Tuesday, February 28, 2006

islam and afrocentrism

A version of this post is at Planet Grenada, but I figured that this would be appropriate to place here as well:

Over at Garvey's Ghost, Sondjata wrote a piece called afrocentricity and islam which was a response to a Grenada entry: islam and the african people. Unfortunately, comments don't seem to be working at Garvey's Ghost or else I would probably make my points over there. But what I would respectfully argue is that in at least a few a cases Sondjata is mistaken in his attempts to refute the original article (For example, some comments he attributes to Uthman Dan Fodio really were made by Cheikh Anta Diop). And in any case, the larger point is basically untouched: that various major Afrocentric scholars mentioned really did have a number of positive things to say regarding Islam's role in African history. And I would add that the best argument (at least, the best argument I can easily make right now) in favor of the fact that a strong Black and African identity is totally compatible with Islam is just the Third Resurrection blog and all the articles posted over there. Islam's roots in the Black world are just too deep to give the Black Orientalist position too much credibility. Islam has had links to Africa and Black people from the very beginning and it is sily to argue that it is unAfrican.

Moreover, this whole discussion seems to have lost sight of the most important consideration: the truth. I mean, if we can agree that there is a God or some Higher Power. And we can accept that God sends human messengers to communicate His will, then the exact "packaging" is going to be up to God. If he wanted to, God could have made his final messenger to humanity Chinese. What would the Afrocentrist do then? Accept the truth in the form God gave it, or reject the truth because of the skin its in?


sondjata said...

No. Actually if you read the entire piece you'd see that it was not Diop's words. I copied the text exactly as written by Diop AND added other commentary directly from the book quoted by the original author.

In fact every quotation in the post is from an author specifically brought up by the author of Islam and the African People. I didn't pick a different author until the very end of the piece.

I didn't translate anything. Direct quotes that completely refute the claims made by the author.
The larger point is touched. If the author of "Islam and the African people" get's his history wrong then his original claim is null and void. That is THE point.

The problem you have, unfortunately is that you think that because your particular religion says "x,y or z" is truth then it must be so. I don't live in that box. There is no point in asking if "The" truth was given to a Chinese man. For all we know the truth was in fact given to a Chinese man. Afrocentrics do not argue scripture per se, Afrocentrics, is the context of the discussion, simply lay out the history as it has been recorded. People have a problem with that but that's not my problem.

It is also a silly argument to claim that because Islam has been in Africa for some 1200 years or so, that it makes it African. In the next 400 years Islam will have been in West Africa for 1,000 years yet no one in thier right mind would say that Christianity is African.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

In terms of what Diop did or didn't say, what I was mainly refering to was just that the statement:

"African religions, more or less forgotten, were in the process of atrophying and being emptied of their spiritual content, their former deep metaphysics. The jumble of empty forms they had left behind could not compete with Islam on the moral or rational level. And it was on that latter level of rationality that the victory of Islam was most striking."

This is something which Diop is actually saying. He's not just quoting or reflecting Dan Fodio here. Diop was from Senegal from a Muslim background. I think I've read one quote which suggested to me that he was somewhat secularized or liberal about theological matters but I've never seen any indication that he was an advocate of African indigenous religion.

In terms of whether the original article is null and void, I would say it is better to deal with the actual claims directly, rather than just argue about quotations.

In terms of "my problem" I wasn't always Muslim. So I'm not just saying x,y or z is truth just because my religion says so. In fact, the opposite is true. As an adult I've reflected on different issues and have come to slowly believe that "x,y, and z" is true. Which is what lead me to become Muslim.

In terms of whether Christianity or Islam are African maybe we should try to come to a common definition of what it means to be "African". Or perhaps you could try to come up with one which conveys what you are getting at.

In terms of Islam, even during the lifetime of the prophet, there was a Muslim community of people who sought asylum in Ethiopia. And there were plenty of Black Africans living on the Arabian Peninsula at the time. And slightly more controversially, there is at least one account which says that the prophet's grandfather Mutalib "fathered ten sons, all black as night". So even though Muhammad was described as relatively light-skinned, he probably of Black African descent.

In terms of Christianity (Did yuu meant to say "Christianity" instead of "Islam" in the last sentence?) I already gave you the example of Rastafarianism (influenced by Pan-Africanism, founded in Jamaica, teaches Halie Selassie is God on Earth) which is also related to Ethiopian Orthodoxy (among the oldest forms of Christianity on earth)

And so there are forms of Christianity which have become rooted in Africa over time. And which any Afrocentrist, Pan-African ought to be able to accept in good conscience.

And to be more precise, I'm not trying to argue a geographical point (I mean, of course I can look on a map and see that Palestine and the Arabian Penensula are not in Africa.) but that they shouldn't be rejected by Afro-centrists as unAfrican.