The following is an article that I've had in the stash for quite a while. Check it out and tell me what you think!
Is the Nation of Gods and Earths a Muslim Community?
I Majestic Allah
Within and outside the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), many are unsure as to the relation of the NGE to the religion of Islam as practiced by over 1 billion adherents throughout the world. Understandably, perspectives on the matter are varied, ranging from inclusion (those who see the NGE within the Islamic scope) to total exclusion (those who see the NGE having no relation to the religion of Islam). There are also those who see the NGE not as Muslims, but a group with ideas in the vein of Shiite and Sufi sects. The primary consequence of this argument is the way in which we define ourselves in relation to other cultures/religions in society. Furthermore, it begs the question: is the NGE merely an offshoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI), and by extension, orthodox Islam; or is it a new value system unique to itself? The answer to this question is one that incorporates many factors and connects varied cultural and social dynamics.
In order to look deeper into the question, it is imperative that we first evaluate the ideas and value system of the respective cultures/religions to see if they are indeed similar. The primary reason that many accuse the NGE of being quasi or Proto-Islamic is the use of the terms Allah and Islam. Although both groups use the terms, the meanings and context in which they are used are strikingly dissimilar.
In the traditional Islamic context, Allah is used to refer to an omnipotent, omniscient, astral God who is the object of adoration and worship in western monotheistic thought (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). God in Arabic is Ilah, so the prefix Al (meaning the) was added on to indicate a shift away from polytheistic culture/religion, as was the norm in pre-Islamic Arabia. In the paradigm of the NGE, Allah is the Blackman, who after gaining an acute awareness of his positive qualities, history, and the world around him, actualizes these positive qualities in order to be the creator of his own destiny and a positive enriching influence in his family and community (global and local). This worldview is not unlike the concept of the “perfect man” in Sufism and the Kabbalah. While many would hold that Allah is a term exclusive to the religion of Islam, it is actually an Arabic term that is also used by Arab Jews and Christians when speaking of God. Our use of the Arabic term is not only related to the history of the NGE (and our evolution out of the NOI, but also on the profound affect that the term carries when speaking of a change in the worldview from the Christian perspective held previous by many in the African-American and Latino community. While the Terms Allah & God are similar in religious usage, when used among a population that has been oppressed by a mix of white supremacy and religion (in this case Christianity), the term Allah often signals a stance of independence and separation from their previous cultural and religious experience.
The term Islam in the traditional Islamic context means “peace through submission”, and refers to the religion and culture developed by Muhammad Ibn Abdullah in 7th century Arabia. From the perspective of the NGE, Islam bespeaks the cultural filament of high civilization practiced and maintained by people of the Afro-Asiatic Diaspora. Even in orthodox Islam, it is acknowledged that Islam as an ideal championing the existence of the oneness of God predated the emergence of Islam as a religion. Similar to the term Allah, the NGE does not use the term Islam to be seen as Muslims, but to underscore the correlation between a civilization’s development of character & humanity, and it’s development of science & mathematics. It is well documented that the religion of Islam was a catalyst for the development of science, mathematics, and philosophy for hundreds of years, even influencing the enlightenment period in Europe. Within Africa, cities such as Djenne and Timbuktu are testimonies to Afro-Islamic achievements in mathematics and science, as well as human development and spirituality. In the African- American community, Islam (in it’s myriad of manifestations) usually indicated a system that improved one’s character, as well as one’s knowledge of and standing in the world. By seeing oneself within this ethno-cultural framework, the mental paradigm is developed where people of varied backgrounds can transform the behaviors that many of us suffer from (lack of motivation, defeatist behavior, anti-intellectualism). This is why within the NGE community, you will find terms such as “science/scientist”, “mathematics”, “right and exact”, and so forth. The NGE use of the term “Mathematics” is of particular importance as it relates to the Hindu-Arabic numerals we use. The history of the Hindu-Arabic number system is an example of the historical and social bond that connects civilizations and promotes human development by way of cultural and intellectual exchange. By seeing the filament that runs through the high civilizations of people of color, one can develop a universal worldview that champions and relates to the achievements of people of color all over the planet. While some may dismiss this framework as underdeveloped and imaginary, it is no more fantastic than the Zion of Rastafarian thought, or the “glory days” of Kemet of some Afrocentrists.
On a religious level, however it is important to note that orthodox Islam and the NGE are in no way the same. There is no veneration of Muhammad as the last prophet in the NGE, and the NGE has no set amount that is required to be distributed to the poor. Due to the view that man is the creator of his individual and collective destiny, prayer in the form of Salat is not required. Fasting is encouraged in the NGE, but not in a structured and mandated form as is Ramadan in orthodox Islam. Conversely, most Muslims would consider it anathema to call themselves God, and there is no outward expression of ethnocentrism present in the religion of Islam. Historically, there have been Islamic groups/sects that held views similar to the NGE, such the Zaydis of Yemen, the Druze of Lebanon, and the Baye Fall sect in Senegal, but these groups are the exception and not the rule. While comparisons to Sufism are fair (Exemplified by famous Sufi Al Hallaj, who was beheaded for exclaiming Anal Haqq, or “I am the truth”), it is important to note that many of the Sufis that advocated self-actualized Godhood identified with Gnostic and Neo-Platonic thought and often ran afoul of traditional Islamic tenets.
While it is understandable why the NGE is identified with Orthodox Islam given the history of the NGE as well as the usage of selected terms by both groups, the truth is that the NGE espouses many concepts that do not fit neatly within an Islamic scope. In fact, after Allah, the founder of the NGE left the NOI, he went to great lengths to identify the NGE as a separate community, even going so far as to order sweeping name changes so that the Gods and Earths would not be mistaken for Muslims of the NOI. While one may be tempted to dismiss this change as slight, it is no less indicative of a new worldview than Muhammad changing the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. It is also important to note that Allah, when asked about Islam, remarked, “that’s just I-Self-Lord-And-Master”, again speaking to the process of self-actualization rather than submission. Ultimately, to place the NGE in an Islamic scope does a disservice to both groups. One, it forces the NGE to fit it’s values within a previous but unparallel framework. Secondly, It compels Orthodox Islam to include a group with values that are dissimilar to their own. It also infers that there will be no “new” value systems, and that no cultural/religious development can take place after the last revelation of the western monotheistic tradition (Islam). Following this train of thought, Christianity would be seen as “Quasi-Judaic”, and Protestants would be known as “Pseudo-Catholic”. The NGE is a new value system that has similarities to and influences from a variety of Cultures/Religions (Islam, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Christianity), but is a unique ethno-cultural response to the condition of people of color in contemporary society. It is no less valid due to it originating from another group than Protestantism, being a response of the excesses of another group (Catholicism in this case). Building upon the legacy of Cultural/ Religious Nationalism left by the Moorish Science Temple and the NOI, the NGE and the ethno-cultural worldview that we espouse deserves the respect and consideration afforded to other Cultures/Value Systems and should be seen as adding another dimension to the contemporary Afro-Asiatic Diaspora.
Already, within the last forty years, the NGE has made a considerable impact on urban youth worldwide and is well known through its influence on Hip-Hop Culture. The ideas and values projected by many NGE musicians (Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers) has influenced youth culture, serving as the impetus for tens of thousands of disaffected youth to learn about and research the history and culture of aboriginal people across the globe. Viewing the NGE outside the limited parameters of “Proto-Islam” will allow many to gain greater understanding and appreciation for the ideas and concepts found therein.