Thursday, June 26, 2008

Deep Roots and 100 names for God.

Lord's Prayer, written in Arabic by Omar Said.

The Muslim community has deep roots in North Carolina.

Yesterday, I traveled to the Davidson College Library in Davidson, North Carolina to see the Arabic Bible of Omar Said. Omar lived in the 1700's and was a learned man who traded in fabric in Africa. After starting a family and in his 30's, Omar was captured and sold into slavery and imported to Charleston, SC in the last years of the US slave trade. He escaped an abusive master and was found while praying in a church near Fayetteville, North Carolina. After writing petitions for help on his cell walls, and dumbfounding the Fayetteville community of slave owners with his demeanor and refined manners, he was taken by the Owens brothers (one would become a North Carolina Governor ) to their plantation down the Cape Fear River. There he became a valued house servant, eventually being given the keys to the estate, his own house, horse, and buggy. Later in life he wrote his own short autobiography, the Christian Lord's Prayer (shown above ), and well as eleven other surviving documents. A practicing Muslim all his life, Omar absorbed the Christian faith of his owners and navigated with dignity the tricky social/religious/political/racial landscape of the Old South. Omar turned down offers to be returned to Africa, and lived to see freedom before his death at 94.

I was most struck by how carefully he sewed layer upon layer onto the dust jacket of his Bible. As I looked at it I was reminded of his selling fabric in Africa and wondered if he found pleasure in the designs and colors of each layer. To see the stitching made by his own hands was awe inspiring. This dust jacket will be featured in this project.

I have read that the "drawings" at the bottom of the above document represent the 100th name of God.

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