West Indies: Where slavery was unable to dominate the Muslims

Americas 28 Feb 2021 Tamalika Basu
Flashback
west indies
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The recent winning of the West Indies in the ICC Men’s T20 World cup actually reminds us what kind of intense struggle was faced by millions of Islamic people in that country. Probably many of whom are the ancestors of these bright young players. The struggle ensured the introduction of Muslims in this specific part of the world.

To the social scientists, even the name ‘West Indies’ reminds of the fall of great Andalusia in 1492. This began the age of discovery for European powers. Then came Christopher Columbus, his discovery of South America initiated a four-century-long trend of slave imports which was the base of European colonization.

Do you remember the famous western film called ‘Django unchained’? If yes, you will get a clear idea of slavery from it. The first slaves were brought to the Spanish colonies of the West Indies in the year 1518, one of three of those slaves was Muslim. That makes at least 30% of people practicing Islam.

The introduction of Islam in the West Indies

It was early in the 18th century, Islam finally set its foot on the South American lands by African slaves. They were sent there to work in the various plantations owned by the Europeans. The first batch of Muslims brought from Africa was of Mandingo and Fulani tribes. They were from West Africa. The interesting fact about these people is that they never gave up their religion. In spite of the harsh and inhuman behaviors they faced from their masters, they refused to give up Islam.

There was anti-Islamic propaganda in the slave camps, but the African people who believed in Islam died as true Muslims. May Allah bless them forever and give them peace.

But then a great tragedy prevailed. Despite their best efforts, these poor African Muslims were not able to pass Islam to their children. The kids were brutally taken away by the masters and baptized into Christianity. This was the best weapon for European colonizers to rob the slaves of their Islamic heritage.

The struggle of Islam

But the Muslims never gave up. One particular slave is famous and often found in the daily chronicles of European social scientists. His name was Mahomed Kaba. He was captured and transported to West Indies in 1770. According to British Missionary, J.H Butcher, “in order to [perform the] Mahometan fasts. Kaba would pretend to be sick”. Butcher also informed that he was alleged to have said to the British authority “I say I believe in God but not in the son, for in my country we pray to god and Follow his prophet Mahomet.”

In the year 1845, the second batch of Muslims was brought to the West Indies. They were laborers from India, Indonesia, and North Africa. The only difference between these migrant laborers that they used to get a little liberty than the slaves.

Among those people, there were a few educated Imams. They helped the Muslim immigrants and slaves to practice the regular rituals of Allah. They also ensured the preservation of the peaceful religion for the benefit of their children. The defenseless Muslims were even shot as they gathered to practice their peaceful praying ceremony. But, these atrocities gave our Muslim brothers and sisters more strength to carry on the religion. They never gave up their complete faith in the truth of Islam. Thus, they started revolting. Their revolution shook the core of European slavery and the indentured system.

On the demolition of the slave business and indentured system, when the Muslims were released from their contracts, they got rehabilitation. They became the citizens of the West Indies and started to build mosques and Islamic centers to spread the religion.

The present condition of Islam in the West Indies

Today, Islam is an acknowledged faith in West Indies. Many non-Muslim people are now becoming followers of Islam. Even, Muslim citizens have made progress in every field along with the religious field. Even, they are the members of parliaments and Ministers of Government.

Islam was and is always the hope of the Muslims, be it in freedom or in slavery. Islam is our strength and comfort, and we should always take refuge in our almighty Allah’s words.