Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah
During his years abroad, Dr. Abd-Allah had the privilege of studying with a number of traditional Islamic scholars. He returned to Chicago in August 2000 to work as chair and scholar-in-residence of the newly founded Nawawi Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation. In conjunction with this position, he is now teaching and lecturing in and around Chicago and various parts of the United States and Canada, while conducting research and writing in Islamic studies and related fields. He recently completed a biography of Mohammed Webb (d. 1916), who was one of the most significant early American converts to Islam. The book is scheduled for release Spring/Summer 2006 under the title A Muslim in Victorian America: The Story of Alexander Russell Webb (Oxford University Press). Dr. Abd-Allah is presently completing a second work entitled Roots of Islam in America: A Survey of Muslim Presence in the New World from Earliest Evidence until 1965 and is also updating his dissertation for publication.
Historical sources identify these galley slaves as “Turks” and “Moors.” But the galley slaves probably included Moriscos as well. The Moriscos were former Spanish and Portuguese Muslims (Moors) who had been forcefully converted to Christianity after the fall of Muslim Spain and often ran afoul of the Spanish Inquisition and were condemned to the galleys. As the article shows, Drake definitely had this large contingent of newly liberated Muslims with him when his ships came to the Roanoke colony in 1586. We know that many of the “Turks” were repatriated to the Ottoman Empire, which had friendly diplomatic relations with England at the time. What became of the hundreds of other former Muslim galley slaves remains an intriguing mystery. It is possible that some of them stayed or were left behind and became the ancestors of the Melungeons, Lumbees, and other enigmatic indigenous American populations who trace their origins to the Roanoke colony and have long claimed to have “Portuguese” and “Moorish” roots.
A Nawawi Foundation Paper
by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah
©2004. All rights reserved.
From the standpoint of Islamic theology and salvation history,4 it is simply unacceptable to deem the Biblical God and that of the Qur’an to be anything but the same, despite the fact that, in recent years, many English-speaking Muslims have developed an ill-advised convention of avoiding the word “God” under the mistaken assumption that only the Arabic word “Allah” carries a linguistic guarantee of theological authenticity. Beautiful names for God are not unique to the Bible or the Qur’an nor to any religion or group of human tongues. Semitic languages—like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic—possess rich glossaries of divine names, but those who invoke them have never possessed a monopoly on God. At a most fundamental level, all humanity shares in a legacy of knowing the Supreme Being and being able to designate him by appropriate names, which—from an Islamic point of view—reflect human-kind’s inborn knowledge of God, bolstered by its remote association with the primeval legacy of universal prophecy. As for our English word “God,” it reflects such primordial roots, belongs to the treasury of ancient divine names, and is among the most expressive designations of the Supreme Being. The continued aversion on the part of many English speaking Muslims to admit “God” into their vocabulary serves only to reinforce the groundless claims of the religious right. It is urgent for English-speaking Muslims to communicate coherently, and embracing the word “God” is an important step in that direction.