In the first part of this series I demonstrated how Christianity had a presence in Africa long before White Supremacy come into existence and long before chattel slavery. But what I want to address in this segment is that many in Conscious Community propagates is that chattel slavery took away the African’s original faith/religion or spirituality. That Christianity was foreign to the African mind along with its concepts and principles. Now to this I have to differ for the reason that what many describe as the sole West African faith i.e. African spirituality did not reign supreme in the fashion they believe. Many in the Christian faith may find my approach problematic but that is not my concern at this time.
Going forward my argument is that what was “forced” on them in many instances was not too far from what they already held to prior to enslavement. According to Sylviane A. Diouf:
When the first Africans were deported to the New World, beginning in 1501, Islam were already well established in West Africa. The religion revealed to the Arabian trader Muhammad between 609 and 632 C.E. had been introduced to North Africa as early as 660. South of the Sahara it had been known since the eighth century through contacts with merchants from the north. Islam in its orthodox Sunni form started to spread, however, after the conversion of the two rulers War Diaby, from Takrur in northern Senegal—which by applying the . . . . Islamic law, became the first West African Muslim state—and Kosoy, from Gao in present-day Mali. Both conversions occurred at the beginning of the eleventh century. Within fifty years, Islam had expanded from the banks of the Senegal River in the west to the shores Lake Chad in the east. (Diouf; 20).
As mentioned the first Africans that was shipped to the so-called New World occurred in the year 1501. But Islam entered the northern part of the African continent in the year 660 and it became a huge facet by the eleventh century. So it can be safely stated that a large segment of our West African ancestors was Muslims. Therefore when they arrived in the new world they was Muslim until forced conversion to Christianity. But was it as difficult as many make it out to be? How does Muslims view Christianity and how different was it from Islam?
In answering this question the work Islamic Beliefs, Practices, and Cultures, states:
Muslims do not view themselves as the only community to have received revelation from God. In many passages, the Koran affirms that what has been revealed to Muhammad is nothing new, but a confirmation of the same divine message of old. The Koran states that every civilization has had prophets who introduced divine books. In addition to the Koran, these include the Torah (al-Tawrat) of Moses, the Psalms (al-Zabur) of David, and the Gospels (al-Injil) of Jesus (Marshall Cavendish Corporation; 68).
One must take note also that while Islam respects these revelations they do “believe that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels have all been altered in some way, and that only the Koran is the word of God in its purest form” (Ibid.). Yet even in light of this “the Koran honorifically labels Jews and Christians as “Peoples of the Book” and thus Muslims share a special bond with both religions. Jews and Christians are the only groups with which the Koran explicitly permits interfaith marriage” (Ibid.). It would be safe to say that our Islamic ancestors would not see Christianity as being vile and against their religion or spiritual worldview.
Now let it be clear that there was resistance on the part of our ancestors and forced conversion to anything is iniquitous. Also the form of Christianity that was employed was a bastardize form to pacify Blacks and far cry from authentic Christianity. Rather the purpose of this article was to demonstrate that some of the narratives floating around from “Black” sources is antiquated, fantastical and apocryphal in nature. What many claim we lost was not even relevant to the degree that they claim.
Ultimately going back to the grand intangible i.e. African spirituality will not change our situation. Nor will Islam or Christianity unless those things propel is to take action and create tangibles. We do not want to be stuck in the past and we do not want to become static waiting on the future but we want to be active in the present learning from the past and building towards the future.
Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Islamic Beliefs, Practices, and Cultures, Muslim World. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Reference, 2010.
Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, 15th ed. New York: New York University Press, 2013.