Muslims In America

Saturday, August 23, 2008
By Charles Honey
Grand Rapids Press
Press Religion Editor


From their cramped office behind a Southeast Side barber shop, four young men try to get the word out: This is who we are, this is what we believe.

As Muslims in an overwhelmingly Christian community, they see it as their responsibility to tell what Islam truly teaches to non-Muslims and other Muslims. They aim to do so through Sunnah Publishing, an educational nonprofit they formed four years ago.

“Living in America, we’re the ones who suffer from misconceptions about Islam,” said Maaz Qureshi, 27, a Pakistani Grand Rapids resident since 1997. “It is our religious obligation to clarify what our religion stands for and what it doesn’t.”

Hamza Kantarevic, like Qureshi, sometimes wears the flowing robe, long beard and skullcap of traditionalist Islam. He knows he looks exotic, and perhaps threatening, in conservative West Michigan.

“They might see us and know we are Muslims and live amongst them,” said Kantarevic, 24, a Bosnian who has lived here since 1999. ‘But do they really know who we are?”

He and his colleagues at Sunnah Publishing hope to answer that and other questions at their first public conference, ‘Islam in America,’ beginning Friday, a few days before Ramadan begins.

The seminar features Muslim scholars from Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and New Jersey addressing a wide array of topics, from what Islam teaches about violence and women to Muslim positions on intelligent design and the environment.

Sunnah Publishing aims to provide answers by “turning back to Islam in its original form,” Qureshi said.

Some local Muslim leaders say they know little about Sunnah Publishing and will attend to learn more.

Ali Metwalli, a leader at the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute, said the organizers have a “peaceful mindset” but are more conservative than most local Muslims.

Qureshi accepts the conservative label, but says traditional Islam unequivocally condemns the militant extremism that has “messed up the image of Islam.”

“The idea of committing suicide and (making) a plane crash into a building or strapping a bomb on your chest has nothing to do with Islam,” said Qureshi, a database specialist at Pitney Bowes Legal Solutions.

Though not formally educated in Islam, he and his colleagues say they have studied and consulted with top scholars.

Salaahudeen Ali, a lifelong Grand Rapids resident, and Muhammad Muridi also are publishing partners.

They formed the publishing firm with their own funds, selling books and CDs and building a Web site including articles and audio recordings. They also teach classes on Arabic and creeds from their office at 613 Fuller Ave. SE.

Though they say top Islamic scholars have consistently condemned terrorism, the publishers add local Muslims have not been vocal enough about their beliefs.

“Nobody else is going to do it,” Qureshi said. “You kind of have to put yourself out there.”

Send e-mail to the author: choney@grpress. com

For More on the ‘Islam in America’ Conference: http://IslaminAmeri ca.wordpress. com

View the teaser trailer for the conference here: com/watch? v=qh1PmJ2C6OE

Sunnah Publishing
P.O. Box 150680 | Grand Rapids MI
49515-0680 | USA
E-mail: Admin@SunnahPublishing. net



By Amir Nashid Ali Muhammad

Maryland: Amana Publications

ISBN 0-915957-75-2

2nd Edition, 84 pages


In the past century many articles and books have been written about Muslim Americans. We also have seen part of America’s Islamic heritage and Muslim characters appear in many African American folk tales like The People Could Fly, Uncle Remus, Alex Haley’s Roots, and some of Toni Morrison’s books such as Tar Baby and The Song of Solomon. This book brings into focus a concise history of Muslim Americans and their contributions to the United States of America. The reader will find the book a useful educational tool for children, students, adults, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike. Among the many little-known but significant facts revealed by this book are that the first person to request the freedom of all slaves in America was a Muslim; that Muslims fought in many of the early America wars; and that Muslims were known to live in at least 7 of the 13 original colonies, such as Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Photo on front cover shows the tombstone of Sambo Swift (1811-1884) on the Butler Plantation of Darien, Georgia. The engraved hand with raised index finger on the tombstone symbolizes the Muslim belief in the Oneness of God (Tawheed). Noteworthy also is the North-east direction of the grave site.

The author, Amir Nashid Muhammad ibn West, is a well-known businessman, computer consultant, and published poet. Mr. Muhammad converted to Islam in 1974. The book was written so that he could leave his children, grandchildren, and the general public (both Muslim and non-Muslim) a clearer picture of America’s rich Islamic heritage. Mr. Muhammed is currently the president of Collections and Stories of American Muslims (Traveling Exhibit and Museum) — a nonprofit organization. This book is the first effort toward establishing an Islamic museum and traveling exhibit.



By Ivan Van Sertima

New York: Random House, 1976

ISBN 0394402456

1st Edition, 288 pages


A celebrated classic, They Came Before Columbus deals with a number of contacts — both planned and accidental, between Africans and Americans in different historical periods. Evidence for a physical/cultural presence of Africans in Early America is methodically examined.

Van Sertima reveals to us a compelling, dramatic and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Black Africans in Ancient America.

With his considerable scholarship, Van Sertima examines the facts of navigation and shipbuilding, the sources of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, the scores of cultural analogies found nowhere else except in America and Africa, African Languages and the transportation of plants, cloth and animals from Africa to the Americas. And from the diaries, letters and journals of the explorers themselves; from Carbon-14 dated sculptures found in the Americas; from Arabic documents, charts, maps; from the recorded tales of the griots to the Kings of Mali; from dated skeletons found as recently as 1975, the author builds his pyramid of evidence.

In addition to a scholar’s fastidiousness, Van Sertima has the skill of a novelist, and with it recreates some of the most powerful scenes history has to offer; the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (200 master boats and 200 supply boats); the sea expedition of the Mandingo king himself in 1311, and many others equally as vivid.

It is the marriage of these twin crafts–the artist’s and the scholar’s–in the book that makes it possible for us to see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of Black Africans in Pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilization they found here. (79 illustrations).



By Dr. Youssef Mroueh


Numerous evidence suggests that Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived in the Americas at least five centuries before Co1umbus. It is recorded, for example that in the mid-tenth century during the rule of the Umayed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961), Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of Delba (Palos) into the “Ocean of darkness an fog.” They returned after a long absence with much booty from a “strange and curious land.” It is evident that people of Muslim origin are known to have accompanied Columbus and subsequent Spanish explorers to the New World.

The last Muslim stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell to the Christians in 1492 CE, just before the Spanish inquisition was launched. To escape persecution, many non-Christians fled or embraced Catholicism. At least two documents imply the presence of Muslims in Spanish America before 1550 CE. Despite the fact that a decree issued in 1539 CE, by Charles V, King of Spain, forbade the grandsons of Muslims who had been burned at the stake to migrate to the West Indies. This decree was ratified in 1543 CE, and an order for the expulsion of all Muslims from overseas Spanish territories was subsequently published. Many references on the Muslim arrival in the Americas are available. They are summarized in the following notes:

Historic Documents

l. A Muslim historian and geographer Abul-Hassan Ali Ibn Al-Hussain Al-Masudi (871 – 957 CE) wrote in his book ‘Muruj Adh-dhahab wa Maadin al-Jawhar’ (The Meadows of Gold and Quarries of Jewels) that during the rule of the Muslim Caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Muhammad (888 – 912 CE), a Muslim navigator Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad of Cordoba, 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 (the Atlantic ocean) which he referred to as the unknown territory (the Americas).

2. A Muslim historian Abu Bakr Ibn Umar Al-Gutiyya narrated that during the reign of the Muslim Caliph of Spain, Hisham II (976 -1009 CE), another Muslim navigator Ibn Farrukh of Granada sailed from Kadesh (February 999 CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary Islands) visiting King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana. He arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE.

3. Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba), Spain. He was bound for Gomera (Canary Islands) – Gomera is an Arabic word meaning ‘small firebrand’ – there he fell in love with Beatriz Bobadilla, daughter of the first captain General of the island (the family name Bobadilla is derived from the Arab Islamic name Abouabdilla). Nevertheless, the Bobadilla clan was not easy to ignore.

Another Bobadilla (Francisco), later as the royal commissioner, put Columbus in chains and transferred him from Santo Domingo back to Spain (November 1500 CE). The Bobadilla family was related to Abbadid dynasty of Seville (1031-1091 CE).

On October 12, 1492 CE, Columbus landed on a little island in the Bahamas that was called Guanahani by the natives. Renamed San Salvador by Columbus, Guanahani is derived from Mandinka and modified Arabic words. Guana (Ikhwana) means ‘brothers’ and Hani is an Arabic name. Therefore the original name of the island was ‘Hani Brothers.’ [Click here for corrupted names of Arabic origin, such as those starting with Guad-, al-, Medina and others.]

Ferdinand Columbus, the son of Christopher, wrote about the blacks seen by his father in Honduras: “The people who live farther east of Pointe Cavinas, as far as Cape Gracios a Dios, are almost black in color.” At the same time in this very same region, lived a tribe of Muslim natives known as Almamy.

In Mandinka and Arabic languages Almamy was the designation of “Al-Imam” or “Al-Imamu,” the person who leads the Prayer, or in some cases, the chief of the community, and/or a member of the Imami Muslim community. A renowned American historian and linguist Leo Weiner of Harvard University, in his book Africa and The Discovery of America (1920) wrote that Columbus was well aware of the Mandinka presence in the New World and that the West African Muslims had spread throughout the Caribbean, Central, South and North American territories, including Canada, where they were trading and intermarrying with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians.

Geographic Explorations

1. The famous Muslim geographer and cartographer Al-Sharif Al-Idrisi (1099 – 1166 CE) wrote in his famous book ‘Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi-Ikhtiraq al-Afaq (Excursion of the longing in crossing horizons) that a group of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and fog (the Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal), in order to discover what was in it and what extent were its limits. They finally reached an island that had people and cultivation….on the fourth day, a translator spoke to them in the Arabic language.

2. The Muslim reference books mentioned a well-documented description of a journey across the sea of fog and darkness by Shaikh Zayn-eddine Ali ben Fadhel Al-Mazandarani. His journey started from Tarfay (south Morocco) during the reign of the King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286 – 1307 CE) sixth of the Marinid dynasty, to Green Island in the Caribbean sea in 1291 CE (690 AH). The details of his ocean journey are mentioned in Islamic references, and many Muslim scholars are aware of this recorded historical event.

3. The Muslim historian Chihab Addine Abul-Abbas Ahmad ben Fadhl Al-Umari (1300 – 1384 CE, 700 – 786 AH) described in detail the geographical explorations beyond the sea of fog and darkness of Male’s sultans in his famous book ‘Masaalik al-absaar fi Mamaalik al-amsaar (The Pathways of Sights in The Provinces of Kingdoms).

4. Sultan Mansa Kankan Musa (1312 – 1337 CE) was the world renowned Mandinka monarch of the West African Islamic empire of Mali. While traveling to Makkah on his famous Hajj in 1324 CE, he informed the scholars of the Mamluk Bahri Sultan court (an-Nasir-eddin Muhammad III, 1309 – 1340 CE) in Cairo that his brother, Sultan Abu Bakari I (1285 – 1312 CE) had undertaken two expeditions into the Atlantic ocean. When the sultan did not return to Timbuktu from the second voyage of 1311 CE, Mansa Musa became sultan of the empire.

5. Columbus and early Spanish and Portuguese explorers were able to voyage across the Atlantic (a distance of 24,000 Kilometers) thanks to Muslim geographical and navigational information, in particular maps made by Muslim traders, including Al-Masudi (871 – 957 CE) in his book ‘Akhbar Az-Zaman’ (History of The World) which is based on material gathered in Africa and Asia. As a matter of fact, Columbus had two captains of Muslim origin during his first transatlantic voyage: Martin Alonso Pinzon was the captain of the Pinta, and his brother Vicente Yanex Pinzon was the captain of the Nina. They were wealthy, expert ship outfitters who helped organize the Columbus expedition and repaired the flagship Santa Maria. They did this at their own expense for both commercial and political reasons. The Pinzon family was related to Abuzayan Muhammad III (1362 – 66 CE), the Moroccan sultan of the Marinid dynasty (1196 – 1465 CE).

Arabic (Islamic) Inscriptions

l. Anthropologists have proven that the Mandinkas under Mansa Musa’s instructions explored many parts of North America via the Mississippi and other rivers systems. At Four Corners, Arizona, writings show that they even brought elephants from Africa to the area.

2. Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21, 1492 CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on the top of a beautiful mountain. The ruins of mosques and minarets with inscriptions of Qur’anic verses have been discovered in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.

3. During his second voyage, Columbus was told by the Indians of Espanola (Haiti), that Black people had been to the island before his arrival. For proof they presented Columbus with the spears of these African Muslims. These weapons were tipped with a yellow metal that the Indians called Guanine, a word of West African derivation meaning ‘gold alloy.’ Oddly enough, it is related to the Arabic world ‘Ghinaa’ which means ‘Wealth.’ Columbus brought some Guanines back to Spain and had them tested. He learned that the metal was 18 parts gold (56.25 percent), six parts silver (18.75 percent and eight parts copper (25 percent), the same ratio as the metal produced in African metal shops of Guinea.

4. In 1498 CE, on his third voyage to the New World, Columbus landed in Trinidad. Later, he sighted the South American continent, where some of his crew went ashore and found natives using colorful handkerchiefs of symmetrically woven cotton. Columbus noticed the these handkerchiefs resembled the head dresses and loincloths of Guinea in their colors, style and function. He referred to them as Almayzars. Almayzar is an Arabic word for ‘wrapper,’ ‘cover,’ ‘apron’ and or ‘skirting,’ which was the cloth the Moors (Spanish or North African Muslims) imported from West Africa (Guinea) into Morocco, Spain and Portugal.

During this voyage, Columbus was surprised that the married women wore cotton panties (bragas) and he wondered where these natives learned their modesty.

Hernando Cortez, Spanish conqueror, described the dress of the Indian women as long veils and the dress of Indian men as ‘breechcloth painted in the style of Moorish draperies.’ Ferdinand Columbus called the native cotton garments ‘breechclothes of the same design and cloth as the shawls worn by the Moorish women of Granada.’ Even the similarity of the children’s hammocks to those found in North Africa was uncanny.

5. Dr. Barry Fell (Harvard University) introduced in his book Saga America – 1980 solid scientific evidence supporting the arrival, centuries before Columbus, of Muslims from North and West Africa. Dr. Fell discovered the existence of Muslim schools at Valley of Fire, Allan Springs, Logomarsino, Keyhole Canyon, Washoe and Hickison Summit Pass (Nevada), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Mimbres Valley (New Mexico) and Tipper Canoe (Indiana) dating back to 700-800 CE. Engraved on rocks in the old western US, he found texts, diagrams and charts representing the last surviving fragments of what was once a system of schools – at both an elementary and higher levels. The language of instruction was North African Arabic written with old Kufic Arabic script. The subjects of instruction included writing, reading, arithmetic, religion, history, geography, mathematics, astronomy and sea navigation.

The descendants of the Muslim visitors of North America are members of the present Iroquois, Algonquin, Anasazi, Hohokam and Olmec native people.

6. There are 565 names of places (villages, towns, cities, mountains, lakes, rivers, etc.) in USA (484) and Canada (81) which are derived from Islamic and Arabic roots. These places were originally named by the natives in pre-Columbian period. Some of these names carried holy meanings such as: Mecca (Indiana) – 720 inhabitants, Makkah Indian tribe (Washington), Medina (Idaho) – 2100, Medina (NY) – 8500, Medina and Hazen (North Dakota) – 1100 and 5000, respectively, Medina (Ohio) – 12,000, Medina (Tennessee) – 1100, Medina (Texas) – 26,000, Medina (Ontario) -1200, Mahomet (Illinois) – 3200, Mona (Utah) – 1100, Arva (Ontario) – 700, and many others. A careful study of the names of the native Indian tribes revealed that many names are derived from Arab and Islamic roots and origins, i.e. Anasazi, Apache, Arawak, Arikana, Chavin Cherokee, Cree, Hohokam, Hupa, Hopi, Makkah, Mahigan, Mohawk, Nazca, Zulu, Zuni, etc.

Based on the above historical, geographical and linguistic evidence, a call to celebrate the millennium of the Muslim arrival to the Americas (996-1996), five centuries before Columbus, has been issued to all Muslim nations and communities around the world. We hope that this call will receive complete understanding and attract enough support.

Copyright © Dr. Youssef Mroueh

Courtesy BIC, UK and MSANews/MSANet, USA.

Copyright © – Explanatory text in […] and the web version by Dr. A. Zahoor.



By TERESA WATANABE, Times Religion Writer

Omaima Bukhari is a precocious Muslim in Maryland. She’s 20, fascinated by Islam, computer science and psychology. She discusses everything with her father, Zahid, who works at Georgetown University and counts as friends imams and sheiks from Al Azhar, the prestigious seat of Islamic learning in Cairo.

Last December, she attended an engagement party for relatives in Pakistan. The bride-to-be was sobbing in the next room. So Bukhari marched before the family elders and demanded to know: Did you ask for her consent to the marriage? No? You have to! This right is from Allah, conveyed by our prophet Muhammad!

The women were silent. The men were arguing. These were men with beards down to their chests. This was a small rural village. This was a place where women have only just begun to receive educations.

But Bukhari was not quoting the Koran. She was quoting a hadith (an account of the prophet’s life). She was insisting that the villagers’ treatment of women was based on cultural practices, not the faith of Islam. No one could argue with her sources.

Finally, the graying patriarch of the Bukhari clan delivered judgment: Omaima is right. Consent must be obtained. The fiancee eventually granted it. And, as Bukhari prepared to return to America, the old-world patriarch told his new-world descendant, “Granddaughter, you’ve taught me a lot.”

Far from the fatwas–the religious decrees—of hierarchies abroad, American Muslims are slowly but steadily carving their mark on the Islamic world. Their relatively small numbers, young history and still fledgling organization would seem daunting barriers to wider influence. Of the roughly 1 billion Muslims worldwide, those in the United States are only a tiny fraction, numbering somewhere between 3 million and 10 million.

But a confluence of forces that has made those Americans among the freest, most educated, affluent and diverse Muslims in the world has given them an impact greater than their numbers. Helped by the growing use of English as a language of Islamic discourse and by the ever-spreading world of the Internet, they are self-consciously seeking to influence their religious brethren worldwide.

Moreover, the spirit of the times may be on their side. “The guy with a turban and rifle is out,” says Marcia Hermansen, a theology professor at Loyola University Chicago. “The guy drinking a latte with a laptop computer reading Internet fatwas is in.”

Provocative Islamic thinkers are flourishing in the climate of America’s unparalleled intellectual freedom. They are tackling taboo subjects such as spousal abuse and highlighting the aspects of their nearly 1,400-year tradition that embrace women’s rights, human rights and democratic practices.

The sheer diversity of the community here is prompting efforts to promote Islamic models of pluralism. U.S. Muslims include American natives, mainly of African descent, as well as immigrants from more than 50 nations.

American Muslims also are expanding their influence by bringing modern education, business practices and economic development to their homelands through a mushrooming number of nonprofit organizations. More than 300 such groups now raise about $50 million a year for such causes as education and health care, according to Aslam Abdullah, editor of the Los Angeles-based Minaret magazine and president of the American Federation of Muslims From India. “Muslims all over the world are looking with high expectations toward the ummah [community] in the United States and Canada,” says Murad Wilfried Hofmann, a retired German diplomat and Muslim jurist. “Its dynamism, fresh approach, enlightened scholarship and sheer growth is their hope for an Islamic renaissance worldwide.”

Working against that hope are the community’s weaknesses. American Muslims are divided and sometimes fractious. They struggle with discrimination and comparatively weak political clout at home. They are seen by Muslims elsewhere as generally lacking in the classical Islamic education that would undergird their authority. Some leaders worry that the powerful forces of assimilation, which homogenize most immigrant groups in the U.S. by the third generation, could weaken the American Muslim identity before it fully consolidates.

Key leaders across the ideological spectrum—from Sheik Hisham Kabbani of the Islamic Supreme Council of America to Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations–voice a common view that Muslims here must get their own house in order before hoping to have a major impact abroad. But despite the problems, American Muslims present the Islamic world with a seductive new model of modernity, says Sulayman Nyang, a professor of African and Islamic studies at Howard University in Washington.

Until now, the main model in the Islamic world for modernization had been Turkey, which excised Islam from public life in the name of progress. America gives Muslims an alternative–an example of a society in which the faithful are free to be both modern and religious. Here, more women are voluntarily donning the hejab head covering as a mark of religious pride and identity–even rendering it hip with T-shirts touting it as “Good in the ‘Hood.”

Nyang argues that the potent combination of modernity and piety demonstrated by Muslims in the U.S. could catch on in the Islamic world, offering a compelling alternative to extremism.

The American faces of Islam belong to people like Dany Doueiri and Shamshad Hussain. Doueiri is a co-founder of one of the world’s most popular Web sites on Islam, Every day, the Los Angeles-based site receives 140,000 hits. More than half the visitors are from outside the United States. They are shown an expanse of Islam that bypasses the divides of cultures, religious sects and schools of Islamic law that often separate Muslims from one another.

For instance, when numerous Bosnian Muslim women were raped by Serbian soldiers during the Balkans conflict, the site was flooded with queries on the Islamic position on abortion. Doueiri says his team presented without judgment two opinions from different schools: one holding that any abortion is forbidden, the other saying that the procedure is allowed for up to 120 days into the pregnancy, after which, adherents believe, the soul enters the body.

The neutral presentation of differing views within the vast Islamic tradition, though rare, is equipping Muslims worldwide to think through their own Islamic practices rather than simply accepting the rulings of the local scholar, Doueiri says. “This site has brought so much happiness overseas, because people say they find a much more objective point of view than they get from their own scholars,” he says.

The rise of the electronic fatwa, sometimes by self-styled experts, dismays some classically trained scholars. But experts say the trend is irreversible. The Internet, satellite TV and steady gains in literacy are prompting a quiet but dramatic shift in the source of Islamic authority throughout the Muslim world–from political and religious leaders to the common educated people, says Dale F. Eickelman, a Dartmouth College anthropology professor and co-author of the book “New Media in the Muslim World.”

Led by Muslims in the West, unprecedented numbers of believers are debating the fundamentals of their faith and practice in a new Islamic reformation, he says. “Nobody is controlling anymore,” Eickelman says. “Evenif you’re not getting an increase in liberalism or a shift from authoritarianism, you’re now getting large numbers of people who know what they’re missing.”

One pipeline of fresh Islamic views to younger Muslims abroad is the Iqra International Educational Foundation in Chicago. Iqra–the Arabic word for “read” and God’s first word to the prophet Muhammad (saws), according to the Koran–is pioneering American-produced, English-language Islamic textbooks. In the last few years, overseas demand has skyrocketed and the foundation now exports tens of thousands of books annually to 16 countries in the Mideast, Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Europe. The books’ distinction, according to managing director Hussain, is that they promote the idea of self-study of the Koran and hadith and present the tradition’s essence shorn of regional and sectarian differences.

The quest to crystallize Islam’s essence, free of the overlays of cultural tradition, is perhaps most advanced here because America’s diversity is forcing Muslims to strive for a common understanding. Doueiri’s Internet group, for instance, represents Muslims from both the majority Sunnis and minority Shiites who hail from 30 countries. Doueiri, for example, is an African-born American of Lebanese ancestry.

American Muslims are producing the first modern “hajj model of community,” says Agha Saeed, who teaches ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, referring to the annual gathering of Muslims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

American Muslims say they are striving to restore their faith to its essence of tolerance and pluralism. Two decades ago, the Islamic Center of Southern California was a pioneer in arguing for an American Muslim identity based on “finding ways in Islam to make bridges to ‘the other’ and live together,” as center co-founder Maher Hathout puts it. At the time, his was an odd voice among Muslim leaders who were focused inward and viewed America as dar ul-kufr, or “place of unbelievers.” Today, the concept is mainstream.

In Westwood, Michael Flemming represents the small but growing number of Muslims who are marrying cross-culturally. An African American graduate student in Islamic studies at UCLA, Flemming says his in-laws from India initially resisted his request to marry their daughter. But that resistance began to melt, he says, after he made his pilgrimage to Mecca. Still, the challenge of pluralism looms unmet for many. “Some African Americans get the feeling that even with our Muslim brothers, it’s still ‘us and them,’ ” Flemming says. “I think the youth, because they’ve grown up together here, will be able to overcome this.”

In the academic arena, striking American voices of Islam belong to people like Khaled Abou el Fadl. The UCLA professor of Islamic law is breaking intellectual ground with bold social critiques based on a blend of classical Islamic training and Western academic grounding. He trained in Egypt and Kuwait and at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

Over the last four years, Abou el Fadl has published searing critiques on sexual abuse, wife-beating and other problems among Muslims, analyzing how Islamic tradition sometimes promotes such behavior. Without America’s academic freedom, he says, such scholarship would have been impossible. Using case studies of mistreated Muslims, Abou el Fadl has admonished the tradition–and present-day imams–for the general silence on incest and sexual abuse. He has challenged divorce laws favoring men and concluded that expectations of blind obedience from women is immoral. So far, he has not been able to punch a doctrinal hole in the laws of apostasy, although he would like to: He says he is morally offended by the laws, which punish those who leave Islam with penalties of death or imprisonment in many countries. His unflinching scholarship is controversial, but it is gaining notice abroad. Abou el Fadl has been asked to lecture in the Mideast, North Africa and Europe and has received e-mail from around the world. Some people chastise him, but he says the vast majority back his efforts to reinterpret the Islamic legal tradition.

He has no patience for those who claim that Islam is perfect. “Instead of being brave and gutsy in confronting the flaws and shortcomings of the tradition, they are being apologists,” Abou el Fadl says. “It is our moral obligation as Muslims to speak the truth.”

American Muslims have even established an organization that counts gender equality as a core value. Jamal Al-Muslimeen was established in 1977 in Minneapolis and now has chapters in Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ghana, Britain, Germany and Canada, according to Ali Siddiqui, an imam based in Chino who is a member of the group. Siddiqui tries to walk the talk, delivering sermons at area mosques on spousal abuse as a consequence of misplaced ideas of male superiority. When he marries couples, he tells them that Allah has made women and men equal. Sometimes, he says, he is challenged–especially by elders from remote areas. Such experiences temper his idealism about the impact American Muslims can have in changing values both here and abroad.

“We have a lot to contribute, but it’s a very slow process,” Siddiqui says. “Ideas take time to take hold, especially when people have been doing something for so long.”



From Shaykh Muqbil ibn Haadee Al Waadi’ee

Translated By Abu ‘Abdul Waahid, Nadir Ahmad


Question: O Shaykh, can you please give some advice to the students of knowledge in this country (America)?

Answer: We advice them with the same advice that Allaah has advised his slaves with, and it is: Taqwaa[1] of Allaah subhaanahu wa Ta’aalah, as Allaah Ta’aalah says: {And verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allaah…} [An Nisaa/131]

After this [we advice them to have] Ikhlaas (sincerity) for Allaah ‘Az wa jal: {Surely, the religion (i.e. the worship and the obedience) is for Allaah only.} [Az Zumar/3] {And they were not commanded, except that they should worship Allaah, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him…} [Al Bayinah/5] Al Bukharee and Muslim reported the Hadeeth of Jundub ibn ‘Abdilaah that the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Whomsoever seeks to be heard, Allaah will make it that he is heard, and whomsoever seeks to be seen, Allaah will make it that he is seen.” [And we advice you] to be serious about as well as exert all your efforts in gaining beneficial knowledge. The Daa’eeya (caller) to Allaah will not be successful unless he has a good portion of knowledge, the lord of ‘Izzah said to his Messenger Muhammad: {…and say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.} [Taha/114]

Also, it is not befitting for one to give up on himself and say: “I have become old so I can’t understand.” Allaah is the granter of ease, and to be serious [about gaining knowledge] is what will make the difference.

We said that indeed Allaah is the granter of ease; this is because Allaah says in His book: {And We have indeed made the Qur’aan easy to understand and remember, then is there anyone that will remember (or receive admonition)?} [Al Qamar/15] And the Messenger of Allaahصلى الله عليه وسلم said: “I was sent with ‘Al Hanafeeyah As Samhaa’’ (the beautiful upright path/way)” And he says in the Hadeeth of Abu Huraiyrah which was reported in Saheeh Al Bukhaaree: “Indeed this Deen (religion) is ‘Yusr’ (ease/easy) and none shall try to overcome the Deen except that it will defeat him.” We also advice them to give Da’wah with lenience and softness, for indeed we live within a community, whether it is in Yemen or here [in America] . The caller to Allaah has no authority [over the people to] compel them to do anything, and if he was to compel them they would not respond in any case except through the guidance of Allaah subhaanahu wa Ta’aalah. {You are not a dictator over them} [Al Ghaashiyah/22]

Another issue that I advice my brothers with, especially in the likes of this country is that we combine between mixing [with people] and being secluded/isolated. We do not mix with people or [attend] gatherings that are evil, even if they were to say there was a festival there or whatever: {And those who do not witness falsehood…} [Al Furqaan/72] It is not befitting that you attend.

We should also mix with people in order to give them Da’wah and teach them, this is the best thing [to do], and [this does not mean that we] blend/merge with people such as Al Ikhwaan Al Muslimeen do in order to give them Da’wah, [to the point that] they may even shave their beards and do other such things. But at the same time we should not isolate ourselves from the people, indeed it is not permissible to be isolated, the Muslims are in need of those who will teach them their religion.

This [is what I have to say] and I ask Allaah to grant me as well as yourselves success, Wal HamduliLaah Rabil ‘Aalameen.

[26 Jamadee al Akhar 1421/24-October-2000, while he was in America for treatment, may Allaah have mercy upon him and reward him with the best of rewards, indeed He is able to accomplish all things.]

[1] Explained as: A word that gathers the meaning; that one acts upon everything that Allaah has ordered whether it is Waajib or Mustahab (Sunnah), and that he stays away from everything that Allaah has prohibited whether it be Haraam or Makrooh.

Also: That one practices obedience to Allaah upon light from Allaah hoping for His mercy, and leaves disobedience to Allaah upon light from Allaah fearing His punishment. Ar Rihlatul Akheerah Limaam Al Jazeerah: P.156



By 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 exposé 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.


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