In addition to their gifts to civilization, Muslims have had a long history in the Americas.
By Syed A. Ahsani
The Dallas Morning News
September 28, 2002
The United States is indebted to the European Renaissance, and the Renaissance was indebted to Islamic Spain. From the 13th to the 16th century, books translated from Arabic to Latin at the Alfonso Academy established by Alfonso III known as King of Jews, Christians and Muslims were transported to the rest of Western Europe. The Christian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas read Aristotle in translations by Averroes-Ibne Rushd, from Andalusia.
Muslims also dominated the sciences during the earliest periods. They followed the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Some 75 verses in the Quran exhort believers to study nature, to reflect, to make the best use of their reason, to make scientific enterprise an integral part of community life. Another factor was the cohesion of the Ummah, the Muslim people. Islamic nations, despite political and cultural differences, acted as a single unified commonwealth.
In addition to their gifts to civilization, Muslims have had a long history in the Americas, according to Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq, an American-Indian Muslim and the author of "Digging for the Red Roots" ( The Message, July 1996).
"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 communities in which they lived," he writes.
Among them was the Peace and Friendship Treaty, signed on the Delaware River in 1787, which "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."
Islamic influence can be traced in language, dress and names. The last Cherokee chief (1866) was named Ramadan Ibne Wati. Mr. Abdal-Razzaaq says that Tallahassee means "Allah will deliver you sometime in the future."
Muslims made an impact on American society in the humanities, for example, and the sciences, and art. We believe that they even explored North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus, using the Mississippi River as their access route.
A Muslim historian and geographer, Abul-Hassan Ali Ibn Al-Hussain Al-Masudi (871-957), offers evidence in his book Muruj Adh-dhahab wa Maadin al-Jawhar (The Meadows of Gold and Quarries of Jewels).
He writes that during the rule of the Muslim Caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Muhammad (888-912), the Muslim navigator Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad of Cordoba sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory (Ard Majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. On Al-Masudi's world map, there is a large area in the Atlantic of darkness and fog, which he called the unknown territory (the Americas).
The Muslim historian Abu Bakr Ibn Umar Al-Gutiyya says that during the reign of the Muslim Caliph of Spain Hisham II (976-1009), another Muslim navigator, Ibn Farrukh of Granada, sailed from Kadesh (February 999) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary Islands), visited King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana. He returned to Spain in May 999.
Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba), bound for Gomera (Canary Islands). He fell in love with Beatriz Bobadilla, daughter of the islands' first captain general (the family name Bobadilla is derived from the Arab Islamic name Abouabdilla). 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). Queen Isabella asked Francisco to investigate corruption charges against Columbus. The explorer was later cleared, and visted the Americas again in 1502.
The Bobadilla family was related to the Abbasid dynasty of Seville (1031-1091). Leo Wiener 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 and Central, South and North American territories, including Canada, where they traded and intermarried with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians.
In the new millennium, the great works of our forebears in knowledge and learning should be a beacon to humanity, challenging us to reach glorious heights by co-existence, peace, respect and tolerance.
Muslims have contributed greatly to the development of our civilization. The present generation must discharge its duty by worshipping and submitting to its Creator in a holistic sense to enable the United States to play a vital role in pursuit of freedoms, rights and equality at home and principles, morality and justice abroad.
Viewed in this context, the United States, the inheritor of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage, can contribute to cosmic development in science, technology and human values, cherished by all religions and spanning the U.S. mosaic.
Thus Saturday's conference on "The Role of Religion in Promoting World Peace," with Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars of international fame, assumes historic significance.
Syed A. Ahsani, a former ambassador of Pakistan to Brazil, Ghana and Sudan, is chairman of the American Muslim Alliance, Southwest region.
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