6 African Muslims Who Brought Islam To America

america

By Papatia Feauxzar
About Islam
5 January 2017

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 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 Salih Bilali. Read more

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International Museum Of Muslim Cultures: Legacy Of Timbuktu

photocreditinternationalmuseumofmuslimcultures.jpgLegacy of Timbuktu
International Museum Of Muslim Cultures
1 February 2015

In the last millennium an important global legacy was uncovered—the literate culture of AFRICA—symbolized in the extraordinary richness of historical manuscripts that still survive. These ancient documents reveal that a sophisticated literate culture flourished in the city of Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara Desert beginning in the 13th century and lasting more than 700 years. A crossroads of international caravan commerce, including the book trade, Timbuktu was also a celebrated center of learning, attracting scholars, and thousands of students and teachers from many countries and backgrounds.

The International Museum of Muslim Cultures in partnership with the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Timbuktu has curated an exhibit of this glorious age and its legacy to America through the tragic events of the slave trade as it presents The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibition.

Books were not only brought into Timbuktu, but local scholars wrote their own works, and artisans scribed, decorated and bound them in a sophisticated local book production industry tied to the global Islamic knowledge industry—activities that culminated in a complex and highly viable socio-economic model. Leo Africanus, celebrated medieval historian, wrote “the buying and selling of books were more profitable than any other commerce in the city of Timbuktu”. The feature attraction will be 25 of the estimated one million manuscripts recently re-rediscovered in the West African country of Mali. Bound in leather, they contain finely articulated calligraphy and colorful, even gilded, illustrations and cover a wide variety of subjects.

Read more here.

Photo Credit: International Museum Of Muslim Cultures

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Michigan Muslim Woman Killed In Syria Will Be Given A Christian Burial By Her Non-Muslim Family

photocreditdailymailAsalamu Alaikum

The title of the article alleges that Nicole Lynn Mansfield was converted by Ayman Muhammad Bafil which contradicts the following excerpts, “The turning point in her life appears to have been five years ago when she met Bafil and converted to Islam, though it is not clear if he introduced her to the religion or if she was already interested in becoming a Muslim.” and “It is not clear if Nicole was already a Muslim before she met Bafil or if he persuaded her to convert, although in Islam converting a non-believer is seen as extremely praiseworthy.” So which one is it? Allah knows best. If she was a Muslim, she will be buried according to the Christian faith. That is her qadr…sad. This should serve as a reminder of how important having a will is for Muslims, especially reverts who have non-Muslim family and no Muslim heirs. Read more http://wp.me/pIvgV-Pf

FiAmanAllah, Tara Umm Omar

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

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Help Send Deaf Muslims In America To Perform Umrah In Saudi Arabia

Asalamu Alaikum, please share! JazakumAllahu khair, Tara Umm Omar

Muslim Deaf Americans Umrah 2013 by Global Deaf Muslims

Global Deaf Muslims on Facebook.

Yarrow Mamout: A Freed Black Slave Who Was A Muslim

DC Historians Scramble To Dig Up Details Of America’s Earliest Muslims
Written by Albany Tribune
November 21, 2012
By Julienne Gage

For most Muslims, what happens to the body of a deceased person is not quite as important as what happens to that person’s soul. Still, historians of all backgrounds are scrambling to locate the body and belongings of a Muslim buried in Washington, DC nearly 200 years ago, for it touches the soul of early American history.

The deceased, Yarrow Mamout, was among tens of thousands – if not millions – of Muslims brought to America during the slave trade, but one of few for which historians have much information.

Historic documents suggest Yarrow may be buried on the property he purchased after gaining his independence in 1797. That land is located in Washington’s historic Georgetown neighbourhood where homes now sell for several million dollars. Its owner, real estate developer Deyi Awadallah, hopes to build and sell a new residence on the property. He knew nothing of Yarrow when he purchased the land last spring, but he’s willing to give archaeologists a chance – a few weeks or months – to investigate before he finalises his plans.

“I’m trying to respect the situation. It deserves that,” he said in an interview this month.

According to James H. Johnston, Yarrow was sold into slavery as a teenager in Senegal in 1752. The Washington-based lawyer and freelance writer spent eight years investigating Yarrow’s story for his 2012 book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.

“He was quite famous in his time, but (since that era), nobody had ever looked into who he was,” said Johnston. The inspiration for Johnston’s research came after he saw two portraits of Yarrow, aristocratic depictions of an African American man that dated back to the days of slavery. The more popular of the two was painted by renowned early American artist Charles William Peale, and it resides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For Johnston, it represents dignity, perseverance, and resilience during a particularly dark chapter of American history.

“People have been impressed by it because you’re looking at this beautiful portrait of a seemingly wealthy man, and yet he’d been subjected to the horrid conditions of slavery,” said Johnston.

Yarrow was well known in the Georgetown community. He was a body servant for Samuel Beall and his son Brooke, two influential professionals who regularly rubbed shoulders with the likes of founding US President George Washington. He was often remembered as cheerful, diligent and very devout in his faith, stopping to pray five times a day wherever he was.

Yarrow was also an entrepreneur who could read and write. In Georgetown, slaves were allowed to have their own side businesses, so Yarrow became a brick maker. In fact, he won his freedom by building a home for his masters and saved his money to build his own house.

These details make Yarrow a “major footnote” in history, says Amir Muhammad, director of Washington’s Islamic Heritage Museum.

“It shows people that Muslim Americans are a part of the American fabric. He’s a real personality, not only in paintings but in his works and deeds,” he said.

For Washington DC’s official archaeologist Ruth Trocolli, any archaeological traces of Yarrow help the public to better understand how slaves, especially Muslim ones, may have lived.

“That’s a parallel source of data on Yarrow that we can’t access any other way,” said Trocolli, who began a reconnaissance mission on the property this week.

But the recovery effort is challenging. A few years ago, archaeologists discovered a small cemetery with the graves of five African Americans from that era on land bordering the back of Yarrow’s land, but none of the bodies matched the description of an elderly Yarrow.

Yarrow’s house was demolished more than a century ago and the one now sitting on that property is due to be demolished because it is structurally unsound. A swimming pool in the back yard inhibits some opportunities for excavation. But Trocolli is hopeful the exposed parts of the Yarrow property might contain original features such as a well, a latrine, a cellar, or Yarrow’s grave.

“Yarrow’s story is significant,” said Trocolli. “It’s a story about a person who persevered. He was a slave who essentially bought his own freedom.”

Awadallah admits he has a much greater interest in the business of real estate than in historic properties, but as a Muslim American of Palestinian descent, he acknowledges the reconnaissance process is serendipitous.

“I knew there were African Slaves that were Muslims I just didn’t know they were this close to home – just five miles from my home in Falls Church, Virginia,” he said.

Julienne Gage is a freelance multimedia journalist and cultural anthropologist based in Washington, DC. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Photo credit: Albany Tribune and National Endowment For The Humanities

FURTHER READING

The Man In The Knit Cap
Third Time’s The Charm

Part 2: W Is For Wasta; Results Of Questionnaire

In Part 1: W is for Wasta, we learned that use of wasta is halal when it is used for good in the right way and haram when the outcome is unjust and evil. This stance was supported by Islamic evidence, one of which was a fatwa from Shaykh Bin Baz (rahimahullah).

Now let us review the results of the questionnaire completed by 30 participants. I heartily thank you all for your participation!

1. 86.7% (26) of the respondents say that wasta is used in their country while 1.67% (2) said no and the remaining 1.67% (2) answered that they didn’t know. The countries represented were:

Algeria 1
Bahrain 1
Bangladesh 1
Indonesia 1
Jordan 1
Malaysia 1
Oman 1
Philippines 3
Qatar 1
Saudi Arabia 15
United States 3
United Kingdom 1

2. 60% (18) of the respondents have used wasta while 40% (12) of them have not.

3. For the participants who had never used wasta, I asked them if they would use one if the opportunity arises. 63.2% (12) responded that they would but 36.8% (7) would not.

4. 36.7% (11) needed a wasta to get their marriage permission approved and 26.7% (8) did not require wasta at all. Using a wasta for marriage permission did not apply to 36.7% (11) of the respondents, probably because they are not in a Saudi/non-Saudi marriage or if involved in a Saudi/non-Saudi relationship did not start the marriage permission process either because they are married Islamically, engaged or dating.

5. Did the wasta help the participants get their marriage permission approved? 30.0% (9) were successful. Unfortunately, success eluded 16.7% (5) of those who used a wasta.

6. Only 6.7% (2) deemed wasta as a good thing as opposed to 30.0% (9) who perceive it as bad. The rest, 63.3% (19), believe that it is both good AND bad.

7. What is wasta?

Middle (wo)men who help you get any legal documents you need done. Knows the system and what to do to have approval from government.

Getting what you need through some social connection.

Wasta is bribery.

My definition of wasta is the use of an influential friend or family member to facilitate or achieve some type of task/desire. This is used when one cannot achieve the task/desire on their own.

Someone who does take money or other benefits to help one. That someone is able to help because of his/her connections or thanks to his/her professional position.

Wasta is using someone’s influence to circumvent established regulations.

Nepotism. Utilizing connections to (sometimes unfair) advantage. E.g., getting recommended for a position, queue jumping, easy processing of governmental papers, etc.

To get a good job, to pass driving license exams, to reduce road fees, etc.

Asking someone for a favor or special treatment, usually rules are bent or broken.

Using a position, power, or knowing someone in high places to get something not easily available to others. It can involve money, influence, or pressure.

A lot has to do with bridery, connections and/or people in higher positions.

Some sort of link where you are supposed to pay them in any other way in order to simplify your life.

Having a powerful figure’s influence to get things done even if requirements are not met.

Getting things via the position/relationship of other people.

Someone who has connections and can help you avoid red tape or speed up a process.

Getting someone to do something that jumps or breaks the rules.

Pulling strings, calling in a favour, a means to an end to achieve something you need. Usually needed only when its an important issue.

Connections.

Influential people that would make favor.

Using connections to obtain rights.

It is an intermediary to make the impossible, possible. Usually someone that is influential, with connections, or in a high enough position to move mountains and do favors.

Simply defined as nepotism…connections or influence.

Who you know. It refers to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done, including government transactions such as the quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and getting hired for or promoted in a job.

From my understanding it is a way to get to the front of the line in any situation.

Literal meaning, it is like bribing or giving someone a credit for education or an occupation, etc., credits because of intervening by a third party.

You know someone in the system that can help you.

To use someone as connection between two or more but must be honest.

Make exception in prohibited thing or break the rules!

Wasta for lazy people.

8. How has the wasta system affected your life emotionally/financially/religiously, etc?

Emotionally: at least I know what to do, what documents I have to prepare for applying so I will get approval. I don’t have to take long lines, waiting in long times, going here and there, having a headache, etc. Financially: lots of money to spend but sometimes its better than doing it yourself, spend times, then get a ‘no’ just because you don’t know what to prepare or how to answer. Religiously: I feel that if i don’t harm other people then its ok. If the result of my approval doesn’t break syar’i [Shari’ah] law then insylh [insha’Allah] its fine.

Well, since I’m not getting married yet, I’ve not had to use it. However, I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll need it.

At this time in my life, none. However, I “may” need the wasta of an old college friend when seeking a visa to visit Jeddah later in the year. Hopefully, he will agree, if he’s needed.

Emotionally and religiously, in the way that I don’t think I would have ever been able to marry my husband, had we not used a wasta!

I detest the need for such a social evil as it hurts those who are often more deserving.

Although I try to minimize its use especially in giving some people advantages over others. I do utilize connections sometimes, e.g., to get an appointment, etc, that’s a very fine line differentiating the two. It was a major factor in previous employment dissatisfaction seeing how wastat were widely used as an integral part of normal daily working life.

Mainly emotionally and financially, as currently my fiance dont want to try again to get permission within Saudi 😦

We did not pay anything. All that was done for us was a phone call was made which enabled my husband to have an appointment to see the prince for the marriage approval. We make dua for the one who helped us.

I resent it because it is unfair. It is hard not to use it when everyone else is, and I don’t want my kids to ever get used to using it.

Because the laws dont necessarily mean you will be treated fairly.

It is religiously wrong.

It makes me angry when people use it to get what they don’t deserve on other peoples’ expenses.

Should be able to get things accomplished without wasta as unfair practice. For some circumstances should not be so difficult to get things accomplished so as to avoid having to seek out wasta.

It gave me a sense of helplessness.

My late Emirati partner was a powerful man and people came to him for wasta all the time. It annoyed me that he felt he had to do this for people. He refused to do it for me because he wanted me to always go the right way. Worst wasta I ever saw was an Emirati using it to get out of a murder charge for DUI and killing someone.

Very little except in practical issues such as needing an airplane reservation quickly or on a healthcare related issue. We are currently using wasta in my application for citizenship – don’t think its working!

Wasteful of money.

Not fair for some people.

Don’t really think it has affected it much. Most wasta has been used for marriage permission — which was a right at the time. Or for other things that are already rights but for some reason are impossible to attain without wasta.

I did not like having to resort to calling on someone to help me get something approved that it is my right in the first place. It reminded me that although it appears that people have power to pull strings, there is a higher power and that is Allah.

It has helped me have jobs without me even looking for it. Each job I got was all referred. Getting the job was effortless. It’s somewhat effective because I only wait for the job to be given to me. But on the other hand, I feel pressured all the time as I wanted to prove my worth and my capacity. Things got done easily with the help of wasta. I believe I myself have depended on wasta.

I had to use wasta one time and that was to get my name changed. It was only 200SR.

Wasta is good if a person has it. But its very bad if you need it and you can’t have it. Its a 2-bladed weapon.

Nothing emotionally thing goes faster, more smootly financially better for our family, don’t have to take the drivers test more than once just because the officer don’t like your face.

Great feeling.

Emotionally: I feel like I can’t do anything for my need things. Financially: it cost a lot. Religiously: it’s forbidden if you take something not belong to you.

If you know yourself why you need wasta?

9. What is your Islamic belief regarding wasta? If not Muslim, what is your religious belief regarding wasta?

I think its okay? Unless you bribe (through wasta) to get sometin that against syar’i {Shari’ah] law.

It is not the right way to get what you need.

Wasta is corruption, plain and simple. Corruption is not Islamic. However, because we live in the real world, sometimes it becomes necessary to do that because the Muslims in some countries simply refuse to follow the rules of the religion.

As I am just now learning more and more about Islam, I will give my belief as it is today. O.K. I believe that Allah/God puts each of us in certain places…therefore, we meet others, marry into families, work with various people…and, I do not believe that using wasta to achieve a goal in difficult situations is wrong. I would not use it if by doing so, another person/company, etc. would be harmed by its use. In other words, I believe that Allah would want us to use the people He has put in our lives to achieve our goals. Get a marriage permission, get a visitor or resident visa, and such.

I believe one should help without taking advantage of other’s misfortune.

Islamically, I believe it is bad as it is not based on good intentions or honest values.

Every Muslim should give his brother/sister-in-Islam the advantages of wasta, 😉 i.e., we help all no matter who or what. The poorest person might be the dearest in the sight of Allah.

I believe that it is not right and but from other side if this wasta helping someone to be together then its good.

I think wasta is fine as long as it doesn’t cross the line into bribery. Money should never be paid. Wasta exists everywhere, but just not called wasta. It could be considered wasta if you know someone who can give you son a job…it’s just asking a favor from someone you know. But, what’s wrong is when there’s power involved and when the people are oppressed into needing wasta to get what they need and what is their right.

I think it would be haram or disliked except in very few circumstances. Someone who has strong belief in Allah does not need wasta–Allah is their wasta!

I am Muslim alhumdulilah! however, I see wasta in two different ways. 1, being where you have to beg and/or bribe someone to get what you want. Which for the record, IS HARAM!! 2, being where you use your connections…friends, family and/or acquaintaces you know….which is HALAL.

Haram.

It is very wrong however you think about it if it is used to get something that you shouldn’t be getting or taking what should belong to someone else. even if the system is corrupted we shouldn’t get low with it! However.. if you will use it to get what is rightfully yours or is not given to you by system’s injustice and that wouldn’t affect other ppl negatively then it’s a bad thing that can’t be avoided.

Bad.

IMHO, it is unfair, if it is unfair, it isn’t Islamic.

I believe it is wrong.

Don’t have any strong opinions, I assume its Islamically ok as it is so prevalent here.

Is not good thing to do.

I do not favor wasta system.

I don’t believe you should have to use wasta for something that is already a legal right. Unfortunately, the realities of life here make it necessary.

It depends how it is used, if it is done in a halal way to achieve good ends then it is ok but if it is used in a haram way which usurps peoples’s rights and leads to a bad end then it is NOT ok.

Wasta is very rampant. It exists in many countries. It is unavoidable. Maybe it can be minimized but it can’t easily be removed in the government or even in one’s thinking. I think using wasta is sometimes effective and productive. But unfortunately, it adds burden to those who doesn’t use or doesn’t have wasta. It makes it very difficult and even close to impossible for them to achieve and get things done in a smoothest way and in the fastest possible time.

I don’t think it is good, having to pay off others just to get help and it’s that person’s job.

I personally think its ridiculous that people can’t just be married the halal way and just simply get a marriage certificate to do so. Regarding my Islamic beliefs, if it’s for a good thing then it’s ok 🙂

I think helping people in general is good and healing, withour harming other ones. wasta can be good and can be bad. The good is halal and the bad is haram, Allah knows better.

In a perfect world, and a perfect system with efficient, honest, hardworking officers, wasta would not be necessary.

In Qur’an we can find “ayat” about it.

It’s forbiden if you take something not belong to you.

10. Should the usage of wasta be abolished or kept in place?

My humble opinion is that there will always be the need for wasta to circumvent the “normal” process when: a) someone needs a little help to acquire certain things that are unattainable because they have no influence themselves b) mediating with any kind of deal if one or more people are preventing it from being finalized c) when there are obstacles to the process such as bureaucratic delays and red tape d) there are people who obstruct the process due to their prejudices/racism or disagreements e) favoritism/nepotism/cronyism f) there exists bribery, usually requested by a wasta or from someone through a wasta g) when people depend on a system such as wasta without seeking alternatives first or when they have tried their utmost to remedy their situation themselves through other avenues and wasta becomes a necessity to resolve the problem and h) no other recourse is available.

If wasta can not be eradicated then it should be regulated. King Abdullah has ordered that there be investigations into corruption. But the responsibility does not lie solely on his shoulders. All of us must do our part as law abiding citizens who fear Allah, rich and poor, from the highest positions to the lowest, to promote honesty and fairness to ensure that the halal form of wasta becomes the norm rather than the exception. At the same time, we should not become too dependent upon wasta since Allah asks us to depend on Him alone.

Ibn Al-Qayyim stated in Al-Fawa’id:


Do not depend on anything that is lower and weaker than Allah,
as it will bring about evil results and destroy you.


If you depend on your deeds,
He will give you your due reward,


If you depend on knowledge alone,
He will take it away from you,


If you depend on love,
He will cause you to indulge in it,


If you depend on learning alone,
He will make it a means of your destruction,


If you depend on creatures,
He will leave you to them.


Be satisfied with Allah as your Lord and
He will be satisfied with you as His servant!

Tara Umm Omar