Monday, May 11, 2009

The Five Percenters

Islam, Hip Hop And The Gods of New York
By Michael Muhammad Knight

Though building on a unique cosmology and legendary characters, Allah positioned himself as anti-religion. Known as a High Scientist during his time in the mosque, he later discouraged high science in favor of "city science". Many Gods take a practical look at their divinity; the word God to both Fard and the Father, in I Majestic's interpretation, "has no religious context here, it's not claiming to be an astral being" The Five Percenters would respond to anarchism's ethos of "no gods, no masters", with I God, I Master. For a black man to call himself God means that he will take responsibility, as the Father of Civilization , to lift himself up in the here and now- as opposed to waiting for a mystery to solve his problems or reward him in the afterlife...

I thought of Allah and the Desert Fathers that came before him: Father Divine, Noble Drew Ali, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They were all born in the south and came north as young men in search of a better tomorrow, but found the American Dream to be a mystery god: an empty promise that took blind faith and gave only hard times.

There really is a devil, and like the Lost-Found Muslim Lesson No 1 says, he does keep you from his social equality. The bloodsucking Ten percenters, peddlers of the Mystery God, rule the Eighty-five Percent with priests, imams, ministers, mullahs and theologians, trained experts in phantoms, selling what cannot be seen. An old man who has only been an MTA bus driver all his life cannot stand up in a mosque and give khutbah on what he learned while struggling in the city and supporting a family. It's not enough, he has to go to Al-Azar, perfect his Arabiyya, master tajwid, eat up the medieval scholars, fill his head with fiqh and learn all the schools of thought. But in the new Mecca of Harlem, he can come to the front of the Harriet Tubman's auditorium in his MTA work jacket and he's God as is.'

1 comment:

  1. Making information widely accessible should not be a bad thing; but as Muslims often complain that reading the Qur'an in a language other than the original Arabic will sacrifice its meaning, the 120 gives up its heart when translated to hypertext.

    Shared on a playground or prison yard, the degrees become living things. I recieved my 120 on a hallway floor in the St. Nicholas House. The lightening was dim, the walls tagged with graffiti, my teacher stoned but still holding a lineage to his own teacher, who went back to his teacher and his teacher and so on through the unbroken trees of transmission drawn in the Sun of Man to the First Born, to the Father, To Malcolm and the mosque and the Muslims on back to Elijah Muhamad himself on Feb. 20,1934, answering questions as they were given to him by Master Fard.

    The lines of the teachers and students all begin at that same original source and are cousins to one another. On the project floor with a document soft in a way that paper gets when it is old, the creases becoming tears, stained with coffee and scented with the same oils that Muslims put on their Qur'ans, I became a link in one chain. In contrast, a computer screen offers only dead words, an experience about as real as sitting on your couch to watch Muharram self-flagellations from Teheren on the Discovery Channel.