Did Black Muslims reach America before Columbus?
First Immigrants of the New World
By Faruk Mercan, Istanbul
Published: Thursday, March 16, 2006
Barry Fell (1917 - 1994), British-born and distinguished Harvard professor of marine biology, wrote "Saga America" one year after his retirement in 1980, which proves the existence of Muslims in America.
Salih Yucel began to search for the traces of lost Islam in the United States just after his appointment to Redfern Mosque in Sydney, Australia, as a religious official, 14 years after his graduation from Ankara University‘s Faculty of Theology.
While pursuing his masters of theology at Sydney University, Yucel ran religious radio programs at NSW State, became involved in the Association for the Fight Against Discrimination, and became a member of the Religious Affairs Upper Committee, which includes representatives of all religions, all while serving as a "Muslim jail preacher" for four years.
Yucel then traveled to the US to pursue his doctoral degree in "Religion and Mental Health" at the University of Boston; he is currently a preacher at the School of Medicine Hospital of Harvard as well as a member of the religious affairs planning committee of these hospitals.
In addition to being on the administration of the Boston Dialogue Foundation, Yucel has researched the traces of Islam on the American Continent for years. The most important findings he notes also concur with the research of his former professor and member of the US Science and Art Academy faculty, Professor Barry Fell.
Perhaps the most impressive finding of this research is that Muslims reached America during the Caliph Ali and Osman periods and opened navigation schools here. Another key discovery relating to the traces of Islam in America, are coins found by Father Thaddeus Mason Harris. These coins were found while he was supervising the construction of today's "Route 16" from Malden to Cambridge, MA, in 1787.
Workers who found the coins mistakenly thought the metal was worthless, and allowed father Harris to take a handful of coins. Father Harris sent them to the Library of Harvard College (known as Harvard University today) for identification. Picture 6 depicts these coins, which belong to the ninth and tenth centuries from Semerkand. The words of Shahadah ( lā 'ilaha 'illāl-lāhu Mohammadur rasūlullāh, that is, There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God) is inscribed on the coins. For this reason, Yucel believes some people from among the Sahaba (companions of Prophet Mohammed) or the Taba'een (who had no direct contact with Mohammed, but did have direct contact with the Ṣahāba) were in America.
Professor Fell, bases his conclusion that there were Muslim schools in the seventh and eighth centuries in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Indiana on findings unearthed in archeological excavations. Writings, drawings, and tables found on rocks in the wilderness of West are the remnants of a Muslim primary and secondary education system. The evidence consists of the old Kufi Arab letters used in North African Arabic, and of the topics about reading-writing, arithmetic, religion, history, geography, mathematics, astronomy and navigation. The writing "With the name of Allah" (pictured left) found on a rock in the Nevada excavations, and another rock inscription "Mohammed Nabiyallah" (Mohammed is the Messenger of God) (picture 1) are strikingly similar to the Kufi style used in the seventh century.
Fell's discoveries indicate Arabs lived in the seventh and eighth centuries in Nevada. Professors Heizer and Baumhoff from the University of California joined excavations at Nevada’s WA 25 site. The result unveiled there indicates there was a school in which Islam, science, and navigation were taught. In the Nevada excavations, Naski and Kufi styles of Arabic writings were found on the rocks and stones (picture 2). In this picture, the mathematical formula of “five diamonds is equal to an A in Arabic (Alif)" is seen.
Salih Yucel emphasizes the similarities among scriptures bearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad found at archeological excavations at different times in America and Africa. Shape A in picture 3 was found in Al Ain Lahag in Morocco and shape B was found in the East Walker river. Shape C was found in Nevada, shape D and E in Churchill County, shape F in Al Hajj Minoun in Morocco, shape G, drawn on a piece of ceramic, was found in Al Suk, Tripoli in Libya, shape H in Cottonwood Canyon and shape I was found on the Libya-Morocco border. These 8th and 9th century scriptures explicitly show the similarities between North America and North Africa. Those found in the U.S. are now kept at the University of California. Incidentally, the Muslim generations who lived during that period in the US are today defined as the Iroquois, Algonquin, Anasazi, Hohokam and Olmec indigenous tribes. In the 12th century, the region where Arab Muslims lived in Nevada was invaded by Ithacan tribe comprising Apache and Navajo natives; local Arabs were forced to escape or were driven to the south. Yet these indigenous people, who were illiterate, were amazed with what they found in the schools established by the Arabs. They even went so far as to emulate the same courses (perhaps thanks to the captives they held) and portrayed the shapes as mythical monsters. This continued for centuries. Picture 4, which was found in the White Mountains in the neighborhood of Benton town on the Nevada border in 1951, bears the kufi style of writing and reads “Sheitan maha mayan” meaning “The Devil is the source of all lies”. This is an example of kufi writing belonging to 7th century. The piece of rock in picture 5 belongs to the 7th century, bearing the letters “H-M-I-D” (Hamid) in kufi-style writing. It was also found on the Atlatl rock in the Fire Valley in Nevada. The rock in picture 7, which is presumed to be 13th century and found in a cave in the La Gruta de Carinto region of Salvador, has the passage “Malakah Haji mi Malaya” inscribed on it. This rock stands as proof that Muslims immigrated to North America from Indonesia. In fact, during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus, the indigenous people of Espanola told him about the black people who reached the island before him. They showed spears left by African Muslims to Columbus as evidence of their claims. The spears were edged with a yellow metal that the indigenous called guanine (gold alloy). Here, the remarkable point is that the word guanine is associated with the Arabic word ghina, which means richness. Columbus later brought a piece of guanine to Spain which showed a content of 56,25 percent gold, 18,75 percent silver and 25 percent copper. These percentages were then the metal processing standard of Africa Ghina.
Columbus, who made his third voyage to the new world in 1498, went to Trinidad. Later on when his crew went ashore in South America, they observed the symmetric woven patterns of the fabric and colorful clothes of the indigenous people there. Columbus referred to these clothes as “almayzar”, acknowledging that they were very similar to the headscarves and belts in Gina in terms of color, style and usage. The word “almayzar” means “cover”, “smock” or “skirt” in Arabic; it was the local clothing of the North African people of Arabic and Berberi origin known as Moors, who had conquered Spain in the 8th century. Columbus noted that indigenous married women wore cotton clothes, and he wrote that he wondered from where these women learnt the concept of chastity. Spanish conqueror Hernan Kortes recorded the clothing of indigenous women as being long veils and draped skirts painted with patterns resembling those of the Moors. Ferdinand Columbus also wrote that the cotton clothes of the indigenous people were extremely similar to the patterned long shawls that Moors women wore in Granada. In addition, the similarity between cradles that the indigenous people laid their babies on and the cradles of North Africa is striking.
Salih Yucel says of the findings: “Columbus wrote that he saw a mosque on a beautiful mountain while sailing in the neighborhood of Cibara, in northwestern Cuba on 21 October 1492. Some relics of mosques bearing Quranic verses on their minarets have been found in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada. Famous historian and linguist from Harvard University Leo Weiner, says in his book, “Africa and the Discovery of America” that Columbus was aware of the existence of Mandingos in the new world. The same source indicates that Columbus knew that African Muslims lived in Central America, South America, North America including Canada and the Caribbean, and they had marital and commercial relations with the Iroque and Algonquin indigenous tribes. “
Most of the voyages that Columbus and fellow pioneering Spanish and Portuguese explorers made to the other side of the Atlantic were realized thanks to geographical and sea navigation knowledge that Muslims gathered. For example, Mesudi’s (871-957) book titled “Murucuz Zahab” was written as a result of similar information gathered by Muslim merchants from Africa and Asia. Two of Columbus’ captains in his first inter-continental travel were Muslim. The ship named PINTA was under the control of Martin Alonso Pinzon, and the ship NINA was under the control of his brother Vicente Yanez Pinzon. The root of the Pinzon family goes back to the Morocco Marinid royal family from Sultan Abu Zayan Muhammad III (1362-66). The Pinzon brothers, who were rich shipping merchants before they joined Columbus, helped Columbus organize his exploratory voyage and prepared the flagship Santa Maria by meeting the expenses. Columbus noted that local people in some of Atlantic islands adorned their noses with gold and wrote in Arabic. Missionaries who traveled to America in the 16th century saw that copper reserves in Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin were not run by local people, but rather by those who had come from the Middle East, and also that the American Indians had a deep sense of love for the Middle Eastern people.
Salih Yucel continues his amazing explanation as follows: “The names of 565 places, 484 of them being in the US and 81 in Canada, such as the names of villages, towns, cities, mountains, lakes, and rivers, come from Islamic and Arabic roots. These places were originally named by local people before Columbus ever set foot in America. Some of these names are even Islamic place names, examples such as: Mecca (with a population of 720) in Indiana; Medina ( with a population of 2100) in Idaho; Medina (with a population of 8,500) in New York; Medina (with a population of 1,100) and Hazen (with a population of 5,000) in North Dakota; Medina (with a population of 17,000) and Medina (with a population of 120.000) in Ohio, Medina (with a population of 1,100) in Tennessee; Medina (with a population of 26,000) in Texas; Medina (with a population of 1,200) and Aria (with a population of 700) in Ontario; Mahomet (with a population of 3,200) in Illinois; Mona (with a population of 1,000) in Utah. When the indigenous tribe names are examined in the US, it is understood that most of them derive from Arabic and Islamic roots. These are names such as, Anasazi, Apache, Arawak, Arikana, Chavin, Cherokee, Cree, Hohokam, Hupa, Hopi, Makkah, Mahigan, Mohawk, Nazca, Zulu, Zuni.
Archeological excavations carried out in North America and North Africa also reveal vast similarities in architecture belonging to the 9th century. For example, a building structure in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco belonging to Berberis (picture 9) is the same as a building structure (picture 8) in New Mexico. There is again a similarity between the Montezume Tower, found in excavations in Arizona, and the architecture of Berberis in the Mesa Verde region of Colorado. According to research conducted by Professor Cyrus Thomas from the Smithsonian Institute, a small hut made of rock fall in the Ellenville region in New York has almost the same structure as a hut made of rock fall in the Akabe region of South Arabia. These structures are presumed to be 8th century.
The last Muslim tower in Spain, Granada, fell just before the Spanish Inquisition was established in 1492. Non-Christians were forced to either convert to Catholicism to save themselves from the tyranny of the Inquisition or were exiled from the country. Documents exist which prove the existence of immigrant Muslims in Spanish America before 1550. In 1539 an edict from Spanish King Charles V was put into practice which forbade the immigration of Muslims to settlements in the West. This edict was later expanded to expel all Muslims from overseas Spanish colonies in 1543. Salih Yucel’s opinion on the issue is as follows: “The existence of Muslims in overseas islands and regions was known along with the fact that the Spanish king issued such an edict. Again, in many Islamic sources, it is noted that Muslims living in Spain and North Africa made overseas voyages during the Andalusia period. I will address this issue in another research”.
According to Yucel, archeological excavations and analyses of the language and place names in the region, coins, household goods and other objects belonging to 8th and 9th centuries of the Abbasids period found by antique dealers show that Muslims began to migrate to the American continent around the mid 7th century. These people established settlement units, mosques and schools; enormously influencing the indigenous public, American Indians: “From the research of Professor Fell one can conceptualize that some of the apostles of the Prophet Muhammad and the generation following came to the continent. Columbus saw the existence of Islam and Muslims in America when he reached the continent; however, Western researchers often ignore this.” Yucel said that his goal in conducting this research is to draw the attention of young researchers to the existence of Muslims on the American continent since the 7th century. “Many doctorate theses may be prepared about this issue. These studies will shed light on the many documents which remain secret both to Muslims and Americans. They will perhaps prepare the groundwork for rewriting the history of the American continent in the future.” Yucel explained. Verses engraved on the rocks
Fell not only found cultural parallelisms between Western African peoples and certain Southwestern American Indian tribes, but discovered that the Pima people from the region had a dictionary with Arabic roots. This dictionary affirmed the existence of Islamic scriptures engraved in rock in places such as California. Fell tells of a saying found engraved in Arabic in the Inyo town of California: “Yasus ben Maria” (Jesus, Son of Mary); such an expression exists in Qur’anic verse only. Therefore, Fells says, this stone tablet takes the US’s history back further than its presumed 500 years.