Muslims in America: Examining the Facts by Dr. Craig Considine

“The Facts: Unbeknownst to many Americans today, the United States has never existed without the presence of Muslims. Several studies elaborate on how the history of Muslims in America was immeasurably augmented by the transatlantic slave trade. As many as 15 million West Africans were enslaved by Europeans beginning in the 16th century (Diouf, 1998). Among those West Africans, approximately 10 to 20 percent were Muslim (Austin, 1997). Other scholars have suggested that upward of 30 percent of all enslaved Africans were Muslims (Ahmed, 2003).”

“The Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas are thought to have been mostly well learned and literate. Consistent with the basic teachings of Islam, education was paramount to the West African civilizations. Timbuktu, in modern-day Mali, was one of the great centers of learning in the world, with libraries having up to 700 volumes and numerous schools ( well over 150 during the 16th century) ( Dirks, 2006).”

“Most of the Muslim slaves from West Africa were literate in at least Arabic, and it has been estimated that the percentage of literacy in Arabic among African slaves was actually higher than the percentage of literacy in English among their Christian owners (Dirks, 2006).”

“Al Haj Omar Ibn Said, a notable American Muslim slave with family roots in West Africa, is said to have been born and educated in the modern country of Senegal, where he served as an Islamic scholar of the Fula people. He is known for 14 documents that he wrote in Arabic, including an autobiography that detailed his life as a trader, soldier, and faithful Muslim. Said wrote that he performed the hajj, an Arabic word referring to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, required by all Muslims (Considine, 2017: 185 ), and studied the Qur’an for 25 years before being sold into slavery in 1807 (The Pluralism Project, n.d. ).”

“Said’s handwritten works are now part of the North Carolina Collection in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Today, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Omar Ibn Said mosque on Southern Avenue stands as a testament to his legacy. A nearby historical marker notes that Said was a slave, scholar, and African-born author who penned in autobiography in Arabic. Other details of his life on the marker show that he lived in Blady County and worshipped with local Presbyterians. Muslims from the territories of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire are considered to be the second group of Muslims to arrive on U.S. soil.”

“One European Christian, the English sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake, commanded 25 to 30 English ships, whose shipmen liberated approximately 500 prisoners at Saint Augustine in Florida between 1585 and 1586. Dirks ( 2006) notes that about 300 or more of these liberated slaves were North African and Turkish galley slaves. North African and Ottoman captives from the Mediterranean region, usually called Moors and Turks, respectively, were needed to perform menial duties for their Spanish overlords in places such a5 Saint Augustine. Further evidence of Muslim galley slaves in the Americas is documented by the Smithsonian, which estimated that many of the Colombian city of Cartagena’s slave population were Muslims.”

In 1586, Drake besieged and captured the town, instructing his men to treat Frenchmen, Turks, and black Africans with respect (Lawler, 201 7). Edward D. Neill, an historian of early American history, wrote in his book The Virginia Carolorum that several shipments of Turkish and Armenian indentured servants, both men and women, were present in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in the early 17th century, meaning that the slaves Drake captured were likely of Turkish and Armenian descent (Neill, 1886).”

“These hypotheses are confirmed in recordings by The Virginia Carolorum, which note that several of the Turks in Jam es town included the names “Mehmet the Turk,” “Ahmad the Turk,” “Joseph the Armenian,” and “Sayyan Turk” (Neill, 1886). A 1652 colonial document also refers to a “Turk” in Virginia, who wrote in the Turkish language. In the same year, Governor William Boyd of Virginia referred to a Turkish merchant in a letter (Dirks, 2006).”

“An obscure group known as the Melungeons also had a presence in precolonial and colonial America. Of mixed racial background, the Melungeons settled in the Appalachian region as early as the 17th century (Dirks, 2006). According to Wayne Winkler (2004), the Melungeons are a hybrid group with African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean ancestry.”

“A DNA study published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy in 2012 found that Melungeon families are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Further details about the ancestry of the Melungeons are provided by Kathy Lyday, a researcher based at Elon University. Lyday claims that a Spanish influence is likely, given that the Southwest and the mountains were explored and settled by Spaniards as far back as Hernando de Soto, a conquistador who marched through the region in 1540 (Neal, 2015 ). These Spaniards likely brought African Muslim slaves with them, and they probably intermarried with Natives.”

Source: Muslims in America: Examining the Facts

Moorish Spain By Richard A. Fletcher


“Thus far the Islamic presence in Spain has been considered from a western and Christian point of view. We should also attempt an assessment of its culture in the wider context of Islamic civilization as a whole. During the Middle Ages al-Andalus–as Moorish Spain was always known in the Arabic-speaking world-was little regarded in the Middle Eastern heartlands of Islam.”

“For the mandarins and intellectuals of sophisticated Damascus, Cairo or Baghdad, al-Andalus was a distant frontier outpost of Islam on the fringes of the known world, irredeemably dowdy and provincial. Yet from this dingy backwater there emerged some of the finest works of Islamic art and culture: for example, the great mosque of Cordoba, the Cuenca school of ivory carving, the poetry of Ibn ‘Ammar, the philosophy of Ibn Rushd (better known as to the west as Averros), the medical treatises of Ibn Zuhr, the Giralda of Seville and the Alhambra of Granada. Here too there are puzzles to be investigated.”

“This is to indicate some of the ways in which Moorish Spain might be thought to lay claim to our attention. But before we proceed further with the inquiry it will be as well to introduce the land which medieval Muslim and Christian shared, for the benefit of those who do not know it. A preliminary difficulty–of which doubtless the reader must already have become aware–is to decide what to call it. This is not a new problem: take for example the opening sentences of the description of Spain by the eleventh-century geographer al-Bakri.”

“People say that in ancient times it was called Iberia, taking its name from the river Ebro. Later it was known as Betica, from the river Betis which runs past Cordoba. Later it was known as Betica, from the river Betis which runs past Cordoba. Later still it was called “Hispania” after a man named “Hispan” who had once ruled there. Some people say that its true name is Hesperia, which is derived from Hesperus, the evening star in the west. Nowadays we call it al Andalus after the Andalusians who settled it.”

“Objections can be raised against nearly all the available options. Hispania and Hesperia sound precious and pedantic. Iberia risks being confused with the region of that name in the Georgian Caucasus. Spain as a term for the whole peninsular land mass between the Pyrenees and the Straits of Gibraltar is open to the objection that it will inevtiably suggest the modern state of Spain and thereby exclude the area covered by modern Portugal.”

“The political designations of the  Middle Ages were applied to territories whose size and shape oscillated wildy. Castile did not exist in the year 800, by the year 1000 it was a moderst county of the Kingdom of Leon, by 1300 it was the largest state in Europe. Al-Andalus meant nearly the whose of the peninsula in the eighth century, but by the late thirteenth it meant the tiny principality of Granada. Religous labels are misleading. Islamic pain always contained a sizeable communities of Christians and Jews, Christian Spain, similiary communities of Jews and Muslims.”

“Ethnic desginations are even more misleading. The language of common speech in al-Andalus, for Christians and Jews as well as for Muslims, was Arabic; but to speak as some have done of Arabic Spain is to give the impression that the land had been colonized by the Arabs, whereas the number of Arabs who settled there was very small. Moorish Spain does at least have the merit of reminidng us that the bulk of the invaders and settlers were Moors, i.e. Berbers from northwest Africa. But we shall need to bear in mind that they overlay a population of mixed descent-Hispano-Romans, Basques, Sueves, Visigoths, Jews, and others.”

“The read who looks for consistency of verbal usage in this book is going to be disappointed. When I use the term al-Andalus I understand by it that area of the Iberian peninsula under the control of Muslim authority, and the phrases Moorish, Muslim and Islamic Spain are to be regard as synonmous with it. I shall try to avoid using Spain to indicate the whole land mass but I do not expect to keep to this well meant resolution. I offer my apologies in advance to those who inhabit the peninsula today who are politically independant of the Spanish monarchy (in Portugal) or who think that they ought to be in the Basque country, Galicia and Catalonia).”

“What needs special emphasis in any account of Moorish Spain is the ease of contact between southern Spain and northwest Africa: the Straits at their narrowest are only twelve miles wide. In his poem Spain of 1937, later disavowed-W.H. Auden called the land that arid square, that fragment nipped off from hot Africa. how right he was. The relief, climate, and ecology of southern Spain parallel in Morocco. Shackled to Castile by the chance of history, Andalusia has a natural partner in Barbary, the land of the Berbers, to which indeed she was once linked until the land bridge burst and the waters of the Atlantic gushed in to make the Mediterranean.”

“The Berber and Black African soldiers were known in Andalusi slang as “Tangerines’ because so many were imported through Tangier. Spain was known colloquially as the Dar Dijihad, the land of jihad. The Roman provinces of North Africa fell swiftly to the Arabs. They conquered Egypt in the years 640-42, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (i.e. roughly, the parts of modern Libya) in 643-47, and the province of Africa proper (which the Arabs called Ifriqiya, i.e. today’s Tunisia) by 670 when the new city of Kairouan, to the south of Tunis, was founded. But then the pace of conquest slackened. The Berbers put up fierce resistance to the Arab armies.”

“They were nominally subjected by the early years of the eighth century but continued to mount sporadic rebellions against Arab rule until the 740s and 750s. One way of taming the Berbers, and of simultaneously profiting from their fighting skills, was to encourage or compel their enlistment into Arab-led armies for the prosecution of military campaigns elsewhere. The prospects of adventure and plunder, possibly even of land, would appeal to the Berber warrior tribesmen. Regular military discipline would break down clan loyalties and values; Regular military discipline would turn them into good Muslims. This thinking probably influences the Arab leadership to undertake the raids on southern Spain which occupied the years before 711.”

“It is not clear, from the meager sources that have survived, why raiding should have turned into conquest. Partly, perhaps, it may have arisen from the inner dynamics of the early Islamic polity. The caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty who presided from Damascus over the vast sprawling Islamic empire which had erupted with such speed in the seventh century depended for their survival upon the allegiance of an Arab aristocracy imbued with a warrior ethic. (In this respect they were not unlike the rulers of other early medieval successor states to the Roman empire, such as the Merovingian and Carolingian kings of the Franks in Gaul and Germany.) Prudent rulers respected the habits and needs of their predatory nobilities. Expand or go under: this could have been the motto of any early medieval ruler, whether Christian or Islamic.”

Source: Spain By Richard Fletcher, Richard A. Fletcher

In 990 a.d. the empire of Ghana annexed the Saharan city of Awdaghust

“In 990 The empire of Ghana annexes the Saharan city of Awdaghust. In 1077-1078 Almoravids take over Tanger, fight the empire of Ghana, and control the trans-Saharan caravan trade; birth of Ibn Tumart, the Almohad Mahdi; Bijaia becomes the captial of the Hammadid dynasty.”

“Sijilmassa is known for its historical role in the trans-Saharan gold trade with ancient Ghana. From the 11th to the 14th centuries, trans-Saharan trade was regulated an attraced Arab, Muslim, and Jewish merchants from the East and Muslim Spain. Gold was transported north to Sijilmassa and then west to Fes, and during this period Sijilmassa had a mint which issued its first coins in 947.”

“Almoravids (1061-1147). The name “Almoravids,” by which the movement is known in Western scholarship, is a Spanish corruption of the Arabic Al-Murabitun and designates a Sanhaja Berber dynasty that ruled over Morocco, western Algeria and al-Andalus. The Almoravids were brought to power by the theologian ‘Abd Allah Ibn Yasin and his reformist holy warriors (al-murabitun).”

“They conquered the Soninke kingdom of Ghana and laid siege to Sijilmasa in 1055-1056. Fes was taken in 1069, and Algiers was brought under their control in 1082 after taking Tlemecen and Oran. The Almoravids also controlled parts of Spain after a solid victory against Alphonso VI in 1086. A relative of the first disciples, Yusuf Ibn Tashafin (1061-1107), who built Marrakech in 1060, became the first founder of the dynasty, which despite its short life left tremendous political and cultural impacts of the historical map of North Africa, Spain, and the Sahara Desert.

“The Almoravids reached their zenith under Ibn Tasafin’s rule. As a result of the establishment of the Almoravids in Spain, North Africa recieved a cultural infusion from Andalusia. The Malikite shcool of law also entrenched itself in North Africa. Opposition to Islamic practices which were limited to the literal and anthromorphic conception of the word of the Qur’an fell into rigidity, and this state of affairs triggered religous and political opposition.”

“In Andalusia, it led to a new disintegration into numerous city-states, and in the Atlas Mountains to a revolt of the Masmuda tribes, inspired by the teachings of the religous reformer Mahdi Ibn Tumart. In addition to constant Chrisitan assaults, the Almoravids would finally succumb to the overwhelimg campaings of the warrairo-monks, the Almohads, as Marrakech was taken in 1147.”

Source: Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) By Hsain Ilahiane


Formidable Power of the Moors Intimidated most of the Grandees of Sanchez Court


“The luster of their virtues and the glory they acquired daily by their valor raised a generous emulation among the nobility and gentry of Spain. We observed, at the beginning of this history, that the Moors, in the eighth century, took the greatest part of that kingdom from the Goths. ‘Tis well known, that the Christians which remained of that nation, flying from the persecution of the infidels, retired at first into the mountains of the Asturias, from whence they sallied out afterward, under the conduct of Pelagius, to defend their liberty and their religion. That prince, by little and little, enlarged the bounds of his kingdom. His successors were yet more prosperous; they recovered several provinces from the Moors; and these Christian princes, who carried on the war in different quart among others, to preserve a reciprocal independency among themselves, erected these provinces over which they assumed sovereignty into so many kingdoms. Such is the original of the kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon, Portugal, Valentia, &.”

“The Moors too, on their side, had cantoned out their conquest, and we find among those Barbarians the kings of Toledo, Cordova, Murcia, and Granada. The one was every day in action the other, and for several ages, there was continual war between them. Some Spanish gentlemen, in imitation of the Templars and Hospitallers, and for the defense of religion, formed hereupon several societies and military orders, composed only of the nobility and gentry of that nation: of the order of Calatrava is reckoned the most ancient. Don Sanchez, the third king Castile, having won from the Moors the city of Calatrava, a strong place and frontier of the kingdoms of Castile and Toledo, committed the government and defense of it to the Templars but these knights having afterward advice, that the kings of the Moors had joined their forces to besiege it, and finding themselves to few to defend it, they delivered the place back again to the king.”

“Sanchez had need of all his forces to keep the field and make head against the Moors, who threatened, at the same time, to break into Castile. That prince, in this distress, declared, that if anyone was able and brake enough to undertake the defense of Calatrava, he would give it to him in property, to be held under the immediate sovereignty of his crown. But the formidable power of the Moors had so intimidated the most of the grandees of his court, that there was not who offered to throw himself into a place which was going to have at the foot of its wall the whole forces of the infidels.” 

Source: The History of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem …, Volume 1 By Vertot (abbé de)



Iberian Moors migrated into West Africa 1492

Moor, 1) Muslim of North Africa. Although often assumed to be a black race, in fact, the Moors were of Berber and Arab descent, mixed with considerable Negroid and Iberian blood. The word probably derives from Mauri, L. by way of Gr. for ‘dark men.’ Their native lands constituted parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. One theory is that the name originally derives from Berber Amazigh, ‘freemen,’ referring to their nomadic existence, and in Greek times came to mean anyone with dark skin. By the Middle Ages the term came to be applied to any Muslims (similarly, all Europeans were called Franks in the Mohammadean world). Since Moors were thought of as being dark skinned, the word was also used generally to apply to blacks, although light-skinned Moors were well known. The word ‘blackamoor’ was also common, which implies a distinction from lighter-skinned Moors.

In any case, attitudes to race were much different then because there had been so little direct contact between the population of England and the ‘exotic races. There was also no long history of the disgusting racist theories which still burden the modern world. There were celebrity Moors in London, but the overall awareness would be of a faraway people, who to a greater or lesser degree were allied with the enemies of Christendom. After their early history (see Mauritania), the Moors were overrun by the Arabs in the 7th c., who replaced their religion and language and formed a dynamic culture. In the 8th c. the Moors defeated the Visigoths and conquered Spain.

Their attempt to move north into France was turned back by Charles Martel in 732, though they conquered Sicily in 827. Gradually the Christian reconquest drove them back until the only Moorish stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell in 1492.“The Iberian Moors, who had considerably intermarried, returned to Africa where they were known as Andalusians, and scattered over the enormous range of the Moors, from the Mediterranean to the Senegal river, and from the Atlantic to Timbuktu.” 

Source:  The Shakespeare Name Dictionary By J. Madison Davis, Daniel A. Frankforter

“Ever since the Andalusians had turned on alMutawakkil, however, al-Mansur had held them in suspicious respect, even going so far as to have a spy monitor them at the Battle of Wadi al-Makazin. After having their leader, al-Dughali, disposed of he retained substantial Andalusian troops, but drew his senior commanders from the ranks of the renegados, who commanded what was essentially a standing professional army of twenty-six thousand troops, with another twenty-five thousand scattered throughout the country.  Smith, Ahmad al-Mansur, 52. This of course changed over time. By 1602, according to Weston F. Cook, something resembling a standing national army consisted of some fifty thousand men under al-Mansur’s direct command stationed around Marrakech. Discrete units made up of Turks, Algerians, and Andalusians remained, with commanders drawn from their ranks and well as from those of renegados. Most of the cavalry were Moroccans organized by region or as jaysh tribes. By the end of his reign al-Mansur had also introduced black Sudanese slaves to the army. Cook, The Hundred Years War, 261.”

Source: MOROCCO IN THE EARLY ATLANTIC WORLD, 1415-1603 A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History By Earnest W. Porta, Jr., J.D