What Are the 12 Jewels of Islam?

The Wu Tang Clan uses rap music to teach the Twelve Jewels.
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The Twelve Jewels of Islam are a set of ethical principles embraced by the Nation of Gods and Earths. Based in New York City, this African-American religious community is an offshoot of the Nation of Islam and has followers throughout the United States. The influence of the Twelve Jewels as a guide for life has extended beyond the faithful through the dissemination of its themes in rap and hip-hop music.

1 Five Percent Nation

The name of the Nation of Gods and Earths reflects the community's teachings on the nature of men and women. According to "The Muslim-American Encyclopedia of History," the Nation of Gods and Earths believes that black men are Gods in the flesh while black women are Earths, since they, like the planet itself, are the source of life. The Nation of Gods and Earths is also known as the Five Percent Nation or Five Percenters. The phrase "five percent" refers to the group's belief that 85 percent of the world does not know God and ten percent falsely believe that he is a spirit, in contrast to the remaining five percent who are "poor righteous teachers" of the truth.

2 Supreme Mathematics

The Twelve Jewels are part of a system of doctrine that includes the Science of Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet. As Miyakawa notes in her book on "Five Percenter Rap," this system provides a tool for finding spiritual significance in all things, from the distances between celestial objects to dates, ages and names. One way in which it accomplishes this is to assign a spiritual value to each number from zero through nine. Twelve, for example, contains the numbers one and two, which mean, respectively, knowledge and wisdom.

3 The Twelve Jewels

In their original appearance in the June 23, 1972 edition of the Nation of Islam's "Muhammad Speaks" newsletter, the Twelve Jewels were described as the Twelve Jewels of Life. Like the numbers in Spiritual Mathematics, the Twelve Jewels are also sacred virtues said to help adherents live a meaningful life. These virtues are, in the enumerated order followed by Five Percenters, Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, Freedom, Justice, Equality, Food, Clothing, Shelter, Love, Peace and Happiness.

4 Cultural Influence

Five Percent Nation rappers and other hip-hop artists have made the Twelve Jewels a prominent theme in their music. For example, the song "Twelve Jewelz" by the influential rap group Gravediggaz recites the twelve virtues in order and admonishes, "[T]he first thing a man must obtain is Twelve Jewelz." Rap pioneers the Wu Tang Clan have not only incorporated the Twelve Jewels into their message, but they have also held "Feasts of the Twelve Jewels," charitable gatherings in which they have joined with Nation of Islam and even Christian leaders to teach young people positive values and to feed the poor.

John Green is an attorney who has been writing on legal, business and media matters for more than 20 years. He has also taught law school and business courses in entrepreneurship, business enterprise, tax and ethics. Green received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in religion from Duke.