History of Islam

Topics: Islam, Muhammad, Religion Pages: 5 (1920 words) Published: March 15, 2013
Islam is the second most practiced religion in the world with 1.5 billion followers worldwide. With six million people practicing Islam in America, it is one of the fastest growing religions in this country. However, since the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001 the Islamic religion has been under much scrutiny publically in America. Many people who practice this religion have been subjected to discrimination as well as verbal and physical attacks by fellow Americans. However a high level of scrutiny is not a foreign concept to Muslims in America as they have struggled for acceptance in this country for centuries acquiring many highs as well as lows. In this paper I will analyze the image of Muslims in America’s history and how it affected their religious practices as well as their identity within their own communities. I will also be discussing the political and social effects Islam carries today particularly after the events of 9/11. Some scholars believe an Islamic presence was in America over 200 years before Columbus set sail in 1492 to discover the new land (Smith, 1999, p.50). Muslim explorers sailed from Spain and Northwest Africa and had business and social transactions with early Native Americans inhabitants. It is also argued that Columbus even had Muslim members of his crew when he set sail back in the late 1400s although this theory is only hypothetical without proper documentation to support it (Smith, 1999, p.50). It is known that many West African practitioners of Islam were involved as human cargo during the middle passage, lumped in with the other Africans of different faiths they were sent to America to work as slaves. It is believed that a large portion of the Africans sent in the slave trade were practicing Muslims of West African descent (Diouf, 1998 p.28). These Muslims were staunch in their religious beliefs, attempts were made to convert the slaves to Christianity but many were determined to continue their religious practices. This was not an easy task to maintain due to the fear of death looming for their defiance against the slave masters. Many Muslims practiced their Islamic faiths in private and subliminally worshiped Jesus while praising Allah. In 1860, “Old Lizy Gray,” an elderly slave was considered Methodist, but that did not prevent her from saying that “Christ built the first church in Mecca and he grave was da.” “She found that by substituting the name of the prophet Jesus for that of the prophet Muhammad she could affirm her original faith (Diouf, 1998 p.57).” This American concept of slavery was foreign to many Muslims based on the teachings of the Koran and the slave guidelines of the Islamic world. Slavery in their world is not based on skin color but one’s religious beliefs. In the Islamic world any race of people are capable of being enslaved if they did not practice Islamic religion. “In their world slaves who converted to Islamic faith could use the channels of liberation defined by Islamic law: ransom, self-redemption, exchange or manumission (Diouf, 1998 p.13).” Islamic slave laws had many clauses that would allow those born into slavery to be free if their father was a master, and the ability for masters and slaves to switch roles if both were taken prison and the slave converts they could change power positions. Many of Muhammad’s closest companions such as Bilali were considered black. The western version of slavery was based on different set of rules that revolved around many characteristics slaves had no control over, mainly skin color. “In Western Protestant societies, at least, the first credential for acceptance is a white skin. Those who happen to be born with a different skin color cannot hope to be accepted, whatever their spiritual or intellectual merit (Lincoln, 1994 p.5).” This was the beginning of Christianity and Islamic ideology clashing on American soil, which became the template for future misunderstandings between Islamic...
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