Islam and its influences on Africans and African-Americans

What is Islam?

Islam is the complete submission and obedience to Allah (God). The name Allah (God) in Islam never refers to Muhammad as many non-Muslims may think; Allah is the personal name of God.

The word Islam has a two-fold meaning: peace, and submission to God.

A Brief Introduction to Islam

Allah (God)

Muslims believe he is one God, Who has no partner. He is the Creator, not created, nor part of his creation. He is First, Last, and Everlasting; He was when nothing was, and will be when nothing else remains. Muslims eliminate any anthropomorphism (human qualities) from their conception of Allah. His attributes are not like human, despite similar labels or appellations.

Cleanliness

Islam places great emphasis on cleanliness, in both physical and spiritual aspects. Islam requires Muslims to clean their bodies, clothes, houses, and the whole community.

Peace

Peace is the most common word on a Muslim's tongue. When two people met they exchange greetings "peace be upon you".

Relevance

Islam is the last religion and makes its relevance for human rights. To understand Islam is to look at it as more than a religion but a way of life.

Qur’an (Koran)

"The book of God," divided into chapters (suras) which were dictated by God directly to his prophet, Muhammad.

Main Pillars (details taken from http://www.iad.org/intro/intro.html)

  1. Shahadah -- Muslims believe and declare their faith by saying the Shahadah ("witness"). This affirmation of faith consists of the Arabic phrase La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah. (There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.")
  2. Salah -- Prayer, in the sense of worship, is the second pillar of Islam. Prayer is obligatory and must be performed five times a day. These five times are dawn (Fajr), immediately after noon (Dhuhr), mid-afternoon ('Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and early night (Isha'). Ritual cleanliness and ablution are required before prayer, as are clean clothes and location, and the removal of shoes. One may pray individually or communally, at home, outside, virtually any clean place, as well as in a mosque, though the latter is preferred. Special is the Friday noon prayer, called Jum'ah. It, too, is obligatory and is to be done in a mosque, in congregation. It is accompanied by a sermon (Khutbah), and it replaces the normal Dhuhr prayer.
  3. Zakah -- The third pillar of Islam is the alms-tax. It is a tax on wealth, payable on various categories of property, notably savings and investments, produce, inventory of goods, salable crops and cattle, and precious metals, and is to be used for the various categories of distribution specified by Islamic law. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of 2.5% of one's capital, provided that this capital reaches a certain minimum amount that is not consumed by its owner. A generous person can pay more than this amount, though it is treated and rewarded as voluntary charity (Sadaqah). This amount of money is provided to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and can be used in many useful projects for the welfare of the community.
  4. Sawm -- Daily fasting is required for all able, adult Muslims during the whole of the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, beginning with the sighting of the new moon. Exempted from the fast are the very old and the insane. On the physical side, fasting is from first light of dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. On the moral, behavioral side, one must abstain from lying, malicious gossip, quarreling and trivial nonsense.
  5. Hajj -- The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in one's lifetime. This pillar is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, provided that he/she is physically and financially able to do so. Prerequisites for performing the Hajj are to be a Muslim, to be free, to be an adult or mature enough, to be of sound mind, and to have the ability to afford the journey and maintain one's dependents back home for the duration. The reward for the Hajj is nothing less than Paradise. The Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals and demands of the believer great sacrifice. On this unique occasion, nearly two million Muslims from all over the globe meet one another in a given year. Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special clothes (Ihram) -- two, very simple, unsewn white garments - which strips away all distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together and equal before Allah.
Muslims contributions to science

Astronomy, Geography, Humanity, Mathematics, and Medicine

Muhammad

A Prophet, Muhammad was an illiterate man born in Makkah in 570 CE when Christianity was not yet established in Europe. He was known for his truthfulness, generosity, and sincerity. He married Khadijah, who in turn was his first convert of to Islam. At age 40 he received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation continued between them for 23 years and resulted in the holy Qur’ an.

Women and Marriage

Women have equality in many respects to men. With regards to education both men and women have the same rights and obligations in Islam. It is customary for the parents to play an active role in the choice of a partner, but she must be consulted. If she is not consulted and then married off she has the right to ask that the marriage be dissolved.

Sunni and Shi’ite

Sunni and Shi’ite are sects within the religion. These two are the largest, however there are more fundamentalist groups like Admadiyya and Wahhabis.

Islam and its influence on African Culture

During the lifetime of Muhammad Islam reached Africa by a group of Muslims that went to Ethiopia to escape persecution. The spread of Islam began in Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries. Along the coast of Africa Islam spread among the Berbers who then spread Islam across the Mediterranean into Europe. In 808 Muslims founded a city in the country of Morocco. In the 9th and 10th centuries Arabs began to make permanent settlements in North Africa.

By the 19th century the greatest gains made by Islam were in the south of the Sahara desert. In the kingdom of Ghana, Mansa Musa made Islam the state religion. Prior to the 19th century, the empire of Mali, Songhay, Kanem, Bornu, and Hausa Fulani land made Islam the religion of the state.

Timbuktu had the greatest advantage of Islam. With a variety of African languages spoken in the city, Islam made it easier to communicate. Islam in Africa has incorporated tribal and pre-Islamic practices and accepted of several self-proclaimed Mahdis. In the 20th century Islam has more converts in Africa than Christianity. Islam has taken over the main religion in most of the former colonies of Europe.

Islamic Influence on African-American Culture

There is evidence that Islam reached the Americas long before Columbus. Historic documents, geographic explorations, and Arabic (Islamic) inscriptions have all indicated this to be true. Today 41% of Muslims in the United States are African-American. Majority of these Muslims practice under NOI, Nation of Islam.

Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam (NOI) began in 1930 by a man named Wallace Dodd Fard in the ghetto of Detroit. Fard undermined Christianity and the Bible, he said the true religion of Black people was Islam. Fard taught out of his doctrines called The Secret Ritual of the Nation of Islam. This was not pure Islam for it was a blend of Jehovah’s witness, Islam, Gnosticism, and Christianity.

After the disappearance of Fard, Elijah Muhammad expanded the movement into other urban cities. In 1942 Elijah was imprisoned and then released in 1946. One year after that Malcolm X joined the Nation of Islam and soon became the most outspoken spokesman for the NOI.

It was Malcolm’s comment about Kennedy that got him expelled from NOI. In 1964 Malcolm founded the Muslim Mosque and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. After Malcolm’s prilgamage to Mecca he came back and started to call out Elijah Muhammad about his teachings and his methods of using Islam. Malcolm was murdered on February 21, 1965.

The present day leader of NOI is Louis Farrakhan. Malcolm himself in 1955 introduced Farrakhan to NOI, after Malcolm X was released from Temple no. 7 in Harlem, Farrakhan took his place. Louis Farrakhan has been criticized and praised for his contributions to the Black people here in the states and abroad in Africa.

The Nation of Islam is one of the major sects of Muslims in America however some Muslims do not consider the NOI apart of Islam.

African-Americans tend to be more likely to accept Islam rather than Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries. This is due to the fact that Islam has news ideas and concepts that young men and women want to address in their future. Also Islam is the main influence over convicts in prison which majority of the inmates are African-American. One last thing is that Christianity is made to be the (White man’s religion) and Islam is for the people.

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