Scholars and Pan-Africanists agree that Africans were the earth’s first people, with the first philosophies, sciences, arts, and spiritual concepts. Our ancient African ancestors believed in a well-rounded life, unity with the Creator, and oneness with one another. Maat, an Egyptian philosophy and way of life, is a concept of spiritual being some African scholars argue is the foundation of all religions.
In the impressive halls of Kemet’s (Egypt) majestic monuments, ancient writings inscribed on the walls of pyramids reveal a universal message of truth, justice, and righteousness. Ancient Africans did not practice religion; instead they followed a natural order of living and incorporated principles that were supposed to have led to a more balanced life.
Maat consists of 42 admonitions or negative confessions and seven cardinal virtues: Truth, justice, rightness, harmony, balance, reciprocity, and order. A close comparison of the confessions to the much younger Biblical Ten Commandments yields a stunning revelation: The Ten Commandments may have come from Maat.
For example, admonition 18, according to the Metu Neter (a book of spiritual guidelines), says, “I have not set my mouth in motion against any person.” In comparison, Commandment 9 says: “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Admonition 20 says, “I have not defiled the wife of any man.” Commandment 10 says, “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” And the list goes on.
Long Beach State University Africana Studies professor and Seba (moral teacher of Maat), Maulana Karenga writes in his book, entitled “Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt,” that the ancient Kemetic philosophy set into motion the moral principles of modern religions.
“There is clearly an interest in the ideal as a point of departure and motivation for philosophical discourse in the same sense (that) the ideal motivates discourse in other religious and ethical traditions,” Karenga writes, “i.e., the central idea of iwa (character) in Ifa, ‘adl (justice) in Islam, jen in Confucianism, nirvana in Buddhism, dharma in Hinduism, tzedek in Judaism, agape in Christianity, etc.”
According to Karenga’s research, Maatian influences and practices date as far back as 3100 and 2150 B.C., while other heavily used Biblical principles like the Ten Commandments, were written by Moses around 1500 B.C.
Maatian principles, practices, and virtues are represented by an Egyptian woman or goddess who is also called Maat. She is depicted with wings or sitting with a scepter and ankh in either hand, and an ostrich feather atop her head. Depictions of the goddess began to appear during the Old Kingdom (some time around 2700 B.C.)

Maat in death
On the Papyrus of Ani, a scene of judgment begins with the Great Hall of Maati. Here is where Anpu, the god of embalming, leads all men and women who have died into judgment. Individuals have to answer for their actions, attempting to justify themselves with righteousness they demonstrated on earth, according to Maatian principles and virtues.
Karenga writes that Maat not only teaches to deny evil, but to promote good and do righteousness.
“The deceased declares her virtues saying that she did Maat in Egypt, and lives on Maat,” he states. “Moreover, the deceased declares that he has done what was worthy of praise by others and that which pleased God. Especially important, the deceased declares moral concern and care for the most vulnerable of society…”
Anpu, weighs the heart of a person on the balance (scale) of Ra (God) against the feather of Maat. This determines, if a soul is worthy to enter into Aaru (the Field of Reeds), where the ancient gods roamed for eternity, or be devoured by Ammut, and have no chance for further existence. Djehuti, “the scribe of heaven and lord of just measure,” is pictured next to the balance. His job is to record and announce the results.
At the end of the Papyrus of Ani, sits Asar “whose resurrection from the dead, symbolized and promised eternal life through righteousness for human beings,” his wife Auset and Nebt-Hetn his sister. Ra and the Heliopolitan Ennead (The Great Nine Divine Powers) are also pictured on the papyrus. A side note: Different papyrus judgment scenes have more than nine divine powers, but Ra is always at the head.
The Biblical judgment scene according to Revelation 20:11-15 is similar. (According to Revelation 1, the author is John the Apostle. The book is a vision God gave him about the final judgment.) In the last days, the book of life was opened and the dead were “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” before the throne of God. Those who were not found in the book were cast into the lake of fire, eternal death. Those who were found worthy were given everlasting life. Upon closer examination, other parallels can be found.
Many religions teach morality and righteous living. Maat, although it is not a religion, is a spiritual foundation from which many would argue the world’s religions gleaned. Maat is simply a way of life that is acceptable to people across different faiths.