Dr. Ali Mazrui




Ali A. Mazrui

Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies and

Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities

The State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA, Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria, Senior Scholar and Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Keynote address at a conference on the theme “Islamic Education in America – Facing the 21st Century” held in Sacramento, California, and sponsored by the Universal Institute for Islamic Education [IMAS’predecessor] on April 14-17,1995.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three Abrahamic creeds of world history. In the twentieth century, the United States has often been described as a “Judea-Christian country”, thus linking America to two of those Abrahamic faiths. But early in the twenty­-first-century Muslims will outnumber Jews – making Islam the second most important Abrahamic religion numerically in the United States after Christianity.

The question has therefore arisen about how Islam is to be treated in American classrooms, textbooks and media as Islam becomes a more integral part of American society. At the very minimum, four different categories of issues are at stake.

First is the doctrinal imperative. How can Islamic doctrine, ethics and rituals be better understood? How can the next generation of Americans be helped to understand what Islam stands for?

The second is the factual imperative. How can Muslim history be better integrated into the study of world history in American schools? How can the stereotypes be eliminated and the facts be better presented?

The third is the civilizational imperative. How can the historical links between Islamic civilization and Western civilization be better classified – including what Islam has in common with Judaism and Christianity, and what Islamic science and thought contributed to Western civilization historically.

Fourth is the imperative of participation. How are we to make Muslims of America a  force which is both integrated into the society and culturally autonomous and distinctive, a force which is both participatory in American institutions and conscious of being part of a worldwide Umma?

In the educational field, there are also four categories of schools. The most widespread are the secular schools of the country, which are of course non-denominational in the student body and choice of curriculum. Here the effort is to introduce Islam to students of all religions and cultural backgrounds in such courses as world history and cultural studies.

A second category of institutions is “parochial schools” for Muslims where the student body consists mainly of Muslims but the subjects taught are comprehensive. These institutions would be comparable to Catholic parochial schools where all subjects, both secular and religious, are taught.

A third category of educational institutions would be more specialized religious schools where both the students and the subject-matter taught is Muslim in the madrasa and Qur’an school tradition. Such institutions in the United States are basically “weekend schools” intended to provide religious education to Muslim children who go to secular schools the rest of the week. In spirit, these are the equivalent of the old “Sunday schools” in the history of Christendom.

A fourth category of educational institution is adult education for Muslims. Among those newly converted to Islam in the United States these adult classes could be in basic religious education.  But many Muslims in the United States are also in need of skills for work and occupations. Some Muslims are converted when they are in prison, and upon being released, need new skills to help them turn their backs on older habits of crime and deviance. Adult practical education for these Muslims is often an urgent necessity.

A fifth category of educational arrangements for Muslims is Islamic summer camps where children can combine fun with religious instruction and videos about Islamic history and civilization. There is no reason why religious education should always be the opposite of having fun. Islamic summer camping is one type of context where the sacred can be made enjoyable to young people.

Of course, not all parents can afford to send their children to a summer camp, or go vacationing with them. There may therefore be a case for creating camping scholarships for the less well-to-do Muslims.  Separate funds would need to be raised for such scholarships.

But educational reform needs to be related to the wider realities of the Muslim community. It has been calculated that forty-two per cent of Muslims in the United States are African Americans. Before the end of this century, African Americans will be more than half the Muslim population of the United States. It is therefore important that we pay attention to some of the central concerns of the African American experience.

One African American concern is the relationship between Islam and Afrocentricity. Are these allies, adversaries, or totally irrelevant to each other?  A second concern is the phenomenon of dual Islam in the African-American experience. The duality consists, on one side, of universalist Islam (usually Sunni) and, on the other, of nationalist Islam (linking the religion to Black nationalism).

Islamophilia. Islamophobia. Islamoneutral

With Afrocentricity, three distinct forms are affecting Islam.  Islamophobe Afrocentricity is suspicious of or hostile to Islam.  Islamophile Afrocentricity is sympathetic to or empathetic with Islam.  Islamoneutral Afrocentricity takes Islam and Muslims as they come, without prejudging them by a preconceived standard.  Let us look a little more closely at each in turn.

Islamophobe Afrocentricity views Islam as one of the invading forces of Africa, often puts Islam in the same camp as European colonialism. This version of Afrocentricity also associates Islam with the Arab slave trade in Africa, although the Arabs were often violating basic Islamic rules and laws in Africa.

Islamophobe Afrocentricity sometimes mistakenly blames the Arab conquest of Egypt as the deathblow of pharaonic Egyptian civilization. In fact, by the time the Arabs conquered Egypt in the seventh century of the Christian era, pharaonic Egypt had been dead for centuries. The Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines had taken their turns in colonizing Egypt centuries before the Arabs invaded.

Islamophobe Afrocentricity also associates Islam with extreme sexism, as well as with Arab racial arrogance. Islamophobe Afrocentrists in the United  States include John Henrik   Clark, Molefi Asante and Yosef ben-Jochannan.

Islamophile Afrocentrists are either sympathetic to  Islam (when they themselves are not Muslims) or empathetic to Islam (when they are Afrocentric Muslims).  These Islamophile Afrocentrists are often attracted by the absence of racial segregation in the history of Islam.    While Islamic history is not without certain forms of racism, it is without institutionalized racial segregation. Mosques have been racially integrated in Islam from the days of the Prophet Muhammad.

Islamophile Afrocentrists are sometimes impressed by the first African convert to Islam who became one of the Prophet’s closest companions. His name was Bilal, son of Hamama (his mother) and Rabah (his father).  He became Islam’s first great muezzin – using his “Paul Robeson” kind of voice to summon believers to prayer.

He was also the first muezzin from the Kaaba after the Muslims conquered it. The Kaaba in Mecca is the holiest single spot in Islam, and the place to which all Muslims have turned to pray five times a day for the last fourteen centuries.

Today many African-American Muslim children, newspapers and indeed restaurants are called Bilal. I once had breakfast with Muhammad Ali, the boxer, at a Bilal Restaurant in Philadelphia. Such Bilal restaurants usually guarantee halal food (Muslim “Kosha” food).  Bilal is multiculturalism with a black face.

Islamophile Afrocentrists are sometimes attracted by the ethic of sobriety and controlled consumption within Islam – ranging from the prohibition of alcohol to the disciplines of the fast of Ramadhan.

Afrocentric Islamophilia may also be attracted by the fact that, in the final analysis, Islam is primarily a religion of the people of colour. In a sense, in terms of geographical distribution, Islam is essentially an Afro-Asian religion since almost all Muslim nations are either in Africa or in Asia. (Albania, Bosnia and, less clear-cut, Turkey are European exceptions) . Christianity, on the other hand, is an Afro-Western religion since, apart from the Philippines, there are hardly any Christian nations in Asia. Christian leadership globally is clearly in white hands and under white control.

Islamophile Afrocentricity also identifies with the Muslim world as fellow victims of Western racism and Western imperialism. If the greatest racial victim of European arrogance has been the Black man, is the greatest religious victim the Muslim? Afrocentric Islamophilia would confirm such a  proposition.

Afrocentric Islamophiles range from Malcolm X to Edward Blyden, from Nkrumah to Louis Farrakhan. Ali A. Mazrui is himself an Afrocentrist empathetic to Islam – because he himself is a believer in Islam. Faith in Islam and belief in Afrocentrism intermingle in him. They also intermingle with Sulayman Nyang of the Gambia.

As for Islamoneutral Afrocentricity, this version simply refuses to single out Muslims over followers of other faiths for either condemnation or admiration. Islamoneutral Afrocentricity is decisively empathetic with Africa but open-minded about Islam and the Muslims, depending upon the evidence.   The  Islamoneutral tendency aspires to be as objective as possible about Islam.

Let us look more closely at three Islamophile Afrocentrists – Edward Blyden, Kwame Nkrumah and Ali A. Mazrui. How does the thread of Islam interweave with the fabric of Afrocentricity?

Africana studies have been a major stimulus of the whole multicultural movement which has significantly shaken the educational world in the concluding years of the twentieth century. The crusade for Afrocentrism goes back long before the word itself was coined. It seems virtually certain that African-American demands for a “curriculum of inclusion” was one of the major stimuli of the whole multicultural movement in the United States and beyond.

But before Afrocentricity stimulated multiculturalism there was the phenomenon of multiculturalism stimulating Afrocentricity.  We are particularly focused on Edward Blyden and the interplay between Western culture, Africanity and Islam. This is what Ali A. Mazrui was later to call “Africa’s Triple Heritage”.

In dealing with this interplay among three civilizations (African, Western, and Islamic) it may be worth focusing not only on Blyden and Mazrui but also on Kwame Nkrumah. We are using three thinkers for convenience as a way of analyzing and elucidating upon the interplay of three civilizations.

Between Arabism and Afrocentricity

It was in his book Consciencism that Nkrumah most explicitly addressed the triple heritage of African culture, Islam and what he called “Euro-Christianity.” For Nkrumah, the biggest challenge for African philosophy was how to synthesize these three very different traditions of thought. Nkrumah’s concept of consciencism was the nearest approximation to Mazrui’s concept of “The Triple Heritage” a search for an  African synthesis of three distinct civilizations.1     It is a triangular multicultural world. Nkrumah groped for a principle of compassionate ecumenicalism. He said:

“With true independence regained …a new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and Euro­ Christian Africa, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principles underlying African society.  Our society  is not the old society, but a new society enlarged by Islamic and Euro-Christian influences.”

Nkrumah urged a new synthesis of these legacies to produce what he called “Philosophical Consciencism”:

The theoretical basis  for an ideology whose aim shall be to contain the African experience of Islamic and Euro-Christian presence as well as the experience of traditional African society,  and, by gestation, employ them for the harmonious growth and development of that society .2

Nkrumah embodied in himself two of those civilizations, (African and Western), but his closest African allies outside Ghana were often Muslims. When the Casablanca group of radical African leaders was formed in 1961, Kwame Nkrumah was the only non-Muslim among them. The others were the heads of State of Egypt, Guinea, Mali, Morocco and the Algerian Government-in-Exile at the time. The Casablanca group was only disbanded after the Organization of African Unity was formed in May 1963.

When Nkrumah attempted to form a West African union, his partners were Guinea (Conakry) and Mali, both Muslim countries. None of Ghana’s Christian neighbours in West Africa was interested in Nkrumah’s Pan-African gestures.

After Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup in February 1966, he turned for refuge to his old comrade-in-arms Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea. Sekou Toure’s regime was secular, but he lived to be a chairman of the worldwide Organization of the Islamic Conference. Nkrumah spent the last years of his life among Muslims in Guinea.

As for the nature of his Pan-Africanism, it was not only trans-Atlantic but also trans-Saharan. Nkrumah regarded the Arabs of Africa as fellow Africans and was outraged by French nuclear tests in the Algerian part of the Sahara in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He condemned the tests as an affront against the whole of Africa.

Edward Blyden’s interest in Islam was aroused partly because he was concerned about religion and partly because Blyden was a linguist and philologist who became curious about the Arabic language.  He spent three months in Egypt, Lebanon and  Syria in 1866, partly to improve his command of Arabic.    At that time Blyden was already a professor of classics at Liberia College and wanted to introduce classical Arabic into his department there. By 1992 African American Muslims were claiming Blyden for Islam.  Was Blyden secretly converted to the divine message by the Prophet Muhammad?  Was Blyden’s Muslim name Abd-ul-Karim? His Islamophilia combined with his reputation as a kind of nineteenth-century Bilal had earned him not only the admiration of blacks but also the admiration of Muslims in the Diaspora.

In 1992, Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour, an African American Muslim, issued a special edition of Blyden’s book Christianity,  Islam and the Negro Race which virtually claimed Blyden for black Islam.3  If Blyden was the nineteenth century Bilal, who was the original Bilal in any case? Let us allow Blyden to tell us about Bilal:

“The eloquent Azan, or ‘Call to Prayer’ which to this day summons at the same hours millions of the human race to their devotions, was first uttered by a Negro, Bilal by name, whom Mohammed, in obedience to a dream, appointed the first Muezzin or Crier. And it has been remarked that even Alexander the Great is in Asia an unknown personage by the side of this honoured Negro.”4

Bilal, probably of Ethiopian origin, was the eloquent voice of prayer to fellow Muslims during the Prophet Muhammad’s own lifetime.  Blyden became a sympathetic eloquent voice in favour of Islam addressing non-Muslims in the nineteenth century. Blyden did not call Muslim believers to prayer but rather he called upon believers of all religions to the imperative of tolerance. Blyden was a different kind of Bilal.

As for the Arabic language, all Muslims in global Africa have to learn at least parts of the Qur’ an for prayer. To that extent, Edward Blyden was blazing a trail for Diaspora Africans – the impressive effort of self-taught Arabic.  Elijah Muhammad, the co­ founder of the Nation of Islam, did not put a special premium on the learning of Arabic, but his sons have invested heavily in the language.5       There are echoes of Edward  Blyden’s Islamophile Afrocentricity, whether or not he was converted to the faith.6

In Africa as a whole, the Arabic language has stimulated either the birth or the enrichment of African languages. Languages like Swahili, Hausa, Somali, and Wolof would have been almost inconceivable without Arabo/Islamic stimulation.

In the African Diaspora, it is less languages than concepts and names which have been stimulated by Arabic and related languages. Concepts like Ujamaa (familyhood), Uhuru (freedom),  Imani (faith) are a few of the cardinal points of Global African solidarity stimulated by the Arabic language.

Then there are so many Muslim names in the United States which are regarded as Afrocentric. They include Karim Abdul Jabbar but also such names as Jamila, Razina, Shahida, Jamal, Akbar, Amina and others which are adopted by African Americans regardless of religion.  Is this multiculturalism with an Afrocentric face?

Africana and Multiculturalism

Believers in Africa’s triple heritage regard Islam as an ally of Africanity rather than as a rival or threat. They accept Islamophilia as being compatible with Afrocentricity. They promote the nucleus of multiculturalism.

The Western legacy, on the other hand, tends to be underplayed and sometimes denounced as a threat to the other two. Although Nkrumah did speak of the need to synthesize the three legacies, he did describe Westernization in Africa as “the infiltration of the Christian tradition and the culture of Western Europe into Africa, using colonialism and neo-colonialism as its primary vehicles.”7

Ancient Egypt continues to cast a nationalistic spell on all Afrocentrists. Islamophobic Afrocentrists like Molefi Kete Asante regard the Islamization and Arabization of Egypt as the final stage of the betrayal of its black legacy. Pro-Islamic Afrocentrists like Blyden, Nkrumah and Mazrui can admire ancient Egypt without distrusting modern Egypt. Nkrumah married an Egyptian woman partly for reasons of trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism.

Black nationalism in the United States has sometimes given birth to new Islamic movements, of which the most famous is Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam. But the majority of African American Muslims in the United States are Sunni or Shia.

Black nationalism in the Caribbean has tended to lean more towards African indigenous symbols, ranging from the Rastafari to the Yoruba religion. But Islam has also featured as a radical movement in the Caribbean, including the spectacular events in Trinidad from July 27 to August 1, 1990, when Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson, seven of his Cabinet Ministers and several other members of Parliament were held hostage by Afro-Trinidadian Muslims, Jamaat al Muslimeen, within Parliament buildings. It was a spectacular social protest against the inequalities and injustices of the wider political order.8

Is the triple heritage a  fig-leaf to hide an otherwise Eurocentric perspective? “In effect, Mazrui becomes a truly Eurocentric Africanist of the genre that has been schooled in the discipline most advantageous to the advancement of a European intellectual particularism.”9   So claims Molefi Kete Asante.

Is the triple heritage merely a fig-leaf to hide an otherwise fundamentalist Islamic perspective? “Let those who wish to retain or evaluate religion as a twenty-first-century project feel free to do so, but let it not be done as a continuation of the denigration against the African spiritual heritage, as in the recent television series perpetrated by Islam’s born-again revisionist of  history, Professor Ali Mazrui.”  So claims Wale Soyinka.10

Curiously none of these charges of hypocrisy has been levelled against the memory of either Edward Blyden or Kwame Nkrumah.   On the contrary, Molefi Asante has saluted Blyden’s Afrocentricity.11     And Kwame Nkrumah is widely accepted as a major Pan-Africanist hero, despite his philosophy of “Consciencism” and cultural synthesis.

Mazrui’s novel,  The  Trial of Christopher Okigbo, creates a Hereafter which is a combination of African ideas of ancestors, Islamic ideas of a sensuous paradise, and Christian ideas of heaven. The ancestors sit in judgment against the poet Christopher Okigbo. The Court addresses “the Curse of the Trinity” hanging over Africa. This is not the Christian trinity of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”  Mazrui’s “Curse of the Trinity” in the 1971 novel is partly about what he later called “Africa’s triple heritage” – the convergency of Africanity, Islam and Western civilization.

When Mazrui called that convergence a “curse” in a novel in 1971, was he being pessimistic about its effects on Africa? When he called it “the triple heritage” in a book and television series in 1986, had he been converted to Blyden’s and  Nkrumah’s more optimistic perspectives? The question has intrigued some reviewers.12

Under whatever name, is the theory of Africa’s triple heritage already a school of thought? It is certainly not restricted to the three thinkers addressed in this essay. Like-minded thinkers are scattered in different parts of Global Africa. Enthusiasts in this school include the Gambian scholar and thinker, Sulayman Nyang:

“In my view, the African encounter with the Abrahamic tradition has been very inspiring and spiritually elevating. The message of Abraham, as echoed and preached by the Old Testament prophets, Christ and Muhammad, is still reverberating in the African spiritual firmaments. The ringing of church bells and  the booming voices of latter-day Bilals summoning fellow believers to prayer made it crystal clear to all observers that Africa has finally joined the growing commonwealth of believers in the Abrahamic tradition.”13

Sulayman Nyang is closer to Edward Blyden in those views than to either Kwame Nkrumah or Ali Mazrui. But all four of them are part of an energetic but controversial school of thought which identifies a triad of cultural vibrations in the heartbeat of Africa.

In the final analysis, did Blyden’s triple multiculturalism help to give birth to the whole philosophy of Afrocentricity?  Did African American Afrocentricity in our times repay the debt by helping to stimulate a multicultural movement in the educational and academic worlds?   Multiculturalism was once the cause of Afrocentricity; Afrocentricity has now become the cause of multiculturalism.

Behind them all is a great rendezvous in the world of ideas and scholarship – a rendezvous between Africana studies and the cultural paradigm. It is a rendezvous that has touched intellectual debates as diverse as modernization theories and the clash of civilizations, and discoveries as deeply African as the oral tradition and the historicity of indigenous religion and thought in the Black experience. The inner quest endures; the outer struggle continues.

Islam: Universalist and Nationalist

Among African Americans, there are those two distinct schools of Islam –nationalist Islam and universalist Islam. The nationalist school is not only Afrocentric; it is also racially inspired. It defines the umma as people of colour worldwide, and not merely Muslims.

Nationalist Islam basically racializes the ancient Islamic concepts of Dar el Harb (the Abode of War) and Dar el Islam (the Abode of Islam). The lands of harb or war are wherever the white man is still dominating other races. The lands of Islam are defined both religiously (where Muslims live) and racially (where people of colour reside).

Nationalist Islam distinguishes between inner intra-racial jihad (black people fighting their own problems of drugs, crime, poverty, weapons, and undisciplined sexuality) and outer inter­ racial jihad (black people battling against white racial arrogance and structures of injustice).

Nationalist Islam basically believes that the doors of both ijtihad (Islamic effort in judicial review) and wahyi (revelation from God) are still open. Allah has not bypassed either Black people or America in choosing His messengers. Nationalist Islam tends to believe that the mantle of prophethood has now been passed from the Semites (Jews and Arabs) to the Africans. The Honourable Elijah Muhammad was regarded as receiving revelation direct from God. In the early 1960s, other nationalist Muslims included Malcolm x, Muhammad Ali and Louis Farrakhan.

Nationalist Islam can sometimes be a stepping stone towards universalist Islam. This happened in the case of Malcolm X (Al­ Hajj Malik El-Shabbazz), Muhammad Ali  (the former heavyweight boxing champion) and some of Elijah Muhammad’s own children. The wider universalist Islam to which they moved is more firmly part of the worldwide mainstream Islam.  Most African American universalist Muslims tend to be Sunni, but there are some converts to Shi’a also. Multiculturalism is easier to universalist Muslims.

In reality, the one-billion Muslims in the world are overwhelmingly people of colour in any case, but there are a few million Muslims who are white people (a fraction of the total  Umma).  For nationalist Islam, race is a defining characteristic of the Umma.  For universalist Islam, race is an accompanying characteristic.

While nationalist Muslims in the United  States tend to be politically and ideologically separatist from mainstream America, universalist Muslims are usually ready to participate in the wider political and economic institutions of national life. Most universalist Muslims in the United States are integrationist rather than separatist – ready to dialogue with others within mainstream America. Again universalist Muslims respond more easily to the clarion call of multiculturalism.

There are some universalist Muslims who are also ready to enter into dialogue with the ecumenical movement among Christians, and sometimes a dialogue with more liberal Jews. This is the religious face of the multicultural movement.

In textbooks and classrooms about “Islam in America” should we recognize the two streams of nationalist Islam and universalist Islam as a sociological reality – or should we pass them over hurriedly? What are the costs and benefits of dealing with this divide frontally in the classroom?

Is the link between nationalism and Islam peculiar to the African-American experience? Or has it in fact been implicit in Iranian Islam, Pakistani Islam, Libyan Islam, Somali Islam, Algerian Islam, and now increasingly Palestinian Islam? Why is African-American nationalist Islam less compatible with mainstream Islam than is nationalist Islam among, say, Algerians, Pakistanis and Iranians? Is it because African-American nationalist Islam has been too revisionist doctrinally? Has the Nation of Islam been too innovative in doctrine and ritual?

There is something that both nationalist  Muslims and universalist Muslims may need in the educational system – an approach that strengthens their identity as Muslims.  There are two fundamental ways of consolidating collective historical pride – one is by emphasizing the historical achievements of the group; the other is by focusing on the historic martyrdom of the group. The Jews have been successful in both strategies.  They have strengthened solidarity through remembering Jewish achievements across the centuries; they have also consolidated solidarity by a constant reminder of Jewish suffering and martyrdom.

Universalist Muslims have built into 20th-century revivalist doctrine the great     Muslim stories of the past; the great achievements in science, architecture, intellectual effervescent from Al-Hamra to Baghdad, from Timbuktu to the Court of Shah Jehan.  Have Muslims underplayed the martyrdom factor in their history?  Should they pay more attention to the religious persecution against Muslims in Spain before 1492 and beyond?

Should Muslim students learn about the destruction of Muslim Kingdoms by Western hegemonic power? The European dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the betrayal of promises made to its Arab components was one of the great blows against Muslim power in the twentieth century. The colonization and exploitation of much of the Muslim world by Europeans – from Indonesia to Iraq, from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur, from Kano to Kashmir – constitute an even more bitter collective experience of Muslim martyrdom.

Similarly, Africans of Africa and the Diaspora may sometimes emphasize their past glories – but they understress their martyrdom of enslavement and centuries of degradation.  Jews see themselves both as the chosen people of God and the chosen victims of history. As the chosen people of God, they emphasize their greatness and achievements; as the chosen victims of history, they emphasize their suffering and martyrdom through the Holocaust and its antecedents.

Muslims and Africans dwell on their past achievements –  but under-utilize their martyrdom in history. How should education handle this duality of past achievements and past martyrdom?


Some of these issues, and many others, need to be interwoven in with those four imperatives we mentioned earlier. What are Islamic rules, rituals and doctrine? How best are we to teach Islamic history in the light of both achievements and failures? How is Islam to relate to multi-religious but often materialist America? Quo Vadis? Where does the Umma go from here?  How can the educational system help in the search for a new Muslim sense of purpose? In America should this new sense of purpose include full participation in national life?

Some of the questions need to be answered in specialized religious schools (Muslim students, Islamic subject-matter). Some need to be dealt with in Muslim parochial schools  (mainly Muslim students, diverse subject-matter).

But  Islam and Muslim history also have to be properly introduced to the wider world of secular schools within the nation. And some may need to be part of Islamic adult education in search of both salvation and occupation.

And Muslims must learn to use more systematically summer camps for their families or for their children as a method of making learning about Islam a lot of fun, as well as a profound cultural experience.

For people of African ancestry, there will continue to be the triple relationship between Islam and Afrocentricity. There will be people like Edward Blyden, Kwame Nkrumah and Cheikh Anta Diop, who were Islamophile Afrocentrists. Nigerian writer,  Chinweizu, and there will be others like the African American scholar, Molefi Kete Asante, who are Islamophobe Afrocentrists.

And there will be still others who are Islamoneutral Afrocentrists, looking at the great legacy from Mecca without any prior emotional attitude, negative or positive.

In classroom situations, Islamophobe texts are likely to be divisive and potentially even disruptive. If religious and racial harmony are some of the ethical goals of education, priority should be given to those texts which are either Islamophile or Islamoneutral. Strictly on the issue of Islam, Blyden is preferable to Asante; Nkrumah is superior to Chinweizu. Islamophile Afrocentricity is, by definition, multicultural in spirit.

As for Islamic dualism in America, the major doctrinal divide is between universalist Islam and nationalist Islam. The major sociological divide, on the other hand, is between indigenous Muslims (mainly African Americans) and immigrant Muslims (from Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere).

The sociological divide between indigenous and Muslims is beyond the scope of this particular paper.  But the doctrinal divide between nationalist Islam and universalist Islam demands the attention of educational policy-makers. For African Americans, this doctrinal divide may be as important as the global Islamic divide between Sunni Islam and Shi’a Islam. Educators have to decide how much of these doctrinal partitions need to be confronted in the classroom as part of Islamic education – and how much should be left to subsequent years of more mature acquisition of knowledge. How do they all relate to the tension and dialogue between multiculturalism and Afrocentricity?

For Muslims everywhere, the jihad of the spirit has to continue.  For Muslim educators, so does the jihad of the mind.  The United States of America is one major arena for both jihads as the twenty-first-century approaches.


  1. Mazrui, The Africans: A Triple Heritage.
  2. Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization (London: Heinemann, 1964) 68-70.
  1. See Edward Blyden, Christianity,  Islam and the African Negro Race, with an introduction by Khalid A.T. Al-Mansour (San Francisco:  First African Arabian Press, 1992),
  1. Blyden, Islam and the African Race, Khalid Al­ Mansour edition, ibid, p. 37.
  1. Indeed, Professor Akbar Muhammad, the historian at Binghamton University, New York, speaks Egyptian Arabic almost like a native. Like Nkrumah’s wife, Akbar’s spouse is  In the case of Akbar’s family in Binghamton, Arabic is the language of the home. Warith Deen Mohammed, another one of Elijah Muhammad’s sons, has also invested heavily in the Arabic language although his command is not quite as idiomatic as Akbar’s. They both represent the new role that the Arabic language is forging for itself in Global Africa under the banner of  Islam.
  1. Consult Barboza (ed.) American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X and Molefi Kete Asante, Malcolm X as a Cultural Hero and Other Afrocentric Essays (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1993).
  2. Nkrumah, Consciencism, 68-9.
  3. See Selwyn Ryan, The Muslimeen Grab for Power: and  Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad: Imprint Caribbean, 1991).

Race. Religion (Port-of-Spain,

  1. Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge, 115.
  2. See Transition (Oxford University Press) Issue 54, 1991, p . 166.
  1. Asante, Afrocentricity and Knowledge, pp. 112-114.
  1. See Chaly Sawere, The Multiple Mazrui: Scholar, Ideologue. Philosopher and Artist (New York: The Society for the Study of Islamic Philosophy and Science, 1992).
  1. The “Abrahamic religions” are Judaism, Christianity and See Sulayman Nyang, Islam. Christianity and African Identity (Brattleboro, VT: Amana, 1984) p. 9.