Islam in America before
Hisham Zoubeir, 14 February 1998
Before I begin this article, I would like to extend my thanks to the creators of the Internet. It was there that I found my research on the topic that follows, and it is to the people who wrote the various articles and references that credit for this article should go to. I merely put two and two together for the benefit of those reading this now.
The history surrounding the followers of our proud faith is one of two shades; the truth and the lie. The lies surrounding our history have been spread to every corner of the globe; that we were and are (?) barbarians, no better than animals. The truth is that although there were certain parts of history that do show that some of our followers were ruthless and brutal (such as the Ottoman Empire), this is not unlike every nation and country in the world. And we have a much more worthy things to focus on.
Before the West declared themselves the great scientists of the earth, before their own Renaissance, Muslims already were making discoveries in science that took the West hundreds of years to even begin to imagine. What a shame that people in Europe were being persecuted by the Church for their suppositions that the earth was round; they should have come to the Islamic world--- an Afghan Muslim had proved that in 793 C.E.!
However, the studying of the universe brought forth more questions, and more curiosity. The Muslims in West Africa were so intrigued by what was on the other side of the Great Sea, that they began their expeditions into the great unknown. Early reports of these travels are sketchy, but we can be sure that they crossed the Atlantic by 889 C.E.
That was 603 years before Columbus. And that is not counting the actual physical evidence in the United States today that dates back even further; however, we do know, as De Lacy O'Leary pointed out, that Muslims definitely had the scientific knowledge and skill to make journeys across the Atlantic ocean.
We were in the Americas, hundreds of years before Columbus, and of that we can be sure.
Clyde-Ahmad Winters. Barry Fell. Alexander Von Wuthenau. Ivan Van Sertima. What do they have in common? A lot. They all provided evidence to the above statement; and it is a statement of fact, not an opinion, although many have chosen to ignore it in the past.
Now, we are all aware of the grave tragedy that befell the various African people after the discovery of America. Many people from there were forcefully taken from their homes to America, to serve the people who had taken over that land. Black slavery. We also know, for a fact, that many of these people were indeed Muslims; that has never been in dispute, nor should it be. Clyde Ahmad Winters has given us details of how huge numbers of Muslims were brought to Latin America in a 1978 issue of Al-Ittihad: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies, although later on in 1543, Muslims in Spanish colonies were ejected from them by the residing government.
Dr. Barry Fell, a noted New Zealand archaeologist and linguist of Harvard University showed detailed existing evidence in his work, "Saga America" that Muslims were not only in the Americas before Columbus arrived, but very active there as well. The language of the Pima people in the South West and the Algonquian language had many words in their vocabulary that were Arabic in origin, and Islamic petroglyphs were found in places such as California.
In the Inyo county of the State of California, according to Fell, there is another petroglyph that states, "Yasus bin Maria" which means in Arabic, "Jesus, son of Mary". This is not a Christian phrase; in fact, the phrase is to be found in the verses and ayahs of the Holy Quran. This glyph, as Fell believes, is centuries older than the US. In the Western states of the US he found texts, diagrams and charts engraved on rocks that were used for schooling that dated back to 700-800 C.E. The schooling was in subjects such as mathematics, history, geography, astronomy and sea navigation. The language of instruction was Kufic Arabic, from North Africa.
The German art historian, Alexander Von Wuthenau, also provides evidence that Islamic peoples were in America, in the time between 300 and 900 C.E. This was at least half a millennium before Columbus was born! Carved heads, that were described as "Moorish-looking" were dated between 300 and 900 C.E. and another group of heads dated between 900 and 1500 C.E. An artifact found in the earlier group was photographed, and when later examined was found to resemble an old man in a Fez, like the Egyptians.
Ivan Van Sertima is widely renowned for his work, "They Came Before Columbus" which showed that there was definitely contact between the ancient and early African people with the Native Americans. This and another of his works, "African Presence in Early America" both prove that there were African Muslim settlements in the Americas, before the expedition of Columbus was even conceived. His research has shown that Arab Muslim trade was active in America and one can only imagine that the marvellous culture that the Native Americans had that shared so much with Islamic teachings was of great attraction to the Muslims that came so far across the sea.
And for the record, Christopher Columbus, the man who so-called discovered America, himself declared that his impression of the Carib people (i.e., Caribbean people) were "Mohemmedans." He knew of the Mandinka presence in the New World (Muslims) and that Muslims from the West coast of Africa had settled down in the Carribean, Central, South and North America. Unlike Columbus, they had not come to enslave the populations or plunder the land; they had come to trade and they married among the Natives. Columbus further admitted that on October 21st, 1492, as he was sailing past Gibara on the coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque, and remnants of other masjids have been found in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.
On the second voyage Columbus took to the West Indies, the people of Haiti told him that "black" people had been there before him. They showed him spears of these visitors, and further study of the metals involved in their construction showed that they could have been made only in one place: Guinea.
Another historian, P.V. Ramos, also showed in his essay in "African Presence in Early America" that the dietary regulations of the Carib were similar to Islamic teachings.
But let us say that we are wrong. Perhaps it is all just a coincidence; after all, there are no living survivors of the Native American Muslims, are they?
Wrong. And this last part is what originally drew me into this quest for knowledge: an exposť written by a Native Muslim.
Brother Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El wrote in his account, recently posted on the Internet, about the Native Americans that were Muslims. He is of the Cherokee tribe; known as Eagle Sun Walker, and a Pipe Carrier Warrior of the Cherokees in New York. He tells of Muslim travellers that came to his land over one thousand years ago, and what is more important, existing evidence of legislation, treaties and resolutions that prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt that Muslims were in the Americas and very active. Although these documents have not been written after 1492, it is still interesting to note that Islam was in fact there. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1787 have the signatures of Abdel-Khak and Mohammed Bin Abdulla. According to a federal court case from the Continental Congress,
Native Muslims helped put life into the constitution.
These are a matter of record; they cannot be disputed. Go to the National Archives or the Library of Congress and see for yourself; the Treat of 1987 show that the Natives abided by an Islamic system in commerce, maritime shipping and government. The records of the State of Carolina has the Moors Sundry Act of 1790. The Cherokee Chief of 1866 was a man called Ramadhan Bin Wati. Native clothing up until 1832 was full Islamic wear. The name Tallahassee actually means," Allah will deliver you sometime in the future." In North America, there are no less than 565 names of tribes, villages, cities, mountains and other lands sites of Islamic or Arabic roots.
The truth of Islam and the truth of the Native American culture is one and the same; many people hundreds of years ago realised that. The protection of the land and of the animals; the non-wastage of resources and the non-pollution of nature are all Islamic concepts.
I finish this article with a few Native sayings. And then, I want you to tell me that Islam is not nurtured in the hearts of these people.
"Our belief is that the Great Spirit has created all things. Not just mankind but animals, all plants, all rocks, all on earth and amongst the stars with true soul. For us, all life is holy. All of nature is within us and we are part of all nature." Chief White Cloud
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night." Crowfoot
"In the life of the Indian there was only one inevitable duty- the duty of prayer - the daily recognition of the Unseen and the Eternal." Ohiyesa
Allahu akbar. Salaam wa allaykum wa rakhmatullah wa barakatu.
When this article was written] Hisham Zoubeir is at the University of Sheffield undertaking a multi-disciplinary degree in law. He has lived in Abu Dhabi, Cairo and London. His main interests delves into peace, equality, righteousness and spirituality.