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Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas unknown Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814719053
ISBN-10: 0814719058
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Editorial Reviews


"A sophisticated and important book. This creative and refreshing interpretation of West African-Islamic spiritual continuities in the African diaspora is fascinating and very readable." --American Historical Review

"The scholarship is innovative in debunking the myth that Christianity quickly absorbed Islam. . . The writing is clear and accessible and the arguments are supported with well-researched facts and statistics." --Religious Studies Review

"Diouf's account of Muslim life in the most horrific of circumstances is a truly moving one and at times an inspiring one." --Middle East Quarterly

"Diouf shows a remarkably detailed knowledge of her subject and her work is meticulously researched" --Journal of the Early Republic

"Makes a major contribution.... Diouf' s well-written and interesting book opens new avenues of inquiry and research." --The Journal of American History

"Sylviane Diouf's Servants of Allah is a welcome contribution to our understanding of a critical moment in the African Diaspora. Her focus is the collective experience of African Muslims enslaved in the New World. Diouf's premise is that Muslims maintained their religious and cultural integrity, indeed their identity, in the face of daunting odds…The author's insight into Islamic almsgiving in the form of saraka cakes in the Georgia Sea islands is intriguing. The section on Muslim dress in the third chapter is well presented. Perhaps the most fascinating parts of the work concern the probability that Muslim holy books were transferred from the Old World to the New via networks of black sailors and that the blues are most likely informed by the musical creativity of West African Muslims.”-Journal of Southern History

"Servants of Allah opens a new door on the African Diaspora and provides readers with even more insight into Islam, as well as enslaved Africans. Diouf's study greatly enhances current literature on the Diaspora."-Jason Zappe,Copley News Service, Dec '98

"Servants of Allah is constructed in a highly classical manner: the sobriety of its analysis lets the facts speak for themselves, with a minimum of editorializing; it is structured logically and symmetrically in a manner that illuminates the nodal point of the Muslim's distinctiveness within the slave system, namely, their mastery of writing....Servants of Allah has a wealth of arguments that provoke reflection and that will not leave the reader indifferent or lacking in references for further reading." -Quarterly Black Review

"Sylviane A. Diouf's book makes a major contribution by focusing on Muslim participation in the slave trade and Muslims' impacts on the Americas...Diouf presents a convincing and original picture of the life of enslaved Muslims, who, she claims, remained primarily servants of Allah than subjects of Christian masters...The chapter on resistance and revolts is especially interesting. According to the author, Muslims, as a result of their literacy and military skills, played essential roles in the Haitian Revolution and the early-nineteenth-century revolts in Bahia. Diouf's well-written and interesting book opens new avenues of inquiry and research. It will interest and perhaps inspire students of the African diaspora and slavery in the Americas."-Journal of American History
"This historical study is ground-breaking not only in its theme but also its approach, which can be described as pan-Africanist to the extent that it relates the histories of these deported Muslims to the political upheavals of medieval Africa...; forges links between the varied sites of their dispersal from the 16th to the 19th century...; and examines the issue of return to Africa and the lineage (or the absence thereof) of this first American Islam."-Sylvie Kandé,QBR Jan/Feb '99

From the Inside Flap

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas was named 1999 Outstanding Academic Book by the American Library Association, and received Honorable mention for the Outstanding Books Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; unknown edition (November 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814719058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814719053
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edgar Hopida on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
The first review was just terrible and shows the bias and bigotted remarks about islam. The book is an excellent book that gives us a better picture of how Islam came to America from the African Muslims enslaved. I met the author at Cal Berkley when she did her presentation on this book. As for the comments about slavery in Islam. It is not the same thing as slavery done in America and in Europe. Titus Burckhartdt in his book Moorish Culture in Spain said "Slavery within Islamic culture is not be confused with Roman slavery or with the American variety of the nineteenth century; in Islam the slave was never a mere "thing." If his master treated him badly, he could appeal to a judge and procure his freedom. His dignity as a Muslim was inviolable. Originally, the status of slave was simply the outcome of having been taken a prisoner of war. A captive who could not buy his own freedom by means of ransom remained in the possession of the captor until he had earned his freedom by work or until he was granted liberty by his master." The first reviewer must also note that slavery in Quran is seen such a way. As for the Middle east countries he mentioned, countries dont represent Islam. Islam is judged by its sources not countries. Besides, Saudi Arabic is a monarchy, which isnt a form of Islamic governance. This book shows the truth about the African American connection to Islam. It did not start with the Nation of Islam or Malcolm X, it started way before that.
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Fascinating study of African slave trade focusing on the Moslem African slaves. Servants of Allah offers excellent survey of the African cultural and geopolitical situation prior to and during the years of the slave trade. It is through this foundation that we understand the various ethnic and religious roots of the African slaves.

Wisely the book has not focused on the middle passages covered in many other works but instead focused on the lives of Moslem slaves, in particular, in US, Caribbean and Brazil. The tremendous research and analysis has produced a true groundbreaking work in beginning to understand this very sad chapter of history.

I learnt a great deal from this book, I had no idea of the extent of suffering Moslems and other slaves endured, I didn't know about the use of Arabic in US & rest of Americas as a way for enslaved Africans to communicate and even to keep plantation books. I had no idea of the suppression of Islam practiced as early as 1501 and the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition in the new World all they way through early 20th century. I was amazed to learn how in US the clearly well educated enslaved blacks were denied their Africaness by their masters and relabeled Arabs or Moors and in doing so the White Masters could continue to make sense of the inferior status of the black Africans.

At times Diouf may have been a touch too romantic about the behavior of Moslems and it times attributed culturally narrow definitions to Islamic traditions, this does not detract from the excellent contribution of this most enlightening work on a very rarely addressed subject.
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The primary sources used by Diouf are credible and illuminating on the enslavement of the various types of Africans in the so-called New World. Some Africans were literate and/or semi-literate and came from Islamic lands in Black Africa who understood world affairs and could recall generations ago when Black Africans had empires that controlled their own resources. This goes against the made up false notion in slavery that Africans had no intelligible religion, history or literate tradition. This information was almost lost when generations of the enslaved African Diaspora were brainwashed under slavery, Jim Crow, colonized, and the modern media watching Tarzan movies. Thanks to professional historians like Diouf this information will be available to future generations.
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Format: Paperback
I have researched this area, at least the Americas side of the equation, and published a chapter in another work that dealt with many of the themes so well developed and presented here. Diouf has completed the circle. She demonstrates convincingly that the source areas and other determining factors of the slave trade resulted in significant numbers of Muslims entering the Americas. The impact still resounds today. If you're wondering why Islam is viewed as militancy in this nation of ours, Diouf presents good background that should convince the most doubtful that its origins required it. I am thankful that she had the resources and the intelligence to present cogent arguments about who came here, why, and it is only for us to complete the scenario by acknowledging that Muslims in America are heirs to a great and vital history of resistance to oppression.
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Dr. Diouf has written about the Muslim slave experience. A group who refused to give up their identity, struggled to practise their way of life and fought for their freedom under the most brutal circumstances that defined the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Dr. Diouf documents how the Muslims were different from the other slaves. They came literate with a unique attitude and cultural self confidence that set them apart from the other slaves.

The Muslims refused to submit. They were Muslims and that is the way it was going to be. They refused to give up their identity, they struggled to implement the 5 pillars of their faith and they formed the backbone of many slave revolts.

Although they made up about 15 to 20% of the slave population, their success was far greater than their numbers warranted. They rose through the slave ranks faster than other African born slaves and were on par with the local born slaves who understood the system and spoke the language.

Dr. Diouf shows how the Muslims created mini-communities which were a unique feature within the slave population. It gave them strength and confidence which crossed ethnic and linguistic lines. Islam gave them a common frame of reference, customs and language that allowed them to work together as a group. Their Islamic faith was a bond that could not be broken.

Dr. Diouf writes "The preservation of their faith and the maintenance of their lifestyle in a hostile Christian environment were in themselves no small accomplishments."

And she states further on:

"Yet many historians and writers have not acknowledged their presence, much less their success at upholding their religion."

This is probably the only book devoted to the study of the Muslim experience in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. It's an eye opening account about a sad legacy ignored for too long.
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