The history of Islamic thought among African people in the United States is complicated to say the least. Whereas, Islamic belief has provided for some an alternative to the dominant Christian religious discourse of the United States, nevertheless, like Christianity, the culture of the al-Islamic tradition takes on a life of its own once in the hands of Africans. That is to say, regardless of the differences in the traditions (Christianity and al-Islam) what is the same are the ways in which African people adapt the belief system to fit their spiritual needs. African American Islam only resembles Arabic al-Islam, just as African American Christianity only looks and sounds like European American Christianity. However, once in the hands of African people, the systems evolve based on the cultural and experiential understandings and needs of African American practitioners.
While observing the traditions of the MSTA and the NOI, the culture of African people illuminates itself in a variety of ways. Further, these ways make it obvious that the overriding cultural sensibilities are African in origin. To explain, there is a lot of attention paid to the practice of call-and-response in African American Islamic sermons.  When the Moors sermonize, the lecturer often pushes the conversation along using the term “Islam” to ensure the audience and the speaker are on one accord. The audience will also answer, “Islam!” to verify their attention and connection to the sermon. It is very similar to the manner in which African American Christians employ the word “Amen” as a call-and-response device during their sermons. The expressions are very different however the method of connecting the preacher and parishioner is identical. Call-and-response can be experienced during NOI sermons as well. Members of the congregation will often shout things like, “that’s right!” or “keep going!” to help push the message along. The practice signifies a measure of closeness and communalism between the word (or sermon) and the people. African American Christians and Muslims worship in similar ways because of their cultural similarities as Africans in America, regardless of the tradition. By extension, I argue call-and-response is a source of African American Islam (as it is for African American Christianity) that is evidence of a certain level of intimacy practitioners feel towards their ministers, the divine, the message (or word) and each other.
As well, African American Islam centers itself on the process of naming (or renaming). For instance, Moorish Americans add the suffix, “Bey” or “El” to the end of their last name to identify their “holy tribe”. Michael Gomez states, “upon conversion to Moorish Science, initiates took the surnames Bey or El, their ‘free national names.’” Similarly, members of the NOI completely remove their last name and replace it with an “X” to recognize the void in their identity, the history of European oppression as well as their trek back to a more spiritually and culturally relevant understanding of self. Malik Shabazz in his autobiography states: “The Muslim’s ‘X’ symbolized the true African family name that he never could know. For me, my ‘X’ replaced the white slavemaster name of ‘Little’ which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears.” The Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), also known as the 5%’ers, many times completely remove their “government” names for one that is connected to their lessons. Founder of the NGE, Father Allah, was born Clarence Smith and was reborn Clarence 13X when he joined the NOI. He re-renamed himself Father Allah when he developed the NGE movement, evidence of the continuation of his personal spiritual growth.
These changes in identity, that is, the practice of naming is an extremely important source for not only how African American Muslims break the chains of spiritual enslavement and how they connect to their notions of the divine but also how they rebuild themselves mentally and spiritually. Further, this is a method that non-Muslims engage in as well. Stic.Man from the Hip Hop group Dead Prez stated in the song “They Schools”: “I changed my name in ’89 cleaning parts of my brain like a baby nine.” The point of his name change is undoubtedly because he felt doing so would help to clean away some of the culturally problematic elements of his American identity. This is the exact reason why African American Muslims have taken the process of name-changing so seriously. Elijah Muhammed remarks about his own name change: “It is Allah who gave me my name, ‘Muhammad.’ From this name, alone, our open enemies (the white race) know that the True and Living God has come into our midst and is doing a Divine Work among the so-called Negroes of America.”
Further, the system of naming as a source for African American Islamic thought represents a historical shift in the paradigm of identity for African Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Clearly, their names are evidence of African Americans’ desire to move away from European American notions of culture, personhood and divinity. This arguably takes the reinterpreting of scripture by African American Christians to a more personal level. That is, the rereading of Biblical scripture, by Nat Turner for instance, to mean violent rebellion against European enslavers, is but one example of African American spiritual autonomy. African Americans Muslims changing their name for the expressed purpose of moving away from Eurocentric notions of culture and being-ness is debatably a more profound maneuver of spiritual sovereignty.
Additionally, reinterpreting Biblical scripture is also a source of African American Islam. The Holy Qu’ran is not the most widely used holy book the MSTA or the NOI makes frequent use of. For both organizations the Bible and its’ characters/icons are more prevalent. This is not to argue that the Bible is a source of African American Islam, on the contrary, the act of Biblical reinterpretation itself is the source. Because the effort of reinterpretation makes is clear that African American Muslims (and Christians) were not satisfied with the notions, understandings and interpretations of European Americans. They, therefore, were forced to develop their own understandings of the religious materials they had access to, in order to provide for themselves the necessary substance to survive, not just physically, but spiritually.
For African American Muslims, the Bible and its’ characters are extremely relevant. The Moors’ Circle Seven Koran is written for “all those who love Jesus”. By their own words Moors are not Christian, they are Moslem and hold their Holy Koran as their major source of guidance and inspiration. This Koran however, is not to be confused with the al-Islamic Holy Qu’ran as it holds the life and wisdom of Jesus of the Aquarian age, not the prophet Muhammed. The opposition African American Muslims have towards Christianity is well documented, so why the Christian icons? Again, because the icon itself is irrelevant, instead it is the “correct” or culturally germane methods of interpretation that makes African American Islam unique and important for African American Muslims. The NOI still makes use of the Bible much more than they do the Qu’ran but are in no way Christian. They, like the Moors, use biblical scriptures as a distillery of culturally relevant information and inspiration.
There is no life in any given text without the human catalyst. The human facilitator in the form of a person of African descent uses whatever is in reach as a malleable tool. People of African descent who are in tuned to the needs of African people can and will use all instruments within their reach to develop materials which are intended to culturally piece back together broken human beings. The desire and ability to do this with a diverse array of materials, even those that may have been intended to stymie or impede progress, is arguable the most powerful source of African American religious culture.
 Evans Crawford. The Hum: Call and Response in African American Preaching. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 14-15. While the author of the text makes the argument that it is God that encourages call-and-response, the evidence that this form of worship is culturally ubiquitous rather than narrow and only a Christian practice is overwhelming.
 Michael Gomez. Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the United States. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005) , 219.
 This name like “Malcolm X” is evidence of his growth as a Muslim.
 Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcom X. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), 203.
 Dead Prez. Song: “They Schools”. Album: Let’s Get Free.
 He was born Clayton Gavin; his chosen name is Khnum Muata Ibomu.
 Elijah Muhammed. Message to the Black Man in America. (Atlanta: Messenger Elijah Muhammed Propagation Society, 1965), 55.
 Lerone Bennet. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America. (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 112-139.
 Theophus Smith Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
 Elihu Pleasant-Bey, Exhuming a Nation: Biography of Nobel Drew Ali: Appendix; Noble Drew Ali, The Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America (Memphis: Seven Seal Publication, 2004).
 The variation in spelling is important.
 Again, the variation in spelling is on purpose.
 Charles Long. Significations: Signs, Symbols and Images in the Interpretation of Religion. (Aurora, CO.: Davies Group Publishers, 9), 125-135.