Islam in America I: The American Indian

After proper analysis, we realize that the theory of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” is based on false assumptions and preconceived notions that pander to those that seek deliberate confrontation. The theory or idea is further exploited in mainstream media coverage in current domestic and foreign affairs. It transforms itself as a tool to demean and degrade Muslims and Islam. On the contrary, a thorough analysis of the history of America in relation to Islam and Muslims totally debunks this idea.

Trying to undermine the historical narrative of Islam and Muslims in this country will only lead to further confusion, animosity, and fear of the “other”. We must ask ourselves, is Islamic culture really a separate entity from American culture, a culture of multiplicity? The idea that Muslims are foreign to America is a bogus idea promoted mostly by orientalists that are set on degrading Islam and Muslims as a monolithic population that originated and stayed in the East up until recently. Nevertheless, as we are living in the “information age” this idea is naturally fading away.

These series of posts will look at how Muslims and Islam influenced the American narrative from the Native American era to recent times. We will look at different periods of times, social movements, and essentially how Muslims played a major role in shaping the America we live in today. This is not to deny that there were other distinct cultures that influenced native and recent American culture, but to claim that Muslims were totally alien to America is either a deceptive or a misinformed belief, hopefully the latter.

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with concrete comparisons, when trying to relate Islam and Native America, due to the fact that in early native culture there was no form of keeping records. The way knowledge and information was transmitted was through word of mouth. Very similar to how the Prophetic ahadith or traditions were transmitted to us. Despite the genocidal policies, the early settlers applied on the native population, the Native American Muslim community is actually alive and well today.

One such group refers to themselves as “Turtle Island Muslims” and are in significant numbers, mostly living in rural areas and reservations, but still strongly connected. Unfortunately, historically, the Natives are usually displayed as savages, barbarians and ignorant, but according to this group, that is a mere misconception. To confirm that some Natives belonged to Islam, or at least somehow were influenced by the religion, we will use documented evidence to expose the “Islam-ness” of Native America.

In order to better grasp the relationship that Islam had on the Natives, we can refer to the message given in 1996 by Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El, a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian, who is known as Eagle Sun Walker. According to him there are many documents, treaties, legislation and resolutions that were passed between the 1600s and 1800s that show that Muslims were in fact here and were very active in the various communities in which they lived in. 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 detailed the continued right to exist as a community in the areas of commerce, maritime shipping and a current form of government at that time, which was in accordance with Islam. All of these accounts and documents are freely available in the National Archives and in the Library of Congress.

Abdal-Razzaaq also outlined how most of the tribal languages contain the word Allah, the Arabic term for God. Furthermore, the traditional dress of both man and women were modest and followed the Qur’anic and Prophetic traditions, including long dresses, head coverings and turbans. The last Cherokee chief with a Muslim name was Ramadhan Ibn Wati (c.1866).

Even more obvious proofs of Islam’s influence are certain American Indian names for cities across the United States. For example, the city of Tallahassee, a city with Native American roots, means “He Allah will deliver you sometime in the future.

Islamic roots have been established or known in Native America, but more research and investigation is needed to further solidify the Muslim presence in pre-colonial times. Nonetheless, we all acknowledge that Native Americans existed way before Columbus sailed the “ocean blue,” and now with living evidence showing how Islam existed in some form or capacity within these indigenous cultures and tribes, can we really say that Islam is as foreign to the United States as we once were pressured to believe? We are not a 9/11 invention and it would be foolish to think so.

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Primary Sources
Dr Maryam Shabani
Turtle Island Muslim Members

Secondary Sources
Muslims in American History: A Forgotten Legacy by Jerald F. Dirks
Digging For The Red Roots by Mahir Abdal Razzaq E

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About The Author

Abbas Naqvi

Abbas Naqvi was born and raised in New York. He currently resides in New York City and is a computational biologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Abbas is also pursuing a graduate degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. He is actively involved in his community along with other national and international initiatives.

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18

09 2010

13 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    i am a true blooded american-indian. no the american indian is not related to muslims or islam, the american indian dna is wholly different to arabia and most of the middle eastern peoples. the dna of the majority of north african muslims is african & european dna to varying degrees some more african than european,and the some more european than african but all of predominantly african black and european racial mixture.. the american indian dna is more related to the hindus,indonesians,maoris,hawaiians,oceanians,jews,italians french,spaniard,greek,ect….have the marks of native americans in their dna make-up.beware though islam has a bad record in its relationship with indigenous people,nigeria,ethiopia,darfur,sudan,somalia,kenya,and people indigenous to india,like for instance the hindus.american indian dna is in a class of its own, but the people above metioned are just some of the many people throughout the world that has some of the ancient ancestry related,but muslim type people are a different mixture. many mullatoes and people surrounding them made up many stories to explain the mulattoes, most are just american black and white to varying degrees with no indian blood.they were just trying to pass off as something.if rteal muslims knew american indians in the past or even now they would just try to kill us off like they do to everybody else. real native really know better. have a good day nice. try though.

    [Reply]

    Moustafa Reply:

    Islam is not a race. You make it seem like north Africa is the only place with Muslims, when the Muslim minority in India is greater than the majority in Egypt. Muslims never killed off the native people when they came to a place. If they did Spain, India, Indonesia etc would all be predominantly Arab just as America is now predominantly white. On the contrary, even non-Muslims minorities thrived under Islamic rule – Jews in Spain had a golden era coinciding with Islamic rule; when the Muslims lost control of Homs in Syria, the local Christians begged them to come back saying they had not tasted justice like the justice of the Muslim rulers.

    Even if Islam as it is defined today did not reach the native Americans, Islam in its true definition did. Islam teaches that a messenger was sent to every nation, tribe, race, people etc, so there would have been messengers native to America sent to there people with a message of One God – and this is Islam.

    [Reply]

  2. Mark #
    2

    The author of this post is definitely correct. His last statement, which summarizes almost every research scholar’s finding:

    “Islamic roots have been established or known in Native America, but more research and investigation is needed to further solidify the Muslim presence in pre-colonial times.”

    That doesn’t mean that Islam was the prevalent religion, but was definitely a factor. For example some historians write that Africans were inter-mixed with the natives and some of these were Muslim. There is really a lot of material out there. For those that want to look further (in addition to the writers’ references) refer to these historians:

    Barry Fell
    Clyde Ahmad Winters
    Alexander Von Wuthenau
    Ivan Van Sertima

    [Reply]

  3. I.S. #
    3

    The documents would be interesting to read. Do copies exist?

    [Reply]

  4. Abbas Naqvi #
    4

    I.S.: No I am not, but I can put you in direct contact with my primary sources, if you want. Have I check and evaluated every treaty? No, but I was able to verify a few I mentioned. I may do a follow-up entry- if time allows- with a more detailed analysis.

    [Reply]

  5. I.S. #
    5

    Are you referring to the Turtle Island Muslims web site? If so, what section contains the primary sources?

    Have you checked and evaluated the treaties and other documents you mention?

    [Reply]

  6. Qasim Zaidi #
    6

    I agree with previous comments that although this is an intriguing topic, a more categorical sourcing of the information presented may lend the article some more weight. Maybe some excerpts from the sources listed (I am too lazy to do an in-depth review of the sources). I think a discussion of some of the evidence demonstrating a link between Native Americans and the Muslim world pre-1600s is warranted.

    [Reply]

  7. Abbas Naqvi #
    7

    Just to clarify, I am not advocating that Native American’s were predominately Muslim, but that Islam and Muslims may had played a major role in influencing the local customs and beliefs. Some academic scholars, such as Dirks go further and say that Islam was prevalent in the dominant culture. But like I said earlier, it is very difficult to substantiate any type of claims based on the information we have.

    Remember most of the documentation we have has been written and narrated by the colonial genocidal entities and most living American Indians do not speak their native language (there are exceptions in places like Nevada, where the Navajo exist). With that being said, there is an upcoming book, particularly by Dr Maryam Garcia, which will hopefully delve further into this.

    thanks,
    Abbas

    [Reply]

  8. 8

    Peace and Friendship treaty of 1787 was made by Kingdom of Morocco and United states of america, mainly regarding shipping contacts between the two countries. it had nothing to do with native Americans. there are no historical evidence to show native population of Americas were expose to any monolithic religions before 1492 when they were meet by European Christians. I disagree with clash of civilizations for very different reasons that you mentioned. Native americans moved to americas about 15000 years ago from Siberia and there are very little evidence to show they had any contacts with other races and cultures. they were some contacts with vikings and there are some (at best) shaky evidence that there were black african that went to South America about 2000 years ago. islam is less than 1500 years old. u do the math

    [Reply]

  9. Abbas Naqvi #
    9

    B-sizzle: I did quickly check Wikipedia’s citation and it actually doesn’t exist.

    I forgot to upload the sources, but I will do so shortly. Most of my sources are from primary sources, but I have a few secondary sources as well.

    thanks,
    Abbas

    [Reply]

  10. B-sizzle #
    10

    According to wikipedia, Tallahasee “is a Muskogean Indian word often translated as ‘old fields.’” Can you cite your source please?

    [Reply]

  11. Hossein #
    11

    Wow amazingly enlightening article. Thanks Abbas!

    [Reply]

  12. Ahmed #
    12

    Good idea for a column, but need to link some sources to give it authenticity.

    [Reply]



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