web analytics
March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


A Century of African-American Islam

Attendees of the 1928 Moorish Science Temple Conclave in Chicago. Noble Drew Ali is in the front row center.

Attendees of the 1928 Moorish Science Temple Conclave in Chicago. Noble Drew Ali is in the front row center.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.

The year 2013 marks the centenary of the reported founding of the Canaanite Temple in Newark, New Jersey. That was the very earliest form of an indigenous African-American Islam, one completely distinct from normative Islam, the 1,400 -year-old religion from Arabia founded by Muhammad. From this movement came Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan.

The century divides into two main eras: inventing a new religion (1913-1975) and moving toward normative Islam (1975-2013).

Timothy Drew (1886-1929), an American black who called himself Noble Drew Ali, founded the Newark temple and then, in 1925 another, better verified organization, the oddly named Moorish Science Temple of America. His ideas derived mainly from four unlikely sources—pan-Africanists, the Shriners, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and white racists.

From pan-Africanists such as Edward Wilmot Blyden and Marcus Garvey, he appropriated the notion of Christianity as the religion of whites and Islam that of non-whites. As a practicing Shriner, Noble Drew Ali borrowed traits from this organization, such as the use of “Noble” before one’s name, the requirement that men wear fezzes, and a network of lodges. From Ahmadis he took Arabic personal names, the crescent and star motif, the prohibition of pork, and the notion of Jesus traveling to India. From white racists came the idea that accomplished black Americans are not Africans at all but “Moors,” “Moorish-Americans,” or “Asiatics,” a mythical northwest African people, the Moabites, who migrated to sub-Saharan Africa.

From this unique mixture, Noble Drew Ali concocted the 64-page scripture of his religion, The Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America (Chicago, 1927) which, despite its name, has almost nothing to do with the normative Islamic Koran but is largely plagiarized from two texts, one occult Christian and the other Tibetan. Even more strangely, his Koran focuses not on the figure of Muhammad but on Jesus.

Noble Drew Ali hoped that by avoiding association with Africa, inventing a new identity for American blacks, and urging them to be loyal to the United States, they would appear to be new immigrants and, like other newcomers, would escape entrenched racist stereotypes and avoid segregation. But such was not to be. As the historian Richard Brent Turner writes, “Noble Drew Ali did not understand that the melting pot was closed to black people in the 1920s.”

MSTA declined with Noble Drew Ali’s death in July 1929. The organization still exists with a following of about a thousand adherents. One member, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, was convicted for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and sentenced to 35 years. Another, Narseal Batiste, got 13½ years for planning to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

The Temple had a key role as precursor to the Nation of Islam (NoI), which came into existence in July 1930. MSTA began the dual tradition, subsequently picked up by NoI, of appropriating the imagery of normative Islam without its content and then using this folk religion as a vehicle to escape white racism. Both focused primarily on un-churched American blacks and served as a bridge for them to convert to normative Islam. Many MSTA traits – the term “nation,” the “Asiatic” identity, the rejection of Negro and Africa, the identification of Islam with “people of dark hue,” the prediction that all whites would be destroyed, and the leader’s claim to prophethood and even at times divinity – survived in NoI.

Many of NoI’s earliest members had previously belonged to MSTA and they often saw the Nation as the Temple’s successor. Elijah Muhammad, NoI’s effective founder, himself praised the MSTA forerunner and sometimes modestly portrayed his movement as “trying to finish up what those before us started.”

About the Author: Daniel Pipes is a world-renowned Middle East and Islam expert. He is President of the Middle East Forum. His articles appear in many newspapers. He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, Pepperdine, the U.S. Naval War College, and the University of Chicago. He is a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace and other institutions. His website is DanielPipes.org.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

7 Responses to “A Century of African-American Islam”

  1. Sharon R Spurgeon says:

    Didn't know they were Moabites. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Cody Flecker says:

    More chazerei, what else is new from these interlopers?

  3. What's with the "Canaanite" reference? Sounds like they picked a bunch of references from a hat without thinking of the implications.

  4. Pedro Acosta says:

    From misguided to Misguided.

  5. If they’re Americans they’re Not Africans. Most African Americans have NEVER Been to Africa. I’m OK if they want to Move there!!

  6. Good article. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sharif A Bey says:

    WOW…
    There are SO MANY blatant and brazenly ignorant presumptions masquerading as factual statements in this article that I don't know where to begin.
    Suffice it to say, this is a very POORLY written article.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

More Articles from Daniel Pipes
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, former Field Marshal and Minister of Defense

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

The British Library

Daniel Pipes’s websites cannot be accessed through the British Library’s system. Why? Intolerance.

Special Ops used to be about capturing or killing enemies; now it’s about shaping public opinion.

I do not want Barack Obama to pardon Pollard.

As U.S. credibility and stature diminish, the president and his secretaries of state and defense engage in eloquent denial.

BBC: Gaza militants launch missiles at Tel Aviv in 1st rocket attack on Israeli capital since 1991 Gulf War.

In general, the regions these days hosts unchanging, repetitious and dreary news.

Oman will grant Iran a strategic location on a mountain overlooking the whole gulf region.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/the-lions-den-daniel-pipes-columns-indepth/a-century-of-african-american-islam/2013/12/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: