American Muslim History

A Chronological Observation

 Unquestionably, Muslims have made an impact on the evolution of American society. Historically Muslims have made major contribution, e.g. humanities, the sciences, and art. They explored North America 300 years before the so-called "discovery" of the New World by Christopher Columbus. They used the Mississippi river as their access route to and from the continent's interior. Here are a few glimpses of Muslim life in American History:


A Chinese document know as the Sung Document records the voyage of Muslim sailors to a land know as Mu-Lan-Pi (America). Mention of this document is contained in the publication, the Khotan Amiers, 1933. 


Abu Bakari (Abu Bakar), a Muslim king of the Malian Empire, spearheads a series of sea voyages to the New World. 


African Muslims (Mandinga) arrive in the Gulf o Mexico for exploration of the American interior using the Mississippi River as their access route. These Muslim explorers were from Mali and other parts of West Africa. 


Pri Ries completes his first world map, including the American, after research maps from all over the world. The practicality and artistry of his map surpassed any from his time or before. 


African slaves arrive in America. During the slave trade, more than 10 million Africans were uprooted from their homes and brought to American shores. Many of these slaves were from the Fulas, Fula Jallon, Fula Toro, and Massiona as well as other areas of West Africa. These areas were governed from their capital, "Timbuctu." These slaves were sent to Mexico, Cuba, and South America. More than 30 percent of these 10 million slaves were Muslim. They became the backbone of the American economy. 


Estevanico of Azamor, a Muslim from Morocco, lands in Florida with the ill-fated expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1527. Estevanico remained in America to become the first of three Americans to cross the continent. At least two states owe their beginnings to this Muslim, Arizona and New Mexico. 


Ayyub ibn Sulaiman Jallon, a Muslim slave in Maryland, is set free by James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, and provided transportation to England. He arrived home (Boonda, Galumbo) from England in 1735. 


Moors from Spain are reported living in South Carolina and Florida. 


United States Congress prohibits the importation of slaves into America after Jan. 1, 1808. Despite suppression of the slave trade during the next 60 years, slavery reached its peak between 1840 and 1860. The last Slave ships to be confiscates by the federal government were Wildfire, Storm King, Williams, Erie, Echo, Cora, and Binita, all of which violated the ban on importing slaves. 


Yarrow Mamout, an African Muslim slave, is set free in Washington DC, and later becomes one of the first shareholders of the second chartered bank in America, the Columbia Bank. Yarrow may have lived to be more than 128 years old, the oldest person in American history. Two portraits of Yarrow done by well known artists are on public display. The first, painted by Charles W. Peal in 1819 was done when Yarrow was 100 years old. It hangs in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A second portrait completed by James Simpson in 1828, almost a decade later, can be seen in the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library, Washington DC. 


Al Haj Umar ibn Sayyid is enslaved in Charleston after running away. In jail, he is visited by John Owen and taken to Blade County and placed on the Owen plantation. John Owen later became Governor of North Carolina. It has been reported that Umar lived to be 100 years old. 


Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, a former prince from West Africa and now a salve on a Georgia plantation, is freed by the order of Secretary of State Henry Clay and President John Quincy Adams. He was known to many during his lifetime as "The Prince of Slaves." A drawing of him, done by Henry Inman, is displayed in the Library of Congress. His life has also been well-documented. 


Sayyid Sa'id, ruler of Oman, orders his ship The Sultana to set sail for America on a trade mission. The Sultana touched port in New York, April 30, 1840. Although the voyage was not a commercial success, it marks the point of successful friendly relations between the two countries that continue to this day. 


The United States cavalry hire a Muslim by the name of Hajji Ali to experiment with raising camels in Arizona. 


The American Civil War ends. During the war, the "scorched earth" policy of the North destroyed churches, farms, schools, libraries, colleges, and a great deal of other property. The libraries at the University of Alabama managed to save one book from the debris of their library buildings. On the morning of April 4, when Federal troops reached the campus with order to destroy the university, Andre Deloffre, a modern language professor and custodian of the library, appealed to the commanding officer to spare one of the finest libraries in the South. The officer, being sympathetic, sent a courier to Gen. Croxton at his headquarters in Tuscaloosa asking permission to save the Rotunda. The general's reply was no. The officer reportedly said, "I will save one volume as a memento of this occasion. The volume selected was a rare copy of the Qur'an. 


The Reverend Norman, a Methodist missionary, converts to Islam. 


Edward W. Blyden, noted scholar and social activist, traveled throughout the eastern and southern parts of the United States, proclaiming Islam. In a speech before the Colonization Society of Chicago, Blyden told his audience that the reasons Africans choose Islam over Christianity is that, "the Qur'an protected the Black man from self-depreciation in the presence of Arabs or Europeans." 


Muslim immigrants from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. arrive in North America. They are mainly Turks, Kurds, Albanians, and Arabs. 


Timothy Drew (Noble Drew Ali) establishes an organization in Newark, NJ, known as the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA). Drew Ali reportedly was commissioned by the Sultan of Morocco to teach Islam to Negroes in the United States. The MSTA is also responsible for many of today's African-American converts to Islam. 


Albanian Muslims build a Masjid in Maine and establish an Islamic association. By 1919, they had established another Masjid in Connecticut. Theirs was one of the first associations for Muslims in the United States. 


The Red Crescent, a Muslim charity modeled after the International Red Cross, is established in Detroit. 


A branch of the Ahmadiyya Movement is founded in Chicago by Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq. This movement converted many African Americans to their deviant brand of Islam. 


Duse Muhammad Ali, mentor of Marcus Garvey and the person who had a considerable impact upon Garvey's movement, establishes an organization in Detroit known as the Universal Islamic Society. Its motto was: "One God, One Aim, One Destiny." 


Polish-speaking Tatars build a mosque in Brooklyn, NY which is still in use. 


African American Muslims establish the First Muslim Mosque in Pittsburgh, PA. 


The Nation of Islam (NOI), one of the most significant organizations in American Muslim history, is founded.  A high percentage of African Americans who were members of Nation of Islam later converted to  Islam. NOI was also effective in highlighting American Christians' difficulties combating the effects of slavery and racism among African Americans. The NOI's philosophy was introduced in the United States by Fard Muhammad (Wallace Ford), a mystic who disappeared in 1933. The late Elijah Mohammed, who succeeded Fard in 1933, helped build the organization into a strong ethnic movement advocating a deviant brand of Islam as a way of life. Two of the most famous African Americans, Muhammad Ali, and Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X), were early adherents of this movement. Both later embraced the true Islam. 


The Lebanese Community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, opens its first Masjid. 


The Islamic Mission Society is founded in New York City by Sheikh Dawood. It publishes a magazine entitled "Muslim Sunrise." 


Muslims in the Armed Services sue the federal government to be allowed to identify themselves as Muslims. Until then, Islam was not recognized as a legitimate religion. 


The State Street Masjid in New York City is established by Sheikh Dawood Ahmed Faisal. It is still in use today and represents a special point in the development of the American Muslim community. From this Masjid was born the Dar-ul-Islam movement. 


The NOI's University of Islam schools flourished and drew the attention of the American media. Coverage focuses upon the Black Muslims' self-help programs for Blacks, but considered them a "threat" to the white establishment. 


The Dar-ul-Islam movement, another important groups among the African American Muslim community is born. Until its disappearance in 1982-1983, it made a serious impact upon the development and practice of traditional Islam in America. 


The newspaper Muhammad Speaks is launched. It later becomes the largest minority weekly publication in the country and reached 800,000 readers at its peak. In subsequent years, it underwent some name changes, and the NOI itself underwent various transformations. It has also been know as Bilalian News the A.M. Journal and currently, the Muslim Journal. 


The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is established as an organization to aid foreign Muslims students attending schools in the United States. MSA now has more than 100 branches nationwide. In the 1970s, it gave birth to the Islamic Medical Association (IMA), The Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), and the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE). 


Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X) is assassinated in New York . He was one of the most outstanding Muslims in American history as well as a dedicated fighter for justice and equality for African Americans and other oppressed people. 


The Hanafi Movement is founded by Hamas Abdul Khaalis. The Hanafi Madh-hab Center was established in New York, but later moved to Washington DC. This movement had a membership of more than 1000 in the United States. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a famous basketball player, is one of the Muslims who first came into contact with Islam through this movement. In 1977, Khaalis and some of his followers seized control of three District of Columbia buildings, holding hostages for more than 30 hours. One man was killed. Khaalis is now incarcerated in Washington DC, serving a sentence of 41 to 120 years. This movement marks a challenging period in American Muslim History. 


The Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers is established. 


The Association of Muslim Scientists is launched. 


Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, dies and is succeed by his son Warith Deen Mohammed, who has been credited with moving the NOI toward the broader universal concepts of Islam. He is now regarded as one of the leading Muslim spokesmen in the United States. 


The first American Islamic library is established in Plainfield, Indiana. 


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is established in Plainfield, IN. ISNA is now an umbrella organization for many active Islamic groups seeking to further the cause of Islam in the United States. 


Dr. Isma'il R. Al-Faruqi and his wife are murdered in their home outside Philadelphia. Dr. and Mrs. Faruqi are the authors of the Cultural Atlas of Islam as well as many other books and research papers. Dr. Faruqi is the founder of AMSS and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, located in Northern Virginia. This truly remarkable Muslim family is responsible for some of the most constructive programs to promote Islam in the United States. 


Muslims hold the first solidarity conference called "Muslims Against Apartheid." This was the first conference of its kind in support of Muslims for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The conference was organized by the American Muslim Council.


Imam Siraj Wahhaj offers an invocation (opening prayer) to the United States House of Representatives. He was the first Muslim to do so. 


The Muslim Members of the Military (MMM) organization hold their first "Unity in Uniform" conference. The conference took place at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington DC. According to the Untied States Department of Defense, there are more than 5000 Muslims in uniform on active duty in the military. 


Charles Bilal, Kountze, TX becomes the nation's first mayor in an American city. 


Imam Warith Deen Mohammed gives the invocation in the Senate.

  Information Resources


The University of Alabama, A Pictorial History by Suzanne Rau Wolfe History of the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Jameelah A. Hakim, 1989


African Presence in Early America by Ivan Van Sertima, 1987


Deeper Roots by Abdullah Hakim Quick, 1990


Arab America Today (A Demographic Profile of Arab Americans) By John Zogby, 1990


A Survey of North American Muslims by El Tigani A. Abugideiri, June 1977


A Century of Islam in America by Yvonne Y. Haddad, 1986


Ethnic Distribution of American Muslims and selected Socio Economic Characteristics by Arif Ghayrur, 1984


The Demography of Islamic Nations by John Weeks, 1988


Islam in the United States: Review of Sources by Dr. Sulayman S. Nyang, 1988


Demographic Consequences of Minority Consciousness: An analysis By Salaha M. Abedin, 1980


World Population Data Sheet Population Reference Bureau, Inc. Washington DC, 1990


Statistical Abstract of the United States U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, 1990


Muslim Peoples , A World Ethnographic Survey Edited by Richard V. Weeks, 1984, vol. II


Muslim Peoples, a World Ethnographic Survey by Richard V. Weeks, 1978


The 1991 Almanac 44th Edition , by Houghnton Mifflin Company, 1991


The Islamic Society of North America Directory of Islamic Centers, Schools, Masjids, and MSA Chapters 1989 Revised Edition


The Islamic Struggle in America by Hijrah Magazine, Oct./Nov. 1985


Seven Muslim Slaves by Abdul Hakim Muhammad 1983


Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford, 1977


Nature Knows no Color Line by J.A. Rogers, 1952


African Muslims in Antebellum American by Allen Austin, 1984


The Arab World Published by the Arab-American Press, 1945


The United States and the Sultanate of Oman Produce by the Sultan Qaboos Center, The Middle East Institute Washington DC, 1990


By Fareed H. Numan (December 1992)