The Muslim Factor in the Haitian Revolution
‘What the French did not realize was that their most profitable colony, Saint-Dominique (now Haiti), was fertile ground for Muslim maroons and rebels. The island had always had numerous maroon communities, and an average of a thousand runaways were advertised every year. The notices posted by the plantation owners, who listed the disappeared give a measure of the place of the Muslims among the maroons. Although large numbers of Muslims had been forcibly baptized, some had retained their original names, such as Ayouba, Tamerlan, Aly, Soliman, Lamine, Thisiman, Yaya, Belaly, and Salomon who appear in the notices. Female runaways, such as Fatme, Fatima, and Hayda, are also mentioned.
The Africans fled individually and, more usually, in groups. For instance, twelve Mandingo men, aged twenty-two to twenty-six, fled one night in 1783 from their owner’s house in Port-au-Prince. They were all professionals—masons, carpenters, and bakers.
It is not known if some maroon communities were entirely composed of Muslims, but major communities had Muslim leaders. Yaya, also called Gillot, was a devastating presence in the parishes of Trou and Terrier Rouge, before he was executed in September 1787. In Cul-de-Sac, an African Muslim named Halaou led a veritable army of thousands of maroons.
"Servants of Allah opens a new door on the African Diaspora
and provides readers with even more insight into Islam, as well as
enslaved Africans. Diouf's study greatly enhances current literature on
--Jason Zappe, Copley News Service Dec '98
historical study is ground-breaking not only in its theme but also its
approach, which can be described as pan-Africanist to the extent that
it relates the histories of these deported Muslims to the political
upheavals of medieval Africa...; forges links between the varied sites
of their dispersal from the 16th to the 19th century...; and examines
the issue of return to Africa and the lineage (or the absence thereof)
of this first American Islam."
--Sylvie Kandé, QBR Jan/Feb '99