The Moorish Science Temple of America

Overview

Sheik Robert Webb-Bey, Sheik Azeem Hopkins-Bey, Chairman Terrence Hopkins-Bey

1928—2017
103

Historical Note

The Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) is a religious organization founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali, born Timothy Drew. Among many beliefs, he asserted that Black people are descendants of the Moors who governed North West Africa. As such Black people, or "so-called Black people" as the Moorish community phrases it, are not Black but Moorish Americans "Moslems" of Islamic faith. Noble Drew Ali was reported to have stood on street corners in Chicago proclaiming: "Come all ye Asiatic of America and hear the truth about your nationality and birthrights, because you are not negroes. Learn of your forefathers ancient and divine Creed. That you will learn to love instead of hate." In addition to the assertion of a specific national identity, the MSTA was founded instill national pride and spiritual upliftment at a particular point in American history when "so-called Black people" were searching for a sense of belonging in the midst of the Great Migration and shifting national politics.

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"My father was basically trying to find liberation for himself as well as his people. He was raised in the gang life, the gang atmosphere in the city of Philadelphia. In trying to search for truth he became frustrated and this frustration in a sense boiled over..."
"You have a lot of hearsay. You have a lot of individuals taking a stance that's not based on the orthodoxy as established by Prophet Noble Drew Ali. And often it's an outside view approaching an interpretation of the teachings of Prophet Noble Drew Ali."
"But seeds do not unfold into life, they manifest. So it has to go through stages to grow and unfold as does the bud unfold to show the flower. So while we're here on the earth, we're learning. We're learning to love instead of hate."
"Prophet Noble Drew Ali likened himself unto Prophet Confucius (all spirits are one). Prophet Confucius saw himself as a 'transmitter and not a creator.' [...] He [Confucius] proclaimed that he was a 'transmitter and not a maker' and that Holy Prophet Noble Drew Ali's publishing of The Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America is also a transmission of ancient lessons..."
"Who were you before you were enslaved? That's a question that we have to ask and now we have history books where we have so many cloaked names...."Black" was manufactured."
"As an eight to ten-year-old boy, I'm talking to him about us not being Negro, black, or colored and doing physical demonstrations as far as grabbing a crayon, a black crayon, and saying look; this is not us. "
"...we may say they changed forms or they veiled their form which means they just took off this earthly garb that the spirit uses to function on the earth plane, the manifest, and moves on to a higher level of vibration."
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Robert Webb-Bey's Journey to the Moorish Science Temple of America

I met Robert Webb-Bey in 2006. At that time, he was traveling between Sunni Muslim communities and exploring the work of Sufi philosopher, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen while simultaneously completing a Masters Degree in African-American/Black Studies with a focus on African spiritual traditions. We often had conversations about his own spiritual pathway. Raised as a Jehovah Witness in Camden, Arkansas, he was constantly working to understand his own movement within and away from communities as well as what spirituality meant to people of African descent in America. 

While visiting him and his wife in Memphis, TN in October of 2016, I asked him to draw a map of his spiritual journey. After a few iterations, he sent me the map below in December.

Spiritual Journey Map
December 2016
Memphis, TN
Robert Webb-Bey

While searching through old emails recently, I came across an email from Robert Webb-Bey with an essay he was writing about his arrival at what was then his spiritual practice: a measured blending of elements of "orthodox" Islam and African mysticism. 

Excerpt of Personal Statement Essay by Robert Webb (Sundiata Salaam)
January 2007
Syracuse, NY
Robert Webb-Bey
The Watchtower: Armageddon
February 2012
Brooklyn, NY
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (Courtesy of Kameelah Janan Rasheed's Archive of Religious Tracts)
What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?
1987
Brooklyn, NY
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (Courtesy of Kameelah Janan Rasheed's Archive of Religious Tracts)