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Isnin, 23 Februari 2009

The Islamic Community In The United States

1) The Navigator of Columbus, who during the famous voyage, brought along a copy of a travel narrative written by Portuguese Muslims who had sailed to the New World in the 12th century. The narrative by al-Idrisi was called "The Sea of Tears". In this narrative he discusses he voyage of 80 muhagharrun (explorers) who lived in Lisbon during the reign of the Murabit amir, Yusuf ibn Tashufin. In the narrative it mentions visits to fourteen islands. Over half of these islands were later traced to be in either the Canary Islands or the Azores. However, the ones not traced could have been as far away or the Azores. However, the ones not traced could have been as far away as the Caribbean. An early travel from 942 A.D. is mentioned in the Annuals of al-Mas'udi. (Aramco World, May-June 1992)

2) Istafan, the Arab, was a guide for the Spanish that wished to settle the area that would later be called Arizona in 1539. Istafan was from Azamor, Morocco and had previously been to the New World in the ill-fated expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez to Florida in 1527. Brent Kennedy mentions him in his article in Islamic Horizons as being one of the first Moors and Muslims in America. Istafan was one of four to survive a five thousand mile tour of the American Southwest. Originally he was part of a three hundred member exploratory group. He would go on to become the first visitor from Europe or Africa among the Pueblo Indians. (Islamic Horizons November/December 1994, pp.24-27). He was also a guide for the Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza and was in this capacity until he was killed in an Indian attack in Arizona and New Mexico in 1539.

3) Another early Muslim in this period was Nasruddin. He is famous for having killed a Mohawk princess who refused to marry him and for being the earliest permanent Arab settlers in the New World. [History of Green County, N.Y., pp. 19-22.]

4) Ayub Sulaiman ibn Diallo became a go between for his people and the British after his repatriation. I mention him because he continued to practice Islam during his two years of slavery in the 1730's in Maryland. He was versed enough in Arabic to write at least a half dozen letters in that language, translate coin inscriptions for the British Museum, and draw a map of West Africa writing place names in Arabic.

5) Salim the Algerian, who was a Muslim from a royal family of Algiers that studied in Constantinople. After returning from a visit to Constantinople, he was captured by a Spanish Man of War and later sold into slavery to the French in New Orleans. Eventually he became free after running from slavery, lived among American Indian tribes, and settled in Virginia. Salem was found in rags, almost naked, and was taught English. Eventually, it was ascertained that he knew Greek and he was given a Greek New Testament. Several future members of the U.S. Congress befriended him and he converted to Christianity. A new convert to Christianity he decided to go back home to spread the Gospel. After a disastrous journey to his homeland (where he was shunned as an apostate), he returned to America, met Thomas Jefferson, attended the 1st Continental Congress, and died an insane man having given-up his family and religion for America. While he was at the Congress his picture was painted by a Mr. Peale after the intervention of a member of the Congress Mr. Page. Near the end of Salem's life, he regained his long lost sanity. He had been insane since his trip to his homeland after his conversion to Christianity. Some say he renounced Christianity, other say died a Christian at the Page estate, and still others say he died in an insane asylum. [Graham's Magazine, 1857, pp. 433-437.] It should be noted that none of these men tried to spread Islam and only Ayub tried to preserve his own belief.

The Wahhab brothers were shipwrecked on the coast of North Carolina in the 1770's. They settled married and started a farm. Their ancestors today own one of the largest private hotel chains in North Carolina. The only contemporary reference I have on them is a letter from the North Carolina historian Thomas Parramore. Whether they or their ancestors stayed in the Islamic faith is something that I can not answer at this time. Around this same time a ship of 70 odd Moorish slaves landed in Maryland. No more is known on these Moors.

An important point is that these Muslims were not unique in being able to read and write Arabic. In fact, in many slave quarters in the Caribbean and Brazil there were clandestine Arabic and Islamic schools. One can find references to these in the works by Nina Rodriguez and in the two volume book TWELVE MONTHS IN JAMAICA by Robert Madden (Phil.: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1835).

Muhammed Abdullah Ahari from http://www.sunnah.org/history/

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