The Five-Percent Nation, sometimes referred to as NGE or NOGE, the Nation of Gods and Earths, or the Five Percenters, is a movement founded in 1964 in the Harlem section of the borough of Manhattan, New York City, by a former member of the Nation of Islam (NOI), Clarence 13X, who was named Clarence Edward Smith at birth, and who ultimately came to be known as Allah the Father.
Allah the Father, a former student of Malcolm X, left the NOI after a dispute with Elijah Muhammad over Elijah's teaching that the white man was the devil, yet not teaching that the black man was God. Allah the Father also rejected the assertion that Nation's biracial founder, Wallace Fard Muhammad, was Allah and instead taught that the black man was himself God personified. Members of the group call themselves Allah's Five Percenters, which reflects the concept that ten percent of the people in the world know the truth of existence, and those elites and agents opt to keep eighty-five percent of the world in ignorance and under their controlling thumb; the remaining five percent are those who know the truth and are determined to enlighten the eighty-five percent.
The New York City areas of Harlem ("Mecca") and Brooklyn ("Medina") were named after notable Islamic cities by members of the organization. Other areas include Detroit ("D-Mecca"), New Jersey ("New Jerusalem"), Chicago ("C-Medina"), Queens ("the Desert"), Connecticut ("New Heaven"), St. Louis ("Saudi"), Seattle ("Morocco"), New Rochelle ("Now Rule"), and Dallas ("Sudan").
The Nation of Gods and Earths teaches that black people are the original people of the planet Earth, and therefore they are the fathers ("Gods") and mothers ("Earths") of civilization. The Nation teaches that Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet, a set of principles created by Allah the Father, is the key to understanding humankind's relationship to the universe. The Nation does not believe in a mystery God but instead teaches that the Asiatic Blackman is God and his proper name is Allah, the Arabic word for "God".
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Nation of Islam
The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Allah the Father after he left the Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York (the same temple where Malcolm X was a minister from 1960 to 1963). Multiple stories exist as to why Allah and the NOI parted ways: some have him refusing to give up gambling; others have him questioning the unique divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad, whom the NOI deified as the True and Living God in person; or his questioning of Fard's Godhood due to the fact that Fard was born of a Caucasian mother. The story states that Allah the Father was then disciplined by the NOI and excommunicated in 1963, but another version of events says that he left on his own free will along with Abu Shahid, who agreed with Allah's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad. That same year Allah met James Howell, a sea merchant, who would later become known as Justice, and Allah's closest associate until his death.
Allah the Father proselytized the streets of Harlem to teach others his views based on his interpretation of NOI teachings. After failing to reach elder adults whom he saw as already set in their ways, he found success with street youth. On October 10, 1964, this young group formed the First Nine Born of what became known as the Five Percent Nation, or later the Nation of Gods and Earths.
He taught 120 Lessons to his young students (who came to refer to him as the Father), but instead of teaching the young men to be Muslims, he taught them that they were God the same as he was. The women who came into Allah's growing movement to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because women produce and sustain human existence as does the Earth. The NGE does not consider itself a religion—its position is that it makes no sense to be religious or to worship or deify anyone or anything outside of oneself because adherents, themselves, are the highest power in the known universe, both collectively and individually.
Primarily, Allah the Father taught a system he developed called Supreme Mathematics. In this system, the numbers from one to nine, as well as zero, all represent principles and concepts. Coming together to discuss the Supreme Mathematics is the most fundamental regimen of the NGE. When Gods and Earths meet, they discuss the Supreme Mathematics and 120 Lessons and relate them to life.
The schism between Allah the Father and the NOI led to numerous confrontations. The assassination of Allah in a Harlem housing complex in 1969 remains a mystery. The murder was a blow to the movement, but according to the direct orders of Allah before his death, some of his earliest disciples, a group of nine men who were called the First Nine Born carried on the teachings, and his friend Justice assumed an acting leadership role. In the years to follow, the Gods and Earths gained a reputation and even at one time quelled a potential rebellion when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
The gang identification has caused much trouble for adherents to the teachings of the NGE in the United States. As the Nation has either gained students within the prison system or seen those who at least allege adherence to NGE teachings become incarcerated, the preceding gang reputation brought those with even remote NGE affiliation to be designated as security threats in states such as Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina. Literature has been banned from institutions in these and other states, and inmates have been denied privileges enjoyed by those of other persuasions. Such rules were relaxed in 2004 in New York to allow registered sincere adherents to study teachings personally but not share with unregistered inmates during their incarceration.
The Nation has tried to answer these accusations by denying them. Its newspaper The Five Percenter condemns the states who impose restrictions on their practice as those who "attempt to define us in ways that seeks to criminalize us".
In Michigan, the Nation challenged a ban on the group's literature among prison inmates after an inmate was designated a security threat until he renounced his membership. Judge Steven Whalen found no evidence that group advocated violence and recommended that it be recognized as a legitimate belief system.
In July 2008, a man in Staten Island, New York already known in the Nation as Black Cream Allah was denied a legal adoption of the name because a judge felt it was sacrilegious and sounded like the name of a hip hop record. He has since filed a second petition for the amended name Original Kreeam Shabazz.
The men of the Five Percent Nation view themselves as Gods (both individually and collectively as the Original Man). Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof. According to the Five Percenter Newspaper, "God first means that it is no longer a judicial argument; centered means everything we do is about God. Culture is the practices and principles of a people at any given time."
The teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths are passed on through a modern oral tradition. The advancement of a God or Earth is based on his or her memorization, recitation, comprehension, and practical application of the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet and also the 120 Lessons, sometimes referred to as degrees, a revised version of the Supreme Wisdom lessons of the NOI, originally written by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. The anthology Knowledge of Self: A Collection of Wisdom on the Science of Everything in Life by Supreme Understanding details the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths. Wakeel Allah has written In the Name of Allah: A History of Clarence 13X and the 5 Percenters and The Naked Truth: From the Goal Mind of Abu Shahid, the Elder of the Nation of Gods and Earths.
The term Five Percent comes from NOI doctrine that sees the world's population divided into three groups: 85% of the people are blind to the knowledge of themselves and God, while 10% of the people know the truth, but teach a lie for their personal gain; seen as part of this 10% are religious leaders that teach that God is an incorporeal being (hence the term mystery God). The 10% can also include the governments of the world that deceive and mislead the majority of the world through most of the available media outlets. The remaining 5% are the Poor Righteous Teachers—those who do not subscribe to the teachings of the 10%, as they know and teach that God is the Asiatic Black man.
The Universal Language
The Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet are key concepts in the Five Percent Nation. The Supreme mathematics is a system of understanding numerals alongside concepts and qualitative representations that are used along with the Supreme Alphabet. The Supreme Mathematics is thought to be the highest system of numerology in the NGE, used to give qualitative value to numbers in addition to quantity. How the values associated with each number were derived are currently unknown. The numerals are as follows:
- 1. Knowledge
- 2. Wisdom
- 3. Understanding
- 4. Culture
- 5. Power
- 6. Equality
- 7. God
- 8. Build or Destroy
- 9. Born (Birth)
- 0. Cipher
The Supreme Alphabet is a system of interpreting text and finding deeper meaning from the NOI Lessons by assigning actual meanings to the letters of the Latin script. For example, the first letter, A, stands for Allah; the 12th letter, L, stands for Love, Hell, or Right; and the 13th letter, M, stands for Master. This Supreme Alphabet was developed with assistance from Justice Cee by Allah the Father. The method by which letters were associated with certain values is unknown.
The Five-Percent Nation holds events known as Universal Parliaments in various cities—usually once a month—to build on their interpretation of the Supreme Mathematics, lessons, and to discuss business concerning the NGE. These meetings usually take place in public areas and can be held anywhere.
The Show and Prove is an annual event that takes place in the Harlem section of Manhattan every second weekend in June. Gods and Earths converge from all over the world at Harriet Tubman Elementary School for this gathering, which includes a marketplace, performances, and speeches in the school's auditorium and a science fair in which children participate.
The Nation generally does not recognize traditional holidays, most notably those associated with religion such as Christmas or Easter. Instead, they change the meaning and celebrate how they want to. However, some regions where the Nation is active may hold events close to dates in honor of Allah the Father's birthday (February 22) or the official founding of the Nation (October 10).
Dietary laws of the Five Percent dictate that adherents are forbidden to eat pork or any pork-based by-products as well as all other scavengers (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.). Many take further steps and eschew meat altogether, often opting for veganism or a raw food diet.
Myths and realities
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The Five Percent is not a monolithic entity with a rigid ideology. Consequently, it is not possible to posit that Five Percenters all believe or espouse a particular thing. Each member is considered divine in his or her own right and, thus, establishes a way of life, philosophy, ontology, epistemology to fit one's existence based on one's study and personal and community analysis of particular laws, lessons, and sciences. The Gods' personal and communal intellectual development occurs through personal study of lessons, "builds" in local ciphers, and "Educational Show and Prove" sessions at Universal Parliaments. In Manifestations of Masculine Magnificence: Divinity in Africana Life, Lyrics, and Literature, Teresa Washington writes:
[I]t is easy to assume that there is one single Five Percent doctrine. But the secret of the Nation's longevity and vitality is that it revolves around the acknowledged and respected autonomous power of the Divine and the ability of the Divinities to reason and exchange information to facilitate intellectual growth and philosophical and scientific enlightenment. The cipher is central to the Gods because it where knowledge is continually and holistically born. The resilience and relevance of the Gods is a direct result of the fact that they are not a monolithic group with a corpus of edicts and beliefs.
The NGE has been portrayed as racist and anti-Caucasian; however, the nation's associations, membership, and principals reveal this portrayal to be inaccurate. Allah the Father, stated repeatedly that he was "neither pro-black nor anti-white." Allah's principles regarding race are echoed in various NGE literature and testimonies: In his "National Statement" given at Brookdale College in Monmouth County New Jersey in 1998, Dumar Wa'de Allah stated "... we are not anti-white, nor pro-black. In fact, we have white Five Percenters." NGE websites and articles also state "We as a collective are not anti-white nor pro-black. We are pro-righteous and anti-devilishment."
Allah the Father worked closely with John V. Lindsay, the Mayor of New York from 1966-1973, and his aide, journalist Barry Gottehrer. The Allah School in Mecca (New York), which was previously known as the Street Academy, was founded in 1966 through the Urban League with the help of Lindsay, who was the mayor of New York during that time, and Gottehrer. Wakeel Allah's In the Name of Allah includes photographs of Allah the Father along with Mayor John Lindsay and a group of Five Percenters on an airplane ride to a civic event organized by the mayor. There have been, from the organization's inception, and there are presently many Caucasian Five Percenters; however, the most well-known is John Michael Kennedy, a Caucasian youth who Allah met, educated, and renamed Azreal. Michael M. Knight's The Five Percenters includes a photo of a gathering of Five Percenters that includes Barkim, who Knight describes as "one of the earliest white Five Percenters" and his siblings. Knight's book also includes two photos of Allah with Gottehrer, who Allah called "Moses."
Some Five Percenters have been accused of promoting chauvinism and misogyny. According to Prince Allah Cuba, since the death of Allah the Father, some Gods have grown preoccupied with male supremacy since the death of Allah, and this preoccupation has resulted in the minimization of all things female—from the crescent moon on the nation's flag being made smaller and eventually nearly hidden by the seven, to the lack of parity in the God-Earth dyad. According to the Five Percent Nation each member constitutes a divine being in his or her own right; consequently, while some males have attempted to promote the minimization of women, others describe the Black woman as the Black man's equal. Mecca, a Five Percenter and the female lyricist of the rap group Digable Planets, offers an explication of not only the equality of women but also of their indispensability—for without woman, no man can exist:
We need to know that there is a feminine and masculine principal or consciousness that is considered the God or the Creator. It's not a male, like religion will tell you. It's a mother/father principle, a masculine/feminine principle.
The feminine principle is what gives birth to the universe. It's what brings creation forth, so there has to be an acknowledgement and respect for her in order to bring back the balance. In religion, in Christianity and in Islam, in all religions ... it's a perverted piece of the truth, when it doesn't hold the woman on a pedestal.
In a similar vein, Just I C Equality Allah asserts that gender equality is an inherent aspect of ALLAH:
We all have the components that make the physical. Allah is the all in all. How can we be the all in all if "all" isn't included?
Neither Allah the Father nor Justice considered women to be subordinate to men. Justice declared that a Five Percenter named Tawanna had knowledge so deep that she was "more God than some of the men!"
In its article on Five Percenter Jay Electronica, Vice Magazine stated in regard to the Five Percent Nation: "It's a movement that's been affiliated with hip-hop from the very beginning, coining terms like 'ciphers' and 'dropping science' and influencing everyone, World's Famous Supreme Team, Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z, Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Brand Nubian, Common, Poor Righteous Teachers, Nas, and AZ. With these artists, and any others associated with the Five Percenters, music was more than just a message."
The Nation of Gods and Earth has propagated its teachings throughout the United States and abroad. In the early 1980s, this spread was in part due to early adherents teaching when away at college or in the military and, more famously, because of the rise of hip hop music. The main theme of the NGE doctrine spoken on hip hop records were the teachings that black people were the original or first human life to walk the planet, that the Blackman is God, the Blackwoman is Earth, and through the inner esoteric powers of the Gods and Earths, the youth can transform and possess its true potential, which aspires to overthrow the overbearing oligarchy by becoming just rulers of themselves. This especially meshed well with conscious themes found in other golden-age hip hop recordings.
Early hip-hop acts affiliated with the Five Percenters, and who spread its teachings through hip hop, include two MCs of the late 1980s–early '90s conscious-rap era—Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. These two acts, as well as some of their other contemporaries, infused Five-Percent teachings and symbolism throughout their music and videos. This reputation brought fans of Rakim in particular to refer to him as the God MC. Not soon after Rakim and Kane's heyday rose acts that were even more explicit with allegiance to the NGE, most notably Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers, Wu-Tang Clan, Killarmy, Sunz of Man, Gravediggaz and Busta Rhymes. The popularity of these acts sparked a boom of new NGE students. Even the Caucasian hip hop group 3rd Bass cited NGE lessons in the song "Triple Stage Darkness" and other songs.
Five Percenters were the innovators behind early hip-hop slang, including "Word is bond", "Break it down", "peace", "droppin' science", and "represent". Many MCs employ the technique and terminology of the Supreme Alphabet to create acrostics, acronyms and backronyms in their rhymes. For example, in the song "Wildflower," Ghostface Killah rhymes, "I'm God Cipher Divine," spelling G-O-D in the Supreme Alphabet. Furthermore, The RZA directly rhymes the Twelve Jewels of life's objectives on his later work with Gravediggaz, rhyming in succession: Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, Freedom, Justice, Equality, Food, Clothing, Shelter, Love, Peace, Happiness. He regularly wears an eight-pointed star pendant with a number seven and a crescent, which can be seen on the cover of his album The World According to RZA.
Five Percenters in New York City were even known as a visible presence at parties during hip hop's formative years of the 1970s. Scene pioneer DJ Kool Herc recalled that while there was a heavy gang presence in attendance, the Five Percenters were also there as a de facto peace-keeping element.
Other examples of hip hop and R&B acts who are (or have been) associated with Five Percent teachings include Killah Priest, Digable Planets, J-Live, Nas, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Planet Asia, the Guru, and Petey Pablo.
Notable members and associates
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- Jay-Z - associated but not officially affiliated
- Rakim - American rapper
- Big Daddy Kane - American recording artist and actor
- Brand Nubian
- Sadat X
- Lord Jamar
- Grand Puba
- Just-Ice - American rapper
- Nas was influenced by the Five-Percent Nation.
- Wu-Tang Clan—Ghostface Killah and Raekwon have since converted to traditional Islam
- Lakim Shabazz
- Guru (rapper) 
- Busta Rhymes 
- Black Thought - Lead MC of the Philadelphia-based hip hop group The Roots
- Freedom Williams - Lead vocalist of the group C+C Music Factory
- Jus Allah - Former member of the rap group Jedi Mind Tricks
- Allah Mathematics - Hip hop producer and DJ of Wu-Tang Clan
- Erykah Badu - Her Grammy Award-winning song "On & On" features teachings of the Five Percent Nation
- The World Famous Supreme Team
- MC Shan - American hip hop and R&B recording artist
- Black Sheep
- Poor Righteous Teachers - American hip-hop group
- Large Professor
- GQ - an R&B and disco group, best known for its 1979 hit "Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)"
- God Shammgod - Former NBA player
- Tragedy Khadafi
- DJ Kay Slay - DJ
- LL Cool J said in his autobiography that he joined the Five-Percent Nation in school and took the name "Lord Supreme Shalik", but he also said, "We were just using the Five Percenter label as a shield to do our dirty work - fighting and eventually robbing."
- Carmelo Anthony - NBA player for the Oklahoma City Thunder
- Kase2 - Graffiti writer and innovator featured in the documentary Style Wars
- Born Allah aka Daddy Grace - rapper, former member of group Movement-Ex
- Cipha Sounds - DJ and radio personality
- Lil Soldiers - a rap group signed to No Limit Records from Asbury Park, NJ whose members were siblings Ikeim (YungFreedomU) and Freequan.
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