|With the Name of the Gracious and Compassionate,
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
|WHY I AM CHANGING MY NAME
Abdulhakim Muhammad / Lester Allyson Knibbs
|Today, June 11, 2003, I am announcing my return to the name "Lester Allyson Knibbs" - the name my parents gave me when I was born. After 28 years as "Abdulhakim Muhammad", I will no longer be using that name. The reasons for this are:
1. The original name change was unnecessary. After reading the Qur'an (several times), I realize that people are not changing their names in the Qur'an the way Abram is changed to Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, and Saul of Tarsus becomes known as Paul in the Bible.
2. The name that my parents gave me is not a slave name. My father is Jamaican. William Knibb was an English Baptist missionary in Jamaica who hated slavery and supported the emancipation movement. He became known as "Knibb the Notorious". Apparently, in addition to naming schools and other institutions after him, many Jamaicans took his name as their own - usually adding an "s".
3. I believe that people should communicate in language that can be understood. People (Muslims, Christians, Jews and others) are using Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Arabic and other languages without understanding what they are saying and without communicating clearly with each other. Words such as "Islam", "Muslim" and "Qur'an" are almost never properly understood. The word "Islam", in particular, is consistently misused, and the word "Qur'an" (which is almost impossible to translate) is consistently used as though it is simply somebody's word for "Bible". In America, those who call themselves Muslims - and African-Americans, in particular - tend to take on Arabic names, Arabic dress, and a sprinkling of Arabic words and phrases, without ever learning to read and understand the Qur'an and find out what in fact the Message they claim to be following actually says.
According to my understanding, the Creator sent His last written message ("scripture") fourteen centuries ago, a message intended for all human beings. This message is in Arabic, not only because the man charged with accepting and relaying the message was an Arab among Arabs, but also and primarily because the Arabic language is uniquely suited to conveying the message (which is stated repeatedly in the message itself). According to the message itself, it is easy to learn - and that is my experience. My policy is, therefore, that those who claim to have accepted this message should learn to read and understand it, and convey it in language that others can understand.
Accordingly, I say "Creator of the heavens and the earth" (or "Creator", for short) instead of Allah, "surrender to the Creator" instead of Islam or Muslim, and "the message" instead of Qur'an. Saying Allah, Islam, Muslim, Qur'an, and other Arabic expressions has only entrenched English-speaking people in a state of misunderstanding which is mistaken for knowledge.
The Creator of the heavens and the earth did not send prophets to establish what we today call "religion". Moses did not establish Judaism; Ezra (who was a priest, not a prophet) established Judaism. The son of Mary did not establish Christianity; Paul established Christianity. Muhammad did not establish a religion; the religion known as Islam today was established following a coup d'etat which established leadership of Muhammad's community in the hands of Muhammad's enemies. During the centuries of empire-building that followed, the original message was lost, a priesthood was established, and Islam (the surrender of everything in the heavens and the earth to the Creator) was converted into a sectarian doctrine (called by Christians, with doubly ironic appropriateness, "Mohammedanism").
All of the prophets from Adam to Muhammad came with the same message. Religions exist because people have deviated from that message. What we have today is people using smatterings of Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Swahili and Yoruba to say things they don't understand and calling it religion. In New York City, we have African-American Muslims dressed like they are living in Arabia, Polish-American Jews dressed like they are living in 19th-century Poland, and priests of all kinds dressed like they come from an alternate universe. Paganism, at best. Halloween. There is no historical evidence that any of the prophets sent by the Creator, or their followers, dressed so inappropriately. And how much time and energy do people expend studying to understand the messages from the Creator, compared to the amount of time and energy they expend pursuing money or sex?
The timing of my name-change decision is based on my recent dislocation from the Bronx and relocation to my parents' house in North Carolina. It is not based on the dangerous political situation or on the supposed attitudes and opinions of my new environment.
Although there is some convenience in using an Anglo-Saxon name here in the Bible Belt, I had intended this name change for several years before this current relocation seemed likely - and years before September 11, 2001.
|June 11, 2003|
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