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Upholding the Five Pillars of Islam in a Hostile World Scattered across every region of the Americas, the Muslims entered a hostile world—a world that enslaved free Muslim men and women; a white Christian world determined to wipe out any trace of “paganism” or “Muhammadanism” in the newly arrived Africans. It was essential that the new land become Christian as quickly as possible , because evangelization was a large part of the justification for the enslavement of the Africans. Moreover, as stated earlier, the fight against the possible spread of Islam had been an intense preoccupation in the Spanish colonies since the beginning of the sixteenth century. All the conditions were thus present for a rapid disappearance of Islam in America, or even for its nonemergence. A religion that requires as its five fundamental principles not only the profession of faith but prayers five times a day, almsgiving, a month-long fast, and a pilgrimage to Arabia would seem to have had little chance of being followed by tightly controlled slaves. Nevertheless, the information gathered from all over the Americas demonstrates that African Muslims, wherever they lived, did not easily renounce their religion and its practice, if at all. On the contrary, they made tremendous efforts to continue observing its most important principles : the Five Pillars of Islam. The First Pillar, the profession of faith, or shahada, is expressed by the formula La-ilaha ill’l-Lah Muhammadan rasul-ul-lah—“There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” According to Islam, when uttered with sincerity, the shahada makes anyone a Muslim. In America the shahada manifested itself in three ways: affirmation of the Africans’ faith in Allah and his prophet, Muhammad; rejection of conversion to Catholicism or Protestantism; and, when necessary, pseudoconversion . “Allah. Muhammad.” It was with these words that a slave found wandering in Kent County, Pennsylvania, introduced himself to the men who 2 49 interrogated him one day in June 1731. He was a fugitive and could not speak English. He could not say where he came from or to whom he belonged . As a slave he was called Simon; later he was known as Job ben Solomon. But as Ayuba Suleyman Diallo he had placed his faith in Allah. When confronted with an unknown, potentially dangerous situation over which he had no control, he simply affirmed his Islamic faith. He made the shahada the definition of his own existence, of his person. He did so rightly, because in the end, his Islamic faith and education saved him, freeing him from bondage. Islam appears to have been a central force in other enslaved Africans’ lives as well. Omar ibn Said, from Senegal and North Carolina, has left testimonies of his faith in numerous manuscripts in Arabic. Most start with an invocation to Allah and Muhammad. His last known manuscript is a copy of surah 110—An-Nasr, or “Help”—which refers to the conversion to Islam.1 Another testimony of the resilience of the Muslim faith appears in Ben-Ali, or Bilali Mohamed, a Guinean Pulo who became something of a celebrity in the Sea Islands of Georgia. He remained a devout Muslim all his life and died uttering the shahada.2 Clearly, some Muslims continued strongly affirming their religious convictions. They had come from areas where Christianity had not—and still has not—been accepted or from areas where it was the religion of a few traders, mostly mulattos. What the Africans knew about Christianity they had learned in the Koran or the New Testament, not through any contact with the Europeans. They were not aware of the antipathy that their religion inspired on the other side of the ocean; furthermore, they were strong believers. So they presented themselves as Muslims with selfcon fidence and defined themselves according to their religious creed. To affirm one’s faith is also to refuse to change it. As far as religion and the Africans were concerned, there were two schools of thought in the New World. The Catholic school extolled conversion because it morally justified slavery. The Protestant school opposed it, because Protestants feared that once converted, the slaves should be freed. In Catholic lands, slaves were excluded and segregated on a secular, social basis but were included in the spiritual community. Baptism thus became a moral obligation of the masters toward their slaves, as was codi fied both in the French Code noir (Black Code...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814785300
Related ISBN
9780814719053
MARC Record
OCLC
45733605
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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