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    Default 9th Century Quranic Manuscripts Predate Columbus Travels by 5 Centuries


    For centuries it was believed that Christopher Columbus was the first man from the Old continent to cross the Atlantic to the New World, but new evidence from a research team from the University of Rhode Island suggests Muslim seafarers might just be the first people to have settled on the shores of America, a possibility that could rewrite history as we know it.

    The discovery completely took the researchers by surprise admits professor Evan Yuriesco, in charge of the research team.

    “We were expecting to find traces of prehistoric Native American settlements, as we have in the area for the past decades. We were not prepared to find 9th century clay pots containing ancient manuscripts written in the Arabic language” he explains.

    The team of researchers fell upon what could be the mass tomb of 9th century seafarers. The four skeletons that have been found on the site are in a state of advanced decomposition which could make DNA testing impossible, warns the expert, although the teeth showed premature decay which could explain the cause of death by a poor diet or an unknown illness.

    Researchers from Rhode Island University were not expecting a discovery of such a controversial nature

    A number of items were also found, as cloths, coins and two scimitars, yet the remaining artifacts were in such a bad state that they are barely recognizable, as rust has destroyed any possible recognizable trace of writing on the swords and coins, and the pieces of cloth having rotten due to age and the extreme humidity of the area.

    Two clay pots were also found in a surprisingly good state, one of them containing the precious manuscripts and the other a mixture of unidentified dried spices which, when identified, could bring further proof of the origin of these sea dwellers.

    Islamic medieval scholar Karim Ibn Fallah from the University of Massachussets has determined that the age of the manuscripts is from the 9th century based on the Kufic script of the manuscripts. “Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script” he explains. “Kufic developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. The discovery of Kufic scripts in pre-Columbus America is extremely fascinating” he adds, visibly excited.

    The documents are thought to be of the 9th century based on the Kufic script of the manuscripts, claim experts

    Byron Kent, museologist at the Smithsonian, admits the find is extremely troubling. “There is no question that Arab maps were the best in the world, but none of the existing early maps demonstrates any knowledge of the Americas” he ponders. Even though the burden of historical evidence has been against the idea of Muslim populations traveling across the Atlantic in pre-Columbus times, the expert does not dispute that Muslims could have beaten Columbus to the New World.

    “They certainly possessed the technological expertise to have done so; but, until now, there was no reliable evidence that they did. This discovery, however, is compelling proof that they, in fact, did” admits the expert.

    Richard Francaviglia of Willamette University and Best Selling author of “Far Beyond the Western Sea of the Arabs…’: Reinterpreting Claims about Pre-Columbian Muslims in the Americas” also admits the discovery is unexpected.

    “The premise of pre-Columbian Islam in the New World is attractive because it is so plausible. The navigational accomplishments of Muslims were significant indeed. The record confirms that they rapidly explored and colonized a substantial portion of the Old World by the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Columbus himself was clearly indebted to Muslim seafaring skills, and there is little doubt that Muslims had the technological expertise to have reached the New World”.

    Muslim historian and geographer Abul-Hassan Ali Ibn Al-Hussain Al-Masudi (871-957 CE) wrote in his bookMuruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that duringthe rule of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad (888-912 CE), a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory (ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In Al-Masudi’s map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory, which many scholars believe to be the Americas.


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    Default Lost history of early muslim americans


    Islam can seem like a newcomer to the religious landscape of the country. Today uttering “Muslim American” conjures images of recent immigrants from the Middle East. But, as Michael A. Gomez explained in a 1994 paper, Muslims have been a part of the country since the colonial era, when the first Muslim Americans were brought from Western Africa as slaves.

    Gomez writes that, since the sixteenth century, several of the areas targeted by slave traffickers had a significant Muslim population. He offers evidence from African history to suggest that a significant minority of those captured by the transatlantic slave trade were Muslim. The victimization of Muslims by slavers contributed to the start of Islamic revolution in Futa Toro, on the Senegal River, in the 1760s.

    One way to trace Islam among slaves in North America is through advertisements for runaway slaves. In South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, such ads regularly included versions of Muslim names, like Bullaly, Mustapha, Sambo, and Bocarrey. Gomez writes that this may have reflected the fact that these were rice-producing areas where slave owners sought out Africans with experience growing rice, who typically came from more heavily Muslim areas.

    Little about the lives of most Muslim-American slaves—or most slaves in general—was recorded. But Gomez draws from stories of a few prominent individuals to investigate the influence of Islam in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. For example, one man, Salih Bilali, who arrived in North America in 1800 and eventually became the manager of a Georgia plantation, wore a fez and kaftan, prayed daily, and observed Muslim feast days. Some white observers also wrote of less prominent slaves speaking and writing Arabic, praying in the Islamic manner, and giving Muslim names to their children.
    A number of former slaves and children of slaves from coastal Georgia interviewed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s confirmed that their families had observed Islamic religious practices. They described their family members and friends observing Friday prayers, veiling, using prayer beads, and avoiding foods forbidden by their religion.

    Gomez writes that the practice of Islam among slaves in America seems to have declined in the years before the Civil War. By the start of the nineteenth century, the slave trade was bringing fewer Africans from heavily Muslim areas. Meanwhile, the instability of life under slavery made it hard to maintain traditions or pass them down through the generations.

    Some Muslims may also have gone undercover. Looking at the WPA interviews, Gomez notes that some of the subjects seemed reluctant to speak clearly about their own religions. “If they were practicing Muslims, they certainly would not have volunteered such information to whites in the rural South of the 1930s,” he writes. Gomez suggests that the continuing legacy of Muslim slaves may even have influenced Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.

    Whether or not that’s true, Islam in America is clearly nothing new.


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    Muslims in Early America

    Michael A. Gomez
    The Journal of Southern History
    Vol. 60, No. 4 (Nov., 1994), pp. 671-710
    Published by: Southern Historical Association
    DOI: 10.2307/2211064
    Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2211064
    Page Count: 40


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    6 African Muslims Who Brought Islam To America

    As a Muslim of West African origin living in the United States, my Muslim-ness is always contested by Europeans, Americans, and even clueless Africans. They ask me questions like:

    “Are you Muslim?” and “Were you born Muslim?”

    I get asked these questions a lot by Americans because Islam is something that was made to sound foreign to them.

    “I’ve never seen a Muslim from that country wear Hijab.”

    Believe it or not, many Africans ask this question as if they are well-travelled.

    Is your country predominantly Muslim?”

    I get this question from European Muslims as if they had just discovered ‘water on Mars’. In their minds, Black Muslims are an oddity. Because I have been around many of them, I now know the reasoning behind asking such questions. They have the idea that All of Africa is uncivilized and only non-Muslims live there.

    The strange thing is many of them have heard of Mansa Musa, the Malian African Muslim King. Why they won’t add two and two together to infer that Islam has always been an old religion in Africa and in the USA, I don’t know. In addition, the US census has a record of approximately 300 slaves that had a Muslim surname who fought during the Civil War for freedom.

    Throughout all these irritating questions, I try to keep my cool. I keep the frustrated comments, I want to utter, in my head, smile, and move on. However, what I want to tell them is Islam came to West Africa not too long after the 10th century. My ancestors were traders and this was how Islam came to us Mandinga. Islam has always been a religion of business. Furthermore, this also means that many West Africans were exposed to Islam before it was spread to Europe during the Ottoman empire and America via the Moriscos and the Transatlantic slaves.

    According to Lost Islamic History, one example of an African Muslim who brought Islam to America is Bilali Muhammad. There are also others like Ayub Job Djallo, Yarrow Mamood, Ibrahim Abdulrahman ibn Sori, Ummar ibn Sayyid, (Omar ibn Said) and Sali Bilali.

    Bilali Muhammad

    Born around 1770 in the area of Africa which are known as Guinea and Sierra Leone today, Bilali Muhammad was an elite of the Fulani tribe. He knew Arabic and was knowledgeable in hadith, tafsir, and shariah matters. Because he was educated, he was allowed to rise in status in the slave community. Bilali Muhammad even wrote a 13 page manuscript on Islamic law from the Maliki Madhab called the Bilali Document that he gifted to his friend before his death. The manuscript was thought to be a diary until it was deciphered at al-Azhar university in Cairo. His manuscript is also known as Ben Ali Diary or Ben Ali Journal. Read more here.

    Ayuba Suleiman Diallo

    Ayub Job Djallo was born in Senegal from a respected Fulbe Muslim family. He was also known as Job Ben Solomon. He wrote some memoirs and was a slave in Maryland for a couple years. Sold into slavery as a result of a confusion, he eventually returned home in Senegal to his aristocratic roots still a Muslim.

    Yarrow Mamout

    Born in Guinea, Yarrow Mamood was born in 1736 and died in 1823 a free man. He arrived at the age of 14 years old in Maryland with his sister. Knowledgeable in Arabic, he practiced Islam openly until his death. Read more on him here.

    Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori

    Ibrahim Abdulrahman ibn Sori was born in Guinea. He was also known as The Prince Amonsgt Slaves. Son of King Sori from the village of Timbo, Abdulrahman was a military leader. He became a slave as a result of an ambush and sold to a slave owner by the name of Thomas Foster in Mississipi. Ibn Sori got married and had children. Abdulrahman worked for 40 years before his release. He died during his trip back. He had even wrote a letter to his family in West Africa in Arabic which was read by the Sultan of Morocco Abderrahmane who found it deeply touching and petitioned U.S. President John Quincy Adams to release him.

    Omar ibn Said

    Ummar ibn Sayyid was born in Fuuta Toro, Senegal in 1770. Captured in 1807, he became known as Omar Moreau and Prince Omeroh according to Muslimofusa. Though there are reports that say he converted to Christianity later in his life, many sources say that there was more than met the eye in his situation. Nevertheless, he was known to be an Islamic scholar, knowledgeable in many fields from arithmetic to theology who wrote several Arabic texts.

    Sali Bilali

    Sali Bilali was born in Mali and captured in 1782. It was reported that his last words on his death bead were the shahada according to the Abolition Institute. Robert Abbot, founder of the Chicago Defender, is his descendent.

    In conclusion, all the continents contributed to the spread of Islam, Africa included. So how can they deny such a legacy?

    Last edited by islamirama; Sep-17-2017 at 12:04 PM.

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    Default How enslaved Muslims in the Americas fasted in Ramadhan

    How enslaved Muslims in the Americas fasted in Ramadhan

    There is no doubt that the strains of living as a slave were many and the conditions brutal. One had their days and nights planned out by their masters from the day they were born until the day they died, albeit the Muslims talked about here were born free and then enslaved. Whether one was born free or born a slave, you were not in control of your daily life. There were certain aspects that West African Muslim slaves did try to control once they came to the Americas. For example, enslaved Muslims found the nakedness they were forced into humiliating and offensive to their religion. They looked to make head wraps and long garments from anything from old blankets or hand-me-downs from their owners.

    Where slaves could find autonomy they exercised it; one of these was adhering to the Islamic dietary laws. One of these laws was abstaining from alcohol even though it was widely available and consumption was encouraged. Ayuba Suleyman Diallo, from modern day Senegal, was enslaved in Maryland for two years before being sent to England. It was in Maryland that Diallo was interrogated about a crime and was offered alcohol to ease his fears about the situation, he flatly refused. Diallo was not alone in his refusal of alcohol; Ibrahima Rahman, also refused alcohol.

    Unfortunately, there was less control over the types of meat that was given and available to eat. The cheapest meat of the day was pork and was found in abundance. There were instances such as Nero, a Muslim slave who was the bookkeeper for the William Ball plantation in South Carolina. Nero was allowed to draw his meat rations from beef rather than pork. This may be a privilege of being a bookkeeper (a prestigious job that a slave could have) and less his owner being concerned with Islamic dietary law. Diallo, not only refused alcohol (as mentioned before) but, would only eat halal meat. The other option would be to forgo the consumption of meat, which is what Salih Bilali and other enslaved Muslims did on the Hopeton Plantation in Georgia.

    Enslaved Muslims living on Sea Island, Georgia also fasted when they could and the women on the island would fix rice cakes known as saraka to the non-Muslim observers. Saraka was a variation of the word sadaqah in Arabic meaning non-obligatory charity. The son of Salih Bilali was sent to a plantation on Saint Simmons Island, Georgia but, he kept his Islamic faith and not only fasted but made saraka for other slaves, Muslim and non-Muslims. Omar ibn Said, a Muslim slave in North Carolina was said to have been a “staunch Mohammedan and the first month of the year kept his fast of Ramadan with strictness.”

    Enslaved Muslims could have chosen not to fast during Ramadan but, there are a few reasons why they may have chosen to. It is important to acknowledge that each plantation had to have their own moon sighting to keep track of the Islamic months. Enslaved Muslims were looking to keep their Islamic identity in enslavement just as they would have if they were slaves in their respective homelands. Enslaved Muslims were fighting this idea of not only being slaves but, being legal property with little to no rights. Muslims could not justify neglecting their religious duties because of the social conditions. This was not a phenomenon only in the United States but, wherever West African Muslims landed there was an attempt to hold onto their religious duties. Muhammad Kaba for example, a Muslim slave in Jamaica, would pretend to be sick whenever he wished to observe fasting.

    In the hostile world that Muslims found themselves in following their religious customs was a way to stay connected to home and worship. The eagerness to follow their religious rituals and laws was seen in the United States, South America, and the Caribbean. Individual Muslims, families on plantations, and entire communities in Brazil, looked to salvage the little autonomy they had by following through with their religious obligations the best they could.


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    African Slaves Were the 1st to Celebrate Ramadan in America

    By Khaled A. Beydoun

    This past weekend marked the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and 8 million Muslims in America will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. A grueling task at any time of the year, Ramadan this year will be especially daunting during the long and hot summer days.

    Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second-most-practiced faith in 20 of these united states. And these demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los Angeles-based imam to comment recently that "Ramadan is a new American tradition." The cleric's forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam's recent arrival in the U.S. But this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot of Muslim Americans today-an inability to look back and embrace the opening chapters of Muslim-American history, one that was written by enslaved African Muslims.

    Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or "as many as 600,000 to 1.2 million," slaves in antebellum America were Muslims. Forty-six percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa's western regions, which boasted "significant numbers of Muslims."

    These enslaved Muslims strove to meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast, prayers and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion. Marking Ramadan as a "new American tradition" not only overlooks the holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago but also perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American history.

    Between Sunna and Slave Codes

    Although the Quran "allows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work," many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while in bondage. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy-month prayers in slave quarters and put together iftars-meals at sundown to break the fast-that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.

    For instance, the Virginia Slave Code of 1723 considered the assembly of five slaves an "unlawful and tumultuous meeting," convened to plot rebellion attempts. Every state in the South codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the holy month.

    Practicing Islam, therefore, and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury and, oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.

    Ramadan was widely observed by enslaved Muslims. Yet this history is largely ignored by Muslim-American leaders and laypeople alike-and erased from the modern Muslim-American narrative.

    Rewriting the History of Ramadan in the U.S.

    Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum era. Today it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans make up a significant part of the community, along with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation's overall multiculturalism.

    In the U.S. today, Ramadan dinner tables are sure to include staple Arab or Pakistani dishes. Yet many Muslim Americans will break the fast with tortas and tamales, halal meat loaf and greens. Muslim diversity in this country has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition. The breadth of Muslim America's racial and cultural diversity today is unprecedented, making this year's Ramadan-and the Ramadans to follow-new in terms of how transcultural and multiracial the tradition has become.

    This Muslim-American multiculturalism comes with many challenges: Namely, intraracism, Arab supremacy and anti-black racism prevent cohesion inside and outside American mosques. These deplorable trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative. Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate Muslim-American cohesion but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the faith, and its holiest month, on American soil.

    This Ramadan, honoring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom-and sharing their story with loved ones at the iftar table-seems an ideal step toward rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim-American history into our collective consciousness.


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    Portrait of 18th-Century Muslim American Proves the US Has Always Been Home to Many Faiths

    The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is showing an 1822 painting of Yarrow Mamout, a Muslim native of Guinea who was forced into slavery in America.

    July 3, 2017

    A portrait on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) will probably challenge many people’s understanding of early American history, particularly in regards to the presence of Muslims during that formative period. The small 1822 canvas, painted by James Alexander Simpson, is one of two known portraits of Yarrow Mamout, and his story is pretty amazing.
    Born in 1736, Mamout hailed from one of the nomadic West African groups that spoke Fulani. Like many Africans during that time, he was forced into servitude and delivered to the shores of the Americas from his native Guinea through a network of slave traders.

    By 1753, Mamout was serving the Beall family, first at their Maryland plantation and then at their home in Georgetown. According to a brochure from the National Portrait Gallery, Mamout gained “his freedom after 44 years, [and] remained in Georgetown—living among the approximately four hundred freed slaves there—working at many different tasks: making brick and charcoal, loading ships, weaving baskets.”

    Twenty years later, Mamout was featured in Irish-American diplomat David Warden’s 1816 book A Chronological and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia, which tells us the following about Mamout:
    When young, he was the best swimmer ever seen on the Potomac; and though his muscles are now somewhat stiffened by age, he still finds pleasure in his exercise. Fond of conversation, he often, in broken language, thus relates the story of his life, which we insert as a specimen of curious dialect:—
    “Olda massa been tink he got all de work out of Yaro bone. He tell a Yaro, go free Yaro; you been work nuff for me, go work for you now. Tankee, massa, Yaro say. Sure nuff, Yaro go to work for he now. Yaro work a soon—a late—a hot—a cold. Sometime he sweat—sometime he blow a finger. He get a fippenny bit—eighteen-pennee—gib him to massa to put by—put by a dollar, till come a heap. Oh! poor massa take sick, die—Yaro money gone. Oh, Yaro, go to work again. Get more dollars—work hard—more dollars. Gib him now to young massa, he young, he no die. Oh, young massa den broke—den go away. Oh, oh, oh! Yaro old for true now. Must work again—worky, worky, get more dollar. Gib him this time to all de massa—all de massa cant die, cant go away. Oh, Yaro—dollar breed now—every spring—every fall, Yaro get dollar—chichen now.”
    The passage turned the freed African into a minor celebrity, while sharing the story of his financial hardship. After Mamout was freed, he worked to save $100. He deposited his savings with a white merchant for safekeeping, but after the man’s death, the money was lost. Mamout tried again, and after he was able to earn another $100, he deposited it with another merchant; again, his hopes were dashed as the money was lost when the man filed for bankruptcy. Finally, Mamout tried a third time, saving $200. Thankfully, he was convinced by a friend to invest his fortune, and he proceeded to purchase bank shares in his own name. His smart investment worked, and he was able to buy his own log home (now demolished), where he had a garden that he would pray in, turning toward Mecca. While Mamout spoke English poorly, he did speak and read Arabic, and he was remembered as a devout Muslim.

    The painting at the NPG is on loan from the Georgetown Branch of the District of Columbia’s Public Library system. It was painted by James Alexander Simpson, Georgetown University’s first art instructor, after he heard that Mamout may have been a centenarian (we now know he wasn’t quite there yet). For the same reason, the more famous American artist Charles Willson Peale — best known for his portraits of George Washington — also painted Mamout in a portrait that’s now part of the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    According to NPG Associate Curator Asma Naeem, the Simpson painting represents an important, if overlooked part of US history. “To me, the story of Yarrow in this heartwarming portrait tells so many things. It helps us deal with the trauma of slavery and all those who were brought here in shackles,” she told Hyperallergic. “It shows on an individual scale how Muslims have always been part of our social fabric. It offers the promise of being treated with respect and dignity at a time when many feel vulnerable. And it offers the promise of the American dream — how, even in difficult times, we have always strived for liberty and justice for all.”

    Of course, Mamout did not have the same legal standing as other Americans during his life. Not being white meant he was not allowed to vote and was robbed of any of the rights of US citizenship — though even if black men had been allowed to vote, Mamout would still have faced difficulties, as Muslims were routinely denied entry to the US and citizenship until the second half of the 20th century. His incredible story testifies to the contradictory attitudes toward slavery, Africans, and Islam in the early years of the American Republic, as well as the fact that Muslims have been part of the American story since day one.
    For those interested in learning more, James H. Johnston wrote a comprehensive history of Mamout and his family in From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.


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    Muslims in American History: A Forgotten Legacy

    What do you know about Muslim immigration to America?

    When did the earliest Muslims arrive?

    When did members of this community first arrive in America?

    Dr Jerald Dirk received his Bachelor of Arts (philosophy) from Harvard College in 1971, his Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1974, his Master of Arts (clinical child psychology) from the University of Denver in 1976, his Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree in clinical psychology from the University of Denver in 1978, and his sessions program certificate in Islamic studies from Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in 1998.

    In 1969, he obtained his License to Preach from the United Methodist Church and was ordained into the Christian ministry (deaconate) by the United Methodist Church in 1972.

    He converted to Islam in 1993 and completed the 'Umrah and Hajj in 1999.

    His vocational history includes over five years teaching in American colleges and universities and over 20 years spent in the private practice of psychotherapy. In addition, he has taught at the middle school level at two different private Islamic schools and has served as the psycho-educational consultant at one private Islamic school.

    Dr. Dirks is the author or co-author of over 60 published articles in the behavioral sciences (primarily in psychosomatic medicine), over 140 published articles on the Arabian horse and its history, and over 220 published articles or formal presentations on Islam, comparative religion, and private Islamic education in America.

    He has lectured widely on Islam at American universities (Tabor College, University of Kansas, University of Denver, Oklahoma State University, Missouri State University, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Georgetown University), in American mosques (in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia), and at regional and national conventions of the major Islamic organizations (ISNA, ICNA, and MAS).

    In addition, he has been interviewed about Islam by newspapers in California, Colorado, Missouri, and Saudi Arabia and by television stations in Kansas, New York, Texas, Utah, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. He is the author of four books that explore the commonalities and differences among the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism): The Cross and the Crescent, now in its second printing; Abraham, The Friend of God; Understanding Islam--A Guide for the Judaeo-Christian Reader; and The Abrahamic Faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    His fifth book, Muslims in American History--A Forgotten Legacy was published in 2006 and celebrates the centuries-old history of Muslims in America. His sixth book, Letters to My Elders in Islam, was published in 2008. Dr. Dirks has also proofread and/or edited several books for other authors.

    The Topic: Muslims in American History: A Forgotten Legacy

    A talk by Dr Jerald Dirks

    Video: https://www.facebook.com/TheDeenShow...4656604176104/

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    Why Thomas Jefferson Owned a Qur’an

    by Peter Manseau - January 31, 2018

    Thomas Jefferson’s two-volume personal copy of George Sale’s 1734 translation of the Qur’an

    Two hundred and three years ago this month, President James Madison approved the act of Congress purchasing Thomas Jefferson’s private library. Intended to restock the Library of Congress after its previous holdings were destroyed by British arson during the War of 1812, the transfer of books from Monticello to Washington also highlights a forgotten aspect of religious diversity in early America.

    Among the 6,487 books that soon traveled north, Jefferson’s 1734 edition of the Qur’an is perhaps the most surprising.

    Historians have attributed the third president’s ownership of the Muslim holy book to his curiosity about a variety of religious perspectives. It’s appropriate to view it that way. Jefferson bought this book while he was a young man studying law, and he may have read it in part to better understand Islam’s influence on some of the world’s legal systems.

    But that obscures a crucial fact: To many living in Jefferson’s young nation, this book meant much more. Some scholars estimate 20 percent of the enslaved men and women brought to the Americas were Muslims. While today these American followers of the Prophet Muhammad have been largely forgotten, the presence of Islam in the United States was not unknown among the nation’s citizens in the 18th and 19th centuries. Often practiced in secret, reluctantly abandoned, or blended with other traditions, these first attempts ultimately did not survive slavery. But the mere existence of Islam in the early republic is evidence that religious diversity in this country has a deeper and more complex history than many now know.

    Not long before Jefferson’s Qur’an rolled north with the rest of his library in 1815, another American attempted to write his own Islamic sacred text, albeit in a form that could not be so easily transported or understood. He wrote his in Arabic on a jail cell wall.

    Slave traders captured
    Omar ibn Said in what is now Senegal and brought him to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1807. He was sold to a man that Said would describe as cruel and a kafir, or infidel. A devout Muslim when he arrived in the United States, Said strived during his enslavement first to maintain his faith, and then to transform it. His story has earned a place in history—as well as in the “Religion in Early America” exhibition, currently on view at the National Museum of American History, and on the Smithsonian Institution’s latest Sidedoor podcast.

    Following an attempt to escape from slavery in 1810, Omar ibn Said was arrested in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

    Omar ibn Said

    While locked in his jail cell, Said became a figure of curiosity, first for his quiet and some said mysterious demeanor, then for the strange way in which he prayed, and finally for the graffiti he began to inscribe on the walls of his cell—Arabic script, most likely verses from the Quran. “The walls of his cell,” it was later reported, “were covered in strange characters, traced in charcoal or chalk, which no scholar in Fayetteville could decipher.”

    Omar ibn Said soon became the property of a prominent local political family, which encouraged him to convert to Christianity and persuaded him to write an account of his life. Through the decades that followed, this family publicized his conversion, placing articles about him in newspapers and broadsides around the United States.

    In 1825, a Philadelphia paper recounted the story of his jail time, and how he had been brought to his new faith. In 1837 an article in the Boston Reporter hailed him as a “Convert from Mohammedanism” and devoted two columns to his Christian virtues. In 1854, a reporter wrote that he had “thrown aside the blood* stained Koran and now worships at the feet of the Prince of Peace.” Though they still held Said in slavery, his owners claimed (without apparent irony) that he wore “no bonds but those of gratitude and affection.”

    Yet Omar ibn Said had his own story to tell. Like his jail cell graffiti, his account of his experiences was written in Arabic. Those taking credit for his conversion were unable to read of his true convictions. If they had, they would have seen his adoption of Christianity, while apparently sincere, was also a practical measure.

    Before all the things he valued in life had been taken from him, Said said, he had prayed as a Muslim, but now he would say the Lord’s Prayer, he revealed in his writings. But he also peppered his text with prophetic declarations of divine wrath directed at the country that deprived him of his freedom.

    O people of America, O people of North Carolina,” he wrote. “Do you have a good generation that fears Allah? Are you confident that He who is in heaven will not cause the earth to cave in beneath you, so that it will shake to pieces and overwhelm you?

    Even after his conversion to Christianity, Islam continued to shape his response to enslavement. And in this he was not alone: Plantation owners often made it a point to add Muslims to their labor force, relying on their experience with the cultivation of indigo and rice. Muslim names and religious titles appear in slave inventories and death records.

    Job ben Solomon

    All of this was common knowledge at the time
    . Every so often in the 18th and 19th century press, other enslaved Muslims became celebrities of a sort—most often because they were discovered to have levels of erudition well beyond those who claimed to own them.

    The earliest example of this was Job ben Solomon, who was enslaved in Maryland in the 1730s. Like Omar ibn Said, after an escape attempt he was jailed and a local judge became so taken with him he wrote a book about their encounter. As the judge wrote, “He shewed upon all Occasions a singular Veneration for the Name of God, and never pronounced the Word Allah without a peculiar Accent, and a remarkable Pause: And indeed his Notions of God, Providence, and a future State, were in the main very just and reasonable.”

    The most famous of the enslaved Muslims who found their way into the early American press was a man named Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim.

    Known as the Moorish prince he came from an important family in his homeland of Timbuktu, in today’s Mali. His plight drew wide attention in the 1820s, with newspaper stories written around the country. Decades after his enslavement, several well-placed supporters, including secretary of state Henry Clay, and through him President John Quincy Adams, helped to win his freedom and his relocation to Liberia. Before his departure, he offered a critique of religion in a country that had enslaved him for 40 years. As one newspaper account noted, he had read the Bible and admired its precepts but added, “His principal objections are that Christians do not follow them.”

    Even counting their population conservatively, the number of enslaved men and women with a connection to Islam when they arrived in colonial America and the young United States was likely in the tens of thousands. Proof that some of them struggled to preserve remnants of their traditions can be seen in the words of those most intent in seeing them fail in this endeavor.

    In 1842, Charles Colcock Jones, author of The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States complained that “Mohammedan Africans” had found ways to “accommodate” Islam to the new beliefs imposed upon them. “God, say they, is Allah, and Jesus Christ is Mohammed. The religion is the same, but different countries have different names.”

    We can see the same kind of religious syncretism in the writings left behind by Omar ibn Said. In addition to his autobiographical account, he composed an Arabic translation of the 23rd Psalm, to which he appended the first words of the Qur’an: “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

    Missionaries like Jones considered such blendings of sacred texts evidence that enslaved Muslims like Said did not have much fidelity to their own religious traditions. But in fact, it proves the opposite. They understood that faith was important enough that they should look for it everywhere. Even in a nation where only non-Muslims like Thomas Jefferson were able to own a Qur’an.

    If there were any Muslims at Monticello when his library began its journey to Washington, in theory Jefferson would not have objected to their faith. As he wrote in surviving fragments of his autobiography, he intended his “Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom” to protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

    Yet such religious differences for Jefferson were largely hypothetical. For all this theoretical support for religious freedom, he never mentioned the fact that actual followers of Islam already lived in the nation he helped to create. Nor did he ever express curiosity if any of the more than 600 enslaved people he owned during his lifetime could have understood his Qur’an better than he did.



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