At a time when well worn values and morality appear to be falling into a morass of degenerating standards, the Muslim community in Barbados has sought to insulate its children in an educational institution that is bearing fruit.
Al-Falah, the school founded by concerned Muslim parents ten years ago, has been producing high achievers in the Common Entrance Examination. In an interview with the Weekend Nation, principal Ibrahim Bhana explained: “We needed a school for our community because the environment of the schools in Barbados, we were not happy with. I have six daughters and my two eldest daughters ten years ago, it was time for them to go to school. I was teaching them at home, and the ministry approached me and asked me concerning their schooling. So I had requested the ministry to give me at least six months and if we don’t have a school for the community, then I will send them to some school. So that encouraged me . . . that we needed a school for the community.”
That Barbados had Muslims on its shores before the arrival of the Europeans is perhaps a reality that hasn’t been proven by physical evidence. Nevertheless, many noted historians have argued that there was an African presence in the Caribbean long before Christopher Columbus. Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, in his book Deeper Roots presents the case that Muslims from the African continent were visiting this region for centuries before Columbus. His research has shown that African Muslims were engaged in regular contact with the Amerindian people of this region and many married and settled in the Americas.
Although Barbados was uninhabited when the English arrived here in 1627, historical evidence has shown that Barbados did have a presence of Amerindians, Arawaks and Caribs. The Portuguese who visited the island before the English called it Os Barbados – The Bearded Ones. Dr. Richard Allsopp, a Caribbean linguist argues that this Portuguese word actually refers to bearded people and not trees as previously thought. His research indicates that the Portuguese when they visited the island probably found bearded people living here. Amerindians are not known to carry much facial hair and so these people were probably a mix race of Amerindian and African. Muslim, a strong possibility.
The next possibility of a Muslim presence on the island was from the slave trade. It is a known fact that many of the Africans taken as slaves from West Africa were Muslim. Many tried to keep their identity but that was illegal and it became lost in the generations that followed. There are some reports by missionaries that some of the slaves they encountered on the island spoke Arabic and practiced Islamic customs.
An Iftaar (dinner) is a traditional Islamic breaking of the fast performed every evening during the holy month of Ramadan.