I grew up and I knew one religion, my parents raised me as a Muslim, they taught me what Islam is, what it means to be a Muslim and what we believe in. I acknowledge that in my life, I’ve seen a lot of people from different backgrounds, I’ve known Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Hindus. One day I had a class with my teacher and this class was about new people who made a creed for themselves. In fact, They called themselves Rastafarian.
I sat in front of my computer; I couldn’t stop my fingers from figuring out what Rasta is on the internet! I’ve found some unbelievable facts and information about these people. First, only a few people know the true story of this religion.
Rastafari has its roots by the philosophy of Marcus Garvey, he believed that all black people should be proud of their race. He became an inspiration to black people especially after organizing the Black Nationalist movement in America in 1920. The next year, he had almost a million followers. More people believed and supported him after his speech in 1920, “look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand.” That speech came true when Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned as Ethiopia’s king, who became known as Emperor Haile Selassi, the one who everybody considers as the Rastafarian movement’s founder. After his crowning, the movement officially began. Rastafarians settled in the small southern Ethiopian towns of Shashamene. Haile Selassi, who considered the God incarnate, gave them 500 hectors of land on which to settle; they started migrating to Ethiopia 38 years ago.
Rastafarianism is a mixture of politics and religion for many reasons. One of them is that they believed that Haile is their king because he is black and he will put them on the freedom ship and free them from slavery.
Rastafarians support and empower the black race and they consider Haile as an incarnation of God, and he is seen as part of the holy trinity, and as the returned Messiah that was promised in the bible. Furthermore, they believe in Christian doctrine that says God came onto earth in the form of Jesus Christ, to give instructions to humanity. That is true but they do not agree on this version of story. They believe that these instructions were corrupted by western societies, for instance, white people (called “Babylon.”). Moreover, they believed that God appeared again as the Ethiopian Emperor to adjust and fix the instructions to black people.
You can recognize Rastas by their colors, they wear red, yellow and green that came from the Ethiopian flag, their dreadlocks, and the reggae music, particularly they listen to Bob Marley. The reason they listen to that kind of music is that there is no bad language that outs women down or violent language or even gun talk like most Rap music. Also, they smoke Ganja.
The Rastafarian religion has interesting and unique beliefs. For instance, they cherish certain herbs that are mentioned in the holy Bible. Ganja is a primary element of their religion and they smoke it to reach the highest levels of spirituality. Another interesting belief, Rastafarians are too into any sharp implements to be used on man. For example, no trimming or shaving no tattooing on the skin or cutting in the flesh, as was said in Leviticus 21:5: “They shall not make baldness upon their heads, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” Rastas are more likely to be vegetarians. They eat as little animal flesh as possible; they do not like the idea of eating pig flesh, shellfish, etc. Rastafarians worship Haile Selassi and consider him a model and they recognize no other God than him. They reject pagan beliefs, without disrespecting the believers. Rastas agree to live in a world of one brotherhood and a sign of that is they condemn jealousy, hate, deceit and humiliation. They believe in love to all mankind. An interesting fact is that they do not accept the aid, possessions or any help given by the enemy that may impart upon them, in fear. For that, their main purpose is to uphold Rastafari. Furthermore, they are opposed to the luxury and pleasure of modern city society.
I had the chance to meet a wonderful Rastafarian Jamaican man, Jason Janis, 45 year old. The meeting was as simple as you can imagine, firstly I asked him about their beliefs, “The basic beliefs of Rastas is to uphold the truth and defend good over evil, to do will of god here on earth to keep the 10 commandments.” He said. Actually, I was a bit curious about their religion, Muslims pray and fast to God, but as for the Rastas they fast in remembrance of past prophets and saints and holy men of times passed by, “we fast for our men who suffered a lot during the past 100 years.” Dreadlocks are something that identifying Rastas from non-Rastas. I considered it something to put onto your hair, but I was shocked when I knew it’s for religion purposes. “The origin of dreadlock comes from the times of Moses when there was a tribe called the Nazarenes (Bible, Ch.6) who wore dreadlocks, as did Samson as a sign of their covenant to the almighty God.” He explains this matter. Another thing I wanted to ask in order to satisfy my curiosity, Ganja, the holy herb, what is good in it and why Rastas smoke it to reach the highest levels of spirituality, “Ganja goes with the territory, it opens the mind, It’s good for meditation.” I had to ask him about its history “It was found on Selamon’s grave and the Bible says (all herbs are for the healing of the nation).” The meeting was great. I loved it; it was full of good information. Now, I know what Rasta really is. I asked him to talk to me about their social life and he said “We go to Rastafarian church dance, we listen to reggae music, I listen to it because of it has uplifting lyrics, not bringing down woman, the race and no gun talk.” He adds, “We don’t believe in homosexuality and abortion.”
During my usual morning walk. People were coming across me, I thought about talking to someone about Rastafarian to see if he has any idea. John T, a 22-year-old British man, was the one I ran into during my walk. He was polite and he accepted to do this interview. I asked him about Rastafarian, what he thinks of them and what their beliefs are, “I think Rastafarianism is a movement more than a religion, in other words it is a way of life, they do not have church or a central worship place, they just gather in a place and do whatever they do.” I asked him about their stereotype “Well, I’m not sure but most Rastas I’d known they’re Black Caribbean with dreadlocks in their hair and multicolor hats and most of the time a laid back attitude.” He said.
Sarah Shourd, an English teacher, welcomed the idea of Rastafarians. She had been to Ethiopia in the core of Rastafarianism. She thinks it’s a religion, it’s a way to direct people to the right path, “It’s a Bible based religion, it gives guides and clues to ‘reach the God’s rope’ to people who do not know the way. I’ve been in Ethiopia it’s amazing. The people there were just kind and simple. I saw no signs of an aggressive attitude.” She said. About their stereotype “well… smoking marijuana, the dreadlocks (their hair must be natural), they’re close to nature – away from modern society’s needs, they reject western traditions, and listen reggae music especially Bob Marley – one love,” she said. Sarah showed acceptance of to be a Rastafarianism and welcomed this idea, “yes, I would like to be Rasta, I agree with some of their beliefs, like they love each other (as obvious in Bob Marley song – one love), the rejection of and resistance against of western policy and imperialism. Also, I believe in black power and they should be freed from racial discrimination,” she adds.
Today there are an increasing number of White people. For Rastafarians, this period will mark the beginning of a new world, in which Blacks are respected. Many Rastafarians believe this is how the world would have been, but for the behaviour of corrupt whites, they will fix themselves by themselves.