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Islam: the Greatest Gift of African Muslim Slaves in America

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    Islam: the Greatest Gift of African Muslim Slaves in America

    Islam: the Greatest Gift of African Muslim Slaves in America

    From: Khatib Rajab <[email protected]>

    Thhe author is originally from Zanzibar [now part of Tanzania] and now lives in
    New York City. If you want to re-print this article please write to brother
    Khatib directly. He has also written other articles on the history of Islam in

    ================================================== ===============

    And what will explain to you the path that is steep?
    (It is) to free a slave (Qur'an; 90:12-13).


    Because thousands of Native Americans died from horrible overwork on
    plantation and in mines, Priest Bartolome de Las Casas pleaded for their
    conditions. James West and Michael B. Stoff (1998), in their book; AMERICAN
    NATION quoted him:

    The (Native) Indians were totally depressed of their
    freedom.....Even beasts enjoyed their freedom when
    they are allowed to graze in the fields. (p. 76).

    Priest Bartolome de Las Casas was so horrified that he went to Spain and
    asked the king to protect the Native Indians. In 1540, the Spanish
    government passed laws stating that Native Americans should not be enslaved.
    The laws also allowed them to own cattle and grow crops. Priest Bartolome
    suggested that West Africans must be brought to America as slaves to replace
    the Native Americans because they were resistant to European diseases and
    were hard working in their countries.

    Therefore, in 1619, a Dutch ship landed Jamestown with 20 Africans who were
    sold to Virginians since they needed them to work in their tobacco
    plantations. These African slaves were baptized and given Spanish names and
    two of them, Anthony and Isabella married in Virginia. In 1624, they had a
    son, William, the first child of African slaves born in the so called NEW
    WORLD, now the United States of America.

    Among the sons of Africa slaves was Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), who
    discovered that none of the schools taught the history of Black Americans.
    So he started the American Negro Academy to study the important things Black
    people had accomplished and on February 19, 1926, Carter G. Woodson
    established "NEGRO HISTORY WEEK" which is now called the "BLACK HISTORY
    MONTH" (OF FEBRUARY) in the United States.

    We have also observed that by a sheer ignorance of Christocentric or a
    deliberate covert paradigm, the history of Muslims in Maryland is neglected
    by contemporary scholars even in the specific "BLACK HISTORY" month of
    February. It is neglected despite Maryland had the tenth largest Muslim
    population (1990) in America.

    ================================================== ====================
    ================================================== ====================
    ================================================== ====================
    CALIFORNIA 1,000 20.0 3.4
    NEW YORK 800 16.0 4.7
    ILLINOIS 420 8.4 3.6
    NEW JERSEY 200 4.0 2.5
    INDIANA 180 3.6 3.2
    MICHIGAN 170 3.4 1.8
    VIRGINIA 150 3.0 2.4
    TEXAS 140 2.8 0.7
    OHIO 130 2.6 1.2
    MARYLAND 70 1.4 1.4
    ================================================== ====================
    *Estimates under column 2 have been rounded to the nearest even number.
    ================================================== ====================

    Perhaps, due to Christocentric historicity, most of the contemporary
    scholars focus on the memories and contributions of Christian activists such
    as Fredrick Douglas (1817-1895), the famous slave and Abolitionist in
    Maryland. But they fail to inform us that political activism and
    intellectualism of Fredrick Douglas can be traced to his ancestor; Bilal bin
    Muhammad (d. 1859), a Muslim slave activist.

    Bilal bin Muhammad, born at Masina in Mali was a slave at Salepo Island,
    Georgia. He started his political activism during the Second American War
    with England after he was entrusted with military leadership of over 80
    armed slaves. Thus, he pledged to defend the Island of Salepo if attacked.
    In 1815, Bilal bin Muhammad told his slave master, Thomas Spalding
    (1774-1851) that he could "answer for every Negro of the true Faith (of
    Islam) but not for the Christian dogs you own." Bilal bin Muhammad was
    buried in Georgia with his Qur'an and a prayer rug.

    Bilal bin Muhammad left twelve children and several Arabic manuscripts,
    including the excerpts of AL-RISLAH (The Message), composed by Abu Bakr
    Muhammad Zaid al-Qarwan, born in Morocco. This manuscript is a common
    treatise of FIQH (Islamic Jurisprudence) in West Africa from where some
    Muslims were captured, enslaved, Christinized and exported as human cargo to
    Maryland, the first Catholic State named after Mary, the mother of Jesus
    Christ, peace be upon him.

    The history of Muslims in Maryland can be traced to West Africa where Islam
    reached in the eighth century. By the twelfth century, the Muslims had
    already established Islamic Empire of Mali whose king Mansa Kankan Mussa
    (1312-1337) performed his famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. On his return,
    he informed Nasir Edin bin Muhammad III (1309-1340), a Muslim scholar in
    Cairo that his brother, Sultan Abu Bakr Kankan Mussa (1285-1312) had
    undertaken two important expeditions into the Atlantic Ocean. Since the
    Sultan did not return to Timbuktu from the second voyage of 1311, Mansa
    Kankan Musa became the Sultan of the Empire of Mali.

    Mansa Kankan Musa, educated in Arabic brought with him to Mali, Muslim
    scholars and an architect, Ishaq al-Teudjin, who constructed for him several
    buildings, Islamic schools, palaces and mosques. He also started
    relationship with Tunisia and Egypt for culture, economics and education. By
    the fifteenth century, Mali had the Islamic University of Sankore at
    Timbuktu which was attended by many scholars from different parts of the
    world before Muslim slaves from West Africa were chained to Maryland in the
    sixteenth century. Some of them formed a bridge of blood across the Atlantic
    Ocean during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1530-1863), the greatest
    intercontinental in the world history of human cargo from Africa to

    In such a shipment of human cargo to the largest Judeo-Christian nation, we
    do not know precisely when the first Muslim slave was brought to Maryland.
    But an unnamed African baptised as Mathias de Souza, was the first African
    slave in Maryland. He arrived in 1634 at St. Mary's City with the ARK, the
    ship sent by Lord Baltimore of England. Mathias de Souza was a slave of a
    Jesuit priest in Maryland, the first Colony to develop capitalist economy
    based on wheat and tobacco plantation by sweat and toil of slaves, among
    them were Muslims from West Africa.

    Some of these West African Muslim slaves converted to Christianity in order
    to gain emancipation. This was due to the fact that after the arrival of 13
    slaves from West Africa at St. Mary's City in 1642, Maryland was the first
    Colony to legislate that any African slave who was baptised as a Christian
    could be freed. Yet, this emancipation law was ignored in 1663, when
    Maryland became the first to legislate that all the African slaves and their
    children must be slaves forever.

    Since other West African slaves considered Christianity a reason for
    manumission, the Maryland Assembly declared in 1664 that baptism, however,
    should not affect a slave's status. From 1690, a large number of West
    African slaves were brought to Maryland, and the Assembly encouraged slaves
    owners to convert (or enforce) their slaves into Christianity since none of
    them was a Christian in West Africa.

    The forceful conversion to Christianity was contrary to the American
    Declaration of Independence and the Human Rights Declaration of Maryland.
    This is because, the American Declaration of Independence by President
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), stipulated that all people were born equal and
    therefore liberty and equality were inalienable rights of all. Also in 1867,
    the Constitution of the Maryland on Human Rights Declaration states:

    We the People of the State of Maryland, gratefully to
    almighty God for our civil and religious liberty and
    taking into our serious consideration the best means of
    establishing a good consideration in this State for sure
    foundation and more permanent security.

    The Muslim African slaves in Maryland were not given a serious consideration
    of their religious rights. Like all the Muslim Minorities, such as the
    African Muslims in Maryland were oppressed with the brutalities of ethnic
    annihilation, cultural assimilation and political victimization.

    The Africa Muslims in America and Maryland in particular, were forced to
    embrace Christianity. They were also made to forget their native languages
    and Arabic, which was their lingua franca was drastically outlawed. In such
    cultural genocide, they were forbidden to pray and fast but were forced to
    eat pork and drink alcohol. Their families were not only separated and
    dispersed across the United States to curtail genealogies (Family trees),
    but they were also conditioned to adopt formication in Western Civilization
    before their freedom.

    Professor Allan D. Austin did an excellent job of bringing together the
    available literary fragments which deal with life and experiences of some
    African Muslim slaves in Maryland. Others were highly literate of the Qur'an
    and fluent in Arabic language. Apart from the much celebrated Kunta Kinteh
    whose saga has been well fictionalized and immortalized by his descendant,
    Alex Haley, there were Muslim slaves in Maryland such as Yarrow Mamout,
    which should be read Yorro Mahmud.

    Yorro Mahmud was the first Muslim slave recorded in 1819 by Charles Wilson
    Peale (1741-1872), a correspondent of President Thomas Jefferson
    (1743-1826), one of the "Founding Fathers" of America. His first portrait
    for public display hangs in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. His
    second was completed in 1828, almost a decade later can be seen in the
    Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library.

    We are indebted to Charles Wilson Peale for his impressive portrait of Yorro
    and his personal diary. At the time of two-day sitting for the portrait,
    Yorro was said to be more than one hundred years old. It is suggested that
    Yorro was captured in 1720 and brought into a ship of Captain Dowel to

    Unfortunately, nothing is known about his youth in West Africa, nor his
    early years in Maryland which was so horrible for African slaves that at
    least one out of four died before their first year ended. In 1819, Yorro
    Mahmud owned his own house in Georgtown and saved enough money and he bought
    stock in Columbia Bank, founded in 1771 by Alexandra Hamilton.

    According to Professor Sulayman Nyang, the Maryland archives confirmed the
    existence of a person called Yarrow. He said that most probably our Yorro
    Mahmud who was freed on August 22, 1796 by Upton Beall but not Bell as
    stated by Professor Allan D. Austin. This document reveals that assessments
    for Georgetown (1809-1819), listed negro Yorro as a tax payer. Professor
    Sulayman lamented that an examination of the records at the National
    Archives should tell us which land in Georgetown was owned by Yorro Mahmud.

    Another interesting information about Yorro is the order of manumission
    which he asked his owner to write. In the Maryland archival record entitled
    Montgomery County LRC No. 385 (1796), Yorro's master, Upton Beall, wrote:

    At the request of Yorro the following manumission is
    recorded this 22nd of August 1796 to know all men by
    these presents (sic) that I Upton Beall of Montgomery
    County and State of Maryland do manumit and set free
    negro Yorro from this day forward to act for himself
    as a free man in all things given my hand and seal
    this 22nd of August, anno domini hundred seventeen
    hundred and ninety six.

    Upton Beall

    >From the Charles Wilson Peal diary's, we know that Yorro was a pious and
    devout Muslim who abstained from the consumption of pork and alcohol. He
    saved his money and bought property in Georgetown. Although he lost his
    first savings of $100.00 when the young merchant to whom he had entrusted it
    went bankrupt. This event did not make him despair. Rather, he opened an
    account with the Columbia Bank and managed to save up $200.00, the money he
    purchased a land in Georgetown.

    His experiences show how an African Muslim slave in Maryland during 1720 and
    got his freedom 76 years later. Assuming that Yorro was a boy of 14 years
    when he landed in Maryland, he would have been 90 years old when Upton Beall
    signed his order of manumission. If Yorro Mahmoud was 34 years, as his
    owners and their friends believed, then he was 133 years old when he set for
    the portrait for Peale. He was therefore, the first oldest person in
    American, and deserved to be in the Guinnese Book of Records.

    While Yorro Mahmud is known as the MARYLAND MUSLIM in the Smithonim Museum
    at Washington D.C, the most fortunate Muslim slave in American history was
    Ayoub bin Sulayman bin Ibrahim Diallo (1700-1773), famous as Job Ben
    Solomon. He was the Bandu prince before being captured in 1730 and sold to
    Captain Pike at Gambia. He delivered him to Vachell Denton and worked on
    tobacco plantation in Maryland. Since he was not allowed to make his
    prayers, Ayoub used to make SAL'AT (Prayers) and DU'A (Supplication) in

    This indicated that Ayoub bin Sulayman knew the Saying of the Prophet
    Muhammad (pbuh) that all earth is a mosque. But white children mocked him
    and threw dirt in his face while he was praying in the woods. He escaped to
    maintain his Islamic identity and freedom but was eventually captured and
    imprisoned until the Rev. Thomas Bluett (d. 1749) heard about his moral
    integrity and arranged a meeting with him and became good friends from
    America to England and Gambia. It seems that the Rev. Thomas Bluett was one
    among the a few good Christians to Muslims:

    Strongest among men in enmity to the believers (Muslims)
    you will find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among
    them in love to the believers (Muslims) you will find
    those who say: "We are Christians": because amongst
    these (Christians) are men devoted to learning (From
    Muslims) and men who have renounced the world, and they
    are not arrogant. (Qur'an; 5:82).

    The Rev. Thomas Bluett returned Ayoub to his slave master, who then provided
    him with a private place to pray. In their first meeting, the Rev. Thomas
    Bluett was impressed by Ayoub's ability in fluent Arabic and his devotion to
    Islam in the DAR KUFR (The Abode of Disbelievers) of Maryland. The Rev.
    Bluett who became the first official biographer of Ayoub stated that Ayoub
    could not speak English but when he communicated by making signs to him, he
    wrote about ALLAH (SWT), MUHAMMAD (SAW) and refused a glass of wine.

    The Rev. Thomas Bluett also stated that Ayoub was perceived as one among the
    devout Muhammadan (sic) slaves from West Africa. This can be argued that if
    Bilal bin Rabbah (570-641) was the first African slave emancipated through
    ISLAM and made DA'WA among the Arab pagans in Mecca, Ayoub Sulayman Ibrahim
    (1700-1773) was the first Africa slave to make DA'WA to the American pagans
    in Maryland.

    And if proclamation of ADH'AN (Calling For Prayers) was the GREATEST GIFT of
    Bilal bin Rabbah to all Muslims from Mecca to Maryland, ISLAM IS THE
    GREATEST GIFT of Ayoub bin Sulayman in MARYLAND where he made struggle
    (JIHAD) to maintain his Islamic identity. He did through his intelligence,
    oral and written Arabic, the language of ISLAM instead of his native
    dialect. His JIHAD became so well known that in 1733, arrangements were made
    to be emancipated by James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785), founder of
    Georgia, and provided him with transportation via England.

    Among his acquainted in England were the Royal family and Sir Hans Sloans
    (1660-1753), founder of the British Museum and president of the Royal
    Society. Ayoub translated several Arabic materials for the Royal Society. He
    was elected to the prestigious Gentlemen's Society of Spalding whose members
    were Alexander Pope and Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist and Sir Hans
    Sloans. Ayoub wrote copies of the Qur'anic passages from memory before he
    obtained freedom of his native Gambian friend Lamine Yay who had came with
    him as slave to Maryland.

    In 1734, the Rev. Bluett published a detailed biography of his best friend
    Ayoub, who was so fortunate that the Royal African Company founded in 1671,
    arranged the return of Ayoub to his country via England and France. This
    fortunate Muslim slave in Maryland was given a British and a French
    passports. He boarded the Dolphin on June 28, 1734 and arrived Gambia on
    August 7, 1734 where he helped Melchous De Jasper, an Arabic-speaking
    Armenia representative of the Royal African Company from 1738-1740. Ayoub
    kept in touch his friends until his death at his home.

    It can be said that when Ayoub wrote ALLAH (SWT) and MUHAMMAD (pbuh) on the
    ground of MARYLAND, ALLAH accepted his DU'WA (Supplication) because ISLAM is
    the fastest growing religion in America, especially among the West African
    origins. His DU'WA was also accepted because MARYLAND HAD THE TENTH LARGEST
    MUSLIM POPULATION (1990) IN THE UNITED STATES, reminiscent of the promise of
    Allah to Muslims:

    When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory. And you
    shall see the people enter Allah's Religion (ISLAM) in
    crowds. Celebrate the praises of Your Lord, and pray
    for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace
    and Mercy). (Qur'an; 110:1-3).

    The JIHAD (Struggle) of Ayoub in Maryland against cultural assimilation and
    political victimization, continued. After he left Maryland to his country,
    several movements emerged for equality and dignity. Fredrick Douglas
    (1817-1895) of Maryland led ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT before Al-Hajj Malik
    Shabazz (1925-1965), famous as Malcolm X visited Zanzibar at a request of
    his friend Professor Abdul Rahman Muhammed Babu, a Zanzibari veteran and
    political guru.

    We are not sure why Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz visited Zanzibar. But it must be
    stated that contrary to the propaganda of some Orientalists, Missionaries
    and Afro-Arabophobics in Tanzania against Islam, slavery in Zanzibar was
    more human and cordial because of Islam from Mecca. The Rev. William Hichens
    in his article; ISLAM IN EAST AFRICA (1954) explained the treatments of
    slaves in Zanzibar:

    Worked as craftsmen or in the shops and warehouses or
    as domestic servants in the mansions, where they
    shared comfort and luxury of their masters, while much
    of the public esteem their masters enjoyed was
    reflected upon them. Certainly, when slavery was
    finally abolished, the slaves protested much more
    loudly than their owners, and tearing down the public
    proclamation of their liberty which were posted in the
    streets, many hundreds of slaves rejected "freedom"
    and clamoured for the "right" which they had for so
    long enjoyed. In the houses of prominent men slaves
    could and often rise to positions of authority and
    influence, in which they enjoyed public honour and
    esteem. (p. 125).

    The Rev. Lyndon Harris (1954), an American Orientalist also stated in his
    book ISLAM IN EAST AFRICA (that "much what has been written by Christian
    writers was not always fair to the Muslim slave-trade the system of slavery
    as it was practiced in East African coast by Arab-Swahilis was neither
    heartless nor brutal. The Sultan of Zanzibar Sayyid Said bin Sultan
    (1806-1856) took the first step towards the abolition of slave trade from
    his dominions."

    His first two governors to Zanzibar were in fact freed slaves. These were
    Yaqoub bin al-Habshy and Ambar Sultan al-Habshy who were succeeded by
    Abdullah Juma, Ali Nassor and Mohammad Nassor before Sayyid Said bin Sultan
    settled to Zanzibar.

    Contrary to what some British Missionaries who claimed that they were the
    emancipators of slaves of East Africa, prior to the coming of the British to
    Zanzibar in 1840, Sayyid Said bin Sultan declared on September 22, 1822 that
    slaves from East Africa should not be sold to any Christian nation,
    including America where slavery was as brutal as Biblical imperative.

    The Sultan of Zanzibar, Sayyid Said bin Sultan was not mistaken for not
    allowing slaves in East Africa to be sent to Christian nation. Because in
    America, slavery was the most cruel and brutal, such as lynchings, a
    similitude of Crucifixion, the first cardinal dogma of Christianity. To some
    Christian Fundamentalists, the brutality of African slavery in foreign
    country was a Biblical prophecy:

    (Africans) will be strangers in a country of their own,
    and they will be enslaved and mistreated (for) four
    hundred years. (Genesis [NIV]; 15:13).

    According to the Bible, slaves must respect their slave masters so that the
    name of their God and the teachings of Christianity should not be slandered:

    All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider
    their (slave) masters worthy of full respect so that
    God's name and our teachings may not be slandered. (1
    Timothy [NIV]; 6:1).

    It is also stated that slaves must obey their slave masters, no matter how
    considerate (kind) or harsh (brutal) to them:

    Slaves, submit yourselves to your (slave) masters with
    all respect, not only to those who are good and
    considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1
    Peter [NIV]; 2:18).

    No wonder after Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz visited Zanzibar and later performed
    his HAJJ (Pilgrimage) to Mecca, he wrote famous letters to African
    Americans. He indicated that ISLAM is the only PEACEFUL SOLUTION against all
    forms of discrimination:

    O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a
    male (ADAM) and a female (HAWA), and made you into
    nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not
    that you may despise each other). Verily the most
    honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is)
    the most righteous of you. And Allah has full
    knowledge and is well acquainted. (Qur'an; 49:13).

    In this regard, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "There is no superiority
    of Arab over non-Arab or non-Arab over Arab, nor White over Black or Black
    over White but on righteousness."(Musnad Ahmad). He also said: "Hear
    (Muslims) Obey your leader even he is an Ethiopian slave with curly hair."

    is technologically ADVANCED but morally BANKRUPT due to SECULARISM so ISLAM
    is the ANSWER since SECULARISM proves FAILURE for justice and morality.
    Unfortunately, SECULARISM is imposed in Muslim countries by Christian rulers
    in collaboration with their Muslim puppets (Qur'an; 2:14) from (A)nkarah to


    Khatib Rajab AL-ZINJIBARI