." (Akbar Muhammad, Slaves and Slavery in Muslim
Africa, vol. I, p 68)
In fact, the original Arabic
word for slave, "Abd," evolved into the the colloquial word for a black person
after the establishment of Islam.
Muhammad owned and sold
black slaves. In fact, the pulpit of his mosque, from which he
preached Islam, was built by slave labor on his order.
Even Christianity’s harshest
critics could hardly picture Jesus as a slave trader. Whereas the New
Testament merely acknowledges slavery, the teachings of Islam offer explicit
guidance in the details of the practice, thus endowing it with divine sanction.
The Qur'an encourages sex
with slaves in several places, which explains the 2-1 ratio of female to male
slaves taken from Africa by Muhammad's descendants. The Muslims were more
interested in the sexual servitude of black women than the Europeans, who
exported Africans for labor.
As one might have guessed,
the life of slaves in Muslim countries was quick and painful. There is a
reason why one doesn't find too many native blacks in Saudi Arabia or Iraq
today. Enslaved men could not bear children because they were often
castrated, and the unfortunate Africans as a group did not ultimately survive
the brutal treatment.
Here's a description of what
Turkish Muslims did to their male "Negro" children in the relatively civilized
Castrators of Negroes buy
them and then sell them, after having mutilated them, on the Turkish market,
that is if the victim does not succumb to the operation or to its consequences
[90% do not survive the castration]. As to the methods used, they
have remained as primitive as in the past. The child is spread out on the floor
or a table, the sexual parts are tied at their base by a rope, and on these
parts they operate with one vigorous movement of a razor, the wound is then
dressed with some small shot [i.e., lead rifle shot?], with some astringent
substances, boiling oil, or some warm honey. Once the bleeding stops, they fix a
kind of lead nail two inches long, slightly curved and with a thickened end, in
the urethra, until it is completely healed... Castrators sometimes use an even
more barbaric method. Immediately after the removal of organs, they introduce
into the urethra rather than a nail, a piece of reed protruding two inches, so
that urinary functions are performed without interruption. Then a plaster is
applied on the wound, and the patient is buried up to his neck in the warm and
dry sand, while the assistants trample the ground around him. This maneuver
reduces the mobility of the wounded one completely... after a week he is
unearthed. (As quoted from
By contrast, the 400,000
slaves brought to America over the course of 200 years managed to leave the most
prosperous group of African people on the planet. You can tell a lot about
a people’s quality of life by the things they choose to complain about.
While the life expectancy in some African countries is less than 19, what with
disease, abject poverty, starvation and kleptocratic dictators,
African-Americans are actually demanding financial compensation (reparations)
for not having to live in those conditions.
So ingrained is slavery in
Islam that the religion's holiest city, Mecca (site of the Haj pilgrimage), was
a slave trading capital. Up until the 20th century, Mecca served as the
gateway to the Muslim world for slaves brought out of Africa. Azumah
"It became a custom for
pilgrims to take slaves for sale in Mecca or buy one or two slaves while on Haj
as souvenirs to be kept, sold or given as gifts."
The last slaves were openly traded
in Islam's holiest city in 1960!
Arab enslavement of black
Africans continues to this day in the Muslim world, particularly in the Sudan,
Niger, and Mauritania.
Slavery would most certainly
exist today in the same form that it did for more than a thousand years in the
Arab world were it not for the Western Christian-based nations “imposing their
values on Muslim lands” by putting an end to it. The horrific situation
that we described of slaves in Zanzibar was forcibly suppressed by the
There is not, and never has
been, an abolition movement within Islam.
Unlike the West, the Muslim world has
yet to offer an apology for slavery. The institution is ingrained in the
Qur'an. To admit that it is a mistake would be to admit the fallibility of
the Qur'an and bring its divine origin into question. Even today, Muslims
act as if Islamic slavery was a favor done to the millions of unfortunate men,
women and children who were forcibly uprooted from their native lands and sent
to lives of sexual and menial servitude deep in the Islamic world.
Slavery was not entirely race-based
in Islamic history (although it eventually became illegal to enslave an Arab).
Hungary was pillaged of 3 million people over a 150 year period, and Muslim
slave traders raided European coasts for well over 1000 years, killing, raping
and taking slaves.
But, perhaps the most
conspicuous example of overt racism in Islam is the genocide in present-day
Sudan by the Arab-Islamic government and the refusal of Muslim organizations
around the world to condemn it. Over two million black Africans have died
from Arab aggression in the Christian south. And 200,000 more were killed
by Arab militias over the last four years in Darfur. The Arabs are known
for rampaging through villages and hacking black Africans to death in the name
of Jihad while screaming things like, "Kill the slaves!"
Although the Darfurians are
mostly Muslim as well, there is little to no attention placed on their plight by
international Muslim organizations. Despite being repeatedly challenged on
the issue, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), for example,
has never bothered to condemn the Islamic Republic of Sudan for the Arab
massacre of Africans.
Compare this to the outrage,
sympathy and money that is poured out on the Palestinian people... who are
Arab. Yet, the number of Palestinian civilians killed in their
relentless conflict with Israel over the last 40 years is less than the average
number of Africans killed by Islam each month.
Even in the earliest days,
racism against blacks was a fringe part of Islam. At one time there was a
law that mandated the death penalty for anyone suggesting that Muhammad was
black. Perhaps it is for this reason that quite a few hadith mention the
"whiteness of the prophet" - explicitly referring to his skin color.
African-Americans owe absolutely nothing to Islam, because it has done
nothing good for them. It inspires slavery, but not abolition.
It may not be the “White man’s religion,” but that certainly doesn’t make it the
See Also: Islam in Africa
Go back to the List of Islamic Terrorist Attacks