December 1997

Picture perfect beginning for
Farrakhan World Friendship Tour III


by Askia Muhammad
Washington Bureau Chief

BAMAKO, 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 Century.

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.

Stating 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 yet.

"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 Bambara language.

"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 ago.

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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