From 1973 to 1992, the Nuwaubian Nation existed under the title “Ansaaru Allah Community” (AAC) and functioned as a black-centric, Islamic group. During this time period, the group engaged in a form of “cultural nationalism” which “evolved their own language and marriage customs as well as a distinct calendar in further of their cultural separatism.”1 Although some aspects of the AAC of the time, such as their own “Nuwaubian Grammar,”2 are a unique feature of the Nuwaubians and their specific belief set, there are also a number of facets of the movement’s beliefs and cultural markers which can be delineated from the greater tradition of black American Islam more broadly. In the same vein of prominent figures such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, the Nuwaubians’ York adapts not only the tenets of Islam to the black experience, but York goes further so as to adapt the teachings and doctrine of other black Islamic groups into his own institution.
However, this process was not linear, totalizing or comprehensive. While the Nuwaubians would adopt some aspects of an established Islamic practice, they would reject, morph or otherwise alter others to fit within their own belief system and purview. This process has been given the tag-line “innovation, reciprocation, and appropriation,”3 in which York “pays homage to his gifted predecessors [other black Islamic leaders]”4 in his development of “his own synthesis of earlier doctrines.”5 In this manner, it is possible to understand the Nuwaubians’ position within the intersect of black nationalism and Islam, as York draws from the Nation of Islam, the Five Percenters and other prominent groups of the time. However, it is significant to analyze not merely the manner by which the Nuwaubians adapted or incorporated other traditions within the sphere of black American Islam, but the specific instances of these adaptations and to what effect.
The Nuwaubians’ actions with regards to certain beliefs or practices, and whether they will be incorporated within the movement or otherwise altered or discarded, rests on the ability of such beliefs and practices to fit within the larger purview of the Nuwaubians’ socio-spiritual structure. As noted by Anaedozie,
[The Nuwaubians] claimed to offer African descendants a clear and an alternative path to Islam with their African-centered theology and social liberation thought. Their thought system, certainly, mirrored that of the Nation of Islam in liberation thought, but differed from it in worldview.6
This distinction is a significant point with which to rest the Nuwaubians’ role within the dialogue of black American Islam, as it establishes a framework through which to understand their adoption of some doctrine and capricious nature towards another. As the Nuwaubians built their movement on both social and religious beliefs, they work towards “salvation and emancipation socially and spiritually.”7 This relationship between the social and the spiritual suggests that for the Nuwaubians to pull a tradition from the larger black, Islamic sphere, it must satisfy both the social and spiritual aspects of their movement, rather than merely one or the other, indicating the complex process of adoption, exchanging and adaptation of beliefs that the Nuwaubians engaged in.
While the Nation of Islam offered “a black centered epistemology that mainstream Islamists denounced as unIslamic,” the Nuwaubians further nuanced this position by “grounding their dogma on African centered ideals.”8 Islam, for the Nuwaubians, encapsulated both their black nationalistic values and their tendencies toward Afrocentricity. Although the Nuwaubians have periods of more or less investment in Islam, rather than suggesting merely “doctrinal change[s] that leaned toward Islam, and then away from Islam,”9 it should understood that Nuwaubian movement adopted, adapted and then discarded some doctrinal elements as a feature of their constant pursuit of black nationalism, separatism and Afrocentricity. Further, change itself acts a core feature of the Nuwaubian belief system, so their ambivalent incorporation of Islam reflects, rather than inconsistency, a constant state of interest in these goals and their doctrine in relation to these goals. Although the trend of black, American Islam sometimes offered the Nuwaubians modes for incorporating these pragmatic interests, often times they looked to other influencers, as well, suggesting a coherent system that otherwise inspired “a state of confusion for non-member observers.”10 However, examined closely, this reveals to us that while the Nuwaubians frequently incorporate and interact with Islamic beliefs, rather than a core tenet of the movement, these incorporations reflect larger trends or consistencies within Nuwaubian doctrine, rather than inconsistences with regards to Islam itself.
1 Emeka C. Anaedozie, Post Civil Rights Black Nationalism: The Nuwaubian Nation of Moors’ Model, 1967-2002 (Morgan State University, 2013), 181.
3 Susan Palmer, The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control (Farnham, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010), 26.
6 Anaedozie, Post Civil Rights Black Nationalism, 4.
7 Ibid., 142.
8 Ibid, 50.
9 Ibid, 74-75.
10 Ibid, 75.
“Nation of Islam Flag.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nation_of_Islam_flag.svg (accessed November 30, 2018).