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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Discovering Americas - Beyond the Ocean of Darkness and Fog

by Motiur Rahman

Evidence has emerged that suggests Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived to the Americas at least five centuries before Columbus. It has been recorded that during the rule of the Ummayyed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961 CE), Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of DELBA(Palos) into the "Ocean of darkness and fog". They returned after a long absence with much booty from a "strange and curious land". Khashkhash Ibn Saeed, the first explorer?


The Muslim historian and geographer ABUL-HASSAN ALI IBN AL-HUSSAIN AL-MASUDI (871-957 CE) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewells) that during the rule of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad(888-912 CE), a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cordoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory(ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In Al-Masudi's map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory (Americas).


The Muslim historian ABU BAKR IBN UMAR AL-GUTIYYA narrated that during the reign of the Muslim caliph of Spain, Hisham II (976-1009CE), Ibn Farrukh, of Granada, sailed from Kadesh (February 999CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary islands) visiting King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana. He arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE.


The famous Muslim geographer and cartographer AL-SHARIF AL-IDRISI (1099- 1166CE) wrote in his famous book Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (Excursion of the longing one in crossing horizons) that a group of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and fog (The Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal), in order to discover what was in it and what extent were its limits. They finally reached an island that had people and cultivation...on the fourth day, a translator spoke to them in the Arabic language.


The journey of Shaikh ZAYN EDDINE ALI BEN FADHEL AL-MAZANDARANI across the Atlantic has been well-documented. His journey started from Tarfaya (South Morocco) during the reign of the Marinid King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286-1307CE) to Green Island in the Caribbean sea in 1291 CE (690 HE).


In his famous book Massaalik al-absaar fi mamaalik al-amsaar (The pathways of sights in the provinces of kingdoms) CHIHAB AD-DINE ABU-L-ABBAS AHMAD BEN FADHL AL-UMARI (1300-1384CE/700-786HE) described in detail the geographical explorations beyond the ‘sea of fog’ or what is now known as the Atlantic.


The Mandinka monarch of Mali, Sultan MANSU KANKAN MUSA (1312-1337 CE) stated that his brother, sultan Abu Bakari I (1285-1312CE) had undertaken two expeditions into the Atlantic ocean. Failing to return from the second voyage of 1311 CE, he became sultan of the empire.


Christopher Columbus


Five hundred years later Chrisitopher Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba) in Spain. He was bound for GOMERA (Canary Islands), Gomera in Arabic means 'small firebrand'. Columbus wrote in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain. The ruins of mosques and minarets with inscriptions of Quranic verses have been discovered in Cuba,Mexico,Texas and Nevada.


On October 12, 1492 CE, Columbus landed on a little island in the Bahamas that was called GUANAHANI by the natives, which was renamed SAN SALVADOR by Columbus. GUANAHANI is derived from the combination of Mandinka and modified Arabic words. GUANA (IKHWANA) means 'brothers' and HANI is an Arabic name.Therefore the original name of the island was 'HANI BROTHERS'.


In Honduras, at the time of Columbus lived a tribe of Muslim natives known as ALMAMY. In Mandinka and Arabic languages, ALMAMY was the designation of "AL-IMAM"or "AL-IMAMU", the leader of the prayer, or in some cases, the chief of the community, or even possibly a member of the Imami Muslim community.


During his second voyage, the indians of ESPANOLA (Haiti) told Columbus that black people had been to the island before his arrival. Columbus was presented with the spears of these African muslims. These weapons were tipped with a yellow metal that the indians called GUANIN, a word of West African derivation meaning 'gold alloy'. Oddly enough, it is related to the Arabic word 'GHINAA' which means 'WEALTH'. Some of these GUANINES were brought back to Spain and found to be 18 parts gold, 6 parts silver, and 8 parts copper, the same ratio as the metal produced in Guinea.


In 1498 CE, on his third voyage, Columbus landed in Trinidad. There, his crew discovered natives using colorful handkerchiefs of symmetrically woven cotton resembling the headdresses and loinclothes of Guinea in their colors, style and function. Columbus refered to them as ALMAYZARS – in Arabic stands for 'wrapper','cover','apron' – belonged to the Moors imported from west Africa (Guinea) into Morocco, Spain and Portugal. There were many similarities between the clothing of these natives with the Moors. His son Ferdinand Columbus called the native cotton garments 'breechclothes of the same design and cloth as the shawls worn by the Moorish women of Granada'.


Muslim Americas


According to recent population survey carried out in 2003, it is estimated that there are over 3 million Muslims across South America, accounting for about 0.57% of the total population. In North America meanwhile, there is about just under 7 million Muslims accounting for more than 2% of the total population.

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