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بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرّحِيمِ وَصَلّى اللّهُ عَلَي سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ وعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَسْلِيماً
Fig. 1. Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid
For more than 9 centuries, the Turudbe? Fulbe? have been the purveyors of social reform and nation formation throughout the entire region of the bilad ?s-sudan. What we mean by the bilad?s-sudan, are those lands that lie between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea, and what is between the beginning of the Sahel savannah lands below the Sahara until the beginning of the tropical forest. However the origin of this Fulbe? clan have been cast in a veil of mystery mainly due to the diverse opinions among ancient and contemporary scholars concerning them. Furthermore, the various names given to these people do nothing to remove this enigma. For example: Takrur, Tukulor, Turunkawa, and Turudbe? (sing. Turuudi), are all names referring to one people. The Arab historians referred to them as Takruri, in spite of the fact that this cognomen today refers to every Black from West Africa. In Franco-phone West Africa, the Wolof called them Tukulor. Among the Hausa speaking people, they are called Turunkawa. However, the Fulbe? refer to themselves as Turudbe? in there own language or Turudiyya in Arabic. The last two cognomens are how they are known among the rest of the Fulani clans as well. What is key here, is that this Turudbe? Fulbe? clan played a key role as leaders of religion and purveyors of intellectual reform throughout the regions of African known as the bilad?s-sudan (these are the lands which lie south of the Sahara desert and north of the tropical forest, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea). The comprehension of this function played by the Turudbe? is a sine qua non to an understanding and apprehension of movements and events in the bilad?s-sudan, especially during the 19th century.
Having said this, it is fitting here to mention what the Turudbe? say about themselves, despite the fact that many of the ethnic groups among the Sudanic peoples customarily give fabricated lineages to establish ?nobility? of origin for its people. The significance of examining the Turudbe? Fulbe?s view of themselves is to analyze how they construct their identity and how they employ that identity construct for their own survival. Their Self Knowledge helps them to return to the idealization of their cultural values, myths and heroes in order to uphold and reaffirm their collective personality. Waziri Junayd ibn Muhammad al-Bukhari, drawing from earlier sources of the origin of the Fulbe?, combines them into a synthesis of opinion. He said regarding their origin:
?It is said that the origin of the Turudbe? are from the Jews. It is said that they are from the Christians. It is said that they are from the Bambara from among the Sudanese who came and settled between the Nile and Euphrates rivers. It is said that they are from a band of the Banu Israel who relocated from the region of Sinai to the lands of Tuur. It is for this reason they are called Turudbe?. Tuur is a land in the western part of Yemen. The most sound opinion is that they are the descendents of Ruum ibn `Esau ibn Is?haq ibn Ibrahim, (upon them be peace). They settled near the meeting of the two seas.?
Though some contemporary scholars dispute the above account, yet John Willis points out ?this need not be taken as a fatal objection to their claims of Arabic ancestry?, or even for that matter Hebrew ancestry, as well. Here in this context, the Turudbe? trace their lineage and origins back through the two sacred communities the Jews and the Christians and then on to the sacred covenant of Abraham, the father of the People of the Book. This is significant because the narrative of the ?covenant?, the ?promise? and the ?return? becomes a motivating factor in the self-image of the Turudbe?. This identity construct becomes what Ibn Khaldun would call the point of solidarity (asabiyya) that binds the Turudbe? and provides them with a philosophy in their historical consciousness. It gives them their reason for being and what Nietzche would call ?the will to power?. Abdullahi Dan Fuduye? places Turudbe? genesis deep within the ethos of the Bani Israel when he said:
?The origin of the entire Fullaatiyeen (Fulbe?) ethnicity comes from the geographical area of Mount Sinai (Tuur Sina). They thereafter persisted in migrating from place to place until they reached the lands of the far west (aqsa?l-maghrib) and to the lands that Allah ta`ala had willed for them to reach.?
This positing of the Turudbe? in the sacred mount where the Torah was originally revealed to Prophet Musa (Moses) provides them with the mechanism for organizing their collective experience around the Creator and infuses them with divine purpose and destiny. This self-image will be played out repeatedly throughout the long history of the Turudbe? in every region of Africa where they settled. This concept will reemerge again among the enslaved descendents of the Turudbe? in the Americas as well.
Building on the Abrahamic line signification, Abdullahi Dan Fuduye? traces the Turudbe? to ar-Ruum who was a descendent of both Is?haq and Isma`il, the two sons of Abraham. Thus, assuring for his ethnicity a complete fulfillment of the ?covenant? given by the Creator to Abraham. Abdullahi says:
?You also know that this ar-Ruum is the son of `Esau ibn Is?haq ibn Ibrahim, upon them be peace. His mother was Nasmat the daughter of Isma?il ibn Ibrahim, upon him be peace. Dhu?n-Nasibeen said in his Kitab?t-Tanweer: ?Isma`il fathered twelve boys and one girl and it was from his descendents that all the Arabs descended. When he approached death he bequeathed to his brother, Is?haq, that his son, `Esau should be married to his daughter, and from their marriage ar-Ruum was born. Ar-Ruum was yellowish in color for which reason his children were called the Banu al-Asfar.?
It is interesting to note that the Turudbe? trace their lineage to two sons whose birthright has been in question. One being Ishma?il, the first born son of Abraham and the African/Nubian woman, Hajar; and the other was ?Esau, the grandson of Abraham through his second born son, Is?haq. According to the Bible, `Esau, the first born of Is`haq, first had his birthright taken by his younger brother, Jacob. Then through the deception their mother, Jacob was able to attain the blessings that was destined for `Esau. Ishma?il was the first born of Ibrahim, yet Is?haq is said by the Jews to have received the ?covenant of blessing? from his father. Ishma?il, on the other hand was overlooked and treated like an unwanted and rejected son. This is significant, because it lays the foundation for two other identity-constructs: that of the ?lost tribe? and ?the rejected stone?. The Lost Tribe referent is a key element in the identity construct for the Bani Israel because it opens the hope of future redemption and affirmation after rejection and spiritual fall of the scattered tribes. The referent of the Rejected Stone takes its origin from a people who were despised and discarded due to some outward or inward imperfection, yet the Creator ?chose? them, redeemed them and made them the Corner Stone of a ?New Spiritual World?. This signification will be seen throughout history of the Turudbe, especially in the Diaspora of the Americas. This self-image laid the foundation for the individual and collective quest for authenticity among the Turudbe?, giving them a common historical experience that provided them with a frame of reference that was stable and continuous.
One of my Turudbe? teachers in the Republic of the Sudan, Bashir ibn Ahmad ibn Modi Abdu in his an-Nasab wa ?s-Sahr attempted to clarify this discrepancy in the following story when he related the story of the Turudbe? encounter with the armies of the Companions of Muhammad:
?The Turudbe? said to them: ?We have recognized the Truth and we will adhere to it.? Then the armies of the Companions waged war against the Sironkulle? and when they intended to depart, the leader of the Turudbe? said: ?You came to us with the religion, while we were ignorant. Therefore leave with us someone who can teach us.? They then left behind `Uqba ibn `Aamir. Some say it was `Uqba ibn Nafi`, which is the correct view. He settled with them and taught them the religion and the divine law (shari`a). Then the leader of the Turudbe? married his daughter, Bajjemanga to `Uqba.?
Junayd cites that the Turudbe? migrated to the west until they reached the lands of Futa Toro. He further explains that when `Uqba ibn Nafi` led the armies of the Companions of Muhammad across North Africa in 675 C.D. during `Amr ibn al-`Aas?s rule of Egypt. He established the great learning center of Qayrawan. He then moved southward to Ghadames, the lands of the Berber, the Suus al-Aqsa, Widaan and from there he led his armies as for as the frontiers of the Sudan, where he encountered the people of Takruur. According to Waziri Junayd:
?The Amir (leader) of the Turudbe? married his daughter, whose name was Bajimanga, to `Uqba ibn Nafi` and she soon gave birth to four sons: Da`atu, Naasa, Waya, and Wa`araba.?
Here Waziri Junayd demonstrates that the emergence of the Turudbe? was from among the Fulbe? people because of a merger with the Arabs. He implies that their descent from `Uqba ibn Nafi` gave them their militant Islamic outlook and made them more sedentary than the rest of the Fulbe?. The Turudbe? were known for not herding cattle as is the custom of the remainder of the Fulbe? and for taking up the profession of Islam, similar to the Zawaya clerical groups among the Tuareg and Berber. It is not surprising that both the Zawaya and the Turudbe? claim descent from `Uqba ibn Nafi` and that both ethnic groups initially acted as clients to more militant ethnic groups around them.
Finally, Shaykh Bashir ibn Ahmad gives a summary of the identity construct of the Turudbe? Fulbe? people, when he said:
?The Fulaaniyun as we said previously are Arabs from the direction of their ancestor, Uqba. The Arabs are originally from Isma`il ibn Ibrahim. From the direction of their paternal uncles, the Turuuudiya are from Ruum ibn Esau ibn Is?haq ibn Ibrahim and from the direction of Nasma, the mother of Ruum. She too is from Isma`il ibn Ibrahim, upon him and our Prophet be blessings and peace.?
The identity construct of the Turudbe? Fulbe?, thus arrives at its origin, where they descend from the sacred line of Abraham, from his two sons, Isma`il and Is?haq. The Turudbe? further amalgamated their line back into the line of the source house of Isma`il, to whom the last Messenger and Prophet, would be sent, the House of Quraysh. This assured them the right to self-rule and independence and the right of autonomous leadership among the Muslims.
The identity construct of the Turudbe? being as it is connected to the Abrahamic line includes the blessings of the covenant, but also comprises the promise of affliction. This is a reflection again on the concept of the ?tried stone? and the concept of ?sacrifice? that is so essential in the identity construct of the Abrahamic tradition. The idea of rejection and being made a ?stumbling block? for the nations comprise the core belief system of the Bani Israel and it is reflected in the supreme sacrifice that Abraham was called upon by Allah to perform. This self-sacrifice becomes the means by which nations will be judged and rewarded. The same stone that was a stumbling block for many and was rejected by oppressive nations would become the ?corner stone? of a New World. This identity construct becomes the most powerful element of defense in the face of social and cultural aggression. The oppression itself becomes a form of purification, edification, atonement and preparation for a new just and equitable social order. The Bible narrates this affliction in the Book of Genesis: ?And He said to Abram: ?Know of a surety that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.?
The sojourn of the Bani Isra`il in bondage in Egypt was only one aspect of the fulfillment of Divine prophecy. In order for the prophecy to be truly fulfilled all of the ?seed of Abraham? would of necessity have to go through the same purifying fire of exile, bondage and oppression. They would remain in this condition until the return of the Messiah of the house of Abraham who said: ?I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Isra`il.?
We come now to the illustrious and benevolent Turudbe? Muslim, Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid. Perhaps more than anyone else among the enslaved Turudbe? Fulbe? descendents of the Abrahamic line, Umar constitutes the best example of the persistence of an identity construct because of the extensive Arabic writing he has bequeathed to us. There is much controversy connected with him, because the Anglo-American writers have claimed that he had accepted Christianity. However, when careful examination is made of his writings, the evidence proves the contrary.
Umar ibn Sayyid was born in 1770 in Futa Toro, the original home of the Fulbe? speaking ethnic groups known as Tukulur or Turudbe?. He was born as he said in his Autobiography: ?The place of my birth was Futa Toro (which lay) between the two rivers? This region was for many centuries under the sovereignty of the Takrur, Malian and Songhai empires, respectively. With the Moroccan/Portuguese invasion and sacking of the Songhay empire in 1592, many Turudbe? speaking scholars took up the banner of jihad and attempted to establish Islamic government throughout the regions of the bilad?s-sudan in general and in Futa in particular. From 1599 until 1670 the Denianke Fulbe? ethnicty ruled the area. The spiritual leader at that time was a Qaadiri Imam named Malik Sy. The decline of the Denianke was the result of the European slave trade.
The region of Bundu is the southern most tip of Futa Toro which lies on the west bank of the Faleme? River. Islamic learning was originally brought into the region of Bundu as well as Niokholo and Dentilia by the Jakhanke? clerical communities coming from Diakha-Bambukha. The Imam who originally established Islamic learning in this region was none other than the famous al-Hajj Salim Suware?. It is from him and his many students that the transmission of the Muwatta of Imam Malik, Tafseer ?l-Jalalayn and the as-Shifa of Qadi Iyad were transmitted in the entire region of Futa Toro and Futa Jallon. In the region of Bundu at the central town of Didecoto, reside two grandsons of al-Hajj Salim: Shaykh Abdullah and Shaykh Ture? Fode where this learning tradition still persist. Later, Futa Jallon became a magnate for learned scholars and Arabic literacy where more than 60% of the inhabitants were versed in the Arabic language. Education in this region was propagated by the famous Saalamiyya families who spread the Qaadiriya Tariqa throughout Guinea, Senegal and Gambia and traced their ancestry to Umar ibn ?l-Khataab, may Allah be pleased with him. It was under the shadow of this great reform and intellectual tradition that Umar ibn Sayyid received his 25 years of training and instruction. He began his formal education of memorization of the Quran at age 6 in 1776 and by 1801 at age 31, he had completed an exhaustive and thorough Islamic education. There is no doubt, when we compare his education with the curriculum laid out by one of his contemporaries, another enslaved Muslim, Lamin Kebbe?, that Umar had reached the level of Alfa or al-faqih (jurist). At this level Umar ibn Sayyid probably returned to his home to teach children the Quran, act as kaatib (scribe) for senior jurist, enhance his knowledge with the senior scholars, enter the higher esoteric training in the Qaadiriyya brotherhood, and assist the Almami Abd?l-Qaadir Kan in the administration of the newly formed Muslim confederaton. He said in his Autobiography:
?I was entrenched in seeking knowledge for twenty-five years. I came back to my region and after six years a large army came to our land. They killed many people and seized me bringing me to the great ocean. There they sold me into the hands of the Christians.?
When Umar ibn Sayyid was captured at the age of 37, and brought to the United States in 1807, it was the same year that the United States abolished the importing of African slaves from Africa. It was also the same year that the first Muslim slave revolts issued in Bahia, Brazil from Muslims mostly from the same region as Umar. This year also witnessed the major successes of the armies of another Turudbe? social reformer and scholar/warrior, Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye? in the central bilad?s-sudan. It is clear that the Anglo-Americans did not want in their borders the emergence of the jihads that were engulfing Western Sudan and Bahia, Brazil. The reason for this no doubt is the effect that militant Muslims had upon the African freedom fighters in South Carolina. Among those directly influenced by militant Islam in general, and Umar in Sayyid, in particular, was Denmark Vesey. David Robertson said in his biography of Vesey:
?The escaped slave Charles Ball, a native of Maryland who wrote a memoir of his South Carolina slavery in 1806, noted the ?great many? Africans he had met during his bondage in South Carolina, and that ?I knew several who must have been, from what I have since learned, Mohamedans [sic].? The percentage of slaves at least nominally Muslim imported from Africa to the great trading centers such as Charleston has been estimated at 10 percent of the total number brought in during the years 1711 to 1808. Proportionately, approximately 8,800 of these Muslim individuals must therefore have been sold in South Carolina market in these years. In his decades both as a slave and as a freedman, Denmark Vesey almost certainly knew or observed fellow blacks who continued to practice Islam in their bondage.?
Robertson goes on to suggest that Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid, at age 53, was one of the mentors of Denmark Vesey and that perhaps he accepted Islam at his or another Turudbe Muslim?s hand. Like the influence that the Turudbe? Amir Abd?r-Rahman ibn Ibrahim had upon the revolutionary thinking of David Walker, likewise, the Turudbe? teacher, Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid, had great influence upon the militant revolutionary, Denmark Vesey. The sense of historical consciousness engendered through the connection with the patriarch Abraham that was transmitted through the Turudbe? identity concept transfigured the thoughts of Denmark Vesey and gave him the sense of belonging and self-esteem needed to accomplish his revolution. Herbert Aptheker tells us: ?He (Vesey) read to them (his African colleagues) from the bible how the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt from bondage ?. Thus, the radical intellectual tradition and the militant arms struggle tradition among Africans in America finds its source from the Turudbe? children of Abraham and their entrenched sense of knowledge of self.
The Anglo-American writers, both contemporary with Alfa Umar, and thereafter, painted an altogether different picture of the enslaved Turudbe?. He was made out to be docile and compliant to his lot as a slave. Further, it was stated repeatedly that he had converted from his native religion of Islam. However, the evidence of his own writings prove otherwise. The most astounding evidence for the persistence of Alfa Umar?s belief in Islam was a letter written around 1820 at age 50 where the learned Turudbe? scholar says at the beginning:
?You show Allah in male or female form? Behold, such is a division! [not clear] These are nothing but names that you have made up, you and your fathers, which Allah did not reveal. All good is from Allah and no other.?
Here is a scathing attack, not unlike the criticisms made by Amir Abd?r-Rahman ibn Ibrahim, where Umar assails the Anglo-Americans for their Hellenistic paganism. He calls them to account for associating deities besides the One God Allah ta`ala. In spite of being under the abject subjugation of the white Christians, yet Umar remained firm on the Abrahamic covenant of commanding all that is good and forbidding indecency. Umar remained undeviating from the pure unadulterated monotheism that was bequeathed to Abraham, Isma`il, Ishaq, Yaqub and all the their descendent until Muhammad, may Allah bless all of them and grant them peace. Umar said in his letter citing one of the most fundamental verses that established the tenets (`aqeeda) of Islam:
?The Messenger believes in what was revealed to him from his Lord, as well as the believers. All of them believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books and His Messengers. We make no distinction between any of them.?
This verse revealed at the end of the second chapter called Al-Baqara (the Cow) delineates the fundamental creed of Islam. Given Umar?s dept of understanding of these verses along with the causative factor behind their revelation, there can be no doubt that he remained consistent with the fundamental beliefs of Islam.
Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid left behind a clear picture of himself, his place of origin, his level of learning and what he thought about those who oppressed him. His Arabic Autobiography stands as a living testimony of the persistence of the will to BE and the rights of self-determination for the ?lost children of Abraham?. Umar ibn Sayyid composed his Autobiography in 1831 at the age of 61. He began his autobiography by recording from memory the entire Qur?anic chapter called al-Mulk (the Kingdom) or at-Tabarrak (the Blessing). It is the sixty-seventh chapter of the Qur?an revealed in Mecca during the early days of prophet Muhammad?s mission, upon him be peace. It comprises thirty verses. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace used to recite it every night before retiring to bed.
Modern academicians have pondered the reason why Umar ibn Sayyid, decided to record this early Meccan Sura. What was he trying to say to his would be readers? Who was he addressing by quoting these verses? Was it an attempt at proselytizing? Was it a veiled effort to call to account the souls of his captors? The answer to these questions can be found in the religion that he dedicated himself to study for more than 25 years. There has been narrated many traditions concerning the benefits of this tremendous chapter of the Qur?an. Among them are the words of the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace on the authority of Ibn Abass: ?It (al-Mulk) is the preventer. It is the redeemer. By it one is saved from the punishment of the grave.? There are more narrated traditions that demonstrate the importance of this Qur?anic chapter and sheds light on the possible reasons that induce Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid to began his Autobiography with it. He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace also said on the authority of Abu Hurayra: ?Indeed there is a chapter from the Book of Allah which is only thirty verses, however it will intercede for a man and even bring him out of the Fire on the Day of Judgment and enter him into Paradise. It is the chapter called al-Mulk?. Realizing the level of education that Umar had attained in Bundu, there is no doubt that he had come across these traditions. Thus, his evoking this Quranic chapter was a sincere call upon his Lord to redeem him from his captives and to assist him in the grave after death. Here was a Turudbe? Muslim who knew he would die and perhaps not be buried in accordance with the rites of Islam, so he did what any Muslim would do in that same situation: ufawwudu?l-amr ila Allah (?leave the matter over to Allah!?) The fact that Umar ibn Sayyid was able to remember this particular chapter after 26 years of intellectual discontinuance is proof of his faith in Allah and his continuity on the path of Islam, Iman and Ihsan.
Fig. 2 A copy of Surat?l-Mulk written from memory by the Fulbe? Turudbe? Muslim Umar ibn Sayyid
Umar ibn Sayyid tells us in the beginning of his Autobiography about the extent of the cultural genocide that took place against the Turudbe? Muslims. He says: ?I have forgotten most of my language as well as the language of Arabic?. This is significant because reading and learning is an obligation upon every Muslim. Education and erudition were the hallmarks of Muslim life in the bilad?s-sudan. Alfa Umar?s admission of the lost of his native tongue and the use of the Arabic language could have been the result of the lack of Muslim co-religionist to communicate with. This is doubtful because David Robertson points out the population of Turudbe? Muslims in South Carolina was great. Further, this lack of Muslim company would not have prevented him from writing down the Qur?an, and the other fundamental books on Islamic jurisprudence he had memorized in the bilad?s-sudan.
There had to be another reason for Umar?s testimony of the lost of his language, in spite of his many years of study and education. The answer can be found in the records of the captors and their laws designed to eradicate any vestige of civilization from the enslaved Africans. In North Carolina as well as South Carolina laws were passed in 1822 which declared it illegal for slaves to be taught to read and write. The penalty for so doing was capital punishment. It is no wonder that Umar never got around to recording the knowledge, which he had gained for twenty-five years of ?diligent study?. The admission of Umar also indicates the level of education of its author because he was a polyglot capable of conversing in many language, Arabic, Fulbe?, and perhaps Mandinke? and Wolof, because these were the prominent languages spoken in the regions of Futa Toro, Futa Bundu and Futa Jallon. One can only wonder at the vast number of African Muslims who lost the use of their language and the sacred language of Arabic due to this genocide.
Prior to being kidnapped from his native land, Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid was linked with the leading personages responsible for consolidating government and Islamic reform in Futas Toro, Bundu and Jallo. During this period Chirnu Sulayman Bal, a Qaadiri Sufi Shaykh, arose leading the Fulani Turudbe Muslims against the slavers. This Chirnu Sulayman Bal was also known as Sulayman Ka`ba, named after one of the provisional capitals of the Muslim federation that he founded. This was the ?teacher? referred to in his Autobiography Later another Turudbe Imam emerged as the Qaadiri leader, Chirnu Abd?l-Qaadir Kan. From 1776 until 1807 Abd ?l-Qaadir led a successful Islamic state which united the Walo, Jolof and Cayor Muslims under a single banner. The war that led to the defeat and destruction of this Fulbe? Turudbe? confederation in 1807, was the causative factor behind the capture and enslavement of Umar ibn Sayyid. Thus, Umar ibn Sayyid was a highly educated African Muslim in accordance with the best standards of Islamic education available among the Fulbe? Turudbe? of Futa Bundu. He tells us in his autobiography that he studied for more than 25 years.
Another feature that the Autobiography demonstrates is the religious license of subterfuge and dissimilation (taqiyya). Like the Amir Abd?r-Rahman ibn Ibrahim, Umar opted to not let the Anglo-Americans know what he was thinking. This was demonstrated in his constant reference to John Owen, his final slave master, and Jim Owen in a laudable manner:
?O people of North Carolina, O people of South Carolina, O people of America all of you: have you among you two good men named Jim Owen with John Owen? These two men are good men. What food they ate, I ate. In what they clothe themselves, they clothe me.?
History bears witness that Umar?s praise for John Owens was an attempt at gaining concessions from a cruel taskmaster. Allen Austin identifies John Owen as the once governor of North Carolina from 1828-1830, who was responsible for passing legislature in North Carolina that ?seriously limited the rights of Africans in the state? in the same year in which Umar composed his autobiography. This was done no doubt out of fear that the Anglo-Americans had for the Africans because of the revolution of Denmark Vesey. If, as David Robertson points out, Umar ibn Sayyid had major influence upon the religious, cultural and political aspirations of Denmark Vesey, then it is clear that Umar could have been much more radical than history has portrayed him.
Jim Owens and others depicted Umar as a gentle and contented slave who had eventually abandoned his Turudbe? Islamic beliefs for the religion of his ?good master?. There are statements in his manuscript, which when translated improperly and misunderstood may corroborate this erroneous view. For example Umar said:
?Jim along with his brother recite to me the Injeel of Allah our Lord, Creator, King; who regulates all our circumstances, our health and wealth, and who bestows His bounties willingly, without constraint according to His power. Open my heart to the way of guidance, to the way of Yusu`a, the Messiah, to the tremendous light.?
Many of Umar?s contemporaries and later scholars believe that this statement by Umar is one of the proofs in the manuscript that he became apostate from the religion of Islam over to the religion of his captors. Only someone who is ignorant of the esteem that Muslims hold of the Messiah Issa ibn Maryum would believe that. In fact, what Umar said is nothing but an affirmation of what Muslims have believed from the beginning of the mission of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Writing in much the same time as Umar ibn Sayyid, the 18th century Turudbe? Muslim reformer Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye? said this about the belief that Muslims have in Jesus the son of Mary.
?He Prophet, upon him be peace related many traditions notifying Muslims that Issa ibn Maryum is the Messiah and that he would return in the End of Time to renew the religion of Islam and revive his sunna. Allah ta`ala says in His Quran: ?O People of the Book do not go to extremes in your religion and only speak the Truth about Allah. Verily the Messiah Issa the son of Maryum is the Messenger of Allah and His Word that He cast into Maryum and a Spirit from Him. Therefore believe in Allah and His messenger and do not say three gods. If you desist from this it will be best for you. Verily Allah is One, glory be to Him far is He from having a son. To Him belong what is in the heavens and the earth and Allah is sufficient as a Guardian.? Imam al-Bukhari narrated in his Saheeh the tradition: ?The son of Mary will truly descend as a just ruler. He will break the cross, kill the swine and set aside the jizya.? In the same tradition narrated by at-Tayaalisi it says: ?He will break the cross, kill the pig and diffuse wealth until Allah destroys during his time the one-eyed lying forger. Trust and immunity will come to pass in the earth until the lion will graze with the camel, the tiger with the cow and the wolf with the sheep. Even children will play with snakes. And neither of these will harm the other.?
Thus, the Turudbe? erudition in Islam throughout the lands of the Bilad?s-Sudan would preclude Umar ibn Sayyid of being ignorant of the nature of Muslim belief in Issa the son of Maryum, upon him be peace. Given Umar?s extensive Islamic education it is difficult to comprehend that he would relinquish this deep grasp of Islamic belief for the paganism or man-worship of Christianity. Along with the fact that the environment from which Umar was captured was inundated with the belief in millenarianism and messianic expectations that would redeem the Muslim world from the European invasion. This was the fundamental belief of the leaders and reformers under whom Umar studied and lived, like Karamako Alfa Ibrahim Barri, Sulayman Bal and Almamy Abd?l-Qaadir.
Another of the significant proofs of Umar ibn Sayyid?s continuous Islamic beliefs is the statement made in his Autobiography regarding the primordial status of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This proclamation is made on a line separate from all the other lines as if Umar intentionally wanted to distinguish this statement from the other sentences. It says in Arabic: ?The first is Muhammad.? Why would Umar distinguish this statement from the remainder of the lines of the folio? It is clear that after twenty years of intense study in the lands of Futa Toro and Futa Jallon, Umar no doubt studied the three main text which were transmitted in that region: namely, the Muwatta of Imam Malik, the Tafseer ?l-Jalalayn and the as-Shifa of Qadi Iyad. The transmission of the asaaneed (chains of authority) in these three text is still issued in these regions to this day among African Muslim Fulbe, Soninke, Jahanke?, Tukulor and Mandinke? scholars. It is important to cite here what Qadi Iyad said in his as-Shifa which will explain exactly what Umar ibn Sayyid was denoting with the above enigmatic statement: ?The first is Muhammad?.
?Qatada once said that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said, ?I was the first of the Prophets in existence and the last of them to be sent?.? Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad said in his commentary upon the as-Shifa concerning the above prophetic tradition, ?I was the first of the Prophets in existence?, means that Allah created his spirit before their spirits; or in the world of atoms; or in the decree by recording him first in the Guarded Tablet; or he was the first to appear to the Angels. ?And the last of them to be sent? means that he is the seal of the Prophets.?
This primordial status of the nature of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace was diffused throughout the Bilad?s-Sudan by means of the Sufi brotherhoods, particularly the Qaadiriya. The Turudbe? have left an extensive amount of Fulbe? poems that speak to the transcendent nature of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which would leave no doubt about the belief that the Turudbe? Muslims has regarding the Best of Creation, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
Another momentous proof of Umar?s persistence in Islamic belief and practice was his evoking of the first chapter of the Qur?an in his Autobiography. Again, due to the fact that the transmission of learning in the regions in which Umar lived is well known, we can say with certainty that during his twenty five years of intensified study, he had to have read the Tafseer ?l-Jallalayn. This fundamental text of Qur?anic exegesis was the first and the most renowned tafseer that was transmitted in that region of the bilad?s-sudan. It is significant to know that the tafseer (commentary) upon the last verse of the al-Faathiha rendered by the al-Jalalayn and all seminal tafaaseer is the following: ?Not among those who have earned anger?, these are the Jews. ?Nor who have gone astray?, these are the Christians.? Because Umar had to have known the classical commentary upon this important chapter, which is an obligation for every Muslim to know and recite in his prayers - it goes without saying that his reason for citing it was to demonstrate his continued adherence to the faith of Islam. Another tafseer that was famous and in widespread use in the lands of the Turudbe? was the work of Abdullahi Dan Fuduye? called Diya ?t-Ta?weel Fi Ma`ana ?t-Tanzeel. In this text he adds,
?It is as though Allah is saying ?There is no anger upon them nor are they astray?. Astray here means to deviate from the even path intentionally or by mistake. The word astray is intensified with the negative particle لا (nor) in order to separate between the two ways in order that everyone can avoid both of them. This is because the path of the people of true faith encompasses both knowledge of the truth and acting in accordance with it. The Jews have lost acting in accordance with the truth and the Christians have lost the knowledge of the truth. It for this reason that the divine anger is against the Jews and being astray is against the Christians. This is due to the fact that whoever knows the truth and neglects acting in accordance with it, deserves anger, in contrast to the one who does not know the truth. The bottom line is that both the Jews and the Christians are astray and have earned divine anger. However the Jews have been distinguished with the attributes of divine anger and the Christians have been distinguished with being astray. It has been related on the authority of the prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ?Those who have earned divine anger are the Jews. Those who are astray are the Christians?.?
It is in this light that the above citation of the al-Faatiha by Umar ibn Sayyid must be understood. Umar demonstrated clearly his continued adherence to the covenant of Abraham through the Way of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He did not capitulate over to the corrupt mores and pagan man-worship of the Anglo-American Christians. He held firmly to the rope of Allah ta`ala. The Anglo-Americans attempted to categorize Umar ibn Sayyid within the confines of their own narrow-minded descriptions. The Anglo-American defined the enslaved African as sub-human lacking any ability to know or define himself, not to speak of determining his own course. This psychological warfare was conducted at every level of the Anglo society, even at the constitutional level.
Umar ibn Sayyid had a clear sense of the geopolitical situation that he was in. He knew that the Africans who captured him were non-Muslims and that the enemies that he had been sold to were European Christians. Umar said:
?Truly my residing in my country was by reason of great detriment. The disbelievers seized me unjustly and sold me to the Christians, who purchased me. We sailed a month and a half on the great ocean to the place called Charleston in the language of the Christians. I fell into the hands of a small, weak and wicked man, who did not fear Allah at all. He could neither read nor did he pray. I was afraid to remain with a sinful man who had so many sins. Thus, I fled?
Perhaps when Umar spoke of ?great detriment? he was speaking of the many wars that were taking place during the period he was seized. During that time the pagan Africans were successful at raiding many centers of the Fulbe Muslims. It was the same year in which he was captured that the pagans sacked the central religious town of Almamy Abd?l-Qaadir and had him murdered. The period was a period of insecurity and internecine warfare. Thus, Umar utilized his ability to write as a means of defining his own reality and speaking out against his captors. The ability to evoke and define oneself and the enemy constitutes the most essential element in self-determination. The ability to understand and delineate the inner being and the surrounding universe is what placed mankind over and above the creation. This was the hallmark of Adam and remains the quality of his descendents. This must be understood when examining any referents utilized by enslaved Turudbe? Muslims. The Turudbe? had a deep sense of who they were, and understood their historical relationship with the Europeans. They were fully aware the role that they and other West African Muslims played in the civilizing of Spanish and Portuguese Europe. The protective historical conscience of Turudbe? identity, the inner psychological fortification of Islam, as well as the linguistic security of Arabic, gave the Turudbe? the assurance and ability to create their own referents. Thus, the existence of Umar, as he was, defied the Anglo-American?s futile attempt to deconstruct him and define him. Umar cannot be understood through the prism of Anglo-American Christian scrutiny, but through his own ethnocentric frame of reference.
Allen Austin defined this endeavor on the part of Anglo-Americans to ?redefine? Umar as a ?Christian? as ?largely the creation of romantic-white and militant Christian wishful thinking? . The fact that he was ?owned? means that he could not define himself, thus he had to be ?handled? and ?packaged? to suite the Anglo-American image of the good docile slave. An example of this type of historical fallacy is in the following picture painted of Umar:
?The name of the man from whom I obtained this manuscript for you, I believe is Monroe (Umar); ?an Arab by birth, of royal blood, ?He fell into the hands of Gen. Owen, of Wilmington, who?proffered him his freedom, and offered to send him back to his native land. But Monroe (Umar) declined the offer, saying that his friends were probably either destroyed or dispersed and that his condition was much better where he was, ?He is respected by those who know him, and is a worthy member of the Presbyterian Church.?
Not only does the Anglo-American redefine this Turudbe? Muslim as Christian, but they went further in claiming that he did not desire his own freedom, that he was content to remain under the yoke, all be it ?benevolent? of the white man. This coincides with their own racist views of Africans and other non-white peoples, as Lester Scherer said that white tradition: ?affirmed that the heathen could legitimately be treated differently from Christians. They could be enslaved for life; and they could be driven harder and fed less.? The opinion that Africans were resigned to slavery and were naturally disposed to it, was pervasive throughout Europe and the United States. Writing in South Carolina, about three decades after Umar ibn Sayyid was captured, William Harper, who spoke of Africans? ?indifference to personal liberty?. He raised the question: ?Let me ask if this people do not furnish the very material out of which slaves ought to be made, and whether it be not an improving of their condition to make them the slaves of civilized masters.? This sentiment is even echoed today by certain Anglo-American ?Muslim? converts who encourage people to study in Mauritania, where the enslavement of African Muslims is seen as benign. The same attitudes prevail where the ability of the African Muslims to endure their lot as slaves is seen as noble and venerable, but to revolt and rebel is seen as unnatural to them.
Umar ibn Sayyid was no exception in this mass self-deception among the Anglo-Americans. Umar?s image as a convert to Christianity was utilized to help advance the myth of African innate inferiority. However, when close examination is made of Umar?s Autobiography another picture emerges. For example, whenever Umar referred to Jesus in any context, the Anglo-Americans deduced from this acceptance of their view of Jesus as ?lord and savior?. On the other hand, Umar?s understanding of Jesus the son Mary, must be comprehended from his own Islamic frame of reference. Umar said in his Autobiography: ?And now the words of our lord Yusu`a the Messiah.? The use of the term ?our lord? in referring to sayyidinaa Issa ibn Maryum, upon him be peace, is perhaps the strongest evidence of the possibility of Umar ibn Sayyid?s apostasy from the religion of Islam. However, again, when examining Umar?s level of Islamic education, one is forced to reconsider other alternatives other than mere abandonment of his religion. First the term rabb (lord, sustainer) when used with the definite article (alif & laam) refers suitably to Allah ta`ala who is, as Shaykh Muhammad Murtada ?z-Zaydi said in his Taaj: ?The Rabb is Allah `azza wa jalla, the sustainer of everything, i.e. its owner. He possesses lordship (rubuubiyya) over the entire creation. There is no partner to Him and He is the Lord of all lords, the King of kings.? Abu Mansuur said in his Lisaan, ?The Rabb unrestrictedly refers linguistic to the owner, the master, the manager and the educator. It is not used unrestrictedly to other than Allah except when the word is brought into relationship with something else. Like when you say: ?the rabb of so-and-such.? The Qur?an utilizes the term rabb in many cases to refer to created beings that are in some way responsible for managing a created thing or person. Allah ta`ala says on the tongue of Prophet, Yusef, when he addresses the inmate who was destined to be freed from prison: ?Mention me with your lord.? Here reference is made to the owner or master of the inmate for whom he will be employed. Thus, Prophet Yusef utilized the term rabb as it was known and accepted with those whom he was addressing. Another consideration, and perhaps the most plausible, is that Umar was practicing dissimilation (taqiyy) out of fear for his life under the Christians. As previously discussed, this is a legally acceptable option for any Muslim who is under the jurisdiction of the disbelievers and can find no way to establish his religion nor can he find a means with which to make the hijra from under their control. This is the legal ruling for a free Muslim who finds himself in circumstances where he fears establishing the religion. Umar was not hurr (free). Taqiyya was perhaps the only logical option he had. Thus, Umar ibn Sayyid referring to Isa ibn Maryum, as ?lord? cannot be used as conclusive proof for apostasy because one can construe many implications from the Quranic meaning of the word. Further, when this is connected to the right of dissimulation (taqiyya), then Umar?s persistent Islamic belief stands out. One must recall that Amaar ibn Yasar, the Afro-Arab Companion of Prophet Muhammad, said far worse than Umar ibn Sayyid, yet Allah ta`ala freed of him apostasy by His words: ?Whoever disbelieved after having faith, except those who were coerced while their hearts were tranquil in belief.? It is well known that Amaar verbally denounced Allah ta`ala and outwardly proclaimed the false deities of the Quraysh, yet Allah ta`ala declared him innocent due to the state of his heart. Like `Amaar, the same about Umar ibn Sayyid, who being coerced through slavery, dissimulated to the Anglo-Americans in order not to be killed. We will return to the parallels between Alfa Umar and `Amaar, and discuss the possible spiritual influence that the latter had upon the life of the former. Thus, contrary to being proof of his conversion, his dissimulation only proves his utter contempt for his captors and their own innate inferiority as disbelievers.
As mentioned earlier, the Anglo-Americans would often force the Turudbe? Muslim to write down the Lord?s Prayer as a sign of conversion to Christianity. Umar ibn Sayyid was no exception to this rule. However, it is through understanding the early education of Umar ibn Sayyid that insight can be had into the real reasons behind his citing of the Lord?s Prayer. As Umar claimed, he studied the Islamic sciences intensely for some twenty-five years. The system of education that permeated western Bilad?s-Sudan comprised of a deep understanding of the science of the traditions of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This included mastery of the sihaah (sound) collections, the musaneed collection (those collections organized on the basis of the last transmitter before the Prophet) and the sunnan collection. Among the sunan collections that the student had to have mastered was the Sunan of Abu Dawud. In this collection there is a prophetic tradition related on the authority of Abu Darda, who said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said, ?When one of you is suffering or when his brother is suffering, he should say, ?Our Lord is Allah, who is in the heaven. Holy be Your name. Your command reigns supreme in the heaven and in the earth. As Your mercy is in heaven, make Your mercy in the earth. Forgive us of our sins and errors. You are the Lord of the righteous. Send down mercy from Your mercy and a remedy from Your remedies upon this pain so that it is healed up?.? This prophetic tradition has striking resemblance to the Lord?s Prayer as narrated in the New Testament: ?Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen.? Because of the similarity in the expression of the ?Lord?s Prayer? and the famous du`a ?r-ruqiyya ?Supplication for Remedy? of Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, perhaps Umar and other enslaved Turudbe? Muslims saw no dilemma in recording it. Further, this tradition was narrated in the section of the prophetic traditions regarding medicinal remedies. This is significant because apart of the fundamentals of education in the bilad?s-sudan was a basic understanding of Islamic folk medicine called Tibb ?n-Nabiyyi (the medicine of the Prophet). This entailed the student mastering the basic remedies transmitted by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. In fact, a fellow Turudbe ?scholar/warrior Muhammad Bello ibn Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye? cited the above-mentioned tradition in a 19th century medical text. The name of the text is Ujalaat ?r-Raakib fi Tibb ?s-Saa?ib. The bottom line is that the above tradition related by the Prophet to his community, as a cure is an exact rendering of the Lord?s Prayer. This means that given Umar ibn Sayyid?s level of education, he had to be familiar with the tradition that would entail him not seeing any harm of citing the Lord?s Prayer since it too, was related by Prophet Muhammad as a chanted formula for its curative qualities.
This means that Umar?s citing of the Lord?s Prayer as a sign of conversion is definitely inconclusive. The Anglo-Americans insisted on defining Umar in their own terms of reference while ignoring the clear evidence of his persistence in his Islamic culture and religion. This is an example of the countless cases of cultural genocide that led to the disappearance of 3 to 5 million of Umar?s co-religionist in America.
The Autobiography of Umar ibn Sayyid, stands today as the written anthropological evidence for the rights of self-determination for the descendents of African Muslim in the United States. This lost son of Abraham, the Turudbe? Fulbe, Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid cried out in his work for justice and liberty, and in speaking out, he indicted the system that oppressed his people. As a Turudbe? descendent of Abraham he fulfilled the call to command the good and forbid evil and indecency. He made a lasting impression upon revolutionary leaders in North Carolina, such as Denmark Vesey and the other African Freedom Fighters who took up arms in defense of freedom, liberty and self-determination. To his Anglo-American oppressors in the state of North Carolina as well as the remainder of the country, he demanded his freedom and liberty of his people. This cry for freedom, which was the hallmark of the Children of Abraham, was echoed in Umar?s words:
?O you Americans, you people of North Carolina - Are there among you!? Are there among you!? Are there among you!? Are there among you!? - good people who fear Allah much?!?
Alfa Umar ibn Sayyid stands as an excellent example of the resilience of the Turudbe? Fulbe Muslims, in the face of the aggression and oppression of Anglo-American slavery. With his quiet, unassuming and humble demeanor, Umar, was not only able to maintain his Islamic customs under the nose of his enemies, but he also had major impact upon one the most violent, revolutionary, well organized African slave insurrection in the United States, led by Denmark Vesey. It is amazing how Umar ibn Sayyid was able to deceive his slave masters into thinking that he was docile and subservient to their will and had completely acquiesced and succumbed to man-worship. The following anecdote illustrates the subtleness of Umar ibn Sayyid?s dissimulation to his enemies:
?When the name and history of the ex-Prince were discussed, Miss Ellen proposed sending for ?Uncle Moro?. He was received in her splendidly furnished parlor and introduced to each visitor?after which, was seated among the guests. He was a fine looking man, copper colored, though an African, well dressed, in a long black coat reaching below the knees, as worn by the nobility of foreign countries of his day, sat very erect on his chair, with both feet flat on the carpet, knees close together, and his hands opened and resting on his legs. He conversed for a short while gracefully, after which, Miss Ellen handed him the family Bible and asked him to read a lesson in his native language. He announced the 23rd Psalm and read it, when I asked if he would kindly write it for me, he did so, and came with it for another interview?the Psalm was written and left for me, which appears as written, with his communication.?
What is astounding is that Umar is now writing in 1855 at the ripe old age of 85, yet he still maintains a steady hand with the Timbukti style of calligraphy lucid and striking. He begins the 23rd Psalms with an opening statement that only a dedicated Muslim would make. He did not say anything about ?god the father, god the son and god the holy ghost?. He made no appellation to Jesus as being his personal savior, or even ?in Jesus? name?. He did not say in the name of Jehovah, or ?elohim? or any appellation that would indicate that he had indeed in this late period in his life had become resigned to the Christian faith. Perhaps, when speaking in English, he would refer to these deities; however, his written testimony indicated a spiritual allegiance to something completely different.
Fig 3 Copy of the 23rd Psalms written for John Federick Foard in 1855
He begins: ?In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, may Allah send blessings upon our master Muhammad. Verily I am writing this letter in the year 1855, on Monday, the 15th of the month of November.? The statement: ?In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful?, is called in Arabic the basmalla and is one of the most important formulas in Islam. Every chapter of the Quran, except one, begins with it. It is related on the authority of Abd?l-Qaadir ar-Rahawi in his al-Arba`een on the authority o Abu Hurayra, that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said: ?Every matter of importance which is not initiated with: bismillahi?r-rahmani ?r-raheem (In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful), will be cut off.? The importance if this designation in Islam cannot be overstated. During the same period when Umar ibn Sayyid was a student in Futa Bundu, another Turudbe? Fulbe scholar, named Muhammad Tukur composed a text comprising the secrets of the Divine Names of Allah ta`ala. The text was called Qira?t?l-Ahibaa and was composed around 1796, just before Umar completed his 25-year period of deep study in the Islamic sciences. The text is significant because it gives a picture of the level of the mystical education and the esoteric sciences that were being transmitted throughout the Bilad?s-Sudan by the Turudbe? Fulbe Muslims. There is no doubt, given Umar?s degree of Islamic education that he too understood some portion of this science. Muhammad Tukur delineates the secrets of the Bismillahi?r-Rahman?r-Raheem when he said:
?If you desire the expansion of your breast then say: ?Bismillahi?. If you desire your burden to be removed then say: ?Bismillahi?. If you desire your reward to be magnified then say: ?Bismillahi?. If you desire your name to be extolled then say: ?Bismillahi?. ?Bismillahi is the share of those in need of the Merciful One. It is the portion of those who are reliant upon the Compassionate One. It is the stake of all the believers. The ?Bismillahi protects the ship from inundation. The ?Bismillahi will redeem the Umma of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace on the Day of Standing among the masses of the people. It has been narrated that the first person that the ?Bismillahi? was revealed to was Adam, upon him be peace, who said: ?I have learned that none of my descendents will be punished in the Fire as long as they persists in reciting it.? Then it was raised up after him until the time of al-Khalil, upon him be peace. It was then revealed to him when he was in the catapult and then Allah redeemed him from the fire. Then it was raised up after him until the time of Musa, upon him be peace. It was revealed to him and by means of it, he overcame Pharaoh and his forces. It was then revealed to Sulayman, upon him be peace and then to Isa ibn Maryum, upon him be peace and then to Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He was then commanded to write it at the head of every chapter, at the beginning of books, at the head of letters, and in the beginning of every action. When the tumult of mountains descends with glorification when thirst becomes severe on the Day of Standing and the sweat is flows; then they will say with one voice: ?Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.?. It is then that the decree of Allah will be rendered. It has been related in a prophetic tradition: ?Whoever says it one time every day and night with sincerity in his heart there will remain not even an atoms weight of his sins left. Therefore it is incumbent upon you to recite it and thereby protect its sanctity.? It has also been related in a prophetic tradition: ?Whoever recites it Allah will record on his behalf for every letter four thousand good deeds raise him up four thousand spiritual ranks and wipe away from him four thousand sins?.?
Thus, when Umar ibn Sayyid begins his 23rd Psalm with the basmalla, he was fully aware of the import of the statement. It was not some passing reference used by habit because in all of his writings, he begins with this same designation. If Alfa Umar knew the esoteric sciences, narrated by the Turudbe Fulbe Muhammad Tukur, regarding the secrets of the basmalla, it is then inconceivable to conclude that he had abandoned the religion of Islam. In fact, the usage of the basmalla demonstrates a profound and mysterious aspect to Umar?s nature that none of the Anglo-American narrators of his life are willing to admit. What we are looking at is an extremely sophisticated Turudbe? Muslims scholar who had mastered the science of taqiyya (dissimulation), with all of its subtleties. He had resigned himself to a prolonged lifetime of concealment of his true faith and belief. Only manifesting it through his written testimony.
Then after the basmalla, Umar sends the blessings and peace upon the Seal of the Prophets and the Master of the Messengers, Muhammad, upon him be blessings and peace. Did Umar renounce his religion of Islam? Louis Moore, writing in 1927 would have us believe so by his saying: ?Under the ?careful? tutelage of Governor Owen, his brother, Gen. Jas Owen, and the Presbyterian clergy, Moreau (Umar) entered upon a ?careful? and ?exhaustive? study of the principles and ideals of the Christian religion. The Arabian prince soon professed Christianity.? If this is so, then why would he open all of his letters and correspondences with sending blessings upon the one whom he called: ?our master Muhammad?? Would not ?a careful and exhaustive study of the principles of Christianity? followed by conversion, have wiped out any and all-spiritual allegiance to Allah and His Final Messenger Muhammad? It is related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said: ?Whoever sends blessings upon me in a letter or book, there will remain an Angel seeking forgiveness for him as long as my name is in that book or letter.? It is clear from this that the profound transmission of knowledge established by the Turudbe? connected with a persistence sense of historical consciousness helped to defend Umar ibn Sayyid from the cultural aggression of his Anglo-American captors. As the above prophetic tradition demonstrates, Umar?s desire to attain forgiveness from Allah ta`ala, the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isma`il, Ishaaq, and the Tribes was so entrenched, that no amount of indoctrination would dissuade him.
Even when we look close at the text of the Bible that he decided to recite for Miss Ellen and her ?distinguished guests?, the 23rd Psalms, there is nothing in it that is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Islam and the lucid monotheism and well structured concept of the Divine Unity (tawheed) upon which the religion of Islam is built. In fact, when one examines the choice of biblical verses that Umar decided to recite for his Anglo-American audience, one is witnessing with clarity a form of disdain and defiance on the part of a descendent of Abraham towards oppressors. The 23rd Psalms says:
?The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name?s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.?
What, in Umar?s eyes is ?the valley of the shadow of death? if it is not the ability to endure 49 years of servitude under unjust Anglo-American slavery? One can only imagine what Umar was thinking when he recited this verse to his credulous audience: ?You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.? The quiet resignation for which Alfa Umar was known, could it be that he saw the affliction and hardship of slavery as part of Divine Providence?
When one recognizes his close attachment with African freedom fighters such as Denmark Vesey and the slave revolts that were being planned daily in the vicinity of the venerable Shaykh, one cannot help but imagine that behind the exterior of humility was the quiet assurance of eventual victory and justice.
The last known writing of Umar ibn Sayyid that decisively testifies to his persistent Islamic beliefs, but also his understanding of the eventual triumph of Divine Justice, was a hand written manuscript composed during the period of his ?alleged conversion?. General Owen gave this text to Mary Jones, the wife of Rev. Charles Colcock Jones of Rockland County, Virginia on July 27, 1857. The manuscript written by Umar ibn Sayyid was supposed to be another copy of ?the Lord?s Prayer?, but proves to be altogether different.
Fig. 4 The copy of ?the Lord?s Prayer? written by Umar around 1856-57
What made General Owen determine that this was the Lord?s Prayer is hard to ascertain. We know that as early as 1819 a copy of the Bible in Arabic was given to Umar ibn Sayyid. In a letter from John Louis Taylor to Francis Key, written on the 10th of October, 1819, it states: ?I should be much gratified Sir, if you could indicate to me in what manner I could procure an Arabic bible for his use, as I think it possible that a person of his enlargement of merit could not but peruse it without perceiving its authenticity and divine origin.? So Umar had access to an Arabic Bible that he could refer to in order to copy the Lord?s Prayer verbatim. We know this because in the previous year he did exactly that when John Foard requested him to write the 23rd Pslams. In fact, rather than write the Psalms in front of Mr. Foard, Umar, went to his private quarters, no doubt, to copy it from his own Arabic Bible. In fact, Foard states this explicitly when he said: ?When I asked if he would kindly write it for me? He did so, and came with it for another interview. I was out visiting friends and failed to see more of him, but the Psalm was written and left for me.?
So why did Umar not simply make a copy the Lord?s Prayer verbatim from his Arabic bible for General Owen? In 1856 Umar was 86 years of age, being able to use his memory fairly well. The so-called Lord?s Prayer that Uma