Afrikan concept of God

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
December 31, 2006

AfricansEvery Afrikan society has beliefs, ideas and teachings that emphasise the existence of a Supreme Being. These beliefs, ideas and teachings are found to be original with the Afrikan way of life. But, beliefs, ideas, teachings and even practices may differ from society to society and from shrine to shrine.

These differences may be found in customs, rituals, norms and sanctions. They may be found in spiritual languages as instruments of communicating ideas, beliefs and practices. They may also be found in spiritual representations like shrines, temples, relics, costumes and the application of beliefs and ideas in the numerous activities of life.

For example, cults of similar bearing in Zaire and Nigeria may differ in custom as to what means of conveyance does not defile the sacrificial ram. And customs may differ in the same Afrikan village as to when Stool Temples open for public worship and which ancestor to summon first in pouring libation.

According to Enosakhare Idubor (1991):

“The example of names ascribed to the Supreme Being by different Afrikan societies is a vital point to explain this aspect of differences.”

To the one and only Supreme Being, various Afrikan societies have common attributes in different names. The Yoruba of Nigeria call him Olorun; the Mendes of Sierra Leone call him Ngewo; the Bambara of Sudan, Faro; the Ibo of Nigeria call him Chukwu; the Akan of Ghana, Nyame; and the West Camerounians, Niambe, just to mention a few.

To expand on the differences a bit further, the use of specific religious practices can be used. One example is Ifa, a popular divinatory science in West Afrika. The name Ifa is Yoruba. It is Afa in Ewe. And when the Yoruba provide spiritual explanations, they call some of their secret codes Odi, Irete, Ogunda, Iwori and Osa. On the other hand, the Ewe are referring to the same codes when they utter Di, Lete, Guda, Woli and Sa.

Similarities are also striking. For example, the Lotuko of Central Afrika perform rainmaking rituals. A rite of black goat offering is made to the sacred stones and these stones are washed with water from a sacred stream. Similar rites are also performed to the rain-stones (Tsina) of the Ewe.

In the same manner, both the Ewe and Jaba of Nigeria believe a witch could eat the “egg” in a pregnant woman’s womb. Therefore, the Ewe and Jaba forbid children and pregnant women to eat “eggs.” It is believed that a woman used to eating chicken eggs may be tempted to eat her own “eggs”.

The point that is made here is that differences in customs, beliefs, practices, etc, are negligible. They cannot be factors that reflect different religious concepts in indigenous Afrikan societies.

The nature of Afrikan religious thinking and practices makes it such that shades of dissimilarity are normal. Even this aspect of differences is a distinct characteristic of Afrikan religion. It is open-ended and does not hinder adherents from acquiring other forms of beliefs and practices.

As such, it is safe to say that, in essence, the omnipotence of God is pivotal in Afrikan religious thinking and practices. Although practice and thinking evoke a belief in the existence of many spiritual beings or divinities, there is that fundamental/spinal belief that these beings are subjects of the One Supreme Being.

In reality, then, the mingling or interpositioning of several beings in that One Supreme Personality encapsules or manifests the basis/cornerstone of Afrikan religious concept and belief system.

This recognition of God as the omnipotent Authority must necessarily introduce readers to those attributes or qualities that, to the Afrikan, show this character of God.

In the Afrikan belief system, God is also the Artist, the Creator, that is, Ad Adanuwoto, who works with the hands and feet, Enloa Asi, ‘Nloa ‘Fo. This Supreme Being is thus omniscient and versatile. Both near and far, He is complex. That is why He is Kiti (close to each other, crowded, crammed) and Kata (scattered, sparse) at the same time. And by implication, God is All and One. He embodies Holism.

God is Afrikan throughout Afrika; this supreme position is found in the culture of the people. It is found in the rules of conduct and moral codes of Afrikan societies. God permeates Afrikan histories, Afrikan arts and Afrikan institutions. There are thousands of personal names to describe God. He is found in the songs of liberation and the pains that the Afrikan Continent has suffered in the Euro-plunder of its culture and civilization.

For example, Black South Afrikans sing “Morena Boloka Sachaba Sa Heso”, which means “God Bless Our Nation” and all over the Continent, “Nkosi Sikelele Afrika”, which means “God Bless Afrika” could be heard. God’s righteousness and infallibility are seen everywhere. He is the Supreme Judge everywhere and He apportions justice in every situation. His impartiality is told in the numerous spiritual guidelines formulated by Afrikan mystics.

In the spiritual world, God built a mansion of great beauty and size for Man and Wisdom. It was enclosed by a wall of great height. Everything of comfort and happiness was there. There were laughter, satisfaction, beauty and health. It was an unrivalled paradise and everyday Man and Wisdom had revelries. They sang, ate, drank, danced and slept soundly.

But they were soon overtaken by pride, happiness and self-will. God gave them self-will. However, Wisdom knew everything in the great house, but he did not know what was outside the walls. He consequently pressed for adventure. Man, on the other hand, was convinced by Wisdom and they eventually climbed over the wall.

Unfortunately for them, they landed in a world of sorrow or Isfet. This represented war, pain, poverty, hunger, lust, disease, imbalance, chaos and bitterness. But God, their Father, showed sympathy and kindness to them. He requested the divinities to throw food and other requirements to them. He nevertheless instructed the divinities to withhold from Man and Wisdom the “key of return” until an unknown time. This has resulted in man’s limited knowledge of the spiritual world beyond him.

Enosakhare Idubor further states that:

“The Afrikan believes in the existence of God. This belief pervades his religious thinking and practices. The many attributes to God in proverbs, axioms, art, music, philosophy and science and the recourse found in him by the Afrikan illustrate this point. The Afrikan also believes in the existence of other spiritual beings. These are intermediaries between God and him, a source of instruction to communicate with God. But a direct connection is also discernible in everyday demands, actions and thoughts of the Afrikan. God is also to be found at the center of worship.”

The fact of the matter is that there is a notion that has been bandied about that “God could only exist among Muslims, Christians and Judaists.” However, these prejudices”could be easily attached to those (Euro) prejudices established by colonialism and racial discrimination.”

The reality is that historiography proves that “important parts of the Judaist religious writings had been copied from Afrikan societies” in the B.C. era. In fact, many of the well-known, revered religious leaders in the world received their religious lessons/teachings from the Temple of Waset (renamed Thebes by the Greeks and Luxor by the Arabs) in ancient Kemet (Egypt).

Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan (“Doc Ben”) has already proven quite convincingly that “Afrika is the origin of the world’s major western religions” (1970). This beginning is key to the originality of Afrikan spirituality and it is this historical reality that European Supremacy seeks to deny or to assign to the Afrikan.

Afrikan spirituality also deals with the twin aspects of good and evil. “Afrikans seek to explain the interplay of that good and evil, to arrive at a higher plane of unity.” In this regard, the Afrikan believes that “those opposing forces may not necessarily produce a negative unity. The underlying religious philosophy is that although these forces are at variance in any given situation or tend to oppose in a particular direction, there is possibly a resultant positive constant, the Whole, that eludes the exponent of the devil-angel theology.”

Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that the ancient Kemites (Afrikans) built the Horem Akhet (renamed the Sphinx by the Greeks) in order to express the spiritual significance of “the triumph of good over evil.”

In other words, this Stone Monument has the head of Pharaoh Khafra and the body of a lion. The lion represents the most feared, powerful beast in the jungle or zoo; it signifies evil. The head represents the brain of a human being which has the ability or power to overpower/outthink the animal beast. Animals have no thinking powers, human beings do. Hence, the human being with his brains can outmanouver the brainless lion and prevent any wrong or evil action from taking place.

In other words, regardless of how powerful one may feel, there is always a more powerful force than can outthink and outsmart you. In this way, good or Ma’at will always prevail or triumph. The ancient Kemetic spiritual belief system of Ma’at represents order, balance, harmony, justice, compassion, truth and reciprocity. The goodness of the human spirit is hereby manifested.

Hence, the purpose of life in ancient Kemet was to achieve Human Perfectibility. It was not to achieve total power and control as the lion represents.

The bottom-line is that the Afrikan sees life “as mystery to be lived out on a mysterious earth ruled by spiritual forces of good and evil. There is no event without a spiritual/ metaphysical cause; hence, man must look beyond physical events to their spiritual etiology.”

It must be clear that the Afrikan “does not separate the evil from good in his dealings with God.” In the Afrikan’s thinking, “this belief is not seen to be incompatible with the notion of God delegating authority to the divinities for the governance of the earth.”

When man begins to challenge the authority of these spiritual divinities, then Isfet ensues. This is the phenomenon that now exists on this planet as a result of five hundred years of European religious Supremacy. Or what Dr. Ivan van Sertima correctly terms “the five hundred year curtain.”

In the Afrikan spiritual belief system, nothing happens by accident. It “has no room for accidental deaths or natural illness. It has no natural cause and effect category; every event has metaphysical etiology. In other words, every event has a spiritual cause and explanation.”

Indeed, one of the major concepts in Afrikan spirituality is the concept of Monotheism or One God. This concept is not Euro-Christian in origin. It was introduced in ancient Kemet by Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (who changed his name to Akhenaton) in the XXVIth Dynasty 1370-1352 B.C. During the reign of Akhenaton, his High Priest was the Egyptian-born Moses. And it was this spiritual experience/training that Moses came up with his First Commandment:”Thou shalt have no other God but me.”

In ancient Kemet, there were “42 Negative Confessions”, ” 42 Admonitions of Ma’at” or “42 Declarations of Innocence” under this spiritual system, a system that Moses knew as High priest. Moses just collapsed the “42 Negative Confessions” into the Ten Commandments as the bedrock of religious Christianity.

The reality is that in the B.C. era, Afrika and Afrikans were known as “the land of the spiritual people”; as a result of European Supremacy, Afrika and Afrikans have been transformed into a religious people. Isfet (that is, chaos, imbalance, disorder and disharmony) has replaced Ma’at in the lives of Afrikan people 24/7/365.

Shem Hotep (“I go in peace”).

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

14 thoughts on “Afrikan concept of God”

  1. Perhaps religion would lead Africans back to spirituality, but we must be willing to read and exolore for ourselves; not let those who assign to themselves an intermediary position between man and God, interpret for us, through his/her eyes, the reality of our existence.
    Go well.

  2. “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son ,Whom He hath appointed heir of all things,by Whom also He made the worlds.

    Why do you guys perpetuate lies and uhalf truths to the masses?Don’t you love them ??
    Where did you learn that Moses was a High Priest?
    Moses did not paraphrase anything.The commandments were written by God Himself.
    The Ten Commandments are not the bedtrock of Christianity.The commandment of Christianity is LOVE.
    Love God ,Love your neighbour,Love His creation,Love yourself.This is accomplished by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,which gives one the Holy S[pirit,and stands side by side with man’s spirit renewing and teaching truth daily.
    BC era,???? What bull.The year 2007 is 2007 years after the coming of Christ.You cannot change that.You see the evil one is glad guys for like you who corrupt the truth and prevent others from the knowing of the TRUTH so they can have life and have it abnundantly.

    You should read your Bible and thrst in His word.If you do that,will come to the Truth and youwill know true liberty.
    Be careful how you take away and add to His Word.You will feel His wrath !!!

  3. May I recommend for Chandar that he or she reads “Where Are The Christians?” and “Here Are The Christians” both by the same author at And may I ask who exactly are the “you guys who perpetuate lies?”

    People who call themselves Christians have killed more than half a million women and children since the second milddle east war began, an unprovoked war. Bush, a Christian, lied his way into killing innocents. A Christian Congressman in the US is trying to whip up animosity because a Muslim has been elected to Congress. Where are the Christians who asked that Saddam Hussain be treated with Mercy, just as they hope to obtain mercy? What was the Pope’s-(Christian#1) position on this brutal hanging? The Archbishop of Canterbury said he opposed it, but was ignored by the One Nation Under God and its puppet the government of Mr. Malichi. A Christian priest and a nun have been convicted of genocide in Rwanda. A Christian priest in TnT swindled parishioners out of millions and is now before the courts. Please give us a break in the New Year. Mouthing the name of God or his son, has nothing to do with real spirituality. Often, these people focus more on a vengeful than a merciful God. Any country with the death penalty should not call itself a Christian nation, but rather a godless, money hungry one. I know two that qualify. Do you?

  4. Ms.Edwards obviously you are mixing religion with the Good News. Christ has nothing to do with religion, but about all life and death. like I said, the adversary blinds our eyes from the truth lest we see and believe. Consumed by our own lust and greed we exercise his routines.
    Instead of studying the counterfeit, study the real bill, so like you, my dear we can know the imposters.
    This does not remove our responsibility teaching the truthnot not waste time on ol’ tales and fables rather than to things that edify.
    Rather than just referring to the Bible and critising. read what it says

    …..whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are honest,whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue.and if there be any praise,think on these things.

    Where are the Christians? They are most present in all trouble spots in the world,silently building hospitals, schools, houses etc.As a reporter one gauges the extent of need by the presence of these selfless workers.

    We who sit in our fine chairs reading,and viewing what they give us do not know what is going on.
    Christ is present in the faces of the homeless, the drug addicts, the AIDs victim.Where are the Christians, looking into His face.

  5. Each of the persons or groups I mentioned CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS. I was not speaking of religion, but of abuse of Christ’s name, using it as an umbrella for cowards and thieves.On the other hand, Dr. Nantambu was pointing out that spirituality and goodness, is spirituality and goodness, no matter what name you call it by, and that spirituality and goodness is core to the African concept of the world.

  6. Interesting to note, the earlies physical record of a single, supreme god comes from Africa long before the Bible stated in the 10 commandments that “you shall have no other God….” Akhenaton presented this idea in the 14th century BCE when he was Pharoh of Egypt.

  7. Sorry, I missed that in the article and only repeated what Dr. Nantambu alreay stated with the addition that this was the earliest physical record of monotheism.

  8. What is the yardstick by which we measure spirituality and goodness. Are we saying worshippers of Baal, Malcom, Chemosh, Astoreth and the stars etc. are equal to the worship of the One True God???
    Because man is a spirit, he has this yearning,he has this zeal for God but not according to knowledge and seeks to establish his own rigteousness, not knowing he is already redeemed by the Rigtheous One, even The Lord Jesus Christ,Adonai Yashuah Hamashiah.
    So some even burn incense,sacrifice animals etc, Not knowing all has already been done. We just have to accept in faith and truth and run with the Power.
    I think if Riaz etc. read the Bible you will come to the full Truth and see that Africa is well spoken of: didn’t Abraham come from Mesopatamia? What about Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian, what about that guy to whom Phillip expounded Isiah?

  9. chandar, I simply stated a fact. – the earliest physical record of monotheism exists in Egypt – it was chisseled into stone longe before Moses wrote the first boooks of the Bible. You show your lack of knowledge when in your last comment, you consider Mesopotamia as being in Africa.

  10. Just checking on you Riaz, just checking.

    What about the other statements, the nitty gritty of the whole matter are they true?
    This is the thing about humans we take what’s good for us but leave out the rest that is not convenient,which is my main point

    You rather believe the chisseled stone or the Word of God.
    I could have chisseled that yesterday.
    14thcentury Before Christ, man maybe was just a thought in God’s mind.
    We can’t tell for certainity what happened yesterday but we believe what sinful man say.

  11. Chandar, no one chisseled those Hieroglyphics yesterday. Archeologists have ways of dating such things by looking at erosion, comparrison to other known works, writing styles and references within the writings etc. Note, I didn’t say I believed what the chisseled words said but I believe of their existance and age.

    Please do proper research when commenting. 14 centuries BCE mankind was walking the planet and was building cities and monuments – he was not “just a thought in God’s mind.” OR are you “just checking” again?

  12. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and Abraham was about to obey when God stayed his hand. Modern Christinaity is derived from a monotheistic origin, where people sacrificed animals and people to their God.
    At Communion traditional Christians symbolically drink the blood and eat the flesh of their God. That is public knowledge.

  13. Ms Edwards if you making roti and one of them burns, wouldn’t you throw that away, it is no good.
    The wages of sin is death, but God through his love provided way out, the Ultimate sacrifice, no more being castaways but redeemed by Christ.

    “FOR by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified ,for it is not possible that the blood of goats and bulls should take away sins:
    I will take no bullock out of thine house nor he goats out of thy folds.For every beasts of the forests are mine,and the cattle upon a thousand hills.If i were hungry I would not tell thee,for the world is mine and the fulness thereof.Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
    The sacrifices of God is a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
    I beseech you therefore brethren( and sistren),by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy acceptable unto God,which is your reasonable service.
    And be not conformed to the world,but be ye transformed by the renewing of the mind that ye may prove what is that good ,and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
    Shem hotep.

  14. I don’t get the analogy with the roti. All I know is you get me craving a roti and curry chicken. A little more explanation is needed as some of us do not believe stuff by faith alone.

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