Pre-Columbian Muslims in the Americas



By: Dr. Youssef Mroueh

http://www.sunnah.org/history/

 



INTRODUCTION

Numerous evidence suggests that Muslims from Spain and West Africa 

arrived

to the Americas at least five centuries before Columbus. It is

recorded,for example, that in the mid-tenth century, during the rule of

the Ummayyed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961 CE), Muslims of African

origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of DELBA (Palos) into the

"Ocean of darkness and fog". They returned after a long absence with 

much

booty from a "strange and curious land". It is evident that people of

Muslim origin are known to have accompanied Columbus and subsequent

Spanish explorers to the New World.



The last Muslim stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell to the Christians in

1492 CE, just before the Spanish inquisition was launched. To escape

persecution, many non-Christians fled or embraced Catholicism. At least

two documents imply the presence of Muslims in Spanish America before 

1550

CE. Despite the fact that a decree issued in 1539 CE by Charles V, king 

of

Spain, forbade the grandsons of Muslims who had been burned at the 

stake

to migrate to the West Indies. This decree was ratified in 1543 CE, and 

an

order for the expulsion of all Muslims from overseas Spanish 

territories

was subsequently published. Many references on the Muslim arrival to

Americas are available. They are summarized in the following 



A: HISTORIC DOCUMENTS: 

1. A Muslim historian and geographer ABUL-HASSAN ALI IBN AL-HUSSAIN

AL-MASUDI (871-957 CE) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin

aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that during the 

rule

of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad(888-912 CE), a 

Muslim

navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed 

from

Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown

territory (ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In

Al-Masudi's map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of

darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory

(Americas).(1)



2. A Muslim historian ABU BAKR IBN UMAR AL-GUTIYYA narrated that during

the reign of the Muslim caliph of Spain, Hisham II (976-1009CE), 

another

Muslim navigator, Ibn Farrukh, from Granada, sailed from Kadesh 

(February

999CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary islands) 

visiting

King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two 

islands,

Capraria and Pluitana. He arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE.(2)



3. Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba), Spain. He was bound for GOMERA

(Canary Islands)-Gomera is an Arabic word meaning 'small firebrand' -

there he fell in love with Beatriz BOBADILLA, daughter of the first

captain general of the island (the family name BOBADILLA is derived 

from

the Arab Islamic name ABOU ABDILLA.).Nevertheless, 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

Dominigo back to Spain (November 1500 CE). The BOBADILLA family was

related to the ABBADID dynasty of Seville (1031-1091 CE). On October 

12,

1492 CE, Columbus landed on a little island in the Bahamas that was 

called

GUANAHANI by the natives. Renamed SAN SALVADOR by Columbus. GUANAHANI 

is

derived from Mandinka and modified Arabic words. GUANA (IKHWANA) means

'brothers' and HANI is an Arabic name.Therefore the original name of 

the

island was 'HANI BROTHERS'. (11) Ferdinand Columbus, the son of

Christopher, wrote about the blacks seen by his father in Handuras: 

"The

people who live farther east of Pointe Cavinas, as far as Cape Gracios 

a

Dios, are almost black in color." At the same time, in this very same

region, lived a tribe of Muslim natives known as ALMAMY. In Mandinka 

and

Arabic languages, ALMAMY was the designation of "AL-IMAM"or "AL-IMAMU",

the leader of the prayer,or in some cases, the chief of the

community,and/or a member of the Imami Muslim community. (12)



NOTES

4. A renowned American historian and linguist, LEO WEINER 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,

Central, South and North American territories, including Canada,where 

they

were trading and intermarrying with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians.

(13)



B: GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS: 

1. The famous Muslim geographer and cartographer AL-SHARIF AL-IDRISI

(1099- 1166CE) wrote in his famous book Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq

al-afaq (Excursion of the longing one in crossing horizons) that a 

group

of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and 

fog

(The Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal), in order to discover what 

was

in it and what extent were its limits. They finally reached an island 

that

had people and cultivation...on the fourth day, a translator spoke to 

them

in the Arabic language. (3) 



2. The Muslim reference books mentioned a well-documented description 

of a

journey across the sea of fog and darkness by Shaikh ZAYN EDDINE ALI 

BEN

FADHEL AL-MAZANDARANI. His journey started from Tarfaya (South Morocco)

during the reign of the King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286-1307CE) 6th 

of

the Marinid dynasty, to Green Island in the Caribbean sea in 1291 CE 

(690

HE). The details of his ocean journey are mentioned in Islamic 

references,

and many Muslim scholars are aware of this recorded historical 

event..(4)



3. The Muslim historian CHIHAB AD-DINE ABU-L-ABBAS AHMAD BEN FADHL

AL-UMARI (1300-1384CE/700-786HE) described in detail the geographical

explorations beyond the sea of fog and darkness of Mali's sultans in 

his

famous book Massaalik al-absaar fi mamaalik al-amsaar (The pathways of

sights in the provinces of kingdoms).(5)



4. Sultan MANSU KANKAN MUSA (1312-1337 CE) was the world renowned 

Mandinka

monarch of the West African Islamic empire of Mali. While travelling to

Makkah on his famous Hajj in 1324 CE, he informed the scholars of the

Mamluk Bahri sultan court (An-Nasir Nasir Edin Muhammad III-1309-1340 

CE)

in Cairo, that his brother, sultan Abu Bakari I (1285-1312CE) had

undertaken two expeditions into the Atlantic Ocean. When the sultan did

not return to Timbuktu from the second voyage of 1311 CE, Mansa Musa

became sultan of the empire. (6)



5. Columbus and early Spanish and portuguese explorers were able to 

voyage

across the Atlantic (a distance of 2400 Km's) thanks to Muslim

geographical and navigational information. In particular maps made by

Muslim traders, including AL-MASUDI (871-957CE) in his book Akhbar

az-zaman (History of the world) which is based on material gathered in

Africa and Asia (9). As a matter of fact, Columbus had two captain of

muslim origin during his first transatlantic voyage: Martin Alonso 

Pinzon

was the captain of the PINTA,and his brother Vicente Yanez Pinzon was 

the

captain of the NINA. They were wealthy, expert ship outfitters who 

helped

organize the Columbus expedition and prepared the flagship, SANTA 

MARIA.

They did this at their own expense for both commercial and political

reasons. The PINZON family was related to ABUZAYAN MUHAMMAD III 

(1362-66

CE), the Moroccan sultan of the Marinid dynasty (1196-1465CE). (10) 



C: ARABIC ( ISLAMIC ) INSCRIPTIONS: 

1. Anthropologists have proven that the Mandinkos under Mansa Musa's

instructions explored many parts of North America via the Mississippi 

and

other rivers systems. At Four Corners, Arizona, writings show that they

even brought elephants from Africa to the area.(7) 



2. Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 CE

while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, 

he

saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain. The ruins of mosques and

minarets with inscriptions of Quranic verses have been discovered in

Cuba,Mexico,Texas and Nevada. (8) 



3. During his second voyage, Columbus was told by the indians of 

ESPANOLA

(Haiti), that black people had been to the island before his arrival. 

For

proof, they presented Columbus with the spears of these African 

muslims.

These weapons were tipped with a yellow metal that the indians called

GUANIN, a word of West African derivation meaning 'gold alloy'. Oddly

enough, it is related to the Arabic word 'GHINAA' which means 'WEALTH'.

Columbus brought some GUANINES back to Spain and had them tested. He

learned that the metal was 18 parts gold (56.25%), 6 parts silver 

(18.75%)

and 8 parts copper (25%), the same ratio as the metal produced in 

African

metalshops of Guinea. (14) 



4. In 1498 CE, on his third voyage to the new world, Columbus landed in

Trinidad. Later, he sighted the South American continent, where some of

his crew went ashore and found natives using colorful handkerchiefs of

symmetrically woven cotton. Columbus noticed that these handkerchiefs

resembled the headdresses and loinclothes of Guinea in their colors, 

style

and function. He refered to them as ALMAYZARS. ALMAYZAR is an Arabic 

word

for 'wrapper','cover','apron' and/or 'skirting' which was the cloth the

Moors (Spanish or North African Muslims) imported from west Africa

(Guinea) into Morocco, Spain and Portugal. During this voyage, Columbus

was surprised that the married women wore cotton panties (bragas) and 

he

wondered where these natives learned their modesty. Hernan Cortes, 

Spanish

conqueror, described the dress of the Indian women as 'long veils' and 

the

dress of Indian men as 'breechcloth painted in the style of Moorish

draperies'. Ferdinand Columbus called the native cotton garments

'breechclothes of the same design and cloth as the shawls worn by the

Moorish women of Granada'. Even the similarity of the children's 

hammocks

to those found in North Africa was uncanny.(15) 



5. Dr. Barry Fell (Harvard University) introduced in his book 'Saga

America-1980' solid scientific evidence supporting the arrival, 

centuries

before Columbus, of Muslims from North and West Africa. Dr. Fell

discovered the existence of the Muslim schools at Valley of Fire, Allan

Springs, Logomarsino, Keyhole, Canyon, Washoe and Hickison Summit Pass

(Nevada), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Mimbres Valley (New Mexico) and Tipper

Canoe(Indiana) dating back to 700-800 CE. Engraved on rocks in the arid

western U.S, he found texts, diagrams and charts representing the last

surviving fragments of what was once a system of schools - at both an

elementary and higher level. The language of instruction was North 

African

Arabic written with old Kufic Arabic scripts. The subjects of 

instruction

included writing, reading, arithmetic, religion, history, geography,

mathematics, astronomy and sea navigation. The descendants of the 

Muslim

visitors of North America are members of the present Iroquois, 

Algonquin,

Anasazi, Hohokam and Olmec native people..(16) 



6. There are 565 names of places (villages, towns, cities, mountains,

lakes, rivers,.. etc. ) in U.S.A. (484) and Canada (81) which derived 

from

Islamic and Arabic roots. These places were originally named by the

natives in precolumbian periods. Some of these names carried holy 

meanings

such as: Mecca-720 inhabitants (Indiana), Makkah Indian tribe

(Washington), Medina-2100 (Idaho), Medina-8500 (N.Y.), Medina-1100,

Hazen-5000 (North Dakota), Medina-17000/Medina-120000 (Ohio), 

Medina-1100

(Tennessee), Medina-26000 (Texas), Medina-1200 (Ontario), Mahomet-3200

(Illinois), Mona-1000 (Utah), Arva-700 (Ontario)...etc. A careful study 

of

the names of the native Indian tribes revealed that many names are 

derived

from Arab and Islamic roots and origins, i.e. Anasazi, Apache, Arawak,

Arikana, Chavin, Cherokee, Cree, Hohokam, Hupa, Hopi, Makkah, Mahigan,

Mohawk, Nazca, Zulu, Zuni...etc.. 



Based on the above historical, geographical and linguistic notes, a 

call

to celebrate the millennium of the Muslim arrival to the Americas, five

centuries before Columbus, has been issued to all Muslim nations and

communities around the world. We hope that this call will receive 

complete

understanding and attract enough support. 



FOOTNOTES:

(1)See ref 4  

(2)See ref. 9  

(3)See ref. 3  

(4)See ref. 1, 2 and 5   

(5)See ref. 6  

(6)See ref. 14  

(7)See ref. 21 and 22  

(8)See ref. 15   

(9)See ref. 4  

(10)See ref. 15  

(11)See ref. 15  

(12)See ref. 6   

(13)See ref. 20  

(14)See ref. 16  

(15)See ref. 7  

(16)See ref. 10 &12 

REFERENCES: 

1. AGHA HAKIM, AL-MIRZA Riyaadh Al-Ulama(Arabic),Vol.2 P.386/Vol.4 

P.175   

2. AL-AMEEN, SAYED MOHSIN Aayan Ash-Shia(Arabic),Vol.7 P.158/Vol 8 

P.302-3  

3. AL-IDRISSI Nuzhat Al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq Al-Afaaq(Arabic)   

4. AL-MASUDI Muruj Adh-Dhahab (Arabic), Vol. 1, P. 138  

5. AL-ASFAHANI, AR-RAGHIB Adharea Ila Makarim Ash-Shia,Vol.16,P.343   

6. CAUVET, GILES Les Berbers de L'Amerique,Paris 1912,P.100-101  

7. COLUMBUS, FERDINAND The Life of Admiral Christopher Columbus,Rutgers

Univ.Press, 1959, P.232  

8. DAVIES, NIGEL Voyagers to the New World,New York 1979  

9. ON MANUEL OSUNAY SAVINON Resumen de la Geografia Fisica...,Santa 

Cruz

de Tenerife, 1844  

10. FELL,BARRY Saga America, New York 1980   

11. FELL,BARRY America BC, New York 1976  

12. GORDON,CYRUS Before Columbus,New York 1971  

13. GYR,DONALD Exploring Rock Art,Santa Barbara 1989   

14. HUYGHE,PATRICK Columbus was Last,New York 1992  

15. OBREGON ,MAURICIO The Columbus Papers,The Barcelona Letter of 1493,

The Landfall Controversy, and the Indian Guides, McMillan Co.,New York

1991   

16. THACHER,JOHN BOYD Christopher Columbus,New York 1950,P.380  

17. VAN SETIMA,IVAN African Presence in Early America,New Brunswick,NJ

1987  

18. VAN SETIMA,IVAN They Came Before Columbus,New York 1976  

19. VON WUTHENAU,ALEX Unexpected Facts in Ancient America,New York 1975   

20. WEINER,LEO Africa and the Discovery of America,Philadelphia,

1920,Vol.2 P.365-6  

21. WILKINS,H..T. Mysteries of Ancient South America,New York 1974   

22. WINTERS,CLYDE AHMAD Islam in Early North and South

America,Al-Ittihad,July 1977,P.60 





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