Muslims Have Been Here for Centuries

Published February 16, 2016

By Editor

Islamic presence in the Americas since the 1400s is well documented
1178 – Muslims Sail to America

A Chinese source known as the Sung Document records Muslim sailors journeying to a land known as Mu-Lan-Pi, which some researchers identify as the American continent.

1300s – African Muslims Explore the New World

According to some scholars, Abu Bakari, a king of the Muslim state of Mali in West Africa, initiated a series of sea voyages to North America beginning in the early 1300s. About the same time, Mandingo Muslims from Mali and other parts of West Africa are said to have arrived in the Gulf of Mexico and traveled up the Mississippi River to explore the interior of the North American continent.

1527 – Spanish Explorers and Spanish Refugees

Estevanico of Azamor, a Moroccan Muslim, arrived in Florida with the expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1527. He stayed in America and joined expeditions across the continent to Arizona and New Mexico. By the late 1700s, historical records indicate the presence of Spanish “Moors” living in South Carolina, many of whom were expelled from their homeland by edict of the Spanish Crown.

1530 – African Slaves Begin to Arrive in the Americas

During three centuries of the slave trade, over 10 million Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas. Scholars estimate that 10-30 percent of these slaves were Muslim, although practicing Islam had to be done in secret, and many slaves were forced to convert to Christianity.

1807 – Freed Muslim Slave Puts Down Roots in America

Yarrow Mamout is an example of Muslim ex-slaves putting down roots in the U.S. Enslaved at 16 and brought to Maryland from Guinea in 1752, Mamout was set free in 1801 and became an early shareholder in Columbia bank, the second chartered bank in the country. Today, portraits of Mamout hang in the Historical society of Pennsylvania and the Georgetown Public Library in Washington.


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