Dr Nehusi is wrong on Islam
Stabroek News
March 27, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I refer to Dr Kimani Nehusi's long article on the question of whether Africans had a written language (SN 20/3/02). Dr Nehusi like his counterpart Dr Accabre Nkofi and other African intellectuals seem to take an irrational pleasure these days in attacking Islam.

Dr Nehusi's unjustified and irrational attacks on Islam include the following:

(a) Nehusi posits that much of Islam is derived from some kind of pre historic Nilitic religion. This is completely unfactual and erroneous. Islam is a divinely revealed religion which came into the world during historic times and everything about it is perfectly ascertainable. Islam was revealed by Allah to the Prophet Muhammad over a 20 year period and this whole process of revelation could be dated almost to the day. It is clear that Islam did not derive from any pre historic Nilitic religion or envolve from anything else.

(b) Nehusi equates the Kaaba and the Haj pilgrimage with African fetishism, ancestor worship and idolatry. The Kaaba is not worshipped as African idols are and the Haj has no resemblance to African fetishism. It is like saying that Hindus worship the murti (icon) of Lord Shiva when that murti is no more than an aid to meditation. The Kaaba is not worshipped; it stands merely as a symbol of the Unity of Muslims, irrespective of their race or nationality, and as an emphasis of the fraternity and equality of Muslims. Islam and the Kaaba have no historical or doctrinal relationship to African fetishism.

(c) Nehusi says that the vast majority of Africans were converted to Islam by violence or severe pressures. He claims that Islamic Arab culture was forced upon Africans and that they were brainwashed by Islamic education. Such statements are historically untrue since African tribes mostly come willingly into Islam just as Bilal, the first African convert, did.

Islam brought a new civilization to Africans and raised their standards. The very writers whom Nehusi recommends such as Van Sertima and Quick celebrate Muslims who were Africans and persons who drew their moral and intellectual life from Islam. They all desired to be Islamic and it is no accident that all these African greats were Muslims.

Further, the hundreds who convert every day to Islam in Africa are doing so of their own free will just as the millions of Black Americans who have converted to Islam. Nobody forced or terrorized those black Americans to become Muslims, they became Muslims because they wanted to.

(d) Nehusi wrote that when the Prophet Muhammad fled the Meccan persecution he went to Ethiopia where he learnt many important things from the Africans. Nehusi's statement is not true. The Prophet never visited Ethiopia in those years.

(e) Nehusi writes: Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Bornu and Monomtapa were world class African civilizations". These empires, and especially their ruling classes, were Muslims and they wrote in Arabic as their sole means of non verbal communication. These Empires valued Islam and Islamic influences and regular Haj pilgrimages were made to Mecca such as the well known ones by emperor Mansa Musa. These African Empires certainly rejoiced in their Islam.

I would enjoin those who attempt to write about Islam to have their facts correct and to try to be scholarly.

Yours faithfully,

P. Bhagwandas