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The logo of the Nation of Gods and Earths, known as the "Universal Flag of Islam"

The Nation of Gods and Earths, sometimes referred to as NGE, Allah's Nation, the Five-Percent Nation, the Five-Percent Nation of Islam, or the Five Percenters was founded in 1964 in the Harlem section of the borough of Manhattan in New York City by Clarence Smith, known most commonly to the public at large as Clarence 13X, but referred to by his contemporaries and students as Allah (the Arabic word for God) or the Father. The Nation of Gods and Earths angered religious and political leaders, who viewed the group as little more than an offshoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI), which was already viewed by Muslims as heretical. While the Nation of Gods and Earths is commonly characterized as an organization, an institution, a religion and/or even a gang, representatives of the Nation teach that it is a way of living. The Nation of Gods and Earths teaches that the Original Blackman is God, the Original Blackwoman is the planet Earth, and through the inner esoteric powers of the Gods and Earths, people can transform and possess their true potential.

Contents

Founding

One of the few extant photographs of Clarence 13X, the founder of the Nation of Gods and Earths, date unknown.

The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Clarence 13X after he left the Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York (the same temple where Malcolm X was a minister from 1960 to 1963). Multiple stories exist as to why Clarence and the NOI parted ways: some have him refusing to give up gambling; others have him questioning the unique divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad, whom the NOI deified as the True and Living God in person; or questioning his position due to the fact that Fard was part-Caucasian. The story states that Clarence was then disciplined by the NOI and excommunicated in 1963, but another version of events says that he left on his own free will along with two others, Abu Shahid and Four Cipher Akbar (known in NGE circles as Justice),[1] who agreed with Clarence's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad.[2]

In December 1964, after leaving the NOI, Clarence was shot in a basement gambling den called the Hole. He survived the shooting, assumed the name Allah, and, according to some, boasted that he was immortal.[1] He then began to teach others his views based on his interpretation of NOI teachings. Allah found success with the disenfranchised youth on the streets of Harlem, which, unlike the NOI, included whites and Latinos.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Allah taught the NOI lessons to his group of young followers (who came to refer to him as the Father), but instead of teaching them to be Muslims, he taught them that they were God the same way he was. The women who came into Allah’s growing nation to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because it is the planet on which God produces life (hence the female practitioners using Earth as their title). The NGE, then, is more of a cultural practice than a religious one and, in fact, the group does not call itself a religion at all. Its position is that it makes no sense to be religious or to worship or deify anyone or anything outside of oneself when adherents themselves are the highest power in the known universe, or Supreme Being, both collectively and individually.

In addition to the lessons of the NOI, The Father taught a system of numbers that he developed called Supreme Mathematics that can be compared to the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah. In this system, the numbers from zero to nine all represent principles and concepts. Coming together to discuss the Supreme Mathematics is the most popular ritual of the NGE. Whenever Gods and Earths meet, they speak about the Supreme Mathematics and 120 Lessons. This dialogue is referred to by the Five-Percent as building, which is the eighth degree of the Supreme Mathematics, and it means to add on to the cipher, a completion of a circle of 360 degrees. Gods and Earths can build their minds, which means to elevate or add on to the knowledge one has. Building also refers to the building of their physical bodies, their financial status, or to intuitions, among much more that the principle can refer to represent.

Teachings

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Basis

Representatives of the Nation of Gods and Earths view themselves (men of their Nation) as their own God (both individually and collectively as the Original Man).[4] Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof, and not beliefs in theories.[9]

The teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths are passed on through oral tradition, much like the griots of west Africa. The advancement of a God or Earth is based on his or her memorization, recitation, comprehension, and practical application of the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet—both developed by The Father—and also the 120 Lessons, sometimes referred to as degrees, a revised version of the Supreme Wisdom lessons of the NOI, originally written by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad.[3][6][10]

Origin of Five-Percent title

The term Five Percent comes from NOI doctrine that sees the world population divided into three groups: 85% of the people are blind to the knowledge of themselves and God, while 10% of the people know the truth but teach a lie for their personal gain; seen as part of this 10% are Christian preachers that teach that God is an incorporeal being (hence the term "mystery God"). The remaining 5% are the poor righteous teachers—those who do not subscribe to the teachings of the 10% as they know and teach that God is the Blackman of Asia. "Black" in Five-Percent doctrine includes all non-caucasians and "Asia" refers to the whole planet Earth, or Pangaea.

The Universal Language

Supreme Mathematics

The Supreme Mathematics is a system of understanding numbers alongside concepts and quantitative representations that are used along with the Supreme Alphabet.[6][10] The Supreme Mathematics is believed to be the highest system of mathematics used to give value to numbers in addition to quantity. For example, the number 1 is knowledge, 2 is wisdom, and 3 is understanding. The system is properly used to maximize humankind's logic to solve living problems.[3][4]

Supreme Alphabet

The Supreme Alphabet is a system of interpreting text and finding deeper meaning from the NOI Lessons by assigning actual meanings to the letters of the Roman alphabet. For example, the first letter, A, stands for Allah; the 12th letter, L, stands for Love, Hell, or Right; and the 13th letter, M, stands for Master. The corresponding mathematical number of each letter is also important to the alphabet's use. This symbolic alphabet was developed with assistance from Justice by the Father after splitting from the Nation of Islam, after which he developed his Supreme Understanding.[3][4][6][10][11]

Twelve Jewels of Islam

The Twelve Jewels are a variant of the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet, which are axioms by which one should live.

  1. Knowledge
  2. Wisdom
  3. Understanding
  4. Freedom
  5. Justice
  6. Equality
  7. God
  8. Build/Destroy
  9. Born

0 cipher

Universal Flag

The Universal Flag is the group's official trademark, which consists of a sun, moon, star, and the number seven. According to its doctrine, it represents the Original Family as the following:

  • Seven—The number held sacred in many ancient and modern traditions. In Supreme Mathematics, the number seven represents Allah.
  • Sun—Another symbol of the male, the Truth, and the Light. The points around the sun symbolize the expanding universe.
  • Moon—The crescent moon symbolizes the women.
  • Star—The five-pointed star symbolizes knowledge and children as the beginning of a new sun.

The eight-pointed star represents the Nation of Gods and Earths’ Lessons of Self-Awareness:

  1. The Supreme Mathematics
  2. The Supreme Alphabet
  3. 1–10
  4. 1–36
  5. 1–14
  6. 1–40
  7. Actual Facts
  8. Solar Facts

It is said that if one knows the 120, then one knows the above degrees.

Customs

Gods and Earths hold events known as Universal Parliaments in various cities—usually once a month—to build on their interpretation of the Supreme Mathematics, lessons, and to discuss business concerning the Nation. These Parliaments usually take place in public parks and in schoolyards.

The Show & Prove is an annual event that takes place in Harlem, New York every second weekend in June (on or before the June 13 anniversary of the Father's assassination). Gods and Earths converge from all over the world on Harriet Tubman Elementary School for this gathering, which includes a marketplace, performances and speeches in the school's auditorium, and a science fair in which children participate.

The Nation generally does not recognize traditional holidays, most notably those associated with religion such as Christmas or Easter. However, some regions where the Nation is active may hold events close to dates in honor of the Father's birthday (February 22) or the official founding of the Nation (October 10).

Dietary laws of the Five Percent dictate that adherents are forbidden to eat pork or any pork-based by-products. Many take further steps and eschew meat altogether, often opting for veganism or even a strict diet of raw fruits and vegetables.

Influence and interactions

City Hall and the Urban League

The Five Percent established a headquarters in the Harlem section of Manhattan. The Allah School in Mecca, previously known as the Street Academy, was founded in 1966 through the Urban League, with the help of the Republican mayor of New York, John Lindsay, and his assistant, Barry Gottehrer. The agreement reached between The Father and the Urban League was a payment of one dollar a day. The school's location of 2122 7th Avenue was perceived to be lucky: in the Supreme Mathematics, God is represented by the number 7, to which the digits of the address 2122 are the sum. The first programs instituted in the school contained 10 to 30 youth, state certified teachers, and three street workers. Graduates of the street academy would transfer to an academy of transition and then on to college preparatory school. The Father disagreed with the program originally instituted at the Urban League, and so the curriculum was later turned over to him to manage, while the daily programs switched to math, English, and self defense.[3]

There is another academy, the Allah School in Medina, located in Brooklyn.

Conflicts

The schism between The Father and the NOI led to numerous confrontations. The murder of the Father in 1969 remains unsolved, but it has been widely blamed on the Nation of Islam, who, in turn, blame a conspiracy of the FBI and the New York Police Department. The murder was a blow to the movement, but according to the direct orders of the Father before his death, some of his earliest disciples, a group of nine men who were called the First Nine Born carried on the teachings, and an acting leadership role was assumed by his good friend, Justice. In the years to follow, the Gods and Earths gained a varied reputation, from being known as outstanding members of and contributors to their communities who at one time, quelled a potential rebellion when Martin Luther King was assassinated to being called an unruly and confused group of African-American teenage thugs—even categorized as a gang by some.[3][5]

The gang label has caused much trouble for adherents to the movement in the United States. As the Nation has either gained students within the prison system or seen those who at least allege adherence to NGE teachings become incarcerated, the preceding gang reputation brought those with even remote NGE affiliation to be designated as security threats in states such as Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina[12]. Literature has been banned from institutions in these and other states, and inmates have been denied privileges enjoyed by those of other persuasions. Such rules were relaxed in 2004 in New York to allow registered "sincere adherents" to study teachings personally but not share with unregistered inmates as they do time.[13]

There have even been problems for Nation members interested in changing their legal names. In July 2008, a Staten Island, New York man already known in the Nation as Black Cream Allah was denied a legal adoption of the name because a judge felt it was sacrilegious and sounded like the name of a hip-hop record. He has since filed a second petition for the amended name Original Kreeam Shabazz.[14]

Hip-Hop

From the early 1980s, Gods and Earths are found among the American East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest. This spread, in part, uses the language of Supreme Mathematics, which represents universal law and order, and the Supreme Alphabet, which represents universal principles of life, ostensibly to forge solidarity with the inner-city youth through a common language.[10] The main theme of the Nation of Gods and Earths doctrine that can be heard on hip-hop records were the teachings that Black people were the original, or first, human life to walk the planet, Black man is God, the Black woman is Earth, and through the inner esoteric powers of the Gods and Earths, the youth can transform and possess its true potential, which seems to overthrow the overbearing oligarchy by becoming just rulers of themselves.

Early Hip-Hop acts affiliated with the Five Percenters, and who spread its teachings through Hip-Hop, include two highly regarded MCs of the late 1980s/early 90s conscious rap era, Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. These two acts, as well as some of their other contemporaries, infused Five Percent teachings and symbolism throughout their music and videos. This reputation brought fans of Rakim in particular to refer to him as "the God MC." Not soon after Rakim and Kane's heyday rose acts who were even more explicit with allegiance to the NGE, most notably Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers, and the Wu-Tang Clan. The popularity of these acts sparked a boom of new NGE students.

Many terms that originated as Five Percent jargon have been adopted into the Hip-Hop slang. Popular terms such as word is bond, while having significantly older roots than the Nation of Gods and Earths, were believed to have gained prominence through its use of the term, referring back to the original Nation of Islam's and the Five Percent's shared 120 Degrees.[3]

The Nation of Gods and Earths in New York City were even known as a visible presence at parties around town in Hip-Hop's formative years of the 1970s. Scene pioneer DJ Kool Herc recalled that while there was a heavy gang presence in attendance, the Five Percent were also there as a de facto peace-keeping element.[11]

Comparison with traditional Islam

While the Nation of Gods and Earths uses terms that are similar to those used by Muslims, the NGE, being free-thinkers, and Muslims, being theists, have very little in common. Authors have labeled the Nation of Gods and Earths as an Islamic group because of its origins from within the Nation of Islam, the terms it uses, and because of its practice of not eating pork. However, it does not follow the restrictive laws of the NOI nor does it follow traditional Islamic teachings based on the laws written in the Qur'an or the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad. The Five-Percent rebuttal to this has been that it is not a religious movement, and that as self-proclaimed Gods themselves (males), the only one they must submit to is self. In traditional Islam, this is considered a heretical, blasphemous concept and a violation of the most basic Islamic tenets, since it is considered a grave sin to associate any human being or object with God. The official stance of the Nation of Gods and Earths is that they are not Muslims, nor are they bound to any religious laws. However, it is to be noted that many of the Five Percent, in referring to themselves as Supreme Beings, point out that most, if not all, ancient scriptures allude to the anthropomorphic qualities of the Gods of different religions, and that religious teachings over time have strayed away from this concept. The Nation of Gods and Earths use ancient teachings that predate monotheistic religions to verify their deity status. Another defense for not adhering to modern-day religion is their claim that the teachings of all major prophets have been distorted over time, whether by translation into new languages or by intentional tampering. This can produce bigotry and zealotry in well-meaning believers. Thus, according to the Nation of Gods and Earths, it is better to study as many different religions and cultures as possible, to find the common truths in them, rather than focusing on the differences between them. This way, one finds his or her unique and most productive path to the Knowledge of Self.

In popular culture

Supreme Allah is a fictional character of the HBO drama Oz, a five percenter who is serving time for murdering a man who laughed at him during a dice game. He often preaches Five Percent philosophy while simultaneously dealing drugs. He is portrayed by Lord Jamar of the hip-hop group Brand Nubian.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Allah, Wakeel (2007). In the Name of Allah: a History of Clarence 13X and the Five Percenters. Atlanta: A-Team Publishing. 
  2. ^ http://www.thetalkingdrum.com/nge.html
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Knight, Michael Muhammad (2007). The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip Hop, and the Gods of New York. Oxford, England, UK: Oneworld Publications. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jane I. Smith (1999). Islam in America. Columbia University press. pp. 101–103,206. 
  5. ^ a b Mattias Gardell (1996). In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Duke University Press. pp. 225. 
  6. ^ a b c d Juan Williams (2003). This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience. Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 286–288. 
  7. ^ Aminah Beverly McCloud (1995). African American Islam. Routledge Publishing. pp. 59,60. 
  8. ^ Knight, Michael Muhamad. The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip Hop, and the Gods of New York. Oxford, England, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2007. Chapter 16
  9. ^ Ronald L. Jackson & Elaine B. Richardson (2003). Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations. Routledge Publishing. pp. 174, 179. 
  10. ^ a b c d Jeff. Chang (2005). Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. St. Martin's Press. pp. 258,259. 
  11. ^ a b Felicia M. Miyakawa (2005). Five Percenter rap: God hop's music, message, and black Muslim mission. Indiana University Press. 
  12. ^ "Ra'heen M. Shabazz, #170474 vs. SCDOC". SC Administrative Law Court. 2001-11-29. http://www.scalc.net/decisions.aspx?q=4&id=3297. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  13. ^ Ed White (2009-09-08). "Judge: No sign that Nation of Gods is prison risk". Associated Press. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g64rgJl1bmeWNY58-UiRaEgWv1CQD9AJC7CO2. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  14. ^ Phil Helsel (2009-04-05). "Staten Island man goes to court to seek name change". Staten Island Advance. http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/staten_island_man_goes_to_cour.html. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 

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