Poor Righteous Teacher
That fall I plunged into black nationalism. I believe I was “sincere” in that pursuit, that is, I wasn’t trying to get knowledge so I could take advantage of others or gain notoriety. I just wanted to find the Truth and wake myself and my people up. I read Eric Lincoln’s and Udom’s books on the “Nation.” The interviews with Elijah Muhammad and the leading ministers in those books, and their understanding of the black psyche, life in the urban ghetto, the black family, black male-female relations, the legacy of slavery, the cowardly bourgeois Negroes, the nature of white racism, etc. all seemed unerringly accurate. Also, my next door neighbor in Drew House provided me with a short book on the accomplishments of the “Nation.” I could not understand why the Nation did not figure more prominently in the history of black America. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about this organization.
At this time, “Jazz Man” (the really cool white guy) as I’ll call him, was doing some volunteer work down in Springfield with young black males who were trying to prepare for their GED’s. Amongst his students were a couple of “Five Percenters”—one of whom was relatively well-versed in the “Lessons.” Before I go any further, let me make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I do not subscribe to the Five Percent ideology and was never an actual member of the “organization.” As a Sunni Muslim, I believe in One, Perfect, Eternal Creator, Who is the Creator of everything and absolutely does not need or resemble anything. The Creator exists without time, place, or direction. Whatever one imagines, God is totally different from that.1
The Five Percenters took the doctrine of the Nation to an even further extreme. Among the beliefs of the Five Percenters is that every black man is “Allah.” When they greet each other, they will say: “Peace, God.” And they claim that the word “Allah” is an acronym for Arm-Leg-Leg-Arm-Head. Of course, after I learned the traditional Sunni `Aqidah (Doctrine) such claims were seen as hideous blasphemies and slanders against God, but at that time, I had no (sound) standard to weigh their beliefs against. (In my mind at the time) if some people could ascribe Godhood to a single man, like Jesus, then why couldn’t the same be ascribe to a group of men, in general? I didn’t know how—or if—logic and reason could be applied to knowing what is proper to believe about God.2
What I didn’t believe was that the black man was literally God, the Creator of the Universe, but that if one were to live a “righteous life,” and attain a high level of self-mastery through self-study and self-control—control of physical and egotistical impulses, through things like meditation, fasting, and general self-denial, then such a person could possibly gain uncustomary powers that would make him appear, “like a god,” compared to the masses. And in attaining this “degree,” one could “show and prove” the truthfulness of the Five Percent Lessons and the potential of the black mind once it was liberated from the shackles of white supremacy. That’s what I kinda thought, but the Five Percenters, typically didn’t see it that way.
I was attracted to the Five Percenters’ poetical-mystical talk about (what they considered to be): “civilization,” “refinement,” “knowledge of self,” “ciphers,” “building,” “wisdom,” “justice,” “science,” “mathematics,” etc. These were the street corner chivalric knights I sought—men, like Malcolm, who had knowledge of the streets, but held themselves up to a high standard of morality. I had never heard folks coming off the cornas using such language before. Also, the rap of that era was permeated with Five Percent lyrics. This included people and groups like, Daddy Kane, Brand Nubian, King Sun, Gang Starr. There was Rakim, who when my Homeboy first turned me on to his flow, I knew that he was different, but now, because of my growing knowledge of the Five Percenter ideology, I realized that Rakim was actually “rapping in Five Percent code talk.” Perhaps, the most influential rapper—after Rakim—was Boy Wise (as he was called at the time). He was, as I considered then, the Five Percenter ghetto visionary. I, too, wanted to be a “Poor Righteous Teacher,” who would bring the “knowledge of self” to my mentally dead people.
Again, I felt that this propagation of (what I considered to be) “positive rap” was another sign that the “Brothas were gonna work it out.” We were undergoing a radical metamorphosis—even our language was being transformed. Instead of rappin’ about parties and break dancin’, we (meaning, my people) were rappin’ about consciousness and elevation. The reality, however was much different. Since each Five Percenter literally believes that he is God, the Creator, and that he creates his own universe in which he makes his own laws, then talking to them about moral discipline becomes pointless. Yes, they do profess to follow the “Lessons,” but since each Five Percenter is allegedly God, then, each one of them is free to interpret their lessons anyway they see fit.
One could see how a person who had some kind of an ethical scope to begin with would fall into moral relativism and circumstantial morality—so what about those who were probably criminals, dope fiends, and other kinds of miscreants before coming into contact with the Five Percenters? The Five Percent poetical-mystical jargon was used largely to justify following their base desires, like saying: “I smoke reefer to refer to my intellect,” or to take advantage of weak-minded females by telling them things, like, “The Blackman needs to plant his seed into his Earth,” which in Earthling talk means: “I wanna fornicate with you and leave you with an illegitimate child.” (That’s the clean “Earthling” version.)
One of the things that was appealing to me about the so-called Nation of Islam was the discipline of its followers. The Five Percenters had little of that. Also, the Nation built institutions, but since the Five Percenters had no authority higher than themselves, it wouldn’t be likely that they could actually work together for any extended time. On the one hand, I liked what the Nation was able to accomplish in terms of building businesses and other institutions, but at the same time, I didn’t trust it as a hierarchical religious organization. The Five Percenters didn’t have the hierarchy—but then they also had no discipline or practical way to organize and build (by building, I don’t meaning running off at the mouth, but establishing “real-actual” institutions). I knew I wanted guidance, which the Five Percenters didn’t have, and the Nation’s I didn’t trust.
A lot of this seems like a big waste of time (or worse) to someone who has studied traditional Sunni doctrine. Much of what these characters did was just babble blasphemies upon blasphemies.3 But again, at that stage, I had no consistent standard to evaluate things (as one of the Brothers recently said: before learning traditional Sunni knowledge, we did not truly know how to think rationally). I was skeptical about “logic” and “reason” as taught by the Eurocentricists, so I was willing to lend my ear to these people for much longer than I should have. And even early on, I could see that quite a bit of what the Five Percenters was saying was just gibberish. They claimed they weren’t Muslims (which, of course, they aren’t) but at the same time took their teachings from the “Nation,” which did, of course, claim to be an Islamic organization. The Five Percenters would copiously quote (what they considered to be) the Qur’an—i.e., Yusuf Ali’s or Muhammad Ali’s misinterpretation of the Qur’an. It was clear from ANY reading of either book that one of the dominant themes of Islam is that Muslims believe in only ONE God. Yet, the Five Percenters claimed that there were hundreds of millions of Gods (a`udhubillah!).
Also, it was beyond odd that although the Five Percenters (and the Nation) claimed that white people were devils, yet, they claimed that “Allah” was Fard Muhammad, who was said to have been born to a white woman! The Qur’an is EXPLICIT in the 112th chapter that Allah doesn’t bear or father children and Allah was not born. Even in my untoward mind, this didn’t seem right… the Five Percenter “math” wasn’t addin’ up. Later, I would realize that the Five Percent Doctrine seems to induce some sort of psychosis upon many of its followers as they get older. After all, you are talking about a largely dysfunctional subclass of people who are on the bottom of the social pecking order infested with all sorts of pathologies claiming that they are the Perfect, Incomparable Creator of the Universe. This is delusional egomania in the grandest sense. Here is an example of one who, aside from being white, doesn’t seem particularly atypical (warning: this contains A LOT of blasphemy):
What I took from the Five Percent rhetoric was the importance of acquiring self-knowledge—knowledge that would be beyond the walls of the college classrooms or even beyond books, in general. Also, I realized, contrary to the sort of revolutionary-Marxist perspective I was getting from the standard black nationalists, we needed something more than mere political power, economic power, or cultural power. I concluded that we needed “God power,” for there is nothing greater than God. That is, if we could get ourselves right with God, then God would give us the strength and what we needed to overcome racism, white supremacy, and reach our full potential… but that realization only led to the next and more profound question: Who truly is God?
1For more on the Muslim belief in God, please see here: http://facetofloor.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/a-primer-to-the-muslim-belief-in-the-creator/
2Please see the following on the place of reason in Islam: http://www.shaykhabdullah.com/2012/04/23/sources-of-knowledge-3/
3To prove that the Blackman (or any other human being) is not God, it is enough to look at the fact he/we are bodies. Bodies, by their very nature, require space in order to exist. Allah does not need space (or any other creation) to exist. Allah is not a material or spiritual being; Allah is not a spatial entity. Allah existed before the creation of space, distance direction, light, and darkness. Allah is the Creator and everything else is a creation.
Another elementary proof that the human can’t be God is because the human being is originated and not beginningless. Since a person has not always existed, he (or she) could not bring himself into being. He could not “will himself into existence,” because to have a will would require that the person (or being) would already exist. Hence, it is absurd to say something acted before it existed. Instead, all the creations were created by the Creator, the One One Who has no beginning and no origin. Furthermore, if the Blackman were literally God and the white man was the devil, then the Five Percenters are claiming that Almighty Originator of the Universe was conquered by an abominable creation.