Brother Polight is the most flamboyant character in today’s dwindling Black “Afrocentrist” conscious community. A fraud who routinely employs sophistry. He presents clichés, invalid arguments based on factually errant premises, specious standards of evaluation in the form of fallacious rhetoric. A main ingredient of the conscious-community is what I term popular iconoclasm. This is where someone appeals to peoples’ disillusionment with long-held cherished beliefs, usually of “organized religion” by critiquing these beliefs using shallow nationalism. The consistent target of this duplicitous approach is Islam. Polight has appeared on SaNeter Tv and Vlad TV making ill-founded assertions about the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad (saws), and Islam that were disproven, discredited, or are simply irrelevant.
To the unlearned he can pass this off as knowledge but to anyone who is familiar with these subjects beyond the surface they will recognize his theories as figments of the imagination. Unfortunately, these snake oil salesmen are the norm. Where does Brother Polight fit within black opinion shapers? What is flawed his statements about Islam and why are they a staple of the conscious-community’s rhetoric? Brother Polight is an extension of black performative culture where style is more important than substance and invective His vaudevillian antics are reminiscent of Reverend Ike.
Reverend Ike was a black evangelist also based out of New York City who preached an early version of prosperity gospel. He was very popular during the 1970s but was heavily criticized for his transparency. As an unapologetic capitalist he openly declared that “Money is God in action.” This, in conjunction with his other statements, presented the idea that wealthiness is close to Godliness. Brother Polight, who was a member and student of Malachi Z. York, a man convicted on 13 counts of child molestation, learned how to exploit black people’s inherent spirituality to fill his coffers.
There is a photo of Polight on his Instagram showing him praying to a stack of dollars on a hotel bed. Like Reverend Ike and Malachi York,Brother Polight teaches the ‘God is within you’ mantra because it buttresses his open materialism. The conscious-community has always been anti-Muslim but their methods are ironic. Their attacks on Islam rehashed polemics invented by ultraconservatives and right-wing evangelicals. ‘The Quran is the plagiarized Bible,’ ‘The Prophet Muhammad did not exist,’ ‘Islam was invented by the Catholic Church,’ are all unoriginal. In fact their attacks are plagiarized Orientalism. Their only contribution ‘Islam is not an African religion.’ Each one of these exhortations are rotten fruit from the same tree. Let’s address some main claims by Polight against Islam.
Polight False Claim: The Arab Slave Trade Means Islam is Incompatible With Black Liberation.
Polight argues that because of the Arab slave trade Islam is incompatible with black liberation and African spirituality. What he refers to as the “Arab Slave Trade” was the Indian Ocean Trade. It predated the Arabs and the rise of Islam and it was not restricted to the Arabs who only held it for a one hundred of its two thousand and five hundred year existence. Furthermore, no African tribe was ever conquered by the Arabs or converted to Islam as result of enslavement.
The argument that Islam is not African and therefore black people should not be Muslim is invalid since there is no standard of pure Africanity. Not to mention, such critics cannot draw causality between Arab anti-blackness and Islam. This judgment ignores merits of faith by attacking which side of the Red Sea it started. The answer to whether or not Islam is good for black people rests in its track record and its principles. Islam has produced leaders, reversed the blight in many neighborhoods, and established households and organizations.
The pseudo-ancient Egyptians have done nothing of the sort and instead spend their time on social media attacking established black traditions whose adherents are still putting in the work. In addition to his intellectual dishonesty, Polight is quite a literal con-man. One need only type his name into any search engine and you will see a number of associations with the terms: scam, scam artist, fraud, con etc. These are allegations made by those who have bought into his cockamamie theories.
Story after story of people sending Polight money in exchange for products that they never received. One man lost $70,000 when he purchased products from Polight. The young man received this through an inheritance and believed what Polight was selling. He eventually had to hire an attorney and after thinking everything was resolved Polight breeched their agreement and has been on the run. This is just one of many stories involving wire fraud and false advertisement. There is an irony here with Polight so often attacking Islam and Muslims for not being authentically black and exploiting our people.
The oral traditions of West Africa that tell of why the kings, merchants, and nobility embraced Islam attribute it to the integrity of the Muslims with whom they traded. The Berbers would stop in the mid-transaction when the call to prayer was sounded and resort to prayer. This is as much a compliment to Africans as it is to the North African Berbers. It reflects a shared sense of values where in the soul had priority over greed. Polight exploits that spirituality and is in the tradition of those who have done so.
Polight’s Claim: The Qu’ran is a Plagiarized Bible!
‘The Quran is a plagiarized Bible’ is born of Christian vanity and perpetuated out of the laziness of Black conscious-community members like Polight who have not done a comparison the two books. First, the Quran declares that both originally had the same author but that one has been tampered with while the other has been preserved. Thus, it would seem more relevant to evaluate this claim by trying to prove that the Quran has been tampered with. Instead, he makes the superficial observation that because both books reference similar stories and persons that this alone is proof of that the latter was inspired by the former. The problem with the plagiarism theory is that for it to be true it would require for Muhammad(saw) to have had poured over Christian sources, select which parts to use, fill in the gaps using his own exegetical abilities, and pastiche all of these divergent elements into a single coherent book that rhymes perfect Arabic prose.
Polight acknowledged in an interview on Vlad TV that Muhammad (saws) was illiterate. If he can believe that such a book came from an illiterate or even unlearned man in a desert surrounded by unlettered and unlearned people then he can believe that it is revealed by God. The plagiarism theory requires a greater leap of faith since Muhammad (saws) did not poses the pedagogical or linguistic capabilities to produce such work. The few Christians in Hijaz were not priests or religious scholars. His caravan journeys would not have provided the extensive contact necessary to learn these religions. The fact that both the Quran and Bible share many of the same people and have similar stories does not prove plagiarism given that their was no extensive contact between the said author and the people he took from. Of course the Quran account for the similarities by stating that it is an oft-repeated message and that Muhammad(saw) is the final prophet in a succession of prophets who all taught the same message of submission to the Creator. This points to the other theory-Divine Revelation.
The structure, style, and grammatical exactitude of the Quran are precisely why Biblical criticism has not worked when applied to the Quran. Someone who takes the lazy assumption that the Quran is just a plagiarized version of Bible will discover why this is not an airtight argument when they try to critique the Quran using the same critique of Bible.
Polight refers to the stories in the Quran (and Bible) as fairytales. How does Polight distinguish between fairytale, fact, and allegory? What would make the Quran a book of fairytales would by logical extension also make the story of Osiris of the cosmology of the Dogon fairytales. There is archaeological evidence that confirms the existence of the Pharaoh who was not mummified, the City of Iram, and the location of Ashab Al Kahf (People of the Cave) are all stories in the Quran that have survived scrutiny by archaeologists and anthropologists. The debate is not whether or not these stories are corroborated by accounts in other cultures but if they happened as the Quran says. Has Polight even bothered to examine the artifacts and cross-cultural accounts of the same stories?
The Quran in surah Al-An’aam says about such people “And among them are those who listen to you, but We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness. And if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. Even when they come to you arguing with you, those who disbelieve say, “This is not but legends of the former peoples” (6:25). Since the Quran was revealed over 1400 years ago there have been cities whose existence has been verified by modern science and stories that have been corroborated other narratives. Thus, if science is standard of proof there is enough evidence to for why even a disbeliever should not dismiss such stories as “fairytales.” The irony is that if we are to play this game then there is more archaeological and corroborating evidence for the places, people, and stories in the Quran than for the creation myths of ancient Kemet.
Polight False Claim: Muhammad(saw) Never Existed
Brother Polight has expressed skepticism that Muhammad (pbuh) even existed. This theory suffers from the same problem as the others. It has been disproved. And instead of introducing new evidence that would justify bringing it up again he just regurgitates the same disproved argument. The facts are that the historicity of Muhammad is established by contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous records and no historian, anthropologist, archeologist, or even anti-Muslim polemicist takes up this theory today. Why? The Quran and ahadith are not the only sources for his existence. We will not present an exhaustive list here but only a couple are necessary to illustrate the point. The Doctrina Iacobi Nuper Baptizati dates between 634-640 CE in which the anonymous Christian author asked “What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?” He replied, groaning deeply: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword.” This establishes Muhammad’s (pbuh) existence was acknowledged outside of Arabia and the nascent Muslim tradition.
Those arguing that Muhammad (pbuh) never existed theorize that the Quran is a creation of later Arab emperors who constructed the book during the rapid expansion of the Muslim empire. The most popular variation of this lie is Hagarism by Patricia Cone and Michael Cooke. Published in 1977 this book set to undermine Islamic historiography by proving that the Arab conquests were carried out by conspiring with the Jews in order to take the Jerusalem from Rome. The Quran was created in the 8 th century and is a compilation of edicts from Aramaic, Syriac, Christian, and Jewish sources. The theory is roundly rejected with one critic writing that ” a refutation is perhaps unnecessary since the authors take no effort to prove it (the hypothesis of the book) in detail … Where they are only giving a new interpretation of well-known facts, this is not decisive. But where the accepted facts are consciously put upside down, their approach is disastrous. ”
Muhammad(saw) definitely existed and much to Polight’s scorn he has been loved by Africans for centuries. West Africa has a rich tradition of praise poem that honors Muhammad(saw) as the greatest human being to ever walk the face of the earth.
The great West African Muslim poet, Nana Asmau, stated “The glory of our Prophet Muhammad. His light exceeds the light of the full moon. There is no light like the light of Muhammad. As for bravery, no warrior has ever matched the courage shown by Ahmada.”
The great West African Islamic scholar Uthman Dan Fodio stated “If it is said to me ‘Who fills you with longing among mankind?’ Then I will say, ‘I am passionately in love with Muhammad.”
Polight’s Biggest Con
Polight has been accused of fraud by many. Yet, Polight biggest fraud is the lies he tells Black communities against Islam. Lies that come from the same white slave master orientalist who want to see Black people oppressed. Polight’s rhetoric only appeals to undisciplined minds. We’re referring to individuals who have undergone no formal or rigorous training in the subjects that he waxes philosophically about. There is only one method of research that is shared by Polight and other members of the so-called conscious community: They rummage through the canonical trash where Western scholars have discarded their disproved and discredited theories.
When they find one that reinforces their misconceptions they then attribute it to ancient Africa and allege that was ‘hidden’ from us and that by knowing this we will be empowered. No regard is given to why these theories were discarded by the very people who invented them. They merely subject them to their personal biases and if aligned then they uncritically assimilate it into their worldview. Polight then takes to debating individuals who, while well intentioned, do not posses the background or expertise to expose all of the fallacies. Rinse,dry, and repeat.
As a people we can no longer afford to subscribe to these self-styled spiritual gurus. The term ‘religion’ has become a word that inspires contempt and derision within conscious circles but they’ve had time to prove that they are better than the established religious institutions and traditions within the black community and have failed. In fact they have been worse because they possess all of the short comings and none of the organization or community efforts. The reality is that those who follow Polight or the ‘God is within’ crowd are slaves to their whims. It is an tradition, institution, religion that we can begin holding teachers and leaders accountable
Professor Shareef Muhammad has taught history at Georgia State University and Islamic studies at Spelman University. He has a masters in history at Kent State University with his thesis on The Cultural Jihad in the antelbellum South: How Muslim slaves preserved their religious/cultural identity during slavery. He is the Director of Research for Black Dawah Network.