What Exactly Constitutes an Authentic Expression of Islam?

For the last three decades Muslims who live in Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, have been grappling with the thorny issue of what exactly constitutes an authentic expression of Islam. It wasn’t always like this, but it has made the Caribbean a highly desired destination for a variety of foreign scholars and organizations looking to make their mark.  

In Guyana and Trinidad, countries with the largest communities, the majority of Muslims are direct descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India to cultivate rice and sugar plantations during the British colonial period. There is also now a growing number of converts to Islam mostly from the African West-Indian communities across the English-speaking Caribbean.   

While indentureship ended in the early 20th century, the East-Indian Muslims stayed on, raising families, establishing businesses, forging communities and building mosques – 140 alone in Guyana.

Although religious texts were imported and disseminated locally, it played only a limited role in keeping people connected to the religion. The rhythm of Islamic spirituality for the mostly agrarian communities were the intermittent visits of a number of respected scholars who were grounded in tassawuf. 

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