The Lost Story of Islam in Jamaica

Were our West African ancestors actually Muslim?

Dr. Sultana Afroz a Bangladeshi academic who has been living in Jamaica for 25 years says yes they were. Dr. Afroz has been apart of the University of the West Indies, Mona Department of History for a while now and before she leaves destined for her first home, she leaves Jamaica with the though provoking piece: Invisible yet invincible – the Islamic heritage of Maroon and enslaved Africans in Jamaica.

In the book Dr. Afroz posits several claims which deals astonishing blows to contemporary historical and cultural discourse in Jamaica. One of the most crucial of them is that several of Jamaica’s treasured leaders against the colonial tyranny  like Cudjoe, Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharp, Paul Bogle etc. were in fact Muslims and followers of the Islamic faith. This is oceans away from what I was taught in school.

African Muslim woman.

Her reasoning lies in the fact that most of the enslaved Africans brought to Jamaica were from West Africa/ the Gold Coast i.e Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Benin and Togo. The fact she says is that during the 15th century these were all Islamic domains, furthermore she says Africa has the four oldest Universities in the World (though they are not included in “official” list as they are not in operation) as a result many of these people brought to Jamaica were highly educated in Islam as well as their own culture forms and expressions.

When ask so why isn’t Islam the main religion in Jamaica she answered with points I saw coming, the enslaved didn’t travel with any text, they were not allowed to teach their children how to read, nor were they allowed to read and the culture they new and loved was to be destroyed and they were to be retaught under whips and chains by their masters as they were the “savages”. (Imagine that)

I found her exposition quite amazing even though she was inspired she declared by Allah, the historical accuracy is consistent with fact.

When pressed about the Abolitionist Movement and its role in the end of slavery, furthermore the role of the Bible and the New Testament she replied, “…but is was there all along” I found this absolute funny. The painful truth  often leaves no room for sulking nor anger. “The Europeans had it all the while yet slavery was on going” she continued.

Wow, the interview and  the book are absolutely astounding. Just Wow!

It has been said by not only Dr. Afroz but several other academics that the descendents of slaves in the West such as the Caribbean, United States and Brazil face a very unique problem regarding identity. In fact one Caribbean scholar has went as far as to say we have no identity unique to us as the cultural mechanics of our people brought here so long ago was completely destroyed and rewritten with disgusting bias and racism geared at making savages out of an industrial set of people.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that our history in the West has been written for the most part or basically completely by the ones oppressing. So when black children read “history” books they are bombarded with ridiculous assertions concerning their ancestors.

Islam

Well according to the Doc who came to Jamaican commented on the liberal media which is why she preferred to teach in Kingston as opposed to the US where all things are ruled and controlled by corporate interest an Islamic voice such as her own would never had been heard nor garner praise such as in Jamaica.

The fact remains that we have a devastating history here in the West, one which may never be truthfully told nor ever understood. Regardless heavy reading must be advocating in African homes as bits and pieces of knowledge concerning us must be known, analyzed and published.

A powerful quote by His Excellency Marcus Mosiah Garvey wonderfully states, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds” It was made popular by Bob Marley’s masterpiece “Redemption Song” which described the physical and psychological journey of the African. From “Old pirates, yes, they rob I Sold I to the merchant ships Minutes after they took I From the bottomless pit” – (the hull of a slave ship) to “have no fear for atomic energy/
‘Cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time/We’ve got to fulfill the book”. – ( Imperial military expansion which threatens our very existence.)

There are just so many twist and turns and topics that are permanently stapled to my heart for one blog. ….just so much.

Check out the interview. Click here.

Dr. Sultana Afroz

Dr. Sultana Afroz

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