Our Region

Muslims in the Caribbean: Ethnic sojourners and citizens

MUSLIMS IN THE CARIBBEAN region represent distinctive styles of minority and diaspora experiences. While they have a clear identity in terms of faith, their actual communal identity is frequently not based primarily on their religious identity..... although there are Muslims in the Caribbean region, in the most commonly understood usage of terms, there may not be "Muslim minorities" or "Muslims diaspora" there..... there has been no "pan-Muslim" identification or activity in the region as a whole.  While some scholars might speak of a "Black Atlantic" ....... it is not possible to identify anything that might be called a "Caribbean Muslim" identity.  Similarly, while some scholars might speak of "African Islam" or "Malaysian Islam" as religiocultural traditions, it is not possible to speak of "Caribbean Islam". (John O. Voll writing in "Muslim minorities in the West: visible and invisible")
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Muslims in the Caribbean

Praise Be to Allah - Laylat al-Qadr [the Night of Power]," proclaims the roadside banner. It bellies in the wind along the dusty, two-lane highway leading north from Guyana's Timehri International Airport.

A special religious program, "The Voice of Islam," is playing on the ancient taxi's radio, and at the nearby Ruimveldt Jamaat Madrasa, two dozen children have just settled down for their afternoon Arabic class. It is the 27th day of Ramadan in Guyana, and at first glance, the music, the mosques and the Muslims all seem strangely out of place in this densely forested, English-speaking nation on the northern shoulder of South America.

But, as local religious leader al-Hajj Naseer Ahmad Khan points out, Islam has long played a prominent role in Guyanese history. "Today, Muslims are integrated into every profession," he says. "I think we've got a good future here."

Khan, president of the Guyana-based Islamic Missionaries Guild International, is one of nearly 400,000 Muslims scattered across the nations of the Caribbean. Mostly East Indian in origin, they live in relative prosperity on at least a dozen Caribbean islands, including Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jamaica.

The region's heaviest Muslim concentrations, however, are in Suriname, with an estimated 100,000 believers, in Trinidad and Tobago, also home to 100,000 Muslims, and in Guyana, with an estimated Muslim population of 120,000.


The Ummah Slowly Bled: A Select Bibliography of Enslaved African Muslims in the Americas and the Caribbean


Despite an Islamic presence in the Western hemisphere for over half a millennium, the history of this portion of the Muslim Diaspora is gravely under-researched. There is evidence that Muslims had reached and interacted with Native Peoples long before Columbus made the ‘New World’ known to Europe. Nevertheless, it was Columbus’ voyage and the resultant European onslaught that forever changed the history of Native
Peoples, Africans, and consequently African Muslims.

For 400 years, millions of Africans were forced into chattel slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean. The precise estimates of enslaved Africans of the Islamic faith vary greatly, but the notion that a signiŽ cant percentage was Muslim is unquestioned. Unfortunately, precious few resources related to these African Muslims have been unearthed or fully examined. Over the past three decades more research has been written on the subject and it is becoming an acknowledged phenomenon in the histories of many countries including the United States. From Muslim-led rebellions in Brazil to Islamic scholars and gentry toiling in bondage in Georgia and Maryland, the history of how the West African arm of the Muslim ummah slowly bled is Ž nally coming to light.

The following select bibliography provides an introduction to the research tracing the plight of enslaved African Muslims in the Americas and the Caribbean. The included works are books, book chapters, and journal articles published through 2001, as well as a small number of signiŽ cant unpublished dissertations. The majority of citations represent scholarly research on the topic in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian, and German, but also included are several published primary resources in many languages including Arabic. Incorporated sources were limited to those that focus on the topic or contain discrete chapters or sections on enslaved Muslims. Nineteenth and twentieth century newspaper and magazine accounts of enslaved Muslims have been omitted. After a general literature category, the works are arranged geographically and further broken down by country and subtopics within the country when applicable.

Title of Thesis

Muhammad Abdul Jabar
Institute/University/Department Details
University of the Punjab, Lahore
Islamic Studies
Number of Pages
Keywords (Extracted from title, table of contents and abstract of thesis)
islamic institutions, da'wah organizations, english speaking territories, caribbean, americas, islam, trinidad, tobago, guyana


This paper, presented at the Caribbean Muslim Forum 2005,  seeks to briefly document efforts towards Caribbean Muslim co-operation and examine possibilities for enhancing and developing Muslim co-operation and integration in the Caribbean region. It is hoped that it will also serve as a catalyst for critical thinking and analysis on the subject and maybe as a platform for a new era of development.

This book, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of Africa Muslims in the Americas, is a "social history of the experiences of African muslims and their descendants throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean" (p. i). Michael Gomez takes on an ambitious task in relating the historical connections of Islam in the lives of people of African descent from early Africa to the western hemisphere up to the twentieth century. The book is divided into two sections with the "first discussing African Muslims in the Americas through periods of enslavement." The second part examines, "Islam's development in the United States." In doing so, the author examines the Quran and African Americans "acceptance of Muhammad" (p. ix).

  • 1492 African Muslims from Granada and Guinea landed in the New World with Coulumbus 1500-Berbers , Wolofs and Mandingoes sold as slaves in Mexico.

  • 1503-Spanish report runaway slaves/Maroons spreading Islam among the slaves

 A report in Before Columbus by Cyrus Gordon describes coins found in the southern Caribbean region: "...off the coast of Venezuela were discovered a hoard of Mediterranean coins with so many duplicates that it cannot well be a numismatist's collection but rather a supply of cash. Nearly, all the coins are Roman, from the reign of Augustus to the 4th century AD. Two of the coins, however, are Arabic of the 8th century AD. It is the latter that give us the terminus a quo (i.e. time after which) of the collection as a whole (which cannot be earlier than the latest coins in the collection). Roman coins continued in use as currency into the medieval times. A Moorish ship, perhaps from Spain or North Africa seems to have crossed the Atlantic around 800 AD."
Courtesy: The Message International, Copyright © 1992, All Rights Reserved.

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