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Servants of Allah

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, 15th Anniversary Edition

Sylviane A. Diouf
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 351
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  • Book Info
    Servants of Allah
    Book Description:

    Servants of Allahpresents a history of African Muslims, following them from West Africa to the Americas. Although many assume that what Muslim faith they brought with them to the Americas was quickly absorbed into the new Christian milieu, as Sylviane A. Diouf demonstrates in this meticulously-researched, groundbreaking volume, Islam flourished during slavery on a large scale. She details how, even while enslaved, many Muslims managed to follow most of the precepts of their religion. Literate, urban, and well-traveled, they drew on their organization, solidarity and the strength of their beliefs to play a major part in the most well-known slave uprisings. But for all their accomplishments and contributions to the history and cultures of the African Diaspora, the Muslims have been largely ignored.Servants of Allah - aChoice1999 Outstanding Academic Title - illuminates the role of Islam in the lives of both individual practitioners and communities, and shows that though the religion did not survive in the Americas in its orthodox form, its mark can be found in certain religions, traditions, and artistic creations of people of African descent.This 15th anniversary edition has been updated to include new materials and analysis, a review of developments in the field, prospects for new research, and new illustrations.Sylviane A. Diouf is an award-winning historian specializing in the history of the African Diaspora, African Muslims, the slave trade and slavery. She is the author of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons (NYU Press 2013) and Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America, and the editor of Fighting The Slave Trade: West African Strategies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-4447-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction to the 15th Anniversary Edition
    (pp. 1-19)

    In 1998, whenServants of Allahwas first published, I could not have imagined that I would be writing a new introduction to the volume fifteen years later. Three years earlier, I could not even imagine this book would ever exist. I had started writing it in French, certain I would find a receptive publisher in Paris. Only when, to my utter surprise, no one shared my enthusiasm—to say the least—did I decide to start all over. Fifteen years later,Servants of Allahis still here, andAllah’in Kullari—its Turkish version—has gone into two editions. As...

  5. 1 African Muslims, Christian Europeans, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    (pp. 20-70)

    When the first Africans were deported to the New World, beginning in 1501, Islam was already well established in West Africa. The religion revealed to the Arabian trader Muhammad between 609 and 632 c.e. had been introduced to North Africa as early as 660. South of the Sahara it had been known since the eighth century through contacts with merchants from the north. Islam in its orthodox Sunni form started to spread, however, after the conversion of the two rulers War Diaby, from Takrur in northern Senegal—which, by applying thesharia, or Islamic law, became the first West African...

  6. 2 Upholding the Five Pillars of Islam in a Hostile World
    (pp. 71-98)

    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 “Mohammadanism” 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...

  7. 3 The Muslim Community
    (pp. 99-142)

    Muslims strove hard to keep their religion alive, in both the enslaved community and the larger Christian society. But to be a Muslim was more than just respecting the Five Pillars of Islam. It implied a distinctive lifestyle. Especially for West Africans, with their community-based traditions, Islam is a highly communal, public, and visible religion. It dictates and regulates the daily life, material culture, and demeanor of the faithful. To be a Muslim entails following strict dietary rules, behaving in a certain way, dressing in a particular fashion, and interacting with coreligionists and non-Muslims in the manner deemed appropriate. The...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. 143-158)
  9. 4 Literacy: A Distinction and a Danger
    (pp. 159-209)

    The Muslims’ literacy set them apart and became as distinctive as a physical trait. A slaveholder was so impressed with literate Sambo, for example, that he mentioned only this characteristic when he put a notice in theCharleston Courierof February 7, 1805, to advertise him as a runaway. The thirty-year-old man was a “new negro” (a recently arrived African) who had absconded with another African and a native-born woman. He was, reported the owner, a man “of grave countenance who writes the Arabic language.”¹ It would be interesting to know how the slaveholder came to learn about the newcomer’s...

  10. 5 Resistance, Revolts, and Returns to Africa
    (pp. 210-250)

    Frugal, serious, and for some dedicated to hard work in order to get their freedom or reach the upper echelons of the slave structure, the African Muslims may have appeared, at first glance, to be “model slaves.” These characteristics, however, represent only one facet of their experience in the Americas, that which drew on their education and discipline in Africa. They also brought with them a tradition of defiance and rebellion, because as Muslims, they could be only free men and women. They proved antagonistic toward their captors from the very beginning, and from a few years after the arrival...

  11. 6 The Muslim Legacy
    (pp. 251-284)

    With a documented presence of five hundred years, Islam was, after Catholicism, the second monotheist religion introduced into the post-1492 Americas. It preceded Lutheranism, Methodism, Baptism, Calvinism, Santeria, Candomble, and Vodun to name a few. All these religions are alive today and are followed by the vast majority of the Africans’ descendants, but not one community currently practices Islam as passed on by preceding African generations.

    Islam brought by the enslaved West Africans has not survived. It has left traces; it has contributed to the culture and history of the continents; but its conscious practice is no more. For the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 285-314)
    (pp. 315-326)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 327-340)
    (pp. 341-341)