Theology Thursday: "In The Name of Allah: A History of Clarence 13X and the Five Percenters" Reviewed by Ashahed M. Muhammad
In The Name of Allah
A History of Clarence 13X and the Five Percenters
by Wakeel Allah
438 pages, ISBN 978-1-59916-174-7
Copyright 2007 by A-Team Publishing Inc.
Is it a street gang of gun-runners, dope dealers, thieves and miscreants, or is it a youth group teaching Black pride to inner city youth? Is it an unofficial offshoot of the Nation of Islam, or a special forces Black Op? Is it a social group created to unify and spread the teachings of Islam to all those in need of knowledge or simply a trendy cultural anachronism responsible for certain aspects of hip hop terminology?
Much is said regarding the Five Percenters – a youth movement founded in Harlem in the mid 1960s however, most of what is heard is uniformed opinion, speculation and rumor.
Wakeel Allah, an insider and scholar within the Five Percenters has written the most thorough and comprehensive treatment of this story of Clarence 13X Smith (aka Allah, aka The Father) and the origin of the Five Percenters. This is a must read and is considered the most definitive balanced treatment of this subject to date.
At 438 total pages and with 432 reference notes, the book may appear somewhat intimidating, however, it can be read and enjoyed no matter what level of previous knowledge exists in the reader’s mind regarding the subject.
It is important to understand that like most movements that have become national and even global in their impact and reach, the Five Percenters are not necessarily monolithic in their views and belief systems or in total agreement regarding what the group is or represents.
The author delves deeply into the intricacies and subtle variances of the different schools of thought without being disrespectful to any, by forthrightly and effectively dissecting the ideological differences that exist within the group.
For example, on pages 322-323 , Wakeel goes into whether the Five Percenters see themselves as an extension of the Nation of Islam or a division of the Nation of Islam.
Hence, those who see themselves as an extension of the NOI tend to embrace the fundamental concepts of NOI theology. These Five Percenters believe that Allah’s original intent and purpose of founding the Five Percenters were to spread the teachings of Islam (as taught in the NOI Lessons) to the “babies” in the street who didn’t attend the Mosque. These Five Percenters identify themselves in the lessons as being part of a larger Nation of Islam that encompasses all the human family who “are striving for righteousness” and Black People in particular.
In contrast or perhaps in juxtaposition to that view, he discusses those who would be classified in the category of a division of the Nation of Islam.
These Five Percenters who are partial to the NOI teachings believe that Allah (Clarence 13X) left the Mosque to establish a counter-teaching or a whole new “nation” that contrasted with the NOI teachings (lessons) or Islam in general. These Five Percenters tend to innovate on the NOI teachings rather than adhere to the fundamental concepts.
This is a critical point and difference that must be understood because those who adhere to the latter world view even reject the term “Five Percenter” preferring instead to be redefined as the “Nation of Gods and Earths.” This has been a source of conflict and great consternation among those whose desire it is to establish – at the very least – operational unity among those with ideological differences within the Black Nation.
In Appendix II Wakeel Allah’s research uncovers the FBI files on Clarence 13X and the Five Percenters with special emphasis on the FBI COINTELPRO which involved the prevention of a unified coalition of Black Nationalist groups, prevention of the rise of a Black “Messiah” who could unify and electrify the masses to unity and action as well as preventing Black Nationalist groups and their leaders from achieving “respectability” and long rage action.
What makes this book and the author’s treatment of the subject so unique is the fact that New York (Harlem in particular) is very important in the history of the Nation of Islam. As an insider with intricate knowledge of both worlds and movements, Wakeel Allah is able to gain information and weave together a sophisticated tapestry of first hand historical anecdotes and personal testimonials from those who walked with Clarence 13X as well as those who have also researched the Five Percenters and the Nation of Islam.
Additionally, Many high ranking officials such as the International Representative of the Nation of Islam, Minister Akbar Muhammad were in New York at the time of the formation of the Five Percent Nation and witnessed their growing numbers and influence. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was the Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 and interacted with the Five Percenters in the community on many occasions. Additionally, some key statements by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan dealing with words from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad are cited in the book that are particularly insightful.
Included in the book are transcripts of several actual interviews with Clarence 13X himself. In those interviews, his thoughts, opinions and ideas regarding leadership and the movement are on display. As the founder, most visible head and unquestioned leader of the movement, this perspective is essential to understanding the Five Percenters. You can even observe the unique speaking style and cadence in just reading the interviews and the words of others in their descriptions of “Ciphers” held with “The Father” as he is affectionately called.
What were the circumstances that led to the creation of the Universal Flag of the Five Percenters?
What gave rise to the sophisticated and unique nomenclature of those who are adherents to the doctrine of the Five Percenters?
What were the circumstances surrounding the death of Clarence 13X?
These critical questions and many others are answered in this book.
The book is instructive not simply because of the nature of the topic. It is instructive because it demonstrates the need for those writers and scholars within the Black Nation to tell our story and define ourselves. More writings like this are needed. We cannot allow our enemies to position our historical figures and our historical realities.
This book is an essential first step for one interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the doctrine and foundation of the Five Percenters.
Ashahed M. Muhammad is an author, researcher and the Executive Director of the Truth Establishment Institute. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007 Truth Establishment Institute (TEI)
Ashahed M. Muhammad
Thursday, March 15, 2007