Monday, December 31, 2007

Islam and Native Americans

In the common perception, Islam is viewed as a new religion with no roots in the Americas. A closer historical look, however, reveals a different story. According to some historians, contact between Native Americans and Muslims began much earlier that we may think.

The names of Ivan van Vertima, as well as Barry and Alexander von Wuthenue, might be unfamiliar to many, but together their historical research offers a unique insight into Islam’s early history in North America. Barry Fell, a New Zealand archaeologist and linguist, wrote in his book Saga America (1980) that a considerable amount of material indicates an early Muslim presence in various parts of the Americas. He pointed out that the southwest’s Pima people have words of Arabic origin in their language. Adding strength to his contention is the existence of Islamic petrogyphs in places like California. He identified many words with Arabic roots that relate to navigation, meteorology, medicine, and anatomy.

German art historian Alexander von Wuthenau, in his groundbreaking work Unexpected Faces in Ancient America (1975), identified a group of carved heads, found in Mexico, as “Moorish-looking” and dated them between 300-900 CE. Ivan van Sertima, in his popular book They Came Before Columbus, also mentions the early contact. Citing twelfth- and thirteenth-century Chinese documents, he wrote that they mention “Arab” Muslim trade as extending beyond the Atlantic coast of West Africa.

Islam’s early history in North America was first documented by The Message magazine (New York) and was later picked up by other publications. However, they have done little more than repeat the same information. Hardly any new research has been done, and there is very little information on Native American Muslim converts. The only article found on the Internet was also first published by The Message.

Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El, a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian and convert to Islam, wrote a short article on Native American Muslims. He said that he was a Pipe Carrier Warrior for the Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians in New York City. He claimed that there are other Muslims in his group, but offered no further details.


Digging for the Red Roots by Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El

My name is Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El and I am a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian who is Muslim. I am known as Eagle Sun Walker. I serve as a Pipe Carrier Warrior for the Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians in New York City.

There are other Muslims in our group. For the most part, not many people are aware of the Native American contact with Islam that began over one thousand years ago by some of the early Muslim travelers who visited us. Some of these Muslim travelers ended up living among our people.

For most Muslims and non-Muslims of today, this type of information is unknown and has never been mentioned in any of the history books. There are many documents, treaties, legislation and resolutions that were passed between 1600s and 1800s that show that Muslims were in fact here and were very active in the comunities in which they lived. Treaties such as Peace and Friendship that was signed on the Delaware River in the year 1787 bear the signatures of Abdel-Khak and Muhammad Ibn Abdullah. This treaty details our continued right to exist as a community in the areas of commerce, maritime shipping, current form of government at that time which was in accordance with Islam. According to a federal court case from the Continental Congress, we help put the breath of life in to the newly framed constitution. All of the documents are presently in the National Archives as well as the Library of Congress.

If you have access to records in the state of South Carolina, read the Moors Sundry Act of 1790. In a future article, Inshallah, I will go in to more details about the various tribes, their languages; in which some are influenced by Arabic, Persian, Hebrew words. Almost all of the tribes vocabulary include the word Allah. The traditional dress code for Indian women includes the kimah and long dresses. For men, standard fare is turbans and long tops that come down to the knees. If you were to look at any of the old books on Cherokee clothing up until the time of 1832, you will see the men wearing turbans and the women wearing long head coverings. The last Cherokee chief who had a Muslim name was Ramadhan Ibn Wati of the Cherokees in 1866.

Cities across the United States and Canada bear names that are of Indian and Islamic derivation. Have you ever wondered what the name Tallahassee means? It means that He Allah will deliver you sometime in the future.

Muslims First Journey To America From Mwiki




History of Islam In America
The Beginnings 13121600
Native Americans and Islam 13001900
Muslims First Journey To America 1312 CE (711 AH)
Christopher Columbus 1492 CE (897 AH)
Estevanico 1538 CE (944 AH)
Slavery in the Americaas 1538 CE (944 AH)
Melungeons 1600 CE (1008 AH)
Blackamoor 1639 CE (1048 AH)
Islam In America 18th Century 17001799
Mahomet Weyonomon 1708 CE (1119 AH)
Lamine Jay 1730 CE (1142 AH)
Job Ben Solomon Jallo 1730 CE (1142 AH)
Abel Conder 1753 CE (1166 AH)
Kunta Kinte 1767 CE (1180 AH)
Runaway Slaves 17691790
Peter Saleem 1775 CE (1188 AH)
Ibrahim Abd ar-Rahman 1788 CE (1202 AH)
Yusef Ben Ali 1790 CE (1204 AH)
Islam In America 19th Century 18001899
Salih Bilali 1803 CE (1217 AH)
Yarrow Mamout 1807 CE (1221 AH)
Abraham of the Micanopy Indian Tribe 1812 CE (1226 AH)
Umar ibn Said 17701864
Lamine Kebe 1835 CE (1250 AH)
Islam In America 20th Century 19001999
Islam In America 21st Century 2000–Present

There are numerous historical written accounts of Muslims from Africa and from Spain travelling to lands across the Atlantic Ocean as part of geographical explorations from as early as 889 CE (275 AH). At this period Muslims dominated the sea routes, and where experienced ship builders[citation needed]

Khashkash from Cortobas exploration

A Muslim historian and geographer Abu Hassan Ali ibn Al-Hussain al-Masudi 871 CE (257 AH) - 957 CE (345 AH) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that during the rule of the Muslim caliph of Al-Andalus Abdullah Ibn Mohammad, a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE (275 AH), 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 which he referred to as the unknown territory [1]

Sultan of Mali exploration

There are two accounts confirming the sultans exploration to a large land mass found whilst crossing the atlantic.

  • In his book Massaalik al-absaar fi mamaalik al-amsaar(the pathway of sight in the provinces of the kingdoms) the Muslim Historian Chihab Ad-Dine Abu Abbas Ahmad bin Fadhl al Umari (1300 CE (699 AH) - 1384 CE (785 AH)) describes in detail the geographical exploration on the other side of the atlantic by the Sultan of Mali Abu Bakari I [2]


  1. AGHA HAKIM, AL-MIRZA Riyaadh Al-Ulama(Arabic),Vol.2 P.386/Vol.4 P.175
  2. AL-ASFAHANI, AR-RAGHIB Adharea Ila Makarim Ash-Shia,Vol.16,P.343
  3. CAUVET, GILES Les Berbers de L'Amerique,Paris 1912,P.100-101

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