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فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ يَعِشْ مَنْكُمْ بَعْدي فَسَيَرَى اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيْرًا ، فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِسُنَّتِي وَ سُنَّةِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِيْنَ المَهْدِيِّيْنَ ، عَضُّوا عَلَيْهَا بِالنَّوَاجِذِ

Islam In United States

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 , Posted by Rendy Adam Fitriadi at 1:58 PM






Many scholars believe that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States. While debates continue about how many Muslims actually live in the country—estimates range from 2 to 8 million persons—there is no dispute over the fact that, due both to conversion and immigration, the number is on the rise. In addition, over twelve hundred mosques now operate across the United States in small towns, suburban locations, and inner cities. American Muslims are like a microcosm of the Islamic world; they are diverse by race, class, ethnicity, linguistic group, and national origin. AfricanAmericans, perhaps the largest racial or ethnic group of Muslims in America, may account for 25 to 40 percent of thetotal population. South Asian Muslims, who trace their roots to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, represent approximately 30 percent. The third largest ethnic group of Muslims in the United States traces its roots to the Arab world, including countries in both the Middle East and North Africa. This group may total approximately 25 percent of all Muslims in the United States. The United States is also home to thousandsof Turkish, Iranian, Central Asian, Southeast Asian(especially Malaysian and Indonesian), southeastern European (especially Bosnian), West African, and white and Latino American Muslims.

In addition to possessing great racial and ethnic diversity, Muslims in the United States can be characterized as a religiously diverse population as well. Muslims in the United States engage in a wide array of Islamic practices and adhere to differing schools of Islamic thought and interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims, including African Americans, identify themselves as Sunni, those who follow the sunna, or the traditions of the prophet Muhammad. Some American Muslims also call themselves Sufis, meaning that they seek intimate and closer ties to God by traveling one of the mystical paths of Islam. Still others are Shi_ite Muslims, persons whose Islamic practice pays special attention to therole of the prophet Muhammad’s family in leading thecommunity of believers. Finally, there are Muslims that donot fit easily under any of these labels, choosing to follow interpretations of Islam that are considered unorthodox, if not heretical by most Muslims—one famous example is the Nation of Islam led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

History

From the 1600s until the abolition of legal slavery in 1865, West African Muslims were brought as slaves to the British North American colonies and later the United States. Perhaps 10 percent or more of all slaves in the Americas were Muslim, depending on what times and places are being considered. The number of Muslim slaves in the Americas may have increased even more during the early 1800s, after the West African Muslim leader _Uthman dan Fadio (c. 1754–1817) successfully waged a campaign to Islamize much of the region. Though the importation of foreign slaves to the United States was officially banned in 1808, many U.S. residents violated the law, continuing to import slaves, including Muslims.

Despite the documented presence of Muslim slaves in the United States, however, there is little direct evidence that the practice of Islam was widespread among slaves in North America. In many cases, slave owners attempted to control slaves more easily by separating families and others who shared ethnic and linguistic ties. Though this assault did not translate into the elimination of African culture, including Islam, it did often lead to the recasting of certain customs, beliefs, and practices into different and often synthetic cultural forms. Some slaves adapted certain Muslim traditions, like facing toward Mecca in prayer, to their practice of Christianity. A few others, like the famous _Umar ibn Sayyid (1770–1864), a North Carolina slave who was literate in Arabic, eventually relinquished key elements of their Muslim identities, publicly converting to Christianity. Tellingly, the Muslims about whom the most is known generally lived in parts of the American South that had relatively large, isolated slave communities—places like the Sea Islands of Georgia where African Islamic traditions stood a better chance of being preserved and passed on.

Thus, by the end of the Civil War, there seem to have been very few practicing Muslims in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s, however, large numbers of Muslimsonce again came to the shores of the New World. From 1875 until the First World War, and then again from the 1920s until the Second World War, tens of thousands of Muslims from the Ottoman Empire, especially Arabs from greater Syria, traveled to the United States seeking economic opportunity.

These Muslims made their homes in places as far flung as Quincy, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, whose Muslim community eventually established the Mother Mosque of North America, one of the oldest continuously operating Muslim communities in the United States. By 1920, hundreds of Muslims from both Anatolia and the Balkans had also created their own chapter of the Red Crescent (the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross) in Detroit, Michigan, and had obtained a cemetery where fellow Muslims could be buried according to Islamic law. Many of these Muslims became peddlers, grocers, and unskilled laborers. Some eventually found jobs as farmers and factory workers, especially in the burgeoning automobile industry in Detroit. These Muslims also practiced various forms of Islam. They not only identified themselves as Sunnis and Shi_a, but also as Druze, a Syrian and Lebanese group that had long ago separated from the Shi_a; as Bektashi Sufis, a community made up mainly of Albanians; and as Mevlevis, the so-called whirling dervishes.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the number of Muslims in the United States also grew as hundreds, if not thousands, of African Americans converted, or as some African-American Muslims would put it, reverted to Islam.

These conversions occurred in the context of the Great Migration, the movement of over a million and a half persons from the rural South to the more industrialized, urban North throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Attempting to escape racism and economic oppression, black migrants often worked and lived near immigrant Muslims who were also in search of new opportunities in cities like Detroit; St. Louis, Missouri; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Newark, New Jersey; and Chicago, Illinois. African Americans became part of a dynamic cultural milieu, where people from every part of the globe were coming in contact with each other, confronting each other’s differences and exchanging both goods and ideas.

This period also witnessed one of the first serious Muslim attempts to convert Americans to Islam. The Ahmadiyya movement, considered heretical by many other Muslims, was the first Muslim group to mass-distribute English translations of the Qur_an, hoping to make the holy book more accessible to those who could not read it in Arabic.

Beginning in the 1920s, they also published the Muslim Sunrise, a newspaper that contained information about the movement and the rudimentary practices of Sunni Islam, especially daily prayer, almsgiving, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. The Ahmadiyya focused many of their missionary efforts on African Americans. The head missionary, Muhammad Sadiq, promoted Islam as a religion of freedom and equality, often criticizing white Christianity’s links with slavery and the destruction of African culture. This was an attractive message and hundreds of African Americans, like P. Nathaniel Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri, converted to Islam. By the mid- 1920s, Johnson had become Shaykh Ahmad Din and was leading a multiracial community of Ahmadiyya Muslims in the Gateway City.

African Americans also formed their own Islamic groups during the 1920s and 1930s. Some of these groups, like the Moorish Science Temple, merely adopted certain Islamic names and symbols to create new African-American Islamic traditions. While many scholars have dated the origins of this movement to 1913, the Federal Bureau of Investigation believed that it began sometime in the 1920s, probably in Chicago, Illinois. Adapting certain Islamic symbols from the black Shriners (an African American fraternal organization that stressed racial cooperation and self-improvement), movement founder Noble Drew Ali (1886–1929) taught that American blacks were actually members of the Moorish nation whose original religion was Islam. His Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple (1927), a sacred text that had no direct connection to the Qur_an revealed to Muhammad in the seventh century C.E., stressed the importance of morality, industry, and group solidarity, and promised that the practice of Moorish Science was the key to both earthly and divine salvation for persons of African descent.

Some other groups established by African-American Muslims, however, embraced more traditional Islamic practices, placing greater emphasis on the five pillars of Islam and on the Qur_an. Among these communities, many of which can trace their origins to the 1930s, were the First Cleveland Mosque, led by African-American convert Wali Akram (d.1994); the Adenu Allahe Universal Arabic Association in Buffalo, New York; and Jabul Arabiyya, a Muslim communal farm also located in upstate New York. Most historians have tended to ignore these Sunni African-American Muslim groups, largely because their scholarly gaze has focused on the more controversial Nation of Islam.

In the early 1930s, W. D. Fard, a mysterious immigrant peddler probably of Turkish or Iranian origin, founded the Nation of Islam in the Detroit metropolitan area. By 1934, he had disappeared, leaving Elijah Poole (1897–1975), an African- American migrant from Georgia, to continue his legacy. Poole, who had since become Elijah Muhammad, echoed the claims of Noble Drew Ali, arguing that Islam was the original religion of the “Blackman.” He said that Fard was God in the flesh and that he, Elijah Muhammad, was God’s Messenger, sent to resurrect black people from the dead—a teaching that violated many of the most basic tenets of Sunni Islamic raditions. An advocate of black separatism, Elijah Muhammad also emphasized black economic and political independence from whites, the building of moral character, and the practice of his unique Islam as solutions to the social and economic challenges facing black America. It was not until after the Second World War, however, that his teachings garnered national attention, due largely to the successful missionary work of the articulate, fiery, and handsome Malcolm X (1925–1965), who had become a follower of Elijah Muhammad while in prison.

During the postwar period, the face of American Islam was also transformed by a new wave of Muslim immigration from overseas. These Muslims included Palestinians who had become refugees after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and Egyptian citizens who had been dispossessed after Jamal _Abd al-Nasser’s revolution in 1952. Sometimes, they made contact with older generations of Muslim immigrants, who by this time were beginning to organize national networks like the Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada, a group of more than twenty mosques that began operations in 1952. Other times, however, these new immigrants challenged what they saw as the unhealthy assimilation of Muslims into American culture.

The most active critics of such behavior were often foreign students in American universities. They had arrived from newly independent countries in Africa and Asia where Islamic activists arose to challenge political regimes that stressed nationalist and socialist rather than Islamic identities. In 1963, some of these students formed the Muslim Student  Association, which would eventually become one of the largest Muslim organizations in the United States.

In fact, it is clear that by the 1960s, a global Islamic revival was underway, and Islam in the United States was deeply affected by it. Many Islamic revivalists stressed the universality of Islam, arguing that Muslims should reject divisions along lines of race, language, or nationality and work toward more unity in the Muslim umma, or worldwide community of believers. The revival, which also called for a return to strict interpretation of the Qur_an and the hadith, attracted African American Muslims, as well. In places like the Islamic Mission to America in Brooklyn, New York, for example, one could find a multiethnic and multiracial crowd of Muslims engaging the ideas of Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), whose writings were being circulated all over the globe.

During the same period, some African American Muslim revivalists, like members of the Darul Islam movement, intentionally separated themselves from mainstream society, hoping to recalibrate the rhythms of their lives in accordance with Islamic law. Others, like Malcolm X, embraced Sunni religious practices, but insisted on the need to struggle simultaneously for black political liberation.

In the meantime, more and more Muslim immigrants were making their homes in the United States. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a new immigration law, inviting large numbers of non-Europeans, including Asians and Africans, to join the American nation. Many of the Muslim immigrants were professionals with South Asian roots and became successful doctors, engineers, and academicians in cities and towns throughout the United States. Others were from Africa, Europe, other parts of Asia, and even Central and South America; they represented over sixty different countries in all. Like Muslim immigrants before them, they subscribed to a variety of Islamic practices. Among just the Shi_ite immigrants, for example, there were many Twelvers (the largest group of Shi_ite Muslims in the world) and Isma_ilis, a smaller community that is itself divided into subgroups.

Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, also grew during this period. While there had been Sufis in the United States for some time, a larger number of white Americans began to join various Sufi groups or to follow various Sufi masters in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of these Sufi converts did not call themselves Muslims and did not practice the five pillars of Islam. Others, however, insisted on adherence to foundational Islamic practices. By the beginning of the new millennium, Sufi Islam in the United States was a multiethnic and cross-class phenomenon. And American Muslims were members of a number of different Sufi groups, including the Tijaniyya, Naqshbandiyya, Qadiriyya, Bektashis, Shadhiliyya, Ishraqiyya, Sufi Order International, and numerous independent Sufi communities in cities and even small college towns like Carbondale, Illinois. In addition, there were pan-Sufi organizations, like the Sufi Women Organization, which encouraged female Sufis to organize for social change among Muslims and society in general.

The post-1965 period of American Islamic history was also shaped by important transformations in African-American Islam. The number of independent African-American Muslim groups continued to increase as did the number of individual converts—especially in prisons, where Muslim individuals and groups, of all ethnic and religious stripes, reached out to male inmates. But perhaps the most important event of this period was the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975. After inheriting the leadership of the Nation of Islam, Wallace D. Muhammad (b. 1933, a.k.a. Warith Deen Muhammad), one of Elijah’s sons, dramatically altered the religious nature of the movement. Rejecting the most controversial elements of his father’s teachings, including those about the divinity of W. D. Fard and the inherent evil of the white race, Wallace D. Muhammad (now known as W. D. Mohammed) emphasized the importance of Sunni Islamic practices, including daily prayer, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and fasting during Ramadan. He even changed the name of the organization from the Nation of Islam to the World Community of al- Islam in the West, and eventually, the American Muslim Mission. Though thousands of members followed the leader through what he called the “Second Resurrection,” Minister Louis Farrakhan (b. 1933) criticized these deviations from Elijah Muhammad’s teachings. By the late 1970s, he had reconstituted a version of the old Nation of Islam, which he still leads as of the time of this writing.

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