GEMS IN THE BIBLE BELT: MISSISSIPPI

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Once upon a time in the State of Mississippi an exhibit was brought to show the Spanish Culture and traditions. Notably missing from this cultural exhibit was 700 years of Muslim culture and tradition, which transformed the sands of southern Spain into a garden and was aptly named Al Andalus (which in Arabic means The Garden)

The Muslims of Mississippi stood up and took notice of the void created by the absence of 700 years in the exhibit on the History of Spanish culture.

In the spring of 2001 before the catastrophe of September 11, they opened the doors of the first museum of Muslim culture in the United States of America.

Considering that Muslims arrived on the Spanish ships with Columbus and were later invited by the Americans to trade in camels. The fledgling patriots and founding fathers of America revered them since the Muslim nation of Morocco was the first to recognize the independence of America from the British. Yet there is nothing to mark these milestones in the history books in the schools and most US libraries.

We wake up in Alabama to the news of tornados touching down on the antebellum homes of Mobile Alabama, I look out of the window and the rising sun, casts a golden glow onto the freshly rained on streets of Birmingham Alabama.

Stepping out to meet and greet the chill of the morning we set of for Jackson MS.

In Jackson on the art street, hidden within the Art Museum is the International museum of Muslim culture.

I cannot describe the depth of the original manuscripts reaching out to me from the glass cases yearning to be translated and transmitted to teach humanity to corporate America.

The main outstanding things that struck me were:

  1. The seven century cycle of the rise and fall of Islamic rule coinciding with hedonistic decadence in the rulers or being overtaken by natural disasters or colonialism, each of which decimated the faith from the hearts of the believers as termites eat into wood. a) Islam rose to its zenith over seven centuries in Spain and left its mark by pulling up Europe into the enlightened world by teaching and sharing knowledge. b) Mali was the Center of higher education for all of West Africa, with treatises on subjects as diverse as applied Medicine, Conflict resolution (law) and the etiquette of the husband in marriage (human relations, this written by Muslim women scholars).

Seven centuries of nourishing the world with Islamic thought, humanism and culture died at the hands of colonialism, greed and the rulers living a life filled with disobedience of Allah. Each in seven centuries.

2. The Original manuscripts of renowned scholars from the Muslim world of Africa staring at me with the unique script that I saw for the first time in Morocco filled with the treasure of how to live with peace within and peace without. “The scholars of peace” of Africa wrote these over time.

3. The closed triangle of slavery where the tribal chiefs with decaying Islamic ethics as well as non Muslims tribal chiefs abducted tribesmen from other tribes and sold them to the white man,

What surprised me was that the main buyers were not in the USA. The majority of the slaves were sold to Brazil to work on the sugar plantations as well as to the British in the West Indies and the least to the United States.

These slaves worked and died in the immense heat of the south and the islands. They were growing products that were taken back to England, France and Europe from which more slaves were bought with these monies from trade.

It was an unbroken cycle where a man was sold into slavery worked on a plantation till he died and then what he had sown was reaped and sold by his master to buy more slaves. The humanism taught by Islam was slowly leached out of these human beings by inhuman treatment by their masters.

4. The blues and the call of prayer have the same intonations and rhythm. The blues were sung in the museum and then the adhaan was called and the singsong sounds melted into each other as if from a single origin. I had noticed that in Morocco when I had heard the recitation of the Quran in their intonation at the Qarawyyin Mosque.

The museum of Muslim culture, is a gem studded in the bible belt, calling all to stop and soak in centuries of the light of wisdom hidden in the antique manuscripts the origins of which comes from the word of Allah the Knowledgeable Himself.

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