F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Ibn Said Narrative and Religion

Through Ibn Said's authobiography language and religion interconnect in order to shape a narrative that needs to be read between the lines. This is mainly done through considering the language and how it interacts with his religious references. The employment of religion is common in slave narratives. Some authors, such as Frederick Douglass, use Christianity as an avenue to reveal the hypocrisy of slavery. Ibn Said’s investment in Christianity is more nuanced than just matching Biblical verses to the anti-thetical practices of slavery.

This narrative uses Christianity as a mask to the African-Muslim impulses of Ibn Said’s theoretical framework. Life references Quranic verses and Arabic rhetorical traditions to undermine his captors. Further, he circumvents the Christian-centric tenants the people around him that control him. Ibn Said is not necessarily preoccupied with using Christianity as an ethical appeal to the hypocrisy of slavery or asserting himself as an American Man. The concern of the narrative is in asserting himself as an African Muslim. Scholarship calls into question the validity of Ibn Said’s supposed historical conversion to Christianity by suggesting his superficial engagement with the religion was far more of a survival tactic, or attempt to integrate into a Black community than a legitimate conversion. While he did indeed join a Presbyterian church community, the language in Life suggests Islamic loyalties.

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