The Moorish Science Temple of America
Sheik Robert Webb-Bey, Sheik Azeem Hopkins-Bey, Chairman Terrence Hopkins-Bey
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.
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.
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.