by Askia Muhammad
Washington Bureau Chief
Mali--It was a picture perfect beginning for the modern equivalent of history's
greatest Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca---by the ancient Mali Empire's Mansa Musa, across the
grueling Sahara Desert with hundreds of camels and elephants ladened with gold in the 14th
The waxing crescent moon lay prostrate on the western
horizon in close proximity to a bright star nearby as the chartered 727 jet-liner carrying
the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and 29 others on the first leg of his World
Friendship Tour III glided into the airport here Dec. 4.
Mali's most important religious leaders---men and women,
shaykhs and imams---lined the landing field, along with Sada Samake, Minister of
Territorial Administration (Interior), to greet Min. Farrakhan. Later, President Alpha
Oumar Konare officially welcomed the leader of the Nation of Islam in North America home
again to Africa.
"I am honored that so many Muslim leaders and members
of the Islamic community would come here on short notice to greet us," Min. Farrakhan
said of his hero's welcome at the airport after shaking hands with each of them.
"Tala' Al Badr Alaina," sang the throng to Min.
Farrakhan and his entourage. "The moon has appeared to us in its fullness," they
sang. Their words---first sung by the Muslims of Medina upon the arrival there in flight
from Mecca of Islam's Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)---now recalling history's
most decisive pilgrimage.
The shaykhs and imams offered equally enthusiastic pledges
of loyalty and support deserving of a visit by a distinguished modern Muslim leader, a son
of Africa returning home after rising to great prominence in America, long the land of
great torment for millions of African slaves and their offspring.
"We are your soldiers in faith," one imam
proclaimed to Min. Farrakhan. Another compared this arrival to the migration of Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) and his delegation to Ethiopia, where the Emperor there protected the band
of Believers from the officials in their homeland who wanted to persecute them.
Another imam compared Min. Farrakhan's arrival to the
coming of Bilal, a Black man and Islam's first muezzin, who called the faithful to prayer.
"I am happy to welcome you," President Konare,
just back from a late-November White House meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton, told
Min. Farrakhan. "Our country has been blessed by Allah, coming to Islam more than 12
centuries ago," the President said. "We thank Allah, Almighty, for making us
Muslims, and making Mali an Islamic country." President Konare then presented his
guest with two traditional gifts. The first was a bowl of "cola nuts"---the
source of the world famous beverage flavor---symbolizing the unity, the indivisibility of
the people represented by the two leaders.
The second, and most important, gift was a white ram,
symbolizing the sheep that is sacrificed that others might live. In scripture it is
written of Abraham, that when commanded by Allah to sacrifice the life of his son Ishmael,
both father and offspring were willing to obey God's command, but Allah gave Abraham
instead a ram to sacrifice, sparing the life of Ishmael.
The gift may be a welcome sign from Almighty Allah for
Min. Farrakhan, a son of Africa. When the Minister set out on this world tour he was fully
aware of the danger to his own life and the intrigue that has befallen others who have
defied white America's corporate-driven agenda.
"We hope that this is the beginning of a friendship
that leads to cultural and educational exchange, and economic development on both sides of
the Atlantic," Min. Farrakhan replied, referring to "Friendship Covenants"
he has proposed between the Nation of Islam and each of the countries on his scheduled
50-nation, three-month, around-the-world campaign.
* Why Mali? *
Although Min. Farrakhan first met
and received an invitation to visit Mali from President Konare---Mali's first
democratically elected president since the country adopted a new constitution in 1979---at
the African-African American Summit in neighboring Libreville, Gabon, in 1993, this visit
is his first to West Africa's largest country, which has a population of 10 million, 95
percent of whom are Muslims.
that he was happy to honor his promise to visit Mali, the Nation of Islam leader revealed
to students at the national Islamic Culture Center, that there is a deeper reason why Mali
is the first stop on what may be---insha-Allah (God Willing)---his greatest world tour
"Mali has played a great role in the history of the
struggle of the Black Man and the history of the struggle of Islam," the Minister
told the students, some of whom cheered when his words were translated by Ali Baghdadi
into Arabic. Others cheered again when the message was translated into the indigenous
"It was Mansa Musa who took a caravan loaded with
gold to the Holy City Mecca," the Minister continued, explaining the symbolism of
that emperor's name. "Musa was the Prophet of Allah who led the Children of Israel
out of the bondage of Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. It is not accidental that we are in Mali,
leading our people out of bondage in America. But which gold will we bring to Mecca?
"We bring gold, but not the gold that comes out of
the Earth as a standard of value. We bring our lives, purified by 400 years of affliction.
We bring our purified lives and a purified wisdom from Allah. Starting from Mali, we will
carry it to Mecca and all over the world," Min. Farrakhan told the cheering students.
* On to Timbuktu *
The final portion of the visit to
Mali took place at Timbuktu, the site of the world's oldest Islamic university. There,
Min. Farrakhan and members of his entourage studied and prayed. Members of the delegation
include: Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, the Minister's wife; Mother Tynetta Muhammad, wife of
the Hon. Elijah Muhammad; Mustapha Farrakhan, Asst. Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam
and Min. Farrakhan's son; Min. Abdul Akbar Muhammad, International Representative of the
Nation of Islam; Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, Minister of Health and National Spokesman of the
Nation of Islam; Ali Baghdadi, publisher of Arab Journal and Middle East adviser to Min.
Farrakhan; Shaykh Ahmed Tijani Ben-Omar, co-director of the World Islamic Peoples'
Leadership Conference; Sister Karriemah Muhammad, personal assistant to Mother Farrakhan
and Mother Tynnetta Muhammad.
At the Ahmed Baba Center of Research, named for the
founder of the university at the world's most famous oasis, the Muslims from America
learned the origin of the name Timbuktu---which means, literally "tim," or
"the well" of Boctou. "Boctou" is the name of the woman who was left
behind to guard the luggage of those who first settled at that spot more than a millennium
Ahmed Baba, who lived and worked at the time Shakespeare
lived and wrote in England, first established the university. He was known as the
pre-eminent scholar in all of North Africa, and he attracted other great intellectuals of
his time from Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Syria. Later, King Askia Muhammad Toure attracted many
more of the world's prominent scholars, offering them land and wealth if they would come
to be a part of what was first known as the Ghana Empire, then Songhay, then Mali.
The delegation examined books on medicine, science, and
mathematics. One text, by author Abdel Rahman al-Hazzi, was written more than 900 years
ago, in 1062 A.D. Finally, they visited and offered prayer (Salatul Zuhr) at Sankore
Mosque, a 672-year-old structure commissioned by Mansa Musa, and built by one of the
dozens of architects who returned with the famous ruler from his legendary Hajj.
#1-Mali President Alpha Oumar Konare presents Min.
Farrakhan with traditional gifts. #2-(L-R) Min. Farrakhan, an interpreter, and Mali Pres. Konare.
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